Cranberry, Turkey, and Sharp Cheddar Bites

FullSizeRenderHeading into New Year’s Eve celebrations, this tart and tasty cranberry, turkey, and cheese concoction is a quick fix to have in your kitchen recipe arsenal—IF you have the cranberry conserve made ahead of time! Originally posted about a year ago, the conserve goes together in about 30 minutes, so isn’t a huge culinary black hole. In that post, I also talk about a tasty sandwich option using the cranberry conserve.

But we’re talking about quick appetizers here, so let’s move on! You’re basically making a mini open-faced sandwich, with either deli turkey (or leftover holiday bird) or ham, a slice of provolone, Swiss, or white sharp cheddar cheese, green apple, and a dollop of the cranberry conserve. That’s it! Easy, peasy, lemon squeezey, right? The picture here shows these with “Food Should Be Good” gluten-free corn tortilla/crackers from Costco. But I’ve also make these on sour dough bread or those mini rye bread squares, when I’m not serving a gluten-free crowd. (You know, the ones your Mom used to buy only during holidays for housing the abundant cream cheese spreads…)

Speaking of abundant cream cheese, the nice thing about these appetizers is that they do NOT start with a brick of Philadelphia cream cheese—and that’s rare in nibbles offered on holiday tables.

Serves as many as you want!

Layer the following ingredients and place on serving platter:

  • Food Should Be Good Corn Tortilla Chips/Crackers, sour dough bread, or mini rye bread squares
  • Sliced deli turkey or ham
  • Sliced Provolone, Swiss, or extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Green apple, sliced thin (do not peel)
  • 1 half-pint jar of cranberry conserve

Hot Mexican-style Spinach Dip

FullSizeRenderWith the Big Game coming up, thought I’d share this recipe for a creamy, hot spinach appetizer that’s a step above the Knorr’s soup and mayo dip we’ve all feasted on. (Remember when it was all the rage to serve that dip in a hollowed out round loaf of bread? That was looooong before Pinterest, so only the hostesses with the mostest were aware of that little trick.) I got this recipe from a friend many moons ago, and dug up the recipe to serve at a recent book club. The ladies loved it, and I promised I’d post it.

Chopped spinach used to only be sold in a solid 10-ounce brick, which takes forever and a day to thaw out. Now you can buy a bag of loose chopped spinach, and that’s usually about 16 ounces. It thaws much quicker, so I made this with the 16-ounce bag for my friends. It was extra spinachy, but no one turned into Popeye. So use whichever package you prefer. (I’ve always thought the spinach squished into a block was kind of strange. What’s the point? Storage issues? So you can teach kids geometry while you cook? Not sure on that one…)

Sometimes I divide this into smaller ramekins, and give each guest their own dish of this delicious dip. Avoids that whole double-dipping faux pas, and no one gets an elbow in the face from an over-eager dipper. It only needs about 20 minutes in the oven if you’re doing smaller individual-size portions.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 fresh tomatoes (about 1½ cups), chopped, and excess liquid drained
2 tablespoons canned chopped jalapeño, or 1 fresh jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed, minced
1 (10-ounce or 16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, and excess moisture squeezed out
2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
8-ounce cream cheese, cut into ½-inch pieces, room temperature
1 cup Half and Half cream
2 (2.2 ounce) cans sliced black olives*
1 tablespoon red wine or apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in medium skillet; saute onions until translucent. Add tomatoes and jalapeño, and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in spinach, Monty Jack cheese, cream cheese, Half and Half, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into shallow 9″x9″ baking dish and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE: This dip can be prepared ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days prior to baking. You will want to let it sit at room temp for an hour or so before baking.

*Also note that the cheap sliced black olives work best in this dish. I made this again for a gathering after initially posting it, and I used Kalamata olives, thinking that would take it over the top into a new realm of tasty goodness. It did not. They made it taste funky. Morale of the story, don’t waste your Kalamata olives in this dip!

Nette’s Cranberry Salsa

FullSizeRender-2Tomato salsa is so last year! This cranberry salsa has some kick and some sass, just like my neighbor Nette—which is fitting, since I got this recipe from her. You’ll need a food processor or blender to make it, but if you’ve got the tools, it’s a snap to whip up. If you serve it with corn tortilla chips, it’s both gluten free AND dairy free—how many appetizers can make that claim? Not many! At least not the appetizers found on most midwestern buffets in the cold winter months. And if you need more incentive to try this recipe, take note that cranberries are higher in antioxidants than the highly-acclaimed blueberry, and offer 24% of your daily allowance of vitamin C. So stick THAT on your chip and eat it. (Smiley face…)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup chopped red onion
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and membranes removed, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño (like Mrs. Renfro’s brand)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine apple, sugar, onion, lime zest and juice, fresh and pickled jalapeño, and cilantro in a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add cranberries and pulse until grainy. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.