Whether you’re hosting a lavish party, a simple lunch with the girls, or just want to elevate dinner and surprise everyone, these super tasty appetizers are a guaranteed hit and will have tongues wagging till spring.
Vary the ingredients or the flavors a little, and some can easily be transformed from sweet to savoury to suit any menu…
Sausage-Stuffed Mushroom Caps
For best results, select mushrooms with small to medium-sized caps. A mixture of baby Portobello and white mushrooms looks particularly attractive. Just know that Portobello caps will add their own distinctive flavor while the more delicately flavored white mushrooms will allow the filling to stand out a tad more.
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup Marsala (or dry white) wine, divided
8oz package of baby Portobello mushrooms, cleaned
8oz package of white mushrooms, cleaned
12oz bulk spicy Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
4 fresh sage leaves, washed and julienned
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Carefully remove stems from cleaned mushrooms by grabbing them as close to the cap as possible and gently twisting. Roughly chop removed stems and reserve in a separate bowl, while placing caps in a larger non-reactive bowl.
3. Add olive oil and 3 tablespoons wine to bowl containing mushroom caps and toss gently to evenly coat. Set aside.
4. In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat until thoroughly browned. Break apart all chunks with a spatula or wooden spoon as it cooks. Once browned, drain excess fat before proceeding.
5. Add chopped mushroom stems and garlic to the pan and cook until mushrooms are soft and start to release liquid. Add fresh sage and remaining wine and scrap up any brown bits of sausage from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a couple minutes until excess liquid evaporates.
6. Remove from heat and add softened cream cheese and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until thoroughly combined and cheese is completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool slightly.
7. Add one rounded spoonful of sausage mixture to each marinated mushroom cap and arrange stuffing side up in a 13 x 9” glass baking dish. If desired, sprinkle each stuffed mushroom cap with Panko breadcrumbs, freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a combination of both before baking.
8. Place glass dish in pre-heated oven on center rack and bake for 30 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and filling is browned on top. For a crispier topping, place baking dish under the broiler for a couple minutes when done cooking. If desired, garnish with chopped fresh parsley before serving.
Savoury Brie and Pear Puff Pastries
Frozen puff pastry may be one of the most versatile convenience items on the market. When you have a package in your freezer, you can whip up rich savoury appetizers, elegant main dishes, and even delicious buttery desserts in no time.
The perfect combination of sweet and savoury ingredients adds versatility to this dish: either serve as a decadent dessert or a rich appetizer by playing up either the savoury or sweet elements.
NOTE: Since this recipe only uses half a package of frozen puff pastry, you will have to use the remaining half within a day for another recipe – or simply double this one.
1/2 package frozen puff pastry
1 medium pear ripe but firm, cut into thin slices
2 oz Brie cheese, cut into thin slices with rind removed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
1. Thaw puff pastry in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight.
2. Position rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Open thawed puff pastry and carefully unfold, taking care not to crack it. Place puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll pastry into a large rectangle with a floured rolling pin. Cut in half with a sharp knife and carefully wrap one portion in plastic before returning to the refrigerator.
4. Place the remaining rectangle on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. To create a picture frame effect, cut around the perimeter of the sheet with a sharp knife about 1/2” from the outside edge, but do not cut all the way through.
5. Dock the pastry inside the cut you just made with a fork just like you would a pie crust. Add the Brie in a single layer on top of the interior portion. Top with pear slices, then sprinkle with thyme leaves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Brush top with maple syrup to evenly coat.
6. Create an egg wash by whisking one tablespoon of water with one egg yolk. Brush mixture over the outside exposed portion of the puff pastry before placing in oven.
7. Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes, or until the pastry “picture frame” puffs up and turns golden brown.
8. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Salted-Caramel Apple Dip Appetizer
Sure, you can choose the easy way and just buy a ready-made sauce full of high-fructose corn syrup and all sorts of other artificial flavourings and preservatives, but is that what you really want to serve your guests? It’s well worth the effort to take a few extra minutes and make this dip from scratch. Just make sure you pay careful attention: if allowed to cook too long, this sauce will turn too dark and develop an unpleasant burnt taste…
For a more decorative presentation, shape the block of cream cheese into a circle before topping with a liberal amount of caramel sauce. Cover caramel-coated cream cheese circle entirely with chopped pecans, then arrange apple wedges around the cheese to form an edible “flower.” The excess caramel sauce on the plate will help hold the apple slices in place.
