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Super easy (and super not easy) ways to impress your relatives this weekend

We have one big holiday affair in my local social group: a heady bacchanal in a distant McMansion community where our friend stuffs us with meats and liquors until we beg for mercy. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he wanted to harvest our livers. Imagine a party where the frenched lamb chops appetizers are passed over because people don’t want to ruin their appetite for what they know is coming. It’s that kind of party. And I always feel weird that Joel goes through days of prepping and cooking to feed four dozen of his closest friends. I always offer to bring something and Joel always demures, telling me to bring whatever I want, but this time, he actually called out something specific: my baklava.

Ah yes.

“Just make half a batch, though. I know it’s a pain in the ass.”

Ok, so here’s the thing about baklava: a tiny amount of baklava is, if anything, even more of a pain in the ass than a full batch, because you have to cut the filo dough, which compresses the layers, gluing them together. On top of that, you don’t end up with as much baklava! Bullshit. Full batch, baby. No excuse to not.

I used to make it every year for Christmas, but then I got over whatever nesting instinct I was freebasing and I have made it once in the fourteen years we’ve been living in this house, approximately seven years ago. I think it’s because it takes seven years for me to forget what a complete and utter pain in the ass it is to make baklava. This time, I agreed, thinking that I now have a food processor, so certainly the vigorous chopping of nuts was part of my irritating right? Right? This would be a breeze!

It was not a breeze. Even with a mise en place and all the accompanying Williams & Sonoma outfitting, I still spent literally TWO HOURS doing nothing but making bakalava. I am not exaggerating. Two hours! And probably only ten of that was prep and maybe five minutes pulling together the filling. The rest of the time, I was removing a single layer of filo dough, covering the stack with a damp towel, placing the the layer and then painting it with clarified butter, then remove the damp towel, remove a layer, later, rinse, repeat. For more than an hour. Now to be honest, the phone rang THREE TIMES during this process, so if you were a callous type and ignored all distractions, you could probably get that baby down to less than two minutes per layer, but what you must know is that this is not an inconsiderable process.

The baklava was a hit, of course. People raved. Eileen made a pitious plea on Twitter for me to make it again for Weetacon’s Charity Bake Sale in March. Oh, just a small batch, she begged! Sigh. No small batches! It’s all or nothing!

(The secret of my baklava is that I do a combination of Greek and Turkish styles, using pistachios and cinnamon for the filling, Wisconsin wildflower honey for the syrup, but then I also infuse the syrup with Meyer lemon and clove. It’s pretty delicious stuff… the pound of butter doesn’t hurt either.)

So yeah, I’ll be making it again for Weetacon. It’s for charity, blah blah blah.There’s no crying in baklava!

It’s very good baklava, no lie, but as it turned out, it wasn’t the star of the dessert table. You see, Esteban’s cousin (who married Joel’s wife’s best friend, through a series of leaps that are pretty common here in the world’s largest small town) created a truly evil concoction.

Jesse’s Balls.

I tried one of Jesse’s balls and immediately my hand snatched out for another one. I started begging people to eat them so that they would be out of sight, because otherwise, nothing would go in my mouth all night but for Jesse’s balls.  I couldn’t even tell what went into them, other than they were chocolatey and smooth and tasted like magic. And the worst part? When he told me how he made them, I actually laughed out loud. It was like the punchline to a joke.  Jesse’s balls had just three ingredients: Oreo Cookies, cream cheese and butter. The end (because you’ve expired from heart disease). It was like Jesse had been sitting around thinking “Man, I love me some Oreos, but how can I optimize that taste to deliver the maximum amount of calories for the least amount of effort? I know! Smush them with fat and more fat and then eliminate the need to chew!”

Here, I’m going to share with you the magic of Jesse’s balls. Make them for your family and don’t tell them how easy it is, or that the grape-size ball they just put in their mouth has three million calories and more fat than a Big Mac.



  • 1 package regular Oreo cookies
  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (quarter pound) of butter, softened

Finely chop Oreo cookies in food processor (or put inside a freezer Zip Loc bag and use a rolling pin) until you have fine crumbs. Mix cream cheese and butter with cookie crumbs, mold into balls using either hands or ice cream scoops. Dip into melted chocolate, roll in powdered sugar or just stick your face in the bowl and notify next of kin.

