Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas - Hors d'oeuvres

Christmas is inching up on us day by day.

For the past 20 plus years, I've worked like crazy through Christmas all the way to New Years Eve getting Cheesecake Truffles (tm) dipped and hors d'oeuvre cheesecakes made for holiday parties every where from New York to Florida plus a cheesecake or two to far off California.

It was a tremendious labor of love all those years but now that I've retired from commercial baking, I vowed to party the entire month of December.

So this year, I still have holiday parties scheduled all month long but now I'm attending them not preparing food for them. I'm having a ball!

Let's start the festivities with an hor doeuvre recipe and a few holiday tips.

Social Graces

Here in the metro Washington, DC area we have people from all over the country (not to mention all over the world!) who all have different customs.

More and more, when one receives an invitation to a party, you hear people respond with "Great ! What can I bring?"

While it's a very lovely mid-western custom to bring a dish when invited somewhere, here in the south, it's annoying.

We pride ourselves in gracious southern hospitality and have gone to great lengths to plan the perfect party.

If you bring a dish, albeit splendid, our lovely southern manners obligate us to graciously thank you and put it out for the guests even though you've spoiled our so carefully made plans. It may seem trivial to non southerners but to us it's a big thing!

Here in the south, when your receive an invitation, simply say "thank you" then indicate whether or not you can attend. Never ask, "What can I bring?"

This is entirely different from a pot luck or covered dish supper which the host or hostess will tell you about up front when extending the invitation.

If you've asked "What can I bring?" and the host or hostess says "Oh nothing, just come and be a guest", in southern speak that means DON'T bring a dish but STILL DO bring a gift.

Good manners here in the south dictate that you MUST bring the host or hostess a modest, tasteful gift in appreciation for invitation.

A bottle of wine. Some nice flowers. A box of candy. A loaf of tea bread, plate of holiday cookies, a jar of fancy jam. An extravagant bar of hand made soap. If you've made it or it's from your garden, so much the better. Price is not the concern for the gift. Good taste, here in the south, is always what's important.

And when you invite a southerner, they won't ask if they can bring a dish. They'll know that it's their time to be the guest and your time to let your good taste in hospitality shine.

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Here's a couple of easy hors d'oeuvres to start you out!

Merry Cherry Tomatoes
Prepare up to 4 hours in advance but not longer or the coating will get gummy.

Makes about 2 dozen hors d'oeuvres

1 pint fresh cherry or grape tomatoes (see cook's tip below)
1 (.5-.7) oz. package dry ranch salad dressing mix (or 3 tablespoons your favorite spice blend -with or without salt)

Wash tomatoes under tepid running water and drain but do not dry. Put salad dressing mix (or spice blend) into a plastic bag. Toss damp tomatoes in spice to coat. Put into serving dish. Serve with tooth picks along side.

Karla's tip: When selecting tomatoes for this recipe, the smaller, the better. Get a size that can easily be put into the mouth whole - without having to bite it in half to eat.


Jolly Old Guacamole
Don't throw away that left over spice blend from the Merry Cherry Tomatoes! Use it to spice up this festive twist on guacamole.

Makes about 1 cup

1 ripe avocado (about 3/4 cup mashed pulp)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely minced onion (regular, red or Vidalia)
1 tablespoon dry salad dressing mix (or your favorite spice blend)
Salt and pepper to taste

Chunky mash avocado (an old fashioned, hand-held potato masher works well). Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill before serving.

Karla's tip: Serve this in the bowl of a chip and dip platter. Put the Merry Cherry Tomatoes where the chips go. The red and green color combination makes a festive presentation. Serve crackers, party rye or chips along side.


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Check back tomorrow as we count the days till Christmas with scrumptious recipes, festive holiday tips and gifts ideas from the kitchen.

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