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Easy Holiday Appetizers

WordPress whose site this blog appears on tells me this will be my 575th post! Thank you to everyone who’s been reading this since post number one. Here’s to the next 575.

Easy Appetizers

One thing I love about the holidays is the chance to make some appetizers or finger foods that can be made ahead of time and pulled out of the fridge or freezer when company stops by or you’re in need of a snack. Two things I always rely on are filo pastry and cream cheese.

First up is a cream cheese spread that I use on crackers or cucumber slices. Leftovers, if there are any, make the perfect spread for sandwiches…great with leftover turkey. I’ve even spread it on toast for breakfast.

Mediterranean Herbal Cream Cheese Spread

(Makes ½ cup)

 4 oz. cream cheese, regular or low-fat

2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

 Remove the cream cheese from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you plan to make this spread.

 Place the cream cheese in a bowl and stir in sun-dried tomatoes, then mix in the oregano and thyme. You can also add some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes to thin it out and boost the flavor.

 Put the spread back into the refrigerator, but take it out again about 5-10 minutes before you eat it so it spreads more easily.

Filo Cups

One thing that goes on sale at this time of year are the packages of filo pastry shells. The box in the photo cost around $2.50 for 15 shells. Best thing is the neutral taste that can be combined with both sweet and savory fillings. If you can find them making your own is easy too-

4 sheets frozen filo dough, thawed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or low-fat spread, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place one sheet of the filo dough on the countertop or cutting board and brush with some of the melted spread/butter. Top with another sheet, brush with spread/butter and continue with the other two sheets, making sure you brush the top sheet with the butter/spread.

Cut the sheets into 12 squares. Take a muffin pan and mold each stack into each of the cups…you’ll get some overlap at the top, but don’t worry because it makes them look more decorative. Bake for about five minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let them cool on a wire rack before you fill them.

They can be made a couple of days in advance too.

Filling suggestions

One of the fillings that always seem to get people coming back for more is curried chicken salad. (This is also a good filling for sandwiches and stuffed tomatoes too).

  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder, your choice of mild or hot
  • ¼ cup chopped celery,
  • ¼ cup chopped toasted cashews
  • ½ cup chopped seedless red grapes.

Simply mix everything together and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour, more if you have time. The combination also works well with tuna too, just leave out the grapes.

I’ve also had success with using the filo cups for mini quiches. And another quick idea is to take a flavored cream cheese, like onion or salmon, whip it until it’s light and airy and put the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe the mixture into the cups. Maybe top with a pitted olive or a toasted nut like a pecan.

More Cream Cheese Combos

This year I thought I’d try to come up with some more good holiday combination using cream cheese which is on sale just about everywhere right now. One idea is to combine it with chopped dried cranberries and some candied orange peel. If you want it sweet, try adding honey or confectioner’s sugar. I thought these would be good rolled into balls and then rolled in chopped pecans and served on cocktail sticks.

One other sweet combination I’m going to try is adding honey or confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder (or even melted chocolate) and chopped crystalized ginger.

And a savory treat. Blue cheese always seems to add some pizzazz to just about everything so combining it with cream cheese sounds like a winner. I’m thinking this would even make a great topping for baked potatoes for a quick meal post holidays.

More Holiday Links to Check out 

People have been sending me all sorts of great holiday links to pass along to you so before I forget here they are-

More Gifts to Make

This one from Gourmet-

http://www.gourmet.com/food/gourmetlive/2011/121411/craft-fare-diy-gifts

And check out www.education.com. If you’re a parent you’ll find a ton of good stuff not only for the holidays with things like crafts and printable cards, but a winter activities book you can download too.

Christmas Dinner

If you’re still not sure what to cook December 25th, All You has some suggestions

http://www.allyou.com/food/celebrations/christmas-menu-00411000073690/?xid=recipe-121511

Wrap the Green Way

And if you’re still looking for ideas for gift wrapping this year, try this one-

http://www.naturalhomeandgarden.com/diy-projects/wrap-it-green-alternative-gift-wrapping-ideas.aspx

Check out the new Budget Smart Girl Store Dismiss