Party Time

Appetizers and punches that help you get your party started.

Hot Apple Cider Punch

I love hot apple cider and this gives you enough to share.

1 gallon apple cider
1 qt ginger ale
3/4 c. red hots (red cinnamon candies)
1 med. orange, sliced
2 large cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp. whole cloves

The recipe calls for making this in a 30 cup percolator. If you've got one, that's great. Pour the cider and ginger ale in the percolator and put the spices in the basket. Perk through a complete cycle and it's done. For the rest of us, I just dump it all together in a big pot on the stove or in my large crock pot and heat. If you want, you can tie the spices together in a cheesecloth before adding them to the pot. Makes 1 1/4 gallon of punch.

Italian Torta

This appetizer is good, and a little something different than the regular Christmas cheese ball. I'd serve it with a thicker whole grain cracker or one that is flavored with garlic.

1 (1 oz.) packet of ranch dressing mix
2 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 (6 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1/3 c. roasted red peppers, chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh parsley
In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and dressing mix until well blended. In a separate bowl, stir together artichokes, peppers, and parsley. In a 3 c. bowl (or mold) lined with plastic wrap, alternate layers of cream cheese and vegetables, beginning and ending with cream cheese. Chill four hours or overnight. Invert on a plate and remove plastic wrap. Serve with crackers. Serves 10-12.

Seven Layer Dip
The longer this sits in the fridge, the better it tastes! Make it in the morning before a party in the evening or, like us, for a fun alternative to regular supper.

1 packet Good Season Italian dressing mix
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 c. sour cream
1 (16 oz.) can refried beans
1 1/2 c. salsa, drained
1 (2.25 oz) can olives, drained
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 c. grated monterey jack cheese
2 green onions, chopped

Spread beans on a serving plate. Blend sour cream and dressing mix. Spread over beans. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Top with remaining ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips.