GOAT-CHEESE-STUFFED DATES, WRAPPED IN PROSCIUTTO
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I go to formal dinner parties on the regular. But whenever I'm asked to bring a nice snack to a get-together, my absolute favorite thing to make is this recipe for tasty stuffed dates. Copied from a friend who copied from a restaurant that copied from... well, you get the idea, it's a popular dish with lots of iterations, and for good reason. With each delectable bite, the combination of prosciutto, dates, goat cheese and balsamic reduction plays off every taste bud in sweet, sour, salty, savory harmony. It's darn near a perfect bite, making these a smash hit every time.
4 ounces goat cheese
16 to 20 dates
1 package prosciutto
Balsamic glaze or homemade balsamic reduction
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pit the dates and use a spoon to fill each with goat cheese.
2. Wrap a strip of prosciutto around each stuffed date to seal in the cheese and then arrange them on a baking sheet about an inch apart.
3. Bake for about 10 minutes until the prosciutto is just starting to get crispy and the cheese and dates are warm.
4. Remove and drizzle with balsamic reduction, then return to the oven for another five minutes.
Serve with toothpicks and/or napkins available, as the drizzle and date combination can make these treats very sticky. Tip: If you don't want to buy a balsamic glaze, you can make your own reduction by simmering balsamic vinegar with a little honey in a skillet over medium-low heat until the mixture reduces into a thick, syrupy consistency, which may take 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy! (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)
CURRIED PEA SALAD
Don't let mistletoe be the only form of greenery during your holidays. This easy curried pea salad only looks fancy and will make you the darling of your vegan friends, all from ingredients you may have on hand. When the garden is going, you might use spring peas, but frozen peas are actually ideal for this recipe.
1 bag frozen peas, thawed at room temperature
1 cup smoked almonds* or cashews, rough chopped
1 can water chestnuts, drained and
4 green onions, greens only, chopped
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt to taste (*smoked almonds add salt)
Mix peas, nuts, water chestnuts and green onions in a nonreactive bowl. Mix half of the curry into half of the mayo; taste
SUN-DRIED TOMATO CREAM CHEESE DIP
I think my family originally found this recipe on Pinterest, or maybe a cream cheese package, and the rest is lost to time. The result, however, is way better than it sounds — much to the prejudgement of fellow Inlander staffers when I told them about this last-minute family favorite. Seriously, though, any time we've made this for a large gathering, it's instantly devoured. Plus, it goes well with almost any dipping vehicle; just make sure you use sturdy crackers versus chips (I like Wheat Thins or Triscuits
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and softened in water 5-10 minutes before chopping
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Salt, to taste
What makes this dip so great is how easily it comes together and how customizable it is. You can substitute or omit ingredients to please a range of palates. Also, you don't have to use sun-dried tomatoes; even canned diced tomatoes will work on the fly if drained well and chopped into small pieces. To make, first mix together the sour cream and cream cheese, then add all the chopped ingredients, salt
VELVEETA SALSA DIP
When it comes to party foods, I demand only the least classy snacks imaginable. That's just how it has to be. Here's the super easy and low-rent — yet still delicious — dip that I've brought to end-of-the-year parties since time immemorial.
32 oz (1 package) Velveeta cheese
1 jar of mild Pace salsa
2 bags of Frito Scoop chips
So obviously I'm not a gourmet, but I'm telling you: This dip is always a crowd pleaser. I'm not totally sure what Velveeta is even made of — I think it's mostly oil, but I wouldn't dare look up the actual ingredients — but I do know that I couldn't imagine a Super Bowl shindig without it.
Slice that Velveeta brick up into segments and melt it in the microwave (or in a Crock-Pot if you wanna be fancy about it). Once it's significantly gooey, crack open a jar of Pace salsa and stir in as much as your palette desires. Microwave a little bit longer until your concoction is totally liquified. (Now, I know that Pace is just the worst — it's weirdly sweet, and only a few meager spices away from being just a jar of diced tomatoes — but it's the only brand I ever use for this particular snack.) Serve the dip with Fritos Scoop chips, which are the perfect vessel. Those ingredients might seem questionable on their own, but they work in perfect harmony when thrown together in the minutes before your guests arrive. (NATHAN WEINBENDER) ♦