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.

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