Thursday, December 27, 2018

Appetizer Ideas for your New Year's Parties

I love making appetizers for parties. It is a great way to make things ahead. It is a great way to have a lot of variety, so everyone has a choice. While it may take a bit more in serving plates and such, I just love seeing a lot of variety on a table. I am going to give a little reprise of some of my successful and favorite appetizer recipes here. Peruse these ideas and see if any of them might work for your festivities.

My Favorite Pesto

I go heavy on parsley in this basil pesto, as parsley is a natural breath deodorizer. With lots and lots of garlic in this recipe, it is wonderfully flavored and so very handy. Use it as a spread on crostini, then lightly broil. Mix it with cream cheese or other soft cheese to make a dip or spread with less punch. And if you just love garlic, just spread it on bread or crackers. Use pesto in a grilled cheese sandwich. Options are endless.

Makes about 2 cups
My Favorite Pesto
My Favorite Pesto

2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
2 cups tightly packed Italian parsley leaves 
4 to 6 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts (or sub walnuts)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
⅓ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients except olive oil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse at first, scraping down often to process all ingredients until very finely ground, then begin drizzling in the olive oil until it is completely incorporated. Store the pesto in a container with a good seal and it should keep well in the refrigerator for up to a month. If it will not be used soon, this pesto freezes perfectly. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using. 


Bacon Wrapped Dates

Simple to make. Line your rimmed baking sheet with parchment for easy cleanup.

Makes 24
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Bacon Wrapped Dates

12 slices center cup bacon
24 Medjool dates, pitted

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and set aside. Soak 24 toothpicks in water for at least 15 minutes, to prevent them burning in the oven. 

Cut the bacon slices in half. Wrap each date with one bacon half-strip and skewer with a soaked toothpick to keep in place. The toothpicks are not strictly necessary, but do help the appetizers to hold together while baking. Set the wrapped dates on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Bake them for six minutes. Use tongs to flip them over, then bake for a further 2 to 4 minutes. Watch closely at this point, they will burn easily. Serve warm or room temperature.


Pistachio & Almond Paste Filled Apricots

Pistachio & Almond Paste Filled Apricots
Pistachio & Almond Paste Filled Apricots

Simple to make, easy to make a day or two in advance, these are the perfect blend of sweet, tart and salty crunch.

Makes about 30

1 bag dried apricots, preferably quite soft
1 can Solo brand Almond Paste
1 small bag shelled pistachios

Open each dried apricot along a seam (they are already cut, since the pit has been removed). Take a teaspoon sized bit of almond paste and roll into a football shape, then stuff this into the opened apricot. Press one or two pistachios into the almond paste.


Spinach & Fillo Triangles (Mini Spanakopita)

In recent years I have chosen to make Spanakopita Cups, making these triangles wrapped in fillo are not only beautiful, but somehow even tastier. These can be frozen, well covered, and baked in a day or two. 

Makes 30 to 40, depending on size
Spinach & Fillo Triangles or Spanakopita
Spinach & Fillo Triangles or Spanakopita

1 large egg
½ medium onion, finely chopped
¼ pound Feta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1 (9 to 10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh dill weed, minced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package fillo sheets
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Have the fillo pastry in the refrigerator overnight, or on the counter for at least two hours before using. Set the spinach in a colander to thaw. Once thawed, squeeze to release as much liquid as possible. Set into a bowl.

In another bowl, beat together the egg, onion, garlic and Feta cheese. Add the cream cheese and beat to combine, then add in the squeeze-dried spinach, parsley and dill.

Unwrap the fillo pastry, and have ready a damp towel to cover it. Remove two sheets from the pile and stack them together on a dry surface. Brush the top sheet with the melted butter, then cut the sheets lengthwise into 2 or 3-inch wide strips. Each long, stacked strip will make one triangle shaped appetizer.

