Easy eats for holiday entertaining

December 11, 2013 9:53:33 AM

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Fantasizing about throwing a big holiday bash but fearful you'll spend the whole party -- or worse, the whole week -- in the kitchen prepping? We've got you covered. 

 

We've assembled an easy mix-and-match approach to holiday entertaining. An hour or so of prep and you'll have enough nibbles to feed a crowd in high style. 

 

Here's how it works: We've divided the menu into some "base" ingredients. Each ingredient is paired with three simple suggestions for dressing it up for the party. All you need to do is pick enough base ingredients to feed your crowd, then decide how you'd like to prepare each. A little shopping, a little prepping, then you're ready to party. 

 

Many of these options make easy dips, spreads or other toppings for bread, so when you make that trip to the grocer, round out the menu with a variety of crackers and baguettes or pita bread that can be sliced and toasted. 

 

 

 

Brie 

 

  • Top a round of brie with purchased fig jam and toasted pecans. 

     

  • Top slices of brie on a platter with a quick, fresh herb sauce (puree 1/2 cup parsley, 1/2 cup chives and 1/4 cup cilantro with 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, season with salt and black pepper). 

     

  • Place a round of brie in a small, shallow baking dish. Bake at 250 F. for 10 minutes, then top with fresh berries and drizzle with warmed orange marmalade. 

     

     

     

    Asparagus 

     

    Start by arranging the spears (bottoms trimmed) on a baking sheet, misting them with cooking spray, then roasting for 10 minutes at 400 F. Then: 

     

  • Toss with thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes and a bit of the oil from the jar they were packed in. 

     

  • Toss with a vinaigrette made from 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, salt and black pepper. 

     

  • Toss with hoisin sauce and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions. 

     

     

     

    Grapes 

     

  • Roast red grapes on a rimmed baking sheet for 10 minutes at 450 F. Toss with 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint. 

     

  • Cut green grapes in half, then toss with marinated artichoke hearts. 

     

  • Freeze individual grapes on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with cinnamon and sugar. 

     

     

     

    Shrimp 

     

    Start with chilled cooked, shelled shrimp. 

     

  • Toss with diced mango, cucumber, lime juice and minced jalapeno. 

     

  • Serve with a light dressing made of mayonnaise, roasted garlic and Dijon mustard. 

     

  • Toss with purchased pesto and diced sweet bell pepper. 

     

     

     

    Cooked chicken breast 

     

  • Shred and toss with barbecue sauce spiked with smoked paprika and diced apples. Serve warm. 

     

  • In a food processor, chop together 1 green bell pepper, 2 stalks of celery, 2 scallions, 2 tablespoons fresh thyme and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Mix in finely chopped chicken breast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, salt and black pepper. 

     

  • Thinly slice cooked and cooled chicken breasts crosswise to form thin medallions. Spoon hot pepper jelly onto each piece, then sprinkle with chopped salted peanuts. 

     

     

     

    Roasted mushrooms 

     

    Start by roasting 8 ounces of crimini or button mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet for 12 minutes at 450 F. 

     

  • Make a mushroom pate by blending the mushrooms in a food processor with 1/4 cup heavy cream and a hefty pinch of salt and black pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme and 1/4 cup minced salami. 

     

  • Stuff with a blend of crumbled cooked bacon, chopped walnuts, feta cheese, and minced fresh marjoram. 

     

  • Whisk together 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and a hefty pinch of black pepper. Toss the mushrooms in this mixture.