Cooking with Kate: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas season is here! Bring on the twinkle lights, hot chocolate by the fireplace, and fun times with family and friends at a myriad of Christmas parties. With all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by party details. Whether you’re serving adults or a roomful of kiddos, keep things simple and quick with a few make-ahead appetizers and a decked out hot chocolate bar. Here are two crowd pleasing party appetizers and my favorite recipe for homemade hot chocolate mix.

Merry Christmas to you and your family as you celebrate this season!

Polish Mistake(s)

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb Owens hot ground sausage
  • 1 lb Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 2 packages cocktail rye bread 

In a large skillet, brown ground meat and sausage over medium high heat until fully cooked. Drain well. Add cubed Velveeta cheese to the meat mixture and heat until melted. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Mixture can be made up to 4 days ahead of time and refrigerated. To serve – Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Spread meat mixture over sliced cocktail rye and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned. Enjoy immediately.

Pinecone Dip

  • 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package Hormel dried beef, diced
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small can chopped black olives
  • 3 tablespoons Accent seasoning
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped (no stems)
  • 1 small package sliced almonds
  • assorted crackers and pita chips, for serving

Blend cream cheese, dried beef, green onions, black olives and Accent seasoning in medium bowl until well combined. Shape into desired shape (pinecone or Christmas tree, etc) on serving platter. Press sliced almonds into dip to resemble a pinecone and sprinkle with chopped parsley. If making a Christmas tree – use almonds as tree trunk, chopped parsley as leaves/needles, and pieces of red/yellow bell pepper as ornaments. Cover and chill well until ready to serve. Dip can be made up to 2 days in advance.

FC’s Hot Chocolate Mix

  • 1 cup powdered coffee creamer, original or plain
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 ¾ cups powdered chocolate milk mix (like Nestle Quick)
  • 3 cups powdered milk
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a large air tight container. Hot chocolate mix can be stored for up to one year in an airtight container in a cool, dry area. To use: Mix 2-3 tablespoons of mix with 8-10 ozs hot water until blended. Add additional mix to taste.

Topping ideas for the hot chocolate bar:

  • whipped cream
  • chocolate and caramel syrups
  • mini marshmallows
  • flavored marshmallows – French vanilla, peppermint, toasted coconut, cinnamon bun, pumpkin spice
  • Kraft caramel bits (small balls of caramel used for caramel apples)
  • Andes mint pieces (found on the baking aisle near the chocolate chips)
  • Heath toffee bits (found on the baking aisle near the chocolate chips)
  • Chopped peppermint bits (use soft peppermint sticks)