Place a teaspoonful of the spinach filling onto one end of one of the strips (figure a). Fold one corner over to the opposite side, forming a triangle that encloses the filling (figure b). Fold the point down over the fillo (figure c), then flip this filled triangle once more over to the opposite corner (figure d), and continue in this manner until the entire strip of stacked fillo is folded. Brush the outside of the little triangle packet with melted butter, then set onto a clean, ungreased baking sheet.

Repeat this process with the remaining strips of buttered fillo, then begin anew with two more stacked sheets of fillo, until all the filling is used. If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, then bake the triangles for about 20 minutes, until golden. 


Brie & Cherry Cups

These little bites are also a bit fussy to prepare, but the results are not only pretty as a picture, but just as delicious as they look festive.

Makes 36

Brie & Cherry Cups
Brie & Cherry Cups
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
⅓ to ½ cup red cherry preserves
4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into ½-inch squares (about 36)
¾ cup pecans or pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray the wells of 36 tiny mini-muffin tin cups with cooking spray. Press one square of the puff pastry into each of the little wells, pressing the center well down into the cups with a finger. Bake for 10 minutes. Press the (now puffed) centers down with the handle end of a wooden spoon, then continue baking for 6 to 8 minutes longer, or until nicely golden.

Immediately press the centers down again. Place one Brie cube in the center and top each with ½-teaspoon cherry preserves and a bit of the chopped nuts. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

NOTE: A simpler way to make these: Set a .5ounce bit of Brie in a premade phyllo cup, bake until the brie melts, about 8 minutes, top with a cherry from a jar of preserves and a couple of crushed pistachios.


Southwest Frittata Bites 

These are just a variation on Millard's Artichoke Mini-Quiches, but no matter which variation, these are easy and delicious.
Southwest Frittata Bites
Southwest Frittata Bites

Makes about 40 mini tart sized appetizer bites

3 (4-ounce) cans mild green chilies, drained 
8 ounces shredded Mexican Blend cheese
6 to 8 scallions, minced
3 slices thick-sliced bacon, fried crisp, chopped
5 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 small can pickled jalapeno slices, drained, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the wells of the mini tart pans with cooking spray and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients, then pour in the eggs, mixing to combine. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Fill the prepared mini-tart wells about ¾ full. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden on top.

If desired, before baking, set one jalapeno slice on top of each.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Plain Old Chicken and Dumplings

Well, not so plain, really. This recipe comes out so jam-packed full of flavor that it is just an amazingly stellar recipe, all around. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to get around to posting it.

Chicken and Dumplings has been around forever, it seems. I originally got the recipe from an old cookbook (copyright 1969) by Gloria Ivens called "Glorious Stews." While I love the recipe, it does call for cooking a chicken first, with vegetables that will make a great stock, then discarding the veggies and starting over with fresh vegetables to make the dish itself. The recipe uses a good sized farm chicken, past its prime, in which case the chicken will be tougher than what is normally found in the supermarket and with a commensurately longer cooking time. 
Chicken & Dumplings
Chicken & Dumplings

Making the dish these days, when farm fresh chickens are not available to just anyone, some revisions to the recipe are needed. I am all for excellent, full flavored stock, and I always do my utmost to accomplish that first.

Making a good stock is not time-consuming. Once it is made, it can be frozen. This means having some really well-flavored chicken stock on hand for any recipe that calls for chicken stock, and not the pitifully flavored "chicken stock" found in the supermarket. It is hard to imagine a more radical difference.

What Makes a Good Chicken Stock?

Bones, that's what. Without bones to give flavor, I would personally just say don't bother, because the results will be pallid. If you use a package of chicken wings for a party, first cut off all the wing tips and save them for stock. If ever you are using a whole chicken, or any chicken where there are leftover wing tips or backs, or even chunks of skin and fat, place these in a bag, well marked, and freeze them until you have a fair amount and then you can plan to make stock on some Saturday when you are hanging around the house doing other chores.

