Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The bliss of holiday season continues. Many of you are continuing to celebrate and may be preparing snacks. While I admire the time put into homemade goods, I am always looking for ways to make foods that are both festive and time efficient.
There are numerous ways to pair flavors and textures when you are in a pinch and trying to eat healthier. Let these effortless hors d’oeuvres be your guide for quick and delicious pairings to serve at your next gathering:
• Tart apples with cream cheese crostini: thinly slice an apple of your choice, spread on a light layer of cream cheese, layer with another slice of apple, and add a drizzle of honey if you’d like.
• Savory spinach and cheese skewers: assemble a skewer by rotating fresh leaves of spinach and sliced cheese and drizzle with a fruit-based balsamic vinaigrette.
• Caprese salad on a stick with chicken sausage: assemble a skewer with sliced sausage, basil leaves, fresh mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper.
• Mango stuffed puff pastry: grab a croissant dough from the frozen section of your grocery store, stuff it with sliced mangoes, wrap towards the center while keeping most of the center mangoes unwrapped, bake it, and enjoy.
• Brie bites with raspberry preserves: take mini phyllo pastry shells, fill with warm brie cheese, top with raspberry preserves, and garnish with mint leaves.
• Charcuterie board: If you’d like to serve a little bit of everything at once, you’re in the right place! This is your opportunity to get creative, use what’s already on hand, or even put all those leftovers to use. Here is a rough template of foods to place on that beautiful wooden charcuterie board you’ve been longing to show off:
– Cheese: Any cheese will do but try to serve cheeses that are both easy to cut into and pair nicely with toppings like preserves or pepper jellies. For example, a plain goat cheese log topped with cranberry sauce or fig preserves would work nicely here. Add a cheese like cheddar, brie, or gouda to add variety.
– Crackers/Bread: Cheese without crackers just wouldn’t feel right, so now it’s time to add that crunchy texture to our board. Simply pick a cracker here, it doesn’t’ have to be anything fancy, and place them near the cheeses you’ve laid out since this is where they belong.
– Meat: Here is your chance to use any leftover smoked turkey or baked ham for something besides a sandwich. Simply place your leftover slices of smoked turkey or baked ham on the board and/or add other meats like prosciutto or salami. Garnish with a whole rosemary sprig to make it even more cheerful!
– Produce: Add some freshness to your board by chopping up fresh vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers, and garnish with arugula or basil. If you have leftover shallots or red onion, slice thinly and let them soak in a seasoned balsamic and olive oil mixture for a few minutes to quickly make “pickled” onions. While you’ve got the chopping board out, slice up fruits like pears and apples or simply add vines of grapes or whole unpeeled satsumas to whatever blank spaces you have left on the board.
Here is a brief grocery list based on the recipes listed above:
• Produce: apples, fresh spinach, basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, mangos, cucumbers, bell peppers, shallots, arugula, rosemary sprigs, pears, satsumas, and grapes.
• Cheese: cream cheese, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella balls, brie cheese, cheddar, and gouda.
• Meat: chicken sausage, smoked turkey, baked ham, prosciutto, and salami.
• Breads/crackers: frozen croissant dough, phyllo pastry shells, crackers, rolls, and cornbread.
• Other: skewer sticks, honey, balsamic, olive oil, salt, pepper, cranberry sauce, and fig preserves.
Remember to use what is already in your refrigerator or pantry, look for seasonal items, and have fun with it!
Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent in Parker County.