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by Sarah Steimer

I served this in a slow cooker set on "warm" at a holiday soiree I threw last month. A white sangria is a nice alternative to a red wine sangria at parties - think of which would show up on a couch when it gets spilled.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • zest of 2 lemons, cut into strips (if you have time)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • 4 whole star anise*
  • 4 cinnamon sticks*
  • 12 whole cloves*
  • 2 bottles dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange and 1 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker or large saucepan until heated through. If heating in a slow cooker, keep set to “warm” during the party. If using a saucepan, transfer to an insulated container for serving, such as a dutch oven, or sturdy glass bowl. Serve in paper or glass cups, as plastic can give you some problems when using hot liquids.

*Don’t want to purchase a whole jar of spices? Lots of fresh markets and spice stores will offer these ingredients in bulk – meaning you can literally pick out four star anise and not worry about what to do with 30 extra.

Serves 12.

Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart

**For the month of January, we’re offering a few recipes for warm alcoholic drinks to take into cold winter nights. All “Warm and Buzzy” recipes can be found here.

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by Sarah Steimer

These potatoes are stuffed with gouda, roasted red pepper and caramelized onions. By the way - those dots on the napkin aren't grease, it started raining while I was shooting.

  •  20 fingerling potatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded gouda
  • 1 small-medium roasted red pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Pierce the skins of your potatoes and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft enough to easily insert a knife. Do not turn off the oven.

While the potatoes are in the over, caramelize the onions in a pan with olive oil. Set aside.

Once the potatoes have cooled so you can touch them, slice off the top 1/4 of the spuds, length-wise. Scoop out enough potato from the remaining 3/4 so you are left with about /14-inch before you reach the skin. Careful not to scrape all the way through. I found it’s actually easiest to sort of stab the insides of the potato with a fork to loosen it up before scooping.

Place what you cut off/scooped out of the potatoes into a bowl. Add the cheese, yogurt, peppers, onions, salt and pepper. Mash together using the tines of a fork.

Scoop the filling back into the potato “shells” and bake in the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Everything can be assembled  – except for the last baking – the day before the party and kept in the refrigerator. Right as the party starts, place the potatoes in the oven for their final 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 10 if everyone takes two.

*Throughout December, “Merry and Bites” will feature finger foods with seasonal flair. All of them can be found here. Happy holidays!

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by Sarah Steimer

There's really no great way to carve the centers of the Brussels out. I used a knife, but maybe a grapefruit spoon would work? You can always carve these up the day before and cook them the day of.

  •  Brussels sprouts – figure about three per guest
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • walnuts, chopped
  • balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded

Cut the stems off the bottom of the sprouts so they can stand up. Discard the outer leave that fall off. Cut the top 1/4 of the sprout off, saving the top. Carve out the center and save with the tops.

Place the Brussels, standing upright, in a glass or metal dish. Sprinkle with olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the Brussels are soft.

In the meantime, roughly chop the tops and innards of the sprouts. Sauté in a pan with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and add the walnuts and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Remove from the pan and mix in a few tablespoons of shredded cheese (depends on how many sprouts you make).

The only time I ever see a vegetable-based appetizer at a party is when there is a basic veggie platter - where all the carrot sticks are dry and sad. Kick that party habit, please.

When the sprouts are ready, use a small spoon to stuff them with the nut mixture. Do not hesitate to apply pressure, the sprouts will give a little to fit more. Sprinkle with a little extra cheese and serve.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to sort of work in batches. If your guests are coming in shifts, you could always make a full tray, but only bring out a few at a time, leaving the rest in the oven (oven turned off but still warm). These really are best right out of the oven.

*Throughout December, “Merry and Bites” will feature finger foods with seasonal flair. All of them can be found here. Happy holidays!

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by Sarah Steimer

Last time I went home to Pittsburgh, my mom suggested we try making this dip. By we she meant me.

  • 2 cans chickpeas (15 ounces), drained
  • 1 small jar roasted red peppers (6 ounces), drained well and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 stems fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine chickpeas, roasted red pepper, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in a food processor. As the processor is running, stream in the olive oil. Blend until it reaches a (fairly) smooth consistency.  Serve with tortilla chips and vegetables.

Serves eight to 10 (or probably more). I halved the recipe and my guess is that it made 1 and half cups of spread or so.

Recipe: Rachel Ray

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