We like to do an appetizers night, the evening before any major holiday. It should come as no surprise then, that in the evenings leading up to Christmas, my mother planned a bit of an “appetizerpalooza” by serving some old favorites and a new recipe or two (at least new to us). We had a little bit of everything as far as the spread went – classic Southern (sausage balls), typical party food (sticks ‘n stones), Mediterranean fare (baked feta with marinara) and my mothers famous Mexican 7-layer dip. We gorged ourselves on these dishes, not really leaving much room for Christmas dinner on Thursday, but satisfied with the end result. While the ingredients in some of these may not be within our “normal” realm, just live a little – it’s okay to indulge in moderation! Be warned in advance that several (okay, all) of these are very addictive, so pay attention while you’re eating to try and control yourself from overdoing! In particular, the 7-layer dip and the Sticks ‘n Stones go very quickly in a crowd!
Cooking Notes for Dip: We’re not the biggest olive people, so we skipped them for this rendition of the dip, though my mother usually makes it with the olives when she takes it to a party!
Kay’s Seven-Layer Dip (serves 16-20 as an appetizer)
1 can refried beans
1 or 1 1/2 cups salsa, separated
1 cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole (not thick)
4-5 green onions, sliced
1 small can black olives, sliced (optional)
2 cups 4-cheese Mexican blend
Cilantro, to top (optional)
In an 11×7 glass pan (8×8 works too), begin by spreading refried beans in the bottom of the dish. Pour approximately 1/2 cup of salsa over top and spread evenly. Next, spread sour cream on top of the salsa. Following the sour cream, spread the guacamole evenly as layer four. Next, sprinkle the green onions over the guacamole, then add the olives on top of the onions (optional). Add the remaining salsa (1/2 or 1 cup) over the green onion/olive layer, then top with your cheese blend. Chill for at least one hour, then top with fresh cilantro (optional), serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!
Cooking Notes for Chex: This stores really well in plastic bags or aluminum tins, to package up as gifts! Eat within a couple weeks, otherwise it gets soggy. Also know that it’s very addictive!
Sticks ‘n Stones (Party Chex Mix) (makes 8 cups)
2 cups Chex (corn or wheat OR a combination of both) or Crispix cereal
2 cups Cheerios
2 1/2 cups pretzel sticks
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts
2/3 cup butter
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp celery salt
Heat oven to 250 degrees. Mix cereals, pretzels and nuts in a 9×13 baking pan. Melt the butter then blend with Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt and celery salt. Pour over cereal mixture, tossing to make sure it’s evenly distributed. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring gently with a wooden spoon after 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then enjoy!
Cooking Notes for Marinara: We used toasted bread crackers instead of French bread, for serving.
Baked Feta with Marinara (adapted from Cooking Light; serves 16)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-oz. can diced red tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, drained
1 4-oz. package crumbled feta cheese
32 toasted bread crackers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine lemon juice, cayenne, garlic and diced tomatoes in a bowl. Coat a 6-inch gratin dish or small shallow baking dish with cooking spray, then sprinkle feta evenly into the dish. Top with the tomato mixture and bake for 20 minutes. Serve on toasted bread crackers or small slices of French bread and enjoy!
Cooking Notes for Sausage: Let these little guys get crispy – it makes them even better!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl, using your hands to work the Bisquick and cheddar into the sausage. Roll into 1-tbsp.-size balls and place on a baking sheet.* Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked through. Stick in toothpicks (not pictured), serve and enjoy!
*If you would like to freeze in advance, place wax paper or aluminum foil on your baking sheet and place the balls on. Stick uncovered in the freezer for 2 hours, then once very firm, remove and place in a freezer bag until ready to bake.