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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you’re a foodie like me. The holidays mean lots of occasions for feeding friends and family. Trying out fun, new recipes for snacks, appetizers and treats is part of what makes this season joyful, at least for me. Where I work, the whole week before Christmas people bring in a variety of snacks and treats. And often, unexpected events pop-up that need a dish in a hurry.
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Here are a few of my favorites:
Let’s get this party started with just a few of my favorite go-to snacks. The best part about these recipes is that nibbling a few of these not too sinful treats won’t destroy your waistline!
Also, they are unique enough that there won’t be dozens of the same dish at your event. Once, last year we showed up to a cocktail party where there were literally 7 trays of wings! Great for wing lovers but a total dud for those of us not feeling the “wing love” – Lol.
Let’s get this party started with a cocktail!
I love martinis and this festive Christmas “crantini” is always a hit at my parties! Rosemary, which is an herb from the evergreen family is what separates this cocktail from an ordinary Cosmo. Choose a good quality gin or vodka for this libation. In fact, why not make your own gin with this nifty kit. I tried it and it was delicious! It would make a great gift for the bartender in your tribe. I recommend keeping your vodka and gin in the freezer for the ultimate icy beverage.
Per martini you will need 2 oz of your favorite gin or vodka. (I would not use flavored spirits for this drink such as vanilla vodka. It simply doesn’t mix well in this recipe.)
You will also need 4 oz of cranberry juice or any fun cranberry blend.
1/2 oz of orange liqueur such as Cointreau
Several sprigs of fresh Rosemary
A cocktail shaker filled with ice
A small fine mesh strainer
Several fresh cranberries for garnish (see picture)
Pour all the liquid ingredients into the cocktail shaker along with a spring of Rosemary that you have lightly bruised to release the oils. I lightly beat the sprig with the back of a wooden spoon. Shake vigorously for about 10-20 seconds if you start with cold liquids, longer if you are using room temperature. Pour through a strainer into a frosted martini glass and garnish with a few sugared cranberries skewered on one of the extra Rosemary sprigs. I am pretty certain this is what Christmas tastes like in cocktail form. Appetizers ALWAYS taste better with a luscious libation!
Time for some appetizers
First up, yummy, fresh, crab salad. Most of the ingredients in this first recipe are items you probably already have on hand, except the crab. Crab can be bought fresh, canned, or you can even use surimi (crab substitute). This makes it easy to have all your items on hand to whip up last minute. In addition to using this crab salad to fill mini sandwiches, it is also a super delicious filling for halved avocados. And now our local grocery and Trader Joe’s stock these adorable mini avocados that would be party perfect!
Easy Make-Ahead Dish
All of the salad ingredients can be mixed a day or two ahead which is great for this chilled salad, but if you are going to serve it in the avocado halves be sure to cut them just before serving so the avocados don’t turn brown. I dip my avocados in a bath of acidulated water (fancy word for lemon water) to delay the oxidation process. A scoop like you’d use for cookie dough and a deviled egg platter help make your presentation pretty. Love avocados? Check out this recipe for Avocado Wontons.
8oz. Crab meat – be sure to remove any bits of shell
(You can substitute imitation crab if you choose)
3 sliced green onions
1 large rib of celery diced
Juice from half a lemon
½ cup to ¾ cup of mayonnaise (We are always watching calories so we go light on the mayo and loosen the mixture with a couple of Tbsp. of water if needed.)
½ cup of grated cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. of poppy seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf of cocktail pumpernickel (or rye) bread for serving or halved avocados to fill with a generous scoop of this light and luscious salad.
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and allow to chill and blend in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Eat and enjoy as a salad, stuffed in an avocado half or in mini sandwiches as shown.
Next Up – Rumaki
My twist on Rumaki is another one of our family favorites! I make two different kinds. One with dates and blue cheese and the more classic, basic version. These disappear as fast as I can make them! They are just the right blend of savory and slightly sweet. How can you miss when you use BACON!
⅔ cup of soy sauce
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbs. ground garlic
2 cans of whole water chestnuts
1 pack of bacon strips, cut in half
toothpicks (one for each water chestnut- soaked in water)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (An Air Fryer works great for these as well)
- Whisk together first 4 ingredients and soak the water chestnuts and bacon in the mixture for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator. (Longer is fine)
- Drain bacon and water chestnuts. Take each half strip of bacon and wrap it around a whole water chestnut and secure with a water-soaked toothpick.
- Place on a greased/sprayed pan and cook till golden brown. Approximately 10-12 min., or until they reach the desired level of doneness. (We like ours pretty well done so ours cook longer.) You may want to turn them over half way through to evenly brown both sides.
Cheese Stuffed Date Rumaki
1 cup of soy sauce
whole, pitted dates, 24 of them, split like a hot dog bun
whole basil leaves-at least 24
24 cubes of blue cheese (You could substitute goat cheese if you preferred)
12 slices of super thin prosciutto cut in half long ways.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and soak dates in soy sauce for at least 20 min.
- Stuff each date with a cube of blue cheese or goat cheese
- Wrap the cheese stuffed date in a basil leaf, (I even like to use 3 or 4 basil leaves per date.) then in the prosciutto.
- Place on a greased/sprayed baking sheet and bake for 12-15 min or until desired doneness.
Brunch or Tea Time?
What if you’re having a morning holiday gathering or brunch? No worries! Impress your peeps with homemade scones. They go great with coffee and tea. Just ask my friend Justine Warne from The Tea Chest who is the resident expert on all things tea. Not too sweet compared to all the cookies everyone will bring. Here’s my recipe for Tart Cherry Scones with Lemon Drizzle. Of course you could use a different dried fruit and change up the glaze for a variety of combos just stick to the ratios of ingredients and have fun playing with this easy recipe.
Tart Cherry and Lemon Scones
For the Scones:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
6 Tbsp. cold butter (cut into small cubes)
1 cup heavy cream (plus extra to brush on scones before baking)
1 cup of dried cherries
For the Glaze:
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put first 5 ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. The mixture should look coarse and crumbly.
Pour this out into a bowl, toss cherries into the mix to coat. Then make a well in the center of the crumbly mixture.
Pour the heavy cream into the well and gradually combine using a spatula or fork. Be careful not to overwork the dough. It will not hold together at this point. That will happen in the next step. Dump the crumbly mixture onto a floured board and press together using your hands.
From squares to triangles
Press into approximately an 8” square. Cut into 3 rows both horizontally and vertically creating 9 smaller squares. Cut each of these squares into triangles by cutting diagonally, corner to corner.
Gently brush the exterior surfaces of each scone with the remaining heavy cream and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes but keep your eye on them. Once they have reached the level of golden brown coloring you prefer, take them out of the oven. We like our scones darker than the norm. (I guess we don’t do anything “normal”- Lol)
Normal is all relative- Lol
As the scones cool a bit, mix the lemon juice, zest and powdered sugar together in a small bowl. If the glaze is not drizzling consistency then feel free to add a bit more sugar or water as needed. Drizzle the glaze on slightly warm scones and serve immediately. (Although, they keep quite well for a couple of days in an airtight container.)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family to yours!
I hope you and your crew (or should I say “tribe”?) enjoy your holidays to the fullest and give some of these recipes a try! If you do, please comment below and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you! See below for a free printable for my “Not Icky-Sticky Fruit Cake”. It’s the perfect “Fruit Cake” for fruit cake haters! Lol.