Saturday, January 4, 2014

Holiday Party Food 2013 - appetizers, crackers and sweets

REVISED:  September 10, 2014

Date I made these recipes:  week of December 1, 2013 (Party Food!)

Chips and Dips by Claudia McQuillan
Published by:  Chronicle Books
ISBN:  0-8118-1271-5
Recipe:  Four-Onion Dip - p. 81

Christmas with Martha Stewart Living by Martha Stewart
Published by:  Oxmoor House
ISBN:  0-8487-1627-2
Recipe:  Chocolate-Meringue Cookies - p. 65 (plus Swiss Meringue recipe p. 63)

Crackers & Dips - More than 50 Handmade Snacks by Ivy Manning
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN:  978-1-4521-0950-3
Recipes:  "Everything" Flatbread Crackers - p. 33-35

The Last-Minute Party Girl by Erika Lenkert
Published by:  The McGraw-Hill Companies
ISBN:  0-07-141192-5
Recipe:  Aimee's Hummus - p. 100

The Pleasure of Your Company - How to Give a Dinner Party without Losing Your Mind by Molly O'Neill
Published by:  Viking
ISBN:  0-670-87266-0
Recipe:  Tomatillo Salsa - p. 119

Tiny Food Party! by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park
Published by:  Quirk Books
ISBN:  978-1-59474-581-2
Recipe:  Mini Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches - p. 91; cheese sauce - p. 88

Bonus Recipe - Bacon Jam, published in the Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper

September 10, 2014:  My sincere apologies to Ivy Manning, author of Crackers & Dips.  A few months ago, my blog's host site,, sent me an email saying that they had received notice of a copyright violation and had to put this blog post into "Edit Only" mode.  I asked Blogger what the problem might be but they didn't respond.  But today, while working on some blog stuff, I noticed that this posting had a comment and the comment was from Ivy who basically said "I'm flattered that you found four recipes you like but that's practically giving away my book for free."  She is correct.  She suggested that I could list one recipe and then direct you where to buy the book and so after careful consultation with my husband, we selected her absolutely delicious "Everything Flatbread Cracker" as this worked perfectly with every spread we made. And then trust me when I say that your guests will be most impressed with every single cracker in this book and you will instantly become a Party Diva/Divo Extraordinaire.  Now be good party hosts and go out and buy this book.  Right now!  This book was published by Chronicle Books and they put out fabulous cookbooks.  You can order online at: and then search for Crackers & Dips. (For the record, in close second was the recipe for "Irish Blue Cheese and Walnut Shortbread." If memory serves I was a bad party hostess, hoarding several of them for myself.)

As is now usual and customary, my husband and I totally get our party groove thing on in December making appetizers and desserts for our annual open house.  We need a bigger house and possibly, after this year, a bigger table.  My money is on a bigger table (he can make a new leaf) before the bigger house. 

The rules of engagement for this shindig are easy:  all incredible edibles must be finger food.  I'm not opposed to forks but it's easier with toothpicks.  As it is, we rent plates and glassware every year and the rule of rental is you must rinse:  I refuse to add forks to my dishwashing detail.

As I do every year, the minute one soiree ends, I start planning the next but as the years go by, I am less driven to use cookbooks from my collection and more interested in just finding recipes that work; every year is an experiment!  The only rule that I try to follow is to publish only the cookbook recipes used in this blog seeing as how it's all about cookbooks.  That said, the bacon jam was so popular this year that it gets its own special mention at the end of all this.

So let's start.  First up was a delicious Four-onion Dip that I made from the Chips and Dips cookbook.  I liked the recipe because of the variety of the onions used to make this.  I think it was semi-popular; it could be used on crackers, breads or even the veggies I set out.  This recipe called for me to roast garlic, a new task but one that really worked.  I see more roasted garlic in my future.  There were several other delicious-sounding dips in this book but I went with this one first.  We'll see about next year next year!

