Tis the season for love, laughter, gift giving, family, and food. Many people come to dread the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be a festive time and you can still enjoy entertaining without having to take out a second mortgage if you know where you can scrimp and where you should splurge.
I will give you some of my favorite entertainment goodies and go to’s for fun, and fabulous eats. You will never look at entertaining the same way. They are simple, elegant and definitely not short on taste.
Here are some of my favorite items to buy on sale in anticipation for holiday baking and cooking.
- Stock up on olives, to be used for recipe below, in pastas, or to make a tapenade for crostini or crackers.
- Speaking of which, stock up on crackers for dips, cheeses, serving with chili, etc.
- Mixed nuts for adding spices and making my spiced bourbon nuts
- Artichoke hearts in a can
- Mixed soft and hard cheeses, think cheddar, brie, Stilton, goat, feta, little balls of mozzarella
- Hard salami, pepperoni, on sale
- Frozen puffed pastry
- Cream Cheese, ricotta cheese and marscapone
- Lady fingers, cannoli shells, and Amoretti cookies for which can be made in to lovely desserts, and toppings for ice cream, puddings and savory Sicilian dishes.
- Brown sugar light and dark, candied fruit, confectioner’s sugar,
- Flour, chocolate chips, baking chocolate
- Parchment paper sheets, if you are lucky to find these, scoop them up. I found these last year in Target and then realized when I couldn’t find them mid March, and that they are a seasonal find, but for just $2.99 for 22 pre-cut sheets so worth it for me. I just scooped up 4 packs when I was at Target. They fit large sheet pans perfectly and no cutting or measuring parchment rolls!
- Cheap decorative items from the dollar store, votives, holders, containers for cookies, festive trays for giving away cookies and easy transport of baked goods for parties, and to relatives houses, as well as some culinary goodies, yes I use certain things at the dollar store and it saves money. Some of my favs are canned and jarred olives, jarred jalapeños and roasted red peppers. Tuna fish brand name finds, apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, spices, nuts, chocolate chips or baking chocolate, dried beans, canned beans, frozen veggies and frozen fruit is a huge bargain, throw in smoothies and I use them for my fruit punch I make for my kids, nieces and nephews for holidays and parties. My favorite place to score all of these goodies is Dollar Tree, but most reputable dollar stores will be fine, just check expiration dates and know your prices prior to going there so you don’t wind up spending more.
From our home to yours, Happy Holdiays.
Citrus and Herb Marinated Olives
A simple, understated appetizer that is the perfect accompaniment to an antipasto plate or by itself with a glass of wine!
Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath
- 3 cups of mixed olives ( I used some Kalamata, green with pimento, and black olives)
- the zest and juice of one lemon (I included some curled lemon peel with the help of my veggie peeler).
- 2 cloves of smashed garlic
- fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, and Italian flat leaf parsley(I used thyme and sage from my garden)
- 1/4 cup or so of EVOO or canola oil
- 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes
- Season with salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- In a large frying pan on low heat warm oil, add in lemon zest, herbs and garlic, let simmer for about four minutes to perfume the oil. Add in olives, red pepper flake, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 15 minutes or so, then remove from stove to cool.
- Place in sterile mason jar or similar container to meld flavors overnight. Can be made in advance. Keeps for up to two weeks.
Spiced Bourbon Nuts
A super easy, super tasty spin on boring pecans or peanuts, I even threw in some shelled sunflower seeds because my kiddos requested them!
- Buy nuts on sale to save money, you can use pecans, cashews and peanuts. I usually mix them. Wholesale clubs, stores like Aldi’s, Trader Joe’s are perfect for these items, that otherwise, in the grocery store, would be pricey!
Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath
- 2 cups of mixed nuts or pecans if you desire (I used peanuts, pecans, and pepitas, (pumpkin seeds), because I had them in the house and I hate to waste anything)
- 1/4 cup of your favorite bourbon
- 1/2 tsp. of chipotle chili powder
- 2 1/2 tbsp. of unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 tbsp. of brown sugar
- zest of one orange
- splash of pure maple syrup
**Add in some dried cherries or dried cranberries for a take on an “Old Fashioned” style nut mix. All the components are there, with the bourbon and citrus, I would macerate in the bourbon before adding off the flame. (My afterthought, so I didn’t include them in mine):(
- In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat over medium heat, add nuts and let toast lightly, stirring frequently so as not to let burn. About 3 minutes.
- Add butter and mix to coat, add in brown sugar, chipotle chili powder, salt, pepper and mix well. Remove from heat and add the bourbon. Stir well. Return pan to heat and cook for about two minutes, then remove from heat.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray baking spray on a spatula and spread nuts in an even layer. Allow to air dry. Once nuts are dried, you can serve immediately or place in airtight container. I make these a day or two ahead of time for optimum results. They make a great gift for inside a gift basket or a nice hostess gift with a bottle of wine. Tie on fancy ribbon or decorative twine and you are crafty and considerate!
Everyone should have a killer dip in their repertoire. I have several, but it always seems like this is the top request I get whenever I ask what I can bring to a party or gathering. I have been making this so long that I had to actually sit down and create a recipe. This was born out of boredom of Spinach dip that is delish, but done to death. So here is my Rocking Red Pepper Dip, it is similar to a pimento cheese dish my aunt who’s southern use to make. This is so addictive so get ready to be impressed.
Rockin' Roasted Red Pepper Dip
The perfect party dip that everyone will adore!
- You can vary the cheese between Monterey Jack, cheddar, mozzarella, Goat, or a blend of two, which is usually what I do.
- 1 small jar of roasted red peppers in water, drained, or roast your own on the stove top of a gas stove, or in the broiler on a broiler sheet with some EVOO. Get them charred on both sides. Place in a Ziploc, when out of the broiler to soften skin, remove easily, seed, and chop away. Peppers should be nicely chopped and well-drained!
- 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese softened
- 1 cup of mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp. of minced onion, (I grate my onion and use the essence, about a quarter of an onion)
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 tbsp. of Dijon mustard (not grainy)
- 2 tbsp. of goat cheese for depth of flavor (goat cheese is pricy in a grocery store, about $4.99 or more for four ounces, I get this at my local wholesale club and get a large 10 oz. log for about 7$ which is a better buy, but you can totally omit this if you aren’t a fan of goat cheese or want to keep this budget friendly).
- 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar
- 1 cup of Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce
- a dash or two of hot pepper sauce
- Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°
- In a large bowl, cream goat cheese and cream cheese, add in mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, onion, garlic, and salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Add in chopped roasted peppers, making sure they are well-drained, and cheeses. Mix well.
- Fill a pie plate or similar vessel with dip, and bake in oven for 20 -25 minutes uncovered or until lightly golden and bubbly. Serve with crostini, crackers , or tortilla chips if desired. Prepare for a taste experience like no other!