Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year; it stirs warm feelings within each and every one of us.
I have named December the biggest eating month because the invites pile up, and we as individuals consume plate after plate of delicious food and drink. As we know, Thanksgiving is the biggest eating holiday, and UnitedFoodandCommercialWorkers.org says that Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest day for the consumption of food.
But, for me and my family, December is the eating frenzy of the year.
I want to talk about appetizers – sometimes called small plates – and the many types, flavor varieties, and simplicity in creating these master pieces. I will review the best of the best at low economical costs. We as consumers know the lower the food cost in planning a menu, the more selections we can present to our guests. Let the creating begin!
158 Main.com says this: “You might be familiar with the French name for appetizers: Hors d’oeuvre. While ‘appetizer’ refers specifically to building the appetite, Hors d’oeuvre literally means, ‘outside of the masterpiece.'”
Don’t you love this? It is as though we are on the threshold, waiting for a revelation that can only be experienced once we come inside. Food is art.
The Ancient Romans and Greeks are depicted lounging with trays of fresh fruit, wine, olives and cheese. Their feasting style surely inspired our modern-day appetizers. Their meals are said to have been (pardon the choice of words) an orgy of Hors D’oeuvre. These included fish and seasoned vegetables also. The main course (whenever they got to it) featured some of the same foods, in ever larger quantities.
All through history, those who had the means to secure large quantities of food, and to entertain, have enjoyed stretching the meal time and conversation experience by serving a variety of successive courses, beginning with finger foods, many of which were often on the salty side, to stimulate the appetite. There is a sense of leisure and abandonment to it all; and certainly of abundance.
During the Renaissance (14th to 17th century), physicians recommended eating small morsels of salty meats prior to a meal in order to prepare the digestive system for the main course and to ensure proper digestion. Appetizers have been served in nearly all cultures. Historians believe this practice evolved quite naturally after we set aside our hunter-gatherer lifestyle and became sedentary; perhaps an instinctive evolution of our grazing days, when small bites of fruit and nuts indeed set the tone for the long-awaited real meal.
Prior to the nineteenth century, appetizers were typically available throughout a meal. Then, the succession of courses we know today became common practice. At this time, appetizers change radically, becoming an ever more refined aspect of the meal and becoming a separate course altogether. This, too, is the time when the term “appetizer” enters common usage.
We turn to the French again for one additional observation. While hors d’oeuvre refers to the part of a meal one may indulge in prior to the chef’s masterpiece, amuse-gueules, a term that is often used interchangeably with appetizer (or hors d’oeuvre) means “teaser for the palate,” and refers to small buffet-style dishes served at parties rather than an introductory course to a meal.
I wanted to slip in a few details on water chestnuts since they will be used in two featured recipes this week. Many people have never tasted a Water Chestnut. Healthline.com says this: Water chestnuts are aquatic vegetables that are nutritious and delicious. They are a great source of antioxidants and other compounds. Despite being called chestnuts; water chestnuts are not nuts at all. They are aquatic tuber vegetables that grow in marshes, ponds, paddy fields and shallow lakes. Water chestnuts are native to Southeast Asia, Southern China, Taiwan, Australia, Africa and many islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans. I like them because they have a crispy crunch and are 97 calories per chestnut.
I have featured four of my favorite holiday appetizers that have the ability to be interchanged with different ingredients. These recipes will shine at any holiday party.
The sky’s the limit on holiday recipes. The four appetizers displayed are easy and quite filling for your guests. I suggest featuring a cold and hot drink holiday drink for your table which will compliment your appetizers and make any gathering a hit.
Debi Mazar said this: “When entertaining, it’s great to wow your guests with an outstanding recipe, but it’s also very important to design a menu that’s not too demanding of yourself, otherwise everybody will have fun but you. A great appetizer or simpler dish is a good way to work a menu that’s delicious but does not impose too much effort or time spent in the kitchen.”
As always, I could not agree more. Enjoy your entertaining!
Jacqueline Iannazzo-Corser is a contributing writer to The Monroe News, writing about food and recipes. She is a chef, co-owner of Public House and an adjunct professor of culinary arts at Monroe County Community College. She can be reached at [email protected].
Water Chestnuts Wrapped with Bacon and Cream Cheese
Serving Size 3 to 4 Dozen
· 2 pounds of thick bacon
· 2 to 3 cans or 8 oz. size or larger of whole water chestnuts · 3/4 cup of mayonnaise or low fat if you prefer
· 1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
· 1/2 cup chili sauce
· Preheating oven to 350 degrees
· Cut bacon in half
· Wrap each water chestnut with a half strip of bacon.
· Insert a toothpick through the center with the seam-side down.
· Place eat water chestnut on a parchment lined baking sheet.
· Bake in the oven for 30 minutes making sure the bacon is cooked
· Drain eat water chestnut on a paper towel to remove excess grease
· In a bowl mix mayonnaise, chili sauce, and brown sugar. Heat on stove or microwave.
· The sauce can be your presentation sauce on the serving platter or you can pour over each wrap.
Note: I like to use a small crock pot or fondue pot and keep the sauce warm. Decorate the presentation platter with parsley and cranberries.
Serves 10 to 12 people
Ingredients: · 2 8 ounces cream cheese –softened at room temperature
· 1 1/4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
· 1 envelope dry ranch dressing mix
· 1 large red and green bell pepper diced small
· 1 to 2 bags of Scoop chips
· In a mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing mix, & the red & green pepper,
· Place in a serving bowl
· Prepare a platter that will house the dip bowl surround the chips around the dip for a welcoming presentation.
Note: I included honey baked pretzels to accompany the scoop chips.
Holiday Wreath Appetizer
· 3/4 cup chopped red pepper
· 1/2 cup water chestnuts chopped
· 1 can of canned chicken pieces placed in a small colander to drained2
· One tablespoons of sweet onion chopped
· 2 tubes of crescent rolls 8 oz. per can
· 1 1/4 cup shredded cheese (Cheddar, Colby, or choice)
· 2/3 cup condensed cream of chicken soup
· Form a ring with the crescent rolls on a pizza pan. The pointed ends should face the outer edge of the pan and the ide inner end should overlap
· Combine all listed ingredients.
· Using a spoon place the combined ingredient on the wide ends of the inner dough.
· Fold points over filling and tuck under wide ends –filling will show
· Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: You can replace chicken for another protein like ham or fresh chicken pieces. Always consider adding new and different ingredients to your recipes, this makes it your own specialty.
Easy Holiday Crostinis
· 2 baguettes breads thinly sliced (either (frozen or fresh)
· Meat of your choice whether fresh deli ham, chicken, salami, or turkey
· Cheese of your choice
· Cranberry Sauce
· Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
· Brush a small amount of olive oil onto the bread slices and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
· Bake in the oven until crisp and golden, about 10 – 12 minutes.
· Allow to cool
· If made in advance you may store them in an airtight container or serve directly.
· Place meat and cheese on each crostini being certain the meat fit the shape of the bread
· Top with cranberry sauce
· Serve on platter
Note: The cranberry sauce is one option. You can also top with creamy horseradish sauce, specialty mustard sauce, or salsas.
This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: Holiday appetizers are a budget’s best friend