One of my newer holiday traditions has become the email I receive from my friend Aileen the week before Thanksgiving with the question, “What am I taking to my Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve events?”
Because she tells me she “can’t cook,” I try to figure out something easy that won’t require much time in the kitchen, difficult prep or an ingredient she’ll never use again. Based on what she told me her friend was fixing for the holiday meal, I hit on this really simple trio of appetizers. These are great to keep handy for something “quick” when you just found out you have to take something to an office function, cocktail party or other event you weren’t planning on cooking for.
The first is not my own creation, but I’ve been using it for years and it’s a winner - “Curry Artichoke and Egg Spread.” A recipe developed by the “Frugal Gourmet” Jeff Smith, it’s a great spreadable for crackers, crostini or baguette and is hearty without making you feel stuffed – I mean who wants to get stuffed on appetizers before a big meal anyway, right? At a Thanksgiving a few years back I served this, and a friend took one bite, grabbed a fork and claimed the bowl for herself. I use a little less sour cream and mayo than called for, but you should experiment and see what you like for your own taste.
Along with the spread, you can serve these “Easy Spiced Nuts” (click here for recipe) – I like having something a little salty with cocktails and these really hit the spot. You can use any kind of nut you like, and I used up some leftover bits from some baking projects that was a combo of peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews and almonds – delicious! These were unroasted and unsalted, but you can easily use roasted/salted nuts by just decreasing the salt in the recipe. These are also great if you make holiday treats for gifts – a small cello or glassine bag of nuts tied with ribbon is a great addition to your homemade goodies.
With heavy holiday food on the menu, I like to have something that has a bite and cuts through all that weight. As I love pickles, I wanted to do a quick refrigerator pickle that would be a great complement to the other appetizers, and came up with “Quick Pickled Green Beans and Carrots.” These are good after a few hours, and get better if left in the brine 24-48 hours. They’re also an awesome snack to have on hand. I just pour the brine off after a couple days and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week (and they’re a low-point snack for those of you following the Weight Watchers PointsPlus program).
Remember – the holidays can become busy and stressful faster than you can throw a snowball, so don’t let your holiday cooking add to it! Try one of these easy recipes, relax and bask in the compliments!
Pickled Carrots & Green Beans
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into sticks about the same size as green beans
- 1/2 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups vinegar, (rice, cider, redwine, or any mix thereof – just don’t use a seasoned vinegar)
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 2 Tbsp honey
- Arrange the vegetables in a glass or other non-reactive container – a pie plate works great.
- Over high heat bring the water, vinegar, salt and honey to a boil. Kill the heat and pour the brine over the vegetables, making sure they are covered by brine.
- When cool, transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate.
Weight Watcher PointsPlus – divide into 4 servings – 1 serving = 1 point