Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: appetizers

Mini Crab Puffs with Remoulade Sauce

The crab puffs can be baked ahead, refrigerated and reheated just before game time.

Ingredients

1/2 pound fresh crab meat
2 tablespoons minced bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 scallion, minced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crab seasoning (recommended Old Bay)
2 tablespoons almond flour or all-purpose flour

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the crab in a mixing bowl. Mix well and then fold in the crab meat.

Cover the bowl and chill the mixture until ready to bake.

Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and, using a cookie scoop, fill 15 openings to the top of the muffin cup with the crab mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 -20 minutes until cooked through and lightly golden brown.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and remove to a serving platter.

Serve with

Remoulade Sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a serving dish. Whisk until completely mixed. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and bake before serving.

Ingredients

15 large mushrooms cleaned and stems removed

Spinach filling

1 scallion, minced
1 small garlic, grated
1 pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
3 ounces feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Olive oil

Directions

Hollow out the mushrooms and reserve the mushroom stems for another use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a glass baking dish and put the dish in the oven while the oven preheats.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stuff the caps with the filling and place in the hot prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.Place on a serving platter.

If the Mushrooms have been in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature for an hour before cooking.

They may need to be baked a little longer.

Mini Pepper Nachos

Ingredients

15 mini peppers
1 lb lean ground beef
2 tablespoons taco seasoning, see recipe below
½ cup of water
1 cup of salsa
Half an onion, diced
Sliced pickled jalapenos to taste
15 Mini peppers

Cheese Sauce

1 cup Velveeta light cheese, cubed
½ cup shredded Mexican blend or Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a13x9 inch baking dish.
Cut the mini peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves in the baking dish.

Brown the meat in a medium skill. Add the taco seasoning and water. Simmer until the liquid evaporates. Spoon the beef into each pepper half. Place a spoonful of salsa on each pepper. Sprinkle the diced onion on top. Add slices of jalapeno to taste. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Make the cheese sauce: Place the cheeses and milk in a microwave-safe dish or measuring cup. Hear for two minutes. Stir. Return the mixture to the microwave for 30 seconds if the cheese is not melted or set aside for a few minutes and the cheese will finish melting. Stir well.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour the cheese sauce over the peppers and place the dish under the broiler. Broil for a few minutes, just until the top begins to brown. Watch carefully.

Taco Seasoning

Ingredients

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Stir all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
Add 2 tablespoons taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water per pound of browned meat.


springpartycover

Hosting a spring party soon for the mother-to-be//bride-to-be or the graduate or for a special birthday/anniversary? Spring celebrations are a great time of year for gathering with family and friends.

The first flowers of the season make perfect centerpieces. Grocery stores and home improvement stores have bulbs, like crocus, tulips and daffodils, in pots and blooming and these can add a feeling of spring to your party area.

Take advantage of the spring produce in the market. Make dishes ahead of time, if you can. Set up the drinks/cocktails in a special area. Small bites are the easiest and most functional way to serve party foods. Even if you are going to serve a main course, keep the appetizers and desserts simple finger foods. Here are some easy recipes to get you started.

Appetizers

springparty1

Antipasto Skewers

24 skewers

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Italian salami, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • One 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces 
  • One 14 -ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • Small wood or bamboo skewers

Directions

Thread 1 small or 1/2 of a large basil leaf onto a small wooden skewer. Add a piece of roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke and salami, arranging them in that order on the skewer so that it can stand up on the salami end. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.The skewers can be assembled ahead and refrigerated until serving time.

springparty4

Crab Salad Rolls

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 large celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds lump crab meat, picked over and lightly broken up
  • Salt
  • 16 mini brioche or mini hamburger rolls, split
  • 16 small Boston lettuce leaves

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the celery and lemon juice and season with cayenne. Gently fold in the crab meat and season with salt. Fill the buns with the lettuce and the crab salad and arrange on a decorative tray. The crab salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fill the rolls just before serving.

springparty2

Eggplant Compote

Serve with crostini, flatbread or pita chips.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce, (marinara)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

Place the diced eggplant in a steamer basket. Set the basket over 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and steam the eggplant until tender, about 12 minutes; drain well.

In a large skillet, combine the tomatoes with the garlic, oregano and paprika and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, 5 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and the eggplant and simmer, gently stirring a few times, until the eggplant is flavored with the sauce, no more than 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper; add the lemon zest and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The compote can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Desserts

springparty3

Chocolate-Zucchini Bites

Makes 24

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 24 walnut or pecan halves
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup finely grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugar, salt and egg until combined. Add vanilla, zucchini and sour cream and stir until incorporated.

Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa powder into another bowl and stir until combined. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Spray two mini muffin pans or one 24 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup with 2 tablespoons batter and top with a walnut.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes.

Let muffins cool slightly in pans on wire racks before removing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

springparty5

Strawberry Tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • One 4-serving-size package (Jello) instant pudding mix (vanilla or cheesecake flavored)
  • 1 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup strawberry preserves
  • Sliced strawberries and toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Directions

For the tart shells:

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar and ground almonds. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until pieces are pea-size.

