It’s party season, and if you’re like me, you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the invitations you’re receiving. As much as I love spending time with my friends, family and co-workers, holiday parties always carry that extra pressure to get dressed up and to bring something “special”. If it was April, you could bring that pre-made meat and cheese plate from the grocery deli section and no-one would think twice about it. Something about the holidays warrants a bit more effort. Or at least the appearance of more effort!
Last week I gave a little talk at West Elm San Diego, about easy holiday entertaining. I can’t be slaving away in the kitchen every single day in order to bring something spectacular to all these events, but I can bring simple dishes that take practically no effort, yet still look impressive. Yes, such a thing exists. The things you need to consider when making holiday appetizers are:
-is it easy to prepare?
-is it easy to transport?
-is it easy to eat?
-will it taste good cold after being transported?
I’ve come up with three easy to make, low cost, easy to transport, cold appetizers that are sure to be a hit at your holiday party!
The easiest thing to make/transport for a holiday party is dip. Instead of buying a pre-made dip at the store, blend one can of white beans (rinsed and drained) with 1/4 c cream cheese, 1 T of Gourmet Garden Parsley, 1 T of Gourmet Garden Oregano, 3 chopped green onions and a little squeeze of lemon juice. I used my magic bullet to blend this, but you can use a food processor or immersion blender. Voila! Dip done! Its a bit more special than a store bought dip, and it shows that you put some thought into it.
The next easiest thing to bring to a holiday party is a veggies and cheese on a stick. My go-to has always been cherry tomatoes with a basil leaf and a mozzarella cheese ball on a toothpick. This time around I substituted a block of mozzarella cheese and a jar of roasted red peppers cut into strips. For those who don’t like to cook, this is the perfect way to show you put some effort into it, without it being too complicated.
Lastly, if you feel like cooking something, you can’t go wrong with a quiche or egg based tart. Buy a pre-made pie shell, add some veggies and cheese, top with eggs and bake! There’s a million combinations that work in this instance, but one of my favorites is this apple, leek and stilton combination. You could substitute onions for the leeks, pears for the apples, and bleu cheese for the stilton. The possibilities are endless!
Apple, Stilton and Leek Tart
1 medium leek (white and light green parts only), trimmed
1 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium apple (Fuji or other sweet-tart variety), unpeeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch cubes.
3 large eggs
1 cup half and half or light cream
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
60z Stilton, trimmed of rind and crumbled
Pre-made pie shell
Bake pie shell at 450 degrees for 9-11 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool. Change oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Rinse the leek thoroughly and chop into small pieces. Heat the butter in a medium skillet; add the leeks and apples. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the leeks are brightly colored and the apples are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Meanwhile, lightly beat together the eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Place pie shell on a baking sheet. Distribute the leeks and apples evenly over the pie shell. Sprinkle the crumbled Stilton between the apples and leeks. Pour the egg and half and half mixture over the top. Bake until the custard has just set in the middle, about 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
See? Not too complicated. Just enough to show you care, but not enough to stress you out. I think that may be my new holiday motto. Happy holiday partying to all!