(Family Features) The to-do list for holiday hosts seems to be a never-ending one, starting with planning, guest lists and preparation then ending with goodbyes and cleanup. The hours of work that go into a festive get-together are almost always worth it in the end, and family members surely appreciate the hospitality – especially when it comes to food.
When hosting for the holidays, it can be a challenge to accommodate all of your guests’ favorite tastes while factoring in dietary preferences and restrictions. Building out a balanced menu, like other parts of hosting, starts with devising a thought-out plan.
To help accomplish this task without cooking up personal dishes for everybody in the house, consider these simple tips:
- Request that guests RSVP. Assuming you have a basic understanding of which friends and family members adhere to special diets, knowing exactly who is coming can be a major help before heading to the store.
- Think back to past festivities. Try to remember which dishes were hits at last year’s party, and which ones were hardly touched. Maybe the appetizers that disappeared in a flash will be good ideas to repeat this year.
- Create dishes that fit (almost) everyone. While you can’t control guests’ flavor preferences, it is possible to whip up snack trays, main courses, desserts and more that fit a multitude of dietary restrictions. For example, these Bacon, Baked Brie and Cranberry Holiday Melts feature Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Crackers for a gluten-free, non-GMO, low-sugar, tasty crunch. Because they’re made with wholesome ingredients, these simple snacks are crafted to fit nearly every healthy lifestyle. Plus, if multiple family members adhere to vegetarian lifestyles, you can simply omit the bacon.
- Add “warning” labels. Despite your best efforts, it can be nearly impossible to create foods every single person can enjoy. If you make a dish containing a common allergen, such as peanuts, simply place a card next to the bowl, tray, plate or pan that informs guests of the ingredients included.
For other recipes, coupons, tips and nutritional information, visit crunchmaster.com.
Bacon, Baked Brie and Cranberry Holiday Melts
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
- 24 Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Crackers, Sea Salt flavor
- 24 small slices Brie cheese
- 1/4 cup prepared cranberry sauce
- 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- Heat broiler to high and position rack in center of oven. Arrange crackers in single layer on foil-lined baking sheet.
- Top each cracker with slice of Brie, 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce and sprinkle of bacon. Broil 1-2 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Tip: For vegetarian option, substitute chopped hickory-smoked almonds or pecans for bacon.
Nutritional information per serving: 200 calories; 13 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 45 mg cholesterol; 350 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrates; 1 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 10 g protein.
(Family Features) When it comes time to entertain family and friends, it’s important to have a few simple, warm appetizers and small plates at the ready. Plan your menu with recipes that can be prepped ahead of time and popped in the oven when guests arrive. It can make hosting easier and more enjoyable.
A versatile ingredient that can enhance your favorite sweet and savory recipes, Musselman’s Apple Butter is more than just a spread. It’s made the old-fashioned way for perfect texture and a rich apple-cinnamon flavor, giving parties and get-togethers a unique taste in recipes like these Apple Brie Bites and Apple Butter Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp.
Find more appetizers ideal for entertaining at musselmans.com.
Apple Butter Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp
- 3/4 cup Musselman’s Apple Butter
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 10 pieces bacon
- 10 extra-large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Heat oven to 400° F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In medium-sized skillet over medium heat, add apple butter, maple syrup, red pepper flakes, salt and paprika. Whisk until mixture is thick and cooked down by half, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- In large skillet over medium heat, add bacon slices and cook until browned but still flexible. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel-lined plate.
- Wrap one bacon slice around each shrimp, secure with toothpick and place onto prepared baking sheet.
- Once all shrimp have been wrapped, baste tops with apple butter mixture.
- Bake 5 minutes then flip and baste other side of shrimp. Bake another 5 minutes. Continue to flip and baste shrimp (2 minutes each time) until shrimp is fully cooked. Do not overcook as glaze can burn. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.
Apple Brie Bites
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- 5 ounces Brie cheese
- 1/2 cup Musselman's Apple Butter
- 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
- Heat oven to 400° F. Grease mini muffin pan.
- Press seams of puff pastry sheet together. Cut sheet into quarters then each quarter into six pieces.
- Use rolling pin to flatten each piece of pastry into square shape. Place one square into each muffin cup.