In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Gradually stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined.

Gently knead just until smooth and form the dough into a ball. If necessary, cover and chill about 1 hour until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Divide the dough into 24 pieces.

Shape pieces into balls. Press dough evenly into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 ungreased 1-3/4-inch muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix, evaporated milk, vanilla and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

Spoon 2 teaspoons of the filling into each tart shell. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

Before serving, top each tart with a 1/2 teaspoon of the preserves and a strawberry slice and a few sliced almonds. Makes 24.

springparty6

Carrot Cupcakes

Yield: 20 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded carrots

Frosting:

  • 12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs until well blended. Beat in applesauce and vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in another bowl and gradually beat into the sugar mixture until blended. Stir in carrots.

Fill 20 paper-lined muffin cups half full.

Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients and beat until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until serving time.


fingerfoods

How did finger foods come about? Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of liquor. Even before the law took effect in 1920, Congress passed the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, which outlawed the sale of “intoxicating beverages”—defined as any drink containing 0.5 percent or more of alcohol.

Of course, no amount of legislation could transform all Americans into teetotalers; instead, Prohibition simply drove alcohol consumption underground. Millions of people in small towns and large cities imbibed at secret taverns and bars called speakeasies. Many were drab, makeshift saloons in basements or tenements located in shabby parts of town. Some, however, were fine restaurants in their own right, including New York City’s swanky 21 Club, which featured two bars, a dance floor, dining rooms on two levels and underground passageways leading to a secret wine cellar.

To help soak up the booze and drive up sales, some enterprising speakeasy proprietors began offering more than just popular cocktails of the day. Rather than heavy meals, customers were offered assorted bite-sized canapés to snack.

It was also during this period that the custom of hosting cocktail parties at home became fashionable. The rise of these parties led to the popularization of an increasingly wide array of finger foods. Hosts paraded out such popular foods as lobster canapés, caviar rolls, crab meat cocktails, shrimp patties, oyster toast, jellied anchovy molds, radish roses, devilled eggs and savory cheese balls. Sweet selections included fruit cocktail cups topped with powdered sugar or marshmallows.

Even after the 1933 repeal of the 18th Amendment, the practice of serving finger foods at restaurants, bars and cocktail parties lived on and quickly became a popular American culinary tradition. Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book,”  contained many finger food recipes and became widely used in the United States throughout the 1920s.

Care to whip up some Prohibition-era finger foods at your next holiday gathering? Try the easy recipes below.

fingerfoods1

Mini Appetizer Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup jarred or frozen and thawed artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat each of two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. Divide prepared pizza dough into 32 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured work surface, press each piece into a 2-inch round with the palm of your hand. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, turning once to coat lightly in oil.

Season with salt and pepper. Divide mozzarella, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts among rounds. Sprinkle with red-pepper flakes.

Bake until the cheese is bubbling and dough is crisp and golden brown, about 12 minutes.

fingerfoods2

Marinated Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 cups assorted unpitted olives, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 thin orange slices
  • 3 thin lemon slices
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • Red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine olives, olive oil, orange slices, lemon slices and fresh thyme. Season to taste with crushed red-pepper flakes.

Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer olives, fruit and herbs to a serving dish; reserve oil for salads.

fingerfoods3

Pancetta-Wrapped Figs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, stemmed
  • 12 ounces pancetta, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips

Directions

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, and cloves to a boil in a small saucepan. Add figs, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, to bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer figs to a cutting board using a slotted spoon; cut in half. Wrap a pancetta strip around each half. Transfer, seam side down, to a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Bake until pancetta is browned, about 30 minutes. Secure each with a toothpick. Serve warm.

fingerfoods4

Sausage-Cheddar Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups grated cheddar (1/2 pound)
  • 1 pound bulk pork, chicken or turkey sausage
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, grated on large holes of a box grater
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and baking powder. Add cheddar and toss to coat. Add sausage, onion and butter.

With your hands, mix until well combined and roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place balls, 1/2 inch apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until balls are golden and cooked through, 25 minutes. Serve warm.

fingerfoods5

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven until the oil is hot, 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, cayenne pepper, and cumin seed. Season with salt and toss to combine. Place chickpea mixture on hot baking sheet and spread in a single layer.

Bake until chickpeas are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

fingerfoods6

Artichoke-Parmesan Crostini

Ingredients

  • 8 slices (1/4 inch thick) baguette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 jar (6 1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make crostini: Brush baguette slices on both sides with a total of 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, and bake, turning over once, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, make topping: Finely chop artichokes, and combine in a bowl with Parmesan, parsley, and remaining tablespoon oil.

