The Holiday season is here, and it’s time to spread the Christmas cheer! For families, Christmas is the most meaningful holiday full of traditions, joy, and hope. Tis’ the season for bright lights, sparkly ornaments, caroling, and cooking seasonal signature recipes. Out of storage comes our Christmas dishes, cookie cutters, and Corningware, ready to take food wherever there is a festive celebration.
My grandmother’s vintage Christmas china set always makes its debut on December 1. We enjoy drinking coffee and eating everything from weekday dinners to the full-blown holiday feast on dainty dishes adorn with holly and angels playing holiday horns.
The last month of the year is often the busiest, with a calendar full of entertaining events with family, friends, church, and workplace colleagues. An array of festive appetizers and finger foods help set the tone for parties, giving guests the opportunity for casual, friendly banter while munching on delicious dips, chips, spreads, and crackers.
A good holiday dip is a perfect snack to balance out all those Christmas cookies. And when done right, a good dip recipe can guarantee a future invite to the next seasonal shindig. And, in my opinion, an appetizer should tease your taste buds while also leaving room for the main course.
Amid the cheeseballs, cocktail meatballs, and pigs-in-a-blanket, try serving a dip without the guilt. Substitute reduced-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise. If you can’t part with your mayo, spoon in one tablespoon at a time till you reach your desired consistency or taste. Often you can spare several tablespoons by just being mindful of how much goes in. Go lighter on the toppings and use half the amount of nuts and other add-ins. With pecans and nut prices on the rise, this can help save money, too. If a recipe calls for crushed pecan or walnut pieces, sub in half the amount with peanut pieces.
Never underestimate the power of a great dip to get a party off to a merry start. Serve them with whole-grain pita or, ideally, sliced veggies. Try some less-than-usual options such as asparagus, or in-season vegetables like chicories, parsnips, and radishes along with the standard carrots and celery. Creamy and flavorful, try the pumpkin pie dip and spice up your starters with the cranberry salsa. Both so tasty guests won’t know they’ve been lightened up.
Pumpkin Pie Dip
- 1 (8 ounce) package low-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
- Beat cream cheese in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Mix in pumpkin puree until smooth.
- Stir confectioners’ sugar and pumpkin pie spice into the mixture until evenly mixed.
- Fold in whipped topping.
- For the best flavor, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 2 hours.
Cranberry Christmas Salsa
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- ½ -1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1+ tablespoons can diced jalapenos, drained
- ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Combine cranberries and one quart of water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute. Cranberries will begin to pop; do not overcook. All you need is for them to soften, not cook down. Drain. Let your cranberries cool before mixing in with the rest of the ingredients.
- In a mixing bowl combine the garlic, jalapeño (start with one tablespoon and add more if you like it spicy), cilantro, scallions, and cranberries. Mix by hand, squeezing some of the berries to a pulp and leaving the rest whole.
- Add lime juice, sugar and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with chips, pita bread, or festive crackers.