5 Holiday Appetizers You Can Prep Ahead

Featured Article, Healthy Meal Ideas, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition
on December 3, 2014
Baked Brie Tartlets with Cranberry and Smoked Almonds (5)
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Cooking for the holidays can bring mixed emotions. On one hand, we’re excited to prepare fabulous food to share with friends and family. On the other hand, we’re incredibly stressed because there are a gazillion other things to do. It is holiday season, after all. Preparing the food is just one part of the puzzle; there’s also the planning, cleaning, shopping, battling long lines at stores and stoplights, decorating, and so on. While I can’t shorten the lines or clean your house, I can take the stress out of your favorite party foods.

Check out my five holiday appetizers you can prep in advance. And I’m not talking about spinach dip from a box; I’m serving up tangy goat cheese rolled in salty pistachios and sweet cherries, baked button mushrooms stuffed with spinach and two types of cheese, best-ever onion dip made with caramelized shallots, golden brown puff pastry twists with hints of pesto and parmesan, and little baked Brie tartlets with smoked almonds and cranberry sauce. There is nothing ordinary about these appetizers. They are special, as is your family. And they are easy, which might not be the same as your family. Again, I can’t fix everything. Just rest assured that you’ve got a fabulous spread to prep in advance so you can enjoy the festivities with everyone else!

Goat Cheese Log with Pistachios and Dried Cherries
The log can be assembled and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.

Goat Cheese Log with Pistachios and Dried Cherries (9)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried cherries
  • 8- to 10-ounce log fresh goat cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crackers or toasted bread, for serving

 Directions:

  1. On a large plate, combine the pistachios and cherries.
  2. Season the goat cheese all over with black pepper and then roll the log in the pistachio-cherry mixture until evenly coated on all sides.
  3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove the cheese log from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving (this softens the cheese a little and brings out the flavor).

 Makes 1 log, serves 8

 

Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach and Two Cheeses
The mushrooms can be stuffed and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance (bake for the first 10 minutes only). Finish baking the stuffed mushrooms just before serving.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach and Two Cheeses (6)

 

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 24 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5-ounce package baby spinach, stemmed and chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms on the prepared baking sheet, stem-side down. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes, until tender. Add the spinach, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs and Swiss cheese.
  4. Spoon the spinach mixture into the mushroom caps and press into a mound. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over top. Bake for 10 to 12 more minutes, until golden brown.

Makes 24 stuffed mushrooms

 

Caramelized Shallot Dip
The dip can be prepared and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.

Caramalized Shallot Dip (3)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serve with:

  • Thick-cut baked potato chips
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery stalks
  • Zucchini sticks

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until deep golden brown, stirring frequently (don’t rush this process by turning up the heat). Remove the pan from the heat and let shallots cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, parsley, mustard, oregano, and garlic powder. Mix well. Fold in the shallots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 2 cups

 

Pesto Parmesan Puff Pastry Twists
The pastry twists can be baked up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Pesto Parmesan Puff Pastry Twists (6)

 

 Ingredients: 

  1. 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  2. 2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
  3. 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

 Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unroll the puff pastry onto a flat surface and roll into 1/8-inch thickness, making a large rectangle (it’s OK if it’s more like an awkward square). Spread the pesto all over the pastry. Sprinkle the cheese all over the pesto. Starting from the longer end, fold the pastry in half, covering the filling. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the pastry into 16 strips (cut from the fold to where the edges meet). Using both hands, twist the pastry into long twists (twist as many times as you want – you can’t mess this up). Transfer the twists to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the twists are puffed up and golden brown.

Makes 16 twists

 

Baked Brie Tartlets with Smoked Almonds and Cranberry Sauce
The tartlets can be assembled and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Bake just before serving.

Baked Brie Tartlets with Cranberry and Smoked Almonds (5)

 

 Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons whole berry cranberry sauce or cranberry preserves
  • 8 ounces firm Brie cheese, cut into 30 pieces
  • 2 (1.9-ounce) boxes frozen mini phyllo cups/tart shells (30 tart shells total), frozen or thawed, doesn’t matter (hence the range in cooking time)
  • 30 smokehouse almonds

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spoon the cranberry sauce into the bottom of the phyllo cups (about 1/2 teaspoon per cup). Place one piece of Brie in each cup and press one almond into each piece of cheese. Place the cups on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the Brie is melted and cranberry sauce is bubbling. Cool for five minutes before serving (best served warm).

Makes 30 tartlets

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