Dividing evenly, spoon topping on crostini and garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired.

fingerfoods7

Shrimp Salad Canapes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • Thin crackers, for serving

Directions

Bring water, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add half the shrimp, and cook until opaque, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a plate, and let cool. Repeat with remaining shrimp. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour in oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in creme fraiche. Fold in shallot, chives and shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 4 hours). Serve on crackers.


party time

Springtime is a great reason to throw a fun-filled party full of happy colors and delectable treats. Between graduations, wedding engagements, bridal and baby showers, you’re bound to play hostess at some point. With a little preparation, you can save yourself a lot of headache at the party. Start a few days in advance to ensure you have everything—including time to yourself to relax.

The most important question when hosting any party is how many guests to invite. Plan according to your space limitations and budget. If you’re having a family oriented get-together, be aware of kids’ vacation schedules. For birthday parties, get your invitations out three weeks in advance; two weeks for informal backyard gatherings or picnics. As a rough rule of thumb for other gatherings—graduations, bridal showers, engagement parties—send an invitation six weeks in advance.

The decor of your party sets the tone. Light pastel colors always work for spring—think lavender, yellow, pink, sage green—and soft orange and turquoise are particularly popular. Always stick to two colors: one light/neutral color and one bright shade that pops.

For centerpiece ideas – Fresh fruit is beautiful, simple…and ultimately tasty for the guests! Choose fruit people can eat easily: mounds of cherries, strawberries, apricots and grapes. White unscented candles are classic and affordable. Buy them in different shapes and sizes—tea lights, floating votives, pillars—and crowd them together in groups on tables. Just be sure to avoid scented varieties, as guests may be allergic and the smell will conflict with the food.

Set up a self-serve bar with one signature drink as well as beer, wine and soft drinks. Some people are uncomfortable at parties, especially when they don’t know people. Having a self-serve bar gives them something to do and is a way for them to meet people.

3.2.3_2A_Antipasti Salad

Forgo catering. My favorite appetizer suggestion is to serve antipasto platters, bread and a few simple desserts. Antipasto plates are colorful offerings of marinated vegetables—think artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or pickled radishes—salty olives, rustic artisan breads, natural deli meats, small bites of seafood and rich cheeses. With antipasto, it’s always best to keep things simple and incorporate a few fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re set. Try these simple ideas:

  • Jarred marinated artichoke hearts served with water crackers and Camembert cheese
  • Sliced tomatoes marinated in Italian dressing, served with slices of havarti cheese and garlic-stuffed green olives
  • Thinly sliced Genoa salami and Cacio de Roma cheese served with crusty bread
  • Shaved prosciutto with chunks of fresh cantaloupe and a bowl of mixed roasted nuts
  • Jarred roasted red and yellow peppers, garlic hummus and pita bread
  • Toasted focaccia bread with sardines and sweet onions
  • Olives, capers, sweet pickles and natural pepperoni or smoked peppered turkey breast
  • Roasted almonds, walnuts and pine nuts served with dried and fresh figs in season
  • Homemade garlic bread served with marinated cubed tomatoes and cold shrimp
  • Grilled vegetables with marinated fresh mozzarella

When planning for a large group or party, set out platters that mix and match an assortment of antipasto or other types of appetizer items, like this:

Meat: Start with a selection of natural deli meats—maybe pepperoni, salami and prosciutto—then add mixed olives, a wheel of creamy brie, deviled eggs, roasted vegetables and crackers.

Vegetarian: Present marinated olives or olive tapenade, sliced semolina bread, fire-roasted peppers, vegetarian stuffed dolmas and roasted garlic hummus.

Seafood: Consider a plate of thin crackers or crostini served with sardines, anchovies, Italian tuna and smoked salmon, then add cream cheese, sliced marinated onions and capers.

Fresh Fruit and Nuts: Serve chunks of fresh cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon alongside natural deli meats, cheese and add toasted walnuts and roasted, salted pistachios.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese: Pair roasted vegetables with tangy cheeses like feta, Gruyère or aged Manchego. For the roasted veggies, think about eggplant, beets, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, onions and garlic. Simply toss raw veggies with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a 450°F oven until tender.

Cheese and More Cheese: Look for out-of-the-ordinary cheeses like cheese made with red peppers or black peppercorns, rosemary coated Manchego, Caciotta cheese with green olives, Gouda with mustard seeds or cumin, goat cheese made with red wine and Sottocenere cheese with truffles and a hint of cinnamon. Then combine them with a few traditional ones like provolone or fresh mozzarella. Serve with slices of fresh crusty country bread.

Here are a few other ideas for appetizers for your next party. What are your favorite party foods?

party appetizer 1

Tortellini Salad Skewers

Any vegetable can be substituted for the sugar snap peas.

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (9-oz.) package refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 (8-oz.) package frozen sugar snap peas
  • 68 (4-inch) wooden skewers
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half

Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or honey
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Place sugar snap peas in a small bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 2 minutes. Let stand, covered, 2 minutes.

