Great Dips to Have at Any Party

Great Dips to Have at Any Party

 

Parties need great dips. Guests effortlessly add toppings to a spread of crudités and keep out of the kitchen while the main courses are being prepared. Here are some great dips to have on hand.

 

HUMMUS

Store bought hummus is fine, but home made is better and super easy. In a food processor pulse together 2 cups of canned chickpeas (you can use dry, you’ll just need to soak them over night then simmer with water for about 4 hours), 4 garlic cloves, 1/3 tahini, juice from 2 lemons, a few dashes of hot sauce. Slowly add 2 tablespoons of water to thin the mixture, then add salt to taste and more of any one component as necessary. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top.

You can also fold in roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, chopped olives, or chili pepper paste for heat. Serve with pita chips, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, or broccoli.

 

CHEESE

Cheese dips are a classic party choice, but many favorites involve using processed cheese. For a natural version try this recipe:

Heat a tablespoon of each butter and olive oil in a cast iron skillet or oven proof pan. Sauté 3 1/2 cup of chopped onion until soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Halfway through you can sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of sugar for extra sweetness.

Remove the onions from the heat and stir in 8 ounces shredded gruyere cheese, 2 tablespoons of each mayonnaise, sour cream and scallions, and 6 bacon slices that have been cooked and chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with some more shredded cheese and chopped scallions then bake the dip at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Broil the dip for a few minutes at the end to ensure a golden topping.

Serve with carrots, toasted bread slices, or broccoli.

 

CARAMELIZED ONION-SPINACH DIP

A sweeter take on the classic spinach dip, this dip is easy to prepare. Thaw and squeeze the excess water from a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach. In a skillet, sauté 1 1/2 chopped onion (use 1 if you have large onions on hand), for about 25 minutes until soft and sweet. You can add 1 teaspoon of sugar halfway through for added sweetness.

Remove the onions from the heat and mix in the spinach. Then stir in 8 ounces of sour cream (you can substitute Greek yogurt if you’d like), squeeze of lemon, pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings as desired. Serve with an assortment of vegetables and toast points.

 

GUACAMOLE BACON

The creaminess of the avocado in this dip pairs well with the saltiness of the bacon. Cook and chop 6 strips of bacon. Then chop 2 avocados, 1/2 red onion, 1 tomato and stir to combine. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2- 1 lime, add pepper to taste. Fold in the bacon and adjust seasoning accordingly. Enjoy with tortilla chips.

 

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Appetizers in Advance

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If you are planning to throw a holiday party this season, you might wish to consider preparing time saving appetizers you can make ahead of time. You will be plenty busy with cleaning and decorating on the day of the party and the last thing you need is having to worry about cooking the entire meal. Of course, you can offer one or two store bought snacks, but it is always nice to mix it with homemade appetizers. Below are two easy recipes you can make ahead and freeze until the day of the party.

Meatballs
These versatile appetizers are perfect to offer in the holiday season. Caramelize a small onion in olive oil or butter and mix it with a pound of ground beef, a cup of bread crumbs you soaked in milk, an egg, salt and pepper, and any seasoning you like. You can go for the classic Italian taste with oregano, parsley, and garlic or draw from the Asian spice palette with turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and coat with oil. Make small, bite size meatballs by rolling them between your palms. Arrange the meatballs in rows on the cookie sheet and bake them for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Let them cool off completely before placing them in an airtight container for freezing. On the morning of your holiday party, put them in a slow cooker with some marinara sauce/gravy or simply re-warm them in the oven. You can have a dish of sauce on the side if you wish. Insert toothpicks into the meatballs for easy party eating.

Cheese Pastry
Another great appetizer you can make ahead is a simple cheese pastry recipe. Mix eight ounces of small curd cottage cheese and butter each with two cups of flour and a pinch of salt. Knead together until a firm dough forms. You may need to add a little bit more flour depending on the cottage cheese you use. Wrap the dough ball in plastic and put in the refrigerator for a half hour. Roll your dough ball out into a 1/2 inch thick sheet. You can either use a knife to cut it up to small squares or a cookie cutter or small glass to cut round circles out. Lay the pieces on cookie sheets about ½ inch apart and sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Bake in preheated 375? oven for 20 minutes or until brown.

