Holidays can seem less full of the joy of the season and more about juggling responsibilities.

It’s enough to dip into the eggnog a little early.

But fear not.

We can’t become your travel adviser or your extra hand, but we can save you the strife of picking out that delicious food item to bring to all of these holiday events.

Crackers and dips won’t seem like a last-second, store-bought addition with these homemade appetizers. 

Each of these is easy to whip together, and all have the side benefit of making it look like you put in a lot more effort than you did. Steal the show without breaking a sweat.

This dip not only has a delightfully strong blue cheese flavor, it turns a lovely shade of pale blue thanks to the veins of mold in the cheese. And it makes a great last-minute option, as the flavors don't need to chill to meld. Mash, mix and munch!— Alan

Creamy Blue Cheese Dip

  • 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, plus extra as needed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Using fork, mash blue cheese, buttermilk and garlic together in bowl until mixture resembles cottage cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add extra buttermilk as needed to adjust dip consistency and serve.

Source: America's Test Kitchen

This recipe won me over just from its title alone; each individual word describes something tasty. Making it turned out to be a breeze, and slightly reminiscent of my year spent rolling out pie crusts.

When it was all done, all that was left to do was find a fun variation to keep the magic of this cracker going. Thankfully, another flopped recipe for butter- and egg yolk-based crackers provided the inspiration for cheddar and mustard. Using this recipe, the variation came together and tasted as good as I had hoped. — Christinia

Parmesan Cream Crackers

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (Disclosure: I buy the already shredded kind)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half, more as needed
  • Salt and herbs, optional, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix together flour, salt and cheese. Blend in butter using a pastry blender or fingers. Form a well in the center and add half-and-half. Mix in dry ingredients with a fork or small spatula until dough forms together. If it’s still dry, add more half-and-half by the teaspoonful until dough holds together but is not sticky.

Alternatively, mix together flour, salt and cheese in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until butter is chick pea-sized. Add half-and-half and pulse in one-second bursts until a dough forms, and adding more in teaspoonfuls as necessary.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4-inch thick, adding flour as needed. Roll dough onto the rolling pin and then roll out dough over the parchment paper-covered baking sheet.

Use a pizza cutter to cut dough into squares, or rectangles, in uniform sizes as best as possible. Sprinkle on salt, herbs or other flavorings as desired.

Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. My oven didn’t quite brown evenly, so you may need to remove a few crackers at a time until all are done. Cool on a plate and serve warm or at room temperatures. Serves about 4, makes about 2 dozen crackers.

Mustard Cheesy Crackers variation: Replace Parmesan with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Add 1 tablespoon dry mustard and 2 tablespoons mustard seeds with the cheese. Add 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard with the half-and-half. Follow directions as above.

Adapted from the New York Times

Oddly enough, this dip wasn't nearly as green as I was expecting; I wouldn't blame you if you hit it with a drop or two of food coloring. This does need to chill briefly before serving, so take that into account. — Alan

Green Goddess Dip

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy. Transfer dip to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until flavors are blended, at least 1 hour; serve cold. (Can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days.) Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Source: America's Test Kitchen.

I admit half of the fun of this recipe was taking the time to craft a nice, large round cracker and then smashing it into pieces. OK, I actually just broke it using my hands. But still, there was fun in the destruction, especially since I could still eat it after destroying it.— Christinia

Rosemary Flatbread

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, plus more for sprinkling (fresh is best but dried worked fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Additional salt, for sprinkling (optional, but tasty)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place a baking sheet in the oven, preferably on the middle rack.

Mix together flour, rosemary, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center, then add water and oil. Incorporate dry mixture using a fork or a small spatula, and then knead gently about a half dozen times until dough comes together.

Divide dough into three balls; wrap two balls in plastic wrap.

Roll out third piece on parchment paper into a thin 10- to 11-inch round. Brush the top of the dough with more oil, and sprinkle on rosemary and salt.

Slide the round, still on parchment paper, onto preheated baking sheet until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Repeat with remaining two rounds. Break into pieces when cool to the touch and then serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 20 pieces depending on size of chunks.

Adapted from Epicurious

I'm picky about my ranch; I prefer the Hidden Valley buttermilk packet mix that you make with mayo and real buttermilk, but your mileage may vary. — Alan

Buffalo Chicken Dip

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked, or 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Slice cream cheese into chunks. Mix all ingredients in oven-safe dish and cook for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until dip is melted and creamy. (Can also be heated and then kept warm in a slow cooker.)

Breadsticks were the hardest of the bunch, simply because you roll out each individual breadstick. I don’t think there’d be any harm in adding more sesame seeds throughout, but especially ahead of rolling them out individually. The pictures that came with the recipe suggested more seeds hanging from the dough. — Christinia

Sesame Breadsticks

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, or scant 1 package
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for rolling
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, mix together yeast, water and honey. Let yeast activate for 10 to 15 minutes while preparing the dry ingredients.

In a separate large bowl, mix together two flours, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon salt.

When yeast has activated, add oil to the liquid mixture. Incorporate dry mixture into liquid mixture until a dough forms. On a floured surface, knead dough for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary.

Roll dough into a rectangle. If space is tight, you can roll dough on a large baking sheet. Cover rectangle of dough with plastic wrap and let rest for an hour and a half.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Brush a baking sheet or two with olive oil.

When dough is ready, divide it in half and roll each half in 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. Divide each half into 12 evenly sized pieces.

Lightly oil a flat surface and roll dough pieces into 6-inch sticks.

Place sticks 1-inch apart on the oiled baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes or browned. Check halfway through and rotate baking sheet for even browning. Let cool on rack or plate.  

Adapted from the New York Times


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