Written by : Stephen Exel 

Spread Some Cheer

There’s something for everyone’s taste with these easy-to-make spreads. Plus, there’s something for you, too: All of them are no-cook recipes (except for bacon) and they all use simple ingredients you may already have on hand. Whip up a couple of batches to give the neighbors or when you need a quick hostess gift. For a more substantial gift, add a pretty spreader or tiny spoon.

Cranberry-Strawberry Spread

¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, divided
¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh snipped thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

In bowl of food processor combine ½ cup cranberries and strawberries just until blended. Add sugar, lemon zest, thyme, pepper and salt; pulse until combined. Add remaining ¼ cups of berries; pulse 2 to 3 times to break berries. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until use. Makes 1 cup.

Bacon “Jam”

4 slices pan-roasted bacon, chopped*
¼ cup chopped pitted dates (about 6)
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup pure maple syrup

In bowl of food processor combine bacon, dates, almonds, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour syrup over mixture. Blend on high speed until combined but not smooth. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until use. Store up to 1 week. Makes ½ cup “jam.”

*Pan-roasting bacon works best for this recipe. Place bacon on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Roast in preheated 400°F oven 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy. Dry on paper towels.

Parsley Pesto

2 cups parsley leaves, packed*
⅓ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

In bowl of food processor blend parsley with ⅓ cup olive oil. Scrape down sides of bowl, adding small amounts of oil as needed just until a paste forms. Add parmesan, walnuts, garlic and red pepper flakes; blend until combined. Transfer to container; drizzle additional olive oil on top. Refrigerate until use; stir before use. Makes 1 scant cup.

*Pulling clumps of leaves from the stem works just fine for this recipe. The stem closest to the leaf is tender and full of flavor.

Spiced Ketchup

½ cup ketchup
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 scallion, white and green parts diced
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon cumin

In bowl of food processor, combine all ingredients. Blend until just combined. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until use. Makes scant ¾ cup.

Orange-Pecan Butter

1 stick unsalted butter (½ cup), softened zest and juice (3 tablespoons) of one orange
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
⅛ teaspoon black pepper

In bowl of a food processor pulse butter three or four times to soften. Add zest and one tablespoon juice; blend. Add pecans, black pepper and remaining juice; blend. Transfer to container. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes ½ cup.

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