- Put 1/2 teaspoon brie, 1 teaspoon apple butter and 1/2 teaspoon chopped pecans into each muffin cup.
- Bake 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
(Family Features) For holiday parties of any size, tasty appetizers and starters are menu must-haves. While the main course roasts and before dessert is served, guests may flock to the table for snacks and small plates to keep cravings at bay.
When pre-dinner hunger strikes at your holiday gathering, be the center of attention with quick, delicious and simple appetizers that deliver exactly what your guests crave. One way to be the star of your holiday soiree is with Litehouse’s rich and flavorful Simply Artisan Reserve blue cheese and gorgonzola center cuts. Whether the foundation of a delicious cheese plate or crumbled in a recipe – such as one of these eight apps – it’s a win-win solution.
Find more holiday solutions and appetizer recipes at litehousefoods.com.
Small plates to make for appealing dishes
(Family Features) Imagine treating yourself and your dinner guests to a delicious, restaurant-caliber meal without leaving your dining room or hiring a personal chef. Small plates, also known as tapas, are lighter, bite-sized indulgences that you can prepare and style seamlessly. By putting your own artful, unique spin on small plates, you can indulge in a meal that appeals to the senses and conveys sophistication.
It can be easy to create delicious small plates: all you need are wholesome, seasonal ingredients to pair with an artisan-crafted, quality olive oil such as Carapelli. The line, with three varieties to explore, brings a renaissance to the modern kitchen and is ideal for endeavoring chefs looking to try new flavors and experiment with tastes or recipes. It embodies a true passion for the art of creating extra-virgin olive oils and is designed to lift cooks out of the everyday cooking experience.
Keep in mind that when it comes to small plates, what’s important isn’t just the recipe, but the plate – and plating – of the cuisine itself. Foods that appeal to the eye are likely to tempt the taste buds as well. Invest in appropriate-sized dishware for small plates that allows the food to take center-stage.
For a true multi-sensory indulgence, also take time to garnish your dishes, big and small, with edible enhancements that lend a subtle complement to the main attraction. A selection of fresh greens, sprinkling of herbs and even a light drizzle of olive oil can do the trick.
Plan how you’ll adapt your favorite dishes for size – and season – with more tips and recipes at carapelliusa.com.
Carrots and Fresh Herbs with Champagne-Dijon Vinaigrette
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 tablespoon clover honey
- 1/2 cup Carapelli Organic Olive Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon basil, finely chopped
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and finely shredded
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chives, thinly sliced, plus more cut into 3/4-inch pieces, for garnish
- 1/3 cup Champagne Vinaigrette
- fine sea salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- chive sticks, for garnish
- In medium mixing bowl, combine champagne vinegar, Dijon and honey. Whisk constantly until well combined. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. Add garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and basil: whisk to combine.
- In mixing bowl, toss carrots, parsley and chives. Add dressing. Season, to taste, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with chive sticks.
Notes: Vinaigrette can be stored in refrigerator up to five days. For zestier salad, add additional 2 tablespoons vinaigrette to carrots; serve with crusty bread.
Whipped Ricotta and Goat Cheese Beet Skewers
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours, plus cooling time
Servings: 42 skewers
- 2 beets (about 1 pound), 3 inches in diameter, peeled and sliced into 3/4-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon Carapelli Oro Verde Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- arugula, for garnish
- flaked sea salt, for garnish
Whipped Ricotta and Goat Cheese:
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon Carapelli Oro Verde Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Heat sous vide water bath to 185° F.
- In mixing bowl, combine beets, olive oil, thyme and salt; toss to coat. Remove beets from liquid and divide, placing them in single layer into two quart-sized vacuum-seal bags, leaving any excess liquid behind.
- Use vacuum sealer to remove air and double-seal bag. To use zip-top bags instead, slowly dip slightly open bags into large container filled with water, allowing water to displace air. Seal bags when air is removed.
- Place vacuum-sealed bag into prepared water bath, placing heavy, heat-resistant bowl on top of beets to keep them submerged, if necessary. Cook 3 hours.
- If you do not have a sous vide machine, bring large stock pot filled with water to rolling boil. Place vacuum-sealed bags in water. Reduce to gentle simmer, cover and cook 1 hour.
