10 Appetizer Ideas

One reader asked about hot appetizer ideas. IT seem that around this time of year, it is a popular pitch-in request! Personally, I love appetizers – they make a great, fun dinner and a festive start to a meal or contribution to a party. However, I don’t usually have a lot of time to spend on them so I have a few quick (but super tasty) recipes that I depend on!

1) BBQ meatballs or mini sausages (or both!) – I usually use pre-made, frozen meatballs…shhh…don’t tell. 🙂 Put them in your crockpot and pour your favorite, nice quality bbq sauce over it and cook on low.

2) Hot Chipped Beef dip – My mom’s recipe and definitely delicious! This is delicious with crackers!

3) Jalapeno Popper Dip – My boss made this last year and I LOVED it! This is my version of it. I serve it with crackers and cubed bread.

4) Baked Brie (pictured above) – You can find large wheels of brie fairly affordably at the large discount warehouses. I slice the top rind off and cover with any manner of things – jams, nuts & honey, or nuts, honey, & fruit. You can bake it until melty or you can even microwave it. Serve with sliced pears, apples, crackers, and bread. This is probably my most requested appetizer at family events. 🙂

5) Orange Cranberry Dip – You might notice a theme of dips but they are just so easy. I have one of the little dipper crockpots which makes keeping these warm and making them very easy.

She didn’t specifically ask for cold appetizers but here are five of my favorites:

1) Antipasti platter – an assortment of olives, marinated vegetables, cheese and cured meats. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you like! The marinated mozzarella above is easy and delicious!

2) Cheese ball & crackers – There are so many, many variations! You can  make a large cheese ball or small individual ones.

3) Cheese tray – Use 3-4 different cheeses and arrange on a platter. Garnish with grapes and assorted fresh fruit. Serve with crackers.

4) Hummus – You can make your own or buy it prepared! You can serve with fresh vegetables, pita, tortilla chips, and/or crackers.

5) Cream Cheese dip – Spread cream cheese on a plate, top with your favorite preserves (cherry is my favorite!). Serve with crackers.

What are your favorite appetizer recipes? Or what are your favorite appetizers to eat?

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Magazine Review Extra: Southern Living

I’m chiming in a little late this month with my take on the holiday magazines. This year it is Southern Living that has given me the most inspiration. The magazine is filled with many beautiful pages of Christmas decorations and festive holiday houses. Then begin the recipes. I really feel like Southern Living’s forte is Christmas recipes, and it is no accident that they publish a yearly collection of Christmas recipes which I often check out of the library.

The article on party trays motivated me to create the tray pictured below for a family gathering. I served Rosemary Spiced Nuts, Cheese Straws, and olives. Everyone loved the presentation and the nuts were amazing.

My Christmas dinner is slated to include the Cherries Jubilee-Black Pepper Glazed Ham, and I really want to try the Tipsy Spiced Fruit Tart with Buttermilk Whipped Cream. Cherry-Pecan Brie is also on my list. There are entire articles on caramel dishes and peppermint hot chocolate drinks, and a myriad of side dishes, appetizers and desserts.

I had to try the Easy, Irresistible Scones and they turned out to be the best scones I have ever made. Southern Living offers four sweet and four savory variations.

All in all, it is an issue worth investing in.

I decided to change around the Southern Living recipe for spiced pecans because I wanted a certain flavor. I loved the outcome so much that I am including it here.

ROSEMARY SPICED PECANS
(greatly adapted from Southern Living December 2010)
Print this recipe

1 pound pecan halves
2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 egg whites, beaten lightly

Toss the pecan with the egg whites. Dump in the remaining ingredients and mix to coat evenly. Bake the pecans at 350F for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until nuts are crisp, but not burnt!

About 4 cups.

Holiday Feast: Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner is for many the major food attraction of the entire holiday season. Every family has their own tradition — some may prefer a day of finger foods and snacks, while others go all out and prepare a second Thanksgiving feast. The important thing is choosing a menu that is best for your family and your circumstances. We thought we’d each share some of what is traditional in our families.

