Friday, December 11, 2009

How to make delicious holiday appetizers

It isn't always easy to juggle work, family and a social life. And yet most women enjoy giving parties and entertaining friends and family, especially during the holidays. Christmas is so festive and a great time to have fun decorating the house, buying gifts and cooking and baking special recipes and dishes for the ones they love. If you are working and taking care of a home and children, having enough time to do all the things you want to do during the holidays is a real challenge.

The first thing you need to do is to decide if you will be having a party, preparing Christmas dinner, or just serving snacks and drinks to friends and family who drop by during the holiday season. If you are doing all three, it would be a good idea to start way ahead of time and freeze a lot of your food items.Appetizers are always a delicious addition to dinner, a party, or to go along with drinks at a cocktail party of informal gathering.

I have included six different appetizers here. Some can be made ahead of time and frozen, others can be made the morning of or a day or two before your party. When guests drop by or when you are ready to start your party, you can take out what you need from the freezer, defrost it and pop it in the microwave or oven, if need be.

APPETIZERS (you can freeze)

Curried sausage balls
Prep: 20 min. Bake time: 15 min

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
8 ounces finely shredded Cheddar cheese
3 cups biscuit baking mix
1/2 cup finely minced green onion
1/4 cup finely minced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon Curry powder

Combine all ingredients and mix well. This can be done by hand, with a heavy duty mixer, or in a large food processor. Shape into small balls and freeze for up to two weeks. When ready to serve, place on a baking sheet (with sides). Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes, until browned on bottoms. Serve on a platter right from the oven or place in cruet and cover with your favorite bar-b-cue sauce. Set tooth picks and small plates next to sausage balls.

Spinach balls
Prep: 10 min. Cook time: 15 min.

6 eggs, lightly beaten 6 oz. pkg. stuffing mix 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. pepper 2 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

In a bowl, combine eggs, stuffing mix, butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach; mix well.Can freezr at this point for up to two weeks. When ready to serve, shape into 1-1/2-in. balls; place in an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve on platter, with tooth picks and small plates handy.

APPETIZERS (make the morning of or day before)

Lemon-Basil Cheese Ball
Prep: 15 min. serves: 24

1 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)3 tablespoonss finely chopped pistachio nuts2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh basil4 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. In a mixing bowl, beat mascarpone with an electric mixture on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Stire in Gruyere. Stir in pistachios, basil, lemon peel, and pepper.
2. Line a 2 cup bowl with plastic wrap. Transfer cheese mixture to bowl. Cover and chill 3 hours or until firm. (Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.) To serve, unmold onto a serving plate; remove plastic wrap. Serve with pita chips or crackers. Makes 24 servings

Artichoke dip

Prep time: 15 min. Baking time: 20-25 min.
Serves: 10

2 6-ounce cans of artichoke hearts
2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons lemon juice
8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Beat all ingredients together with mixer on medium for one minute. Mixture will keep in refrigerator for 2 days. When ready to serve, empty mixture into an oven proof dish and bake at 325 degrees fro 20-25 minutes. Serve with chunks of French bread

Appetizers (somewhat time consuming, but incredible)

Brie wrapped in puff pastry

(easy)Prep: 15 min., Bake time: 25 min. Make ahead the morning of the party (except for baking)
Yield: serves 8-10


a sheet of puff pastry, thawed

1 eight-ounce round of Brie cheese

1/2 cup whole pecans

1/3 cup brown sugar

2TBL butter


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter and sugar together and add pecans. Unfold pastry on a floured surface. Put cheese in the center. place pecans and brown sugar mixture on top of cheese. Fold pastry over the cheese to cover it. Trim excess pastry and press to seal. Reserve scraps for decoration, if desired. Beat egg with 1 TBL water. Brush seams of pastry with mixtture. Place seam side down on a baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture. Bake 25 minutes or until golden. Let stand 20 minutes. Serve with crackers or chunks of french bread.

Sundried Tomato and Basil Spread (a little more complicated, but awesome)
Prep: 25 min., Chill: 8 hrs. Make this recipe up to 3 days before the party.
Yield: Makes 20 servings

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/3 cups sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened and divided
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cups firmly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Vegetable cooking spray
Garnishes: fresh rosemary sprigs, sun-dried tomatoes
Crackers or baguette slices

Beat 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Set aside.
Process dried tomatoes in a food processor until chopped. Add 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, tomato paste, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Spoon into a bowl, and set aside. Wipe container of food processor clean.
Process garlic and next 4 ingredients in food processor until chopped. Add Parmesan cheese, remaining 3-ounce package cream cheese, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse just until blended, stopping to scrape down sides.
Spray a 6-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup butter mixture evenly on bottom of springform pan. Layer with half of tomato mixture, 1/2 cup butter mixture, and half of basil mixture; top with 1/2 cup butter mixture. Repeat layers with remaining tomato mixture, 1/2 cup butter mixture, and remaining basil mixture. Top with remaining butter mixture. Cover with plastic wrap; chill at least 8 hours.
Run a knife gently around edge of pan to loosen sides. Remove sides of pan; carefully remove bottom of pan, and place layered spread on a serving tray. Garnish, if desired. Serve with crackers or baguette slices. (from Brenda Dills, Southern Living Magazine)

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  1. Amazing recipes! Those spinach balls look especially appetizing.

  2. And they really do taste as good as they look. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Holy mackere!! You astound me. What a life you live. I just read your "green" post and had to come and check this one out. These are drool-worthy photos and recipes. And they are so well presented. Just beautiful. I am amazed at your creativity, awareness and independence. Along with your wisdom and compassion and kind nature. You are on heck of a gal. You REALLY are. Hugs, Robin

  4. Robin,

    You are definitely becoming my best fan. It is so nice to have someone appreciate what you're trying to do. And I really appreciate you. Thanks so much!