In the cookie department, I added Chocolate Meringue Cookies to the mix this year, compliments of Martha Stewart.  I have a friend who can't eat gluten and these cookies, along with the Mini Chocolate Chip Meringues I made last year, really float her boat.  She gets a special doggie bag when leaving the party.  My husband Andy mixed these up and they were pretty easy.  He even got all "Martha" on me by doing a special swirl with the mixture - showoff!  Martha's book is, as you might imagine, filled with cooking and crafts.  I focused on these cookies because they seemed easy.

Next up we have a new acquisition - Crackers & Dips and here we had to restrain ourselves as there were so many yummy crackers and dips to be found.  I put Andy in charge of the crackers and the four we selected were really good.  Although the instructions can be a little long, the end result is worth it as guests oo'd and aah'd that we made our own crackers.  My rule of thumb for baking anything is "no yeast."  I fear yeast for lo, I have made doorstops in my day, and I don't have the patience to let anything rise over and over again.  For those of you who are into yeast crackers though, you'll find them all there in this fabulous book.
I had several recipes flagged in Erica Lenkert's The Last-Minute Party Girl cookbook but my husband nixed all but one - the hummus - and not because he's mean but because "This is getting out of hand."  Post-party, he mentioned that we need to cut down on dips which turns me into a pound puppy but he's right.  Still, next year I swear I'm making the White-Bean Dip and he can just suffer!

Finally, the last of the cookbooks I used - Molly O'Neill's The Pleasure of Your Company - provided the Tomatillo Salsa recipe and out of all the things I made, this one ranked "so-so" on the "yum, yum" meter.  It wasn't bad, in fact it's kind of pleasantly tangy, but other things caught our guest's attention this year.  Still, I love Molly O'Neill's writing and loved this cookbook as it is all about throwing successful dinner parties and who doesn't want to throw a successful party, dinner or no dinner?

Now that I'm through with these books for the year, they will go back into storage in bins specifically marked as Party Food so I can consult for next year.  Meanwhile, I do believe I've collected about a dozen potential recipes for next year.  My work here is never done.

Four Onion Dip - makes 2 cups – Chips and Dips cookbook
3 T. olive oil
2 Vidalia, Maui, or Texas onions (size 10/15--I have no idea what that means) or substitute yellow onions.  Cut onions into 1/4-inch dice.
1 Leek, white part only, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise
6 shallots, minced
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
12 cloves roasted garlic, minced (instructions below)
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup sour cream
1 T. minced fresh chives
1 T. minced fresh parsley leaves

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, leek, shallots, and green onions, and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes.  Add the roasted garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and vinegar, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove mixture from heat, transfer to a bowl, and let cool completely.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cooked onions with the sour cream, chives, and parsley.  Taste and add more salt and cayenne if desired.

Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To roast the garlic:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  With a sharp knife, slice off the top fourth of a head of garlic.  Drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil; loosely wrap the trimmed head of garlic in aluminum foil, place in warm oven, and roast for 30 minutes.  Carefully open up the foil, and roast 10 minutes longer.  Remove from heat, cool, and remove the cloves from the skins.  *Always store roasted garlic covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Chocolate-Meringue Cookies – makes 30 cookies – Christmas with Martha Stewart Living cookbook
¼ cup cocoa powder, plus 2 teaspoons – more for dusting
1 recipe Swiss meringue (1 recipe makes 4 cups)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature*
1 cup sugar
Pinch Cream of Tartar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*We use powdered eggs whites for all our meringue cookie recipes and they work great.  Martha will likely disapprove but Martha is not in my kitchen cranking out party food, now is she?

Make the Swiss Meringue (no cocoa for now) by filling a medium saucepan one-quarter full with water.  Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer.

Combine egg whites, sugar and Cream of Tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and place over saucepan.  Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 ½ minutes.  Test by rubbing between your fingers.

Transfer bowl to electric mixer; whip, starting on law, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.  Add vanilla; mix until combined.

Sift ¼ cup of the cocoa over the meringue, and fold so that streaks of cocoa remain.

Fill a pasty bag fitted with the tip of your choice (Martha uses Ateco #5 star tip) OR fill a plastic bag with the mixture and then snip of a corner.  (Again, I'm sensing a frown here and I don't care, Martha!).  Pipe out cookies in small coils or desired shapes onto baking sheet.  Sift remaining cocoa over cookies; bake at 175 degrees (on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper) for 2 hours, until cookies lift off parchment easily.

