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Nips, dips and chips

These party-food recipes whip up nibbles in no time by Kelly Brant | December 25, 2013 at 1:55 a.m.
Caramelized Onion and Guinness Dip

Dips, spreads, crackers and other nibbles are among the foods we look forward to this time of year (along with eggnog, sparkling wine, chocolate-covered cherries and fudge), and while the pre-Christmas parties and gatherings have come to pass, the season isn’t over yet. Many of us still have Christmas gatherings and New Year’s Eve festivities planned.

Here are a few of our new favorite recipes for celebrating and casual entertaining- be it Christmas, New Year’s or simply that the weekend has arrived. These recipes would also make great additions to a football bowl game party spread.

Hot Pecan Spread With Lemon Pepper Crackers

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons milk

1 (2 ½ -ounce) jar dried beef, chopped

1 tablespoon minced fresh onion

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons butter

Generous handful pecans

Lemon Pepper Crackers, for serving (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese and milk together. Add the beef, onion, black pepper, red bell pepper and garlic powder and mix well. Fold in the sour cream. Spread mixture in a greased small, shallow baking dish or iron skillet; set aside.

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly, for 2

minutes. Pour over cream cheese mixture. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with lemon pepper crackers.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Lemon Pepper Crackers

1 (9-ounce) box shredded wheat crackers

¼ cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning

Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large zip-close bag combine the crackers, melted butter and lemon pepper.

Close bag and gently, but thoroughly shake to coat crackers with butter and seasoning. Spread crackers on a large cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes, stirring once. Cool before serving.

Recipe adapted from Y’all Come Over by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson

Cedar-Planked Pecan, Bourbon and Brown Sugar Glazed Brie

1 (6- to 8-inch) cedar grilling plank

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons dried cherries and/or chopped dried apricots

1 tablespoon bourbon or other whiskey, optional

1 (8-ounce) round brie

1 tablespoon raspberry jam

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced

1 pear, cored and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Small bunch of grapes

Crackers, for serving

Soak the cedar plank in water for at least 30 minutes. If necessary, weigh it down to keep it submerged.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, pecans, dried cherries and bourbon. This step can be done up to a week ahead. If so, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. (To grill, prepare grill for medium-high heat.) Place the brie on the wet cedar plank. Spread the jam over the top of the cheese. Spoon the fruit and nut mixture over the jam. You may not need all of the nut mixture.

Place the plank with the brie either on a cookie sheet in the oven or on the grill grates. Bake or grill 10 minutes, or until the brie is slightly softened and the sugar melts.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the apple and pear slices with the lemon juice. Arrange the slices and grapes around the side of the brie. Serve on the plank with a cheese knife.

Makes about 6 servings.

Recipe adapted from The Associated Press

Guacamole Salsa

1 generous cup peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes

½ cup minced sweet onion

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves and stems

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon granulated sugar

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Flesh of 2 ripe Hass avocados, cut into ½ -inch cubes

Chips and/or vegetables for serving

Combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, oil, cumin and sugar in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to incorporate.

Add the diced avocado and mix gently to combine. Let sit for 15 minutes, then stir one more time and serve.

Makes about 3 cups.

Recipe adapted from The Washington Post

Caramelized Onion and Guinness Dip

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large onions, diced

½ to ¾ cup cold Guinness

½ (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese (preferably Irish), cubed

Crackers, chips or bread, to serve

In a large skillet over medium low, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.

Combine the cooled onions, Guinness, cream cheese, salt, pepper, cayenne and cheddar cheese in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a shallow baking dish. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is melted and mixture is heated through.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with crackers, chips or bread. Also makes a great spread for a roast beef sandwich.

Makes about 16 servings.

Recipe adapted from Alison Ladman

Homemade crackers may sound like a lot of work, but the results are worth the extra effort.

Everona Market Crackers

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

¾ teaspoon granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at a cool room temperature

½ cup hot tap water, or as needed

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse several times to combine. With the machine running, add enough hot water to form a smooth, soft ball, stopping to check the texture before you add all of the water; you might not need all of it. (Alternately, whisk

the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and use a fork or pastry cutter to cut in the butter, then stir in the hot water.) Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead it quickly and lightly. Divide into fourths and wrap in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Use the floured rolling pin to roll the dough out as thinly as possible on the work surface (reflour as needed). Ideally, the dough should be translucent enough so that you can see the work surface underneath it. You can pick up the dough and rotate it as needed in between rollings, but don’t turn it over.

Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Fold the dough carefully into 2 or 3 pieces, transfer it to a baking sheet and unfold it to cover the sheet. Use a pastry cutting wheel or sharp knife to quickly slice the dough into approximately 1½-inch squares, cutting the whole sheet in one direction first, then the other. Use the tines of a fork to prick each cracker several times. You can remove any trimmed-off pieces at the edges and reroll them later, though they will be a little tougher in texture.

Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until the crackers turn golden and are light brown around the edges. (You might need to bake the crackers on the inside of the sheet a little longer, because they will not brown as quickly.)

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat to use all of the dough. Cool completely before serving or storing. The crackers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 weeks.

Makes about 100 small crackers.

Variations: Oat/Wheat Crackers: Follow the basic recipe, using 1½ cups of flour and adding ¼ cup of old fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats and 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour.

Corn Spice Crackers:

Substitute 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons yellow cornmeal for an equal amount of the flour, and add red pepper flakes or taco flavoring to taste.

Pepper Crackers: Add about ½ teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper.

Herb Crackers: Add ½ to 1 teaspoon crumbled herbes de Provence.

Recipe adapted from The Washington Post

Potato Skin-Bacon Fat Chips

Skin peelings from 4 medium russet potatoes (with a thin layer of flesh)

2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat (liquefied and warm) OR olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 to 2 teaspoon teaspoons fresh thyme OR ½ to ¾ teaspoon dried thyme

Place a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven; heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a serving plate with a few layers of paper towels. Place the peelings in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the bacon fat or olive oil over them and toss to coat.

Combine the sugar (to taste), salt, paprika, pepper and thyme (to taste) in a small bowl.

Sprinkle half of the mixture over the peelings and toss to coat.

Spread the peelings on the hot baking sheet in a single layer, skin side down. Sprinkle with the remaining spice mixture;

roast for about 12 minutes, until the skins start to get crisp and browned. Use a spatula to stir them around to promote even crisping, then roast for 3 to 6 minutes more.

Transfer to the paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable by Tara Duggan (Ten Speed Press, 2013)

These flavor-packed pretzels are ridiculously easy to make.

Spicy Pretzels

1 ½ pounds pretzel sticks or twists

¼ to ½ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix (about 2 tablespoons)

1 cup vegetable oil

Place pretzels in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the seasonings. Sprinkle over pretzels. Add the oil and stir until combined. Let stand 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, or until the oil and spices are absorbed. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Recipe adapted from Y’all Come Over by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson

Food, Pages 33 on 12/25/2013

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