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Hack your favorite fast foods into respectable holiday dishes

It’s very rare that I identify with someone featured in a viral video — I don’t have a pet otter, nuts that a surly goat can head-butt me in or the type of brain that asks, “What would happen if I put this pen and pineapple together?” But last week I found a woman whose plight I understand all too well, who I now consider a personal hero.

Last November, Xanthe Pajarillo embarked on a yearlong quest to bring the McRib sandwich back to Santa Clarita, California. What made Pajarillo’s pleas heartwarming was context — her family celebrates Thanksgiving every year with McRibs and Chicken McNuggets. In her words, “A Thanksgiving without the McRib is like a Christmas without snow.” How beautiful is that? (Check out the video at the end of the article to witness her heartfelt plea to the Santa Clarita City Council.)

More: McDonald’s McRib is back, and now there’s an app to find exactly where

It may seem strange to some people, but celebrating holidays with fast food isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept. In Japan, Christmas and KFC are as traditional as American Thanksgiving and turkey. In my house, we celebrate Christmas Eve by eating takeout Thai food in our pajamas while watching Die Hard (which is absolutely a Christmas movie and I will not humor any opinions to the contrary).

The best traditions are not ones we see in magazines, but the unique ones we create with the people we love. There’s no reason you can’t hack your holiday with fast food. Maybe you can’t cook. Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you really just love the McRib that much. Xanthe Pajarillo has broken down doors for us, and we no longer need to be ashamed of ________________.

More: Edible Christmas trees: The easiest holiday food trick we know

White Castle stuffing

white castle sliders
Image: White Castle/Facebook

If you’re worried about this dish flying with your guests, know that they catered my wedding and everyone completely flipped their crap the moment they saw the giant pyramids of cheeseburgers we had built. The lesson this teaches us: There are foods that bring us unbridled joy, but we tend to avoid as to not shave years off our lives. Bringing them into an occasion where you’re supposed to be making all the bad nutritional decisions allows people to live their holiday to the fullest. It’s like Cancun for your triglyceride levels.

White Castle knows that they made every holiday just a bit brighter, which is why they have an entire section of their website dedicated to recipes involving their sliders. Their stuffing is quickly becoming the stuff of legend, but that’s not by any means the only way to celebrate with Belly Bombers. Try the recipes that incorporate White Castle burgers into latkesqueso dip or spinach lasagna.

Chicken nugget ring

chicken nuggets
Image: LauriPatterson/Getty Images

I have in past columns established that ranch dressing is the most important culinary invention in the history of America, which means it should be a must-serve this time of year. Why serve it with boring things like carrot sticks or raw broccoli, which become dietary noes the moment they are plunged into dip? This is a wasted opportunity to throw caution to the wind and go all in. Think of it like a shrimp ring, but exponentially more awesome.

Taco Bell’s Beef Steakhouse Nachos

taco bell beef steakhouse nachos
Image: Taco Bell

These are on Taco Bell’s specialties menu. Know why? Because they are that freaking special. I wouldn’t even serve them as an appetizer — plate them in fancy bowls for a first course. This way no one is fighting over who got the chips with the most guacamole, and you can save your rage to fight about more important things, like the impending doom our country currently faces or the new season of Gilmore Girls.

More: Can we talk about why Taco Bell is the best?

Domino’s cheesy bread

dominos stuffed cheesy bread
Image: Domino’s

Plate them up nice, add a light schmear of pesto, sprinkle with some fancy chopped olives and Parmesan cheese, boom. Everyone is fooled. So fancy. Much class.

Sonic corn dog pigs in a blanket

corn dog pigs in a blanket
Image: Annabelle Breakey/Getty Images

Slide out the stick, slice into 1-inch-thick slices and skewer on very fancy toothpicks. Really, I can’t underestimate how much power very fancy toothpicks have. You can stick them on anything and suddenly everyone feels like they’re at the Ritz Carlton. Try this with Ikea meatballs or popcorn shrimp. It’s going to completely change the way you entertain, I guarantee it.

Popeye’s chicken

fried chicken
Image: Marianna Massey/Getty Images

It’s no secret that most chefs are completely obsessed with Popeye’s — even Anthony Bourdain has loudly sung its praises. If it’s what we want to eat for dinner, then why shouldn’t it be what you eat for dinner? A giant platter of fried chicken pieces is far more lust-worthy than a platter of dry sliced turkey.

Amp it up to a surf and turf dinner by adding some fried butterfly shrimp paired with a fancy jarred sauce from an overpriced gourmet supermarket. Make a fancy plated dessert by topping warm buttermilk biscuits with ice cream and stewed winter fruits or use them in place of cake in a trifle. Those things are so good, you could work them into every course and nobody will complain.

Let us know in the comments if there’s a fast food hack you love. And this holiday season, let’s all raise a glass of eggnog to Xanthe Pajarillo, who has set us free and unleashed the imaginations of our inner fatties. We’re all going on diets in January. Now’s the time for us to live on the edge.

Skip ahead two minutes into the video to get to the part where Pajarillo describes the essential role the McRib plays in her family’s holiday traditions.

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