I was raised on the appetizer. When other families would gather around a beautifully set table and enjoy a Christmas dinner with ham or turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade buns, green bean casseroles and so on, we were chowing down on appetizers all night while we opened presents. Each year, a new one would be added or someone would try something new. I loved it and never missed that Christmas dinner at all. Over the years I’ve collected a slew of appetizer recipes, from cucumber sandwiches to wings to dips to bacon-wrapped everything to seasonal, you name it. I can confidently attend any event with a slew of options up my sleeve—yes, even “snobbier” options. As I began cooking, I tweaked some of my favorites to my own taste preference and have come up with some twists on the originals.
With the Super Bowl fast approaching this weekend, I thought I would try to get a quick post up for you in case you were on the hunt for a great game-day option. I have loads of other appys in my vault but these are great wintery ones that feel football game appropriate (and ones I won’t have to kill you for sharing). I kid, I kid. As I typed these out, in true midwest fashion, I noticed almost every single one utilizes ranch dressing in some way shape or form. Aren’t you happy I’m here to help keep things classy? Also, if you’re looking for healthy options, you won’t find them in this particular post. Tasty? Yes. Healthy. Not so much.
These are great to bring to a party, great for if you’re hosting a party or if you’re just doing something small and fun with your family. I hope you find one that catches your eye and maybe give one or two of them a whirl. I’d love your thoughts, too, so comment below with which one most excites you to try. If you have any questions on the recipes, feel free to also drop a comment below. Enjoy!
Kurtis’s O Canada Wings
These wings were inspired by my husband Kurtis. He has perfected them over the years and they are our tribute to his home country. When I lived in Canada, the “buffalo wings” I had come to fear (not a huge spice fan) took a strange turn. Kurtis was chowing down on them one night and I couldn’t understand why they were a creamy orange color. I tried one and a whole new world opened up to me. These “O Canada Wings” are a Canadian version of buffalo wings—and they are epic my friends. Perfect for game day or a backyard bbq.
3-4 packages of wings (purchase them split)
1 large bottle Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce
1 extra large bottle Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (40 fl oz)
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Season wings to your liking. Foil a sheet pan and bake wings until crispy. Approximately one hour or so.
While wings are baking, mix ranch and wing sauce. Kurtis doesn’t measure but he would recommend 3/4 the bottle of the ranch. Add wing sauce to your desired spiciness. At least 1/4 of the bottle. The sauce will be pale orange. Stir.
Dump wings into a large bowl and pour sauce over top. Gently toss.
The wings are ready after that step but we like to put them in a Crock-Pot on low for them to merry for a bit. Stir occasionaly.
Aunt Suzy’s Wontons
Kurtis first had these at my aunt Suzy’s annual Halloween party and he begged me to make them for literally every single other appetizer related event or party we ever attend or host. LITERALLY. Every one. They have become a crowd favorite and when appys are discussed, I usually get the nod to make these. They are one of my most asked for recipes. They are crunchy and unique, mild and tasty. They are also pretty on a platter so if you need something that is pretty and tasty this is a good one. They are kid-friendly, too. Be careful though, one tends to turn into four or five. Or ten if you’re Kurtis.
1 pk Won Ton skins
1 lb Jimmy Dean pork sausage
1 red pepper finely chopped
1 can chopped black olives
1 bottle Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Mini muffin tins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the mini muffin tin, form Won Ton cups. Bake for ten minutes.
Cook sausage and drain grease. Combine sausage with the other ingredients except for ranch in a large bowl. Add ranch until mixture is moist (sorry had to use that word). You don’t want it too dry but definitely not oozing ranch.
Fill Won Ton cups with mixture (don’t overflow them) and bake for approximately ten more minutes.
We are a family of not only appetizers but also dips. I could do an entire cookbook on dips alone. This beer spread has a fun zing to it and while pretzels are often served with it for a full pub-like effect, I have to say that this dip on a Ruffle chip is about as close to perfection as you can get for my basic palette. Yes, there’s beer in it, but none of us have ever gotten drunk of it–yet at least. I still let my kids eat it. If you can’t stand that thought, opt for a non-alcoholic beer. For a low-carb option, try parmesan crisps or celery sticks.
2 cups shredded cheddar
2 8 oz cream cheese softened
2 TBL bacon bits (I like the real ones not the crunchy ones)
1 package of dried Hidden Valley ranch seasoning
1/2 can of beer
Combine cheddar and cream cheese and dry dressing mix. Gradually stir in beer.
Chill for at least two hours (but honestly the longer the better).