In my family (Heather), Christmas dinner is a big event. Its menu is planned for weeks ahead and thought is given to setting the table with  festive tablecloth, napkins and a centerpiece. It is not set in stone what our menu will be. Creative reign is given to the host to decide if she would like to cook a turkey, ham, or some other form of meat. Why all the fuss? Our family loves sitting around the table sharing good food, enjoying lovely surroundings and one another’s company.

Last year I decided to make a stuffed pork loin for Christmas dinner. It was not difficult and provided a stunning centerpiece to the Christmas dinner. This year I’m thinking ham, accompanied by a potato/parsnip gratin (recipe yet to be created), spinach salad with grapefruit and maybe spiced pepitas, rolls, savory roasted sweet potatoes (if I have oven room), and chiffonade of Brussel sprouts. Dessert will be cookies, eggnog and Christmas pudding (a simple recipe will appear on Dec. 24).

STUFFED PORK LOIN
(Heather)

1 boneless half roast pork loin (mine weighed about 5 pounds)

Stuffing:
4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
salt & pepper
3 c. fresh white bread cubes (1/4-inch cubes)
1/8 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. water or broth

Glaze:
apricot jam
fresh rosemary, sage, thyme (about 1 Tbsp. each or 1 tsp. dried)

Gravy:
pan drippings
1/4 c. port or red wine (use water or apple juice as a substitute)
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. apricot jam (or apple jelly)
2 tsp. cornstarch

Melt butter in a saute pan and tip in onions and celery. Cook until onions are translucent. Add apple and cook until apple is beginning to go soft.

Meanwhile, cube bread and place in a large bowl. Add dried cranberries and chopped herbs. Mix in cooked apple and onion mixture and pour on enough broth to make the mixture come together.

Lay the pork loin on a cutting board and carefully begin cutting the loin in a spiral so that it unfolds to be flat.

Place kitchen twine at intervals underneath the pork loin and carefully pat on the stuffing.

Roll the pork loin up slowly, stuffing bits of bread back in as it falls out. Enlist the help of someone close by to help tie the twine as tightly as possible.

Place the pork loin in a roasting pan with the knots of the twine underneath. You can either cover and refrigerate up to one day, or bake the roast immediately.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Spread apricot jam on top of the pork loin and sprinkle with chopped herbs.

Roast uncovered in the 350F oven until instant read thermometer reads 160F (mine took about 2 hours). Remove the roast from the oven, transfer to a cutting board and cover with foil to keep warm while it rests.

Meanwhile, mix the pan drippings with the port, chicken broth and apricot jam. Bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add to the gravy. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until thickened and keep warm until ready to serve.

Slice the pork roast and lay on a platter, pouring the gravy over top or serving alongside.

Christmas dinner for my family (Alaina) can be anything from lasagna or soup to ham or beef. Traditionally, my grandparents have made ham and I’ll admit that is probably my favorite. I like to buy the spiral cut, semi-boneless, half ham. It’s usually fully cooked and I just heat it in the oven for a couple of hours depending on the size.

HONEY MUSTARD HAM GLAZE
(Alaina) 

1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. dijon mustard
2 Tb. prepared yellow mustard

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat. Brush glaze over the entire ham about 30 minutes before it is finished in the oven. Carve & enjoy!

Finding the perfect side dishes can be a challenge. Here are two side dishes that we really enjoy with ham! The first is a twice baked potato recipe that is a beautiful presentation and tastes so wonderful!

TWO-TONE TWICE BAKED POTATOES
(this is a recipe my Mom first made – Alaina)

4 lg baking potatoes (8 servings)
vegetable oil
2 Tb.butter
½ c. sour cream
ÂĽ c. milk
½ tsp. salt
ÂĽ tsp. pepper
1 Tb. Chives (opt.)

