To me, the holidays are when I get to dust off my cocktail dress, slip on my party shoes, and hover around the buffet double fisting snacks. I love snacks. I also hate snacks, because I eat so many of them thoughtlessly, only to struggle into my same cocktail dress the following weekend, the the zipper jamming on my holly jolly girth. But that’s why they invented Spanx.
I digress. Snacks are awesome, and from a hostess’s perspective, they can be a life saver. If you have some fabulous snacks up your sleeve, you can just pour cocktails and not worry about the rest. These snacks are not only some of my favorite recipes, but some of my simplest as well, each using only 3 ingredients. I dip into my pantry for oil, salt, and pepper, and because of how simple they are, you can feel free to add you own twist (the Hummus could be nice with some garlic and herbs, and maybe you can add honey or fig jam to the crostini?). I’ll see you at the buffet!
SRIRACHA GLAZED CASHEWS
For 2 cups
2 cups raw unsalted cashews
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Move the oven rack to the very bottom. Preheat the broiler.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss until evenly coated. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast on the bottom rack under the broiler until toasted, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through to prevent uneven cooking. Keep a sharp eye on it for the last minute, as the cashews can burn quickly.
Allow the cashews to rest on the baking sheet until cooled slightly. Pour into a snack bowl and serve warm.
For 8 people
8 strips thin cut bacon
hickory smoked bacon has a wonderful maple flavor already within it
1 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Turn the oven on to 325° F. Meanwhile, blend the sugar and pepper together in a bowl. Taste it. If it’s too spicy, add more sugar, not spicy enough, add more cayenne. However, the spice does become a little more pronounced after being cooked, so be aware of that. Lay the bacon on a cooling rack placed over a baking pan lined with aluminum foil (this means minimal clean up!). Cover each slice of bacon with the brown sugar mixture. It should be an even layer, thick enough so that you cannot see the bacon through it (about 1/8 or ¼ of an inch). Place the bacon in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the sugar is completely browned, and the bacon has curls at the edges and appears mostly cooked. Remove the bacon from the oven and flip. Cover the bacon with the rest of the brown sugar mixture, and pop back in the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the bacon appears how you like it, like crunchy, but not burnt. If the bacon seems underdone, just leave in the oven for a minute or two more.
Let the bacon cool on the rack for at least 15 minutes to let the sugar harden a bit before you start cutting the pieces. I find it’s easiest to use a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the pieces over the serving bowl. Serve it up with the libation of your choice and enjoy!
ROSEMARY FLAXSEED CRACKERS
For 1 large sheet of crackers, about a dozen
1 cup flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (plus more to sprinkle on top)
2 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 300° F
Mix flaxseeds, rosemary and fine sea salt in a large bowl. Pour egg whites over the dry ingredients and mix well to combine with a fork.
Pour the batter out onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or a greased parchment. Spread as thinly as possible with a spatula. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut across the batter. This won’t “cut” the way a cookie cutter cuts through dough, but it will create lines that make it way easier to break up the crackers after they’ve baked.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until completely dry and crisp. Cool on cooling rack, break apart, and store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH HARISSA HUMMUS
For 2 cups hummus
1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup garbanzo beans (canned or boiled until tender), drained and water reserved
extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons harissa paste
Preheat oven to 425° F.
Coat the butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 20 to 30 minutes, until tender and golden brown. To get it extra crispy I like to broil them for a minute at the end. In a food processor, combine the roasted squash and garbanzo beans. Puree until very smooth. Add water if you want it thinner (cooking water from the garbanzo beans is best), add olive oil to make it a bit thicker/richer. Season with salt and pepper. Put the hummus into a bowl, spoon the harissa on top, and lightly stir everything together. You want there to be a ribbon of harissa, so careful not to over do it! Enjoy!
CARAMELIZED ONION + BRIE CROSTINI
For 24 crostini
1 baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick slices
extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
10 ounces brie, sliced into 24 thin slices
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of honey, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Lay the baguette slices across a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with a little salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
In a large sauté pan over medium low heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil (a little over one per onion, depending on size), and add the onion. Cook, stirring every now and then for about 30 to 45 minutes. Seriously. It takes time. If you want to speed it up, make sure the pan is very large to prevent crowding. Put the caramelized onion on the crostini, top with brie, and broil for 30 seconds. Garnish. Enjoy!