The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes the invitations to Friendsgivings, work potlucks, Festivus, and everything in between. Participating in these gatherings on top of your usual family get-together is a great way to express your gratitude for the people around you and spend time with those you care about.
It can, however, burn a hole in your pocketbook as this is also the spending season for holiday trips, gifts, and crafts.
If you're on a budget like me but still want to potluck it up, here's a handful of recipes with minimal ingredients that are easy to make. These are side dishes and desserts, because, let's be honest, the host is in charge of the main dish!
The sweetest of mashed potatoes
- Photos By Karen Garcia
- HEALTHY-ISH This mashed sweet potato recipe has to be my absolute favorite; it's perfect topped with raspberries.
I learned about this easy recipe from a Friendsgiving gathering about three years ago. It's a tasty alternative to mashed potatoes. You can serve it warm or cold, but I normally serve it cold. Tip: I recommend cooking the dish the night before your gathering.
- 4 to 8 sweet potatoes (it really depends on the number of people)
- Honey to taste
- Small container of pomegranate seeds (or blueberries or raspberries)
- Optional: almonds or walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap each sweet potato in foil, completely covering it, and place them in a large cooking pan. Stick the pan in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours. When the time is up, take the pan out and let it cool for about 25 minutes. Put the potatoes in the refrigerator overnight. Fast forward to the next morning: Unwrap each potato and remove the skin (it should come off easily). In a bowl, mash the potatoes together, drizzle as much honey as you'd like on top, and garnish with your fruit and nuts of choice.
This is a gem that my work-wife, Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash, learned from a friend of a friend. Tip: Leave the stick of butter out a few hours to allow it to soften.
- 1 stick softened butter (4 oounces)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tub pub cheese (7.5 ounces)
- 1 jar green olives
Preheat the oven on 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the softened butter, 1 cup flour, and the entire tub of pub cheese. If the dough becomes slightly dry, work it with your hands. After the dough is thoroughly mixed, take about a teaspoon of it and mold it around an olive, shaping into a ball. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper and place the balls on the sheet. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
Melted cheese and ham wrap crescents
- Photos By Karen Garcia
- SAVORY Elevate your finger food game with Trader Joe's sliced alpine semisoft cheese in these ham and cheese roll-ups.
This recipe is extremely well-known but what makes this one stand out from the rest is the Trader Joe's alpine semisoft cheese slices. I'm an avid Trader Joe's shopper, and I check out their website from time to time—they have a similar recipe so I'm definitely stealing their cheese suggestion. Tip: Cut them in half for sharing.
- 1 tube crescent rolls (makes 8 rolls)
- 1 package ham
- 1 package Trader Joe's sliced alpine semisoft cheese
- Trader Joe's onion salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the crescent dough and separate into triangles. Place a slice of ham and cheese on the triangle and roll into a crescent shape. Sprinkle a little bit of the onion salt on the top of the roll. Place on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for about 13 minutes or until golden brown.
Cheesy spinach artichoke dip
- Photos By Karen Garcia
- DIP IN Associate Editor Andrea Rooks shares her delectable artichoke dip recipe.
This fabulous dip, which the New Times crew gobbled up at our Worksgiving potluck, is a contributed recipe by our rockstar Associate Editor Andrea Rooks.
This is my favorite go-to crowd pleaser. I serve this hot dip with carrots, celery, crackers, tortilla chips, and/or sliced baguette. My favorite spice blends for this recipe are Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute and Trader Joe's onion salt. This is also an easy dish to make the night before a potluck or party; just heat it in the microwave right before serving. If you're lucky enough to come home with leftovers, stir it into some cooked pasta and chicken, and viola! You've got dinner.
- 8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
- 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained and quartered
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup sour cream
- 6 ounces shredded blend of flavorful cheese (e.g. Trader Joe's quattro formaggio blend), divided
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend(s), plus salt to taste
In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except about half a cup of the cheese and the seasonings. Stir thoroughly, breaking up the spinach. Season to taste. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl or serving dish. Heat on high for one to two minutes in 30- to 45-second increments, stirring between each increment, until the dip is heated all the way through. Add the last handful of cheese to the top of the dip before the last 30 seconds in the microwave. Finish heating and enjoy!
Stuffed puff pastry
- Photos By Karen Garcia
- SWEET TREATS This is my absolute favorite go-to recipe when I'm going to any kind of potluck as it's a definite crowd pleaser.
This is my go-to when I'm in a pinch and need to make something quick. Tip: Leave out the sheets of puff pastry dough out for at least 15 to 20 minutes before you're ready to start baking.
- 1 box puff pastry dough sheets
- 1 jar fruit preserves
- Brie cheese
Preheat the oven 400 degrees. Cut the dough sheet into rectangles, about 2.5-by-1.5 inches (ish). Cut a piece of brie, no bigger than the size of your pinky finger nail, and place in the middle. Place a half-teaspoon of preserves on top of the brie. Fold the rectangle and squish the ends together, the shape should now be a square. Place the squares on a baking pan that's lined with parchment paper and bake for about 11 minutes. Makes 20.
Mini cheesecake cups
My mom gave me this recipe years ago, and it came from a coupon book in the Sunday newspaper. So, shoutout to Sylviana Garcia! Thanks for sharing this tasty recipe. Tip: Leave out the packages of cream cheese at least 40 minutes before you're ready to bake.
- 2 packages softened cream cheese (8 ounces each)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Berries of your choice
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Beat cream cheese and sugar in a bowl until the ingredients are light and fluffy. Add eggs and extracts. Mix well. Put cupcake liners in a cupcake pan and scoop batter into each cup. Fill the cup about two-thirds of the way. Bake for about 22 to 23 minutes or until edges are lightly golden. When done, leave the cheesecake cups to cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate the cups for four hours, or overnight. Top the cups with half a strawberry, a few blueberries, or raspberries. Makes about 12.
I recently came across this sweet treat and had to try it. Turns out, I seriously love these things, and yes, your hands will get sticky—but your tastebuds will thank you.
- 1 cup chopped toasted macadamia nuts
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
- 8 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 bag semisweet chocolate morsels, melted
- 1 tablespoon shortening
In a bowl, mix together the nuts, condensed milk, almond extract, and coconut. After the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, mold it into 3/4-inch round balls. Place the balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and let rest at room temperature for four hours, or in the refrigerator for one hour. When ready, melt the chocolate morsels to create a dip for the balls. Use a fork to dip the balls into the chocolate and place on a sheet pan to dry. Makes about 25 to 30. Δ
Staff writer Karen Garcia is busy in her studio apartment kitchen at firstname.lastname@example.org.