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Illinois Country Living

December 2007 Issue: FeatureCommentaryCurrents SafetyGardenEnergy SolutionsFinest Cooking More

A Christmas Appetizer Contest
Illinois Country Living

By Catrina McCulley Wagner

There’s just something about Christmastime that makes everything in life more exciting. The joy you get when you see the excitement in the eyes of a child making his or her wish list to Santa, the feeling of warmth throughout your body as you sit near a cozy fire with the one you love, and most important, time spent with family and friends enjoying a plethora of tasty treats that through the years have become tradition. No, there just isn’t any better time of year than Christmas.

That’s why Illinois Country Living asked readers to send in their families’ favorite holiday appetizer recipes for our “Christmas Appetizer Contest.” And we received more than 100 fabulous holiday recipes.

Our test kitchen pared down the entries for our panel of judges to test and taste. Prizes were awarded to the top four recipes. And you’ll find the fabulous top 10 recipes on practical clip-out cards to help you get a jump-start on your holiday entertaining

The Grand Prize of a Rival Chocolate Fountain went to Oma Nell Farmer, a member of SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, for her simple and tasty Cranberry Meatballs.

McDonough Power Cooperative member Susan Creasey came in a close second with her Festive Raspberry Dip. She will be receiving a Hamilton Beach food processor.

And receiving honorable mentions and their very own copy of Illinois Country Cooks Cookbook is Linda Clevenger, a member of Menard Electric Cooperative, for her Mini Chipotle Seafood Quiches and Mary Beth Fultz, a member of Egyptian Electric Cooperative, for her Pinecone Cheeseball.

Cranberry Meatballs

First Place
Cranberry Meatballs
Oma Nell Farmer
SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative


  • 2 lbs. ground chuck
  • 1 C. cornflakes
  • 1/3 C. dried parsley flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/3 C. ketchup
  • 2 T. onion, chopped

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into small balls. Brown in the oven at 400° for 15 minutes. Drain.


  • 1 (16-oz.) can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 (12-oz.) bottle chili sauce
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. lemon juice

While meatballs are baking, combine sauce ingredients. Pour sauce over meatballs and bake uncovered at 300° for 15 minutes.




Festive Raspberry Dip

Second Place
Festive Raspberry Dip
Susan Creasey
McDonough Power Cooperative

  • 4 C. Colby and Monterey Jack cheese, finely shredded
  • 1-1/2 C. mayonnaise
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 C. pecans, chopped
  • Raspberry jam
  • Assorted crackers

Mix together cheese, mayonnaise, green onions and pecans. Spread onto a serving platter and top with a layer of raspberry jam. Serve with crackers.


Mini Chipotle Seafood Quiches

Honorable Mention
Mini Chipotle Seafood Quiches
Linda Clevenger
Menard Electric Cooperative

  • 2 pkgs. Athens mini filloshells
  • 1 (4-oz.) pkgs. reduced fat Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1/2 C. Hellman’s light mayonnaise
  • 1 C. imitation crabmeat, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C. shredded Mexican cheese
  • 1/4 C. scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 C. red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Thinly chopped scallion or chives, for garnish (opt.)

Preheat oven to 350°. Place fillo shells in mini muffi n pans. With a mixer, at medium speed, beat softened cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth; about 2 minutes. Stir in crab meat, cheese, scallion, red pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Fill shells with mixture using a pastry bag or spoon. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with scallions or chives, if desired. Shells can be filled and refrigerated up to 24 hours ahead, then baked as directed above.


Pinecone Cheeseball

Honorable Mention
Pinecone Cheeseball
Mary Beth Fultz
Egyptian Electric Cooperative

  • 1 (8-oz.) ctn. garden vegetable cream cheese
  • 1 (8-oz.) ctn. roasted garlic cream cheese
  • 1 C. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 C. pecan halves, toasted
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs

In a medium bowl, combine cheeses and onions. Shape into an oval and chill for 2 hours. Arrange pecan halves over cheese oval in overlapping rows, beginning at the bottom and working upward to resemble a pinecone. Arrange rosemary sprigs at the top. Cover and chill for up to 4 days. Serve with assorted crackers. Yields about 16 servings.


