Ancient Holiday Appetizers, Part 7!

For the seventh consecutive year, here’s a new edition of Ancient Holiday Appetizers. Let’s make some weird food, dudes!

If you’ve been with this series from the start, you know that I usually pull recipes from old cookbooks. This year, I thought I’d try something different. Y’all have seen The Christmas Toy, right?

The Christmas Toy — a Jim Henson production — premiered on December 6th, 1986. The made-for-ABC movie was sponsored by Kraft, which almost completely took over the ad breaks with long, awesome “recipe spots” that taught us how to prepare various dishes with just a few ingredients. (Most of those ingredients, of course, belonged to Kraft.)

Embedded above are all of Kraft’s spots that aired during The Christmas Toy. Since thousands of families taped the special back in ‘86, thousands of families were “stuck” with those Kraft commercials for years. Despite having aired only once, they’re pretty well-known!

The spots provided enough steps for amateur chefs to follow along, but the complete versions of the recipes were printed in that week’s TV Guide. My friend Anita pasted scans of the pertinent pages on her Sale into the 90s blog, and that was all the encouragement I needed to blow $150 and an entire Saturday on chicken wings and Velveeta cheese.

Tl;dr: I prepared five of the dishes seen in those old Kraft commercials. Below are the results!

Velveeta Gala Dip!
Click here for the recipe!

In this spin on the classic spinach dip bread bowl, you replace the usual sour cream and onion soup mix with a block of Velveeta cheese. Mix that with sautéed vegetables and a load of spinach, shove into a buttered bread bowl, and you’re pretty much done.

I was determined to follow Kraft’s recipes to the letter, but as good as this was, there’s room for improvement. Since Velveeta is so mild, I’d recommend spicing this up with hot chili powder or Tabasco sauce. I’d also suggest adding a bunch of salt, because while nobody would qualify a block of Velveeta as “low sodium,” the spinach and vegetables cut through it.

Still, this is a phenomenal treat and insanely easy to make. We’re instructed to serve it with bread cubes made from whatever you pulled out of the bowl, but unless you find a round loaf the size of a tire, there won’t be enough. Grab some extra bread for that purpose, otherwise you’ll be eating a leftover pound of Velveeta with a spoon.

SCORE: 9 out of 10. The key thing is to view Kraft’s recipe as the “starting point” and edit logically as you go along.

Orange BBQ Chicken Wings!
Click here for the recipe!

Man, this was a trip. I have an aunt who’s been bringing these exact wings to our Christmas Eve parties for as long as I can remember, and now I’m convinced she got the recipe from watching The Christmas Toy. (Her daughter was a major Kermit fan, after all.)

Take a bunch of chicken wings. Cut ‘em in half and toss the tips. Brush them with a mix of orange juice, barbecue sauce and red pepper flakes, and bake until they’re almost burned. Make another bowl of the same gunk you brushed them with, and serve that with the wings as a dipping sauce.

These are UNREAL, guys. So good! The orange juice does magical things to barbecue sauce, and the red pepper adds a nice kick, too. When I make my next batch — and yes, it’s already planned — I think I’ll let them cook for a while longer to really get that “scorched look” to the wings.

SCORE: 10 out of 10. Just perfection. Also, if my collection of ‘80s recipe magazines is any indication, these wings were kind of a “fad food” of the decade. They taste like yesteryear, if that makes sense.

Carolers’ Casserole!
Click here for the recipe!

Make mac & cheese the way the box instructs you to. While that’s going on, sauté zucchini slices in butter. When both are finished, mix them together with chopped tomatoes, add some spices, and that’s it!

The zucchini and tomatoes add just enough “class” for this to feel like an appropriate inclusion in a holiday spread. It’s basically still the same bowl of “school’s over and I’m watching DuckTales” mac & cheese, but you add a few zucchini slices and it’s a total pinky-up situation. I feel like I’m scamming the world with this dish. It’s great!

For what it’s worth, you don’t necessarily have to use those vegetables. Just pick whichever ones you like, and so long as you don’t get too out there, the results should be similar.

SCORE: 8.5 out of 10, and that’s coming from someone who hates zucchini.

Tangy Topped Potato Rounds!
Click here for the recipe!

Hmm. These kinda work, but not really. The problem is that there’s no way to serve them at the right temperature. Hell, I don’t even know what the right temperature would be. You’ve got these baked potato slices which should at the very least be warm, but you’re topping them with a chilled mix of sour cream, parmesan cheese and Miracle Whip. It’s tough to pull off without making a giant mess.

There’s also the matter of… erm, elegance? In the commercial, Kraft arranged the potatoes in the shape of a Christmas tree, and it all looked pretty swank. In reality, I can’t say that lukewarm potato slices topped with Miracle Whip and radishes are all that attractive.

I feel like if you’re gonna do this, you may as well do it in a “whole ass” way. Instead of slices, cut the potatoes into small wedges. Instead of topping them with the extras, just mix everything together until it’s a close cousin of potato salad. That wouldn’t be “my jam,” exactly, but I think it’d work better?

SCORE: 6.5 out of 10.

Cheery Cheddar Crisps!
Click here for the recipe!

Picture cookies, but replace the sugar and sweetness with cheese and salt.

Mine didn’t look as nice as the ones from Kraft’s commercial, but the taste is phenomenal. I mean, it’s literally just cheddar mixed with dough, mustard and a bag of crushed potato chips. Kind of impossible to take those ingredients and not end up with something delicious.

They’re supposed to more closely resemble biscuits than mutant cookies, but I’ll take the blame for that. This was the last dish in an all-day marathon, and I admit that I cut a few corners. (You’re supposed to use an electric mixer to blend everything before baking, but I just used my hands. We do have an electric mixer, but it’s buried under another ten appliances that only see daylight once a year. Hard pass.)

SCORE: 8 out of 10. It’s another super simple recipe that you can get funky with in various ways. Next time, I’d consider adding some chili powder, and maybe even some green olive slices.

Excluding the weird potato rounds, I’d make everything in here again. In fact, I’m already planning to make three of these things for various Christmas parties. Thanks, Kraft! Your 33-year-old recipes have stood the test of time.

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