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From the kitchen

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By Elli Rarick

This is the time of year when we are attending functions celebrating the holiday season. This usually means sampling many different kinds of foods set out on a buffet table including appetizers. These are best described as a variety of tasty finger foods.

For more intimate settings such as your own living room in front of a warm glowing fire; something as simple as a plate of sliced cheese (or container of cheese spread) and a few tasty crackers and a glass of your favorite wine (or non-alcoholic beverage) and a good book will make for a cozy and entertaining evening.

Appetizers will also provide simple, yet elegant, offerings for guests in your home either at planned parties or for drop-in guests during this holiday season. Whatever the scenario, it is helpful to be prepared and have ideas on what you can serve.

I like to keep a couple of bottles of wine on hand for my own enjoyment and for that of my guests. I try to have a red wine such as a merlot and a lighter white zinfandel chilled and ready to serve with the appetizer of choice. I do not consider myself any authority on wines; I just enjoy a glass now and then. I do not buy the most expensive; nor the least expensive. For my taste, I find something in the range of $15 a bottle (750 ml) to be a good choice.

I recently received a gift of a new cookbook from my sister Rae who manages to find me one from our hometown or nearby area nearly every year. This one is compiled by the cooks and bakers from our home church, Vicksburg United Methodist Church entitled "Tasty Blessings from Vicksburg" 2007. The following suggestions for appetizers (Copyright (c) 1978 Fundcraft Publishing, Inc.) appeared in this cookbook.

Appetizers

Appetizers are those treats that can be served either at the start of a meal or at a reception or open house. Listed below are quick appetizers that can be served anytime with crackers, thin sliced toasted bread or potato chips:

Caviar flavored with onion juice.

Cream cheese with chopped chutney and dash of curry powder.

Lobster tail moistened with lemon juice

Almonds or pecan roasted and chopped, then mixed with anchovy paste.

Cream cheese with chopped pickle.

Chicken livers minced and moistened with mayonnaise.

Cheese squares with olive attached by toothpick.

Liverwurst with pistachio nuts.

Sardines with caviar paste.

Minced eggs with anchovies.

Cream cheese and horseradish.

Cream cheese and anchovy paste with grated onion.

Herring squares mashed in its own juice with dash of vinegar and Tabasco sauce.

Peanut butter and bacon toasted on dark bread.

Deviled ham with chopped onions and Spanish olives.

Stilton cheese moistened with Port wine.

Shrimp flavored with French dressing.

Caviar mixed with cream cheese with dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Peanuts roasted, crushed and mixed with anchovy paste.

Sardine slices topped with chopped olives.

Pimento cheese mixed with a dash of horseradish.

Minced shrimp with onion juice.

Cream cheese with dash of Worcestershire sauce and chives.

Cheese Olive Dip

Carriage House Bed & Breakfast, South Haven, MI

1 cup cheddar cheese - shredded

1 cup mayonnaise

one-half cup onion - chopped

one-half cup black olives - chopped

Mix all ingredients together and put into baking dish. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with crackers or bagel chips.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Judy Imanse

8 oz. cream cheese - softened

one-half cup butter - softened (no substitute)

one-fourth teaspoon vanilla

three-fourths cup confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

three-fourths cup mini chocolate chips

three-fourths cup pecans - finely chopped

Graham Crackers

Mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually add sugars; beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Place mixture on a large piece of plastic wrap, shape into ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before serving,

Roll cheese ball in nuts. Serve with regular or chocolate Graham Crackers.