Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking

January 1, 2008

Holiday Party

Filed under: appetizers, holiday — Emily @ 8:13 pm

I had a casual holiday party while I was in Chicago and made a few really tasty recipes. Here are a few of them:


Pita Tree (source: Pillsbury Holiday Appetizers)
Four pita folds (about six inch diameter)
16 thin pretzel sticks, halved
½ cup sour cream (may use fat free)
½ cup guacamole
2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon garlic pepper blend

¼ cup very finely chopped red bell pepper

Cut each pita fold into 8 wedges. Insert pretzel stick half into center of bottom of each wedge to form “tree.” In small bowl, mix sour cream, guacamole, parsley and garlic pepper blend. Spread each wedge with cream mixture; blot bell pepper with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon on each wedge.

May be covered and refrigerated for up to 8 hours.


Tomato Basil Elephant Ears (source: Ina Garten on the Food Network)

1 1/4 cups sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To make the paste, place the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for 15 seconds. Set aside.

Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry and place it on a lightly floured board. With a rolling pin, lightly roll the dough until it’s a 13-inch square. Using a knife, spread the paste over the top of the puff pastry. Fold the sides of the square toward the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the 2 folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold one half over the other half as though closing a book. You will have 6 layers. Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices, cut side up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush each piece with egg wash and place in the oven. Bake for 6 minutes. Turn each pastry slice over and continue baking an additional 5 minutes.


Fingerling Potatoes with Aioli (source: Ina Garten)

My aioli didn’t really thicken the way it should, but it still tasted fabulous! This recipe is sooo good!

2 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, unpeeled
Kosher saltFor the Aioli:
1(1/2-inch thick) slice white bread, crust removed
2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
Chives, chopped

Rinse the potatoes and put them in a large saucepan. Cover them with cold water, add 1 tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are just tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander and place a kitchen towel on top, allowing them to steam for 5 to 10 minutes.For the aioli, tear the slice of bread into pieces and place in a bowl. Pour the vinegar over the bread, and set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the garlic cloves, egg yolks, zest, juice, saffron, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the bread, and puree into a paste. With the processor running, slowly pour the oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until it is the consistency of thick sour cream. Place in a serving bowl.

Slice the potatoes in half and place them on a serving plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and decorate with the chopped chives. Serve with the aioli.


This is always a huge hit–these were gone in about 30 minutes even though I doubled the recipe and the party wasn’t all that huge!

Kielbasa Appetizer

(can double)

1 lb. kielbasa

1 cup white wine

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1-2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbs. chopped parsley

Cut kielbasa into bite size pieces. Place in heavy skillet. Cover with wine, boil down until syrupy (this takes awhile). Add sugar and simmer to form slight glaze. Add mustard and toss with chopped parsley. Can serve at room temp and with honey mustard (Maile) if desired.


Sausage Balls

A very southern dish that I always had at parties when I lived in Nashville—first time I’ve tried them.

1 lb. of sausage (in the roll)

10 ounces Cheddar cheese–grated, plus a little more

3 cups Bisquick (reduced fat)

Mix all together and put into balls on a cookie sheet. 350 for 35-45 minutes. They are done when hardened and brown.


Roasted Artichoke and Spinach Dip (source: Good Things Catered)
I was told by several people that this was the best spinach artichoke dip they’d ever had–and I agree–the extra step to roast the artichokes makes a huge difference!

2 (14 oz) cans of premium artichoke hearts
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
16 oz. baby spinach leaves
1 medium onion, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 c. mayonnaise
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. assorted cheeses, grated (I used pecorino, parmesan, asiago, mozzarella, and fontina)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced thyme leaves
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, grated

-Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line baking sheet with foil.
-Toss drained artichokes with 1 Tbsp oil, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp ground black pepper.
-Spread out over the baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally. Until browned at the edges, about 25 minutes.
-Let the artichoke cool and chop coarse.
-Meanwhile heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat until just shimmering.
-Sauté spinach until wilted and drain thoroughly and transfer.
-Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to pan and add the onion.
-Cook for until softened, about 5 -7 mins.
-Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds..
-Transfer to bowl with spinach.
-Stir in mayo, cream cheese, cheeses, lemon juice, thyme, and cayenne until uniform.
-Add more cheese as needed! (oink! oink!)
-Gently fold in artichokes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
-Transfer mixture to large baking dish and sprinkle with parmesan.
(Here you can cover and refrigerate up to three days if needed)
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Bake dip uncovered until hot throughout and top is golden brown, about 20-25 mins.
-Let cool at least 5 mins before serving.


  1. i love the pita trees! so cute!

    Comment by MrsPresley — January 1, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  2. It all looks so great!! What a fabulous spread! And btw – spinach dip is from my blog. 🙂 I have a DH who loves to try and rate every single restaurant’s spinach & artichoke dips. I decided I could make it the best and I ended up with this recipe. 🙂 Glad you liked it! I think I will steal some of your yummy ones now!

    Comment by katie102006 — January 2, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

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