Cream cheese and salsa dip is a great appetizer option for the holidays ahead. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Are you thinking about holiday appetizers yet? You should be. There are so many options to choose from and so many opportunities to dive in and prepare a bowlful of lusciousness.

What I love about dips (besides sampling all of them) is that they can be made ahead and kept in the fridge until your guests arrive. Then, whether they can be set out as is with an assortment of dippers or are required to be baked in the oven until hot and melty, you’ll receive rave reviews.

If you’re serving dinner, too, just remember not to go too heavy on the apps. For up to six people, one or two selections will suffice. For up to 16 people, I usually prepare three appetizers.

Recently, I brought cream cheese and salsa dip to a family gathering and wow, it was such a big hit. So simple, so delectable, it can be varied in several ways, too. Chopped black olives, canned chopped green chilis, shredded cooked chicken or browned ground beef are all items that can be layered in.

This dip can be made ahead, covered and stored for up to 8 hours, then be served either hot or cold. If made ahead and served chilled, (pictured) just set the dip out 30 minutes in advance so the cream cheese layer will soften a bit. You don’t want broken chips. Diced fresh tomatoes are another ingredient that can be added to the cold version.

Of course you’ll want to serve this, whether hot or chilled, with tortilla chips or Fritos. Add some celery sticks on the side, too.


Have you ever tried fruity salsas? Cranberry-beet salsa is a ruby-colored wonder that will brighten your holiday table. This concoction can also be served as a condiment with your meal (try a spoonful on the stuffing) or mixed with mayo and slathered on your leftover turkey sandwich.

For an appetizer/dip, it’s delicious on everything from gluten-free crackers to toasty bread, especially with the creamy addition of ricotta or any soft cheese.

Both these recipes can be halved or doubled. Sometimes I even make just enough for a couple of servings for movie night. The main thing is to embrace this time of year. Do (and eat) whatever makes you happy.

Cream cheese and salsa dip

1 brick (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 cup sour cream

1 ½ teaspoons taco seasoning


1 ½ cups thick, chunky salsa

2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese

Place softened cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning in a medium-sized bowl. Beat with an electric mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed until smooth. (See the recipe below for making taco seasoning yourself. You’ll have some left over for another round of dip.)

Spread cream cheese mixture in a 9-inch dish (oven-proof, if serving hot) and spread it in an even layer.

If your cream cheese is very soft, refrigerate the first layer for 30 minutes before adding salsa. If it’s still relatively firm, spread salsa in an even layer on top of the cream cheese and sour cream layer.

Top with shredded cheese, spreading it out evenly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.


If baking, place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings

Taco seasoning

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 ½ teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cornstarch


1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.

Yield: 3 tablespoons


Cranberry-beet salsa

12 ounces fresh cranberries

2-4 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

1 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1 cup roasted, cooled beets, finely chopped


1 large garlic clove, minced

Juice of 1 large lime

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 ounces ricotta, or softened cream cheese

Crackers and/or toasted baguette slices

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at or 504-0545.

Add cranberries to a food processor with the maple syrup. Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. (All ingredients can be chopped using the food processor.) Taste and season, adding additional salt, lime juice and maple syrup if needed.

Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with soft cheese spread on crackers or toasted baguette slices.

Yield: 12-16 servings

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