by Carolyn Herriot
“Tis the Season!” which means you are about to be inundated with invitations to potluck gatherings. What to take? Here are three easy-to-prepare treats that will be more than welcome at any festive gathering.
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz soft goat cheese, plain
1 tbsp dried fines herbs or fresh if you can find them
(choose from tarragon, dill, chives, parsley, sweet marjoram)
½ cup hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts,
lightly toasted* and finely chopped
In a small bowl blend the herbs of your choice and cheeses together. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavours to meld and to make it easier to handle.
*To toast the nuts: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Shake the pan every 5 minutes to turn the nuts for even roasting. TIP: Use a timer, it’s easy to forget them!
Shape the chilled cheese into a log shape. Spread the finely chopped nuts out on a board, and roll the log over them until evenly coated on all sides. Place the Yule Log on a handsome platter, decorate with a festive sprig of holly and serve surrounded with locally made crackers.
MULLED SPICE WINE
Makes 6 – 8 servings
Offering this seasonal drink to houseguests on a cold winter’s night not only warms them up but puts them in the mood for celebrating!
1 bottle full-bodied red wine i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz
1 cup apple juice
4 tbsp liquid honey
3 cinnamon sticks, chopped up
3 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
2 whole peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
Optional: Brandy to taste
Wrap the spices in a cheesecloth bag, twist and tie with a piece of cotton string. Add the spice bag to the wine, apple juice and honey and gradually heat over low-medium heat, but do not allow to boil. Keep at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bag of spices. Stir in the brandy if using and ladle into heat-tolerant punch cups.
Makes 36 wholesome little plums
These are wonderful sweet and spicy treats for the Christmas season. For some family fun get the kids involved in making them. Plan a day ahead to soak the nuts.
1 cup walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts ½ tsp sea salt
1 orange, peel and zest 1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp fresh-grated nutmeg ¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground ginger ¼ tsp ground coriander
1 cup dried cherries, cranberries or blueberries 1 cup dried apricots, figs or prunes, chopped
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
Toss the nuts in a bowl with the salt and just cover with warm water. Allow to soak in the lightly-salted water for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse well. Toss the presoaked nuts into a food processor bowl with the orange peel and zest, spices and all the dried fruit except for the coconut. Pulse the mixture a few times to combine, and then process as needed to form a paste.
Shape the sugarplums by forming 2 tbsp of paste into a ball, and rolling it in the coconut.
Carolyn Herriot is author of “The Zero Mile Diet”and “The Zero-Mile Diet Cookbook” (Harbour Publishing) She grows “Seeds of Victoria” at The Garden Path Centre.
Photo by Kristen Taylor.