When you are ready to make your chicken stock, place the bones, and whatever other bits and pieces you have accumulated into a pot, cover them with water, adding in a carrot, stalk of celery, an onion, with its outer skin left on for good color, a sprig of parsley and a few black peppercorns. Do not add salt! Salt can be added to the recipe when you are making something with the stock, but if salt is added to the stock at the start, you may end up with a stock that is far too salty to use without severely diluting it. In which case, you have just wasted all your efforts for a full flavored stock. No salt.

A chicken stock should simmer for at least three hours on very low, to extract as much flavor as possible from the bones. Once cooked, poured the stock through a very fine sieve to filter out any bits or parts. Cool and freeze in plastic containers of a size that will serve for a recipe, such as 2 cup or 4 cup containers.
Chicken & Dumplings
Chicken & Dumplings

Old fashioned chicken and dumpling recipes would call for the chicken's component parts to be left in the pot just as they are, on their bones for final serving. I prefer to remove the fully cooked chicken from the pot and cool it enough to handle, then remove any bones, cartilage and skin, adding only the meat, in small sized chunks, back into the pot. It makes it easier to eat and makes a lovely presentation. The choice is up to you.

What Constitutes a Dumpling?

I guess the answer to that would depend on each individual, because there are many types of "dumpling," and not any two people will agree on what that means.  

Some dumplings are nothing more than a drop-biscuit dough (my Mom used Bisquick™). Depending on size, these can grow to entirely cover the surface of the soup or stew. Some are heavy and chewy and some are light and fluffy. Others are dry.

I cannot abide the biscuit type of dumpling, though if this is your preferred dumpling, please use them, because the dish will depend on your liking the dumpling part of it. For me, I love best a very small type of dumpling, dropped judiciously onto the soup or stew. They will sort of blend into the soup or stew, becoming a part of the other myriad chunks in the stew already. I use the recipe for Butter Chive Dumplings, though without the chives, or sometimes the Butter & Egg Dumplings, below. They are small, and easily blend in with the other bits in the stew. These Butter & Egg Dumplings are thicker and slightly denser but still quite tender:

Butter & Egg Dumplings

Makes enough for one recipe of Chicken & Dumplings

½ cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour3 eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, not melted
¼ teaspoon salt
a Pinch white pepper

Place the butter into a bowl and beat until light, then adding in the eggs, one at a time, until each is well combined. Add in the flour, salt and pepper, stirring to make a batter.

These can be made ahead and then set onto the stew when it is ready to serve: heat a 3 to 4-quart pot of water to a simmer, adding in about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water in the pot. Drop the batter into the slowly simmering water by teaspoon, allowing them to gently slide onto the water. They will sink, then start to rise to the surface once they are cooked, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove the dumplings to a buttered plate or oven-proof casserole. Cover and keep warm until needed. 

If making the dumplings on top of the soup or stew: Once the soup or stew is finished cooking, drop the dumplings by teaspoon onto the surface of the soup. Cover the pot and allow to cook for about 7 to 8 minutes. 


Chicken & Dumplings
Chicken & Dumplings
Chicken & Dumplings

Serves about 6
2 quarts (8 cups) good chicken stock (see above)
1 whole chicken, cut up (freeze back and wingtips for another batch of stock)
6 carrots, peeled and sliced into coin shapes
3 large onions, chopped coarsely
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper (preferably white pepper)
Pinch saffron, crushed, optional

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup cold water
1 cup heavy cream, optional
1 recipe Butter & Egg Dumplings, made ahead or on the stew, as preferred
1 cup frozen peas

Place the chicken pieces into a wide stew pot or Dutch oven and cover with the chicken stock. Turn on heat and bring to boil, adding in the onion, carrot and garlic with the salt and pepper. Once boiling, skim off any foam that accumulates on top. Once foaming subsides, add in the saffron, lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken pieces from the pot to a plate to cool. Once cooled, remove the chicken from the bones, discarding bones, skin and cartilage. Add the meat back to the pot.

