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creamy spinach dip and dippables

Recipes in this collection:

Winter Mock Sangria Pecan and Goat-Cheese Stuffed Dates Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Creamy Spinach and White Bean Dip Holiday Spiced-Nut Mix Chocolate-Dipped Mandarins With Pistachios 

There are few things more dispiriting than hosting a party and spending the whole night in the kitchen. You want your guests to have a pleasant evening with delicious fare and lively conversation — but you also want to feel relaxed enough to enjoy your own gathering. This make-ahead menu can help you pull off a festive, low-stress party that’s fun for everyone.

Winter Mock Sangria


Makes 8 to 10 servings •  Prep time 10 minutes, plus at least three hours to chill

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice blend, such as pomegranate-cranberry or pomegranate-cherry (look for 100 percent juice)
  • 2 cups elderberry juice
  • cinnamon sticks
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup red grapes, cut in half
  • 4 cups sparkling water

This recipe first appeared in “11 Winter Mocktails.” Recipe developer: Betsy Nelson. 

  1. In a large pitcher, mix the pomegranate and elderberry juices; add the cinnamon sticks and fruits.
  2. Cover and steep for at least a few hours and preferably overnight.
  3. Serve in wine glasses, distributing the fruit among them and adding sparkling water for a little fizz.

Suggested spirit: Top off with a bit of brandy.

Pecan and Goat Cheese–Stuffed Dates

pecan and goat cheese stuffed dates

Makes 6 servings •  Prep time 20 minutes

  • 4 oz. soft goat cheese
  • 2 tbs. chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 18 large Medjool dates

This recipe first appeared in “How to Host a Stress-Free Dinner Party.” Recipe developer: Robin Asbell.

  1. In a small bowl, mash the goat cheese, then stir in the pecans and orange zest.
  2. Use a paring knife to slice along one side of each date and pull out the pit. Stuff each date with a heaping teaspoon of the goat-cheese mixture, then gently press the date closed around the cheese. Place the dates on a serving platter. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 24 hours).
  3. Remove the dates from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Place a bowl of toothpicks alongside them. Garnish with herbs, if desired.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

Prosciutto wrapped asparagus

Makes 12 servings •  Prep time 10 minutes  •  Cook time 15 minutes, plus inactive chilling time

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 12 asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed off
  • 4 slices prosciutto, each cut into 3 long strips
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

This recipe first appeared in “Celebrate! A Holiday Party Menu.” Recipe developer: Betsy Nelson.

  1. Simmer the vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced by half, then chill.
  2. In a pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus for one minute, then drain and quickly transfer to a bowl of ice water. After two minutes, pat the asparagus dry.
  3. Wrap one slice of prosciutto around each dried asparagus stalk, and chill until ready to serve (up to 48 hours).
  4. Serve with a drizzle of the vinegar reduction and salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Spinach and White Bean Dip

creamy spinach dip and dippables

Makes 6 servings •  Prep time 15 minutes •  Cook time 20 minutes

  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini or navy beans
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach
  • ½ tsp. sea salt

This recipe first appeared in “How to Create Your Own Charcuterie Board.” Recipe developer: Robin Asbell.

  1. Drain the beans over a bowl and let stand, reserving the liquid. Heat a small sauté pan over medium-low heat and add the olive oil, then add the halved garlic cloves and reduce the heat to low to maintain a gentle sizzle. Add the rosemary and black pepper; stir. Continue cooking, stirring periodically, until the garlic is browned on both sides, about eight to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Place the drained white beans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Scrape down the sides, then add the cooled oil-and-garlic mixture, spinach, and salt. Process to make a coarse purée.
  3. Scrape into a bowl. If the mixture seems too thick, stir in some of the reserved bean liquid to reach desired texture. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to four days. Serve with veggies and crackers for dipping.

Holiday Spiced-Nut Mix

spiced nuts for the holidays

Makes about 1½ cups •  Prep time 10 minutes •  Cook time 18 minutes

  • ½ cup almonds (raw or soaked and dehydrated)
  • ½ cup walnuts (raw or soaked and dehydrated)
  • ⅓ cup pepitas (raw or soaked and dehydrated)
  • 1 tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 tbs. coconut oil
  • 2 tbs. chia seeds
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon or allspice
  • 1 heaping tbs. goji berries

Recipe developer: Laura Lineburg.

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Combine the nuts and seeds in a small bowl.
  3. In a small saucepan, add the maple syrup and coconut oil. Whisk over medium-low heat for about 30 seconds until coconut oil is melted; remove from heat.
  4. Mix in the chia seeds, salt, and spices; stir until fully combined.
  5. Pour the nut-and-seed mixture into the saucepan; using a rubber spatula to scrape up all the syrup and oil, combine the mixture until the nuts and seeds are fully coated.
  6. Line a baking pan with parchment or a silicone mat; pour the mixture onto the pan and distribute in one even layer (you will not need the entire surface area of the pan).
  7. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Stir, and roast another seven to eight minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven; stir in goji berries while mixture is still warm. Let cool on the pan. Once it’s hardened, break up any large chunks and serve, or store in a glass container for up to five days.

Chocolate-Dipped Mandarins With Pistachios

chocolate dipped mandarins

Makes 6 servings •  Prep time 30 minutes

  • 4 large Satsuma mandarin oranges, or other mandarin oranges
  • ½ cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 4 oz. 80 percent dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

This recipe first appeared in “How to Host a Stress-Free Dinner Party.” Recipe developer: Robin Asbell.

  1. Peel and section the mandarin oranges, gently removing the white pith with your fingers. Pat dry if necessary.
  2. Place the pistachios in a medium bowl. Line a serving platter with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. To microwave, place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and heat on high for one minute, then use a fork to stir. Repeat in 45-second intervals until the chocolate is melted completely. For a double boiler, put an inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Place a metal or glass bowl on top of the pot and add the chopped chocolate. Stir every minute or so, until the chocolate is melted completely. Place the bowl on a folded kitchen towel on the counter.
  4. Dip the outer part of a mandarin slice into the chocolate and then into the pistachios, making sure the nuts cover the surface of the chocolate. Place on the parchment-lined serving platter. Repeat with all the sections.
  5. Refrigerate, uncovered, until the chocolate is hardened, then remove the parchment liner and place the mandarins back on the serving platter. Cover and keep in the fridge until time to serve (up to 24 hours).
  6. Let the mandarins come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.
Photography: Terry Brennan; Food Styling: Betsy Nelson
Experience Life magazine
Experience Life Staff

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