Holiday season? There's an 'app' for that


December 2, 2021

Photo credit: Rhodes Frozen Bread Dough

Christmas Mini Pizzas

I don't know about you, but I missed holiday parties last year. And even though it's still smart to be careful, getting together with family and friends is something we all treasure.

Holiday appetizers have always been one of my favorite things to prepare. I love looking through cookbooks and recipe files, looking for just the perfect tasty tidbit to take to a party.

But before we get to the menu, let's first set the scene.

Decide on a theme or an anchor activity - gingerbread decorating, caroling, ugly holiday sweaters, Christmas around the world, etc., and plan your menu accordingly.

Decor should echo the theme and reinforce the style of party you want to have. But don't feel you have to stick with a traditional holiday color palette or decorations.

Food can make or break a party, but how it's displayed is also important. For buffets, use smaller dishes and refill them frequently. Use risers and lifts, covered with tablecloths or other fabric, to give your buffet table some height.

It's also a good idea to push the dining table against the wall to create more space for mingling around the food. And be sure to give your guests some place to put their food and drink.

But most of all, have fun!

Looking for some tasty recipes for a holiday party? Here are a few to get you started.

Some can be prepared ahead of time; some are last-minute, so you should opt for mix of the two, so the hostess isn't stuck in the kitchen and not able to mingle with the guests.

Christmas Pizza Minis

12 Rhodes dinner rolls, thawed but still cold


Pizza sauce

Grated mozzarella cheese

Red and green peppers, cut into small thin strips

Pepperoni slices, cut into fourths

Spray counter lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Flatten each roll into a 4-1/2-inch circle. Place circles on sprayed baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes. Remove wrap.

Dip 4-inch cookie cutters into flour and cut desired shapes (trees, stars, bells, etc.) out of each dough circle. Pre-bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Top each one with pizza sauce, grated cheese, red and green pepper strips and pepperoni pieces. Bake for an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until cheese is nicely melted.

Makes 12 mini pizzas.

Recipe from: Rhodes Frozen Bread Dough

Vegetable Wreath with Dip

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Dill Weed

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped ripe olives, well drained

4 cups fresh broccoli florets

1 medium green pepper, cut into strips

8 cherry tomatoes

1 medium jicama

1 medium sweet red pepper

In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients; mix well. Stir in onions and olives. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Transfer dip to a serving bowl; place in the center of a 12-inch round serving plate. Arrange broccoli, green pepper and tomatoes in a wreath shaped around dip.

Using a small star cookie cutter, cut out stars from jicama slices; place over wreath. Cut red pepper into five pieces that form the shape of a bow; position on wreath.

Makes 12 servings.

Recipe from: Taste of Home,

Whip up a sophisticated appetizer for your next get-together in less than 20 minutes

Broccoli and Cheese Phyllo Shells

1-1/2 cups chopped broccoli, frozen, thawed

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 packages (15 count, each) Athens® Mini Fillo Shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the broccoli, cheeses, breadcrumbs and seasoning. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of filling into each shell.

Place filled shells on a baking tray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve.

Makes 30 appetizers.

Recipe from: Athens Fillo Dough

Don't forget dessert!

Cheesecake Cookie Cups

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Cooling time: 60 minutes

1 (16 ounce) package refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Paper-line 24 muffin cups.

Cut cookie dough into 24 slices. Place one piece of cookie dough in each muffin cup.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookie has spread to edge of cup.

Beat cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla extract in medium bowl until smooth. Pour about 3 tablespoons cream cheese mixture over each cookie in cup.

Bake for additional 15 to 18 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Top each with level tablespoon of pie filling. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Makes 24 servings.

Recipe from: Nestle


Chicken Cordon Bleu Mini Phyllo Shells is an appetizer-sized version of the popular entrée that can even be made in advance and frozen so all you need to do when the guests arrive is pop them in the oven.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Mini Phyllo Shells

1 cup cooked chicken breast, 1/4-inch diced

2 slices prosciutto, 1/4-inch diced

Salt and black pepper, to taste

2 packages (15 count, each) Athens® Mini Fillo Shells

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves only

1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small mixing bowl, combine chicken, prosciutto, salt and pepper thoroughly. Fill shells with 1 heaping tablespoon of filling. Top with thyme and cheese.

