Festive Entertaining

Start your festive Christmas party off with these easy tasty appetizers. Sure to delight all your quests.

Appetizers can act as an icebreaker at any party. Your appetizers should be tempting, colorful and presented attractively. The preparation time should be easy and simple, allowing you to have them prepared ahead of time so you can enjoy yourself and not be stuck in the kitchen when you have guests. Ask different guests to pass the appetizer platter around the room allowing them to socialize and meet your other guests.

These tiny bits of food are known to increase appetite and tantalize our taste buds. Try to coordinate the flavors and textures with the main meal. So for example, if having roast beef for the main course, perhaps seafood appetizer would be a good choice.

Entertaining can be simple and not time consuming if you choose easy appetizer recipes and carry that over into your main dishes and desserts. One of the appetizer recipes below is based upon a main course meal from my cookbook Soulful Helpings that has been adapted in smaller portions. All of them are easy to prepare and tantalizingly tasty. I am including one freebie appetizer recipe from the cookbook for you to try, in the hope you will enjoy it so much that your family and friends will find a copy of Soulful Helpings under the Christmas tree this year.

Happy holidays.

Cheese Stuffed Mushroom Caps

20 large white mushrooms (2 to 2½ inches in diameter)

½ cup finely chopped plum tomatoes

¼ cup finely chopped green onions

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

½ cup grated Swiss cheese

1 tbsp. lemon juice

¼ cup miracle whip

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic crushed

½ tsp. Herbes de Provence

½ tsp. lemon herb seasoning by Mrs. Dash

½ tsp. lemon pepper seasoning

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 tbsp. dried parsley

½ cup Parmesan cheese grated

Pre-heat oven to 400°F

Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Pull the stems from the mushroom caps to create a cavity for the stuffing. Place the mushroom caps stemmed side down in a lightly oiled shallow baking pan and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Mix all remaining ingredients except the Parmesan cheese in a bowl and combine thoroughly. Turn the cooled mushroom caps over then stuff each mushroom cavity with the cheese and tomato mixture then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of each mushroom cap. (There may be some stuffing left over)

Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and the tops are golden.

Seriously Sloppy Turkey Sliders

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion chopped finely

4 stalks celery chopped finely

1 medium red pepper chopped finely

1 medium green pepper chopped finely

2 large carrots diced

4 cloves garlic crushed

3 pounds ground turkey or chicken

1 28- ounce can diced tomatoes

1 14- ounce can tomato basil spaghetti sauce

1 10-ounce can drained mushroom pieces

½ cup ketchup

2 tbsp. vinegar

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. molasses

2 tsp. Tabasco sauce

¼ cup fresh basil chopped finely

1 tbsp. fresh sage chopped finely

salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Sauté onion, celery, red and green pepper, diced carrots, and garlic until soften – approximately 8 minutes. Add the ground turkey, stir and cook until no longer pink. Stir in the diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and mushrooms. Add the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, and the Tabasco. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the basil and sage on top, and then stir to combine all ingredients.

Simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes until the sauce is thickened

Cheese Puffs

½ cup butter

1 cup flour

1 tsp. salt

4 eggs

1 cup asiago or Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes

Preheat oven to 375°F

Melt the butter in 1 cup of boiling water in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Add the flour and salt, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until the mixture forms a ball that does not separate. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth after each addition. Stir in the cheese and dried parsley flakes then drop onto a greased baking pan using one level tablespoon for each puff.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden and puffed.

Remove the puffs from the oven and let cool completely then cut in half with a serrated knife.

Place one tablespoon of the heated seriously sloppy turkey mixture into the bottom of each puff, top with the upper piece of the puff. Serve immediately.

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