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Happy holiday entertaining

Host a holiday party that's simple and festive with a combination of pre-made and homemade delights from the celebration experts at Wilton.

For starters, a cookie pan does double duty for holiday-shaped homemade Crispy Cheese Crackers. Serve these aromatic rosemary treats, made into Christmas trees, snowmen and stockings, alongside a colorful assortment of fresh vegetables and made-from-scratch fire-roasted jalapeno dip.

"Guests will think you spent hours baking in the kitchen when you wow them with a seasonal selection of hand-decorated gingerbreads," says Nancy Siler, vice president of consumer affairs at Wilton.

Easy to assemble with all the trimmings included, there's a ready-to-decorate gingerbread kit to fit any yuletide gathering. Complete with pre-baked gingerbread, each kit contains decorating accessories like candies and icings to personalize your own mini village, Christmas tree, gingerpop cookies and more.

For another fun twist on a traditional gingerbread house, Siler recommends getting the kids involved. They'll love the marshmallow-y Holiday House Treat made of cinnamon toasted oats cereal. Once the house is built, watch the kids decorate their yummy creation with a variety of gumdrops, licorice, icings and candies.

To cater to a more sophisticated palate, Siler suggests Salted Caramel Bacon Cordial Cups. A lavish blend of vanilla pudding, crisp-cooked bacon and whipped cream is flavored with caramel ice cream topping and piped into edible, dark cocoa Candy Melt cordial cups. They're bite-sized holiday bliss.

Don't forget eggnog. This year, give your favorite prepared eggnog a chocolate kick and serve Eggnog Hot Chocolate garnished with peppermint Candy Curls.

For more holiday recipe project and decorating ideas, or to purchase gingerbread kits, visit www.wilton.com.


Holiday House Treat

6 cups cinnamon-flavored toasted oats cereal
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 bag (10 ounces) mini marshmallows
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Assorted Tube Icing, Decorating Gel, Sprinkles, Colored Sugars, Icing Decorations and other favorite candy

Prepare Wilton Stand-Up House Pan with vegetable pan spray. Place cereal in large bowl. In large saucepan, melt butter; add marshmallows, ginger and cinnamon. Cook and stir constantly until melted. Pour over cereal and mix well. Spread cereal mixture into prepared pan. When cool to touch, remove from pan; secure to foil-wrapped cake board with icing. Decorate as desired with icing, sprinkles, sugars, icing decorations and candy. Makes about 12 servings.


Crispy Cheese Crackers

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (about 2 ounces) finely grated Asiago cheese
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) toasted pine nuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare Holiday Cookie Pan with vegetable pan spray. In medium bowl, beat butter, cheese, pine nuts, rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper with electric mixer until creamy and well combined. Add flour; beat until mixture looks sandy and holds together when squeezed in your hand. Press into prepared pan, filling cavities 1/2 full. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Makes 16 to 20 crackers.


Eggnog Hot Chocolate

2 cups milk
2 cups prepared eggnog
1 cup Dark Cocoa Candy Melts Candy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream
Candy Curls

In large saucepan, cook milk and eggnog on medium heat until the mixture is hot; turn off heat. Whisk in Candy Melts candy and vanilla extract. Continue whisking until candy is melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into mugs; garnish with Candy Curls. Makes about 4 servings.


Fire Roasted Jalapeno Onion Dip

4 jalapeno peppers
1 package (5.7 ounces) onion soup mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Preheat broiler. Place peppers on non-stick cookie pan; broil, turning at least once, 6 to 7 minutes or until blackened. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove stem and seeds; coarsely chop. In large bowl, stir together onion soup mix, sour cream and mayonnaise. Fold in peppers. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serve with cucumber and zucchini slices, celery, carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers and other favorite vegetables. Makes about 1-3/4 cups dip.

Note: For spicier dip, include seeds from peppers.


Salted Caramel Bacon Cordial Cups

1 1/2 cups Dark Cocoa Candy Melts Candy
3 containers (3.2 ounces each) vanilla prepared pudding
1/2 cup finely chopped crisp-cooked bacon
1 tablespoon caramel ice cream topping plus additional for drizzling
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
Sea salt

Fill cordial cup candy mold 1/3 full with melted candy. Using a decorator brush, paint the candy up the sides of each mold to the top edge. Coat mold so that no light can be seen through the shell. Refrigerate until firm, about 5 minutes. Repeat if needed. Carefully remove shells from mold. In medium bowl, combine pudding, bacon and 1 tablespoon ice cream topping; mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Using tip #33, pipe filling into candy cordial cups. Drizzle with additional ice cream topping and sprinkle with sea salt. Makes about 24 filled cordial cups.

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