Place shells on a baking tray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve.

Makes 30 appetizers.

Make ahead: Filled shells can be wrapped in plastic and frozen. To serve, unwrap and bake per directions.

Recipe from: Athens Fillo Dough

Spicy Spinach and Artichoke Dip is always a crowd pleaser, combining three cheeses with vegetables and hot pepper sauce for added flavor. Requiring minimal prep time, this recipe is a perfect appetizer for any party.

Spicy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

Salt, to taste

Toasted pita bread wedges

1 cup medium tomato, chopped, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter in large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, 3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, hot sauce and salt. Stir until well blended and heated through.

Pour mixture into 1-1/2-quart casserole dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup Monterey Jack and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven until cheese starts to brown, about 10 minutes.

Serve with pita bread and garnish with tomatoes.

Makes 4 cups.

Recipe from: Tabasco Sauce;

Sweet and Spicy Pork Mini-Kabobs

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

3 pounds pork tenderloin, silver skin removed, cut into 48 (1-inch) pieces

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 24 (1-inch) pieces

1 large red bell pepper, cored and cut into 24 (1-inch) pieces

2/3 cup honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Special equipment:

24 6-inch bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained

Preheat broiler with rack about 8 inches from heat source.

Toss pork with chili powder and salt. Thread 2 pieces of pork and 1 each of pineapple and red pepper pieces on each skewer. Wrap exposed end of each skewer with foil to discourage scorching. Mix honey and vinegar together for glaze. Broil, turning occasionally and brushing well with glaze during last 2 minutes, until pork is barely pink when pierced with tip of knife, about 8 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 24 (8 to 12 small-plate servings).

Recipe from: National Pork Board

Barbecued Party Starters

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 package (16 ounces) miniature hot dogs or little sausages, drained

1 jar (12 ounces) apricot preserves

1 cup barbecue sauce

1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks, drained

In a small bowl, combine beef and onion. Shape into 1-inch balls. In a large skillet, cook meatballs in batches until no longer pink; drain.

Transfer to a 3-quart slow cooker; add the hot dogs or little sausages, preserves and barbecue sauce. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or until heated through. Stir in pineapple; heat through.

Makes 18 servings (1/3 cup each).

Recipe from: Taste of Home,

Chicken Bacon Bites

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus marinating

Broiling time: 10 minutes

12 bacon strips, halved

10 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 24 cubes

1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained

1/2 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot

Sweet-and-sour sauce, optional

Place bacon on a broiler rack. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until partially cooked; cool.

Wrap a piece of bacon around a chicken cube and water chestnut slice; secure with a toothpick. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the marmalade, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Add wrapped chicken; seal and carefully turn to coat. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Drain and discard marinade. Broil chicken for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or chicken is no longer pink and bacon is crisp. Serve warm with sweet-and-sour sauce if desired.

Makes 24 appetizers.

Recipe from: Taste of Home,

Appetizer Wreath

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Baking time: 15 minutes, plus cooling

2 tubes (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon Spice Islands Dill Weed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1-1/2 cups chopped fresh broccoli florets

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

Celery leaves

Remove crescent dough from packaging (do not unroll). Cut each tube into eight slices. Arrange in an 11-inch circle on an ungreased 14-inch pizza pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing to a serving platter; cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder until smooth. Spread over wreath; top with broccoli, celery and red pepper. Form a bow garnish with celery leaves.

Makes 16 servings.

Recipe from: Taste of Home,

Thai Beef Wok 'n Roll-Ups

Preparation and cooking time: 30 to 35 minutes

1 pound beef flank steak

3 tablespoons teriyaki marinade and sauce

1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


8 medium to large green or red leaf lettuce leaves

Cut beef steak lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick strips. Combine beef strips and 2 tablespoons teriyaki marinade in medium bowl; toss to coat. Set aside.

Spray large nonstick skillet or wok with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell pepper; stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from skillet. Set aside.

Add half of the beef to same skillet or wok over medium-high heat; stir-fry 1 to 3 minutes or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. (Do not overcook.) Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining beef.

Return beef to skillet. Add peanut butter, green onions, bell pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon teriyaki marinade; cook and stir until beef and vegetables are evenly coated and heated through. Season with black pepper and salt, as desired. Spoon beef mixture evenly onto lettuce leaves and roll up.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from: Nebraska Beef Council

These cheese crisps are less salty than Parmesan crisps, and the pepper jack adds some nice heat.

