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Appetizing Season 2

By Angie Sutton

www.mothersapronstrings.com

Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit better than a good bu. et of appetizers and the company of friends on a blustery December night. So they've asked you to bring a dish to share-you're worried about what to take that will be a hit, how to take it and if you'll have time to make something worthy of oohs and aahs.

Keeping it simple is a great rule of thumb. In general, most party-goers will appreciate your skimping on the additions of garlic and jalapeno. Unless you have time to make a back-up dish, stick to something you've made before and know it turns out successfully. Save the experimenting for your family. Complete an ingredient pre-check several days in advance to save a last-minute headache.

As you prepare your dish to be shared, consider how your guests will serve themselves and consume the product. I know I prefer bite-sized (realistically-bite-sized) munchies. Adding a toothpick or nestling the bite into a mini cupcake paper makes the line move along quickly.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, if time does not allow you make a truly homemade dish, you can still be creative. Grab a container of premade cream puffs, put them on a pretty plate and drizzle melted chocolate over them. Pick up pre-cubed cheese and mix red and green grapes amongst them on a serving tray with tongs. If you're driving to the party as you're reading this article, then grab a container of strawberries and spray whipped topping.

A host and hostess gift is a considerate thought. After all, they did have to clean before and after and prepare their home for the gathering. A scented candle, giftable food or Christmas tree ornament are heartfelt gifts that will be enjoyed after the party.


Nacho Cheese Steak Fries

Ingredients:

1 lb. bag frozen steak fries
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 taco seasoning packet
2 c. cheddar cheese
tomatoes, diced
green onions, diced

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spread frozen fries on evenly on baking sheet and bake 15 to 18 minutes.

3. While fries are in the oven, brown ground beef. Drain any fat. Add diced onion, continue to cook until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add taco seasoning and water, mix according to package directions.

4. Remove fries from oven.

5. Layer taco mixture over fries. Sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted.

6. Top with tomatoes and green onions.

Apron Strings Tips: We often make these with spicy sweet potato fries or add sliced jalapeno peppers during step 5.


Easy Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

2 (8-oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 (1-oz.) pkg. ranch seasoning mix (3 Tbsp.)
2 c. chopped pecans

Directions:

1. In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and ranch seasoning mix. Form into two equal balls.

2. Roll each ball in 1 c. chopped pecans, pressing pecans into cheese.

3. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours.

Apron Strings Tip: This is a great holiday gift idea! Use colored plastic wrap to overwrap your cheese ball and fasten with a pretty bow. Add a box of crackers and this is a little homemade gift! this recipe also lends itself well to tossing in 2 cups of bacon, crisply fried and crumbled. When I bring this for a potluck, I divide the mix into bite-sized cheese balls and add a toothpick for the guests' ease.


Holiday Muncher Mix

Ingredients:

8 c. wheat cereal
8 c. oat circle cereal
8 c. rice cereal
8 c. corn cereal
1 bag pretzel sticks
2 c. margarine
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large roaster pan, mix together all cereal and pretzels.

2. In a small bowl, melt margarine and stir in Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder.

3. Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. 3. Drizzle margarine mix over cereal, tossing with a spatula to coat as you pour.

4. Bake for 2 hours, stirring every 15 to 30 minutes.

Apron Strings Tips: I use the large pan from my roaster oven. For a party, I bring a package of smaller plastic drinking cups for guests to scoop up their own serving. It looks great in a tall glass cookie jar-type container.


Apron Strings Tips--Giftable food Ideas

Snack cracker mixes, homemade taco seasoning and dip mixes are the perfect little homemade gift idea this season! Don't have time to make something? Grab a box of microwavable popcorn packages and tie on a popcorn seasoning mix as the gift tag!


Hot Cocoa Mix

A cute mug with this mix tucked inside makes a cozy gift on a cold day! Tie a candy cane to the handle and it makes a perfect stir stick.

Ingredients:

1 (8-qt.) container dried milk
1 (1-lb.) pkg. instant chocolate milk powder
1 (6-oz.) jar Coffee Mate
2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and package in a container that has a tight seal. Attach directions: To enjoy, add 1/3 c. of mix to 1 c. hot water.


Friendship Tea

Package this with pretty mug and your friend will think of you each time she enjoys this special tea!

Ingredients:

1/2 c. instant tea powder
1 c. sweetened lemonade powder
1 c. orange-flavored drink mix (e.g. Tang)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Directions:

Combine instant tea, lemonade powder, orange drink mix, cinnamon and cloves. Mix well and package in a container that has a tight seal. Attach directions: To enjoy, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of mix in a mug. Stir in 1 cup of boiling water.


Puppy Chow

This simple and delicious concoction is a favorite with all ages!

Ingredients:

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. peanuts, chopped
6 c. rice cereal
1 c. powdered sugar

Directions:

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips for 1 minute. Stir and continue to heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in peanut butter and peanuts. Pour cereal into the bowl, folding to coat all pieces. In a 2-gallon resealable bag, add the powdered sugar. Dump cereal into bag and toss gently to coat all pieces with sugar. Divide into smaller servings and place in containers that have tight seals.


Trail Mix

This sweet and savory mix can be just about anything your recipient craves!

Basic Ingredients:

1 jar dry roasted peanuts
1 bag candy-coated chocolate pieces
1 pkg. extra sweet raisins

1 pkg. sunflower kernels

Directions:

Stir all ingredients together and package in resealable plastic baggies. To amp up this basic mix, consider adding yogurt-covered raisins, dried cranberries, dried pineapple, almonds, cashews, dark chocolate chips or coconut flakes.

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