Snack Time

By Tawny Maya McCray

September 11, 2009 6 min read

Christmas is a time for full houses, lots of conversation, gifts and, most importantly, good food. Here are a few ideas for some quick and easy snacks you can make for your guests to enjoy before the big meal.

Will Rayment -- who has a Web site, called Holiday Cook, and has published a cookbook, called "The Real Man's Cookbook" -- has several appetizing Christmas snacks, including baked asparagus, johnnycake and sour-cream cookies. He said most of the recipes he creates by "banging around the kitchen."

The johnnycake recipe, in particular, is a part of what he calls the Laura Ingalls Wilder menu, which stemmed from reading the "Little House" books to his daughter for bedtime stories.

"When we read 'By the Shores of Silver Lake' around Christmastime, it made me think we ought to have the same Christmas meal the Ingallses had so long ago," Rayment says. "It was a big hit."

Kraft Foods also has a number of appetizer recipes, including the cheesy Christmas tree, holiday cheese truffles, zesty hot holiday broccoli dip and spiced cherry cheese ball. Those recipes and many more can be found at http://www.kraftfoods.com/KF/ENTERTAINING/HOLIDAYSEVENTS/HOLIDAYHOWTOCENTER/HolidayRecipesMenus.aspx.

One reviewer who made the cheesy Christmas tree wrote, "So easy to make and so much fun to eat!"

Another reviewer gushed over the holiday cheese truffles, saying, "I made this recipe for a Christmas Eve party, and everyone raved about how easy it was just to pick up one or two instead of digging into a whole cheese ball."

So this Christmas, wow your guests with tasty treats that not only are scrumptious but also allow you not to be cooped up in the kitchen all day.

BAKED ASPARAGUS

1 bundle asparagus (1-2 pounds)

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese or mozzarella

Cut the asparagus into 1- to 2-inch pieces. This can be done by holding the entire bundle to the cutting board with one hand and making transverse cuts with a long knife. (Cutting would take a long time if you cut one stalk at a time).

Lay asparagus on the bottom of a baking dish.

Sprinkle cheese on top.

Place in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until asparagus is tender.

(Recipe from holidaycook.com.)

JOHNY BREAD (JOHNNYCAKE)

1 cup flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup cooking oil

Stir together the dry ingredients.

Add the eggs, milk and cooking oil.

Stir until mixture is smooth. (Don't over-beat it; doing so will take out some of the texture).

Let sit about 5 minutes.

Pour into a greased 9-by-9-inch baking pan.

Bake in a 425-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

(Recipe from holidaycook.com.)

CHEESY CHRISTMAS TREE

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 12

8-ounce package Philadelphia cream cheese or Philadelphia Neufch?tel cheese

1/2 cup pesto

1/4 cup chopped red peppers

1 stick Kraft Polly-O Twist-Ums string cheese

Ritz crackers

Cut block of cream cheese diagonally in half. Arrange both halves, with points together, on serving plate to resemble Christmas-tree shape.

Cut a 2-inch piece from the string cheese. Place at bottom of tree for the trunk. Wrap up remaining cheese; refrigerate until ready to use for snacking or other use.

Spoon pesto over cream cheese; sprinkle with peppers. Serve as a spread with the crackers.

(Recipe from Kraft Foods Inc.)

HOLIDAY CHEESE TRUFFLES

2 8-ounce packages Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

8-ounce package Kraft shredded sharp Cheddar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Dash ground red pepper (cayenne)

1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers

2 green onions, sliced

1 2/3 cups Planters chopped pecans

Sociables crackers

Beat cream cheese, Cheddar, garlic powder and ground red pepper with electric mixer until blended.

Divide in half. Add roasted peppers to half and onions to other half; mix each until blended.

Refrigerate several hours, or until chilled.

Shape into 24 1-inch balls.

Roll in pecans.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Special Extra

Try these other coatings for these tasty truffles: sesame seeds, chopped fresh parsley, paprika and your favorite Kraft shredded cheese.

*Variations

Prepare as directed using one of the following options:

Festive Wreath: Alternately arrange different-flavored truffles in a large circle on platter to resemble a holiday wreath. Create a decorative bow out of green onion strips. Use to garnish wreath.

Cheese Logs: Roll each half into 6-inch log. Roll in desired coatings as directed.

(Recipe from Kraft Foods Inc.)

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