Nibble, Sip & Be Merry

It’s time for that perennial favorite, the holiday cocktail party. Keep the mood festive and fun, while ensuring that guests get enough to eat, by outfitting the fête with hearty appetizers. While diverse in flavor, these tidbits are all easy, elegant and filling. Set them out alongside a cheese platter with a variety of dried fruit, nuts and crackers, a veggie platter and an array of holiday cookies and sweets on a desserts table. And don’t forget a holiday cocktail. Your guests will go home satisfied—and hoping they get invited back next year.

Vegetable oil 1 package wonton wrappers 1 pound cooked, crumbled pork sausage 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese 1 cup ranch dressing 2.25 ounces or 1 can sliced black olives, drained 1/2 cup chopped red pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tins and press 1 wonton wrapper into each cup. Brush with oil. Bake 5 minutes or until golden. Leave oven on. Remove wontons from the tins. Blot cooked and crumbled sausage dry with paper towels. Combine sausage, cheeses, dressing, olives and red pepper. Place baked wonton wrappers on a cookie sheet. Fill with the sausage mixture. Bake for 5 minutes or until bubbly. 

Makes 4–5 dozen. 

Recipe courtesy of The Junior League at Home.

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breasts) 1 pound sliced bacon 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar 2 tbsp chili powder 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick. Stir together brown sugar, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture. Coat a large cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken wraps on cookie sheet. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Serve with Cranberry Dipping Sauce (recipe follows).  

TIP: The cranberry dipping sauce offsets the heat of these wraps. The sweet and savory flavors meld together in a delicious way.

Makes 12–15 servings.

8 oz light cream cheese 1 scallion, finely chopped Milk to thin 1/3 cup whole cranberry sauce Salt and pepper

Mix cream and scallion; add milk until mixture achieves a thin consistency. Fold in cranberry sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps.

16 oz sauerkraut, drained 14 oz can stale beer Party rye bread Horseradish mustard Thinly sliced corned beef Swiss cheese, sliced

Drain sauerkraut; mix with beer and simmer 20 minutes. Drain well. Spread party rye with horseradish mustard; top with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. Broil 3 inches from heat until cheese is golden. Reubens can be assembled ahead of time and broiled just before serving.

TIP: This recipe has been around a long time, which makes it a familiar addition to the table. What’s better than corned beef, tangy sauerkraut and melted cheese?

Makes 30 servings.

Chocolate syrup 1 oz RumChata (from Pewaukee, Wisconsin) 1 oz Stoli vanilla-flavored vodka 1 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur 1/2 oz creme de menthe or peppermint schnapps Ice Candy cane

Use chocolate syrup to create a design in a martini glass. Using a cocktail shaker, mix RumChata, Stoli vanilla-flavored vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur and creme de menthe or peppermint schnapps with ice. Strain into the prepared martini glass and serve with a small candy cane on the side.  

Created by The Social Chemist.

16 oz light cream cheese 1 oz ranch salad dressing mix (dry) 6 oz marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 1/3 roasted red peppers, drained and chopped 3 tbsp fresh minced parsley

Cream the cheese and salad dressing mix together. In a separate bowl, stir together artichokes, peppers and parsley. In a 3-cup bowl lined with plastic wrap, alternate layers of cheese and vegetable mixtures, beginning and ending with a cheese layer. Chill 4 hours or overnight. Invert on plate; remove plastic wrap. Serve with crackers and raw vegetables. 

TIP: This recipe is best prepared the day before serving to give the flavors time to develop.

Makes 10–12 servings.

Nancy Lynch is a longtime contributor to Madison Magazine.