With Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities just around the corner, here are some recipes for party foods that are known to be devoured in no time. An empty dish versus food that sits around and gets cold is a good sign!
(Remember to check our winter and holiday hours before you head out to hunt for recipe ingredients.)
For Lisa Kiedeisch, who lives in Boyertown, Berks County, taco salad is always the dish that goes fast at parties. She says when a party or get-together is in the works, her mom starts nudging the family-famed chef to make her taco salad.
“I’ve made it all year long,” Kiedeisch says. “I’ve made it at my children’s birthday parties and summer picnics. If somebody wants me to bring something, this is usually what I bring, even in winter during parties, too. It kind of just goes any time.”
Kiedeisch adapted the recipe from one that a co-worker made 20 years ago. She added olives and uses plenty of diced tomatoes. She also uses less salsa than the old version, and this seems to be a part of editing the flavors into better success. At parties, Kiedeisch notices people scooping it up in generous heaps on a single tortilla chip—and repeatedly.
“I added them because Kyle and Alexa love black olives,” Kiedeisch says about two of her children and their delight for the snack’s appeal.
“I think the black olives make it a little unique with how it looks pretty,” she says, since not all taco salad can be described as so eye-pleasing. “It makes for a nice display. You don’t just plop them on—you strategically place the olives, and it looks nice when you unveil it in front of your guests.”
- 8 ounce block of cream cheese
- 1 packet of taco seasoning
- 16 ounces of sour cream
- ¾ cup salsa, or less, depending on your preference (starting with a 16 oz. jar)
- 1 head of lettuce or less (depending on your preference), chopped
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 8 ounces of shredded cheese
- 2.25 ounce can of black sliced olives, optional
- a small amount of onions, diced or in slices, optional
- 1 large bag of tortilla chips
- Soften the cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl, and add the taco seasoning and sour cream to it, to create the base of the recipe; then spread it evenly into a 9" x 13" glass pan.
- Put the pan into the fridge for 10 minutes so the ingredients can set.
- Take the pan out of the fridge, and use a spoon to scoop and spread the salsa in a layer across the base's surface, as thick or as thin as you prefer.
- Add chopped lettuce, shredded cheese and diced tomatoes as the next layer, arranging the diced tomatoes with care.
- Add optional sliced black olives and onions as a final layer, keeping plenty of the diced tomatoes on top to keep the display artful.
Kiedeisch also makes Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms, which her family devours quickly when she makes them with dinner, but they’re crave-worthy enough to join the food scenery at parties, too.
- 9 to 12 medium-sized white mushrooms (not the small ones often sold in grocery stores)
- A little less than a pound, combined, of spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard and/or other favorite greens
- a small amount of butter for sautéing spinach
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- ½ cup onion, chopped or sliced
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar, cut into small slices, or 1 cup of shredded cheddar
- 1 tablespoon butter for cheese sauce
- 1 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- While rinsing the mushrooms under running water, pull out each one’s stem and wash out the inside; set them on a paper towel to let them dry.
- On the stove, sauté a handful of the spinach and greens in butter with garlic and onion, adding more spinach and greens every so often as it cooks away while on the stove.
- Set the spinach blend aside after sautéing is complete.
- For the cheese sauce, melt a tablespoon of butter into a saucepan on medium-low heat; then join in a tablespoon of flour, followed by 1 cup of milk—stir plenty to eliminate any lumps until you have a decently thick consistency.
- Add sharp cheddar to the sauce mixture, and continue stirring until all ingredients melt together; add salt and pepper, optionally.
- Put mushrooms in a 9” x 13” glass pan, bottoms facing upward, fitting in as many as will fill the space.
- Mix and toss cheese sauce together in pan with spinach; scoop tablespoon-sized amounts of the mixture into the mushrooms, tucking it inside of each well.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes; watch the pan periodically.
If you have trouble finding the medium-sized white mushrooms, smaller ones are an option (approximately 18 to 20, but this may vary depending on their different sizes, so use your best judgment), but it might be a good plan to scoop out their gills and a part of the white base inside using a metal 1/4 teaspoon before rinsing them under cold water. This way, you can fit more of the cheesy spinach blend into the underside of the mushrooms before they go into the oven.
And if you use shredded cheddar versus a block of it, adding an extra 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup may not be a bad idea, either, if you’d like an especially rich flavor.
While the yield is 4 to 6 servings when you use medium-sized white mushrooms, some people might eat two of the mushrooms, and especially hungry types might eat four, Kiedeisch has learned from the appetites of the men in her family.
Using smaller white mushrooms also means yield will increase, too, and for a party, that’s a plus.
“We switched to the medium-sized white mushrooms instead of portobello mushrooms,” Kiedeisch says about her family. “We prefer them over the portobellos because they have a different flavor to them that’s really good.” She notes that portobellos can be too watery for this dish.
Besides the spinach blend, Kiedeisch has also used hamburger meat and non-cased, spicy Italian sausage to stuff the mushrooms.
But every party needs something sweet, too.
Gloria Sands lives in the same town as Kiedeisch and has a dessert recipe for grab-ready pecans which hardly ever last for long because they’re so delectable it seems like they should be illegal.
The recipe is from her Aunt Erma who was born in 1920, so the recipe is long-lived.
“She was my youngest aunt out of three of my dad’s sisters,” Sands says.
“She is gone now, and I’m glad I have it,” Sands says about the recipe tied to her family history.
Just be very thoroughly warned that eating one alone is nearly impossible. It takes serious willpower to not eat masses of these delicious protein-sweet treats within minutes.
- 4 cups pecan halves
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 egg white
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.
- In a separate bowl, beat 1 egg white.
- Put nuts into the egg white, and coat them evenly in it.
- Pour the nuts into the bowl with the sugar and cinnamon, and coat the nuts evenly.
- Pour the nuts onto a cookie sheet in a single layer.
- Bake the nuts for 1 hour, stirring on the sheet every 15 minutes.