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!
- 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.
- 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)
Summertime growing up in Nacogdoches meant one thing – the Texas Blueberry Festival. From enjoying the Kiwanis Club’s blueberry pancakes first thing in the morning, to cooking chicken and fish for the Rotary Club’s chicken and fish fry, to sunny afternoons sitting on the brick streets, sipping blueberry lemonade, and listening to live music – the Blueberry Festival has always been one of my favorite weekends of the year. In honor of the 2015 Texas Blueberry Festival on June 13th, we’re highlighting some quick and easy beginner recipes as well as recipes for our more seasonsed chefs. Each recipe features the little berry that grows so well here in Deep East Texas.
Your family and friends won't believe how easy these recipes are. Beginner or not, everyone will enjoy these dishes!
Fresh Green Salad with Blueberries and Candied Honey Pecans
Toss fresh assorted spring greens, baby spinach, fresh blueberries, chopped candied honey pecans, and shredded mozzarella or crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with a slightly sweet vinaigrette (champagne or blush wine vinaigrettes work well) for a quick summer salad!
Blueberry Ricotta Crostini
Brush thin slices of baguette with olive oil and bake at 350°F for 5-8 minutes until crisp. Lightly spread each slice with 1 teaspoon ricotta cheese and top with fresh blueberries and a drizzle of good quality honey or spiced blueberry jam and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.
Channel your inner cooking goddess and try your hand at recipes that chef-worthy!
Spiced Blueberry Jam
- 10 cups fresh blueberries, stems removed
- 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon apple pie spice
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 package fruit pectin
- 1 dozen (4 oz.) canning jars with lids and rings
Add blueberries, spices, lemon juice, and pectin to a large pot over medium-high heat. Crush blueberries with a potato masher or stick blender. Add pectin, mix well, and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute. Immediately add all the sugar and mix well. Bring to a full, rolling boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam with a metal spoon. Fill clean, hot jars with the hot jam to within 1/8. Cover with sterilized lids and rings, and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Blueberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 to 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or 2 pounds chicken legs and thighs)
- salt and pepper
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1 tablespoon each oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Sear chicken breasts over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 1 minute per side or until a light crust forms. Remove to a baking dish and set aside. Add remaining olive oil and butter to the skillet and, when hot, stir in shallots and cook until soft and lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes. Add blueberries and cook 1 minute. Stir in balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and rosemary and simmer about 10 minutes, or until the blueberries have collapsed. Pour the blueberry balsamic mixture over chicken and put baking dish in the top half of the oven for about 10 minutes, until the chicken has cooked through to a temperature of 165°F.
Lemon Blueberry Bars
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- zest of two lemons
- 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- ½ cup white sugar
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix sugar, flour, salt, lemon zest and baking powder. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and vanilla together until combined. Use a pastry cutter or your food processor to blend the flour mixture with the butter and egg/vanilla mixture. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan. In another bowl, stir together sugar and cornstarch. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.