Make the vinaigrette:

Whisk together vinegar, fresh dill, Dijon mustard, garlic and sugar. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until thoroughly combined. Whisk in kosher salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Thread each skewer with 1 sugar snap pea, 1 tortellini and 1 tomato half. Place skewers in a 13×9 inch baking dish.

Pour Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette over skewers, turning to coat. Cover and chill 4 hours. Transfer skewers to a decorative serving platter.

party appetizer 2

Chicken Salad-Stuffed Eggs

Makes 48 appetizer servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skinned and boned chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 24 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (light works fine)
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill on an outdoor grill, covered with the lid, over high heat (400° to 500°) for 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 15 minutes; cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

Slice hard-cooked eggs in half lengthwise; carefully remove yolks, keeping egg white halves intact. Arrange them on serving platters. Set yolks aside.

Stir together mayonnaise, the  next 4 ingredients (onion-lemon) and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Pulse cooled chicken and egg yolks, in batches, in a food processor 3 to 4 times or until chunky; stir into mayonnaise mixture.

Spoon chicken mixture evenly into egg white halves. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

party appetizer 3

Basil-Cheese Roulade

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) package light cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces Roquefort cheese, softened
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Garnishes: fresh flat-leaf parsley, fresh basil, edible flowers
  • Assorted crackers

Directions

Beat cream cheese and Roquefort cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread cheese mixture into an 11×8 inch rectangle onthe  parchment paper. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Process spinach and the next 4 ingredients (parsley-oil) in a food processor until smooth.

Stir in freshly grated Parmesan cheese, chopped toasted walnuts and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Spread spinach mixture evenly over cheese rectangle on the parchment covered pan. Using the parchment paper as a guide, roll up, jelly roll fashion.

Wrap in parchment paper,twisting the ends to seal and chill at least 2 hours.

Remove paper and garnish, if desired, with parsley and flowers. Serve with assorted crackers.

party appetizer 4

Mushroom and Parmigiano Bruschetta

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped seeded plum tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar or honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 30 thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 1 cup sliced baby portobello mushroom caps
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24 (1/2-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut baguette, toasted
  • 3/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Combine the first 7 ingredients (tomatoes-basil) in a medium bowl; set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic; cook until tender, stirring frequently. Add mushroom mixture tothe  tomato mixture; toss well to combine.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mushroom mixture onto each bread slice. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Serve immediately.

party appetizer 5

Shrimp and Boursin Cheese Melts

Makes: 28 melts

Ingredients

  • 2 (150 grams) boursin cheese containers
  • 1/4 cup  light mayonnaise
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 28 (1/2″ thick) slices of baguette, 2½” wide
  • 1 pound small shrimp, cooked and patted dry
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the boursin cheese, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until well combined. Divide and spread the mixture on the baguette slices and set on the baking sheet.

Top the cheese mixture with one whole shrimp. (Can be made to this point several hours in advance; refrigerate until ready to bake.)

Bake the melts in a preheated 425 degrees F oven for 10 minutes or until the bread is lightly toasted on the edges and bottom.

Arrange on a large platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

party appetizer 6

Polenta Cups with Braised Beef

Not a quick dish but all the preparation can be done well in advance.

Servings: 12

ingredients

  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups polenta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into small cubes
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

To make the polenta:

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Whisk in polenta. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender, whisking frequently. Add butter. Line a deep-rimmed cookie sheet with wax paper. Pour polenta onto the baking pan and spread evenly to 1″ thick. Allow to cool at room temperature; transfer to the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of two hours.

Remove polenta from the refrigerator when completely chilled and firm. Cut circles into the polenta using a 2″ cookie cutter. Scoop out the centers of each polenta circle with a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, taking care not to make a hole in the bottom of the circle. Polenta cups may be prepared up to 2 days in advance at this point.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the braised beef:

Season beef with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat to pot, searing on all sides until dark brown. Remove meat from pot to a bowl and reserve.

Add shallots and garlic to the Dutch oven. If necessary, add remaining oil. Sweat for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook until paste becomes fragrant and dark red, approximately 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the flour. Whisk in the beef broth, breaking up any lumps. Add wine, Italian seasoning, thyme and peppercorns. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add the reserved browned beef to the sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the  oven. Cook until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (Sauce should continue to be at a light simmer while in the oven. If the sauce stops simmering bring it back to a simmer on the stove top and return to the oven.) Remove the beef from the sauce, cover and reserve.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and reserve.

Shred beef while warm, discarding any pieces of fat. Toss shredded beef with some of the reserved sauce to coat and keep warm.

Warm polenta cups in a 250 degrees F and fill with shredded beef. Serve.

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Make a simple but festive centerpiece for your table.

 

Planning Your Dinner Party

Get ready to make lists! Lists are absolutely essential for any party, as you can jot things down as you think of them. Once you have the basics well planned and written down, your mind will be free to be creative with the food, fun, and decor.

