The Christmas Season is upon us once again and in the midst of making your list and checking it twice, not to mention shopping, wrapping and posting, inevitably you have to figure out what sort of nibbles you want to have on hand for when guests either drop by unexpectedly or for a planned event. Well, I've got you covered with these 10 Easy Entertaining Edibles!
Number one nf my list is Bourbon Bacon Jam Crostini with camembert cheese. You can make the Bourbon Bacon Jam up to four weeks in advance and other than the actual cooking of the bacon, it takes very little time to make enough to get you through the entire season. In addition to that, little jars of Bourbon Bacon Jam make an excellent gift! Just make sure to tell the recipients to keep the jam refrigerated and when it will expire, which is four weeks after you make it. To make the crostini, cut a baquette or ciabatta loaf into thin slices, grill on a stove top grill pan just long enough to toast it a bit and then place on a baking sheet, top with some camembert cheese and a spoonful of Bourbon Bacon Jam. Heat on 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes and serve!
One of my daughters' favorites is my Warm Artichoke and Spinach Dip with Homemade Pita Chips. Neither one of them would eat artichokes if I served them any other way, but they just love this dip! If I know I'm having people in, I usually prep this dip the day before and keep it refrigerated until I'm ready to bake it in the oven. For the dip, combine 8 oz. pk. light cream cheese, 1/4 c. mayonnaise, 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 c. grated Romano cheese, 1/4 c. grated Asiago cheest, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1/2 tsp dried basil, salt and pepper to taste, then add in one 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped, and 1/2 c. frozen spinach, thawed and roughly chopped. Stir to combine and then pour into a lightly greased oven-proof serving dish. Top with 1/4 c. grated mozzarella cheese and bake in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20-25 minutes until mozza is bubbly. To make the accompanying pita chips, simply slice pita breads into quarters, and then each quarter into three small tirangles. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season as you'd like, for example freshly ground sea salt, pepper, grated parmesan cheese, Italian or Cajun Seasoning. Place 'chips' onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven with the dip for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time.
I recently had a small gathering for my husband's 50th birthday and of the nibbles I made for our guests, these Prosciutto, Gruyere and Sage Pinwheels were the favorite, hands down. They're so easy to make and always a crowd pleasers! To make, roll out one square of thawed puff pastry until approximately 10 inches by 10 inches. Spread 1 Tbsp of grainy mustard over the surface, leaving approximately a 1" border on the side furtherest from you. Layer the mustard with slices of prosciutto, top with 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese. Top the cheese with approximately 4 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves. Starting at side closest to you, roll pastry into a log. Brush border with a little water to help seal the log. Wrap log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days prior to use. When ready to use, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, remove plastic wrap from roll and slice into 1/2" pinwheels. Place, sliced side down on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes. Serve warm.
Every year as Christmas approaches, my sister in law asks me if I'm making Bacon Wrapped Waterchestnuts again. These little nibbles have become synonomous with the annual Christmas Eve dinner and gathering at my house. They can be made well in advance and stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to a week. I've also placed batches in zipperlock freezer baggies up to three weeks in advance. To make, drain two cans of whole waterchestnuts and place in a medium size bowl. Add 1/2 c. brown sugar and toss to coat. Add 1/2 c. low sodium soya sauce, toss and let sit while you par-cook bacon. You'll need about 3/4 of a pound of bacon and I use the low sodium variety. Layer 4-6 slices of bacon on a papertowel lined plate and cover with a piece of paper towel, place in microwave and cook on high setting for about 1 minute. Divide slices into 1/3s and set aside, repeat with remaining bacon until you have enough bacon to cover all of the waterchestnuts. Wrap each waterchestnut with 1/3 slice of bacon and secure with toothpick. Place on foil lined baking sheet. When all of the waterchestnuts are wrapped, spoon a little bit of the marinade over each, and sprinkle with each one with a pinch of brown sugar. Bake in preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-20 minutes until bacon is cooked. Let cool slightly and serve.
A Charcuterie Plate, or board if you prefer, is always a crowd pleaser! Simply arrange a variety of good cured meats such as prosciutto, genoa salami and serrano ham on a plate, and add olives, something pickled, here I've used marinated mushrooms I got from my local deli, stuffed hot peppers, padano cheese, blue cheese and in the center I placed a creamy goat cheese topped with roasted red peppers. Serve alongside a basket of warm bread slices or with crackers.
