Toppings and dips for casual Christmas entertaining

Easy entertaining is the least stressful way to manage the holiday season. Make these ahead and keep in the refrigerator for those unexpected drop-in guests. Keep a selection of crackers on hand. Cheese is loved by almost everyone and dried fruits, honey and nuts complete a welcoming spread.

Spinnakers Baked Cheese

This was served at Spinnakers Pub in Victoria, B.C., and was a favourite among the customers. It can be frozen before or after baking.

  • 1 1/2 lb. cream cheese 750 g
  • 1 c. butter 250 mL
  • 1 c. sour cream 250 mL
  • 1 c. crumbled old white cheddar 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. mushrooms, finely chopped 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. sundried tomatoes, finely chopped 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. chives, chopped 60 mL
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp. sweet paprika 30 mL

In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the ingredients. Place in greased baking dishes. Bake at 350 F (180 C) until the cheese is warmed through and the top is golden brown. Serve immediately with crackers or fresh bread. It will keep for up to a week if tightly covered and refrigerated. Source: adapted from Brewpub Cookbook.

Bacon Cheese Dip

  • 1/2 c. sour cream 125 mL
  • 4 oz. crumbled blue cheese 115 g
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened 85 g
  • 2 tbsp. onion, finely diced 30 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. hot sauce .5 mL
  • 4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Process the first five ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Scrape down the sides from time to time. Stir in half of the bacon and chill for two hours. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with remaining bacon. Serve with crackers.

Cranberry Pistachio Cheese Log

Coating:

  • 1 c. cranberries 250 mL
  • 1 c. shelled pistachios 250 mL

Cheese Log:

  • 8 oz. goat cheese 250 g
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened 115 g
  • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. honey 15 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. each ground ginger, ground cinnamon, salt, dried thyme, dried rosemary 1 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper .5 mL
  • 1/2 c. coating mixture 125 mL
  • honey to garnish

Coarsely chop cranberries and pistachios. Remove 1/2 cup (125 mL) and add it to a medium bowl. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.

Scoop this cheese mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into the shape of a log. Wrap and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes. The cheese log should be slightly firm so it holds its shape but still soft enough for the coating to be pressed into it.
Place a large piece of parchment paper on the counter. Spread coating ingredients on the parchment paper into a single layer a little larger than the length of the cheese log. Roll cheese log in the mixture until evenly coated, pressing coating into the cheese so it sticks.
The cheese log can be refrigerated at this point until ready to serve or serve immediately or rewrap and refrigerate up to three days or freeze up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Drizzle generously with honey just before serving. Serve with crackers.

Cranberry Orange Cheese Ball

This is sweet rather than savoury. It would be good in a dessert course.

  • 5 tsp. orange zest 25 mL
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. orange juice 15 mL
  • 16 oz. cream cheese 500 g
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries 125 mL
  • 1 c. candied pecans 250 mL

Add first four ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until well blended. Chill until firm.
Coarsely chop dried cranberries and candied pecans.

Place the cream cheese mixture on a large piece of plastic kitchen wrap and form into a ball. Chill until firm. Roll in the cranberry and pecans until the outside is fully coated. Wrap in plastic kitchen wrap and refrigerate until serving.
Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers.
To make candy pecans, melt one-half cup (125 mL) of sugar in a pan over medium heat. When the sugar melts to a caramelized liquid, add nuts. Toss to coat and turn onto a piece of parchment paper to cool. When cool, roughly chop and use.

Feta and Lemon Dip

This is so easy to make and can also be used as a topping for baked chicken or fish.

  • 1 c. feta cheese, crumbled 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest, plus more for garnish 15 mL
  • 1–2 tbsp.fresh lemon juice 15-30 mL
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving 90 mL
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • crudites, chips, toasts or pita crisps for serving

Place the feta, lemon zest, one tablespoon (15 mL) lemon juice, garlic and olive oil in a bowl and stir until combined but still slightly chunky. Taste and if it’s too salty, add more lemon juice.
Spoon into a serving bowl, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with a pinch of pepper flakes and lemon zest.
Serve with crudites, chips, toasts or pita crisps. Source: adapted from Sweet Paul Eat and Make.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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