Plan your menu. Have fun with this, but don’t overreach! If you are a beginning cook, choose a main dish that you have made before, then build upon it by buying dessert, a salad, and some crusty bakery bread. It’s a good idea to never make a recipe for the first time for a party. There’s nothing worse than struggling with an unfamiliar recipe when you can hear your guests having fun in the next room. Try to plan a mix of make ahead recipes and those that require last minute baking or preparation. I really prefer having everything done, and ready to heat or bake and serve.

Think about how you want to decorate. Decorations for a party can be as simple as candlesticks on the table, or more elaborate flower arrangements and tablecloths. Decorate with the seasons in mind, too. Fresh flowers in the summer, a bowl full of polished apples and spruce tree branches in the winter, or a vase with colorful leaves and cattails in the fall are simple, inexpensive, and beautiful.

Block out time on your calendar for house cleaning, shopping, decorating, and setting the table. Make sure to save some time before the party so you can get ready and relax before your guests arrive.

Go over your menu, gather your recipes, and plan shopping lists directly from the recipes. Don’t rely on your memory for this! Check your pantry too. If you are low on staples like baking powder, sugar, or flour, add those to your list.

Plan to shop for foods and supplies that can be purchased in advance (like staples) and those that need to be bought the week of the party. You may have to revise the party menu if you can’t find certain ingredients.

Check which recipes can be made ahead, and make sure you have freezer or refrigerator space to store them.

It’s best to choose some recipes that can be made well ahead of time, and are just served cold or at room temperature, or heated at the last minute. Planning this well will help make sure that all of the foods are ready to eat at serving time.

 

Dinner Party Menu

Appetizers

Red Wine of Choice

Crusty White Bread with Olive Oil

Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Stuffed Zucchini

Main Course

Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce

Angel Hair Pasta

Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Dessert

Chocolate Pecan Cake

 

Do Ahead Tips:

Set the table the day before the party.

You can prepare the beef two days ahead and reheat it on the day of the party. The braciola takes about three-four hours to prepare, so be sure to leave plenty of time to make it.

The stuffed cherry peppers can also be made two days in advance.

The zucchini rolls can be made the day before serving and the broccoli ingredients can be cut or chopped one day ahead.

The cake can also be made the day before the dinner party.

 

 Appetizers

Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. canned tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 8 anchovies in oil, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 32-oz. jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, and stemmed (jar reserved)

Directions:

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley, and salt and pepper in a bowl; stuff each pepper with tuna mixture. Transfer to reserved jar; pour remaining oil over peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

 

Stuffed Zucchini

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 slice white sandwich bread
  • 4 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2″ lengths
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 oz. prosciutto, minced
  • 1 oz. pancetta, minced
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. In a bowl, pour milk over bread; soak for 10 minutes. Squeeze bread to drain milk; discard milk. Return bread to bowl.

Using a melon scoop, hollow out zucchini pieces, leaving 1/4″ walls, to form “cups”; season insides with salt and pepper. Stir together tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, chili flakes, garlic, and salt and pepper in a bowl; set sauce aside.

Mix bread with prosciutto, pancetta, Parmesan, parsley , egg, and salt and pepper. Stuff mixture evenly among zucchini cups. Heat remaining oil and butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add cups; cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, 2–4 minutes. Transfer cups, stuffing side up, to a 9″ x 9″ baking dish; pour sauce over and around cups. If made ahead cover dish and refrigerate until the next day.Bring to room temperature before heating. Bake zucchini 30 minutes. Sprinkle with basil.

Main Course

Braciola (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 5 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 6″x 4″ slices boneless beef top sirloin or round steak, pounded to 1/16″ thickness
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 (26-oz.) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Angel Hair pasta

Directions:

To make the filling, mix together raisins, 4 tablespoons parsley , pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a bowl; set aside. Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper, and place about 1 tablespoon filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks and repeat with remaining beef and filling.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add half the beef rolls, and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add remaining oil and brown the rest of the beef rolls. Transfer to plate with the previously browned rolls.

Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook, stirring to scrape bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomatoes, and bay leaf, and then return beef rolls to pot.

Bring to a boil; then reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially and gently stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2-3 hours.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and place on a large serving platter.

Remove meat rolls from sauce, remove toothpicks, and transfer to the platter with the cooked pasta. Bring sauce to a boil and pour sauce over meat rolls and pasta, and sprinkle with remaining parsley.

 

Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb.), stemmed and cut into florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; cook, turning occasionally , until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons water; add garlic; cook until golden, 2–3 minutes. Add chili; cook until toasted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.

Dessert

Chocolate Pecan Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

Using a double boiler or pan over simmering water, melt together chocolate and butter. Set aside to cool.

Using a blender, chop pecans finely. Add eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt and melted chocolate mixture, blending until smooth. Pour batter into pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes; cake should be moist but not wet. Allow to cool completely. Dust top of the cake with powdered sugar just before serving.