Crisp green and red apples, cut into wedges to serve
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 8-oz block cream cheese, softened
Salted caramel sauce
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
Salted Caramel Sauce:
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel salt
1. Preheat oven to lowest setting.
2. In a glass bowl, toss sliced apple wedges with fresh lemon juice to prevent browning. Set aside.
3. To prepare the salted caramel sauce, warm the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. (All you want to do is slightly warm the cream, as cold dairy products can curdle when added to hot liquids).
4. Add sugar and water to a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe saucepan. Stir to combine. Set spoon aside so you’re not tempted to stir the sugar mixture again!
5. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. If sugar crystals remain on the sides of the pan, gently brush them back down with a moistened silicon baking brush.
6. Continue boiling until the mixture turns a nice amber colour. If a dark spot forms on one side due to uneven heating, lift the pan and gently swirl until the colour is even again. Return pan to the burner and reduce heat.
7. Slowly whisk in the warmed cream until thoroughly incorporated. Be very careful while doing so because the extremely hot sugar mixture will bubble up when the cooler cream is added.
8. Remove from heat; add butter and salt. Stir with a clean spoon until butter is fully incorporated into the mixture. Do not reuse the same spoon from earlier, as reintroducing sugar crystals to the pan can cause your caramel sauce to crystalize as it cools.
9. Place saucepan into pre-heated oven until ready to use.
10. To assemble the dip, place block of softened cream cheese on a serving plate. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with chopped pecans. Serve with crispy sliced apples and additional caramel sauce for dipping.
White Bean Dip with Seasoned Pita Chips
Quick and easy to make, this delicious white bean dip is a great addition to any party menu. Perfect with freshly baked fall vegetable chips, mildly seasoned pita chips or vegetable crudités, the subtle balance of flavors packed into each bite are sure to have your guests coming back for more. A drizzle of a top quality olive oil right before serving will add an extra “pop” of flavor.
Tip: A tiny bit of fresh sage goes a long way – start with a small amount if you aren’t familiar with that herb and adjust if needed.
Yield: 6 servings
Total Prep Time: 15 minutes
Seasoned Pita Chips:
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
White Bean Dip:
1 15oz can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 large fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/3 cup regular extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon high-quality extra virgin olive oil
Dash cayenne pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut each pita into 8 equal-sized wedges. Lightly brush pita wedges with olive oil on both sides and place on lined baking sheet.
3. Season pita with salt and pepper before placing in oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes before turning each wedge to toast the opposite side. Return to oven and continue baking for another 5 or 6 minutes, or until pita wedges are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. Add canellini beans, fresh garlic, lemon juice, sage leaves and olive oil to a food processor bowl or blender and blend until smooth.
5. Pour bean mixture into a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Right before serving, add a dash of cayenne pepper and a drizzle of some high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
6. Serve with seasoned pita chips or vegetable crudités.
Parmesan Party Cheese Dip
Easy to make, this dip can be used for chips, veggies or even wings. Make it a few hours ahead of time in order to give the flavors time to blend and develop.
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Mix ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight.
Easy, Cheesy Garlic Bread
Perfect as appetizer for dipping into a spicy marina sauce, this easy, cheesy garlic bread is the perfect sidekick to hearty pasta dishes like lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, or rigatoni with chunky meat sauce. Simply use traditional shredded mozzarella instead of Gruyere if you prefer.
1 loaf ciabatta bread
¼ cup butter, unsalted
4 gloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons oregano, dried
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut ciabatta loaf in half lengthwise. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
3. In a small saucepan, melt unsalted butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is soft. Remove from heat.
4. In a small glass bowl, combine melted butter, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. Stir to combine thoroughly. Brush each half of the ciabatta bread with the olive oil mixture, making sure the entire surface is covered.
5. Grate Parmesan cheese over the surface of both bread halves and top with shredded Gruyere cheese. Sprinkle each half with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Place in oven and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and starting to brown on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.