Festive Holiday Appetizers

The best ice breaker is always good food. It draws people together and gets them talking.

Sue Neal sparks our palates with a roundup of really delicious holiday appetizers grown-ups will appreciate.

Find all of Sue’s recipes here.

Buttersnut Squash Shooters

Drizzle a cookie sheet full of cubed Butternut Squash, one Granny smith apple and 1 large onion with a few Tbsp of Olive oil. Salt generously.
Place everything in blender and puree until very smooth, pour into pot.
Add a quart of chicken broth (or vegetable)…you can add some of this to the blender to make it blend easier.
Slowly warm soup.
Add seasoning. I love the warm notes of Garam Masala, but you can use your favorite seasoning. Salt & Pepper to taste.
Add some cream (about 1 cup) until desired creaminess is achieved.
If it’s too thick, add some milk to loosen.
Because you are drinking this directly from the cup, you don’t want it too thick. Better to have it a bit thin, as after sitting at room temp for a bit it will thicken.
Grind a bit of fresh pepper on top of each shooter.
Toast and utter a fresh baguette (not too hard). cut each slice in half and place on top of shooter.
Prep: Prepare soup the day before (or even several days) ahead. Just warm, thin to proper consistency with milk.

Creamy Salmon Caviar Puffs

Use a 1 1/2″ circle cutter to cut rounds from Puff Pastry. Leave Puff Pastry folded (it will be folded in thirds). Cook as directed or until the pastry has puffed up and is golden. Let cool.
Carefully cut the center out of each puff (a serrated grapefruit spoon works well for this).
Create Filling:
Mix 1/2 cup Cream Cheese and 1/2 cup sour cream. Squeeze 1/2 lemon into mixture. Add seasoning. Salt & Pepper and a dill seasoning is nice.
Pipe (you can spoon as well, but it’s tidier to pipe) filling into each puff.
Cut salmon into 3″ x 3/4″ strips. roll and place in center of each puff. Tuck fresh piece of dill next to salmon.
Spoon Black Caviar next to Salmon.
Prep: Can make early in the day and keep in fridge, covered, until ready to serve.

Brie, Cranberry and Pear Crostini

Mix Cranberry sauce with a stone ground Mustard (ratio 3:1).
Slice shallots thinly and caramelize in pan on a low heat in butter, until brown and about half the pieces are crispy. If you do this earlier in the day, place in a bowl on some paper towel, uncovered on counter until ready to use.
Slice thin baguette diagonally, about 1/2″ thick. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in 350 oven until outside edges start to brown and crisp, about 8 minutes.
Lay a thick (about 1/4″) piece of Brie on top and return to over for another 5 minutes or so until the cheese softens.
Assemble: Lay slice of pear on top of crostini, spoon Cranberry Mostarda onto pear and then some shallots.

Prep: Early in day you can caramelize shallots, mix cranberry Mostarda and slice cheese.
This can be served at room temperature. Prepare bread/cheese about a hour before serving. assemble about half hour before serving and leave uncovered.

Mini Arancini with Marinara and Pesto

You can find the recipe, instructions and video on my blog here:

Prep: you can make this the day before. Cover balls and keep in fridge until ready to fry. can be served room temperature or warm. Fry an hour before serving. Keep warm in oven.
Prep spoons an hour ahead. Place a small amount of marinara in bottom of spoon. Have pesto, parmesan and parsley ready to garnish.

Mexican Avacodo Shrimp Cups
Honey-Butter Mexican Shrimp
• 1 lb. Large shrimp in shell
• 1/3 c. butter
• 1/3 c. honey
• 1 Tbsp. Cumin
• 1 tsp. Chipotle powder (to taste, be careful, it’s hot!)
• -You can also use Mexican seasoning to substitute.
• 1 tsp. Salt
• Fresh Ground Pepper

Clean and de-vein shrimp. Dry with a paper towel. Season. Cook in hot butter for a few minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. let cool.
Avocado crema: Mash a ripe avocado with some sour cream and lime juice. Add salt & Pepper.
Spoon into bottom of tortilla cups. Place shrimp inside. garnish with a slice of a grape tomato, a slice of black olive and a sprig of cilantro.
Prep: Can cook shrimp and make Avocado crema the day before or earlier in day. Assemble right before serving, otherwise tortilla will get soggy.