Briskly whisk together the flour and cold water. Pour into the pot through a sieve, then stir briskly to distribute evenly. Allow the stew to cook gently for a few minutes to thicken slightly. Pour in the heavy cream, if using, and add in the peas. If making the dumplings directly on top of the stew, do this now, then cover and allow them to simmer gently for 7 or 8 minutes.

If you have made the dumplings in a pot of salted water, add the cooked dumplings to the pot and stir slightly to coat with the stew. Serve the stew in a soup tureen with parsley sprigs for garnish on top.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Better Late than Never

Okay, apparently I got busy over the end of summer, because somehow, this recipe managed to slip through the cracks. I was so absolutely sure I had posted it, and was all ready to recommend it for holiday cheese trays. But, no. Alas. And now, it is probably way too late. Certainly up here in the cold north of the US, tomatoes are long gone. 
Green Tomato Jam
Green Tomato Jam

Maybe, in the south, or in some countries where it never gets so cold (as when I lived in Guatemala), there are those with tomatoes still growing, but otherwise, you may have to wait until next season to try this amazingly good recipe for Green Tomato Jam.

As often happens with me, I had been thinking of all the green tomatoes on the plants outside back in October. I was in the process of making Chow Chow, which turned out to be a new favorite in the relish department. And as I was musing on the uses for green tomatoes, I wondered if Green Tomato Jam would be a viable idea. And, what flavors would I add to such a thing. So, as usual, I Googled it, and found, to my amazement, quite a few versions of Green Tomato Jam out there.  

Spiced Tomato Jam
Spiced Tomato Jam
I make a Spiced Tomato Jam (click on the link to my recipe) with red tomatoes, usually Romas as they have more meat to them, and it uses lemon juice and a nice blend of spices to make a marvelous jam for your breakfast toast. At least this is how I have always used that jam, and I had been making it for at least 40-some years now. My kids loved it, growing up, and some have wanted the recipe. 

Somehow, though, thinking about those flavors with green tomatoes just wasn't really doing the trick for me, when mentally "tasting" the combination. And so I perused all the recipes online I could find, looking at what was used for flavoring a Green Tomato Jam. I was having a harder time imagining the flavors, as using green tomatoes in jam was totally a new idea for me. 
Green Tomato Jam
Green Tomato Jam

By the time I got to this idea, I had almost no tomatoes left to use, and my Farmers' Market supplier was also at his end of tomato season, green or no. Given this scarce quantity of green tomatoes, my idea came a bit late in the season, though next year I will rectify this! 

In the end, I opted to flavor this jam with lime juice (a more "green" flavor) and zest, and then opted to use a star anise (because someone mentioned it as a possibility and I happen to have a bag of them), a cinnamon stick, some fresh ginger and just for the heck of it, a vanilla pod. I planned to just cook this jam down on my own rather than use pectin, and to ensure that it would set, I used a little bit of agar agar (a non-animal "gelatin") towards the end of cooking. It set absolutely perfectly, and when I tasted the result, I was amazed at how wonderful it was. 

While I could certainly imagine tasting it on a piece of toast, what first jumped to mind was that it would be fantastic on cheese and crackers. I tested that theory out immediately, with a piece of aged white cheddar and OMG! Okay, new favorite on the cheese platter! So without further ado, here is what I did:

Green Tomato Jam

Makes 4½ cups
Green Tomato Jam
Green Tomato Jam

3 pounds green tomatoes, washed
3 cups granulated sugar
5 tablespoons lime juice
zest of one lime
1 vanilla pod
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 - 4-inches)
1 walnut sized chunk fresh ginger, peeled & finely grated
½ teaspoon agar agar
½ cup water

Cut the green tomatoes into approximately 1-inch and pulse them, in batches if necessary, in the food processor until broken down to a coarse texture. Place the tomato mixture into a wide pot and add in the sugar, lime juice and zest and stir. Set pan onto medium heat, stirring often until the sugar is all dissolved. 

While the sugar is dissolving, slice the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds and add to the pot, along with the pod, the star anise, cinnamon stick and ginger pulp. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce to a medium simmer and cook until the mixture reaches about 220 to 222 degrees, stirring occasionally. This will take approximately an hour.

