Holiday Festive Appetizers that are Easy!!

These appetizers can be whipped up this holiday season for nibbles with drinks, or to enjoy before dinner or after a fun outdoor walk in the snow! Many of these things you may have on hand already or simply stock your pantry to create these tasty bites. Happy Holidays!

Ricotta and Wine Honey Fig Crostini

Dried figs have a wonderful sweet taste that can make ricotta cheese sing. Use your favourite red wine to cook the figs in, so you can enjoy a sip or two while they simmer away.

1 package (7 oz/200 g) dried figs 
3/4 cup (175 mL) dry red wine 
1 tbsp (15 mL) liquid honey 
1 cinnamon stick 
1 batch Crostini (recipe below) 
3/4 cup (175 mL) ricotta cheese 

Remove tough stem end of fig and cut each fig in half lengthwise. 
In a small saucepan, bring figs, wine, honey and cinnamon stick to boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer; cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until figs are very soft and plump. Set aside. 
Spread crostini with ricotta cheese. Sprinkle ricotta lightly with salt, to taste. Top each with 2 fig halves and drizzle with some of the remaining syrup. Makes about 16 pieces.

These addictive little crunchy bites are wonderful on their own, but put toppings on them and, well, you may want to double the recipe! 

1 baguette, sliced 
1/4 cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and black pepper  

Brush baguette slices with oil. Place on large baking sheet in a single layer. Toast in 400ºF (200ºC) oven for about 8 minutes or until they are light golden and still a bit soft in the centre. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Yields about 2 dozen.

Tip: You can also grill the baguette slices for a smoky flavour. 

Make-Ahead: You can make the crostini up to 1 day ahead. Re-crisp in 350ºF (180ºC) oven for a few minutes if desired before using.
Garlic-Rubbed Variation: Cut 1 large garlic clove lengthwise and rub garlic over baguette slices while they are still warm.

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tartlets

These tarts combine the rich decadence of blue cheese with sweet luscious onions in a tender pastry bite. They are definitely one appetizer that will be the hit of any cocktail party. And not to worry, if you don't want to make your own pastry, check out the tip at the end!

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (30 mL) granulated sugar 
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) cold butter, cubed
2 large egg yolks 
3 tbsp (45 mL) water (approx.) 

1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced 
1/4 cup (60 mL) water or dry white wine 
2 oz (60 g) Gorgonzola or other blue cheese (see tip)
3/4 cup (175 mL) heavy or whipping (35%) cream (approx.) 

Pastry: In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter; pulse to break up butter. Add egg yolks and water 1 tbsp (15 mL) at a time; pulse until dough starts to clump. Dump mixture onto counter and knead gently to bring dough together. Divide dough in half and divide each half into 12 small equal pieces.
Place dough pieces into 24 mini muffin pan. Using a tart tamper or your fingers, press evenly into bottoms and up sides of pan. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until firm.

Filling: Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onions, stirring for about 10 minutes or until starting to become golden. Add water; reduce heat and cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until brown and soft. Let cool. Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC).
Divide onions among tart shells, along with blue cheese. Pour cream into each tart to cover. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden. Let cool completely in pan on rack. Makes 24 tarts.

Tip: If you can’t find Gorgonzola, substitute your favourite blue cheese such as Stilton or a creamy Danish blue.

Make Ahead: Cover and refrigerate tarts for up to 3 days. Reheat in 350ºF (180ºC) oven for about 5 minutes or until pastry is warm.

Tip: If you don’t want to make your own pastry, use 24 frozen mini tart shells from the freezer section of your grocer. For larger tarts, use 12 tart shells instead.

Tip: To serve on greens. simply toss greens with a light vinaigrette and top with tart. Sprinkle with almonds and more gorgonzola if desired to serve.

Spiced Olives
If time is of the essence you can always pick some up at your favourite deli. Letting these olive marinate definitely gives them a flavour boost.

1/2 cup (125 mL) oil-cured black olives
1/2 cup (125 mL) green olives
1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs each of rosemary and thyme
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 strip lemon rind

In small saucepan, heat olives, oil, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes and lemon rind over medium heat. Let cool slightly before serving. 
Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 1 week. Let olive come to room temperature before serving. 
Makes 1 cup.


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