Monday, December 21, 2009

Easy Christmas Appetizers
December 21, 2009
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Five, quick appetizers that “wow” guests and please the palate

Snow may be descending upon the northeast, but in many places so are relatives and friends alike. Food is a great way to entertain family and friends while wrapping up Christmas errands and tasks. Here are a few quick appetizers to stall the herd while preparing dinner or finishing up other Christmas activities.

1. Melted Brie With Preserves

This is an incredibly festive appetizer. Take a round of brie (or cut off any size slice you prefer) and place in a small baking dish. Scoop out a spoonful or two of raspberry preserves and place on top of the brie. Place the dish in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

The raspberry preserve adds a delicious sweetness to the cheese. Spread over a cracker or baked slice of bread and it is bound to put guests in the Christmas spirit – or at least keep their mouth occupied for a minute or two.

2. Spinach-Artichoke Dip Bread Bowl

Pick up a round loaf of bread from the local grocery story and cut out the middle to make a bread bowl. Many stores also sell sliced bread wedges to be used for dipping, but these can also be cut at home using the innards of the loaf of bread.

Look for spinach artichoke dip usually found in the deli section of your local grocery store. Empty the entire container of dip into the bread bowl and place in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the dip is warm. Serve this on a platter surrounded by chips and bread wedges and it’s a hit!

3. Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

For a serving of four, wash about 8 to 10 cherry tomatoes, dry and place into a heated pan on the stove on warm. Drizzle olive oil in the pan and stir tomatoes every one to two minutes. The goal is for the tomatoes to be mushy but not burned. After about 4 minutes, sprinkle dried basil in the pan and add a teaspoon of garlic. Continue stirring the tomatoes continuously as the garlic will burn if left unattended.

Spread goat cheese on a cracker and top with roasted tomatoes for a warm, delicious treat. It’s best to prepare these for guests ahead of time and place on a plate or platter rather than serve goat cheese, crackers and tomatoes separately. The preparation is a bit messy and can be awkward for guests but easy for the chef!

4. Vegetables and Hummus

If minimal cooking is on the menu, grab a container of Sabra’s hummus from the local grocery store. Paired with vegetables like baby carrots, broccoli or cauliflower, this is a flavorful and healthy appetizer to serve before a meal or at a party. If vegetables aren’t a crowd favorite, serve alongside chips. Be sure to mix the hummus if it is topped with spices or red peppers so that every dip into the hummus gets the maximum flavor potential.

5. Champagne

Not technically an appetizer, this is a nice pairing to go for appetizer time. The sparkling drink isn’t just for New Year’s Eve and is a light palate cleanser for all the above dishes. The carbonation also helps guests feel fuller than they are which will reduce “When is dinner going to be ready?” rumblings if the main meal takes longer than expected.

Champagne doesn’t have to be expensive. Publix and Winn-Dixie sell Cristalino Brut for about $10.

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