Separately, have ready the agar agar mixed into the water. Once the temperature reaches 220, stir in this mixture and cook for a further 3 minutes. Pour the jam into sterile, one-cup jars, seal and cool, then store in the refrigerator. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Party Season is Here

Appetizers at Friday Party
Appetizers at Friday Party
Most people attend at least one party get-together over the end of year holidays, if not many of them. I made appetizers for a wine tasting last Friday evening, some of which were new and some of which were old standbys and some of which were sort of re-created.

This party was a wine tasting and pairing that was won at auction in April at the Winefest Renaissance, benefiting the Boys and Girls Club.

One of the appetizers, one that always is well received, is something I created quite a few years ago. It is quick and easy and delicious. I call them Andouille Coins.

Andouille is a spicy sausage known well in Louisiana. It is used in things like Gumbo, Jambalaya and Etoufee. Since I now live way up north in South Dakota, true Andouille is not available here, though a South Dakota company called Frohling's makes their own version of it. While it has no spicy heat, it does have a lovely spice mixture to it. I use these to accomplish the Andouille Coins, and have had rave reviews, so heartening, for such an easy appetizer. 

Andouille Coins

Andouille Coins
Andouille Coins

Makes 55 to 60

4 Andouille sausages
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 jar mango chutney, for serving

On a floured surface, roll out the thawed puff pastry sheet to the width that will accommodate two of the sausages lengthwise, and deep enough to be able to roll up two sausages with enough overlap to seal the roll shut, using a little water at the edge. Usually the depth will be nearly perfect as is.

Once the rolls are created, they can be wrapped in waxed paper and kept in a zip-top baggie for a couple of days, or they can be sliced and baked immediately.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice the rolls across, about ¼-inch thick, into "coin" shapes. Set the coins about an inch apart on the parchment lined sheets and bake them for about 20 minutes, or until the puff pastry has puffed significantly and turned golden. 
Making Andouille Coins
Making Andouille Coins

Serve these at room temperature with a small dollop of mango chutney (I use store bought "Major Grey's Mango Chutney").


One of the appetizers I served was something I called Chicken and Mushroom Pâté. Maybe I should change the name? No one wanted to eat it. I grant you, it doesn't have the eye-appeal the other appetizers had, but the flavors were just tremendous. I used a recipe I had created some years ago, to pair with a Pinot Noir wine at the Winefest Renaissance. While the pairing was perfect, again, it wasn't all that well received. I did find out that the Malbec that was served that evening was a match made in heaven. The Pinot was perfect, but the Malbec really shone, alongside this Chicken & Mushroom "Spread."

Chicken & Mushroom Spread
Chicken & Mushroom Spread
My recipe contains no chicken liver, or any kind of liver. I went for chicken thigh meat and sauteed mushrooms as the base mixture, to create a nicely earthy pairing for the earthy Pinot Noir. This time, I used the base recipe, but ground the mixture more finely, and added in some extra things to jazz up the flavors. And the flavors are amazing. I've been eating the leftovers every day since!

I skipped the "Pepperless Piquancy" mixture and used black pepper. I fried 6 slices of bacon and then ground those fine, along with the cooked chicken thighs and well-sauteed mushrooms. I added all the bacon fat in the pan, also, as I wanted the nicest "mouthfeel" possible. I substituted a couple of large shallots for the onion. I substituted dry Vermouth for the dry white wine. I folded in at the end about three teaspoons of nonpareil capers and a half cup of sliced scallions. Nothing too huge for changes, but just enough. It was delicious. I served the spread with mixed olives and large caper berries, with an array of crackers, pita chips and bruschetta breads.