"Everything" Flatbread Crackers – makes 24- Crackers & Dips cookbook
2 T. fried shallots or dried onion flakes
2 tsp dried minced garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp sel gris or other granular sea salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tsp light brown sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ cup creme fraiche or sour c ream
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
6 T water
1 egg beaten with 1 T water

Preheat oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  In a small bowl, combine the shallots, garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, and sel gris; set aside.

In a food processor or large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and fine sea salt and pulse or whisk t combine.  In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, olive oil, and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and pulse or stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 10 strokes.

Divide the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.  Pat one ball into a small rectangle and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until the dough is 1/16 inches thick, picking up the dough occasionally and rotating it to make sure it's not sticking to the work surface.  Alternatively, use a pasta maker following the method on page 13 until the dough is 1/16 thick, the number 5 setting on most machines.

Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, trim any irregular edges (save the scraps).  Cut the dough into rectangles measuring 2 by 4 inches and transfer them to the baking sheet, spacing them very close together.  Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining ball of dough and scraps, using a second baking sheet.

Brush the crackers lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle them with the shallot mixture.  Using a flat-bottomed measuring cup, gently tamp down the toppings into the dough to adhere.  Prick each cracker 4 or 5 times with a fork or comb.

Bake until the crackers are golden brown and crisp, 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets once from top to bottom and from back to front while baking.  Cool on racks and store in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

 Aimee's Hummus – makes 2 cups – The Last-Minute Party Girl Cookbook
2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste, available at most large grocery stores) (Ann's Note:  Most grocery stores, if they carry this, carry it in large amounts but the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis breaks down their shipment into much smaller quantities.
2 teaspoons roasted garlic or 2 raw cloves mashed to a paste with some salt
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil as needed to thin

Blend all ingredients except the olive oil well in a food processor, adding olive oil at the end if needed to achieve your desired consistency.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Tomatillo Salsa – serves 8  – The Pleasure of your Company cookbook
3 pounds tomatillos, husked
4 medium poblano chilies, roasted, seeded, deveined, peeled, and chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
8 scallions, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the tomatillos on a baking sheet.  Roast them in the oven until their skins blister, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Place the tomatillos in a blender with the remaining ingredients.  Puree until smooth.  The salsa can be stored in the refrigerator in a closed container for up to 2 days.

Bonus – Bacon Jam – from the Minneapolis StarTribune (newspaper) – – Published September 18, 2013 – Article by Nealey Dozier  – - Makes 1 ½ to 2 cups.

Note: This easily can be doubled or tripled. Some recipes call for discarding some of the bacon fat before adding the onions. I kept all of the fat but it is personal preference. Hey, if you are going to make bacon jam, you might as well go all in!
1 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into 3/4-in. pieces
2 small sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large shallot (2 cloves), peeled and very thinly sliced
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a large Dutch oven or heavy skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Keep all the bacon fat in the pan; do not discard (see Note).

Lower the heat to medium. Stir in the onions and shallots, and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup, vinegar, Dijon and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in 1/2 cup of water and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally if necessary. Cook until the jam has a glossy appearance and syrup-like consistency, about 1 hour.

Allow the mixture to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender and pulse a few times to purée the larger pieces, stopping every pulse or two to stir and check the consistency — it should be thick and chunky, not a paste.
Transfer to an airtight container. Bacon jam can be refrigerated for up to one month. Serve at room temperature.

1 comment:

Ivy said...

Hi There
Great blog!
I just wanted to let you know that I don't feel comfortable with you publishing 4 recipes from my book. I'm sure you understand as a writer yourself that while I'm thrilled that you liked Crackers and Dips, I can't afford to give away my book for free. My publisher sees it in a much more business like way since it's their copyright material, they own it. It's fine to publish one recipe and provide a link for buying the book, but 4 recipes is too much. I'd really appreciate it if you would take down 3 and leave one up. Thanks!