Whether your holiday gathering is big, small, friends or family, a few things are certain.
- People will be hungry.
- Good food inspires good times and good conversations.
- Memorable food makes lasting holiday memories.
Food has always been an important focus during the holidays and if you’re fortunate enough to be invited to anyone’s home, the hope is, that there will be some delicious holiday appetizers to nosh on.
And while it’s generally true that food brings people together, it’s the delicious holiday appetizers that are often the “glue” that keeps them sticking around.
Everyone hopes that their gatherings are successful. That the effort is worthwhile and that everyone has a good time.
When I thought about what kind of appetizers, I wanted to share with you I kept a few things in mind:
- Your budget
- Your time
- Your general cooking or baking prowess.
So, I came up with 4 different groups of appetizers keeping those 3 things in mind and I’ll explain each a bit as I progress though them.
This first group are things you can put into the pre-made, store bought small, pre-baked phyllo cups that you’ll find in the frozen section at Nino’s. This idea is elegant and generally pretty simple to make nearly ANY stuffing to put in them. The phyllo cups are rather inexpensive so your final cost is only how much you want to spend on their filling ingredients. Here are some ideas:
Mini Phyllo Cups (With Choice of Fillings:)
- Crab, Mushrooms & Pepper Jack Cheese. Mix 1 cup of pasteurized crab meat with 2 TBSP of mayonnaise, salt and pepper (Bay Seasoning spice is also a good option for seasoning). Fill the cups nearly full with this crab mixture (about 1 TBSP) then cover with a ¼” thick slice of raw white mushroom and an equal size thin slice of Pepper Jack cheese. Bake at 350 F for approximately 15 – 20 minutes or until mushroom sliced is softened and the cheese is melted.
- Salmon, Spinach Dip & Bread Crumb with Parmesan Cheese. Mix together 1 cup of cooked, flaked salmon with 1/3 cup spinach dip and 2 TBSP of dry bread crumbs. Fill cups and then top with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 F until Parmesan cheese is golden brown. (Adding a half cup of chopped fresh baby spinach leaves or some chopped artichoke pieces is another option for this delicious recipe).
- Ravioli Cups with, Marinara & Mozzarella. This recipe is quite easy. Cook Nino’s cheese or meat ravioli and then cool them. Chop each ravioli into about ½” pieces then toss them with enough Salvaggio Marinara to coat well. Fill the cups and top each with a tsp of shredded Mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 F until cheese is well melted and the ravioli pieces are well heated through.
- Roasted Veggies with Smoked Gouda. Cut 1” pieces of multiple vegetables, (which can include, red onion, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and asparagus.) Toss the raw vegetables in a small amount of olive oil, season with salt pepper and Italian herbs (oregano, basil, thyme) and roast at 375 F until tender and lightly browned. Cool and chop the vegetables into ¼” size pieces and fill the cups. Top each cup with a tsp of shredded smoked Gouda cheese and bake cups at 375 F until cheese is full melted and the roasted vegetable are heated through.
Almost everyone love bacon, so much so that some think bacon Ba, should be on the periodic table of elements. As such, here are a few ideas for things you can wrap with half strips of raw bacon and bake at 375 F for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Most items, like sea scallops, shrimp, meat balls or Brussels sprouts, should be skewered with a plain, un-frilled toothpick before baking. NOTE: The raw sea scallops, raw shrimp or par-cooked meatballs, you can buy in the freezer section. All are all done the same way, that is, wrap them, skewer them and bake as described above. Below are some of the more adventurous ideas.
- Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates with Stilton Cheese & Maple Syrup. Slice a Medjoul date almost entirely in half lengthwise and stuff with a teaspoon of crumbled Bleu Cheese. Wrap with a half strip of raw bacon and baste with PURE maple syrup before baking. Bake at 375 until bacon is nearly crisp.
- Bacon Wrapped Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Panko / Parmesan Breaded. Trim, then cut the Brussels sprouts in half (though the core) and wrap with a half strip of bacon and bake at 375F until bacon is nearly crisp. Remove from oven and cool. Next, lightly flour them, then dip them in beaten egg then roll in a mixture of 2 parts Panko bread crumbs and 1 part grated Parmesan cheese. Spray the breaded pieces with vegetable spray and RE-bake at 375 F until golden brown.
- Bacon Wrapped Club Crackers with Parmesan Cheese. Wrap a whole club cracker with a half strip of bacon and place it seam side down on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper and bake at 350 F until bacon is nearly crisp. These bacon crackers go well with many dips including Dill and Onion, Spinach Dip and Ranch.
At Nino’s, though our Party Planning services, we discovered that some of our customers were looking for an alternative to the large platters of foods which guests share. As a result, we created a program of individual “personal” size cups. They’ve been quite popular so I’m including a few ideas here that you can make at home. The idea is more in the construction than the “recipe”. Each individual cup can be as small as a shot glass or as large as a full-size cup and can be purchased at many party-supply stores.
Mini Cups (Plastic Shot Glasses etc.)
- Antipasto 1/2″ diced Italian hard salami, provolone cheese, ham, pitted olives, grape tomatoes, artichokes tossed in creamy Italian dressing.
- Shrimp Cocktail with Lemon & Sauce. I think you can figure this one out.
- Veggies with Dip Place the dip of choice in the bottom of the cup and stand up sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber, colorful bell peppers and squash. As they draw a stick from the cup, the dip is on the bottom half.
- Hummus with Pita Chips or Cucumber. Similar to the Veggies with Dip, the Hummus is in the bottom of the cup with the pita chips or cucumber (or both) on top.
- Caprese Cups with Pesto Crème. This is a cup that contains small 4” to 5” long bamboo skewers made by alternating fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, red onion and grape tomato on the skewers leaving an inch at the end as a handle for your guests. The bottom of the cup can be filled with a Pesto Crème made by mixing together ½ cup of sour cream with ½ cup of mayonnaise and ¼ cup of Nino’s fresh, house made basil pesto.
The last of these 4 categories are small, crisp “toasts” with toppings. They are always popular and exceedingly easy to make. Nino’s sells a product in our bakery and found throughout the store called “toasts”, (also known as Crostini) and are perfect for these ideas. After assembly of each idea, they are all baked at 375 F until the cheese is melted.
Warm Crostini Bites
- Pesto, Goat Cheese & Tomato. Spread top of the toast with Nino’s Basil Pesto, then thin slices of Roma tomato, then thin slices of goat cheese. A bit of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt over the top before baking makes this appetizer simply irresistible!
- Crab with Boursin Cheese. Spread the top of the toast with the crab mixture described in the phyllo cups section. Season with salt and pepper and add a slice of Boursin or Brie cheese on top.
- Margarita Pizza. Spread the top of the toast with Nino’s Marketplace pizza sauce then thin slices of FRESH mozzarella cheese. Garnish with some chopped fresh Roma tomato and small, thin sticks of red onion. After baking, garnish with a leaf of fresh basil.
I hope you try a few of these delicious holiday appetizers this holiday season and please let us know if you enjoyed them and which ones the “crowd” loved.