2 Easy Recipes For An Impromptu Holiday Social

This month's Guest Editor, Chef Ericka Burke of Volunteer Park Cafe, shares her unique, crowd-pleasing and perfectly doable recipes to set out for the guests: spiced nuts and a savory spread.
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It seems like the holiday season bring lots of unexpected guests — old friends in from out of town, family visiting, pals dropping by…Somehow, the house always feels full and lively. We like to be ready with some easy and delicious snacks. Olives, cheese and charcuterie are all so simple and yummy — but serving a couple of homemade items, too, can really make an impromptu gathering special.


Spiced nuts are perfect for the holidays. They're sweet and salty, and they keep for weeks. We love setting some out in dishes around a party, or even packaging them up in pretty little jars for hostess gifts!


Another thing we adore having on hand are spreads, and this pumpkin tahini spread is definitely a favorite. It's reminiscent of hummus with the tahini, but unexpected and perfect for winter with the roasted pumpkin. Teamed up with some bread or crackers, it's a real crowd pleaser.

Below, you'll find the recipes for both of these seasonal appetizers to satiate your guests in a fun, festive and delicious way. Hosting over the holidays can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just make a few easy items and buy a few favorite snacks as back-up, and you'll have a great little stockpile to throw on pretty platters and make your guests feel right at home.



INGREDIENTS (Serves 10):

1 sugar pie pumpkin
1 cup tahini
5 garlic cloves
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup minced Italian parsley
Salt to taste


To roast the sugar pie pumpkin, preheat your oven to 375. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Season both halves with salt, and place the pumpkin halves on an oiled baking tray, flesh side down. Pierce the skin a few times with a paring knife. Place in the oven and roast for approximately 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is very tender and you are able to easily slide the blade of a paring knife through the skin. 

Cool the pumpkin, then peel away the skin. Place the roasted pumpkin in a bowl and roughly smash with a fork.

Next, to make the spread, put all of the garlic in a food processor and run it until the garlic is roughly chopped. Add the roasted pumpkin and puree until smooth, then add the tahini and continue to puree until it is incorporated. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil, then add the water and lemon juice. (You may need to add a splash more water if the puree is too stiff!) Add the minced parsley and puree to mix, then season with salt. 

The dip will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge. When serving it, we like to spread it in a bowl and top with a little olive oil and pumpkin or sesame seeds!




1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup walnut halves
1 cup whole almonds
½ cup pistachios
1 cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste


Preheat your oven to 350, and place all of the nuts in a mixing bowl. Melt butter and sugar in a pan over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, then pour the butter mixture over nuts. Mix well, and then season with spices. Mix again to make sure the nuts are coated with the spices.

Pour the nut mix onto a large baking tray and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, gently mixing them every 5 minutes. After removing the roasted nuts from the oven, let them cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. The nuts will last a few weeks!


p.s. For a main course, don't miss Ericka's go-to roasted chicken recipe.