If you’re hosting or attending a Christmas Eve soiree and need a last-minute app or two, check out these recipes. If they look familiar, you’re right, I have presented them here on my blog in various articles over the last few years.
A very good entertaining tip I learned from Simone Choy, my baking and pastry arts teacher at Algonquin College: draw an overview picture of your serving table showing the placement of the dishes you are serving. It is a very simple idea and one that will save you on many fronts: your table won’t be over crowded with food, you will be less inclined to make, purchase and put out too much food, and other people can help you set the table! Also, set up the drinks and glassware away from the food area so that your bartender can serve easily or guests can get their own refills. Remember too, to have plenty of exciting non-alcoholic beverages on hand for those who are driving and have the number of a drive-your car service or cab company too.
The Nutty Canadian Cheese Log
You can make this ahead and freeze it, allowing it to thaw in the fridge overnight.
1 pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups finely grated Old Cheddar Cheese
4 tbsp syrup, divided
1/2 cup toasted, finely chopped pecans
Blend cheeses with 2 tbsp maple syrup. Chill until firm in plastic wrap, about 1 hr. Using plastic wrap, shape the cheese mixture into a rectangle block. Place block on wax paper and brush with remaining 2 tbsp syrup. On another sheet of wax paper, place chopped pecans and roll the block in the nuts to coat all sides. Wrap nut-covered log in this wax paper and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or freeze and thaw for a few hours in the refrigerator). Serve with crackers.
Irresistible Emmenthal Cheese and Garlic Spread
1 lb Emmenthal cheese, finely grated
3 tbsp low fat mayonnaise
4 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Mix all ingredients together. Let stand 30 at room temperature or overnight in the fridge to develop flavour. Great served with mini pitas or very firm crackers. Do not heat. (Tip: Allow grated cheese to reach room temperature before mixing with other ingredients. This will make it easier to mix.)
Smoked Trout Mousse
1 1/2 lbs smoked trout or salmon (Loblaws makes a nice frozen peppered/smoked whiskey trout that works well in this recipe)
1/3 c mayonnaise
1 tbsp white horseradish
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp dill, chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives or green onion
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Cook trout and remove the bones you can see. Chop by hand or in food processor. Blend in remaining ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with crackers or mini pitas or on sliced cucumber rounds topped with a few sprinkles of dill.
Smoky Apple Oka Cheese Bites
12 slices smoked bacon
1/4 cup grainy mustard
2 crunchy apples cut into 24 wedges
250 g Oka cheese, cubed into 24 pieces
(Or, try other cheeses like Gorgonzola or Stilton for savoury substitutes)
In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon in batches until cooked through, limp but not crispy. Place on a paper-towel lined plate to soak up fat and let cool. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut each strip of bacon in half to make 24 small strips. Spread each strip with 1/4 tsp mustard and wrap around an apple wedge and piece of cheese. Secure with toothpick. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Arrange bites on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven just until bacon starts to bubble and cheese begins to melt, about 3-5 minutes. Do not overcook. Serve immediately or refrigerate and quickly reheat under the broiler. Makes 24 pieces.
1 (8-ounce wheel) Brie cheese
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the top rind off of cheese. Place cheese on a pie plate or round glass baking dish with a rim. Spread apricot jam across top of exposed cheese. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of jam. Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the almonds begin to brown. Serve warm, with slices of granny smith apples, crackers or crusty bread. Makes approximately 8 servings.
[For a tasty side dish, add these nuts to steamed green beans, Brussels sprouts, rice or couscous]
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups raw cashews
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp garam marsala (optional)
1 tsp salt
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (if a drop of water sizzles in the oil, it’s ready) add the cashews.
Stir fry the cashews for 3-5 minutes until just golden brown. Watch carefully and stir frequently to prevent them from burning. Note: they continue to fry after being removed from the pan. Remove to a large, flat, rimmed cookie sheet lined with paper towels to soak up the oil. In small bowl, combine the curry powder, cumin, cayenne and salt and garam marsala. Pour the drained nuts into a large bowl, sprinkle spice mixture over the warm cashews and toss well to coat. Makes 2 cups. Store in small glass jars or in plastic bags in the freezer.
[Any time of the year, these are nuts are a great addition to a goat cheese salad with apple or pear wedges]
2 tbsp butter
2 cups pecans
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp sugar
Preheat oven to 300 F. In heavy skillet, warm the butter and sauté the nuts over medium-high heat 2-3 minutes until light brown.
In a medium bowl, put the spices and sugar and stir until well combined. Toss the nuts with the spice mixture. Pour the nuts into a foil-lined, lightly spray-greased, rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven, for about 10-15 minutes (stirring often) or until nuts are drier and spices adhere. Store in small glass jars or in plastic bags in the freezer.
Easy French Bread (for the breadmaker)
On your breadmaker, choose the Dough menu function to make the dough and shape it into traditional, long loaves. OR, choose the French Bread menu function and bake the bread in the breadmaker.
1 ½ c water
1 ½ salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
4 c all-purpose Canadian flour or white bread machine flour
1 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast
Egg white, water and cornmeal.
Measure ingredients into the breadmaker pan. Insert pan into the breadmaker chamber. Choose the Dough function. Press start. Dough will be ready in about 2 hours and breadmaker will beep. Remove dough and let it rest under a tea towel for 10 minutes. Divide ball in half. With a rolling pin, flatten each ball into a 8x12” rectangle. Roll up each rectangle like a long jellyroll. Pinch the edges to make a seam. Roll the ends back and forth to taper the ends. Place both loaves on a greased baking sheet, sprinkled with cornmeal, seam side down. They will double in size, so allow enough room between them. Spray-grease two sheets of plastic wrap. Place wrap over the loaves—greased side touching the dough. Cover with a tea towel. Let rise in a warm draft free place (over the fridge perhaps) for 30-40 minutes or until double in size. Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix 1 egg white with 1 tbsp water. Remove plastic wraps, brush with the egg mixture, make three diagonal slashes with a VERY sharp knife on each loaf, and sprinkle with a pinch of cornmeal. For a crispy crust like the bakery-style French loaves, place a pan of cold water with a few ice cubes in it on the bottom rack of the oven while the bread is baking. You may also spritz the oven walls with water just after you place the bread in the oven. Bake the bread on the upper middle rack in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow loaves to cool for 10 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Cool before packaging.