Chicken Mushroom Spread

Makes about 3 cups

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, well trimmed
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 - 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots (about 6 - 6 1/2 ounces, total), finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), sliced
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds, ground, optional
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
⅔ cup dry Vermouth or dry white wine
6 slices bacon, cut in ¼-inch pieces
more olive oil, for frying the chicken
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers, drained
½ cup sliced scallions
3 ounces (1 cup grated) Pecorino Romano cheese
½ cup heavy cream, divided
parsley leaves, for garnish
Serve with: olives, large caper berries, crackers, bruschetta slices, pita chips

First, make sure the chicken is well trimmed of fat and cut into small pieces, none larger than 1-inch. Sprinkle on the pepper, salt and the minced garlic and mix together well. Set this aside while preparing the mushroom mixture.

Heat a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and add in the butter and tablespoon of olive oil. Once melted, add the minced onion and lower heat to medium low, cooking the onion very slowly, about 8 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the pan and raise the heat to medium high. It will seem a lot at first, but they will cook down quickly. Add in the ½-teaspoon salt & black cardamom, if using. Cook, stirring for 15 to 18 minutes, until all the liquid that releases from the mushrooms is cooked out, and the mushrooms are golden brown. Add in the rosemary and the dry Vermouth and cook quickly, stirring, until all the wine has evaporated, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour this mixture into a large bowl to cool. 

Return the skillet to the heat and fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Pour the crisp bacon and all the fat left in the pan into the bowl with the mushrooms.

Return the skillet to the heat and add in a little more olive oil. Pour in the chicken mixture and cook on medium high, tossing continually to brown evenly and cook the meat through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Once meat is cooked through, add to the bowl with the mushrooms. Add in the 3 tablespoons of parsley, the capers and scallions. Stir well. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, add the Pecorino and mix. Using a food processor, process the mixture very finely in two batches. During this process, add in half the heavy cream to each batch being processed. Remove to a bowl and mix well. This can be made 1 or 2 days in advance. The mixture can also be frozen until needed. Thaw completely before using.
Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Filling
Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Filling

Some of the appetizers I did not change at all were the Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread (great with Malbec or with Cabernet Sauvignon), Rosemary Parmesan Wafers (great with either a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon), and the Pepper Crusted Maple Salmon (the pepper crusting allowed these to pair well with Shiraz, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay). 

Rosemary Parmesan Wafers
Rosemary Parmesan Wafers
Having served the Flank Steak Rolls on many occasions, with people clamoring for more, they are always a great party appetizer. If time is crazy short before your party, make the Gorgonzola Walnut Filling up to a week ahead, then use a little kitchen scale to weigh out 5 to 6 gram bits of the spread and roll into thin logs and stack in a container with lid, using waxed paper between layers of the cheese logs. Keep these refrigerated until the day before the party. Set the flank steak to marinate 3 days ahead, then broil the meat and slice it two days ahead, then keep it tightly sealed in the fridge. One day ahead, roll the slices of meat around the filling and skewer with toothpicks. Do not use toothpicks with the little cellophane bits on the ends (the cellophane unravels in the humidity inside of the storage container, then leaves little multi colored spots on the meat!), nor multi-colored toothpicks (these leave the meat and filling multi-colored - probably not the best).
Pepper Crusted Maple Salmon
Pepper Crusted Maple Salmon

The Rosemary Parmesan Wafers, not a sweet cookie, but definitely meant to serve with wine, can be mixed up, then wrapped in plastic film and refrigerated until the day before the party. Simply slice and bake. Store them in a well-sealed container.

The Pepper Crusted Maple Salmon must be marinated a day ahead and for best freshness, baked the day of the party, but they can be chilled before setting out, so they can be made ahead early in the day. It takes only about 3 minutes to bake them. It takes longer than that to heat the oven!

The last appetizer I served was a completely reworked, recreated recipe, which I used for my Bonus Recipe in this month's Newsletter, above. Find it there, and if you have the time to get the tarts made and frozen, they need only be reheated for 12 minutes, and the Fig and Preserved Lemon Jam can be made at any point and kept tightly sealed in the fridge.  

I hope some of these ideas will help you plan one of your holiday parties, and make life easier for you.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.