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Entertain with Ease

Oct 29, 2015 01:54AM ● Published by Family Features

If gatherings with family and friends are the fabric that weaves each holiday season together, the mouthwatering foods that accompany these celebrations are what brings everyone to the table.

For seasoned pros and home cooks alike, holiday enter­taining is an opportunity to gift loved ones with a taste of festive fun. A few simple tips will help make it easy to cook up one delicious holiday season.

  • Plan a menu that lets you enjoy the party, too. Serve a simple main course, and let the smaller dishes and desserts be the heroes of the holiday. Flavorful finger foods, appe­tizers and sweets are easily prepared and guests can serve themselves.
  • Keep your kitchen stocked with a few key ingredients that can be used in a variety of dishes. For example, Philadelphia Cream Cheese makes the holidays because it’s perfect in rich cheesecake and other desserts, but it also lends a creamy texture to appetizers and main dishes.
  • Remember that special can be simple, and recipes do not need to be complex to be guest-worthy. Take care to offer a diverse selection to satisfy a range of tastes and dietary needs, and guests will be eager to enjoy the bounty of your efforts.
  • If you’ll be hosting or attending multiple events, work ahead. You can make the same dish more than once for different groups of people. Look for recipes you can prep or cook and freeze ahead of time, so you can shop once and make the most of your kitchen time.
  • Impromptu visits add to the excitement of the season, but leave little time to serve up your culinary best. Find a few go-to recipes for flavorful appetizers, such as these Savory Mini Cheese Balls, that can be prepared in minutes when unexpected guests drop by.

Finger Foods for a Crowd
During the holiday season, mix-and-mingle parties lend a sense of gaiety and make it easier for busy guests to come and go. How­ever, planning the menu for these more casual events can be tricky.

When the hors d’oeuvres are served in place of a sit-down meal, make sure your guests have plenty to eat. If serving a full dinner, take the time of the meal into account to make sure no one fills up on appe­tizers or becomes too hungry while waiting for dinner.

Use this guide to help plan the quantity and variety of appetizers you need to serve a spread of finger foods and appe­tizers at a cocktail party or to accompany an early or late dinner.

Appetizer quantity
Cocktail party: 12 pieces per person
Appetizers before a meal: 4-6 pieces per person

Number of different types of appetizers
50+ people: 8 appetizers
20+ people: 4-5 appetizers
Fewer: 3 appetizers

Find more tips and recipes to make your holiday entertaining sparkle at www.creamcheese.com.

Cookie Butter Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 package (7.7 ounces) European-style cookies for coffee (speculoos cookies), divided
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup European-style cookie butter (speculoos cookie butter)

Preparation

  1. HEAT oven to 325°F.
  2. RESERVE 6 cookies. Finely crush remaining cookies; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan.
  3. BEAT cream cheese, sugars, vanilla and spices in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
  4. BAKE 1 hour or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate cheese­cake 4 hours.
  5. CRUSH remaining cookies coarsely; sprinkle over cheesecake just before serving. Microwave cookie butter in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 30 seconds or until heated through; stir. Drizzle over cheesecake.

Savory Mini Cheese Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 packages (8 ounces each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese (12 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Planters Pecans

Preparation

  1. CUT cream cheese into 6 pieces; roll each into a ball.
  2. COMBINE sesame seeds, poppy seeds and half the garlic in small bowl. Mix herbs and remaining garlic in separate small bowl. Combine cranberries and nuts in third bowl.
  3. ROLL 2 cheese balls in sesame seed mixture, 2 cheese balls in herb mixture and remaining cheese balls in nut mixture.
  4. CUT each cheese ball in half and serve with crackers.

Classic Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup canned cherries

Preparation

  1. HEAT oven to 325°F.
  2. MIX graham crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and butter; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan.
  3. BEAT cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
  4. BAKE 1 hour or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate cheese­cake 4 hours. Top with canned cherries, if desired.

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