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Spread the word: Entertain with easy munchies
Mo matter what we say — how loudly we protest — one thing is true as the social holiday season is upon us. We want to be good hosts and have a fabulous nibble just ready when friends drop by.
Making it look easy is hard. And it takes so much preparation. And store bought stuff is just as good. Right? Nope.
Let's rethink this. What makes people happy, other than just visiting with friends? Something simple and easy to eat.
Think about all the parties you attended in the past year. Where are people gathered?
Around the spreads and dips. It's true. What's more communal than sharing a dip? Given their make-ahead nature and a fairly long shelf life, spreads and dips are the perfect solution.
You can go way beyond the traditional onion dip (not that you have to because — hey — it's a classic). You can substitute healthy alternatives or low-fat ingredients.
The joy of spreads is that they are forgiving and easy for even non-cooks to prepare.
So pick a recipe or two — from here or among your favorites — and stockpile the ingredients. Then keep a couple boxes of crackers in the pantry, and make sure you have a bag of baby carrots on hand at all times.
With that in stock, you'll have the makings of a spread guaranteed to make visitors feel welcome.
HOT ARTICHOKE SPREAD
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
Grease a 3-cup casserole. Mix all ingredients together, place in casserole and refrigerate. Thirty minutes before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake casserole for 20 minutes.
FAUX GOAT CHEESE LOGS
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-1⁄2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, feta and lemon juice until smooth. Divide the cheese mixture in two and shape each half into a 12-inch log. Roll one log in the pepper and one in the parsley. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours.
Use low- or no-salt dippers. This keeps for two weeks in the refrigerator and freezes well.
1 stick butter
8 ounces cream cheese
2-1⁄2 cups finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon minced green pepper
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (no one will know it's in there)
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces pilsner or lager beer
1⁄2 teaspoon course ground black pepper
Let butter, cream cheese and cheddar warm to room temperature. In a mixer, beat cheddar until smooth. Beat in butter, then beat in cream cheese until very light.
Fold in remaining ingredients and chill in an airtight container for at least 24 hours before serving.
Bring to room temperature before serving.