It's been a decade since this happened: Christmas falling on a day when there is a food section in the News-Democrat.
That's probably why I don't feel prepared to tell you to do anything that you already haven't prepared for -- considering that today is probably jam-packed with stuff to do.
It's not a day to be experimenting with recipes. Better to sit around in your robe with bows stuck to your head and drink your coffee before heading off to church or a relative's house.
Getting ready for New Year's Eve can wait a day or two. Just don't throw out the food section!
You'll find lots of recipes to inspire you here, including a delightful Bacon Jam to top crusty bread, Mini Queso Burgers and pulled pork covered in a Cranberry Chipotle barbecue sauce made in a slow cooker.
Now, get back to sorting through gifts. And don't throw anything out with the wrapping paper.
How to throw a successful cocktail party
Cathy Conway, owner and executive chef of Avalon Catering in Atlanta, Conway offers these tips if you're planning your own cocktail party:
If the event is at 5 p.m., serve light hors d'oeuvres, the kind of thing people can pick up and eat without a fork. Featuring vegetables is a good choice, providing crunch while also being light.
At 7 p.m., you'll need heavier hors d'oeuvres -- a protein, some starches -- foods that involve a plate and a fork. Tapas-style items like risotto croquettes are a good choice.
When thinking quantities, plan on four hors d'oeuvres per person. "If you're serving three hors d'oeuvres, people will sample one of each and then have a second one of their favorite," Conway said
Finally, when deciding on your menu, try to walk the line between mainstream and cutting-edge. "You want a menu that will inspire and excite, but won't scare your guests."
Lasagna Pinwheel Bites
2 tubes Pillsbury croissant dough
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 pound ground sausage, browned, drained, and crumbled
18 small mozzarella medallions
Fresh parsley or basil, chopped
On a lightly floured cutting board, roll out 1 tube of croissant dough, then pinch together each of the creases to create one large sheet of dough. Spread half of the ricotta over the dough. Stir the crushed garlic into the pizza sauce then spread half of the sauce over the ricotta. Sprinkle half of the browned sausage over the pizza sauce. From the longest end, roll the dough up tightly, pinch the edges to seal, then cut into 1 1/2 3 rolls and place in a lightly greased baking dish. Repeat with the second tube of croissant dough.
Place a mozzarella medallion on top of each Lasagna Bites. Sprinkle with a bit of chopped parsely or basil, then bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped basil or parsley.
Makes approximately 18 pinwheels.
-- The Family Kitchen at blogs.babble.com
Impossibly Easy Mini Crab Cake Pies
2 cans (6 ounces) crabmeat, drained, flaked
1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup milk
Crab Cake Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 12 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. In small bowl, mix crabmeat and 1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning; set aside. In 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Cook onion and bell peppers in oil 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add crabmeat mixture, stirring until mixture is heated through. Cool 5 minutes; stir in cheese.
3. In medium bowl, stir baking mixture ingredients with whisk or fork until blended. Spoon 1 scant tablespoon baking mixture into each muffin cup. Top with about 1/4-cup crab mixture. Spoon 1 tablespoon baking mixture onto crab mixture in each muffin cup.
4. Bake about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and tops are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. With thin knife, loosen sides of pies from pan; remove from pan and place top sides up on cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes longer.
5. While crab cake pies are cooling, in medium bowl, mix aioli ingredients. Serve each mini pie topped with generous tablespoonful of aioli. Makes 6 servings (2 mini pies each)
-- Betty Crocker
Cranberry-Chicken Fillo Cups
1 package (1.9 ounces) frozen mini fillo shells (15 shells)
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
3/4 cup finely chopped cooked chicken breast
1 container (6 ounces) Greek fat-free plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
2 green onions, chopped (2 medium)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Thaw fillo shells as directed on package.
2. In medium bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the cranberries and the remaining ingredients.
3. Spoon generous teaspoonfuls mixture into shells. Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons cranberries and, if desired, rosemary sprigs.
Makes 15 appetizers
Make ahead: To make the cups ahead, prepare the filling without the cranberries. Before serving, add the cranberries, fill the shells, and garnish.
Substitutes: You can use chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley instead of the rosemary, and use the parsley leaves for a garnish.
To toast walnuts: Sprinkle in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown.
-- Betty Crocker
Caramelized Apple-Blue Cheese Spread
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large firm apples (preferably Fuji or Braeburn), finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 shallot, finely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (1 cup) crumbled blue cheese (preferably Maytag or Roquefort)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
40 slices French bread or crackers
1. In 1-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar until it dissolves, about 20 seconds. Add apples and shallot. Cook 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture turns golden brown and aroma is reminiscent of apple cider. (Do not rush process; color takes a while to form, but the flavor is worth it.) Set aside to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix cream cheese, cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and salt until well blended. Gently stir in cooled caramelized apple mixture and the pecans. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional chopped pecans if desired. Serve with bread or crackers.