Parmesan-Pepper Jack Cheese Crisps

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the two cheeses, then form into roughly two-inch circles on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Makes 20 to 24 crisps.

This easy appetizer is a savory blend of spicy sausage and mildly tangy cream cheese. If you can't find Portuguese sausage, substitute the more readily available chorizo. You can serve the spread with crackers, toast points or filo cups.

Zesty Linguica Spread

1/2 pound linguica or chorizo sausage, casing removed

1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

4 ounces cream cheese, softened or whipped

1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Dash or two hot sauce, to taste

Cut sausage into small pieces. Heat oil in skillet and add pieces of sausage and the onion. Saute until sausage get some color and the onions are soft and lightly golden, about 4 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor.

Process about 20 to 30 seconds or until meat and onions are fairly fine. Transfer to bowl and fold in cream cheese and parsley, mixing thoroughly. Add hot sauce, blending well. Serve immediately or cover and chill. Bring out 1/2 hour before using. Spread on toast points or fresh bread or add rounded teaspoons to miniature filo cups.

Makes 1 cup.

Recipe from: "Authentic Portuguese Cooking" by Ana Patuleia Ortins (Page Street Publishing, October 2015, $32)

Deviled eggs are an easy, inexpensive hors d'oeuvre for holiday tables. Take them to next level by adding the flavors of a Caesar salad. Sounds strange, but it works.

Caesar-Stuffed Eggs

16 large free-range, organic eggs

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Fine sea salt

2/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, grated or pasted

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano mixed with 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup packed finely chopped romaine lettuce hearts, plus more for garnish

Place eggs in medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to rapid rolling boil. Cover pan, remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

Crack shells and let stand for 10 minutes in very cold water. Peel eggs. Halve them lengthwise and remove yolks. Set whites and yolks aside separately.

In medium bowl, whisk lemon juice and mustard. Season with salt. While whisking, stream in oil slowly, pouring it down the sides of bowl, to emulsify. Stir in garlic, anchovy paste, Worchestershire, pepper and cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings - It should taste like a thick Caesar dressing.

Mash egg yolks into dressing. Stir in chopped lettuce. Spoon mixture into small plastic food storage bag. Snip off one corner to make a small opening and pipe the filling into the egg white halves. Garnish with a bit more finely chopped lettuce.

Makes 16 servings.

Recipe from: "Everyone Is Italian On Sunday" by Rachael Ray (Atria Books, Nov. 2015, $39.99)

This recipe from Sara Moulton uses Spanish chorizo. If all you can find is Mexican chorizo (which is fresh, not smoked and cured like the Spanish, and needs to be cooked more thoroughly), remove the meat from the casing, cook it in the oil in the skillet, stirring until it is just cooked through. Transfer the cooked chorizo to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon and proceed with the recipe as written.

Spanish-Style Stuffed Mushrooms

Start to finish: 1 hour (45 minutes active)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra

1/4 pound Spanish chorizo sausage

30 large (1-1/2 inches in diameter) cremini mushrooms

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 slice firm white sandwich bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1/2 cup)

1 ounce Manchego cheese, coarsely grated

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use a bit of olive oil to lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet.

Remove the casing from the sausage and cut it into small dice. Trim and discard the dry ends of the mushroom stems. Remove the stems from the mushroom caps and finely chop them. Arrange the mushroom caps, open sides down, on the oiled pan and bake on the ovens middle shelf for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium, cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon.

Photo credit: Taste of Home;

Vegetable wreath with dip

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the skillet. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook until the liquid the mushrooms release is almost all reduced. Add the sherry and simmer until almost all the liquid is reduced. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the bowl with the chorizo and set aside to cool slightly. Stir in the bread, cheese and parsley, then season with salt and pepper.

After the mushrooms have baked for 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully turn the mushroom caps over and divide the chorizo mixture among them, mounding it slightly. Bake the stuffed caps on the oven's middle shelf for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is golden brown. If the stuffing browns too quickly, cover the mushrooms loosely with foil.

Makes 30 stuffed mushrooms.

Recipe from: Sara Moulton

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing.


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