When the holidays grow hectic I often make treats that are easy or quick so I don't end up spending my life in the kitchen. Here are some ideas to cook up for your next gathering:
Apple Pie improved: Take a store-bought dutch or streusal-topped apple pie and drizzle caramel or raspberry ice cream topping over the top.
Fruit and cheese kabobs are probably the fastest and easiest treat I make; here's a recipe for them and an accompanying dip. Be sure to remove the skewers before you serve them to little kids (you can also make kid-safe mini versions with pretzel sticks instead of skewers; also don't serve this treat to babies who might choke on the pieces.)
Speaking of infants, I always keep a small box of plain Cheerios on hand for out littlest visitors, but it's a good idea to check with parents before you offer any baby any snack (in the case of Cheerios, they're not a good idea for kids with gluten issues.)
Superquick ice cream sandwiches: Let your ice cream or frozen yogurt soften until it's spreadable, then spread between two graham crackers, two big chocolate chip cookies or two toasted mini-waffles. Roll the sides through mini chocolate chips or mini M&Ms. Put back in the freezer on a tray to harden.
Pizza on the Quick: split a baguette in half, brush with pizza sauce (or if you don't have any, tomato sauce + a sprinkle of oregano + garlic powder to taste), top with shredded mozzarella and your favorite toppings like sliced veggies, pepperoni, salami or cooked and crumbled ground beef (I love Hormel's turkey pepperoni minis; they're perfect for finger food.) Place in your oven and broil for a minute or two until the cheese bubbles. Cut into two-inch sections (if you have extra time you can also cut the baguette into slanty slices ala bruschetta before putting on the toppings.)
Popcorn + nuts + bite-size candy = a bowl of quick snacking joy. Delight the kids by calling it Reindeer Feed or Snowman Snacks.
Dip the end of a pretzel rod into a jar of creamy peanut butter, then roll the peanut buttered end over sprinkles, chocolate chips, chopped nuts or mini M&Ms to coat.
I was not surprised to see a wedding cake among the many variations of Rice Krispie Treats here, but I usually stick to the classic, three-ingredient base recipe, wrap them up with squares of tinfoil and pile them in a bowl.
One of my neighbors made us a plate of cookies and these adorable Strawberry Santas, which are so easy to make I can whip up a plate of them in minutes (and if I don't have the ingredients to make the cheese filling, I substitute bottled whipped cream.)
Tiny Tacos: Take Tostito Scoops! or any flat-bottomed crunchy corn tortilla chips and lay them out on a plate. Fill each one with a sprinkle of cooked ground beef (or for vegans, a teaspoon of vegetarian refried beans) top with lettuce shreds, a dab of sour cream, grated sharp cheddar or American cheese, and a dollop of salsa.
Also for the vegans: Cut stalks of celery into 4-inch pieces, fill with hummus dip, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. If you have a bit more time to cook, this black bean chili dip is pretty awesome; serve it with your favorite chips or crackers.
Got any quick and easy holiday treat ideas to share? Let us know in comments.