Appetizers are food items served before a meal to whet or stimulate one’s appetite. Appetizers are very versatile and may be served as the first course of a large meal or sometimes a variety of appetizers are served as the entire meal.
Appetizers can be a great meal for those of us over 60 who have a need for fewer calories than when we were younger. Many appetizers are “finger foods” meaning they are easy to handle with just a napkin in hand and easy to eat in just one or two bites.
It’s interesting to me how trends come and go in food as well as in fashion. Over the years I’ve observed various appetizers come and go and return again for another surge in popularity. Pigs-in-a-blanket, meatballs in grape jelly, miniature quiches, celery stalks stuffed with pimento cheese and the ever-present sausage balls have been around for eons it seems! Chicken wings seem to be holding the current spotlight, with so many varieties of them available for consumption.
When planning appetizers for any event you may wish to consider offering a variety of colors, textures (soft and crunchy), temperatures (hot, cold, or room temperature) and flavors (sour, sweet, salty, savory, and spicy). Of course the best appetizers are the ones that require no last-minute fussing and make a nice presentation in addition to being tasty.
Use flavor intensifiers such as spices, herbs, extracts and flavorings, flavored oils and vinegars, glazes, citrus juices and zests, sauces and condiments to add layers of flavors to appetizers. Colorful garnishes always make appetizers look more inviting and delicious, too.
It probably goes without saying that prepared appetizers should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or foil until serving time. One exception to this would be cheese balls, dips and spreads that contain cream cheese. Allow these appetizers to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving to give the cream cheese time to soften and become easier to spread on a cracker. Cream cheese is a major ingredient in our first recipe, Creamy Pumpkin Dip.
Creamy Pumpkin Dip
One of my favorite dips for fall is Creamy Pumpkin Dip. It goes so well with gingersnaps that you could almost believe that you’re eating pumpkin pie!
- 2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
- 1 16-oz. pkg. powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 16-oz. can pumpkin
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- Gingersnaps for dipping
- Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice in the bowl of a food processor and process until well-blended. Pour into serving container and chill until serving time. Serve dip with gingersnaps.
- For a really smooth dip, don't forget to sift the powdered sugar. If you do, you may have lumps!
- One serving=1 Tablespoon dip + 2 gingersnaps
I’ve been experimenting with some puff pastry this week and have two recipes I’d like to share that have puff pastry as the base. In both recipes the puff pastry is allowed to thaw (which can take as long as 40 minutes) and then the fillings are added, the puff pastry is rolled up and sliced to form pinwheels. The first recipe uses olive tapenade, tomato paste, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil as a filling. In the second recipe, ham and cheese are the featured ingredients.
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup olive tapenade
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
- 2-3 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
- Thaw puff pastry per package instructions.
- Unroll thawed puff pastry sheet. Spread tomato paste over puff pastry sheet, leaving about an inch uncovered around the edge of the sheet.
- Sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese over the olive tapenade layer.
- Roll up (jelly roll style) the puff pastry sheet and slice into 10-12 slices.
- Lay slices down on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 400 degrees F. for approximately 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Serve immediately.
Spreading tomato paste over a puff pastry sheet.
Spread layer of olive tapenade over the tomato paste layer.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and chopped basil over the top.
Baked Olive Puff Pastry Pinwheels
Variation on a Theme
Another way to make puff pastry pinwheels is to use ham, cheese and mustard as the filling for the pinwheels. Spread enough mustard over the puff pastry to cover it, leaving an inch uncovered all around the edges of the pastry sheet. Place slices of deli ham over the mustard layer. Sprinkle cheddar cheese (or any cheese to your liking) over the ham. Roll up the sheet (jelly roll style) and slice into 12 slices. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Picadillo Dip is a very flavorful dip that I just made for the first time yesterday. This dip has an interesting mixture of ingredients including ground beef, salsa, onion, raisins, pimiento-stuffed olives, garlic, almonds and it is spiced with cinnamon and cumin. We tried this dip with toasted pita bread triangles and tortilla chips shaped like and called “Scoops.” I liked it best with the Scoops. Picadillo Dip is prepared in the slow cooker and served hot.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 16-oz. jar salsa
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins (I use golden raisins)
- 1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- Additional slivered almonds, toasted, for garnish (optional)
- Toasted pita wedges or Scoops
- In a large skillet, cook ground beef until brown. Drain off fat. In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker, stir together beef, salsa, onion, raisins, olives, red wine vinegar, garlic, cinnamon and cumin.
- Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6-8 hours or on high setting for 3-4 hours.
- Stir in the 1/4 cup almonds. If desired, sprinkle with additional almonds. Serve with toasted pita wedges or Scoops.
Whether you prefer sweet or savory food, I believe you’ll find one or more of these appetizer recipes that will appeal to you. Also, any appetizer can be used as a snack between meals or at bedtime or anytime. All of the appetizer recipes in today’s post are easy to chew for anyone who may have dental or oral problems.
Serve one of these appealing appetizers today!
Remember to Savor the Flavor,
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