FOOD - Start your Christmas party with these...
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Dec 06, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

FOOD - Start your Christmas party with these appetizer recipes

Candy Cane martini
1.5 oz Iceberg Vodka
1/2 oz Vanilla liqueur
1/2 oz Peppermint Schnapps
1 oz Club Soda
Crushed candy cane
1 to 2 drops red or green food coloring
Combine Iceberg Vodka, vanilla liqueur, Peppermint Schnapps and Club Soda in a shaker with ice and shake. Pour into a martini glass rimmed with crushed candy canes. Add food coloring and a small candy cane as garnish.
Iceberg Winter warmer
1 oz Iceberg Vodka
4 to 5 oz apple cider
Ground cinnamon
1 apple
Caramel apple dipping sauce
Fill a shaker with ice. Add Iceberg Vodka and apple cider. Add a few shakes of ground cinnamon. Strain into a microwave-safe container. Microwave until hot, but not boiling (about 30 seconds). Rim a coffee mug or other hot beverage glass with sugar.

Transfer warm beverage to rimmed glass. Garnish with a second dash of cinnamon and an apple slice that has been coated with caramel apple dipping sauce. If you prefer it less sweet, skip the caramel dipping sauce. Top with whipped cream if desired.
Cranberry-Vodka Iceberg punch
1 750 ml bottle of chilled Iceberg Vodka
2 quarts of chilled cranberry juice cocktail
2 cups chilled ginger ale
2 cups chilled club soda
Mix together the cranberry juice cocktail and Iceberg Vodka in a large punch bowl, stir well. Add plenty of ice to the mixture. Pour the club soda and ginger ale on top. Garnish with slices of fresh fruit of choice—oranges, lemons, pineapple, kiwi, and strawberry.
~ Recipes courtesy of
Blue cheese and pear tarts
1 pear
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
3 eggs
3/4 cup 35 per cent whipping cream
3/4 cup 14 per cent sour cream
1/4 tsp pepper
24 frozen tart shells (three-inch size)
3 1/4 oz (100 g) Canadian Blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
Heat oven to 425 F. Lightly butter a baking sheet.

Cut pear in half lengthwise; scoop out core and stem. Place cut sides down and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on buttered baking sheet and roast for about 18 minutes, flipping over halfway until golden and tender. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and half of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five to 10 minutes, or until onions are tender and slightly golden. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, preferably with a pouring spout, whisk together eggs, cream and sour cream. Whisk in remaining salt and pepper.
Chop pear slices into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.

Place frozen tarts on a clean baking sheet (two sheets might be needed, depending on size of sheet). Spoon onions, into the bottom of each tart shell, dividing equally. Divide crumbled blue cheese and pear over onions, making sure each tart has an even distribution. Pour cream mixture into tart shells until just little bits of filling are peaking through.

Carefully place baking sheets in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until filling is puffy and tart shells are golden. Allow to cool a little before serving. Tarts will deflate as they cool.

Cooking Tips: Choose a firm-ripe pear that holds up when baked such as Bartlett or Bosc.
To make ahead, let baked tarts cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat slightly in a 300 F oven on a baking sheet for a few minutes or serve at room temperature.

In place of the roasted pear, you can use 2 1/2 oz pear paste or quince paste, cut into 1/2-inch dice. Pear and quince paste are is available in the deli section of some major supermarkets and at specialty food or cheese shops. Quince paste is also referred to as membrillo (its Spanish name).

Wild mushroom, sausage and spinach strata
Also called a ‘wife saver’ (or a ‘husband saver’ in some families), this make-ahead dish is a celebratory, yet relaxing, way to enjoy Christmas morning. Old Canadian Cheddar, eggs and crusty sourdough are the perfect backdrop to mushrooms, spinach and crumbled sausage. It’s gourmet breakfast, all in one dish. Leftovers are also perfect for dinner!

1 tsp butter
12 oz Italian sausages (about three), casing removed and roughly chopped
1 lb mixed wild mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
8 green onions, white part only, thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
3 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach
4 large slices (1/2-inch thick) day-old sourdough bread
6 eggs
3 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot pepper sauce
2 cups shredded old Canadian Cheddar cheese

Butter a 13x9-inch glass baking dish and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add sausage meat and fry, breaking up bits with a wooden spoon for about five minutes or until lightly browned and beginning to cook through.

Spoon off any excess fat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until soft and beginning to brown a little and sausage is no longer pink. Add onions and spinach and stir until everything is mixed and glossy. Remove pan from heat and let cool slightly.

Layer bread slices over bottom of dish. Spoon sausage mixture over bread. In a blender, combine eggs, milk, salt, pepper, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce and blend until smooth. Pour mixture evenly over sausage mixture. Top with Canadian Cheddar cheese. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for eight to 12 hours.

When ready to serve, heat oven to 350 F. Uncover dish and bake strata for 50 to 60 minutes, or until puffed and top is crispy and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Cooking tips: If you’re using a round loaf of sourdough bread, cut the slices from the centre to get the largest slices from the loaf for this recipe. Use the rest of the loaf for sandwiches or cut into cubes and toast for croutons.