3.2.3_2A_Antipasti Salad

By shopping early and using make-ahead recipes, you can throw a fancy, fuss-free cocktail party at a moment’s notice. Your guests will be sipping holiday punch and popping savory homemade appetizers, while you sit back and admire your handiwork. As you plan a party, appetizers likely will play an important role in the party menu. Because hosting a party requires many last-minute details, take care of the appetizers well in advance. When you make and freeze your appetizers, you can cross this important job from your list. Depending on the type of appetizers, you can then defrost them in the refrigerator for immediate serving or warm them in the oven before serving. Tackling the prep work in advance gives you breathing room for all the other fun cooking when company’s coming.

Your free time may be in short supply during the holidays, as one event after another fills the calendar. And the gatherings you host are naturally the most demanding. But a little planning can ensure success.

Following are a variety of simple, delicious hors d’oeuvres you can prepare and freeze days, weeks, or even months before your company comes. Some of these dishes don’t require thawing and can be reheated straight from the freezer, making them ideal for impromptu gatherings. Round out these offerings with a ready-made crudité platter from the supermarket and a selection of cheeses and breads, and your party food concerns are covered.

Facts on Freezing

To ensure your food doesn’t suffer during freezing and thawing, follow a few guidelines:

Freezer temperature should be below 0° to freeze foods safely. You can check the temperature with a freezer thermometer.

The faster foods freeze, the less they will be affected by the process. Slow freezing allows large ice crystals to form, which damages the food’s cell structure during thawing.

Chill freshly prepared foods in the refrigerator. Then, before freezing, wrap or package them tightly-with freezer-safe plastic wrap, zip-top plastic bags, or airtight plastic containers-in small portions, which will freeze faster than larger helpings.

Label each bag or container with the date and contents. Also include instructions for reheating on the label, if desired, as a reminder for yourself and others.

To avoid food safety problems, always thaw frozen appetizers in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.

Keep a running total of what’s in your freezer and rotate foods often.

Using Frozen Appetizers

To reheat foods: Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F, reheat on the stove top on medium low heat, or cook in the microwave oven at 60-70% power. Foods generally need 1/3 to 1/2 more cooking or baking time than the original recipe called for.

To reheat on the stove top: add a few tablespoons of liquid to the frozen food and heat with the cover on, stirring occasionally.

Baked goods can stand at room temperature, in the freezer wrapping, until thawed

Some general ideas for make ahead appetizers

Seafood

Mini crab cakes can be made and frozen ahead of the party time and when you are ready to serve them, reheat in the oven.. You can also freeze seafood soups ahead of an event and cooked shrimp for a shrimp cocktail.

Vegetarian

Make stuffed mushroom caps filled with spinach and cheese. Small button mushrooms are most appropriate for hors d’oeuvre-size portions. You can freeze mushroom caps for up to two weeks and bake them from the frozen state. You can also bake olive, pepper and asiago pinwheels straight from the freezer. They hold up frozen for two weeks. Frozen puff pastry is convenient to have in stock for any last-minute or freeze-ahead appetizers due to its fast-baking nature. Brie, apple and walnut phyllo triangles freeze to perfection and can last up to two weeks in the freezer.

Meats

Meatball appetizers are a simple appetizer to freeze days or weeks in advance. Freezing meatballs in the sauce easily allows you to warm them all at once in one, no-fuss at the time when you need them. If you do not eat beef or pork, substitute turkey or chicken. Chicken wings can be prepared and frozen several weeks before the party.

Baked Appetizers

Pre-made dough makes your party appetizers a cinch. Bake pie crust tarts in a miniature cupcake holder sprayed with cooking spray, so the tarts release easily. Fill the tarts with a custard-based mix that includes onion, spinach and mushroom or smoked salmon. Freeze the tarts after you’ve baked them and defrost at party time. Roll biscuits from the refrigerator case into bread sticks about 8 inches long and 1/2-inch thick. Brush with egg white and roll in nuts, dried herbs or seeds. Freeze after baking and then defrost at party time. Serve with various flavored dips.

Spinach Balls

These little balls freeze very well, so make some ahead of time and be ready for company.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (10 oz.) pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups crushed crumbs made from herb seasoned stuffing mix
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion or garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • pinch nutmeg

Directions:

Drain spinach well by pressing in colander and squeezing paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Crush enough of the herb stuffing cubes to make 2 cups of crumbs. Mix with the spinach and remaining ingredients in large bowl. Roll into 1″ balls.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Makes about 50 appetizers.

To freeze ahead, make appetizers and freeze unbaked. Bake, frozen, in preheated 350 degrees F oven for 14-18 minutes until hot and crisp.

Crab & Cheese Crostini

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup crab (frozen or fresh)
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley , minced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

At least 32 thin slices baguette. 

Combine all filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Bake the bread slices in a 250-degree F oven in a single layer for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.

Mound about 1 tablespoon of filling on toasted baguettes slices. If serving right away, bake in a 425-degree F preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

To freeze: Place prepared crostini on a baking sheet and slip into the freezer for at least an hour. Once appetizers are frozen, place gently in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between layers. They will keep about 3 months in the freezer. Bake frozen for 10 to 12 minutes at 425 degrees F.

