Photos by Aimee Broussard.

Aimee’s Pretty Palate: Holiday Hits

Easy, elegant and foolproof recipes are the best way to keep your sanity as the holiday season rolls in. Having an arsenal of appetizers that can be pulled together in a snap with minimal ingredients or prep is key for me. Also key are tried-and-true cookie recipes for when those cookie swap invites and drop-offs start.

My easy Spinach Balls are a handed-down recipe that I balked at as a child but have now earned a place on my holiday playlist—funny how that has worked out. They are festively green, ridiculously easy, and addictively delicious. Keep frozen spinach and a package of stuffing on hand and you’ll be ready at a moment’s notice for any unexpected guests dropping in. They take mere minutes to pull together.

Rachael’s Marinated Cheese hits all the holiday high points with its beautiful and festive appearance. This recipe was shared with our book club back in September by Rachael Bellone and we continue to talk about it three months later. With a couple of adjustments to make it holiday-ready, it’s a showstopping addition to your festivities. Tone down the pimentos and parsley arranging and it works overtime for New Year’s Eve. The recipe gift that keeps on giving!

Finish things off with a treat to yourself, one of the Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies variety. These cute cookies taste great with coffee, are perfect for cookie swaps, and are a delight for the kiddos to leave out for Santa. The unexpected addition of cocoa powder to a classic gingerbread recipe is sure to become your new favorite.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
13 cup molasses
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
13 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
For Decorating:
White chocolate bark, melted
Sprinkles or mini M&Ms for buttons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg and molasses.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with a floured cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet (or silicone baking mat). Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling scraps.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool completely before decorating.
In a microwave-safe bowl, add white chocolate morsels or bark. Follow heating instructions for melting chocolate. Reserve a small amount of melted chocolate to tint with red food coloring.
Transfer to piping bags, and pipe faces onto cookies. Use a drop of chocolate to attach gingerbread man buttons. Allow chocolate to set for about 30 minutes, or pop into a refrigerator to set quickly.
When stored in an airtight container, cookies should last about 5 days.
Makes approximately 3 dozen.

Easy Spinach Balls

1 (6-oz.) package Stove Top Stuffing Mix (chicken flavored)
123 cups hot water
¼ cup butter, cut into cubes
2 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach
(thawed, well-drained and patted dry)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 rimmed baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
Combine stuffing mix, hot water, and butter in a large bowl until blended.
Add remaining ingredients, mixing lightly. Use a mini cookie scoop and shape into balls, approximately 1 inch.
Place in single layer on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through and lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Make Ahead: Prepare and bake spinach balls as directed; cool completely. Place in freezer-weight resealable plastic bags. Freeze up to 3 months. When ready to serve, thaw in refrigerator. Place on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through.
Makes 40-50 balls.

Rachael’s Marinated Cheese

½ cup olive oil
½ cup white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. minced green onions
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. basil
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-oz.) jar diced pimentos, drained and chopped
48 oz. sliced cheese (can buy in 16-oz. blocks or pre-sliced)

Combine first 10 ingredients in a jar, cover tightly, and shake vigorously. Slice cheese if not already pre-sliced. Arrange cheese slices alternatively in a deep baking dish, standing slices on edges. Pour marinade over cheese.
Cover and let marinate in refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Transfer cheese to serving platter in alternating pattern, pour marinade over top and garnish with additional fresh parsley.
Best served with water crackers.
Makes 12-16 servings.

Aimee Broussard is a Southern food blogger and award-winning cookbook author. Seen on QVC, Rachael Ray and more, she is a self-proclaimed accidental entrepreneur with a penchant for porches and sweet hospitality. Find her online at