Ah, the Christmas season. At no other time in the course of a year does humanity revel as one in the same epic state of emotion. Now granted, this emotion is not always for the better.
In the midst of our revelry lies a lot of stress. The human being is never under more pressure to succeed as a consumer than at this time of year. My advice, for what it’s worth, don’t let the right gift, the right price and the right outfit define you this year. Let the season be what it is intended to be, whether you are religious or not.
This time of year is magical. I know this because I have children and see simple wonder in their eyes while looking at the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. It is not only about Santa and presents for them. I know this as well because my daughter at only 15 months has the same tree-lit glow and she has no idea of Santa’s existence or in fact what a present is. Take these weeks and hold your family and friends closer than ever and should you choose to feed them, although it is risky, if the food is good enough they may not want to leave, let Mood Food help fill your table with the warmth and love of holidays.
One of the best parts of the season, second only to the big morning itself, is the Christmas party. Well, maybe not the office party, I have heard horror stories of uninhibited photo copies of hind quarters. Hopefully our home-bound parties can show more restraint. Parties are great fun however, party food is a challenge. Depending on the theme and the number of guests, you may not want to serve (or prepare) a sit down dinner.
So what is the solution? Appetizers: trays full of flavor-packed niblets that are filling enough to appease the guests and easy enough to make that you can do them yourself. These recipes hold another advantage. They all have the same basic ingredients, topped differently, to make unique and tasty treats without breaking the bank or your sanity.
The key to creating these beautiful party treats is assembly. Set up an assembly line and you will be done in no time.
Several bowls (cereal size is fine)
2 Sheet trays
Plastic container for refrigerating or freezing
Colander for straining spinach and cherries
2 small skillets
(This list makes 10-16 of each appetizer but can easily be doubled or tripled)
1 large onion, diced small
2 tblsp butter
1 roasted red pepper, diced (jarred is great)
10 small portabella mushrooms, sliced thin
10 medium portabella mushroom caps
1 cup of balsamic vinegar
¾ c sugar
8 strips of bacon, diced
1 small tub of Mascarpone cheese
1 tub of Ricotta cheese
1 pkg of cream cheese, at room temp
¼ c white cooking wine
1 pkg of arugula sliced into thin strips
1 cup of chopped spinach
½ bag of frozen cherries (raspberries or peaches work great as well, use your fav)
1 tub of Nutella
Blue Cheese crumbles
powdered sugar for dusting
1 pkg of puff pastry dough
1 pkg of filo dough, in cup shapes premade
One round cookie cutter, or in Christmas shapes
Putting It All Together
Start the balsamic glaze first. Take the cup of balsamic vinegar and the ¾ cup of sugar and heat in a small pan until reduced slightly and thick. Set aside. By the way, turn on your oven fan while you make the glaze, your eyes will thank you!!
Take the diced onion and butter and heat until the onions are caramelized. Move them to a bowl but do not rinse the pan. In the other pan cook the bacon until crispy. Lay on a paper towel to drain and set aside. In the onion pan put the sliced mushrooms, the wine and a pat of butter. Cook the mushrooms until soft and remove from the liquid, do not pour out the wine and butter; allow it to reduce and thicken slightly and them move it to a bowl.
Next, in the bowl make your filling mixes. In one bowl put half of the cream cheese and half of the Masacrpone and stir until smooth. In the next put the rest of the Mascarpone and all of the ricotta. Again mix until smooth. (After the savory apps are made there will be a little of each left so don’t put the cream cheese back in the fridge, you will need it.)
Lay the puff pastry shapes on a parchment lined sheet tray and bake until puffy and golden, let cool. Line the storage container with the Filo dough shells. Fill them about half way up with both mixtures. On the cups containing the cream cheese/Mascarpone put a few pieces each of spinach, bacon, onion and mushroom. Drizzle on a little of the balsamic glaze and top with a few crumbles of Feta. On the others put onions, bacon, roasted red pepper, balsamic glaze and arugula.
Now take the puff pastry shapes and pull them apart, insides to the top. this will double your amount. Take half, tops and bottoms, and set aside for dessert. On the pastry pieces you will be working with now do the same as you did for the Filo shells. Same appetizer, different textures. Take all of the appetizers and cover tightly. If you have made these way ahead then freeze them. Just take them out the day before the party to defrost. If it is convenient you can also heat them slightly in a 300 degree oven for just a few minutes before serving. Also, if you are freezing do not put the arugula on until just before serving.
Stuffing the mushrooms is just as easy. Use the same combos of ingredients but leave off the arugula until after baking. First take the leftover sauce from the sliced mushrooms and drizzle over the uncooked caps, then fill. Once the mushrooms are filled bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees, top and serve. Unlike the other apps which can be frozen or refrigerated the mushrooms are best if they are made the day off the event. These delectable stuffed treats also make a great appetizer for before dinner. So, if you want to keep the party food finger friendly save these for a before meal delicacy.
Now for dessert. Take the remainder of both of the fillers and mix it with the other half of the cream cheese. Add a little powdered sugar, about a tablespoon, and stir to mix. Drain and rinse the fruit, especially the cherries, or the extra juice will make the dessert soggy. Set the fruit in a place that is easy to reach.
On the bottom and top halves of of the pastry put a tablespoon of the cheese mixture. On the top half only place a tablespoon on Nutella. On the bottom half, place a heaping tablespoon of the fruit. Now put them together and dust with powdered sugar. you could also use coca powder for some flair.
These treats are sure to wow the guests and make you look like a culinary star!