When I learned my business partner CC and her daughter Brooke were going to be heading to Peru for a mission trip next June and that Brooke was doing all kinds of odd jobs for fundraising, I had an idea. PrettyFood could host a one night cooking class to demonstrate how to prepare and serve a variety of holiday appetizers and snacks, and attendees could make a donation toward the mission trip. This was going to be FUN!
We took some humorous pictures to use on our printed invitations, made the guest list, and started to plan. With the party/class early enough in the month to allow people to use what they learned, we got a great response. My friend Suzi Epps a gifted cook, cookbook author, architect, woman extraordinaire, offered to help as did my talented and creative friend Debbie Leake. Yippee!
CC and Brooke also made some lemon poppy seed loaves, big and small, and packaged them beautifully for sale. They were all gone in a flash.
Cynthia’s BLT Dip
This is my sister Cynthia’s BLT Dip. She promised me it would be a big hit — and she was right. Chopped bacon, cooked until crisp, then drained. Mix with chopped tomatoes (I use the Nature Sweet cherubs because I can always find them, and they are sweet and tasty all year long). Add just enough mayo to mix together. I topped it with thinly sliced green onions to add a little more color. Serve with little cocktail bread that has been toasted, or bagel chips.
Making Spinach Dip Prettier
Ah, the ever-popular spinach dip, made with Knorr’s vegetable soup mix and frozen spinach (which you thaw and drain and squeeze out moisture from). It’s served in a hollowed-out King’s Hawaiian Bread. Here’s what made it special. We whirred the ingredients in the Ninja, so that the spinach is pulverized, rather than stringy and everything blends beautifully. Suzi jazzed it up with a beautiful set of garnishes.
Parmesan Cheese Roll Tree
Get some frozen yeast roll dough. Allow it to thaw about an hour, dip each one in melted butter, then roll in a mixture of grated cheese, shredded cheese, and parsley. Arrange them in your favorite shaped pan (I used a Christmas tree-shaped pan.) Allow to rise the rest of the way, then bake for a little more time than normal (because otherwise the middle ones will be undercooked). Garnish with more parsley or some cherub or cherry tomatoes.
Choose Your Platters Carefully
We carefully chose our dishes and platters, mixing Christmas-themed whimsical (as opposed to beautiful) ones with plain white ones. The combination worked quite well. The table looked so festive! Tall vases with Christmas greenery and stargazers lilies added some height, and the center pot was filled with small Rosemary trees and a poinsettia.
Use Cute Molds to Shape Your Food
On the right hand side are the smoked tuna “rolls”. We molded them in silicone molds in shapes of snowmen and trees.
Corral your Crackers
See the crackers? They’re neatly corralled in a long slim dish and situated between items that called for crackers. (It’s the one with a reindeer on one end and Santa on the other.) Rather than putting all the sweet stuff together and all the savory stuff in a different place, we mixed it up!
Think SMALL for your Cheeseballs
Cheese BALLS! I love making small cheese balls, and Suzi arranged these into the shape of a tree. The ones covered in just parsley were hidden treasure cheese balls — because they had a variety of cheeses that we discovered in the cheese drawer — from cheddar to bleu cheese, along with some cream cheese, worcestershire sauce, minced onions. The “stems” were rolled in a combo of pecans and parsley and they consisted of cream cheese mixed with dry Good Seasons dressing.
Gingersnap Cheese Balls with Apple Slices
These are luscious gingersnap cheese balls. Mix cream cheese with Splenda/sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. At the last minute, roll in gingersnap crumbs. Serve with thinly sliced apples. CC asked “How do you want me to do the apple slices?” “I don’t know,” I replied, “but I want them to be pretty.” She pulled it off!! They looked great. And my friend Debbie Leake arranged the balls in a modern tree shape. Thanks for coming up with this recipe, Kay! I modified it from the original by using Splenda, of course!
Cinnamon Roll Wreath
There were more frozen rolls than there was room in the Christmas tree-shaped pan. No problem. I took the leftovers, dipped them in butter, then cinnamon/Splenda, and baked them in the shape of a wreath.
Mini Seasoned Pepper Cheese Balls
Remember my friend Carolyn’s Seasoned Pepper Cheese Ball? Here it is in miniature form. I love having such a high ratio of seasoned pepper to “innards.”
Small Corn Muffins as an Alternative to Bread
Got ham — or some other deli meat? Make mini corn muffins to serve it with.
Tree-shaped Cucumber Tortilla Sandwiches
These poor little things suffered from the fact that we were running out of time to pull everything together, but they are my cucumber tortilla sandwiches cut into triangular Christmas tree shapes, garnished with small bits of cucumber and some dill seasoning. The “trunk” of the tree is a piece of celery. You could also use green bell pepper.
Brooke’s Strawberry Santa Hats. Kay says it looks like Santas on parade! Cut brownies into small rounds, spread on a little icing, plop on a strawberry that you’ve cut the stem from, then squeeze out a dollop of icing for the puff on the top.
Tiny Oooh Stix
I traditionally made Oooooh Stix with big pretzel rods, but they’re nearly impossible to find and they make a dessert that’s way too much for one person to eat, so I tried a new approach. I used regular pretzel sticks, wrapped them in a piece of a caramel apple wrapper, microwaved for 5 or 10 seconds to get soft enough to roll in chopped almonds, then I dipped them in chocolate and gussied them up. How cute are those?
Peppermint Chocolate Oreos
These are Brooke’s white chocolate-dipped oreos with crushed peppermint candies on top. So many great tastes and textures in one cookie!
Personal Vegetable Parties
People went gaga for the way we served raw vegetables and dip. We cut up the vegetables the day before and kept the celery and carrots soaking in icy cold water. We put a little dip at the bottom of each little container (I showed both the use of solid white square ones as well as clear glass rounds) and stood the vegetables up in them. Personal vegetable parties! You could even use Dixie cups. Just don’t use something real wide, like a short plastic drinking glass. You need something narrow enough that the vegetables will stand up.
The cooking “class” was quite informal. I went around the table and explained what each item was and gave tips for making it or serving it.
Isn’t this layout beautiful? These are my Marvelous Mushrooms, but with this unique layout and the piles of diced cucumber and sprigs of Rosemary, Suzi kicked up the presentation a notch.
Ah, the classic 4 Bit Goodies. Here, I’ve put crushed red peppers on top of half of them and minced chives on the other half. Christmas colors!
One of the benefits of participating was that each guest got to try lots of different items so they could determine whether they were things they would want to fix themselves in the future. Remember — you don’t want to experiment on guests. If you’ve actually tried something and you like it, then you’re ready to go!
I’ve named these Squirtationals. Two kinds of Jello (Christmas-colored, of course — and spooned right from the prepared individual-size containers into baggies) plus prepared vanilla pudding (mixed half and half with whipped cream) put into a baggie. Squirt out layers into tall shot glasses by cutting a hole in the corner of each baggie. Top with a little whipped cream and a gingerbread man cut out with a tiny cookie cutter. Use small spoons for serving. (We weren’t very neat when we made these. Two demerits. But you get the idea.)
To add extra drama and excitement to the presentation of something in a glass container, like these Squirtationals, get an ice glass block that has had a hole cut into it so that you can put Christmas lights inside. Look for clear bulbs with a white cord, or little multi-colored LEDs with a green cord. Plug in, place your items on top, turn down the lights in the room, and let the oohing and ahing begin!
We had an incredibly fun evening. Great food, presentation ideas, new recipes for guests to try, and the warm feeling of helping a good cause.