I love this time of year. I enjoy the gatherings of family and friends, holiday parties, festive decorations, seasonal music and of course, delicious meals.
When I think about holiday entertaining and menu ideas, appetizers top the list. They are the starting act of any meal and the perfect way to welcome unexpected company. They can also buy time when you are trying to finish dinner preparation or take the edge off a hungry teenager’s appetite.
You’ll want to have a few quick and easy party appetizers in your repertoire that can be tossed together in a flash.
I keep my pantry and refrigerator stocked with ingredients for several speedy recipes. A few of my favorite appetizer staples include pesto sauce, tapenade, salsa, jam, olives, assorted crackers, olive oil, bread dip seasoning, various cheeses (including cream cheese, flavored cheese spreads and sour cream), crescent rolls, phyllo dough, pastry shells and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables.
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Here are some appetizer ideas that are easy, quick and simple. By the way, with cold, flu and the H1N1 viruses on the rampage, I am placing a serving spoon in all dips I serve (bowls of nuts also), which may discourage “double dippers” and prevent accidental finger contact. Everyone can spoon a portion onto a plate instead of dipping into the bowl with his or her chip or cracker.
Antipasto kabobs: Combine cooked cheese-filled tortellini, quartered artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, black olives, salami and whole pickled banana peppers or pepperoncinis with your favorite Italian salad dressing. Thread one piece of each onto 6-inch skewers.
Bread dip: Have the bakery slice a baguette into thin slices, lightly brush each piece with olive oil then sprinkle with bread dip seasoning.
Cheese: This is a staple at almost any party. A platter of cheese slices and cubes can be at just about every party you attend.
Jelly-topped cream cheese: Melt hot pepper jelly in a saucepan or microwave and spoon over the top of an 8-ounce block of softened cream cheese. Serve with assorted crackers.
Pesto roll-up: Separate one package refrigerated crescent rolls into triangles and spread with purchased basil pesto. Cut each triangle in half, making 16 long triangles. Roll up triangles and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.
Onion dip: Mix together sour cream and a package of Lipton Onion Soup mix.
Snack crackers with toppings: Top your favorite crackers with the following combinations of ingredients. Deli style – honey mustard, smoked turkey and fruit preserves. Mediterranean treat – mix together olive tapenade, fresh parsley, capers and chopped pimiento. Garden snack – herbed cheese spread, fresh basil leaf and cherry tomato slice. Smoked treat – cream cheese with chives and onion, sliced cucumber, smoked salmon and fresh dill.
Twisted salsa: Here is a fun salsa variation that is almost a meal in itself. Combine drained and rinsed canned black beans, thawed frozen corn, chopped Roma tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, chopped green pepper and chopped avocado. Toss the mixture with some fresh lime juice, salt and pepper. If you like, you can also add chopped garlic, sliced black olives, chopped jalapeno peppers, or anything else. Serve with tortilla chips.
Michelle’s Mini Frittata with Ham and Cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped ham
1/3 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 large whole eggs or 4 large egg whites and 1 large whole egg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a large non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.
Add onion; sauté 2 minutes or until crisp tender. Add ham; sauté 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat; cool 5 minutes.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. Add the ham mixture, stirring with a whisk.
Spoon the mixture into 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray.
Bake for 20 minutes or until set. Serve hot or at room temperature.
1 large sheet of puff pastry dough or one tube of refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 round or wedge of Brie cheese (do not remove the rind)
3 tablespoons Raspberry jam or other sweet jam (add more if you like)
1/4 cup maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
On a non-stick cookie sheet unfold the puff pastry or the crescent rolls and gently flatten; place the brie round or wedge on top. (I use the non-stick Reynolds aluminum foil on my cookie sheet).
Spread the jam on top of the cheese, fold dough over the top, cutting off excess dough.
Drizzle the maple syrup over the top of the dough and place a handful of brown sugar on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes; pastry should be golden brown.
Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers and apple slices.