Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Food - Appetizers

It's December 1st! Wishing all of you who celebrate a very Happy Chanukah! Wishing others a joyous Advent season! Today's focus is food. With the many parties, get-togethers, and holiday functions, food plays a central role in the celebrations we enjoy. For those comfortable in the kitchen this makes the holidays all the more wonderful. But for others being asked to "bring your favorite appetizer" makes them break out into a cold sweat.  Whether you are hosting or being hosted and need to bring something with you, here are a few suggestions that are easy, easier, and easiest! Enjoy!

Many years ago Hallmark used to give out free booklets filled with planning calendar and stickers for the holiday season, gift ideas, and recipes during their Holiday Open House weekend in November. Being a Christmas fanatic I would get my copy, pour over it, and put it away at the end of the season so I'd have it many years later. The recipe I am sharing is from one of those Hallmark Holiday Planners and dates to 1992.

Artichoke Spread

3 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 T Dijon mustard
1 t paprika

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Spoon mixture into buttered ovenproof serving dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and bubbly. Serve with crusty french bread slices.

I used this recipe countless times and had rousing success each time I served it. It is not a low calorie, figure friendly spread, but it is rich and sinful and a little goes a long way. There are probably ways to lighten it up - perhaps substitute Greek yogurt for the mayo - but for sharing, this is a crowd pleaser! Serve the bread, your favorite crackers, and even fresh raw veggies.

Cocktail Wieners

1 pkg. Lil' Smokies cocktail franks
1 pkg. refrigerated crescent rolls such as Pillsbury

Preheat oven to temperature given on the crescent roll package. Unwrap the crescent rolls and using a sharp knife cut smaller triangles of dough to fit around individual frank; the base of the triangle place the frank and roll the dough around frank up to the point. It should be wrapped enough to have dough around all of the frank except the two ends peaking out. Place wrapped frank on a nonstick cookie sheet. Repeat for all the franks in the package. Bake at recommended temperature on the package of crescent rolls (375 degrees I believe) until the franks are sizzling and the dough turns golden brown, approximately 12 minutes. I highly recommend doing at least two packages of each as this is such a popular appetizer they will be gone before you know it! Serve with your favorite condiments - mustards, ketchup, etc.

Too difficult for those of you who can't or won't step foot in your kitchen? Fine! Try the following help from the grocery store:


Search the grocers for a tub of hummus in a favor that is pleasing to you. Hummus is chick peas (garbanzo beans) mashed up with olive oil and seasonings. It is healthy and delicious and comes in a wide variety of flavors. Pick up a couple and keep on hand this holiday season. The items to serve with this are pita chips, also available at your grocer or simple to make at home, and raw veggies. Put out a bowl of olives to accompany and you have yourself a mini Mediterranean feast!

Chex Mix

Do not overlook this wonderful snack mix that has been popular for generations. Although recipes for this are plentiful, the store bought versions are scrumptious, easy, and perpetually on sale this time of year. Treat yourself, your host, and/or your guests to this party staple. There are so many varieties at the store - from spicy to chocolate, from sweet to original - that you can serve it all season and never tire of it!

Holiday Punch

If, like me, you prefer to have an alcohol-free holiday, this punch is ideal! It is festive, delicious, and so pretty. The children will love it and so will the adults. Even if wine, beer, and spirits are a part of your celebrations, it is important to offer an alcohol free choice for those designated drivers. This punch delivers and packs a vitamin C punch keeping colds at bay!

1 64 fluid ounce bottle cran-raspberry juice, such as Ocean Spray brand (I use the Light version)
1 2 liter bottle ginger ale (I use diet)
orange juice (I use Tropicana No Pulp, Calcium + Vitamin D)
1 container rainbow sherbet
1 pkg. frozen raspberries

In a large punch bowl (dig yours out, borrow one, or break down and buy one, they aren't too expensive and something you'll use again and again) fill 2/3rds of the way up with the chilled cran-raspberry juice.  Next add chilled ginger ale to add sparkle - not the whole amount, just about 10-12 ounces, reserving the rest to continue adding as the punch needs replenishing. Add a splash of orange juice, enough to chance the color of the punch to look a bit like sunset. Scoop balls of sherbet into the bowl gently so the sherbet floats. Lastly, add the frozen raspberries to garnish, floating freely among the mixture. Make sure a ladle fits into the punch bowl without overflowing the punch! The amounts are all approximate - you must eyeball each batch. As the cups are filled start making more as this is a well-received concoction and empty cups will be looking to refill shortly!
For you adventurous types, use an old jell-o mold (for jell-o salads), fill with cran-raspberry juice and some frozen raspberries and set in the freezer until firm. Before making the punch, run a bit of warm water on the bottom side of the mold out of the freezer and loosen the frozen juice.  Have the punch bowl right near the sink because once the juice unleashes from the mold you need to get it directly into the punch bowl. This "ice ring" made from the juice in your punch keeps the punch cold and doesn't dilute it like a real ice ring would. The juice simply melts into the punch making... more punch! Keep several bottles of the juice, ginger ale, and containers of sherbet and frozen berries around because you will make this Christmas punch a lot! Of course a sparkling wine can be used in place of the ginger ale,  or Sprite or 7 Up can be used in lieu of the ginger ale, it is all a matter of your taste buds.

Have some tried and true recipes to share to make appetizer entertaining fast, simple and delicious? Please add them to the comments. It you try any of these recipes this season, please let me know if you and your guests/friends liked them.

Wishing you a festive December!! Join me tomorrow for more to make your season merry and bright!


  1. That will be me hanging round the Cocktail Wieners, better make another couple of plates for everyone else :-)

  2. So true, Art, those wieners are crowd pleasers, and the men definitely go for them. Well, there's time - load up your mum and dad and the three of you join us for Christmas celebrations. We'll make dozens of the wieners and put some extra Christmas crackers on the table, too. Yes, I do this British tradition, as well!!

  3. I'm putting on the feed bag! {That is what they do to horses. A feed bag is a leather bag hung around a horses head with oats in it)

  4. I finally tried hummus for the first time last week. I'm on my 2nd tub. I eat it with sea salt and olive oil crisps. YUMMY!

    I don't go to parties or have parties, but I just might try these recipes out!

  5. I am easily addicted to artichoke spread and hummus. Presumably, artichoke spread counts as one of the daily recommended eight fruits and vegetables.

  6. Here's an easy favorite... Stuffed Celery. Mix 1 lb of blue cheese and 1 lb cream together. Cut celery into 2 or 3 inch pieces and fill the celery with the mix. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve chilled.

  7. Thanks for the invite Chief, I think my Mom has already made plans for this year :-)