For less party stress, combine the dip ingredients a day in advance and refrigerate overnight. The next day, simply bake 20 minutes before party time.
Candied Pecans and Sweet Potato Tamales from Kevin Rathbun
Chef Kevin Rathbun's unexpected rendition of a sweet potato side dish offers a twist on a holiday favorite. And you'll love it. For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable broth. You can bake, steam or microwave the sweet potatoes before combining them.
This time-honored recipe came from an AJC reader who adapted it from a corn bread dressing she tasted at a PTA fund-rasising dinner at Morrow Elementary School back in the '60s. Which gives some clue about the recipe name. It can be scaled to serve an army or just a small family gathering.
The great Colonnade, an Atlanta institution since 1927, knows Southern cooking. These muffins are a perfect example. Serve warm with a dollop of butter.
Food "scientist" Shirley Corriher has been a favorite of Atlanta readers. The AJC's John Kessler writes that these cookies are gorgeous, with snow-white powdered sugar crackles revealing a dark chocolate heart and gooey soft centers within.
This recipe is inspired by the Brown Sugar Bar Cookies that came from the Rich's Bakeshop, sent in to the AJC's Food Goddess column by a reader from Rome. And some would say you just about can't have an Atlanta Christmas without something from Rich's.
This could be a treat for family or a more adult gathering. You can whip up a virgin batch of hot chocolate for the kids, then give the grownups a version with a touch of tequila. But please drink responsibily. Contents may be hot.
For an open house
Candied ginger adds just a touch of zing to this tender cake. You can bake ahead of time, and it's easy to transport to a holiday gathering.
Sallie Fannie Rowland Smith's Ambrosia Dessert (10 minutes and fantastic)
Ambrosia is a staple of many a Southern holiday table -- often embellished with marshmallows, whipped topping, nuts, maraschino cherries and more. This version, tested by chef Virginia Willis, proves that simple is often best. Note that you'll want to chill this for at least an hour before serving.
"Purple blueberries, warm syrup, crunchy nuts: This casserole is comfort food at its absolute best." That's how writer Deborah Geering described this specialty, submitted by an AJC reader. On a busy holiday, you can prepare the fixings for this early on Christmas Eve and have it ready to prepare while you are opening presents.
Look ahead: New Year's Day
Here's a Creole twist on Hoppin' John. Hoppin' Laya adds sausage and tomato to the traditonal New Year's combo of black-eyed peas and rice.