Christmas Eve might just be the most anticipated night of the year. For my family it was one of the busiest of the year. When the church and school you attend schedules three worship services into an eight-hour span of time and your dad is a teacher and the music director for the church and school, well… it got crazy.
But even amidst the stress and chaos, there was always something special about Christmas Eve. We’d come home from church, Dad would light the luminaries out on the sidewalk, and Mom would get the food out. Otherwise known as a snack smorgasbord. I remember two nights out of the whole year when we’d have snacks for supper, and this was one of them. It was the one night when I can recall seeing Chex Mix next to Christmas cookies next to cranberry braid next to English toffee next to sausage and cheese next to Hugh’s chocolates next to what we simply called “Cheese Ball”. Yuuuummmmm!!!!!!!!! We’d turn on a Christmas CD, light all of the candles on the Advent wreath, eat by candlelight, and anticipate what was in those presents we were going to open in a short time. Good times…
When I got married, we blended my Christmas Eve food tradition with my husband’s family’s Christmas Eve food tradition (slightly modified). They always had a nice sit-down meal, usually steak (and they often wore their robes to this dinner so as not to spill on their good Christmas outfits — smart, no?). I like steak and nice meals — sounds good to me! And I still like snacks… So, we eat a nice meal before church and then have snacks after church while we open gifts.
Here’s the Cheese Ball recipe. Until this past year, I had no idea what ‘Boursin au Poivre’ was; I knew that it was French, and I knew that I liked the Cheese Ball. Boursin cheese is now becoming more readily available in grocery stores across the country.
- 1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp. caraway seed
- 1 tsp. basil
- 1 tsp. dill
- 1 tsp. chives, chopped
- Lemon pepper
- Blend together all ingredients but lemon pepper.
- Shape into ball.
- Roll ball in lemon pepper until covered.
- Refrigerate a day or more to blend flavors.
- Serve with crackers, pretzels, veggies, chips, etc. (Triscuits are my preferred choice).
The picture is from last Christmas; I added 1 tsp. lemon pepper to the cream cheese and made a snowman, taking an idea from Family Fun (they simply added garlic salt to cream cheese and built the snowman). I used carrot peelings, green pepper, and black olives along with a couple broken pretzels to decorate him. He looked a little “dirty”, but he sure tasted good!
The second Christmas after we were married, I found a bacon-wrapped chicken recipe I thought would be nice for Christmas Eve. Not too difficult and yet special enough for a special occasion, I made it. A cream cheese and green chile filling rolled into a chicken breast and wrapped in bacon, it was good (as if anything involving bacon could be anything but good)!
But then a couple of years ago I got to thinking… could I merge the flavors I loved from Cheese Ball with this bacon-wrapped chicken? The answer, dear reader, is yes I could! I ditched the green chiles and halved the amounts of herbs and spices used in the cheese filling so as not to overpower the flavor of the bacon. I have no idea what to call it; I’m not sure Bacon-wrapped Cheese Ball Chicken is the way to go. If anyone has a suggestion, please share!
Oh, and this year’s Christmas Eve menu plan? Per the request/idea of my six-year-old: Christmas Pizza — if it’s green, red, or white, it’s going on the pizza (though I might nix the pickles she suggested)!
- 4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4″ thickness and cut into two (at a diagonal works best so as not to have pieces that are too long and narrow or too wide and short to make it hard to roll)
- 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened (I use reduced-fat)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella or cheddar work best)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 garlic clove, crushed and minced or 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. caraway seed
- 1/2 tsp. dill weed
- 1/2 tsp. chives
- 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
- 8 slices bacon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9×13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Mix cream cheese, shredded cheese, egg, garlic, basil, caraway, dill, chives, and lemon pepper in medium bowl. Divide between chicken pieces; spread and roll, starting at short end to roll the length of the chicken.
- Note: this next step isn’t critical, but it does help the filling from oozing all over the place when baking. Place in baking dish seam side up, if possible. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator. Wrap one slice of bacon tightly around each roll of chicken. Use toothpicks to secure, if necessary. Place back in baking dish.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and bacon is browned. Serve (I often serve with twice-baked potatoes).