Rub potatoes with oil and place in baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until tender. Cool completely. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp leaving ÂĽ in. shell; set shells aside.

In mixing bowl combine pulp, butter, sour cream, & milk; beat until creamy. Stir in salt, pepper, and 1 Tb. Chives. Spoon or pipe filling into half of each prepared shell.

SWEET POTATO FILLING
4 medium sweet potatoes
ÂĽ c. sour cream or plain yogurt
2 Tb. Butter
2 Tb. Brown sugar
½ tsp. nutmeg
ÂĽ tsp. cinnamon
ÂĽ tsp. salt

Bake or peel and boil sweet potatoes until tender. Put pulp in large bowl and add sour cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Whip until creamy and smooth. Pipe sweet potato in the other half of the prepared potato shells.

Return potatoes to baking pan – bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.

*These can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to a couple of months.*

THREE CHEESE SPINACH BAKE
(adapted from Taste of Home – Alaina)

1 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 med. onion, finely diced
2 Tb. Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

In a lg. bowl, whisk the flour, eggs, milk, butter, onion, Parmesan, garlic, salt and cayenne until combined. Fold in spinach and other cheese. Transfer to a greased 1 1/2 qt. dish.

Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes of until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

The final recipe is for an appetizer. I came up with this because it combined flavors that I love.

CHERRY ALMOND BRIE EN CROUTE
(Alaina)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 20 oz. wheel of brie
1/2 c. cherry jam
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1 egg, beaten

Roll out the puff pastry into a square (about 12×12 or a little smaller). Cut the wheel of brie horizontally. Place half of the brie rind side down on the puff pastry. Top with cherry jam, sprinkle with the almonds.

Place the other half of the brie on top (cut side down). Pull the puff pastry up around the brie. Brush the top with the beaten egg.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until puff pastry is golden and cheese is soft. Serve with crackers.

Entertaining 101: Easy Appetizers

I (Alaina) like to provide a couple of appetizers when people arrive so I can put the finishing touches on dinner. Fresh veggies and dip are a great option as well as an assortment of olives or a cheese & fruit platter. My advice is to keep appetizers simple and light. Here are just a few of our favorite recipes – they would also be suitable for snacks at a party.

This brie is probably my all-time favorite appetizer. It’s easy, delicious and gourmet. I buy the brie at Costco – it’s under $6 for a 27 oz. or so wheel of baby brie. I serve it with crackers and/or bread, pears, and apples.

IMG_8550
HONEY FRUIT & NUT BRIE
Alaina

1/2 c. dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 c. pecans, walnuts, or almonds, coarsely chopped
2 Tb. butter
1/3 c. honey
1 lg. round of brie

Saute pecans in butter. Combine fruit, nuts, and honey. Cut rind off top of brie. Pour fruit & nut mixture over brie. Bake in oven until melted or you can  microwave it for a couple of minutes until soft and melty. Serve with crackers, bread cubes, and/or fruit slices.

This is perhaps one of the easiest appetizers. It is delicious! You can use any kind of preserves but my favorite is cherry. I generally choose a jar of locally made preserves – they taste so fresh.

FRUITED CREAM CHEESE
Alaina

1 – 8oz. block or tub of cream cheese (can use reduced fat)
1 jar of preserves

Spread cream cheese on a plate and top with preserves. Serve with crackers,

This delicious hummus recipe is from Heather. This dip looks so festive surrounded by blue corn tortilla chips. You could also serve it with fresh vegetables, crackers, or pita wedges.

IMG_7437

SUN-DRIED TOMATO HUMMUS
Heather

4-5 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water for about 15 minutes
2 (15.5 ounce) cans chick peas, drained
1/4 c. olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper
1-2 tsp. ground cumin (to taste)

Put the soaked sun-dried tomatoes, chick peas, olive oil, and lemon into a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is formed. If you feel it is too thick, you can either add more olive oil, or a few teaspoons of water. Add salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator.