Holiday Appetizers


Continuing in my mini-series of a tribute to my mother (Best Mom Ever) with Part 2:

**Before I go further, if you know my Mom, please do NOT mention this blog post. I’m going to write a couple “Odes to Mom” and print them to give to her as a Christmas gift this year! Shhhhhh! 🤗**

Last week I focused on her love of language, creativity, whit and enthusiasm. This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about her integrity. Which weaves through all areas of her life.

Mom taught us kids to lead our lives honorably. To be sincere and trustworthy. To handwrite letters and thank you notes. She instilled in us the importance of good manners.

She taught us the fine art of leaving off. To leave … wanting more … while being cognizant not to overstay our welcome.

She modeled forgiveness, gently reminding us, “We all have our weaknesses.” And, “Don’t keep score.”

Everything she did, she did well. She provided a wonderful example of the importance of practicing and rehearsing. Whether for a musical performance, when she was substitute organist at our church, or before delivering her Circle lesson or program to her P.E.O. sisterhood, Mom was well-prepared.

She made sure each Christmas was memorable. Our stockings were filled with neat, old-fashioned toys – such as wind-up toy mice, that we set-up to have races with after dinner. A cricket with a suction cup in the center, that provided lots of entertainment, anticipating just when it would spring off the surface … and the fun with trying to find where it landed. She read “The Polar Express” aloud to us one year, and we each got a bell with the word “Believe” on the tag.

She got the greatest pleasure in decorating and providing a festive environment. Each year in the roll of holiday pictures she developed, was the photo of the Christmas tree with all of the presents underneath, and the cat sleeping beside it. The clock on the wall behind the tree inevitably revealed she had stayed up until 2am and beyond … all to ensure the most joyous holiday possible.

Some of my favorite memories are attending the Christmas Eve midnight service at the church in my hometown. Each year, the service concluded with us singing “Joy to the World” by candlelight … simply beautiful. We’d return home to our reward for staying up so late: getting to open *one* gift before Christmas!!! All while munching on little ham sandwiches, party pizzas, and cheeseball and crackers.

Love that Ma Klein. Everything she does, she does well. And Mom loves to love.

These are my favorite holiday appetizer recipes from my childhood — lovingly transcribed exactly as they’ve been lovingly passed down to me.


  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • One 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely-chopped (ground) salted cashew nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Everything will combine better if soft, so allow ingredients to come to room temperature, then stir to combine. Taste a little — add salt and freshly-ground black pepper, if desired. Divide into 2 parts, and shape into round discs. Roll the sides and bottom of the discs in more ground cashew nuts, then decorate the tops with pecan halves.

These can be made in advance and frozen. To serve, bring to room temperature. Best served with “Town House” brand crackers, though “Ritz” or any brand/type of cracker will certainly do.

Party Pizzas

  • 2 loaves Pepperidge Farm party rye bread
  • 2 lbs. mild breakfast sausage, such as Jimmy Dean brand
  • 1 lb. Velveeta cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon (or more) ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • dried oregano, to taste
  • 1 jar pizza Sauce (such as Ragu Pizza Quick)
  • Canned, grated Parmesan cheese

Fry sausage in large skillet. Drain off grease. Add ketchup, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce and oregano. Mix well. Cut Velveeta in large chunks and stir in until melted. Put parchment paper or foil on 2 large cookie sheets. Cover with bread slices. Spread each slice with sausage mixture. Spread to edges of bread. Put a dollop of pizza sauce on each and spread to edges. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Freeze on cookie sheets. When solid, place in ziplock bags until needed. To serve, bake straight from the freezer on foil- or parchment-covered cookie sheet at 450°F for about 10 minutes. Makes approximately 70. (Don’t try to bake them in a microwave oven – they are soggy and terrible!)

Little Ham Sandwiches

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 (7 1/2-ounce) packages party rolls (such as Sister Schubert’s Parker House rolls)
  • 2 pounds thinly sliced ham, chopped
  • 12 ounces Swiss cheese slices
Beat butter and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Split rolls horizontally without separating; spread butter mixture evenly over bottom halves. Top with ham, cheese, and remaining halves of rolls. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. Makes approximately 60 sandwiches. Can be made-ahead and frozen, prior to baking. Then defrost and bake, as needed.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this mini-series, which will be some of my favorite entree recipes of hers, lovingly prepared while we’re all home for Christmas! ❤️
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