Makes 20 servings (3 tablespoons spread and 2 slices bread or 2 crackers each).
Slim Tex-Mex dip
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 (1-ounce) envelope low-sodium taco seasoning mix
2 (8-ounce) packages low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 (16-ounce) cans fat-free refried beans
2 packages guacamole
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise
Topping of your choice (chopped spinach, lettuce, green onions, or tomatoes)
8 ounces of reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cook turkey, pepper and half an envelope of taco seasoning in skillet; set aside.
Spread cream cheese in bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Spread refried beans over cream cheese.
Spread guacamole over beans.
In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise and remaining taco seasoning. Spread over guacamole. Top with cooked ground turkey mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheddar over turkey layer. Bake 25 minutes, or until heated through.
Add your choice of toppings; serve with tortillas.
-- "Shining Stars" cookbook, a recipe collection put together by the Shining Star Children's Advocacy Center of Lee and Ogle counties
COCKTAIL MEATBALLS WITH CRANBERRY MARINARA
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 pounds ground beef (93 percent lean)
14-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
Splash of hot sauce
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cilantro, jalapenos, garlic, fennel, oregano, onion powder, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Whisk until well combined. Add the ground beef, then mix gently until completely blended. Divide the mixture into 50 balls, using about 2 tablespoons of the mixture per ball. Arrange the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the meatballs for 20 minutes. Increase heat to broil and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberry sauce and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, and a splash of hot sauce.
When the meatballs are done, arrange on a platter, then spoon the cranberry mixture over them. Serve with toothpicks.
Makes 50 meatballs, each with 60 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 4 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 6 grams protein, 270 mg sodium.
-- Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles (pimientos may be substituted)
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 loaf French bread (baguette)
Combine butter, onion, chiles, cheese, mayonnaise and garlic powder. Slice bread 1/4-inch thick and spread with butter mixture. Place on sheet pan and broil until cheese bubbles. Makes 24 slices.
Per slice: 124 calories, 11 grams fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 3 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 161 mg sodium.
-- Linda Cicero, Miami Herald
1 (16-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
2/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (16-ounce) package small cooked smoked sausage links
1. In a large saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, ketchup, lemon juice, dry mustard, and allspice. Stir in sausage links. Cook over medium-high heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.
2. Serve immediately or keep warm, covered, in a 1 1/2- or 2-quart slow cooker on warm setting or low-heat setting for up to 2 hours. Use cocktail picks, toothpicks, or a slotted spoon to serve sausages. Makes: 16 servings
To cook in a slow cooker: In a 1 1/2- or 2-quart slow cooker, combine cranberry sauce, ketchup, lemon juice, dry mustard, and allspice. Stir in sausage links. Cover and cook on low-heat setting 4 hours or on high-heat setting 2 hours. If no heat setting is available, cook for 3 hours.
Brie Topped with Pralines
1 (13-ounce) round Brie or Camembert cheese
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
Apple slices and/or baguette slices, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cheese in a shallow ovenproof serving dish or pie plate. In a small bowl stir together orange marmalade and brown sugar. Spread on top of cheese. Sprinkle with pecans.
2. Bake about 15 minutes or until cheese is slightly softened and topping is bubbly. Serve with apple and/or baguette slices. Makes 10 servings.
SPICY BACON SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan (see note)
1 cup shredded mozzarella (see note)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the frozen spinach in the microwave 5 minutes. Carefully squeeze out as much water as possible and set aside.
Microwave the cream cheese 1 minute. Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, cayenne and garlic powder in a large bowl and blend together well. Add the spinach, bacon, artichoke hearts and cheeses. Stir together.
Spread in a pie plate or small casserole dish (or small ramekins or baking dishes). Bake until bubbling and slightly browned on top (30 minutes in a small casserole dish or pie plate; less time for smaller ramekins).
Serve hot with crackers, pita chips or vegetable sticks.
Note: Instead of grating the cheese, you could use 2 cups of the Italian cheese blend sold in supermarkets.
Yield: About 6 cups.
-- "Savory Sweet Life," by Alice Currah (Morrow, 2012)
WARM AND CREAMY BACON DIP
8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups low-fat sour cream
6 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese blend
1 cup chopped green onion
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place the mixture in a 1-quart baking dish. Cover. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and hot. Serve with toasted bread slices, vegetables on skewers or whole-grain crackers. Makes 4 cups; 2 tablespoons dip has 57 calories, 4 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 100 mg sodium, 13 mg cholesterol.