Once assembled, strata can be frozen, wrapped well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, for up to one month. Defrost in refrigerator overnight before baking.
~ Recipes courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada

Baked artisan cheese with greenhouse salsa
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb artisan cheese, wax removed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 fresh herb sprigs: 2 rosemary, 2 sage, 2 thyme and 2 parsley

Heat oven to 375.

Pour the extra virgin olive oil into a 10-inch baking dish.
Arrange the cheese in an even layer on top of the oil and scatter the fresh herb sprigs on top.
Bake until the cheese is soft and gooey, about 25 minutes.

Serve immediately with pitas, toasted baguettes and fresh salsa.

2 large ripe tomatoes
1 to 2 green jalapeno peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
1 yellow roasted bell pepper, finely diced
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Peel, seed and chop tomatoes.
In a mixing bowl, stir in the Ontario greenhouse tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, lime juice and salt.
Chill and serve when needed.

Roasting method
Coat peppers with a light layer of vegetable oil. Rotate peppers over open flame, either on a barbecue or gas stove, until peppers turn black and blister.  If an open flame isn’t available, a broiler can be used. Slice the pepper in half and remove the core, seeds and membrane. On a broiler plate, place peppers open side down and broil until skins are black and blistered. Cover peppers in a bowl and allow to rest
for 15 minutes. Peel the black skin off.

Flavour Note
Artisan cheese is made with local ingredients. As a result, the cheese is often more complex in taste and variety.

Tuna tartare
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb sushi grade tuna, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 beefsteak tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
2 tbsp capers
4 large fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Grated zest of half a lemon
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cucumber, sliced thin
Salt and pepper to taste

On six cold plates chilled in your refrigerator, arrange the sliced Ontario greenhouse cucumbers in a circle.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, spoon tuna mixture on top of the cucumbers.

Quick tip: Ahi or Yellowfin tuna is widely used in raw dishes, especially in sashimi. This fish is also great for grilling.

Whole baked tomatoes
6 tomatoes
6 tsp olive oil, divided
6 fresh basil leaves, divided
6 whole cloves of garlic, minced and divided
Heat oven to 350 F.
Slice tomatoes in half and core

Place 1 tsp oil, 1 basil leaf and 1 clove of garlic into each cored tomato.
Place tomatoes in a baking dish and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Tomatoes should be slightly browned.

~ Recipes courtesy of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers

Parmesan custard with spinach and roasted red pepper
These individual layered custard cups with spinach and roasted red peppers are the perfect fit for any holiday menu with their festive colours and simple elegance. By layering custard in clear glass ramekin cups, the colours shine through like holiday candles. This easy appetizer or light dinner can be made ahead for entertaining. When buying your jar of roasted red peppers, ensure they are packed in water, not oil or vinegar.     
Parmesan custard
1 pkg (250g/8oz) light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper

Spinach layer
2 pkgs each (300g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper

Roasted red pepper layer
1 jar (340 ml) roasted red peppers, about 3 whole roasted peppers, drained and thinly sliced         
2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups mixed salad greens

Parmesan custard
In food processor, combine light cream cheese, whipping cream and eggs. Pulse mixture until smooth, about two minutes.
Add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; continue to pulse until smooth, about one minute. Divide parmesan mixture into each of the eight greased glass ramekins (about 1/4 cup in each)            

Spinach layer
Put spinach over a strainer in the sink and gently press to remove as much water from spinach as possible. You should have about 2 cups of packed spinach after draining.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, add garlic; cook, stirring until aromatic, about one minute. Stir in spinach, green onions, salt and pepper. Cook to combine flavours, about four minutes. Remove from heat and spoon a generous 1/4 cup of spinach mixture on top of Parmesan custard, pressing gently on the tops.

Roasted red pepper
In a bowl stir together red pepper slices and garlic. Cover tops of spinach with a layer of roasted red pepper. The peppers should cover the spinach. Smooth tops.

(Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate uncooked custard cups for up to two days. Increase cooking time by 10 minutes when ready to bake, following instructions below.)

Place custard cups on large rimmed baking sheet and bake in 375 F oven until set, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Run a thin knife around edges of glass ramekins. Invert onto salad plates and top each with small amount of mixed greens and serve. Or top each cup with a handful of mixed greens and serve.

Salad greens
In bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper. Toss with mixed greens.
Gourmet Tip: These layered custards are designed to be an appetizer or light supper yet they also make a great side dish idea. Serve instead of mashed potatoes with your holiday meal. They work well alongside beef or pork.
~ Recipe courtesy of Egg Farmers of Ontario

Warm fig and yogurt canapes with honey and blue cheese
6 black mission figs, cut in half
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp honey, divided
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp olive oil
1 oz blue cheese
Heat the oven to 350 F. Season the figs with salt, pepper and a small drizzle of honey; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for two to three minutes or until slightly softened. Cool slightly.

Whisk the yogurt with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place each fig half on an Asian soup spoon and top with a dollop of the yogurt mixture. Crumble some blue cheese over each fig and drizzle with remaining honey. Finish each canape with freshly cracked black pepper.
~ Recipe courtesy of Oikos Greek Yogurt

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