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Tis the season to enjoy some favorite holiday appetizers and dessert recipes. If you are planning a holiday party or just inviting a few friends over and feel like being creative in the kitchen here are some ideas for you to try. 

Over the holidays it’s always good to have a couple of desserts at the ready. Here are some make-ahead recipes!

German Chocolate Cookie Treats
(Adapted from Sunny Anderson)

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks butter, softened
1-cup light brown sugar 1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs beaten
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl blend the butter both sugars, vanilla extract and eggs.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and blend until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, coconut and pecans.
5. Drop the dough by tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on a baking rack.

Baking Tip – To make bars, press the dough into a buttered 8 by 8 inch square baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cut into squares when cooled.

These bars are a twist on the German Christmas classic and will delight your friends!

orange pistachio barsOrange and Pistachio Stolen Bars
(Adapted from Dan Lepard)

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

7 oz. baking sugar
3 oz. unsalted butter
5 oz. cream cheese
2 tsp. orange extract or a little finely grated orange rind
1 tsp. glycerin (optional – keeps the mixture soft)
3/4 tsp. mixed spice
3/4 tsp. cardamom seed, ground, husks discarded
1 medium egg
3 oz. ground almonds
4 oz. sultanas
4 oz. shelled pistachios
10 oz. strong white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
11 oz. marzipan
Melted butter and icing sugar to finish

DIRECTIONS

1. Beat the baking sugar, butter, cream cheese, orange extract (or grated orange rind) glycerin and spices until smooth, then beat in the egg.
2. Stir in the almonds, sultanas and pistachios, add the flour and baking powder, and mix to a soft dough.
3. Chop the marzipan into 3/4 inch pieces and mix thoroughly.
4. Line an 8 inch square tin with foil and spoon the dough into it. Take a wooden spoon or spatula and gently press the dough into the corners of the tray.
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes, until slightly risen and golden on top. Leave in the tin to cool then, while still warm brush with melted butter and leave until cold before wrapping well in tin foil.
6. To serve peel off the foil, dust well with icing sugar and slice into fingers.
Here’s a couple of “no cook” make-ahead small plate appetizer ideas.

salmonSmall Plate Appetizers

Smoked Salmon Plate

Make an attractive looking small platter with a packet of thinly sliced smoked salmon; garnish with sliced cucumber, a few capers, lemon, fresh dill and serve with an assortment of crackers, cocktail bread or sliced baguette.

serrano ham cheeseSerrano Ham and Manchego Cheese Plate

Take 1 lb. manchego cheese sliced thinly, lb. sliced Serrano ham and arrange the slices attractively around the small platter. tomatoe mozzarellaCan be assembled and refrigerated overnight. Drizzle with a little olive oil and garnish with fresh black pepper if desired. Give each guest an appetizer plate and fork.
Preparation time around 10 minutes.

Caprese Bites

Serves 8
Serve these mini tomato and Mozzarella skewers on small plates or in individual glasses.

INGREDIENTS

caprese1 pt. grape tomatoes halved
One 8 oz. pack fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2 cubes or about 10-14 fresh small mozzarella cheese balls cut into thirds
Small packet wooden picks

DRESSING

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Thinly sliced fresh basil leaves to garnish
Whisk together oil, vinegar and pepper.

DIRECTIONS

1. Prepare mini skewers with one piece of mozzarella with 1/2 tomato either side.
2. Drizzle dressing over mini skewers and sprinkle with basil and salt if desired.

These easy to make bruschettas work for any occasion, serve with a glass of Prosecco for that extra sparkle!

Three Easy Bruschetta Appetizer Recipes

bruschettaThe Basic Bruschetta

Make a small batch of these garlicky toasts then choose one of the topping. Recipe makes about 12 slices, which will serve 4-6.

INGREDIENTS

1 long loaf French style
Extra virgin olive oil and pastry brush
1 large clove of garlic

DIRECTIONS

Preheat grill to medium heat. Cut bread diagonally into 12 slices about 1/2 inch thick. Brush pan and bread slices lightly with olive oil. Grill about 2 minutes per side. Off heat brush again with a little olive oil and rub with garlic.

Choose one or more of the following recipes to top your bruschetta or feel free to make your own combinations!

DIY BRUSCHETTA BAR copyGorgonzola, Arugula & Raisin

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup soft gorgonzola
1/3 cup mascarpone
3 cups baby arugula
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
raisins

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl mash gorgonzola and mascarpone. In another bowl toss arugula with olive oil and vinegar season. Spread the gorgonzola mixture on the toasts. Top with a few raisins, the arugula, and then remaining raisins.

Double Mushroom

This recipe includes some specialty mushrooms for that added flavor – but feel free to choose your own particular favorites!

mushroomsINGREDIENTS

1/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small pack cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 1/2 tbsp. butter

DIRECTIONS

Soak porcinis in 1/4 cup hot water, wait 15 mins. Remove from liquid, chop (reserve liquid). In a skillet over medium heat cook the creminis lightly in olive oil until just browned, about 5 minutes. Add porcinis. Gradually pour in liquid leaving any sediment behind. Add fresh parsley and butter, season. Cook mushrooms until tender, about 2 minutes. Divide among the toasts.

prosciuttoProsciutto & Parmigiano

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
4 slices prosciutto torn into strips
3 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

DIRECTIONS

Sprinkle parsley on toasts, drizzle with 1 tsp vinegar. Top with prosciutto. Using vegetable peeler shave cheese into strips. Place on prosciutto. Drizzle with remaining 1 tsp. vinegar.

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