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Office parties, cookie exchanges and family get-togethers mean that you spend a lot more time in the kitchen around the holidays. Reacquaint yourself with your old bestie, the microwave; it can do a lot more than warm up leftover pizza. Making snacks and appetizers in the microwave means that you have more time for yourself.
Holiday party food trends
Host Ted Allen offers up food tips and trends that will make your holiday party fun, tasty, and easy!
Update your cookie exchange
Bring cookie exchanges into the 21st century with a Chex® Party Mix-Change. Just invite your friends to bring enough of their favorite Chex® Party Mix to share, along with a Chex® Party Mix recipe printout for each person attending. Make sure there is enough to send an assortment home with each guest. Visit Chex® Party Mix-Change to get some ideas for wrapping, invitations and more.
Hot Buttered Yum Chex® Mix
Make everyone jolly with this sweet twist on your old favorite snack mix -- just 15 minutes from start to finish!
4 cups Honey Nut Chex® cereal
2 cups Cinnamon Chex® cereal
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon rum flavoring
2 cups miniature marshmallows
Place the cereals in a large microwavable bowl.
In a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup, microwave butter, brown sugar and honey uncovered on high for 2 minutes -- stirring after 1 minute -- until the mixture is bubbly.
Stir in spices and rum flavoring.
Microwave uncovered on high for 3 minutes, stirring and scraping bowl after every minute.
Cool slightly, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the marshmallows and spread the mixture on waxed paper.
Let cool and store in an airtight container.
Easy as pie
It was only a matter of time: Pies are the new cupcakes. Add an assortment of microwavable mini-pies to your next buffet and watch them disappear almost as fast as you were able to make them. Use cupcake liners that match your theme or decor. Try this easy lemon tart recipe to get you started.
Cheery Cherry Lemon Tarts
Makes 12 servings
Tangy tarts with sweet cherry topping add color to any buffet. Add a fresh basil leaf for holiday color.
24 cupcake liners
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup gingersnap or graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling
Place two liners in each of 12 5-ounce, microwave-safe custard cups.
In a small bowl, microwave the butter on high for 45 to 60 seconds or until melted.
Stir in the cookie crumbs and sugar.
Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the crumb mixture into each liner.
Press down firmly using a small glass or your fingers.
Stir together the remaining ingredients except cherries until they are thickened.
Place 2 tablespoons of this mixture in each cup.
Arrange 6 cups in a ring on a large plate and microwave at 50 percent power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tarts bubble in a couple spots.
Remove the tarts as they appear done. Some may finish faster than others.
Cool and serve each topped with pie filling, a dollop of whipped cream and a basil or mint leaf.
More great ideas
Once you get in the habit of using the microwave to create quick snacks and appetizers, you'll want a variety of creative recipes and ideas on hand. Ted Allen from Chopped on the Food Network shares some ways to create an assortment of flavors, textures and looks at your next party.
Put it on a stick! Putting hors d'oeuvres and desserts on sticks adds height and a contemporary look to any party table. Consider mini corn dogs, shrimp, deep-fried ravioli, cake pops, fruit kabobs, brownie bites or chocolate truffles.
Tickle your guests' palates with unusual twists on old favorites. Add blood orange vinaigrette to a salad or a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar over microwave-poached pears.
Make tiny, bite-sized versions of old favorites such as pizza, empanadas, mini pitas and meatballs. Be sure to provide internationally flavored dipping sauces to go with them.