Friday, November 30, 2018

Holiday Recipes: Appetizers


Welcome to our Holiday Recipes Blog Hop. Several of my friends and I have planned a fun week of holiday recipes and stories for you.

Today on my blog, we're featuring recipes for appetizers. You'll find a full schedule at the end of the post. Tell all your friends and then come hang out with us for some festive fun. (If you're blogging about food this week, send me a note, and we'll add your link to our lists!)

Feel free to share your own recipes in the comments each day - we'd love to know your favorites!

Word of warning: I'm one of those cooks who rarely measures anything. I learned basics at a very young age, and have cooked regularly almost my entire life, so I tend to just add by sight or taste or smell. I'm including some recipes here, but also just some generalities of recipes I make, so you can make them your own. If I use a recipe from someone else's blog, I'll just link it here and not repeat it - but I'll share how I make the recipe my own. Visit those blogs to print the recipes for your files.

Now for some of my favorite holiday appetizers. My #1 factor in deciding on an appetizer menu is ease of preparation and service. When I entertain, I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is visiting, so I make appetizers that can be made ahead of time and either assembled quickly at the last minute or assembled by guests as they hover around the food table.

We moved into town when I was 12 years old, and when I entered high school, our house became the hangout house for all my friends. (I now wonder if that's because I'm such a hermit rather than location of our house!)

We had a big living room, devoid of most furniture but with a good stereo, a big fireplace, and the refrigerator close by. We seemed to always be having parties, and my mother's go-to party foods were always "fancy" sandwiches - made with white loaf bread, cut into shapes (rectangles or triangles mostly, but occasionally circles), with the crusts cut off.

My favorite of these was a pimento cheese type mixture. I still make those today, although I usually serve it with crackers and veggies, instead of making sandwiches. (Bread goes stale quickly.)

Cheese & Olive Spread

2 8-oz blocks extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I really love Aldi's Wisconsin cheddar!)
1 5.75 oz jar green olives stuffed with pimentos, chopped
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise (adjust according to preference)

Mix together and refrigerate until ready to use. During the holidays, I keep this in my fridge all season, making a fresh batch whenever needed to restock.

Cream Cheese Christmas Trees

Last year, I was scrolling through Pinterest and discovered another quick appetizer that I've experimented with ever since. I couldn't locate the photos I took the last Christmas I served this, so this image is courtesy of Betty Crocker.


For each tree, you'll need one 8 oz. box of cream cheese
Topping choices are almost limitless

Let the cream cheese come to room temperature, then cut diagonally. Turn one piece around to mirror the other, to form the shape of a Christmas tree. Gently press together, and smear the top with a butter knife to merge the two pieces.You can use as is, or place on top of some pretzel sticks for the tree stem.

Then place in refrigerator to firm up again.

For toppings, try any or all of the following. Heat the jellies and sauces to make them easy to pour. Make more than one kind to spread around the table, or even to create a festive display in duos or trios.

Red and/or green pepper jelly
Salsa
Pesto
Marinara
Nuts or Seeds
Macerated fruit
Melted chocolate with chopped nuts, fruit, candy, or chocolate chips

You can even melt down some cranberry sauce (or make fresh), and add some chopped jalapeno peppers for a kick of heat.

For "decorations" to the tree, use halved cherry tomatoes for ornaments, or cut out a star topper from a bell pepper, like Betty Crocker did. If you're handy with a piping bag, you can pipe on tinsel, snow, or lights with different sauces or condiments.

Serve with dippers appropriate for whichever kind of toppings you use (chips, crackers,  veggies, apples).

Sausage Balls

Holidays around our house wouldn't be complete without sausage balls. Because of different dietary needs from various family members, I now make them different ways.

The traditional method uses Bisquick, cheddar cheese, and breakfast sausage. Our preferences over the years have included using sharp cheddar cheese, pepperjack cheese, and mixing both hot and mild sausages.




Earlier this year, I found a low-carb, gluten-free version from Keto Size Me that I now keep stocked in my freezer. They provide more substance for an appetizer table, so my guys especially love them, but they're also great for popping in the oven as I'm getting dressed to head out for the morning. (We're homebodies, so this isn't an every day occurrence, but I love having them just for those days!) Keto Size Me provided two recipes, one using coconut flour, one using almond flour but since I always double the recipe, I just use one cup of coconut flour and one cup of almond flour combined because the rest of the ingredients were basically the same. (I view the Parmesan as an optional ingredient so I never use it.)

For the ones I made today, pictured here, I doubled the batch. I forgot to get cream cheese so I left it out this time and added more eggs and butter. The final result is not as dense as the regular way, so I may make them like this from now on:

16 oz extra sharp cheddar, shredded
16 oz pepperjack cheese, shredded
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond flour
6 Tbsp butter, melted
6 eggs, beaten
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all together, shape into balls, and bake at 350. The recipe linked above says 20 minutes, but these took 30 and could have probably stayed in another two or three minutes. I took them out a little early so I can pop them in the oven straight from the freezer and not over cook them.

Cheese Balls

Cheese balls have been the biggest hit the last few years. The first year, I made the three in this photo, but two of them became clear winners: Bacon Ranch cheese ball and the Everything cheese ball.

This Silly Girl's Kitchen has the best Everything Cheese Ball recipe, and much better photos than mine here.

Pop over and check it out. If you love Everything Bagels, you will love this cheese ball. One tip: Put all the seeds, spices, and salt in a zipper bag. After mixing the ball and chilling it, toss it into the bag with the seeds. Roll it around in the bag, pressing the seeds into the cheese as you shape the ball. This one's addictive, so you might want to make two.

The Bacon Ranch cheese ball is another great option. I love this recipe from Food Beast, with one addition. I add a couple of tablespoons (up to 1/4 cup) of sour cream, just to make it a little creamier. If budget is a concern (always a factor in my house!), I leave off the pecans and just use more crackers to coat.

Come join the fun in our Holiday Recipes blog hop!

Links below activate on the scheduled date.

FRI, Nov 30: Holiday Appetizers – Tracy Ruckman
SAT, Dec 2: Holiday Beverages – Rachel Hartsfield
MON, Dec 3: International Holiday Foods – Peggy Cunningham
TUES, Dec 4: Holiday Breakfasts & Brunches – Betty Thomason Owens
WED, Dec 5: Holiday Main Courses – Sheryl Holmes
THURS, Dec 6: Holiday Sides / Potluck / Buffets – Tracy Ruckman
FRI, Dec 7: Holiday Sweets – Rachel Hartsfield

SAT, Dec 8: Holiday Recipes Master List – Tracy Ruckman




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