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Sun, April 21

New years buffet: A winner

Whether having friends over for New Year's Eve or Jan. 1, a buffet is a "win-win" for both the hostess and guests. The hostess wins with make-ahead treats so she (or he) can relax and enjoy the time and a win for guests who can help themselves making serving easy on everyone. Here is a small assortment of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres along with punch and dessert. Perhaps you will find something new to try to mix with old favorites.

CHEESE STRAWS

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese - 1 3/4 c. flour - 1 tsp. salt - 1/4-1/2 cayenne - 1/4 # butter

Finely grate the cheese; combine with other ingredients and beat until creamy, adding a few drops of water if necessary to form a firm dough. Divide dough in half. Roll each section 1/4" thick. Cut into strips about 6 x 3/8". Twist. Chill twisted straws on wax paper in refrigerator 1 hour if time permits or freeze 15 minutes on flat pan. This is necessary for them to hold their shape. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or longer if needed to lightly brown. Makes 5-6 dozen.

SPINACH BROWNIES

I included this to catch your attention, but surprisingly many appetizers include spinach (and you can tell mom you ate your veggies, too.)

1 c. flour - 1 tsp. baking powder - 1 c. milk - 1 stick margarine or butter, melted - 1/2 c. chopped onion - 1 package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained - 1 pound shredded cheddar cheese.

(NOTE: I did not test this in Prescott's altitude due to time constraints, but have prepared it at an identical altitude at another time with no problems) Sift flour. Mix all ingredients and put in greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake 35 minutes at 350. Cool and cut in bite-sized pieces. Serve warm or cool. Freezes well. Reheat to serve.

Note: All recipes I am currently sharing are acceptable for Prescott's altitude having been used at a similar altitude. Any changes could perhaps include a little additional cooking time for browning or when testing to assure doneness.

CRAB RANGOON DIP

2 lg. (16 oz.) cream cheese, softened - 2 cans crab meat - 1/2 c. sour cream - 5 T. Parmesan cheese, grated - 1 1/2 T. Worcestershire sauce - 4 chopped green onions - 1/4 tsp. garlic, chopped.

Mix cream cheese, crab, sour cream and Parmesan cheese. Add and mix Worcestershire, onions, and garlic. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serves 10-12 with crackers or vegetables. May double for larger group.

CHICKEN BON BONS

1 c. coarsely ground or finely chopped toasted walnuts - 1 c. coarsely ground or finely chopped cooked chicken – 1 T. finely chopped onion - 2 t. finely chopped canned green chili or pimiento - 1/4 tsp. salt – 1/8 tsp. Tabasco - 1/2 canned cream of mushroom soup

Combine 1/4 c. of nuts with remaining ingredients, mixing to blend thoroughly. Form into small balls and roll in remaining nuts. Cover and chill an hour before serving. Note: If you have never toasted nuts, do so ahead of time on shallow ungreased pan in 350 oven about 10-15 minutes stirring once or twice. Cool before chopping.

PUNCH FOR A BUNCH: ORANGE CRANBERRY PUNCH

1/3 c. mild flavored honey - 1/2 c. hot water - 2 c. fresh orange juice - 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice - 6 c. cranberry juice cocktail - one 12 oz. can pineapple juice - 1 bottle (28 oz.) lemon-lime carbonated soda, chilled - orange and lemon half-cartwheels

Thoroughly combine honey and hot water until blended. Add fruit juices and chill until serving time. Pour over ice in punch bowl. Add carbonated soda. Garnish with fruit slices. Makes about 24 three-oz. punch cup servings.

CUCUMBER ROUNDS

So easy. Cucumbers and cooked bay shrimp, cooled and shelled. Wash and dry cucumbers and score sides with fork. Slice into thick rounds topping each with two or three bay shrimp. Garnish with parsley to serve.

STUFFED CHERRY TOMATOES

2 pints small firm cherry tomatoes - 2 bunches parsley - 6 oz. jack cheese, grated - 1/2 c. finely chopped cooked ham or chicken - 1 T. finely chopped pimiento - 2 T. finely chopped onion - 2/3 c. mayonnaise - 1 T. chopped fresh thyme - black pepper to taste

With a very sharp knife, slice off top quarter of each tomato and set aside. Remove insides and seed with small spoon, grapefruit spoon or melon baler and discard. Invert shells on a wire mesh rack or paper towel to drain. Up to a day ahead, finely chop the parsley, (save some for garnish), Mix together the parsley, cheese, ham, pimiento, onion, mayonnaise, thyme and pepper. Spoon into tomato shells or use piping bag with large tip. Top can be set back on, askew, if not broken. Keep refrigerated until needed. Best in airtight container. Garnish with parsley springs.

CARROT BALLS

5-6 cleaned, peeled, grated - 1/4 c. mayonnaise - 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese - 1/4 tsp. each salt, paprika, grated garlic - 1/2 c. finely chopped nuts

Mix carrots with mayonnaise, cheese, and spices. Form into small balls with hands. Roll in nuts and serve. May also roll in grated cheese as a substitute for nuts.

CINNAMON GLAZED ALMONDS

1/3 c. butter or margarine - 2 egg whites, room temperature - pinch salt - 1 c. sugar - 3 c. whole almonds - 4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place butter on 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 jellyroll type pan; place in oven to melt butter, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, beat egg whites with salt until frothy; gradually add sugar, beating stiff peaks. Gently fold in almonds and cinnamon. Pour almond mixture onto jellyroll pan; toss with butter.

Bake about 40 minutes; tossing every 10 minutes until almonds are crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store cooled almonds in air-tight container up to two weeks.

While every kind of nut is available this time of year, making your own special recipe is a special touch. If you made the popcorn from last week's column you can add a bowl of that to the table (if there is any left.)

BUTTERY BITE-SIZED TARTS

(We finally made it to dessert)! After all that cooking the cook deserves a break on dessert!

Tarts: 1/2 c. margarine or butter, softened - 1 3-oz. package cream cheese, softened - 1 c. all purpose flour

In a bowl beat softened margarine or butter and cream cheese till thoroughly combined. Stir in flour. Using 24 ungreased 1 3/4" muffin cups, press rounded tsp. of pastry evenly into bottom and up sides of each cup. If using larger muffin cups, use larger amount of dough.

Pecan filling: in small bowl beat together 1 egg, 3/4 c. packed brown sugar and 1 T. melted margarine or butter. Stir in 1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans. Fill each pastry-lined muffin cup with about 1 tsp. pecan filling. Bake about 30 minutes in 325 oven or till pastry is golden and filling is puffed.

Cool slightly in muffin cups, then remove and cool completely on wire rack. Makes 24 tarts if using small muffin pans.

Have a wonderful buffet with family and friends. In January, we will get back to "normal" eating with some hearty soups.

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