Dinosaur Dracula!
Dinosaur Dracula

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. Read More…

Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 14!

I know that the last edition of Classic Christmas Commercials was published just a few days ago, but inspiration hits where it hits. I’m back on my bullshit.

For what it’s worth, there are some serious heavy hitters in this batch. Everything from a rapping Santa Claus to a soup-eating snowman. If these ads don’t put you in the mood to make earrings out of wild holly, nothing will.

Call Santa’s Rap Hotline! (1988)

This was just one of dozens of Christmas-themed hotlines that popped up in the late ‘80s. Since most of them just featured slow-ass promises from “Santa” to bring presents to the good little boys and girls, a rap hotline really popped.

I never called 1-900-909-RAPS, but this commercial got so much play that the pitch song in of itself became a big part of the season. Catchy, isn’t it? It’s hard to imagine that any raps from the actual hotline topped the one from the ad. Get a load of these lyrics:

The Christmas season once again is here!
And Santa’s been selected the man of the year.
The hip hop jive, it’s a well-known fact:
Dial 1-900-900-RAPS!

No shade from me about Santa’s Rap Hotline. Similar hotlines from the era preyed on kids’ collective desire to stay on Santa’s good side. With this one, at least you knew what you were getting! Read More…

2019’s Hottest Holiday Junk Food, Part 1!

If past Decembers are any indication, it’ll be Christmas in eight minutes. This month goes way too fast, so make sure you’re grabbing at any and every opportunity to do festive things. Even if those “festive things” only amount to eating limited edition candy bars.

Here’s the first edition of 2019’s Hottest Holiday Junk Food — a title that makes it sound like I even know what “SEO” stands for. I already have enough for a Part 2, so if reading thousands of words about stuff you’ll never eat is your kink, don’t break up with me.

Pillsbury Grands Hot Cocoa Rolls!
(Found at Target)

These were apparently out last year, even if it’s hard to believe that I went through an entire Christmas season with access to HOT COCOA CINNAMON ROLLS and somehow didn’t partake. I feel like a failure and a fraud.

They’re really good, though I’m not sure I would’ve guessed “hot cocoa” without the visual aid of the Pillsbury Doughboy standing beside a big steaming cup of it. It’s definitely chocolatey, but I’d describe it more as a “chocolate jam” flavor — like something that might get sandwiched between a pair of fancy Italian cookies that bakeries charge $15 a pound for.

Of course, the complexities of the chocolate flavor are almost completely lost once you dump the icing on top. At that point, they’re just regular cinnamon rolls with a kick. Which is fine!

GRADE: A. One of the great things about cinnamon rolls is that they’re so easy to make, yet you always feel so accomplished after you prepare them. The other great thing is that they’re delicious enough to substitute for emotional well-being. Go ahead, eat your troubles away. Read More…

Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 13!

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Eve, so apologies if I seem a little distracted. Based on the Sharpie notes scrawled on my arm, today I gotta shop for 80 mushrooms, stuff 80 mushrooms, wash three loads of clothes, pick up relatives from the airport, shave for the first time in weeks and then decide which of my seemingly identical black shirts has enough give to sustain the 37 pounds of garbage I plan to eat tomorrow.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s the latest edition of Classic Christmas Commercials, featuring old TV spots that I’ve rescued from shoddy home-recordings of Frosty and Rudolph. May they fill you with holiday spirit.

Wendy’s Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger! (1996)

I just adore the fact that Wendy’s Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger was presented as a “Christmas burger” in 1996. The burger had literally nothing to do with the holiday season (even I can’t connect sautéed onions to Santa), but they really made it seem like that year’s ultimate yuletide thing.

The Smoky Bacon Cheeseburger had limited releases both before and after this, but 1996 was when it got its “moon push.” I mean, you had Dave Thomas yanking burgers out of a gift box large enough to work as a ferret tank, scored by a trumpet-driven instrumental of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It doesn’t just get you hungry for a cheeseburger; it makes you wanna top your tree with one.

Ronald McDonald Saves Christmas! (1994)

Commercials like this help explain why us older folks have a hard time thinking of McDonald’s as another “big bad corporation.” There’s not one mention of food or restaurants or boiling beef fat. It’s just a sweet little holiday special condensed into thirty seconds.

Birdie worries that they won’t have time to send out holiday cards, but Ronald has a solution. Instead of lame cards, they’ll just fly over the whole fuckin’ world, spreading pixie dust that just happens to look like cordless Christmas lights. By the end of the commercial, the entire planet looks like the Griswold house on 12/25.

I love how Ronald’s approach to all problems involves evaluating sets of circumstances before determining the most impossibly extreme solutions.

While the best McDonald’s giveaways belong to Halloween, Christmastime definitely got their best commercials. In fact, there were so many great ones that even a spot as gorgeous as this is barely mentioned anymore. It may not pack the emotional punch of Ronald helping a kid learn how to skate, but man, it’s pretty. Read More…