Who doesn't love weiner wraps? For entertaining purposes, I use one package of store-bought crescent rolls, cutting each triangle into three smaller trianges, and wrap a cocktail weiner in each small triangle. Place wrapped weiners on a baking sheet and bake in preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 12-15 minutes. Place on a serving platter with a variety of dips such as ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, seafood sauce, sweet and sour or barbecue sauce. For a little variation, place a small piece of cheese on the crescent roll and wrap with the weiner.
Grilled Eggplant Rolls are one of my favorites when it comes to making something a little different than the usual appertizer fare. To make, cut the tops and bottoms off of two medium sized eggplant. Slice skin off of two opposite sides and then slice each eggplant into 1/8" slices, lengthwise. Brush slices with extra virgin olive oil and grill on medium high heat utnil there are nice brown, char marks on both side. Place a slice of prosciutto on top of each grilled eggplant slice, top with a little grated pecorino or other flavourful cheese such as parmigiano reggiano, gruyere or pandano. Roll from narrowest end to widest, secure by wrapping a chive and around each roll and making a single knot. These rolls are best served warm so when you are ready to serve, warm slightly in either a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven or in the microwave and drizzle with a little aged balsamic vinegar and freshly grate parmigiano reggiano just before serving.
Parmesan Cups are another little nibble that you don't see at every cocktail party you go to. They're really quite easy to make and can be done the day before and stored on parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature. To make the parmesan cups, you'll need a heaping tablespoon of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano per cup. On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, place 1 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese and flatten to a circular shape. Season if you wish with Italian Seasoning or cayenne pepper. Place on middle rack of preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven and let cook for 7-10 minutes. Immediately remove from oven. You'll have to work fast here: remove each parmesan round, one at a time, and drape it on upside-down mini-cupcake pan - the shape will form the 'cup'. When cups are formed, fill with any number of fillings. I've filled the cups on the left in the above picture with slices of prosciutto and a dollop of ginger , and on the right, I made mini Caprese Salads using boccocini, (or small water buffalo mozzarella, sliced), sliced grape tomato, a piece of fresh basil, a couple of drained capers and drizzled it all with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
At number 9 in my list of Easy Entertaining Edibles comes Oven Fried Dill Pickle Spears and Zucchini Sticks with a Blue Cheese Dip. I think just about everyone in my family loves dill pickles and those that don't, like battered zucchini sticks. But for those times when I expect guests, I don't want the smell, (or work involved), from deep frying. Instead, I battered both the dill pickle spears and zucchini by first dipping them in some all purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then dipped them into some beaten egg, and dredge them in a mixture of regular bread crumbs, panko (Japanese dry breadcrumbs), seasoned with a tsp or so of Italian seasoning. I then placed them on a lightly greased baking sheet and drizzled each piece with a little olive oil before placing them in the oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, for approximately 14-18 minutes, turning them once half-way. For the dip, in a bowl I combined 1/2 c. low fat cream cheese, 1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese (my FAVORITE cheese), 1/4 c. olive oil mayonnaise, 1 small clove of garlic, minced, 1 Tbsp 0.5% milk, the juice of one lemon, 1/4 tsp dry dill weed, salt and pepper to taste. I garnished the Blue Cheese Dip with a little chopped chives, just to purdy it up!
And, Number 10, my father's all-time favorite nibble, Bacon Crisps! To make, I cut the crusts off sliced bread, figuring one slice per person, spread with low fat Cheese Whiz, and then quarter each slice of bread. For each whole slice of bread, I par-cook a slice of bacon in the microwave for a minute, and cut each slice into quarters. Each small square of bread that has been spread with cheese whiz, gets their own little piece of bacon and season each with a pinch of smoky paprika. I place the squares on a nonstick baking sheet and cook them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. You can cook them longer if you like the bacon to be more crispy, or even cook them under the broiler for a minute or so....but keep an eye on them....if I'm not super diligent when using the broiler, they usually burn!
None of these Easy Entertaining Edilbes are very labour intensive and most can be made well in advance and those that can't, only take a few minutes to put together. I know people who spend a small fortune every year buying frozen appetizers and nibbles but I just can't justify neither the money nor sacrificing my nutritional values for the sake of the ease of taking something frozen out of box and tossing it in the oven. I like to have a little control over the ingredients in the food I give to the ones I love and, although it probably goes without saying, I really enjoy preparing different little nibbles than you'll find at every other cocktail party.
10 Easy Entertaining Edibles....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!