Serving alternative: Slice about a 1/4-inch piece off the top of a round sourdough loaf; set the piece aside. Hollow out the loaf; cut up the bread to serve with the dip. Spoon the dip into the hollowed-out crust. Replace the top slice. Wrap the bread bowl in foil and bake in the preheated 400-degree oven 30 minutes.
-- Adapted from Daisy Sour Cream recipe by Susan M. Selasky, Detroit Free Press
Jalapeno, Crab and Corn Dip
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper (1 small)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup sliced pickled jalapeno chile peppers, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce (optional)
2 (6- to 6 1/2-ounce) cans crabmeat, drained, flaked, and cartilage removed
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Blue corn chips
1. In a medium skillet heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add frozen corn, sweet pepper, and garlic; cook and stir for about 5 minutes or until tender.
2. In a medium bowl combine sour cream, mayonnaise, jalapeno peppers, Worcestershire sauce, and, if desired, hot pepper sauce. Stir in corn mixture, crabmeat, and Monterey Jack cheese. Transfer crab mixture to a 1-1/2-quart slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve with blue corn chips. Makes 32 servings, each 2 tablespoons.
1 dozen strawberries
1 cup whipped cream
Handful of chocolate sprinkles
1. Remove stem end from strawberry with a paring knife to create a flat base for Santa; then slice opposite end to create a "hat" and set aside.
2. Using a large icing tip, place a large dollop of whipped cream topping on top of the strawberry base and top with strawberry "hat" -- the tip you reserved -- topped with a tiny drop of whipped cream as a pom-pom.
3. Place two chocolate sprinkles in the first dollop for Santa's eyes, and two dots of whipped cream on the front of the strawberry as buttons and you're ready to rock around the Christmas tree!
Sexy cranberry sparkle recipe
4 ounces cranberry juice
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces Champagne
Cranberries for garnish
1. Mix juice and vodka together in a chilled martini mixer. Pour into a Champagne flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with cranberries. Serves 2
Mini Queso Burgers
1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
1 pound Velvetta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 can (10 ounces) Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained
12 hamburger buns or sliced pretzel bread
12 pieces leaf lettuce
1 large tomato, cut into 6 slices (for the minis, I use roma tomatoes)
Heat grill to medium heat.
Shape meat into 12 patties.
Grill 3 minutes on each side or until done.
Meanwhile, microwave Velvetta and Ro-Tel in microwavable bowl on high 5 minutes, or until Velvetta is completely melted, stirring after 3 minutes.
Cover bottom halves of buns/bread with lettuce, tomatoes and burgers. Top each burger with 1 tablespoon dip. Cover with tops.
The Incredible Edible Bacon Jam
1 pound of bacon, chopped into 1 inch squares
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup strongly brewed coffee
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp water
In a heated skillet, cook bacon squares to a crisp, remove bacon from pan and reserve the grease. Saute the garlic and shallots in the bacon grease until soft. Add brown sugar, coffee, vinegar and syrup to the onions and garlic and simmer for 5 minutes. Add bacon chunks, pepper flakes and water and stir gently. Simmer, on low, for about 35 minutes stirring often, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is syrup-y. Place the entire mixture into a food processor and pulse a few times until it reaches the consistency of chunky jam. This recipe makes about 2 cups. It can be refrigerated for up to three weeks.
What to do with it: Serve this as an appetizer with whipped feta or brie on crusty bread or grill some burgers and throw some creamy cheese on top with a dollop of this jam.
Cranberry Chipotle BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders
1 6 pound bone-in pork butt (or use any size that will fit in your slow cooker)
4 cups beef or chicken broth, divided
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
2 (14-ounce) cans jellied cranberry sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
sliced red onion (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1. Place pork in slow cooker. Add 3 2/3 cups beef broth to slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for about 8-10 hours or until pork is tender and falling apart.
2. Meanwhile, prepare barbecue sauce. Mix together tomato paste, cranberry sauce, vinegar, remaining 1/3 cup beef broth, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, chipotle, garlic powder, and onion powder in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk periodically until smooth and heated through then reduce temperature to low and cook another 15-30 minutes stirring occasionally.
3. Remove pork from slow cooker, pull apart with 2 forks. Mix with desired amount of barbecue sauce. Spoon pork into small rolls and top with onion and cilantro if desired. Serves about 6-8.
Tips: Use any size of pork butt that you'd like and either bone-in or boneless. Servings will vary depending on size of pork and rolls. The recipe makes about 5 cups of BBQ sauce so cut the recipe in half if you'd like less or freeze the leftover.
Substitutions: Use chicken broth instead of beef broth if desired.