Dip into yummy holiday eats

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Part of the fun of the holidays is visiting with family and friends. In the South that means having food for everyone. Sometimes you just need something easy to serve with drinks or to take to party. These are three of my favorite, easy to make appetizer recipes for fall and winter.

Pumpkin dip

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

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2 cups powdered sugar

1 can pumpkin pie filling

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Gingersnaps, apples, pears

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth. Add the pie filling, cinnamon and ginger, beating well. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours. Serve with the gingersnaps and fruit slices. If you slice your fruit the day before you can store in the refrigerator in Ziploc bags soaking in pineapple juice. Just quickly rinse them before serving.

When I make this recipe I usually make the won ton cups a day or two before and store in a large airtight container or plastic bags. You can also make the filling ahead so that assembly is all that is left. If you are really in a hurry you can use the premade phyllo cups you can find in the frozen food section.

Spicy sausage cups

1 pound hot ground pork sausage

1 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup Ranch dressing

1/3 cup chopped pimiento-stuffed olives

1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and minced

16 ounce package won ton wrappers (3 1/2 inch square)

Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink, and drain well. Combine the sausage and all the other ingredients besides wrappers.

Spray four mini muffin pans with nonstick spray. Place a sine wrapper in each cup of the pans, using finger to create fluted shape. Lightly spray wrapper with the nonstick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for eight minutes, rotating the pans after four minutes. Spoon one heaping tablespoon filling into each cup. Bake at 350 degrees for nine to 10 minutes until browned and thoroughly heated. Remove from pan and serve hot.

I never tire of this dip. I usually use panko bread crumbs for my topping because they are crunchier.

Florentine artichoke dip

10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

2- 6.5 ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Drain spinach in a colander and press with paper towels to remove as much liquid as possible. Combine spinach, artichoke hearts and remaining ingredients except bread crumbs and butter.

Lightly spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and spoon in dip. In a small bowl lightly toss bread crumbs with butter and spread over top. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve with crackers, Fritos or bagel chips.

Christina Hall writes a weekly column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com