Spiced nut appetizer and braised chicken add festive flair

The fragrant aromas of apple cider, eggnog and hot chocolate have made their way into the city — signs that the holiday season has arrived.

While you pull out the ornaments and play jingle bells, you might be wondering what to serve for the many dinners you’ve no doubt planned for family and friends.

We have a delicious menu here that will warm your guests’ bellies and look festive on the table. If company arrives early and more time is needed to set up seating or chill the wine, try serving our Brown Sugar and Chili Spiced Nuts mix to stave off hunger. This savoury and sweet assortment is not only a guaranteed favourite among friends, it’s also easy to package as a seasonal favour or hostess gift.

Moving on to the main, our Braised Chicken with Figs and Olives sounds scrumptious and tastes even better. This recipe is easy and avoids the fuss of a meal with many sides. Orzo pasta does a great job of soaking up the chicken broth that is infused with the flavours of figs and olives. Couscous or mashed potatoes also make for great accompaniments.

For that end-of-meal sweet that you and your guests crave, try our classic shortbread recipe. This recipe is another great one to make for a party, hostess gift, cookie exchange or the family Christmas dinner. Enjoy hosting friends and relations this holiday season with these new recipes; they will definitely relish eating at your table.

Brown Sugar and Chili Spiced Nuts

Makes 4 Cups
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cooking Time: 25 Minutes
Recipe Developer: Paula Bowman

• 1 large egg white
• 1 tsp chili powder
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 cup of brown sugar
• 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 4 cups mixed nuts (pecans, walnuts, blanched almonds and/or cashews)

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Whisk egg white in a large bowl until frothy. Add chili powder, salt, cayenne and cinnamon and whisk until blended. Add nuts to bowl and stir well to thoroughly coat. Add sugar and toss until well combined. Transfer mixture to prepared sheet pan and bake in oven, stirring once, until golden brown and nuts are toasted and crispy, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Tightly sealed, nuts will keep for 1 week at room temperature.

Braised Chicken with Figs and Olives
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Recipe Developer: Paula Bowman

• 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on, (about 3 lbs), (drumsticks will also work)
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1/2 cup diced white onion
• 1/4 cup white wine, or water
• 1 1/4 cups sodium reduced chicken broth
• 4 fresh figs, quartered
• 1/4 cup small green olives
• 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
• 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
• 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
• 1 tsp honey

1. Rinse chicken, pat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, if necessary, add chicken and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet and pour off all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan. Return pan to stove set over medium heat, add onion and cook until starting to soften, about two minutes. Add wine, stirring to scrape any flavourful brown bits from the bottom of the pan, cook until wine is mostly reduced. Add chicken broth and return chicken to pan, skin sides up. Simmer set over medium-low heat, loosely covered until chicken is cooked through and sauce is slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Add figs and olives let rest until figs are tender, about 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook orzo according to package instructions, in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta, toss in butter and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

3. Transfer chicken to a serving dish, stir parsley and honey into sauce remaining in pan over medium heat and pour over chicken. Serve chicken alongside buttered orzo.

Classic Shortbread

Makes approximately 36 cookies
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cooking Time: 40 Minutes
Recipe Developer: Paula Bowman


• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling, if desired


1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt and vanilla together until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn mixer off, add flour all at once and mix on low speed until dough is soft and starts to come together.

3. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness and cut with your choice of 2-inch cutter. Transfer cut-outs to prepared pans and bake until edges of cookies are just starting to turn pale golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool.

Holiday tips
• Check out the online Christmas Guide on www.20minutesupperclub.com for recipe ideas and tips to help make your holiday events and dinners a hosting dream.

• Visit www.20minutesupperclub.com/recipe/classic-shortbread to find the other variations on this recipe.

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