Christmas Party Starters: 12 Bite-Size Appetizers

A Christmas party cannot survive on eggnog alone. Celebrate the giving-est season of the year by providing guests with a selection of savory nibbles and a few substantial snacks……yuletide-themed napkins and a dish of toothpicks should be all you need.

Chili Pecans
A medley of warm spices tempered with a touch of brown sugar is a great match for rich, nutritious pecans. They make a perfect nibble with a drink before dinner or afterward with a cup of espresso.
1 1/2 tablespoon(s) chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin
1 teaspoon(s) ground coriander
1 teaspoon(s) paprika
1 teaspoon(s) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon(s) garlic powder
2 cup(s) pecan halves
1 1/2 tablespoon(s) Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, brown sugar and garlic powder in a small bowl. Toss pecans and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the pecans, tossing to coat. Spread the spiced nuts on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the pecans, tossing every 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and very fragrant, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss well. Let cool.

Cheese Straws
2 cup(s) self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon(s) ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 cup(s) (2 sticks) butter, softened
7 ounce(s) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (2-cups), room temperature
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On sheet of waxed paper, combine flour and ground red pepper. In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and cheese until well blended. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Beat 5 minutes longer or until very creamy, scraping bowl occasionally.
Into pastry bag or cookie press, fit 1/2 inch star tip. Transfer dough to bag or press. Onto ungreased large cookie sheets, pipe dough into 5-inch-long straws, spacing straws 1/2 inch apart. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, 18 to 20 minutes or until pale golden brown. (Refrigerate remaining straws on cookie sheets until ready to bake.) Cool straws on cookie sheet on wire rack 5 minutes, then transfer with spatula to wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly sealed container up to 3 days.

Bagel Chips with Ricotta, Chive Puree, and Prosciutto
Using bagel chips as the base for an hors d’oeuvre is a quick way to add flavor and crunch. Grace Parisi tops the chips with fresh ricotta, chive puree, and prosciutto. As an alternative, she sometimes uses dried apricot halves in place of the chips.
1/2 cup(s) snipped chives
1/4 cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon(s) marcona almonds
1 cup(s) fresh ricotta cheese
48 small plain bagel chips (1 1/2 inches) or dried apricot halves
12 thin slices prosciutto (about 4 ounces), cut into 3-inch-wide strips
Directions: In a blender or mini food chopper, combine chives, olive oil, almonds, and a pinch of salt and pulse to a coarse puree. In a small bowl, lightly season ricotta with salt and spread about 1 teaspoon onto each bagel chip. Carefully spoon a small dollop of chive puree on top of each chip and garnish each with a loosely rolled up slice of prosciutto. Transfer bagel chips to a platter and serve.

Chorizo Poached in Red Wine
2 piece(s) (4 ounces each) dry Spanish chorizo
6 cup(s) dry red wine, about two 750-milliliter bottles
10 clove(s) garlic, peeled
4 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in a large skillet. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat, turning once, until the chorizo are plump, about 15 minutes. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a work surface and slice on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick. Return the chorizo slices to the skillet and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo slices to a shallow serving bowl and pour in enough of the poaching liquid to reach halfway up the side. Serve the chorizo with toothpicks.

Figs Stuffed with Gorgonzola
16 (about 8 ounces) dried Mission figs
1/2 cup(s) port
1 tablespoon(s) balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup(s) (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup(s) (about 2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon(s) chopped fresh rosemary
2 ounce(s) sliced prosciutto, trimmed of fat
Coarsely ground pepper to taste
Directions: Snip the stem off each fig and make a crisscross cut two-thirds of the way down to partially open the fig. Trim the base of each fig so it will sit upright when finished. Place the figs, port and vinegar in a small saucepan; cook, uncovered, over low heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the figs are plumped and softened and most of the liquid is reduced, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, combine Gorgonzola, cream cheese and rosemary in a small bowl; blend with a fork. Cover and refrigerate until the figs are cooled. Cut prosciutto into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons. Using a teaspoon, melon baller or small spoon, place a dollop of cheese mixture in the opening of each fig. Garnish each appetizer with a ribbon of prosciutto. Dust with a grinding of pepper.