Makes at least 32.

Blue Cheese-Walnut Cheese Twists

Ingredients:

  • 2 (9- by 9 1/2-inch) sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup minced walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lay 1 sheet of thawed pastry dough on lightly floured surface. Sprinkle evenly with blue cheese, walnuts, salt and pepper. Place remaining pastry on top. Using a floured rolling pin, press the sheets together and roll into a 10-inch square.

Using a sharp knife, cut the square into 12 equal strips, then cut those strips in half. You will have 24 (5-inch) strips.

Gently hold each strip at the end and twist. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown; about 10 minutes.

To freeze: Place the baking sheet with the twists on it in the freezer for at least one hour. When twists are frozen, store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment or wax paper, for up to three months. Add 2 to 3 minutes to the cooking time for frozen twists.

Makes 24.

Variations

• Cheddar-Adobo Cheese Twists: 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheddar, 1 tablespoon minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

• Parmesan Twists: 2 ounces (1 cup) Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

• Everything Cheese Twists: 2 ounces (1 cup) Parmesan, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds, 1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds.

Chicken Nut Puffs

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups ground chicken, cooked
  • 1/3 cup toasted and chopped almonds
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

Combine chicken and almonds and set aside. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, seasoning salt, celery seed and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Add flour all at once; stir mixture until a smooth ball forms. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat until smooth. Stir in chicken and almonds. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

To freeze: Cool completely and store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment or wax paper, for up to three months. To reheat, place in single layer on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.

Makes 36.

 

Peppery Ham Pate

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 pound baked ham, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or Brandy (or use brandy extract)

Directions:

Blend the pepper, butter, garlic and onion powder in a food processor or blender for 1 minute or until smooth. Add the ham slices one at a time and process until minced, about 15 seconds after each addition.

Add the mayonnaise , mustard and Cognac/Brandy or extract . Transfer to a freezer proof container and freeze for up to 3 months.

When ready to serve, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and serve at room temperature with party pumpernickel or french bread or crackers.

 



Just like the rest of our food, when the days warm up, appetizers should get light ! If you’re planning a springtime/summer party, keep finger food healthy with lots of  fresh fruits and veggies.  Graduation, pre-prom parties, communions, anniversaries or whatever the occasion,  appetizer parties are a great way to entertain.

One factor to consider in selecting the foods is to serve an appealing contrast of hot and cold appetizers. As you plan, you will need to weigh such practical matters, as how much space is available in your refrigerator or freezer and how many appetizers you can heat at one time.

Foods served together should offer different textures. Crisp, crunchy vegetables and crackers match up well with creamy dips, spreads and cheeses. Think about flavor and variety as well. An hors d’oeuvre assortment in which the same seasonings and herbs are used to flavor every dish would be monotonous. Pair spicy, dense, or richly flavored foods with something uncomplicated, like maybe some ice-cold radishes.

For a variety at a large party, plan on serving at least one appetizer from each of these categories: meat or poultry, fish or seafood, cheese and vegetables or fruits. You’ll want a good balance for a small gathering too, but on a less ambitious scale.

Eye appeal is always important for party appetizers. No matter how attractive foods are individually, you must also consider their collective impact. Make sure the colors of food served side by side contrast appealingly.

Tips

Use this handy Portion Calculator to figure out how many appetizers you need per guest.
http://www.theperfectbiteco.com/about/planning-guide

  • Prepare dips and marinated dishes one or two days ahead.
  • Pre-slice and chop ingredients and store them in plastic bags or containers in your refrigerator – assemble them the day of the event.
  • Decorate the party area and set out non-perishables including serving utensils and dishes the night before.
  • Try to have a balance between appetizers that you can prepare ahead of time and those that need to be baked just before serving.

Appetizers That Taste Good And Are Good For You

appetizers

Salmon Pastries with Dill Pesto                                                                                                                                         

Basil Pesto can also work if you are not a fan of dill.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed chopped fresh dill weed
  • 1/3 cup Light Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, if desired
  • 3/4 pound salmon fillet, patted dry
  • 1 box (15 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, room temperature
  • Dill weed sprigs

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. In food processor bowl with metal blade or in blender, place chopped dill weed, oil, walnuts, lime juice, garlic, mustard, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the salt and pepper. Cover; process, stopping once to scrape side of bowl, until smooth.
  2. If salmon has skin or bones, remove them; rinse filet and pat dry with paper towel. Cut salmon into 24 (1-inch) cubes.
  3. On cutting board, roll 1 pie crust into 12-inch round. Cut into 4 rows by 3 rows to make 12 (4×3-inch) rectangles. Repeat with remaining crust. (Rectangles cut at edge of crust will have rounded side.)
  4. Spoon 1 level teaspoon dill pesto onto center of each rectangle; top with 1 salmon cube. Bring 4 corners of each rectangle over filling to center and pinch at top; pinch corners, leaving small openings on sides to vent steam. (For rectangles with rounded side, bring 3 points together at top, pinching to seal.) 
  5. On ungreased large cookie sheet, place pastries 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Place remaining pesto in small resealable food-storage plastic bag. Cut small tip off 1 bottom corner of bag; squeeze bag to drizzle pesto over serving plate. Place pastries on serving plate. Sprinkle pastries with remaining cheese and garnish with dill weed sprigs. Serve warm.