Panzanella Sticks

Cut baguette into small squares. Toss in pan with some butter and garlic seasoning (I like Johnnys) until lightly browned, crisp on the outside, but still soft on the inside.
Cut grape tomatoes in half.
Cut Basil Leaves into strips if they are large.
Assemble by threading tomatoes, mini mozzarella balls, Basil and Crouton on a large toothpick.
Lay on plate and drizzle with Balsamic glaze.
Balsamic Glaze: Simmer 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar with 1 Tbsp Sugar until syrupy. If it hardens, add a bit of water to get the right consistency.

Prep: make Balsamic glaze the day (or several days) before. Store at room temp. Add water to thin if necessary.
Make croutons earlier in the day. Assemble an hour before serving.
Indian Potato Pea Pakoras

Make filling: Saute 1/2 cup chopped onions, a few cloves of garlic and one finely chopped hot green chili pepper in a bit of olive oil until soft.
Add seasoning: 2 tsp Garam Masala, 1 tsp. Tumeric, 1 tsp. cumin.
Add 2 cups left over mashed potatoes, mix well and cook until getting slightly brown on edges.
Season with salt & Pepper.
Add juice from half a lemon.
Add 1/2 cup frozen peas, mix in until peas are warm, but not over cooked.

Asssemble: Roll out pre-made pie crust (or make your own) a bit until thinned out. Cut out dough with 3″ or 4″ circle cutters. Place a small amount (about a tsp.) of filling in center of circle. Bring edges together to create a triangle. Pinch to secure. Cool in fridge. Deep fry for 2 min. approx. 375 degrees. Can be served at room temp.

Cilantro-mint yogurt sauce:
Finely Chop 1/2 (about 1/4 cup) onion. Mix with 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro and 1/4 cup finely chopped mint. Mix with 1 1/2 cups whole milk yogurt (I like FAGE). Add enough milk to loosen to saucy consistency. Add juice from 1/2 lemon (or desired tartness).
Salt & Pepper to taste. Spoon over top of slightly cooled Pakoras. Place small piece of cilantro on top of each piece.

Prep: make filling day(s) ahead. Assemble Pakoras earlier in the day, keep in fridge. Fry an hours ahead, keep at room temp.

Pineapple Habenero Meatballs

Make your own meatballs, or buy frozen (I like Costco chicken meatballs). Simmer in Pineapple Habenero sauce (again, Costco), or Teriyaki sauce would work as well.
Cut up a fresh pineapple into small cubes.

Assemble: Stick a long toothpick through pineapple, a couple pieces of Arugula and then meatball. Spoon a bit of the sauce on top.

Prep: Prepare meatballs and pineapple early in day. warm up meatballs and assemble about an hour before serving.

Crab and Mango Wontons

Make filling: Peel and chop up a mango, into small pieces.
Add a 6 oz. bag of fresh crab meat, that has been drained (paper towel works well for this)
Finely chop 2 small stalks of celery, 1/4 cup scallions and a 1/2 bunch cilantro and add to mixture.
Add 4 oz. cream cheese and mix thoroughly.
Add juice from half a lime.
Add a dash of Cayenne pepper.
Season with Salt and Pepper.

Lay a square wonton wrapper in your hand. Place about a tsp of filling in center. Moisten all the edges with water with your finger. Carefully fold over, point to opposing. Lay on counter and work from filling out to secure wrapper to each other. Refrigerate for an hour. Fry at 375 for about 2 minutes until golden brown.

Prep: Make filling early in the day. Fill wontons early in day, keep covered in fridge. Fry shortly before serving. Can be warmed up in oven as well. Can be served at room temp too.

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