Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like party dip

Snow outside my apartment window can only mean one party season has arrived!

Champagne cocktails galore, roasted nuts in every bowl, and spinach dip as far as the eye can see...and don't even get me started on the plethora of holiday cookies. really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Unless, of course, you're saddled with more potluck Evites than you can count and have the cooking skills of an eight year old.

Well, lucky for you, you read this blog! I have a few go-to things I tote to parties (thus, the season of schlepping through the snow begins...sigh) that are always crowd-pleasers.

I even tested a new recipe for a party this weekend, and it got rave reviews (and was completely demolished by the end of the night - always a good sign).

My old standby is a recipe my BBF Alisha gave me back in college. Hence, I have always called it Alisha's Taco Dip. Not only is it the crack cocaine of dip (seriously, people will just stand around the hors d'ouevres table and nosh ravenously), it's super fast and easy and requires ingredients you could probably grab at a 7-11 in a pinch.


1 package cream cheese
1 16-oz. container sour cream
1 package taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
shredded Mexican blend cheese

These are the basic ingredients - you can add any number of things to it - pimientos, jalapenos, black olives, tomatoes - whatever you want.

Just mix all the ingredients together except the cheese, spread in a casserole dish, cover with a layer of the cheese, and bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

The recipe that was such a hit recently is a Cheese Dip Pine Cone - very seasonal. I found a recipe in a magazine that inspired it, and just modified it to fit my tastes. The basic idea is that you shape cheese dip into an oval, and stick toasted sliced almonds in it to resemble a pine cone (a few girls at the party asked if it was supposed to be a Christmas porcupine...hmmmm).


2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 8-oz. container sour cream (I used light)
1 small jar pimientos
8 oz. havarti dill, grated
4 oz. chihuahua or other salty cheese, grated
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
squeeze of lemon juice
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of black pepper
sliced almonds, toasted
rosemary sprigs for the "greenery" garnish

I added the pimientos and parsley for a red and green effect (very Christmas-y), and they really added a lot to the flavor.

Mix all the ingredients except the almonds and the rosemary together in a large mixing bowl. Spread the mixture into an oval shape (I used a spatula to this and it worked well) on a tray. Cover and refrigerate from a minimum of 2 hours to overnight.

Toast the almonds in a single layer in the oven or in a pan. Cool. Starting at the top of the oval, stick them in one by one in a pine-cone-ish formation. Add the rosemary sprigs at the bottom.

Serve with crackers (I used whole wheat crackers and rosemary/olive oil Triscuits, and they were both great with it). It would also be great with crudites or french bread.

My last go-to party recipe is my Grandma's banana pudding. It's one of those throwback desserts that nobody thinks about, but one bite in, people are just standing around, practically shanking each other with plastic sporks to get at another plateful. And, like the Taco Dip, it's one of the easiest things you'll ever make.


1 tub Cool Whip, thawed (do NOT use actual whipped cream in this, e.g., Reddi Wip - it won't work)
1 package instant vanilla pudding (you'll need milk, preferably whole, to make it)
1 box Nilla Wafers
5-6 bananas, perfectly ripe

Make the pudding and let it chill for about 15 minutes in the fridge until it's set.
In a large bowl, whisk in about 1/2 of the tub of Cool Whip until it's smooth.

In a 9 X 9" casserole dish or bowl, place Nilla Wafers side by side in the bottom to create a sort of crust.

Cut the bananas into round slices (about 3/4" inch thick). Place a layer of banana slices on top of the layer of Wafers.

Pour 1/2 of the pudding/Cool Whip mixture over the top, smoothing with a spatula.

Put another layer of Nilla Wafers and bananas on top. Pour the rest of the pudding on top. Using a spatula, spread the remaining Cool Whip over top of the pudding layer. Place a layer of Nilla Wafers (in a pattern, if you want) on top. Refrigerate for an hour before serving, or refigerate overnight to serve the next day.

So, friends, put on Mariah Carey's timeless Christmas album, spend some time in the kitchen with good food, good pals, and bad champagne, and enjoy the holiday season!

Thanks for reading! Happy Merry Christmahannukwanzakah!

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