- Carefully remove beets from water bath and cool in sealed bag until they reach room temperature, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes more before serving.
- In mini food processor, cream goat cheese, ricotta and olive oil until smooth. Add zest, salt and pepper: stir to combine.
- Transfer cheese mixture to piping bag fitted with star tip and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To serve, remove beets from bag and arrange on serving platter. Pipe dollop of Whipped Ricotta and Goat Cheese onto each beet. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Garnish with arugula and pinch of flaked sea salt; place skewer through each beet to serve.
Olive Oil Drizzled Pecorino Popcorn
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons Carapelli Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
- 1/3 cup yellow popcorn kernels
- In bowl, combine pecorino and pepper; mix until well combined and there are no cheese clumps.
- In small saucepan over low flame, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil; keep warm.
- Add remaining olive oil and popcorn to large Dutch oven. Stir until all popcorn kernels are coated in oil.
- Cover Dutch oven with lid and cook over medium-high heat, shaking pot periodically. Once popcorn begins to pop, lower heat to medium and continue to shake pot approximately every 15 seconds. When popping slows considerably, remove Dutch oven from heat and allow to rest until popping ceases, about 30 seconds.
- Remove lid and transfer popcorn to large mixing bowl. Drizzle warm olive oil over popcorn; toss to coat. Sprinkle cheese mixture over popcorn; toss to coat.
- Divide popcorn into bowls. Sprinkle some freshly grated pecorino and dash of freshly ground black pepper over top; serve.
Source: Carapelli Olive Oil
(Family Features) Kick off your holiday parties in style with flavorful appetizers every guest will enjoy.
Whether you’re a seasoned holiday host or a first-timer, throwing a holiday party can be a bit overwhelming. But with the proper tools, such as a great sampling of easy-to-make appetizers and delicious beverage pairings, you and your guests will get in the festive mood in no time.
When planning your appetizer fare, go with casual selections that require little to no clean-up. Finger foods, like this recipe for Sweet Slice® Ham Sliders, require just a few savory, mouth-watering ingredients and minimal time in the kitchen. Or, take some inspiration from the menus of Italian restaurants and wine bars and create an old world-inspired charcuterie board composed of Boar’s Head Brand® artisan meats and cheeses. Here are a few tips to create your own:
- Delight and prime guests’ palates: Use one to two ounces of cheese and three slices of meat per person. This will give your guests a mix of salty and savory items to delight their palates but not overwhelm them before the main course.
- Arm independent snackers: Don’t fully pre-cut your cheese choices. To give guests the most interaction with the delicacies, slice a few pieces and then pair a knife with each selection.
- Choose the cheese: The cheese selection should also be diverse and include a minimum of a fresh, semi-soft, firm and hard cheese. Try Boar’s Head Asiago Vecchio Cheese, Picante Sharp Provolone Cheese and Aged Gouda. For more tasty ideas, visit www.boarshead.com.
- Match your meat: You’ll want to display a variety of charcuterie including cured, smoked and preserved meats. Boar’s Head Bianco D’Oro® Italian Dry Salame,
Italian Dry Sausage and Prosciutto Di Parma® are robust and delicious.
- Add the finishing touches: Recreate the artisan culinary experience by placing meats and cheeses on a wood platter or cutting board. Accessorize by adding fruits, nuts, olives, grapes and honey for dipping. Be sure to offer textural contrasts with dippers, such as whole grain crackers, crusted breads, breadsticks and crostini.
- Cheers to your success: Pair a great wine or beer with your choice of meat and cheese. For example, a Cabernet Sauvignon goes great with a dry salami, while dark beers pair perfectly with aged Gouda.
So, get your party started right with a delicious assortment of appetizers and just relax. As long as the drinks and delicious foods are flowing, the good times will as well.
Sweet Slice® Ham Sliders
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 8 appetizer size rolls
- 1/2 cup apple butter
- 4 slices Sweet Slice Boneless Smoked Ham, sliced thick
- 4 slices Whole Milk Low Moisture Mozzarella Cheese, sliced thick
- Slice rolls and spread with apple butter. Cut ham and cheese slices in half to fit on roll. Add one slice each of ham and cheese to roll. Arrange on dish and serve.