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Festive Finger Food

By Johanne McInnis


Christmas recipes

        The 12 days of Christmas are upon us and I'm sure some of you are in full blown panic mode by now since your shopping is not done, decorations are not completely up and getting the tree is the furthest thing from your busy schedule. Never mind the fact that you haven't got a clue what to feed people that you've invited over or that are stopping by. So you hope the box of crackers in the cupboard isn't stale and you remind yourself to pick up the proverbial cheese-ball prepared by the local grocer or manufacturing plant somewhere in Etobicoke.

        However, if you are a regular reader of my column, you have certainly noticed by now that I am determined to help people realize how easy it is to prepare meals in your own kitchen by sharing quick and uncomplicated recipes as well as helpful tidbits of information.

        So what can you have on hand that you can take out quickly to serve unexpected guests? Can you really prepare something that won't dirty a pile of dishes or keep you cooking in the kitchen for hours? The answer is easy enough my friends as long before knives, forks and plates were invented to eat with, people quite happily managed with their hands and fingers. Hors d'oeuvres, amuses-bouches, essentially: finger foods.

        There is something about finger foods that are attractive and indulgent. They can be reckless in a hedonistic kind of way as you glide around the room picking and choosing all the tiny bite size morsels with nothing but a napkin in hand as you flit, plateless, from one conversation to the next.

        I've included an entire finger food menu in this edition. All can be prepared well in advance and quite quickly. I guarantee you will have your guests telling you they taste great and when you reply you made them yourself, they will beg for the recipes. Enjoy!

        This week's menu includes: Cucumber and salmon bites, bruschetta, pesto & sun dried tomato spread/crackers, turkey wrapped bread sticks, zesty stuffed mushrooms and no bake lime mini-cheesecake squares.

Cucumber and salmon bites

  • 8oz package of light cream cheese, softened
  • 7oz can of salmon, drained
  • tbsp each of sour cream and mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chives (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tbsp thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 English cucumbers, sliced

        Sprigs of fresh dill (or some dried) red pepper dices (for decoration)

Beat the cream cheese in a small bowl until soft and creamy. Add the salmon, sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives and thyme.

Beat for 1 minute until well combined.

Place a teaspoon of the mixture on each cucumber round and decorate with a little dill and a small piece of red pepper.

Makes about 40. Please note that the salmon mixture can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a refrigerated airtight container until ready to use.

Bruschetta

1 large French or Italian loaf, cut into 1/2 inch slices olive oil Preheat broiler to 500F. Place bread slices on cookie sheet and brush lightly with olive oil on both sides. Grill until golden brown on both sides. (4-5 minutes) They can be placed in a large plastic bag and frozen until ready for use or used immediately.

4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp dried basil) 2 tbsp olive oil (the greener the better) 2 tsp Parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients. Freeze in an airtight container or refrigerate up to 48 hours.

To prepare: On warm bread slices, spread 1 tbsp of cold bruschetta mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve. Makes about 30 Pesto and sun dried tomato spread/crackers 1 pkg light cream cheese softened 1/4 cup basil pesto (can be purchased at most grocery stores in the produce section) 1 clove garlic, minced 4 sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well blended. (Can be refrigerated up to 48 hours).

When ready to serve, place in a small serving platter and surround by crackers or cubed breads.

Makes 1 cup of spread

Turkey wrapped bread sticks

20 slices (about 200 grams) of thinly sliced deli turkey Half of a 250g container of spreadable cream cheese, at room temperature 2 tbsp cranberry sauce or small handful of dried chopped cranberries

20 long sesame breadsticks

Combine cranberries and cream cheese.

Spread each slice of turkey with the cream cheese mixture and wrap around the top half of each breadstick.

Can be made the day before and refrigerated, makes 20 Zesty stuffed mushrooms 40 large mushrooms, stems removed 1 pkg of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained 2 green onions, green part only, finely chopped 1 red pepper, finely chopped 1 large carrot, grated 2/3 cup Ranch dressing

Wash mushrooms, pat dry and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (Up to 24 hours).

Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before ready to serve. Stuff mushrooms and serve on a platter.

Makes 40 servings

No-bake lime mini-cheesecake squares

  • 1-1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3 pkg light cream cheese softened
  • 2/3 cups sweetened condensed milk (like Eaglebrand)
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp grated lime rind
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (2 limes -> worth getting real limes)
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Line an 8-inch square pan with plastic wrap, leaving 2 inches overhanging on opposing sides.

Set aside in bowl; combine cookie crumbs with butter and press evenly into prepared pan.

Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add condensed milk, whipping cream, grated lime rind, lime juice and sugar; beat until smooth. Pour over cookie base in pan and smooth out with a spatula.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, use plastic overhang as handles, lift and with a large spatula for support, transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 30 little squares. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream if desired. Arrange on a platter and serve cold.

I do hope you enjoy this menu. If you would like to ask a food-related or cooking question, see an article and/or specific recipes, please feel free to e-mail Johanne at: jxm550@yahoo.ca.