There’s a website out there that is totally devoted to awkward family photos.  I’m sure we all have one or two awkward family photo candidates that would rival anything found online.  But, I would like to argue that I have more than my fair share.  I could keep you entertained for days with all of my horrendous pictures.  One photo in particular became a Christmas card that would go down in our family‘s history as the best Christmas card of all time. When I was 8 or so, we lived in an adorable, blue, 2-story house outside of Corvallis, Montana.  I remember the wallpaper, the staircase, and the wood stove.  I remember chopping wood with dad.  I don’t think I actually chopped wood (obviously), but I’m sure I hauled and stacked a lot.  I remember my brother and I spending hours on end damming up the neighbors irrigation ditches and swinging on his gate.  I remember getting new beds…waterbeds.  I don’t know how many times mom and dad had to patch them after my brother and I went after the mattresses with mom’s sewing pins, but we had a blast shooting water out of those things.  And, I remember getting my first perm in that blue house.  Ahh….the infamous first perm.  For months, I begged and begged for that perm.  Sometime around the beginning of December, circa 1985, mom gave in.  Not only was the perm just in time for Christmas pictures, but I got to have my picture taken looking like the love child of Richard Simmons and Little Orphan Annie. 

When picture day came, we were primped and ironed and primped some more.  Mom set up her camera just so.  She set the timer, pushed the button, and instructed us to look at the camera and smile pretty as she dashed to take her place in the picture. Over and over again we went through the same thing.  Each time, just before the shutter clicked, I made a face…crossed my eyes, sucked in my cheeks, anything to keep mom from putting those pictures in Christmas cards.   Those were the days before digital cameras.  There was no reviewing pictures and deleting the ones you didn’t like.  You simply had them developed and were stuck with whatever was on that roll of film.  I can only imagine my mom’s disappointment when she realized what I had done.  My brother looked his usual handsome, calm, cool, and collected self.  My sister was sickeningly adorable as always.  Mom and dad looked totally classy and together.  Then there was me in all of my cross-eyed, bad perm, polo shirt glory.  Any hopes mom had of having perfect family pictures to share with friends and family were dashed the instant she opened that envelope.  I don’t know if it was her determination to send out family pictures, or if she was simply trying to teach me a lesson, but she found the least humiliating picture, made copies, and put them in the mail. 

That Christmas picture haunts me to this day - from it’s place on my piano.  A decade ago I came to grips with my grade school awkwardness and decided that it was okay to laugh at myself.  That picture will hold a special place in my heart along with the other dozens of embarrassing and awkward moments from my past.  It ranks right up there with the time I got stuck in a newspaper vending machine and the time I pitched  a no-hitter…as in, I walked every single batter until the opposing team had gone through it’s roster at least twice. 

Now I have to get creative.  Somehow I need to tie awkward family photos into food.  Let’s see…Awkward family photos. Bad hair. Richard Simmons.  Sweatin’ To The Oldies.  Healthy.  Diets.  Food.  Party food.  Appetizers.  Like how I did that?  I’ve been excited to share an appetizer recipe with you that I had a chance to taste at the Pillsbury Bake-Off last month.  If you’re looking for a quick, easy, and finger lickin’ good appetizer to carry to your Christmas party, Kickin’ Spinach Cheese Bites are just the ticket.  This recipe was created by my range neighbor, Kathy Ferder.  I may have sneaked 1, or 2, or 9 from her sample tray when she wasn’t looking.  These bite sized delicacies have a good dose of healthy spinach which I’m sure would make Richard Simmons proud.  Enjoy!



1 box (9 oz) Green Giant frozen chopped spinach

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

¼ cup ricotta cheese

6 oz provolone cheese, shredded (1 ½  cups)

¼ cup finely pickled jalapeno slices, drained

2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations refrigerated seamless dough sheet


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly spray 48 non-stick mini muffin cups with Crisco Original No-Stick Cooking Spray.  Microwave frozen spinach as directed on box.  Squeeze dry with paper towels. 

2.  In medium bowl, beat cream cheese and ricotta cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Stir in spinach, shredded cheese, and jalapenos until well blended.

3.  Unroll 1 dough sheet; press into 12x8 inch rectangle.  Cut dough sheet into 24 squares.  Press 1 square in bottom and up side of each mini muffin cup.  Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of spinach mixture into each cup.  Repeat with remaining dough sheet and filling. 

4. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until edges of dough are golden brown.  Immediately remove from pan to serving platter.  Cool 5 minutes.  Serve warm. 

TIP:  If you can’t find the seamless dough sheets, you can use canned crescent rolls and pinch the seams together to make a dough sheet. 

Tiffany Aaron of Quitman writes her "Secret Life of a Betty Crocker Wannabe" column each Wednesday.  Aaron is a recent finalist in the national Pillsbury Bake-Off competition and can be reached at