Keep those spirits bright with simple get-togethers

Published 8:30 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2022

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The holiday season’s not over yet, so stay on course. Let the celebrations continue right up through New Year’s Day. Host a party – an open house, ladies’ tea, friend luncheon – or an old fashion cocktail party. People don’t entertain at home much anymore, yet, folks still love the rare invitation. A meal that feeds many, small finger foods, pick-up bites, or potlucks make what first sounds like too much work more manageable.

Usually, I put together a small party for just a few folks – making sure not to burden myself with needless worry over how my house looks, or the food. Good friends don’t judge. The party’s planned for an evening after Christmas, and I ask guests to bring meaty appetizers. I prepare homemade desserts. The scenario is a win-win for everyone. As hostess, I can breathe and stay in the moment, relaxing with friends while sharing holiday stories.

A written or printed invitation sent the old-fashioned way – via postal mail – always bespeaks special. Go the extra mile. If you drag out Granny’s vintage crystal punchbowl – one of the most beautiful serving vessels ever created – it evokes memories of days gone by. I still enjoy serving old-fashioned punch.

Guests enjoy the intimacy of a private home, festive décor, and a variety of food and drink. Something as simple as cake and coffee tastes more delicious at someone else’s house.    

Today’s easy pick-up foods were selected for their ease of preparation, a few finger munchies for a low-key party into the new year. And you won’t break the bank. Keep it simple. But do remember to stay the course – continue celebrating the reason for the season. Let’s bring our celebratory days to an end in full steam, full-swing ahead mode.

The book of John, written by the apostle John, gives believers assurance and confidence in their faith and God. Additional scripture in Revelations points to “overcomers” as those who stay the course – the true believers. These individual Christians will enjoy special benefits in eternity for refusing to give up their faith despite persecution during life on earth. Biblical scripture assures us that we can be confident of God’s promise for eternal life through his Son, and whoever believes in God’s Son has eternal life.

1 John 5:13 reads, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (NIV)

On a side note, one night before Christmas, I had the pleasure of hearing the community concert band, Salem Band, perform theme songs from holiday movies. Speaking of full swing – the musicians have also assembled a swing band that can be hired for events. After hearing that, you know I planned a fun party – if only in my head. The band’s musical director, Eileen Young, closed the holiday concert with a profound directive – “Find a way to be a hero in your community.”

What a perfect note to end on.

DABS OF CRAB

7 oz. drained, flaked crab meat

1 Tbsp. sliced green onions

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

½ cup premium mayonnaise

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

¼ tsp. curry powder

1 refrigerated flaky rolls

5 oz. drained, sliced water chestnuts

In a mixer bowl, combine crab meat, green onion, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and curry powder. Mix well. Separate each roll into 3 layers. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Spoon crab mixture on top of each layer. Top with water chestnut slice. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden.

PEPPY PIMENTO CHEESE BALL

8 oz. softened cream cheese

10 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 small green bell pepper

1 medium onion

1 small jar pimentos

Paprika

Chopped pecans

Finely grate all ingredients except paprika and pecans. . Shape into two balls. Roll in paprika or crushed nuts.

EASY STUFFED MUSHROOMS

1 pint fresh mushrooms

1 lb. hot sausage

Wash mushrooms and remove stems. Chop stems and mix with sausage. Stuff the mushrooms and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

STUFFED CUCUMBERS

2-6 8-inch cucumbers

½ tsp. salt

¼ lb. diced cooked ham

2 coarsely chopped hard-boiled eggs

2 tsp. finely chopped onion

2 Tbsp. minced sour pickles

1 tsp. prepared mustard

2-4 tbsp. premium mayonnaise.

