Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Prep: Party bites

The following recipes are some of my favorite little bites. Whether it's a work party, a church function, a neighborhood get together, or just your own New Year's Eve shindig, these tasty little morsels can make it lots of fun! I know I already gave advice on snacks and appetizers when also serving a big meal, but we often like to do our New Year's Eve party with a bunch of little bites to nibble on all night long. Or, if you're in charge of appetizers and nothing else, a couple of these ideas can really mix up your standard fare.

Spinach Artichoke Dip with toasted baguette

2 packages of cream cheese (low-fat "Neufchatel" is just fine), at room temperature
1 10 oz box of frozen chopped spinach
1 14 oz can of Artichoke Hearts
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts
1 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove)
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
About 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, to put on top

Thaw the spinach in the microwave for 3 minutes. Remove from the box and drain very well--squeeze any excess water out. Drain the artichoke hearts and the water chestnuts, then roughly chop both with a knife or a food processor. If you like a finer consistency, chop a little more. Mix together all the ingredients EXCEPT the Parmesan cheese. Put in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve on toasted baguette slices or on crackers.

Toasted Baguette

Slice 1 baguette or 1 loaf of french bread thinly. Spread the pieces out on a tray. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil, all over the bread (you could also brush with oil, or even butter). Slowly toast in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Rich and Creamy stuffed mushrooms
1 pound cremini mushrooms (or white button)
1/4 pound mild Italian (or spicy) sausage
8 oz cream cheese

Cook sausage in a pan, drain, and set aside. Wash mushrooms and gently remove stems by twisting them from the caps. Place caps cavity-side up in a lightly oiled 13x9 cooking dish. In a food processor, put HALF of the mushroom stems, the cooked sausage, and the cream cheese. Blend until thoroughly combined but still slightly chunky. Scoop cream cheese filling by teaspoon-to-tablespoon amounts and fill each mushroom cap, evenly dividing filling. Can be heaping over. Sprinkle the tops with a little bit of salt and pepper. Bake uncovered in oven at 350 for 30-50 minutes, until filling is slightly golden and mushroom caps are soft. Serve hot. *Can be made in advance and kept in fridge under plastic wrap until ready to bake.*

Lemony Salmon on Cucumber

1 lb (about 1 large portion) salmon fillet
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp dry dill (or fresh, if you've got it)
salt and pepper
1 large lemon
1 or 2 cucumbers

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat with the olive oil. Season salmon liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook in skillet, covered with a lid, for about 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked all the way through. Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream, dill, and the grated zest (yellow outside part) of the lemon, and 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. When salmon is done, remove to a plate and squirt with fresh lemon juice from HALF of the lemon. Save the other half for later. Chill both the sour cream sauce and the salmon for about 2 hours, until cold. Peel and slice cucumber into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. On each cucumber slice, put about 1/2 tsp of the sour cream sauce and about 1 tablespoon of the cooked salmon as it flakes apart. When all done, squirt the other half of the lemon juice all over the top of the cucumber-salmon bites. Serve cold.

Note: To make this with canned salmon, mix 2 or 3 cans of drained salmon into the sour cream sauce and just put a spoonful of that on each cucumber. This also can be made with cooked, peeled, and de-veined shrimp--just put one shrimp on each cucumber.

Toasted Ravioli
1 package fresh (not frozen or dry) ravioli, your favorite flavor
approx. 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (can use normal breadcrumbs; I just love the crunchiness of Panko)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
Butter and olive oil
marinara sauce and/or alfredo sauce (I like jarred, because it is easy)

1) In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and the parmesan cheese.
2) In another small bowl, beat the egg with 1 TBSP of water until frothy.
3) Heat a large frying pan over medium heat with 2 TBSP butter and 2 TBSP olive oil.
4) Dip each individual ravioli first in the beaten egg, and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in the frying pan for about 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Remove to a plate with paper towels to drain. This will probably take several batches, so if the oil starts to run low, add more butter and olive oil to the pan.
5) Heat up some marinara sauce and/or alfredo sauce and dip the toasted ravioli in your favorite sauces. We even tried it with Hollandaise sauce... SO GOOD... but a little more time consuming.

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