Way back in mid December, I hosted my first Christmas party. I finally have an apartment with room for a tree and storage for my Christmas decorations (ornaments, a collection of mini trees and a n assortment of deer–I’ve got a whole thing going), and decided to celebrate that by having my favorite people over for snacks and drinks. My menu was a sweet and savory combo: Smitten Kitchen’s brown butter rice crispy treats (my go to for any party, whether hosting or attending), the chocolate crunch bars Laura and I each made, frozen pigs in a blanket from Trader Joe’s, some token veggies, and three of my favorite family party recipes–deviled eggs, cheese wafers, and red pepper jam with cream cheese. One of my friends, who knows just how to flatter a girl, took one look at the food and said, “it’s like Virginian dim sum!” At that moment I knew that whatever else happened, I would consider the party a success.
I had thought about saving this post for a more party-centric time of year, but then Laura reminded me that folks might be looking for easy treats to bring to Superbowl get-togethers (because she knows me so well, she also reminded me of when the Superbowl actually is). Tho they may not be super traditional, like chicken wings or nachos, I think both the cheese wafers and red pepper jam would make fabulous Superbowl party snacks. Each takes just a few steps, can be made in advance, and travels well. And, both are a little old school and southern, which seems football party appropriate to me.
The red pepper jam is yet another Washington Post recipe that my mother clipped way back when, so it’s roots are a mysterious mystery. The cheese wafers date back to my mother’s Charlottesville VA law school days. My mom tasted them at a cocktail party, got the recipe, and has been making them ever since. Thank goodness.
ice box cheese wafers
These wafers are slice and bake–a few ingredients mixed together and formed into a roll to make tasty little coins. One of the reasons I love this recipe so much is that it makes two rolls, and one is usually enough for a small party. I have the second roll in my freezer now, ready to wow any last minute guests that happen to stop by.
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated, room temperature
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sifted flour
heavy pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Cream together cheese, butter, salt and cayenne. Beat till as fluffy as you can get it (and you can get it pretty fluffy). Gradually add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon til blended. Divide dough in half, form each half into a roll, wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm. When needed, slice into thin wafers and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they begin to brown. If desired, place pecan or walnut halves on wafers before baking. The rolls will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month, or in the freezer for much longer.
red pepper jam
This dish might sound weird, but it is such a tasty winner. The jam is tangy sweet, and a perfect combination with cream cheese. I’ve brought it to a number of events over the last few years where folks were less familiar with it, and the response has universally been, “What is this now? Pepper Jam? Hmmm…oh, it’s so good!”
This is a great recipe to practice canning on…but tho I’ve done it twice under my mom’s supervision, I don’t yet feel quite equal to giving anyone else instructions. I’d still strongly recommend making this, especially if you’re hosting a party. You could easily portion it out into small jars and give it as a parting gift–the high vinegar content means it will last for ages in the fridge, even once opened–to bring a little extra fancy to your game day.
4 cups finely chopped red bell peppers (6 to 8 peppers)
2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
Soak the chopped (if you have a large food processor using it to chop the peppers is a huge and worthy time saver) for several hours or overnight. Mix with the sugar and cook at a simmer until thick and syrupy. Serve with cream cheese and crackers–Triscuits are traditional in my house–or as a condiment with curry.