Party Food in a Flash

Parties are meant to be fun.   A time meant to laugh with friends, recounting memories of the past while creating new ones you will look back on someday.

Parties are not meant to be spent hovering over the stove stirring, whisking or making sure nothing is burning.  Even if you are not the host, no one wants to attend a party where everyone is so tired from preparing the food they can’t manage to have some fun.

Both of the appetizers below can be made in advance and put in the oven once you arrive at your final party destination or your guests start appearing.  Either way, they’ll be on the table in a flash & compliments will soon be coming your way.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are made for crowd roaming & socializing.  Practically bite size, there are no knives & forks needed here.  Using a crusty bread & not over cooking the green pepper gives these mushrooms a good balance of texture combined with the creamy blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

(makes 25 mushrooms)

Printable version

25 cremini, de-stemmed & cleaned*
1 cup white button mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced green onion
1 cup small bread pieces (I used a french baguette torn into about quarter inch pieces)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup low sodium chicken stock (or broth)
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

* If serving these as appetizers and not first course or part of a meal, cremini mushrooms work better since they  are smaller and more flavorful than the larger stuffing mushrooms. If you prefer, feel free to use the larger stuffing mushrooms.

Directions:

In a large skillet, melt 2 tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook about 3 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and cook for another 3 minutes before adding another tbs. of butter and the green pepper. Cook the mixture for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture. Fold in blue cheese crumbles. Once combined, add chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle cremini mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Stuff mushrooms with mixture, about a teaspoon each (varies depending on size of mushroom. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is hot.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

When done correctly, sandwiches can be wonderful (and even gourmet) food for a get together.  Most ingredients found in this sandwich can be made ahead of time, assembled and then placed in the oven to warm up at the last minute.  Although they are fine on their own, try serving these sandwiches with a side of honey mustard.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

(makes approximately 15 small sandwiches)

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 lb. thin sliced turkey breast
4 oz. brie cut in thin slices, about 3 inches in length
5 slices bacon
1 cup Vidalia onion, sliced thinly into rings
8 pear slices, half inch thick
3 tbs. butter
Salt

Melt 1 tbs. butter in skillet over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add onions & season with salt.  Cook until the onions are brown and soft, about 20  minutes.  While the onions caramelize, cook the bacon in skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool on a plate lined with paper towels.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread both sides of the baguette with 1/2 tbs butter.  Place the turkey in a single layer on the bottom half of the baguette.  Continue by adding the pear in another single layer (you may need to turn slightly on a diagonal depending on width of the baguette).  Place bacon on top and then the brie.  On the top half of the baguette spread out the onions.

Bake, open faced, in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt.  Slice into two inch pieces and serve.

P.S.  Sorry there is no photo of the finished sandwich (it had just come out of the oven).  I was too excited to party!

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Christmas Is All Around

I know it’s so cliche, but the holidays really snuck up on me this year.  Time was just flying by and poof we have our first big snow storm in New York and I’m traveling home to be with my family.  Doesn’t it seem as though we just waved goodbye to summer?

Truth be told, since this was my first Christmas since moving out of my parents house, it was quite sad not having a Christmas tree or other decorations to help stimulate that holiday feeling.  Instead, I improvised and bought a bunch of pine scented candles to use when I needed a little holiday spirit.  Definitely not as good as the real thing, but it helped.

The weekend before Christmas was really when I finally got into the spirit of things.  Shopping was finished (and started), cookies were baked, snowflakes fell, lots of wine was consumed and I got to spend a ‘fake Christmas’ with a wonderful person.

Speaking of cookies, here’s a couple of the iced sugar cookies we made

I used these recipes for sugar cookies & royal icing from Martha Stewart, which I must say are tried and true favorites.  I also made Martha’s recipes for Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti which are also fantastic.

For the chocolate lovers, I made an assortment of dark chocolate truffles.  Some were coated in crushed pistachios or hazelnuts.  Others looked like mini munchkins covered in red, green & white sprinkles.  Being resourceful, I also used some of the leftover royal icing to coat a couple.  Left for a few minutes, the icing dried creating a nice shell around the ganache center.

When all the baking and decorating commenced, I made a few goodie bags and boxes of treats as holiday giveaways.  To see the final gifts and some other homemade presents check out Blissful Bites on Facebook where all the photos can be found.

Truffles Sample Box

Finally after making it through the short work week, I made it back to Long Island on Christmas Eve. After getting home and unloading some of my bags, we all got ready and headed to mass f0r a surprisingly not packed service.  It really was a great way to start off the holiday and I was very excited to be back with my family.

From there, we headed to my Aunt’s house.  Every year for as long as I can remember we have gone there for Christmas Eve and second only to our New Years Day German Tradition, it is my favorite holiday.  It is the one holiday where all of my mom’s side of the family is together and although at times hectic, it is never short of memorable and always reminds me how lucky we all are to have such a close family.

Christmas many years ago, rocking some sweet 90’s shirts, nerdy glasses and awesome haircuts.

Not only is Christmas Eve a great holiday spent with my family, but my Aunt also shares my love of food and entertaining and always has quite the menu planned.  It’s a group effort though and everyone tries to pitch in where necessary.

Helping with the delicious salad filled with mixed greens, cranberries, walnuts, cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

Fantastic Filet Mignon grilled outside

Aunt B. makes the best creamed spinach

Uncle D. passing out some stuffed mushrooms

The cousins dominated in wine drinking

After we were all stuffed to the gills, it was time to open presents and let me tell you,  this was quite the foodie Christmas for me.  Be prepared to see lots of stews, braised meats and one pot meals in the coming winter months all thanks to this bad boy

A sloooooow cooker!!

I must thank my grandma who really outdid herself on this present.  I am so excited to use it!  I also was lucky enough to receive a Cuisinart Immersion Blender, a J.H. Henckels Knife Set (with butcher block holder) and 2 AWESOME cookbooks.  I really couldn’t be happier!

I don’t think anyone would argue that 2009 was an interesting and very often a difficult year.  But even without all of the generous gifts and delicious food, this holiday was able to put much into perspective and make many of us realize how much happiness and good fortune we still have all around us.

I hope you were all able to have a Merry Christmas and here’s to a Happy & Healthy New Year!