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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Guest Monica Meehan: Hors d'oeuvres

Nice New Nibbles
For New Year's Eve, my family does a snacky-type dinner made up of appetizers. Things like shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, those little cocktail wieners in grape jelly, pigs in a blanket, potato salad, herring salad ... This year we're doing the same. Here are a few hors d'oeuvres recipes we'll be having:

olive cheese bites

Mmmmm ... buttery, cheesy, salty!

1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 tsp milk
3 Tb melted butter
1/8 tsp salt (I omit if I'm using salted butter)
1/8 tsp dry mustard (optional)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
30 to 40 pitted green olives, such as manzanilla

Mix together all the ingredients, except the olives. Mold a rounded teaspoon of dough around each olive. Bake on a cookie sheet at 400 for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

These also freeze really well so you can make them ahead of time and bake later. Once you've covered the olives with the dough, put them on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Then you can dump the olives into a ziploc bag and keep frozen until you're ready to bake them. Don't thaw, just put directly into your 400 degree oven and bake a little longer.

chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts

This is a combination of a recipe from Ina Garten and one from David Leboviz.

8 cups total of your favorite mixed nuts
(you can also bulk this out with up to half the total amount of small pretzels or Chex cereal)
1/3 cup maple syrup
(real, please, none of that Aunt Jemima corn syrup stuff!)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tb orange juice
2 tsp ground chipotle powder
(or less, or none, if you don't like things spicy)
4 Tb minced fresh rosemary leaves
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper — this stuff is sticky! In a large bowl, combine nuts (and pretzels/Chex, if you're using), maple syrup, sugar, oj, and half of the rosemary. Toss to coat everything. Dump onto sheet pan, and spread out in one layer. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring twice, until nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with remaining rosemary, and salt to taste. Keep stirring as the mixture cools, so you don't end up with giant clumps. The nuts will crisp up as they cool. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

prune and walnut log

Yeah, it looks weird, but this is really yummy with a cheese plate.

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tb honey
zest and juice of one lemon
3/4 pound pitted prunes
3/4 pound raw walnut halves or pieces

Combine sugar, honey, and lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan (preferably non-stick). Bring to a boil, then continue simmering until the temperature reaches the hard ball stage. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to touch.

In a food processor, chop the prunes slightly, then add the syrup and process untill well chopped. Don't make a completely smooth paste, you want some chunks of prune left.

Turn the mix into a bowl and add the walnuts. Mix thoroughly, using a spatula, or your hands. I use my hands, but I wear those food-handling gloves — this stuff is sticky! Spread the mixture onto a big sheet of parchment paper and form into a log shape. Roll up in the parchment paper, place on a sheet pan, and bake at 250 for about 45 minutes. Let cool on sheet pan (it will be soft), then refrigerate until firm. Slice thinly and enjoy with a sharp cheddar!

stuffed peppadew peppers

This is a new one I'm trying out for New Year's Eve.

12 peppadew peppers
(make sure you get ones that aren't split down the side)
12 chunks of mozzarella cheese
(sized to fit in the peppers)
6 slices bacon, cut in half
12 toothpicks

Put a chunk of mozzarella in each pepper. Wrap pepper with a half-slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. If your bacon is thick, pre-cook it a little. Put the peppers on a rack on a sheet pan (so the bacon fat can drain off) and bake at 375 for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon.