Easy dishes to brighten up any holiday party

By Susan Szuch

The holidays can be a huge source of stress with attending parties and deciding what food to bring, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Skip the complicated recipes and opt for easy snacks that can be put together mostly with pantry staples.

Spicy Pecans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups pecan halves

1 tablespoon chili powder

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.

2. Mix butter, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, salt and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Gradually add in pecans, stirring to cover completely before tossing them in chili powder to coat them.

3. On a baking sheet, spread the pecans to cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Yields 2 cups.

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com.

Cocktail Sauce and Crab Spread

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (12 ounce) jar cocktail sauce

1 (6 ounce) can crab meat, drained

1 lemon

Directions:

1. Spread softened cream cheese in a thin layer in a serving dish — a quiche dish works well. Pour cocktail sauce over cream cheese, and then spread crabmeat. Squeeze lemon juice on crabmeat.

2. Serve with corn chips, crackers or vegetables.

Yields 12 to 15 servings.

Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

Quick Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups baking mix, like Bisquick

Granulated sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Fill a third of a small bowl with granulated sugar and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. Add in baking mix to the milk, peanut butter and vanilla, and mix until well combined. A stand or hand mixer is recommended as the dough will be stiff and difficult to mix.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, rolling them in sugar before placing them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using a fork, flatten the cookies by making a crisscross pattern.

4. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, checking at 6 minutes to assure the cookies do not overbake and become dried out. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

5. To make peanut butter blossoms: Shape dough into balls; do not flatten before baking. Immediately after removing cookies from the oven, press a chocolate kiss candy into the center of each cookie.

Yields approximately 36 cookies.

Recipe adapted from Cooks.com

English Toffee Crackers

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

36 saltine crackers

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional) Sea salt (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover a cookie sheet using foil, then coat the foil lightly with butter or cooking spray. Put saltines in the cookie sheet, laying them side-by-side in a single layer. Set aside.

2. Over medium heat, mix together butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, bringing the mixture to a boil for 4 minutes. Pour evenly over crackers.

3. Bake for 5 minutes before removing from oven to pour chocolate chips onto crackers. After chocolate chips melt slightly, use a spatula to spread the chocolate. If desired, sprinkle nuts or sea salt on top.

4. Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate until fully cool. Once hardened, remove from pan and break into pieces to serve.

5. If transporting or giving as a hostess present, place wax paper between each layer of candy to prevent sticking.

Yields 24 servings.

Recipe adapted from Food.com

Susan can be reached at [email protected]