Wednesday, December 5

10 Simple, Yet Elegant Small Bites For Easy Entertaining

Far from ordinary, these appetizers will help get your Christmas or New Year's Eve gathering off to a memorable start. Taking ten minutes or less to prepare, these appetizers will please even the most discerning guests. They will never guess you were in and out of the kitchen in a FLASH!
Figs Stuffed with Gorgonzola and Walnuts
People think fresh figs are elegant—and this preparation definitely is just that. To be honest, figs are not my favorite fruit, but when served this way I really love 'em. They are a quick and easy appetizer and this recipe can be doubled, tripled...and on and on. Cut 'em, stuff 'em, and roast 'em until everything melts and gets all toasty—it's sooooo easy!
Makes 24 Small Bites
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  • 12 fresh Black Figs
  • High-quality Balsamic Vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces Gorgonzola, room temperature
  • ½ cup Walnuts

    • Preheat oven to 350°F.
    • Slice the figs in half lengthwise and dig a little hole in the middle using your little finger. 
    • Place them on a baking sheet lined with non-stick foil and drizzle the fig halves with 2 or 3 drops of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt. 
    • Fill each fig with Gorgonzola and top with a quarter of a walnut. 
    • Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

    Devils on Horseback
    Built on the premise that anything wrapped in bacon will make the crowd go wild, this classic Southern appetizer consists of a blue cheese-stuffed date surrounded by a little blanket of bacon and roasted. You can easily double this recipe for a crowd.
    Makes 24 Small Bites
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    • 24 Dates, opened and pit removed
    • ½ cup Maytag Blue Cheese
    • 12 Smoked Bacon slices
    • ½ cup Balsamic Vinegar

      WHAT TO DO
      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      • Stuff each date with approximately 1 teaspoon of blue cheese. 
      • Close the date and wrap it with ½ slice of bacon. 
      • Place the dates on skewers and roast for 10 minutes or until bacon is crisp. 
      • Meanwhile, place balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce vinegar until syrup consistency, about 5-10 minutes. 
      • Serve dates with a drizzle of balsamic.

      Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini
      Simple, elegant and delicious, these crostini get any meal off to an excellent start.
      Makes 16 Small Bites
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      • 4 oz soft Goat Cheese
      • 2 Sun-Dried Tomatoes in olive oil, drained
      • 1⁄4 cup Chives, snipped
      • 1 1⁄2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, plus more for brushing on bread
      • 16 slices baguette, each 1⁄4-inch thick
        WHAT TO DO
        • Preheat broiler.  
        • Brush baguette slices lightly with olive oil on both sides. Place under preheated broiler and toast until
        • golden, turning once, about 2 minutes per side.* 
        • In mini bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, process cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, chives and oil until smooth, about 30 seconds.
        • Spread each crostini liberally with goat cheese mixture. 
        • Place on a baking sheet and broil until browned and melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to serving platter. 
        *The crostini can be made ahead. After cooling, store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. And if you don't have a mini bowl for your food processor or a mini chopper, mince the sun-dried tomatoes and chives by hand then mash in a bowl with the cheese and oil until well blended.

        Mini-Brioche and Aged Gruyere Grilled Cheese Sandwiches w/ Fruit Chutney
        You'll love this finger food because of this surprising reason: You don't have to butter the bread since brioche has enough in it already to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Your guests will love it because it's basically a mini grilled cheese sandwich. 
        Makes 24 Small Bites
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        • Loaf of brioche, sliced into 1/2 inch slices; about 12
        • 12 ounces Aged Gruyere, thinly sliced
        • 1 cup fruit chutney, such as cranberry, fig, peach or mango
        WHAT TO DO
        • Make sandwiches with brioche, cheese and chutney. 
        • Place the sandwiches directly into a panini press, Foreman grill or side by side in a large non-stick pan. The bread has enough butter that you won't need to butter it. 
        • Toast on both sides over medium-low heat, until bread is golden and cheese starts to ooze. 
        • Place sandwiches on a cutting board and cut into smaller pieces. 
        • Repeat until all sandwiches have been toasted.

        Beef Carpaccio Crostini
        The success of this dish relies on the quality of the ingredients. You want melt-in-your-mouth beef that is good enough to eat rare. Get your butcher to slice it super thin. This is also where you want excellent Parmigiano-Reggiano and your best olive oil. Each ingredient will help make a carpaccio that's out of this world.  
        Makes 24 Small Bites
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        • Extra-virgin Olive Oil
        • 1 clove Garlic, thinly sliced
        • 12 oz Beef Tenderloin
        • 1 bunch Arugula, torn
        • Juice of 1 Lemon
        • Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
        • Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper
        • 1 large loaf country style bread, sliced thinly and lightly toasted

        WHAT TO DO
        • Pour olive oil in a skillet and heat it up. 
        • When it's hot, add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, just enough to flavor the oil. 
        • Add beef: You can tear the slices up into smaller pieces or keep them whole. Flash-fry them so that the meat is cooked rare. 
        • On a serving dish, lay your arugula on pieces of toasted bread. Layer on a few slices of the carpaccio and a shaving of Parmigiano. 
        • Top with a drizzle of really good olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper. 
        • The beef can be prepared ahead of time. Assemble and plate right before your guests arrive.