appetizer1

Creamy Seafood and Red Pepper Spread

2-1/4 cups or 18 servings

Ingredients:
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
  • 8 oz. 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 6 oz. lump crab meat
  • 8  oz.cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
Directions:
Remove 2 tablespoons green onions and set aside.
Mix remaining onions with all remaining ingredients
Refrigerate at least for 1 hour
Sprinkle with reserved onions. Serve with crackers and squash chips. 

Fresh Squash Chips

Offer a healthy side dish option at your next cookout by serving thin slices of summer squash in addition to chips. Serve these fresh veggie “chips” with your favorite dip.
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

  • 2 yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick round

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and 4 cups cold water in a large bowl. Cover and chill 30 minutes; drain and pat dry with paper towels.

appetizers1

Italian Stuffed Mushrooms  

For parties, make the stuffing and have the mushrooms cleaned and stems removed ahead of time but don’t cook them until close to serving time. Once cooked, stuffed mushrooms do not hold up well for long periods. Bake some, serve and repeat.

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 24 Cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • 24-1 inch (or cut to the size of the mushroom cap) slices of Fontina or Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • Additional olive oil, to brush on mushrooms

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Brush 15x10x2 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

 Remove mushroom stems and set caps aside. Heat olive oil in a heavy, medium skillet over medium-high heat. Chop stems and add to heated olive oil in skillet.

Add fennel, tomatoes, basil and garlic. Sauté until stems and fennel are tender and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes; transfer to medium bowl. Cool off a little, for approximately 2-3 minutes. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in egg and breadcrumbs..

Arrange mushroom caps cavity side up in prepared baking dish. Brush mushroom cavities lightly with additional oil. Mound filling in mushroom cavities, pressing to adhere. Place the 1 inch square slices of cheese on top of each stuffed mushroom prior to baking. Bake until mushrooms are tender and filling is heated through, about 10-12 minutes.

appetizers3

Marinated Olives      

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups Sicilian cracked green olives
  • 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions:
Stir the oil, lemon and orange zest, and red pepper flakes in a heavy small skillet over medium heat just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add the olives and toss to coat. 
Add the basil; toss to coat. Serve.  (Can be made ahead but add the basil just before serving.)

appetizers4

Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Spread      

Makes 3 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. sweet bell peppers, preferably a combination of red and orange
  • 1 small eggplant, about 1 lb.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cover 2 baking sheets with foil. Coat foil with cooking spray. Set pans aside.

Halve peppers lengthwise and seed them. Arrange peppers cut side down on one prepared baking sheet. Place eggplant on second baking sheet and prick with fork all over. Roast peppers and eggplant for 30 to 40 minutes, until skin of peppers is blistered and blackened. Eggplant should be soft but not collapsed.

Using tongs, transfer peppers to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to steam for 20 minutes. Wrap eggplant with foil that covered the baking sheet, and set aside for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers, peel peppers. Cut flesh into 2-inch chunks, place in food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to chop peppers coarsely. Scoop chopped peppers into mixing bowl. Pull skin from warm eggplant, using your fingers. Place eggplant flesh in food processor. Add garlic, oil and salt, and whirl to smooth puree. Add pureed eggplant mixture to peppers and stir to combine. Mix in vinegar.

Let spread sit for 1 hour to allow flavors to mellow.  Serve at room temperature with toasted pita triangles. This spread will keep, covered in refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

appetizer2

Italian Style Sausage Skewers

For variety, you could substitute cubes of melon in place of the grape tomatoes.

12 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Italian style chicken sausage, such as Al Fresco
  • 8 large basil leaves, or more depending on size
  • 24-1 inch cubes fresh Mozzarella or Provolone cheese
  • 24 grape tomatoes
  • 24 (6-inch) wooden skewers
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Cook the sausage according to the directions on the package and cut it into 1-inch rounds. Cut the basil leaves lengthwise into thirds.
Put a cheese cube about 1/3 of the way down onto a skewer. Then add 1 strip of basil, folding so it fits nicely on the skewer. Follow with 1 grape tomato and a round of sausage. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.

I always include a bowl of fresh fruit, no matter what type of party I am hosting. Folks dig in every time.

Fresh Fruit Bowl

Use whatever fresh fruit is in season.
Ingredients

  • 8 to 10 cups fresh melon cubes
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1 bunch seedless red grapes, halved
  • Fresh mint leave

Directions

Combine fruit, cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving garnish with fresh mint leaves..

  • Yield: 3-4 quarts.



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