Holiday Crowd Pleasers… Just in Time

The holidays mean parties, get-togethers, and gatherings of all kinds. This month, we’re sharing some ideas that will get you five-star reviews whether you have plenty of time to prepare, or just whipping something up quickly for surprise visitors.

Cranberry Jalapeño Chutney with Cream Cheese Spread

This easy dip/spread is festive with the reds and greens; and the sweet mingled with the surprise zip from the jalapeño leave taste buds begging for more. Even though the prep time is only about 15 minutes, make this recipe the night before because the longer the chutney sits in the refrigerator, the better it tastes! Leftovers make a savory spread for turkey sandwiches the next day.


  • 12 oz. fresh uncooked cranberries
  • 1/4 c. green onion
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeños
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (divided)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. parsley (chopped)
  • 16 oz. cream cheese

Using a food processor, pulse the cranberries, green onion, cilantro and jalapeño until coarsely chopped (do not over process or it will get too watery). Place in a bowl and add sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 1/8 tsp salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In a separate bowl, whip cream cheese with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, pepper, remaining salt, and parsley and spread into a glass pie plate or 9×9 dish. When ready to serve, pour off any liquid off the cranberry mixture and spread over the cream cheese. Serve with crackers, pita chips, or crudités.

Aunt Debra’s Pimento Cheese 

Gouda and pimento cheese spread on cracked pepper crispbreads

A super-quick, super-easy family favorite for 25 years!


  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1 c. Monterrey jack cheese (shredded)
  • 1/2 c. mayo
  • 1 tsp. minced onion 
  • 2-3 tbsp. pimentos
  • 2-3 tbsp. fresh minced garlic
  • black pepper to taste

With a hand-mixer, whip cream cheese and mayo until smooth & fluffy. Add remaining ingredients & continue mixing until well blended. Makes 3 cups.

Crescent Apple Dumplings

Prep time: 15 minutes / Cook time: 30 minutes. Serves 16


  • 2 tart apples (granny smith or similar)
  • 2 cans crescent rolls
  • 3/4 c. butter or margarine
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 8 oz. lemon-lime soda

Preheat over to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Peel and core apples, then cut into eight wedges each. Mix white sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Roll each apple wedge in cinnamon/sugar mixture  until coated. Separate crescent dough into triangles and wrap around apple wedges. Place in baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt butter and mix in brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, vanilla and salt until dissolved. Pour mixture over apples.
Pour lemon-lime soda around the edge of the baking dish, trying to avoid pouring on top of dumplings.
Bake until golden brown – about 30 minutes.
Serve hot, topped with ice-cream or half & half.

Holiday Spiced No-Bake Cheesecake

Prep time: 10 minutes (plus time to chill in the refrigerator). Serves 8


  • graham cracker pie crust
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 8 oz. container of whipped topping
  • 1 c. pecans – chopped (optional)

With a hand-mixer, whip cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Mix in pumpkin pie spice. Fold in cool whip & pecans. Pour into pie crust. Garnish with additional pumpkin spice and chopped pecans.

Refrigerate until set – about 1 hour.
Serve with additional whipped topping.

Party Tips

Write Out the Full Menu

Include everything: from the appetizers, including things like olives or chips, to the garnishes. List out everything in the order you will be serving the meal. This way you won’t forget anything — and you won’t look in the fridge the following day to discover you never served the sliced chorizo. 

Write Out Your Task List for the Day Of…

No job is too small to be included: bringing the chicken to room temperature, mincing parsley, putting ice in the ice bucket, peeling the potatoes. Organize the tasks into time frames: morning, afternoon, two hours before the party and right up to the arrival of guests.

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