Every family has their own traditions and ways of celebrating the holidays. For my family, we have always had a huge seafood feast on Christmas Eve. It’s something my mom and dad started long ago after they were first married. With my mom growing up near the beach and always having seafood as part of their everyday menu, I guess this started as a little tribute to her roots and a celebration of her starting a life up north. She wanted to share some of her favorites with her family and it’s just always happened each year without any fail. It started out as a quiet dinner with just grandparents and my parents, and then as my brothers and I came along we joined in, of course. Now that my brothers and I are grown with kids of our own, the tradition continues but let’s just say the volume is turned up a bit! We have some very excited kids with so much energy and love for each other that the conversations and laughter gets louder and louder and louder! I love it! It’s who we are. I call it chaos with love. I wouldn’t want it any other way! This year was going to be the very first year I ever had to miss this very special dinner. I was sad. My girls were sad, but with my husband working and me having to drive the long drive back home by myself in possibly dangerous weather conditions, I decided it would be safer to miss it and we would just come down for a long visit after Christmas. Well, then my husband was able to be off for Christmas Eve. This is the first time in our 15 years of marriage that he was off the entire day. Normally he would have to work at least until 4 or 5, so when we moved further away from our family I started making the drive to our Christmas Eve festivities alone with the girls. Then after the meal and presents, we would pack up and drive back home. So when we found out that he was able to be off the whole day, we called mom and told her the news that we would be able to be home for Christmas after all!
We were not complete since my older brother had to miss it since they were not able to come back home. Let’s just say between my oldest brother and my seafood loving nieces, we ate on his behalf! I don’t even know how many pounds of seafood we go through, but it’s a lot. My oldest brother fasts all day for the event so he’s ready to dive in!
After the feast, it’s at least a couple of days worth of doing loads of dishes and putting all the china and dishes away to get things back together, but my mom will tell you that she wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s our tradition and it’s important to us. It’s family time, reminiscing, laughing and sharing together and that’s what it’s all about.
Well, it may also be a tiny bit about who’s the best crab cracker out of all of us!
As you can see, we start ’em young! That’s my great-nephew getting his hands on a crab leg and some crackers!
And that’s just from my end of the table!
So looking at those pictures on my phone last week reminded me of this awesome queso dip that my niece shared with us for New Year’s or a Super Bowl party a few years ago. She brought it in the crock pot and my husband and I were immediately hooked. I’ve made it so many times since then, adding my own minor changes to it and it’s become a favorite in our house. I made a big batch last Sunday. Sometimes we have Junk Food Sunday in our house. We get home from church, put on our comfy clothes, eat lunch, and cuddle on the couch. Sometimes I don’t really make a real dinner, but instead we just have junk food like Super Nachos or Wings, or even easier – this queso dip! We eat our Junk Food Dinner in front of the TV, which is a rare treat in our house and we usually watch a movie or football together. The girls prefer a movie 🙂 No, it’s not the healthiest or fanciest meal, but it’s good, it’s fun, and we love it!
This queso dip is traditionally made with pork sausage, but after our seafood feast, I was thinking how awesome it would be to use crab meat instead of the pork! YUM! So if you are a fan of crab and spicy dips, then swap out the sausage for some cooked crab meat. I would either buy the good stuff at the meat/seafood counter of the grocery store or get a couple cans of crab meat packed in water in the canned goods isle (near canned tuna). But use the real deal, real crab meat. Do not use imitation crab meat! It’s an insult to those crabs! You can adjust the heat on this dip to make it however spicy you like. I think I make it spicier each time I make it! The batch I made last Sunday needs to quickly vacate the premises so I’ll stop eating it!
Spicy Sausage or Crabby Queso Dip
2 8oz packages of light cream cheese or neufchâtel cheese
1/2 lb – 1 lb ground pork sausage (hot or mild) or cooked crab meat cut into small chunks.
Hot sauce to taste. I use about 1/8 C of Cholula
3/4-1 C of milk, depending on how thick you like the dip.
1 large 28 oz can of Rotel Tomatoes with Green Chiles, or two small cans. Hot or mild, whichever you prefer.
1 – 1 1/2 C of shredded cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, Colby jack, mexican blend) whatever you like.
Tortilla chips or pita chips for dipping. We like to use Lime Tortilla Chips
You can make this on the stove, which I normally do, or you can make it in a crock pot. I recommend the crock pot if you are making for a party or taking somewhere so you can just throw all the ingredients in, give it a few stirs on low or high until all the ingredients melt together into one awesome dip!
Brown your sausage (if using) in a large pot. I do not drain it. If using crab, add the crab chunks to the pot (it should already be cooked).
Add your cream cheese to the pot. Mine is usually straight from the fridge, but room temperature would work even better.
Add in the Rotel Tomatoes, Shredded Cheese and let this all melt together over low heat, stirring frequently.
Slowly add in milk, as much as you like. This queso dip will thicken up if refrigerated so you may need to add more milk if reheating leftovers.
Add in hot sauce to taste and stir. Keep on low heat and simmer until ready to eat.