The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

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December 4, 2012

COOKING WITH SIMON: Easy and cheesy ideas for holiday parties

PALESTINE — We all had a long Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends, plenty of great food and a time to give thanks for the blessings and abundance we have around us.

Now it is time to get ready for holiday parties. Something I like to make as a pre-dinner tease or something to keep on hand for drinks with friends is an almond-crusted brandy cheese ball.

You can serve it on its own with crackers or add it to a cheese platter along with a hard cheese, blue cheese, some fruit and a bit of cranberry sauce.

Fresh cranberries are available throughout the holidays so take advantage of their wonderful flavor while you have the chance. Use them to make traditional cranberry sauce or a cranberry pepper jelly. Both are great as an appetizer with cheese, a spread for sandwiches or a sauce on grilled meat.

Almond-Crusted Brandy Cheese Ball

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese

1 tablespoon brandy

1 tablespoons orange juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups sliced almonds

2 green onions thinly sliced

Directions

Place cream cheese in a bowl. Add brandy and orange juice and mix well. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.Add the green onions and mix until all ingredients are combined. Place sliced almonds on a cutting board. Spoon cream cheese onto middle of almonds then roll until the cream cheese is completely covered and formed into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.  If you like a bit of spice add a few chili flakes or a few shakes of tabasco sauce.

Cranberry Pepper Jelly

Ingredients

2 cups fresh cranberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to stir until sugar dissolves. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the cranberries burst and the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Serve with crackers and cheese or brush over pork or chicken while grilling or roasting.

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Simon Webster is the Executive Chef of Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro a multi-faceted dining destination just outside Palestine. For more information go to www.saborapasion.com or call 903-729-9500.

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