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Everyone probably has this recipe in some form or another but I like making mine with a Rotisserie chicken. I think it adds in a whole next level of flavor because sometimes this dip tastes bland. We are BIG blue cheese fans, so I recommend topping it with crumbles. Shredded cheddar is fine, too. This one is great with celery sticks, chips, pretzels or even baguettes.
1 Rotisserie chicken
2 8 oz packs cream cheese (softened)
1 c Hidden Valley ranch dressing
3/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or blue cheese crumbles
Skin the rotisserie chicken and chop up the meat. I focus on the breasts and save the legs for something else.
Heat the chopped chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the softened cream cheese and ranch. Stir until blended and warm. Top with shredded cheese or blue cheese—whichever your preference.
From here, you can either place the mixture in a pie pan and heat in the oven to brown the cheese or add to a crockpot on low or serve immediately. Your choice.
I roomed with a fellow tennis player my freshman year of college and she brought this to one of our meets early in the season. I think I was late to my match because I was in a corner chowing down on this mix. It’s unique and addicting. This is a great one to have in little bowls around the house if you are hosting or to bring to someone’s home in a cute tin. Even if they don’t tell you they need you to bring anything it would be a nice gesture—it will get eaten, trust me. You can mix and match the crackers to your liking—this is just my personal go-to lineup.
(Use six boxes total —feel free to mix and match)
Cheez-It Grooves white cheddar
Ritz Crisps Original
twin pack of Hidden Valley Ranch dry seasoning
Orvil Redenbacher butter popcorn oil
Dump the six boxes of crackers into a large roaster or disposable roasting pan. Stressing the word large. Stir gently. Sprinkle seasoning packets on top or crackers and gently stir again. Add popcorn oil (slowly). You may not need an entire bottle. Stir gently to coat. Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Twisted Taco Dip
Don’t skip this!! I know you’re thinking—who doesn’t have this dip recipe? Boring! I have a surprise up my sleeve–read it out. I don’t use taco seasoning in my taco dip. Instead, I use dried ranch seasoning powder. It takes it to a whole other level and your guests will notice (and ask why yours tastes so much better). You’re welcome!
2 8 oz packages cream cheese
1 package dry Hidden Valley ranch seasoning
1 jar mild or medium taco sauce
1 small can sliced black olives
1/2 jar sliced green olives
1 can diced mild chiles
Blend the dressing mix with the cream cheese and spread onto a large round platter. Spread taco sauce over top. Top with listed toppings and finish with shredded cheese. Refrigerate to give it time to set and for favors to blend. Serve with hearty Tostito chips.
Ham & Cheese Buns
These little guys are my favorite game day entree to serve. They are simple to make and can even be done ahead of time less the butter mix. They always get crushed and no matter how many times you serve them, people always love them. You can mix it up with these as well—try beef with cheddar or turkey and cheddar and bacon or beef and blue cheese crumbles. Have fun with it if you get bored of ham and cheese.
1 TBL Dijon mustard
2 TBL Poppy Seeds
1/2 cup butter
24 Hawaiian dinner rolls
1/2 lb thinly sliced honey ham
1/2 lb sliced swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Melt botter in saucepan over low heat. Add poppy seeds and Dijon mustard. Whisk.
Form sandwiches on a parchment paper or foiled and lightly sprayed sheet pan. I split the cheese so that it goes bun bottom, cheese, ham, cheese, bun top.
Brush the tops with butter mixture and drizzle remaining butter mix over top.
Bake for 20 minutes and serve immediately. These are best when the tops are slightly browned and crispy.
Kurtis’s Caesar Drink
I’ll never forget the time I went out up in Canada for the first time. I ordered a Bloody Mary. The bartender looked at me like I was drugged. Then when I was exasperated they didn’t have my drink, the just rolled his eyes and told me I was in a new country now and to get used to it as he handed me a drink. The “it” was a Caesar and let me tell you, it now reigns superior over the Bloody Mary in my book. It is lighter and not as thick and murky as your typical Bloody Mary. Although we aren’t in Canada anymore, it’s the only thing we serve on Freedom Farm. I’ve also converted a few people over to it already. The key is Clamato. You’ll find it by the Bloody Mary mixes. Kurtis also drinks “beer and clam” which was another Canadian specialty. Pour your beer and add some Clamato to it. If Vodka isn’t your thing, try it with Gin. It’s also excellent.
In this order:
1 glass of ice
freshly squeezed lemon
freshly squeezed lime
a few dashes of Tabasco (if desired)
a few dashes of celery salt
1-2 shots of Vodka (depending on your mood)
COLD Clamato juice (cold is key)
Wet rim with a wedge of lime and then add lime to cup. Add one more dash of celery salt. Garnish (celery, olives, beef stick, pickles, whatever). You can also rim the glass with Sea Salt.