Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Traditions...and Appetizers Galore!

It was Christmas Eve. Aisling laid her head back on the chaise longue’s tasseled pillow and stared up at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of bustling activity below. Her father had arrived home that very morning, Jack the day before. The entire household was now in a tizzy, preparing for the Wainscott’s annual Christmas Eve open house.

At that very moment, Aisling’s mother was downstairs with the housekeeper, making certain that every little light on the Christmas tree was twinkling brightly, that every red velvet bow was straight, that the eggnog was perfect and the wassail just so.

In no time, their guests would begin to arrive. A buffet supper would be served, followed by a pantomime, and then a concert featuring traditional holiday music. The evening’s festivities would conclude at the stroke of midnight when the musicians played “Silent Night.” Each guest would light a taper and form a processional through the house and out the front door, where they’d all gather in the drive and stare up at the night sky for a few moments before blowing out their candles, gathering their coats, and heading back to their own homes.

These events had happened in precisely that order as far back as Aisling could remember.

--From “Lover’s Dawn” in WINTER’ DESIRE

‘Tis the Season….to entertain! And what better way than with delicious appetizers? Make enough of a variety, and you can even call it a light meal. When I was growing up, my parents traditionally invited over friends on Christmas Eve for appetizers and dessert, and I can’t even imagine Christmas Eve without my mom’s sausage balls (yum—but unfortunately they can’t pull double-duty as a Hanukkah treat). I’ve since added a couple new favorites to my appetizer repertoire, roasted red pepper tartlets and spinach artichoke dip. This year, I plan to continue the tradition of inviting over friends for a little pre-holiday cheer, and you can bet the three recipes below will be served! Enjoy!

Sausage Balls

2 c. Bisquick
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb. sausage (hot or mild, depending on taste—I use Jimmy Dean brand)

Grate the cheese, the finer the better. Mix all ingredients and roll into bite-size
Balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 min. Can be frozen and reheated.

Red Pepper Tartlets

4 c. roasted red pepper strips (approx. 6 med. Sized peppers) OR 2 7oz. jars roasted red peppers, drained.
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. capers, drained
1 med. clove garlic, smashed, peeled, and mashed to a paste with
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 small container ricotta cheese (optional)
1 package pre-made phyllo tartlet shells (I get these in my grocer’s freezer aisle)

Arrange drained peppers on a double layer of paper towels, and let them dry while preparing the recipe. Combine the remaining ingredients—except for pastry shells and ricotta cheese!—in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until the capers and parsley are very finely chopped. Add the drained peppers and process using on/off pulses, until the peppers are coarsely chopped. Stop several times to scrape down the sides of the work bowl to make sure mixture is evenly chopped. Check seasonings and adjust as necessary. Keep mixture in refrigerator till ready to serve—then remove to room temp. for 30 min.

Prepare phyllo tartlet shells as directed on the packaging. Then, fill each shell with a spoonful of red pepper mixture, and top with a dollop of ricotta cheese, if you like. Heat briefly before serving.

Alternately, you can simply make the red pepper mixture and serve it as a dip—delicious with chunks of sourdough bread, or even tortilla chips.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

2 6 oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts (drain, but reserve liquid for consistency)
2-3 cloves garlic chopped fine
1 10 oz. pkg. chopped spinach (defrosted and drained well)
1 lb. hot pepper cheese (Monterey Jack with chilies is good)
3 yellow chilies or jalapenos boiled for 20 min. and then chopped (do not discard seeds--you can substitute a few bits of jarred jalapenos for above, chopped, to taste)
½ bunch cilantro (optional—I hate cilantro, so I omit)
½ cup low-fat mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients and add just enough liquid from artichoke hearts to moisten.
Pour into small casserole dish that has been lightly sprayed with Pam.
Bake uncovered for 30 min. at 350 degrees. Serve with tortilla chips.

What are some of your favorite holiday appetizers? Please share in the comments section!


Amanda McIntyre said...

What lucky guests you have, Kristina!

Good heavens, these all sound fantastic! and I can feel the rumbly in my tumbly (sayth Pooh)

I adore Spinach Artichoke dip in restaurants, but never until now, did I know how to make it at home! Can I get an amen!!? Yum! I can almost smell that dip now! eek!

Well, I think perhaps its time to share the secret holiday treat that is my husband's ballywick at holiday time--need to hunt the recipe down for Dried Beef Log...

will post later today--and if anyone asks, you didnt get this from me!


Amy C said...

OHHH, I am so making those sausage balls! They sound and look yummy. And then top it off with a yummy milk gravy!! Mmmm, I love biscuits and gravy! Maybe that's what I'll make for Christmas breakfast :). I usually do biscuits and gravy then, but those biscuits sound so much yummier than plain ones :).

And I love spinach artichoke dip! I made for the first time last year :).

I still need to pull out my recipe for banana bread. I mentioned it yesterday. Someone might like to try it :).

Amy C said...

Dried beef log?

I am curious to know what that is :).

Amanda McIntyre said...

What a gorgeous foyer! Is there anything better to decorate than an older home at Christmas?

Amy-what is a dried beef log?

Yummylicious! I'll post teh recipe tomorrow. Just drove home an hour in light fluffy snow and having a glass of wine before beddybye;)

Hope the electricity is back online for you Kristi--it is getting to be that time of year!

Would love that banana bread recipe, Amy!

does anyone give homemade gifts anymore?
this year we'vehosen to do an English Christmas dinner--any suggestions?


Amy C said...

I used to. I was really big into sewing when I was in my early twenties (kinda strange for a young person) and I made these these two and a half feet frogs. Two sets of them. One for me and one for my MIL. They were fully outfitted. Very cute. ANd I also made some kitchen pigs dressed up like bakers with the big puffy hats. The snouts were so freakin hard to do! And I also made like five of these bears that the hands are sewed together and they hang from a door knob. I had given those to the women in my family at the time.

I don't sew anymore though. I can't believe I sewed as much as I use to.

I have made other gifts scrapbooky kinda things for a few of Devin's teachers. This one is just darling. It's like an accordion style handmade scrapbook. I made an example one when I made a few for devin's pre-school teachers. Thay would make for fun gifts and great projects for kids about Devin's age. I think I will pull it out. Me and Devin can work on making some this weekend, probably not as gifts but maybe we'll set them aside and add Christmas pictures to it after it's all over. One of those for each Christmas would be really fun to do also! Umm, but that would mean i would have to make 11! It would be fun though :).

I think I rambled on this morning :).

I'll find that recipe and post it here. Don't forget about the Dried Beef Log!

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Amanda, English dinner...boy do I have ideas, and it's all very traditional, since that's what eat for Christmas every year. I'll hook you up with some idea!!!

Genella deGrey said...

Kristina - Isn't Bisquick
the Schizzel?

Here is my Super-Easy Americanized Scone recipe (debued here on the LIT Blog):

2 cups Bisquick
half stick butter melted
one cup sour cream
three table spoons sugar
half cup blueberries (or other small diced fruit – frozen OK – or mini-simi-sweet chocolate chips.)

Blend together baking mix and sugar
Pour in butter and sour cream – Blend using pastry blender or big wooden spoon until moist (will be lumpy)
Fold in fruit

Drop biscuit-sized lumps onto non-stick cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees
17-20 minutes (adjust time for individual ovens.)

Yields about 7 or 8 depending upon how big you make them – recipe can be doubled.

Enjoy -