Creamy Shrimp and Dill Puffs
Cecily Shipman
Norris Electric Cooperative

  • 1/3 C. whipped cream cheese
  • ½ tsp. dill weed, divided
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 T. chopped green onion
  • 1 (8-oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls
  • ¾ C. chopped precooked shrimp

Preheat the oven to 375°. Mix cream cheese, 1/4 tsp. dill and ginger together. Stir in chopped green onion. Set aside. Unroll crescent dough, separate into 8 triangles and cut each triangle in half to make 16 triangles. Stretch dough slightly and place crescent triangles into a lightly greased standard size muffi n pan so that the bottom of the muffin cup is covered and crescents are laying outside the cup. Divide shrimp evenly into cups (about 1 heaping teaspoonful). Top each cup with 1/2 tsp. of cream cheese mixture. Loosely fold dough corners into the center and pinch corners together loosely and twist to seal tightly. Sprinkle tops with remaining 1/4 tsp dill. Bake, uncovered for 10-17 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Makes 16. Serve hot or cold.


Tree-Shaped Veggie Pizza Appetizer
Vickie York
Tri-County Electric Cooperative

  • 2 (8-oz.) cans crescent dinner rolls
  • 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ C. sour cream
  • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 C. assorted vegetables, finely chopped (Green and red bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, green onions)

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove dough from cans in rolled sections (two sections from each can). Do not unroll. Cut each section into 8 slices (16 slices from each can). Place slices, cut side down, on ungreased cookies sheets to form trees. To for the tree, start by placing one slice for the top. Arrange two slices just below with sides touching, then a row of three, then four, ending with a row of five slices. Use the remaining slice for the trunk. Refrigerate and make a second tree. Bake one tree at a time at 375° for 11-13 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for one minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Place each tree onto a platter. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder; blend until smooth. Spread mixture over both trees. Decorate trees with assorted vegetable pieces. Refrigerate until serving.


Sausage Bread
Mary Hammann
Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative

  • 1 box Pillsbury hot roll mix
  • 2 lbs. sausage (seasoned to your choice)
  • 5 T. Parmesan cheese
  • 3 C. Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. accent
  • 1 tsp. parsley

Brown sausage, drain and let cool. When cool, mix with cheeses and spices. Follow the directions on the hot roll box, but only let the bread rise once. Separate dough in half and roll out into rectangles. Spread half the mix in each rolledout dough rectangle, then roll the dough and mixture into a log shape. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cut into strips. Makes 2 loaves.


Spinach Balls
Pat Dopheide
Adams Electric Cooperative

  • 1 med. onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed
  • 6 eggs, three yolks separated
  • ½ C. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • ¼ C. Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1 pinch ground pepper
  • 1/3 C. melted butter
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1-¼ C. seasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick spray. Separate the whites from three of the eggs and discard the yolks. Put the remaining eggs and whites in a bowl and whisk until combined. Drain the spinach, squeeze out the excess water and set aside. Put the onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse until minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the breadcrumbs. Pulse until combined. If you do not have a processor, make sure you fi nely chop the onions and garlic. Put the mixture into a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs. Using your hands, mix together until well combined. Chill in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes. Form into small balls, about 3/4-1-inch in diameter. Bake on two greased cookie sheets for 12 minutes, turn over and bake another 8-10 minutes. Serve alone or with creamy French dressing, marinara sauce or sour cream and horseradish dip. Use your imagination.

Sweet Chicken Bacon Bites
Angie Gunther
Corn Belt Energy Corporation
  • 1-½ lbs. chicken tenders
  • 1 pkg. sliced bacon
  • 2/3 C. packed brown sugar
  • 3 T. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes. Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap bacon around chicken and secure with toothpick. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, chili powder and cayenne
pepper. Dredge chicken bites in mixture and place on a greased broiler pan. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until bacon is crispy and chicken is cooked through. These can also be baked in advance and placed in a crock pot on the warm setting.


Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers
Paula Archer
Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative

  • 32 fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 1 lb. sausage, browned, drained and crumbled
  • 1 pkg. cream cheese
  • 1 (17-oz.) jar shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese

Cut end off and slice jalapenos in half (wear gloves when handling jalapenos), scrape seeds and wash. Mix sausage, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese together and stuff into peppers. (I put the cream cheese in the microwave for 1 min. to make it soft like butter - easier to mix.) Bake at 350° for 25 – 30 minutes.


© 2007 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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