If you make that recipe, your friends will call you out specifically when making their New Year’s Resolution. I’m sorry.

Oh! Before I forget, this year we have our first ever Weetacon Charity Cookbook, and you actually have an opportunity to purchase it for yourself! Each cookbook sold represents a $5 donation to Paul’s Pantry, a Northeastern Wisconsin food bank that is seriously hurting for donations right now.

The cookbook includes more than 50 recipes from our past, present and future Weetacon attendees, as well as color photos on every page and stories about why the recipes are meaningful to us. You can peruse such delicacies as Fredlet’s brisket, Mary’s mom’s sacred chocolate chip cookies, Esteban’s lemon tilapia, my favorite super-pain-in-the-ass salad, dueling Ravens and Steelers tailgating dips, as well as legendary Weetacon delights such as Scotty Boom Boom’s “liquid panty remover” alcoholic and June’s chicken booyah, as well as Pineapple Fluff, something salty and sweet and creamy and fruity and so inherently Midwestern potlucky that your life will be changed after eating it. I’m not exaggerating: this is a substance so important in Weetacon lore that it’s in the name of our Facebook group!

All that for just $15, which includes shipping AND the donation to Paul’s Pantry! Such a low price to experience a little of the Weetacon magic in the comfort of your own home while also helping those folks hit hardest by the recession.

This offer is only valid until January 14th, at which point you’ll have to get yours at Weetacon (or after it, by bribing Melinda).

The comments want hear about the most sinful or ridiculously complex thing you’ve ever made for the holidays.

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  1. Allyson wrote:

    Really? HOW do I get to be the first commentor here.

    Ok, so what you are describing are Oreo Truffles in these parts. My friend has been bestowing their goodness upon us for years. They are my husbands favorite things ever. I myself find them a TOUCH too rich, but still delicious. So, I’m glad you’ve found the love, experienced the joy and lived to tell the tale.

    Now, your baklava (which I know I just spelled wrong, don’t judge) that sounds delish. Good luck with round two.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 12:41 am | Permalink
  2. Editrix wrote:

    Re baklava, once I put the butter in a spray bottle. Had to keep it semi immersed in a warm bowl of water when not in use and ended up wasting some butter, but compared with brushing? Oh yeah. Was contemplating one of those olive oil misters for the next time I make it, which may be never.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  3. goingloopy wrote:

    My boss’s wife made these: it’s a christmas tree pretzel, with a Rolo softened and smashed on it, topped with a pecan.

    THEY ARE LIKE CRACK. I was digging through my container o’ homemade goodies last night to make sure I had snarfed every last one of the fuckers.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  4. dena wrote:

    Bwahahahaha … *sniff, sniff*… bwahahahaha! You are a laugh riot!

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  5. Linda in Michigan wrote:

    I use butter-flavored cooking spray on the filo sheets when making spanikopita. Works beautifully.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  6. Sarah/Eddie wrote:

    Please trust me on this… go to and search “cake balls.” I know, the name. But look at the pictures, and the best cooks I’ve ever encountered use this recipe. You can make rum-and-apple-cider with cinnamon and cloves in the slow cooker alongside preparing this recipe and you will have fun as well as make something useful. (set out all the wax paper before having the cider.)

    Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 2:43 am | Permalink
  7. Linda wrote:

    My favorite sort of pain in the ass recipe, in demand all the time, is a layered dip/loaf made of pesto, dried tomatoes, and a cheese herb mix. While expensive to make, it requires no cooking (and therefore no burning), is portable, and fought over at the end. If any is left.

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 3:48 am | Permalink
  8. Justine wrote:

    Mine is tiramisu. I’m always asked by friends to bring it to parties. No matter how large I make it, it always gets eaten. The reason it’s a pain in the arse is you have to make your own zabaglione (Italian custard) which idealy requires a double boiler which I don’t have. Instead I use a metal bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. The problem with this method is 1) ouch! burny fingers! and 2) if you don’t keep the temperature of the boil exactly right you end up with sweet scrambled eggs or very runny custard. The rest of the recipe is easy though so there is some compensation. I have been coveting a sexy copper and ceramic double boiler I saw in a very upmarket produce store for some time but it was $350 AUS and that just seems like far too much to fritter on such a niche kitchen appliance. Sigh.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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