Recipes for a festive and delicious party

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Editor's note: The spinach-stuffing balls recipe has been corrected.

This time of year I am usually asked about quick, simple yet delicious appetizers and snacks that can be easily put together and served at parties with friends, coworkers or family. In anticipation of those questions, I decided to head to the bookcase and pull a few Christmas cookbooks off the shelves and find a few that fit the most often asked question this time of year.

I hope these recipes add flavor, variety and good times to your Christmas season.

Fiesta Shrimp

Serve this recipe with tortilla chips and know that this recipe can be as spicy or as mild as you like, depending on the type of salsa you use.

1 pound cooked peeled shrimp

1 (16-ounce) jar salsa

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

Reserve a few whole shrimp for garnish, then coarsely chop the remaining shrimp into large chunks, and place in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients; mix well. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with the reserved shrimp. Serve in a pretty glass bowl surrounded with tortilla chips as dippers. Makes about 3 cups.

Pistachio-Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms have to be one of the most popular appetizers served at parties, but usually they are stuffed with a sausage mixture. I have a friend who is vegetarian and this is a version she can eat and enjoy.

16 large mushrooms, about 1 pound

1/2 small onion, minced

1/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the mushroom stems from the caps; finely chop the stems. In a large skillet, sauté the chopped mushroom stems, the onion and pistachios in the butter over medium heat until the stems and onion are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients; mix well. Stuff each of the mushroom caps and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Makes 16 mushrooms.

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

This popular yet delicious treat is great because it is naturally color coordinated for the Christmas holiday season. This recipe, borrowed from the late Mr. Food, does not call for any garlic, but I would add some to the ingredients. Nothing better than tomato, basil and garlic together all served warm on toasted bread.

1 loaf (12 ounces) French bread, cut lengthwise in half

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese, divided

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 large good quality fresh tomato, chopped

Preheat the broiler. Place the bread cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush evenly with olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, the basil and tomato. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and broil for 4 to 7 minutes, or until the bread is golden. Slice and serve. Makes about 12 slices.

Bourbon Chicken Bites

These small chicken bites are not too filling are packed with flavor. Served in a sparkling clean chafing dish, it adds a bit of bling to your buffet table.

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks

1/4 cup canola oil

1 cup jalapeno pepper jelly

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

2 tablespoons bourbon

In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch, garlic powder, ground red pepper and salt; add the chicken and toss to coat well. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the coated chicken in batches and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden and no pink remains, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the jelly, soy sauce and bourbon to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the jelly has melted, stirring constantly. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Stuffed Wrapped Wheel of Brie

1 (8-ounce) Brie cheese round

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.25 ounce package), thawed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the Brie round horizontally in half. Remove the top and spread the sun-dried tomatoes over the bottom layer. Replace the top and place in the center of the puff pastry sheet. Bring the corners into the center, completely covering the Brie; pinch the dough firmly to seal. Trim and discard any excess dough and place seam side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the Brie is melting. Allow to cool slightly, then serve warm. Serve with thin slices of toasted Italain bread or crackers.

Festive Cranberry Salsa

1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail

1 1/2 cups diced tomato, drained

1 cup cranberries, finely chopped

1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

1/4 cup jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, pressed

Pour cranberry juice into a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for about 5 minutes, until juice is reduced to one tablespoon. Add remaining ingredients. Return to a boil; stir until well mixed. Cover and chill before serving. Serve with white corn tortilla chips or spoon over baked chicken bites.

Spinach-Stuffing Balls

These are tasty and good on a buffet with some type of chicken bites. Even people who do not like spinach will enjoy these tasty bites.

9 or 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained

1 (6-ounce) package chicken flavored stuffing mix

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into balls by teaspoonfuls. Place on a buttered baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, to desired crunchiness. Serve hot.

Baked Jalapeno Poppers

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

6 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

Garnish: sour cream, onion dip, ranch salad dressing

Combine cheeses, bacon and seasonings; mix well. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture into each pepper half. Roll in bread crumbs to coat. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees; 20 minutes for spicy flavor; 30 minutes for medium flavor; 40 minutes for mild flavor. Serve warm with desired garnish.

Easy Salmon Spread

8-ounce container sour cream

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 (.7-ounce) package Italian salad dressing mix

6-ounce can salmon, drained and flaked

Assorted crackers

Combine all ingredients except crackers; mix well and chill. Serve with crackers. Makes about 2 cups.

Have a great week and, until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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