Taste of the Holidays

6 simple and delicious ideas for your holilday gatherings

Cookie exchanges, holiday parties, family celebrations, potluck dinners...there's no shortage of gatherings centered around food and drink this time of the year.

If the holiday season finds you searching for a delightful libation or an appealing appetizer for your upcoming event, check out some of our favorite (and easy!) ideas.


Starters and Shareables

Honey Rosemary Baked Brie

For the walnuts 
• 1 1/2 cups walnut halves
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup 
• pinch of salt

For the brie 
• 8-12oz. wheel of brie (fresh, double-creme works best)
• 2-3 Tbsps honey
• a few sprigs fresh rosemary
• crusty french bread (toasted or warmed), for serving
• maple candied walnuts, for serving 
For the walnuts:
1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
2. Preheat a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Make sure it is hot. 
3. Add the walnuts, maple syrup, and salt, and stir. Cook, stirring constantly, until the maple syrup has thickened and clings to the walnuts. You should just begin to smell the syrup caramelizing when the nuts are done. Be careful not to let it burn.
4. Pour nuts onto the prepared baking sheet, and quickly spread them out to avoid clumping. Let cool, then store in a cool dry place at room temperature.
For the brie:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Remove cheese from packaging and place in the center of a rimmed baking sheet or oven-safe pan. 
3. Place a sprig or two of fresh rosemary on top, and drizzle thoroughly and liberally with honey.
4. Place in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the honey is bubbling and the cheese is soft to the touch. 
5. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
6. Top with additional honey and bits of rosemary and serve with crusty bread and candied walnuts.    

Adapted from Will Cook for Friends 


Cranberry-Nut Mini Cheeseballs

For the cheese balls 
• 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
• 4 oz goat cheese
• 4 oz finely grated white cheddar cheese
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans (you can also use honey roasted almonds or walnuts)
• 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced chives

For the toppings (add more as needed) 
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans 
• 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced chives 
1. In large mixing bowl, combine ingredients. Stir until fully mixed.
2. Scoop out a spoonful of cheese mixture and roll into a small ball (approximately golf ball sized). Set completed balls aside on piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. 
3. Mix topping material in small shallow bowl.
4. Roll each ball around in topping mix, making sure it is evenly coated. Return to baking sheet.
5. Chill until ready to serve.
Tip: Serve with apple wedges, crackers, mini-toasts, or pretzels.  You can also spear with a pretzel sick in lieu of a toothpick as a serving device.


Sweet Treats

Pumpkin-Gingerbread Cake

• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 cup canola oil
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
• 1 cup molasses
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup boiling water
• 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
2. In a medium size bowl combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. 
3. In a large bowl whisk together the oil, eggs, pumpkin, molasses, and sugar until smooth.
4. Combine the dry ingredients with pumpkin mixture. Whisk to combine. 
5. Pour in the boiling water; whisk until smooth. 
6. If using candied ginger, whisk in now. Whisk in the chopped candied ginger, if using.
7. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes (baking times may vary). Test for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer or toothpick into the center—if it comes out clean, the gingerbread is done.
8. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.   

Adapted from The Mom 100


Strawberry Santas

• 24 strawberries
• 24 mini-marshmallows
• 1-2 bananas (cut into 24 round slices)
1. Hull strawberries and remove small portion of tip.
2. Slice banana(s) into 24 rounds
3. Make stack of banana slice, strawberry, mini-marshmallow and then skewer with a tooth pick or wooden skewer. 
Tip: Add a green grape before the banana bottom of Santa Hat, and you have Grinch snacks!      



German Glühwein

• 2 cups water
• 1 cup orange juice
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 8 whole allspice berries
• 1 star anise pod
• 2 oranges, halved
• 10 cloves, whole
• 8 juniper berries
• 1 lemon, halved
• 1 1/2 bottles Cabernet Sauvignon
• Orange twists, for garnish
• Cinnamon stick, for garnish
1. Combine water, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice and star anise in a pot over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a mild simmer.
2. Juice the orange halves into the simmering liquid. Stud the remaining rinds with the cloves and gently place into the pot. Add juniper berries. Next, juice the lemon into the simmering liquid, and place the halves into the pot.
3. Reduce the mixture to half of its original volume, add the Cabernet Sauvignon and heat until just below simmering. Ladle into mugs. Garnish with orange twist and cinnamon stick.  

Tip: Want a no-alcohol version? Try this recipe for Kinderpunsch (a virgin version that's also popular in the German Christmas markets), courtesy of Daring Gourmet.

Adapted from Wine Enthusiast


Homemade Irish Crème Liquor

• 1 cup Irish whiskey
• 1 cup liquid coffee creamer (half-and-half)
• 1 (14 ounce) can condensed milk
• 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
• 1 1⁄2 teaspoons chocolate syrup
1. Add all items to blender or food processor; blend well.
2. Store in closed container in refrigerator for up to two weeks. 
Tip: Also makes a great gift—make a batch to drink and a batch to share! 

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