In addition to these recipes, you can also experiment with other snacks and appetizers such as cheese puffs, a roasted vegetable cream cheese dip, or the sweet holiday classic:  homemade fudge. Miniature cheesecakes are festive desserts you can make ahead and pull out from the freezer only a few hours before your guests arrive.

 

Get Ready for Cocktails!

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Everyone wants to be the “hostess with the mostest” during the holiday season. One of the best ways to have the most festive party is to have a great bar. The good news is that a great bar doesn’t have to be a lot of work. We are going to discuss two different simple syrups—that can be made ahead of time—and two different killer cocktail recipes, and one mocktail recipe that will get the party going and keep your guests coming back for more.
A simple syrup is a solution of flavoring, water, and sugar that become the sweet base for your cocktail. Use tastes of the season to keep party festive.
Apple Cinnamon Simple Syrup
2 cups of very hot water
2 cups—lightly packed—brown sugar
6 red apple peels
1 cinnamon stick
Stir all of the ingredients together and let them simmer for 30 minutes or so on low heat. If you make this on the day of the party, it makes your house smell fabulous. Strain the solution in to a bottle and store in your refrigerator until you are ready to use.
Honey Simple Syrup
½ cup honey
½ cup water
Stir them together in a pot and let them heat over medium heat just until they are entirely incorporated. Store in an airtight bottle in the refrigerator.
When it’s time to make the drinks, you now have a few very versatile syrups to help make your cocktails (and mocktails) stand out.
A Slice of Apple Pie Cocktail
8 oz of Everclear
3 cups Apple Cinnamon Simple Syrup
Cinnamon stick—for garnish

Mix this drink ahead of time in a pitcher. Rim your glasses with sugar and cinnamon mix.
*Note, Everclear is a very potent alcohol; err on the side of too little rather than too much. These cocktails have a real kick.*

A Virgin Long Island Ice Tea
Yes, a long Island Ice Tea is a notoriously potent cocktail. For the non-drinkers in the group, serve one without alcohol. Use the Honey Simple Syrup as a sweetener for black ice tea on the rocks. Garnish with a slice of lemon. It will be the best ice tea your guest has ever had.
The Honeybee
2 oz of white rum
1 tablespoon of Honey Simple Syrup
½ oz of lemon juice
Shake all of the ingredients together in shaker and serve on the rocks. Serve in a chilled glass. If you are feeling festive, add an extra squeeze of honey.

 

Potluck Party Dishes

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Family dinners, gift-giving, holiday shopping:  the end of the year is the perfect time to make memories and spend time with loved ones. Though this is a time of happiness and joy, it can be less so when the hassle of holiday cooking arises. After all, who has time to catch up with family members when there are hungry mouths waiting? Make ahead party dishes make it simple for you to enjoy the holidays while providing a tasty meal for your family.

One of the most effective, time saving potluck tips is to cook large batches of make ahead meals. I know what you might be thinking:  how am I going to make large batches of items when I am already struggling with time constraints? By assigning dishes to certain family members/friends, or assembling dinner in steps, you can save time and money in the long run.

For example, when making a potluck dish like chicken pot pie, first cook the chicken in a slow cooker. You then have the broth from the chicken that can be used in this dish or in another dish later on, if frozen. This can cool in the fridge overnight, be shredded tomorrow, and cooked into your pot pie ahead of time for the next day's potluck. This time saving tip works with a wide array of meals if you strive to think of ways to simplify every dish, and use one ingredient in multiple dishes.

Another time saving tip for party dishes is to multiply the dish by two or three. Instead of making one regular recipe of cheese dip, make two or three. Then, the extra portions of dip can be used for dinner on a night the following week. Many of these items can be frozen or chilled and re-heated. However, it is important to follow the temperature recommendations for each frozen food.

One of the main reasons why people do not take part in this time saving method is because they do not want to consume the same meal multiple time in one week. Yet, with a bit of creativity, numerous dishes can be made out of the original recipe. For example, left-over cheese dip can be used for nachos or in soup, day-old bread makes tasty croutons or stuffing, and cold turkey is great on sandwiches or as a casserole with leftover stuffing and cranberry sauce. Just about any dish can be remade into another for a versatile and palette-pleasing meal.