Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Did you notice how time became almost irrelevant in 1998, or do we all experience the time continuum very differently? For me, the natural progression of events accelerated and holidays schmooshed together. Here’s Christmas knocking at the door and our holiday cocktail party that was LIGHT YEARS away has been beamed up, Scottie, and is a few DAYS away.

So! How do we handle this? With a deep-freeze. If you invited 40 but maybe 60 will land on your pad, way ahead make nibbles for 60 and freeze them. If a galactic storm vaporizes half the guests, the frozen left overs will be real handy for impromptu holiday fly-bys.

Here are some fun new recipes for a crowd you can make and freeze — guaranteed to leave you and your guests beaming (!) in whatever direction you choose to go. Ahhhhh, relax, smell the Holiday Cheer recipe that follows and let’s party!

Ben Green’s “Holiday Cheer”
Serves 4-5

Ben Green and his wife, Francesca are a pair of playful holiday revelers who really know how to get into the holiday spirit. Ben dons his Santa hat and greets friends at the door with a steaming mug of his easy-as-pie “Holiday Cheer” – spiced-spiked- cider (can YOU say that five times fast?) and fun begins.

1/2 gallon good apple cider
4-5 cinnamon sticks cinnamon sticks
Good – quality dark rum or apple brandy

In a large pot over medium-low heat, simmer the cider and cinnamon sticks for about 20 minutes. Pour one-part rum to five-parts hot spiced cider into a mug. Add one of the cinnamon sticks and serve hot.

Fast Festive Sundried Tomato & Basil Roll-Ups
makes approximately 90-100 pieces

These little numbers require patience for the first one, and the rest are a snap. If the roll-up doesn’t stay together, spread a bit more of the cheese mixture on the edge of the tortilla. The combination of white, green and red are as smashing as the rich earthy flavors.

1 10-count package 8-inch flour tortillas (at room temperature)
1 8-oz package cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (without ash)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
1 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and minced

In a food processor, puree the cheeses until smooth and well combined – about 1 minute on high. Lay one of the tortillas flat. Spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture on one side all the way to the edges. Sprinkle some of the sun-dried tomatoes and the shredded basil over the cheese. Leave one edge of the tortilla plain–so that just the cheese shows. Gently roll the tortilla into a tight roll, working toward the edge with only cheese on it. The just-cheese edge “glues” it together. If you are using these freshly made, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days. Before serving, remove the plastic and using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into thin 1/8 inch diagonal slices and arrange on a platter. To freeze, seal the plastic covered rolls into freezer bags and freeze. Defrost are room temperature for approximately 2 hours and slice as directed above.

Roast Beef & Spinach Roll-Ups
makes 90-100 pieces

Here’s a variation of the Sundried Tomato & Basil Wrap. This one combines cheese, roast beef and spinach. You can substitute turkey for the beef. These don’t hang around for long!

1 10-count package 8inch flour tortillas (at room temperature)
1 8-oz package cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (without ash)
1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung absolutely dry
1/2 pound paper-thin slices of rare roast beef or turkey

In a food processor, puree the cheeses, garlic salt & pepper until smooth and well combined (about 1 minute on high). Lay one of the tortillas flat. Spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture on one side; be sure to spread it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle some of spinach over the cheese. Place a single layer of roast beef (or turkey) over the spinach. Leave one half of the tortillas’ edge plain–so that just the cheese shows. Proceed as directed above in the Sundried Tomato & Basil Roll-Ups above.

Cheese-Olive Puffs
makes 30-40 pieces

This is a family stand-by that I always keep in my freezer, ready to go for any occasion.

1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 15-ounce bottle of small stuffed green olives (30-40 count) drained and wiped dry In a food processor combine the first five ingredients until it forms a ball of dough. Pinch off a small piece of the dough, (about 1 teaspoon) and flatten it in your hand. Place an olive in the center and gently press the side of the dough around it. Roll gently between your hands until it has formed a smooth little ball with no part of the olive showing. Continue until all the olives are covered and seal them into a freezer bag and keep frozen until ready to use. To serve: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.. Place the frozen olive puffs on a non-stick cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot. (If baking fresh instead of frozen puffs, 15 minutes should be enough)

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