Holiday Dinner

On Sunday, I had some of my closest friends over for a holiday dinner and gift exchange.  I love entertaining but still think of myself as a struggling cook – thankfully, I had no trouble making some amazing appetizers, which I served with grilled salmon as the main course (though I didn’t even have to make that much salmon because everyone was chowing down on the appetizers)!  After dinner, there were cookies galore and pumpkin pie for dessert.  I’ll share my grandma’s molasses sugar cookie recipe in a later post, but see below for all the appetizer recipes I used!  I promise they are simple, and will have all your guests smiling with satisfaction!

Bruschetta – this is a family recipe that my aunt makes for everyone.  It’s not a typical bruschetta, but is more a Midwest version, loaded with cheese – cheddar and blue cheese, bacon, mayo and cream cheese!

  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup blue or asiago cheese
  • 4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 6 strips fried bacon, crumbled
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 2 T. chopped basil
  • 1/2 c. mayo
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix together, refigerate overnight.  Spoon onto sliced baguettes.  Broil 3-4 minutes.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • 10-ounce bag fresh spinach
  • 6 ounces (3/4 block) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 6 ounces (3/4 block) fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed (not minced)
  • 6 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Tear spinach into bite-size pieces, removing any thick stems. Rinse in a colander, leaving a little water on the leaves. In a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven, sauté the spinach over medium heat until wilted. Drain in the colander, pushing a little of the extra water out.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheeses with a potato masher. Add sour cream and mash more. Add spinach, mozzarella, artichokes, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the parmesan. Stir everything until thoroughly combined.

Pour mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan on top. Bake 30 minutes, at 350, or until parmesan is melted dip is all bubbly. Remove from oven and give it a minute or two to cool down. Serve with baked tortilla chips to applause.

Easy Goat Cheese Appetizer

  • 8 to 12 ounces marinated goat cheese or feta, broken into large chunks
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole pink peppercorns
  • Sliced baguette or crackers, for serving

Place cheese in a small ovenproof dish, and bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove the dish from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with fresh thyme (if desired) and whole pink peppercorns. Serve with sliced baguette or crackers.

Chickpea Nibble

  • 1 can (19 ounces) chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, dried oregano, or ground cumin

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Drain, rinse, and pat dry chickpeas. Toss chickpeas in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and either garam masala (an Indian blend), dried oregano, or ground cumin.

Arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and just beginning to crisp, about 50 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

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