        Pancetta Crisps With Goat Cheese and Pear
        Top Bartlett pear slices with baked pancetta, crumbled goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey for an easy, salty-sweet appetizer that tastes delicious and looks gorgeous.
        Makes 24 Small Bites
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        • 24 Pancetta thin slices, 2/3 pounds
        • 2 Bartlett Pears
        • 4 ozs Maytag Blue or Goat Cheese, crumbled
        • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
        • Good Quality Honey
        • 2 Sprig Fresh Thyme, optional
        WHAT TO DO
        •  Arrange pancetta slices in a single layer on a non-stick foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let stand 10 minutes or until crisp. 
        • Core pears with an apple corer. Cut pears crosswise into 12 thin rings. Arrange on a serving platter.
        • Top evenly with pancetta and goat cheese; sprinkle with pepper. Drizzle with honey just before serving. Garnish with Thyme, if desired.

        Sweet Potato Squares
        With a sweet and salty roasted flavor these small bites fly right off of the serving platters. Make a double batch!
        Makes 32 Small Bites
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        • 2 pounds Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 32, 1-inch cubes
        • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil 
        • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
        • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
        • 1/2 pound Spicy Smoked Sausage, cut into 32, 1/2-inch pieces 
        • 32 Wooden Picks
        • Fresh Thyme Sprigs, optional
          WHAT TO DO
          • Preheat oven to 450°. 
          • Place sweet potato cubes on a lightly greased 15 x 10 inch jelly-roll pan. Drizzle potatoes with 2 Tbsp. oil, and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Toss to coat.  
          • Bake at 450° for 15 to 20 minutes, turning cubes twice. 
          • Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Drain on paper towels. 
          • Place 1 sausage slice on top of 1 sweet potato cube; secure with a wooden pick. Repeat with remaining sausage slices and potato cubes. Sprinkle with thyme sprigs if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

          Marinated Mozzarella
          These snacks are as simple as sliced cheese. Prepare them ahead of time to allow ample marinate and chill time. Be sure to garnish with a sprig of rosemary for a bit of panache.
          Makes about 4 cups of Small Bites
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          • 3, 8-oz. blocks Mozzarella Cheese
          • 1, 8.5-oz., jar Sun-dried Tomatoes, drained and halved
          • 1/2 cup Olive Oil 
          • 3 tablespoons Fresh Italian Parsley, finely chopped
          • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
          • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
          • 1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
          • 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
          • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
          • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
          • Fresh Rosemary Stems
          WHAT TO DO
          • Cut blocks of cheese into 1-inch cubes. 
          • Arrange cheese cubes and tomato halves in an 8-inch square baking dish. 
          • Whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, chopped parsley, and next 6 ingredients; pour evenly over cheese cubes. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours. 
          • Spear tomato halves and cheese cubes with short rosemary stems, if desired, and transfer mixture to a serving plate. 
          • Drizzle with marinade, if desired. 

          Herb Cheese Palmiers
          This recipe is SO stinking easy to make! I always keep a box of Puff pastry and Phyllo dough in my freezer, allowing me to make all sorts of last minute appetizers. These palmiers are the perfect way to use up extra fresh herbs and cheeses. Making them the perfect crisp and flaky small bites!
           Makes 38 Small Bites
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          • 1 sheet thawed Puff Pastry, from a 17.3-ounce package
          • 1 tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
          • 1/4 cup grated Extra Sharp Cheddar, I like Cabot's
          • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
          • 3 tablespoons chopped Fresh Herbs, like Thyme, Italian Parsley, and Oregano
          • 1/4 teaspoon coarse Kosher Salt
          • 1 large Egg yolk
          • 1/2 teaspoon water

          Tuna/Chicken-Apple Mini Melts
          This appetizer is not necessarily on the 'quick' list, but the salad can be made ahead and using store bought frozen phyllo cups makes the work easy. I have made these with a favorite chicken salad recipe as well. The creamy tuna/chicken-apple mixture is topped with Havarti cheese and broiled to make a tasty bite-sized appetizer. One of my favorites! I think you will agree.
          Makes 45 Small Bite Tarts 
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          • 1 cup Mayonnaise, I use Hellman's
          • 1/2 cup diced Gala Apple, or other tart apple
          • 1/3 cup finely chopped Celery
          • 2 tablespoons minced Red Onion
          • hard-cooked Egg, peeled and chopped
          • 1 teaspoon fresh Lemon Juice
          • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
          • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
          • 2, 12-oz., cans Solid White Tuna, packed in spring water, drained and flaked
          • 3, 8-oz., cans White Chicken Breast, packed in water; drained and flaked
          • 3, 1.9-oz., packages frozen Mini-Phyllo Pastry Shells, thawed
          • 12 deli-style Havarti Cheese slices, cut into 4 pieces each
          WHAT TO DO
          • Stir together first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. 
          • Stir in tuna or chicken. Cover and chill 1 hour. 
          • Divide mixture among phyllo shells (about 1 Tbsp. each), and place on a 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan.
          • Top with cheese pieces. 
          • Preheat broiler with oven rack 5 1/2 inches from heat. Broil tarts 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. 
          • Serve garnished with apple, if desired.

          I hope these recipes will help to make your Christmas party merry and bright. Minimum input...maximum output, now those are my kind of appetizers! Gather you friends and family round for an easy SMALL BITES get-together....
'll be glad ya did!


          Thanks to Martha Stewart Omnimedia
          and Southern Living

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