Nothing brings family and friends together like the holidays! But who wants to be in the kitchen all day? Impress your guests this year with these easy-to-make savory appetizers, sweet desserts and spirited punch. All of these recipes can be made ahead of time to save you time on the big day! Our desserts even double as delicious take-home gifts for your guests. Enjoy! 

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Eggnog Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 16-ounce package pound cake mix

1 1/4 cups eggnog

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat all ingredients together with an electric mixer until blended. Increase speed to medium, and beat two minutes. Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about an hour). 

Tip: If using mini pans, reduce baking time to 35 minutes.

- Lorie Stewart

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Christmas Eve Milk Punch

Ingredients:

(makes 19 quarts)

2 quarts half and half

2 fifths bourbon

1 fifth light rum

2 quarts homogenized milk

12 ounces Cointreau

3 gallons vanilla ice cream

Directions:

Mix first five ingredients. Add two cups to a blender filled with ice cream and mix. Continue until all is blended. Place in freezer until ready to serve. 

Caution: It really packs a “punch!”

- Glenny Lee Buquet

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Marinated Cheese

Ingredients:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 (8-ounce) cheddar cheese

1/2 cup olive oil 

1/2 cup white wine tarragon vinegar

1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimentos, diced

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons green onions, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon dried whole basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Thinly slice cheeses, overlapping alternating cheeses in a row in long serving dish. Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Pour marinade over the row of cheese and refrigerate at least eight hours. Serve with crackers. 

Tip: Place the cream cheese in the freezer for a bit before slicing.

- Kathy Hardy

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Praline Pecans

Ingredients:

1 egg white, beaten stiff

1 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 cups pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

Parchment paper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. To the stiff egg whites, add the brown sugar and mix well. Add the pecans, vanilla and salt; mix well. Drop by the spoonful on to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before enjoying.

Tip: Unlike traditional pralines, these bites can be made regardless of the humidity.

- Linda Downer

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Smokey Bacon and Apricot Spread

Ingredients:

1 (4 ounce) package cream cheese, softened 

1 (4 ounce) goat cheese log

12 slices cooked, applewood smoked bacon, chopped

1 jar apricot preserves 

Directions:

Beat cream cheese and goat cheese together with mixer until smooth. Gently fold in bacon and preserves. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with crackers.

Tip: Not an apricot fan? Use fig preserves instead!

- Erica Lambert