Holiday hors d’oeuvres and Christmas cocktails

Baked potato skins, sugared cranberries and individual seven-layer dip

Finger foods and delicious drinks are a perfect way to get through the holiday party season between large feasts. Whether entertaining several people on Christmas Eve or looking to find something to nibble on (besides leftovers) a few days after Santa’s visit, these easy appetizers make any table beautiful, and keep every tummy full.

Savory snacks and sweet treats

Tortellini Caprese Bites – All you need to impress your guest is a package of bite-sized refrigerated tortellini, grape tomatoes, small mozzarella balls and your favorite vinaigrette — we suggest basil. Pierce the tortellini, cheese and tomatoes in the pattern you desire and roll in the vinaigrette. Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve. The no-mess presentation makes these appetizer skewers ideal for parties, and the red, green and white festive colors will go wonderfully with your party décor.

Baked potato skins – Cut baked potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp and discard (or save if you would like to mix with filling) leaving 1/4-inch shell. Melt butter, Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic powder, paprika and pepper into a bowl, and brush all over potato skins. Bake at 475 degrees for about 8 minutes, turn over and repeat. After skins have crisped, fill with cheese, bacon and sour cream. Combine the mixture with the leftover potatoes and pop back in the oven for a bite-sized twice baked potato.

Sugared Cranberries — All you need is two ingredients for these sparkly treats, sugar and cranberries. Let cranberries soak in cold water in the refrigerator overnight. Drain water and coat berries with sugar. These tart yet sweet berries will add a nice pop of color to your holiday table.

Individual seven-layer dip — Fill plastic tumblers or mini-bowls with your favorite ingredients, such as refried beans, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream and top with shredded cheese, and let guests dig in and double-dip to their hearts’ content.

Smooth cocktails and fun non-alcoholic beverages

Hot Buttered Rye – This warm whiskey cocktail will keep you cozy on cold nights. For this drink you will need:

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup rye whiskey

6 tablespoons hot water

2 tablespoons ginger liqueur

Freshly grated nutmeg

Beat heavy cream and maple syrup with an electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until consistency of softened butter. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours. Pour rye whiskey, hot water, and ginger liqueur into a 6-ounce heatproof cup. Top with about 1/4 cup maple-cream mixture and freshly grated nutmeg. It may taste more like a dessert than a cocktail.

Sugar Plum Punch – Use 2 bottles Welch’s Sparkling White Grape Juice, four cups cranberry juice and 1/3 cup lime juice, chilled, to make this festive drink children dream about. Skewer cranberries, grapes and sliced plums on decorative cocktail picks for an added garnish.

Eggnog – You can’t have Christmas without eggnog, and while some may be skeptical making their own, this fool-proof recipe will have your guests begging for more.

6 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

12 pasteurized egg yolks

2 cups sugar

Freshly ground nutmeg

Praline or bourbon liqueur (optional)

Cook milk, heavy cream, and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes or until steaming (about 150 degrees). Reduce heat to low. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a large saucepan until smooth. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches at least 160 degrees (about 25 minutes). Whisk milk mixture into egg mixture. Cool 30 minutes; transfer to a pitcher. Cover and chill 3 to 24 hours. Pour desired amount of praline or bourbon liqueur into each glass, if desired. Top with eggnog. Sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg.

Champagne with fruit – Want to make a drink to add more jingle to your juice? Add frozen raspberries, blueberries, or any kind of berry to your favorite champagne. You can also rim your glasses with colorful sugars, crushed peppermints, powdered sugar and coconut flakes to add that little something extra and impress your guest.

The holidays are a great time for entertaining and enjoying friends and family. You don’t have to have a big meal to make an impression; try these delicious snacks that fit perfectly in your hand and allow you to mingle with your company.

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