Make Ahead Appetizers

All of this month’s recipes can be prepared ahead to help remove stress from your busy holiday schedule. 

Make Ahead Appetizers

Brie Bites

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Yields 2 dozen
Brie Bites

Ingredients

Frozen puff pastry
1/2 cup jam, such as fig or raspberry
1 small wheel brie cheese
1 egg

Directions

Allow the puff pastry to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Cut the brie wheel in half across the circumference of the cheese; then cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll into a 12-by-12-inch square. Use a floured cookie cutter to cut three inch circles from the dough; re-roll scraps. Press the dough circles into the wells of a mini muffin pan. Fill each with 1 teaspoon of jam and 1 piece of brie. Cover the muffin tin with foil and freeze until ready to use. When ready to bake, remove from the freezer and preheat the oven to 400°F. Whisk together 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the puff pastry. Bake brie bites for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden. (If not baking from frozen, reduce baking time as needed.) 




Christmas Dessert Board

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Serves a gathering
Christmas Dessert Board

Ingredients

Christmas Cookies
Macarons
Christmas candy
Fudge and truffles
Packaged cookies
Biscotti
Marshmallows
Regular and chocolate-dipped pretzels
Chocolate ganache
Chopped fruits and berries
Fruit dip
Dried fruits
Nuts

Directions

A dessert board is a festive way to serve sweets to your holiday guests; it looks impressive but doesn’t require much preparation time. Plus, you can use up all those sweets you probably already have on hand. To make ahead, arrange items on a platter or cutting board. Include bowls for fruit dip and ganache on the platter and fill just before serving. Leave spaces for perishable items like fruit. Cover the platter well with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Just before serving, add fruits and dips. Note: to make ganache, combine equal parts heavy cream and chocolate. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. If needed, microwave for 30 more seconds and stir until smooth. To make a simple fruit dip, combine 7 ounces of marshmallow fluff with 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix well. 




Holiday Snacking Platter

Serves a gathering
Holiday Snacking Platter

Ingredients

Sliced meats
Cheeses
Vegetables
Fruits
Nuts
Olives
Pickles
Dips, spreads and jams
Fresh herbs, for garnish
Crackers and/or bread slices

Directions

Creating an appetizer platter doesn’t require a recipe. But, here are some tips for preparing a beautiful spread to share this holiday season. 1) Choose your tray: a platter, cutting board or piece of slate are great options. 2) Plan 1 to 2 ounces of meats and cheeses per person. Select one or more meats such as salami, prosciutto and paté. For variety, select one or more hard cheeses like cheddar, pepper jack, havarti, swiss, etc., as well as soft cheeses like goat cheese, brie or boursin. Cut meats and cheeses a couple days ahead of time. Store them in air-tight containers or plastic bags. 3) Chop vegetables ahead. If desired, blanch vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, etc. (To blanch cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute in salted boiling water; immediately transfer vegetables to an ice water bath to stop cooking.) Store vegetables in a sealed container until ready to use. 4) Look in the refrigerator or cabinet for items you might have on hand (this is a great way to use up nuts, miscellaneous crackers, etc.). 5) Just before serving, wash and cut fruit. Pears, apples, grapes and berries are great choices. Dates and dried fruits like apricots and figs are also delicious. 6) Place liquidy items like olives, pickles and dips into small bowls. 7) An hour or two ahead, assemble the platter. Place any bowls on the tray. Arrange the other items around them. Space out similar items on the platter. Garnish with herbs (rosemary is beautiful for Christmastime). Cover and refrigerate. Add crackers or bread just before serving. 




Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls

Yields 2 dozen
Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls

Ingredients

1 pound spicy pork sausage
12 ounces pimento cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons melted butter

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well with hands. Form into 1.5-inch balls; place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Once sausage balls are frozen, transfer to a zip-top bag and freeze until ready to bake. To bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange frozen sausage balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. (If not baking from frozen, reduce baking time by about 5 minutes.) 




Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Yields approximately 20 mushrooms
Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

24 ounces button or cremini mushrooms
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces goat cheese
Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Chop the stems finely, or place them into a food processor and pulse a few times to create small pieces. To a medium skillet over low heat, add the oil, onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add the chopped mushroom pieces. Saute mushrooms until the water has cooked out. Season with salt. Remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese. Sprinkle stem-side of mushroom caps with additional salt. Fill each mushroom with a scoop of the goat cheese mixture. Sprinkle the tops with parmesan cheese. Place stuffed mushrooms onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Once mushrooms are frozen, transfer them to a container with a lid, and freeze until using. To serve, preheat oven to 425°F. Bake mushrooms on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes or until mushrooms are hot and tender. (If not baking from frozen, reduce baking time by about 5 minutes.) 

 




Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Ball

Yields 1 cheese ball
Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Ball

Ingredients

16 ounces room-temperature cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, cinnamon and powdered sugar. Mix well. Place the pecans into a small skillet. Heat over medium-high, stirring frequently, for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until pecans are toasted; remove from skillet to cool. Place a large piece of plastic wrap onto a working surface. Dump the cranberries and cooled pecans onto the plastic wrap and mix. Scrape the cream cheese mixture on top. Fold the plastic wrap up the sides of the cream cheese and form it into a sphere, pressing the cranberries and pecans into the sides of the cream cheese. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for up to a week. Serve with crackers.