Sausage Rolls with Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 pound(s) lean ground pork or veal
3/4 cup(s) finely diced boiled potato
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoon(s) chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon(s) dried sage
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon(s) crushed red pepper flakes
1 package(s) (17.25-ounce) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
Flour, for dusting
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup(s) Worcestershire sauce
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To make piping bag, snip 1 corner from a plastic food bag with scissors to make a U-inch opening. Combine pork, potato, onion, parsley, sage, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes in bowl; transfer sausage mixture to bag. Unfold 1 pastry sheet; following fold marks, cut sheet into 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half lengthwise to make 6 strips. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each strip into a 12″ x 2.5″ rectangle. Pipe sausage mixture along 1 long edge of each strip. Lightly brush opposite edge with egg. Starting at edge with sausage mixture, roll up each strip, gently pressing egg-brushed edge to seal. With a sharp knife, cut each log crosswise into eight 1 1/2-inch-thick rolls. Arrange rolls, seam side down, on a broiler pan; brush top with egg. Repeat with remaining pastry and sausage mixture. Bake until golden and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm with Worcestershire sauce for dipping.

Goat Cheese Crostini with Pickled Peppers
20 (1/3-inch-thick) slices of baguette
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
7 ounce(s) (3/4 cup) fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup(s) chopped pickled sweet or hot peppers
2 tablespoon(s) chopped chives
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for about 8 minutes, until toasted. Spread each toast with goat cheese and top with the peppers. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with the chives and salt, and serve.

Pimiento Cheese and Bacon Crostini
2 1/2 cup(s) shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 1/2 cup(s) shredded extra-sharp orange cheddar cheese
1 7-ounce jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped
3/4 cup(s) mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon(s) garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
40 slice(s) baguette, toasted
4 strip(s) cooked bacon, crumbled
Directions: In a mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the white and orange cheddar cheeses. Add the chopped pimientos, mayonnaise, black pepper, and garlic powder; blend at low speed. Season the pimiento cheese with cayenne pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 400° Spread the pimiento cheese on the toasts, top with the bacon, and bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 2 minutes. Serve.

Tomato Tartlets
All-purpose flour, for rolling
1/2 pound(s) all-butter puff pastry
30 (about 1 pound) cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
2 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon(s) fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound(s) fresh ricotta
Directions: Preheat the oven to 425° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Position racks in the middle and upper thirds of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 9 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch rectangle. Using a straight edge, trim the pastry to a 9-by-17-inch rectangle. Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and poke all over with a fork. Top with another sheet of parchment and another baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes on the middle rack, until golden. Remove the top sheet and parchment paper and bake the pastry until lightly browned and dry, about 10 minutes longer. Slide the paper and pastry onto a rack and let cool. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and 2 teaspoons of thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up, and bake on the upper rack for about 15 minutes, until softened slightly. Let cool. In a food processor, puree the ricotta until very creamy. Spread the ricotta over the pastry and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on the ricotta in 5 rows of 12. Sprinkle lightly with fresh thyme. Using a long knife, cut the pastry between the tomatoes into 60 squares. Transfer the tartlets to platters and serve at once.

Shrimp Mini Smørrebrød
1/2 cup(s) reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoon(s) finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon(s) finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon(s) Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon(s) chopped capers
16 slice(s) cocktail-size thin rye or pumpernickel bread
9 ounce(s) cooked salad (or baby) shrimp
1 lemon, cut into paper-thin wedges
Directions: Combine mayonnaise, shallot, parsley, mustard, and capers in a small bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (or up to 1 day) to blend flavors. Spread 1 teaspoon on each slice of bread. Top each piece with a few shrimp and a lemon wedge.

Easy Hummus with Tahini
1 can(s) (15-ounce) chickpeas, drained, 1 tablespoon of the liquid reserved
1 small garlic clove, smashed
1 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup(s) tahini
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pinch(s) of sweet smoked paprika
Kosher salt
Pita chips or crudités, for serving
Directions: In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the liquid, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini and puree to a chunky paste. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the paprika and puree until smooth. Season the hummus with salt, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with pita chips or crudités.

Roasted-Cauliflower-and-Sesame Spread
1 head(s) (2 pounds) of cauliflower, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1/4 cup(s) vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoon(s) minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground coriander
Kosher salt
3 tablespoon(s) tahini (sesame paste)
3 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoon(s) chopped cilantro
Sesame seeds
Pita bread or chips, for serving
Directions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the oil, ginger, and coriander and season with salt. Spread the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots. Let cool slightly. Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Add the tahini and lemon juice and pulse to a chunky puree; season with salt. Add the cilantro and pulse just until incorporated. Transfer the spread to a bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm with pita bread or chips.


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