Cut ½-inch off ends of each cucumber and peel. With a long spoon, remove center pulp and seeds, leaving ¼-inch shell intact. Sprinkle ¼ tsp. salt into each cucumber and evenly rub. Allow to stand for 15 minutes, and then dry the insides. In a mixer bowl, combine ham, eggs, onions, pickles, mustard, and mayonnaise. Season to taste. Stir mixture until holds its shape. If too dry, add more mayo. Spoon mixture into cucumber. Wrap each filled cucumber in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, slice cucumbers crosswise every ½-inch.

EASY PASTRY HAM BITES

6 oz. ham spread or deviled ham

1 Tbsp. yellow or Dijon mustard

Relish, if desired

¾, cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup Crisco shortening

2 Tbsp. cold water

In a bowl, combine ham spread with mustard and relish. Set aside. In a bowl, sift flour and salt together and cut in shortening. Add water and work into a stiff dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out on surface to a very thin rectangle. Evenly spread ham mixture over top of pastry. Roll up lengthwise like a jelly roll. Freeze. When ready to serve, slice thin. Bake on a greased cookie sheet in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Serve hot. Makes about 40 slices.

ONION-CHEESE STUFFED CHERRY TOMATOES

8 oz. softened cream cheese

Sour cream

3 finely diced green onion

Dash garlic salt

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cored cherry tomatoes

For the filling, add just enough sour cream to softened cream cheese to make it easily spreadable. Add green onions and dash of garlic salt. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Core the tomatoes and stuff with the mixture.

TINY SAUSAGE ROLLS

1 lb. mild sausage

12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

3 cups Bisquick

In a mixer bowl, combine sausage and cheese. Mix well. Add Bisquick and mix well. Roll into nickel-sized balls. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

PIGS IN A BLANKET

25 tiny smoked hot dogs

2 cups Bisquick mix

½ cup cold water

In a bowl, combine Bisquick mix and water until mixture forms a ball. Roll out on a floured board to 1/4″ thickness. Cut into small strips and wrap around hot dogs. Secure with toothpick. Bake in a 375-degree oven until brown.

HOLIDAY PARTY DIP

10 oz. frozen condensed cream shrimp soup

3 oz. softened cream cheese

1 tsp. cooking sherry

2 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

1 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

Thaw out the can of frozen soup in a pan of hot water for 30 minutes. When thawed, in a mixer bowl, gradually blend softened soup into softened cream cheese. Beat until smooth without overbeating. Blend in the sherry, crumbled blue cheese, and onion.

COCONUT TARTS

1 Tbsp. softened salted butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flaked coconut

In a mixer bowl, cream butter with sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, thoroughly mixing between each addition. Add milk and vanilla extract. Mix well. Fold in coconut. Mix well. Pour into individual pie shells. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until set.

CHERRY CHEESE BARS

¾ cup softened, salted butter

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

8 oz. softened cream cheese

1 egg

1 cup cherry preserves

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg and mix well. Add the flour and mix well. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture in a bowl and set aside. Press the remaining crust mixture into a greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Dusting your hands with flour makes it easier to handle. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely. To the set aside mixture, add additional 3 Tbsp. flour and mix until crumbly and set aside. For the filling, in a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese with 1 egg until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over the baked crust. Spoon cherry preserves over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool on rack.

CHOCOLATE-DRIZZLED

BERRY ALMOND THUMBPRINTS

1 cup softened, salted butter

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 tsp. almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

½ cup finely chopped almonds

1/3 cup raspberry jam

2 oz. white chocolate baking bar

In a mixer bowl, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in almond extract and mix well. Beat in flour and salt. Mix well. With your hands, roll dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Roll balls in chopped almonds. Bake 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. With your thumb, make a depression in center of each cookie. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 13-16 minutes. Fill depression with ¼ tsp. raspberry jam or more, if necessary, to fill centers of cookies. If necessary, you can make a deeper depression in cookies after removing them from oven. For the drizzle, in a saucepan, slowly melt the white chocolate baking bar. Take a pastry bag and cut small portion of end off. Pour the melted confection into the bag. Drizzle confection over cookies.