CHRISTMAS is just three weeks away (eeeekk!) and this weekend lots of us will be heading out to find the perfect tree.
That's always an exciting excursion, but you can turn it into even more of an event by inviting some friends over to help decorate the tannenbaum.
The following are some simple and delicious snacks to serve while the tinsel flies and the angel makes her way to the top branch. Round out your menu with a big tray of grapes, mandarin oranges and nuts, then light a fire, put on your favourite holiday CDs and get into the spirit of this lovely season. Even the biggest Grinch will have to smile.
Creamy Coffee Eggnog
2 cups cold coffee (a dark roast or espresso is especially good)
1 litre premium prepared eggnog
1 cup whipping cream, softly whipped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup amber rum (adjust quantity to suit your taste) Additional softly whipped cream and grated dark chocolate to garnish
In a large bowl gently whisk together the coffee, eggnog, whipped cream and cinnamon until well blended. Stir in the vanilla and rum. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate. Makes about 14 servings.
Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Dates
2 slices side bacon, fried until crisp, drained and crumbled
2 green onions, very thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
½ of a 250-gram package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
24 large Medjool dates
Mix all ingredients except dates together until well combined. With a small, sharp knife make a lengthwise slit in each date; remove pits. Fill each date with a rounded teaspoon of the bacon mixture. Place the dates filling side up in a shallow baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for five-eight minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.
Makes 24 appetizers. (These can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate the filled dates and bake as directed when company arrives).
Baked Brie With Roasted Apples
Make the apple sauce ahead of time, then it will take only a few minutes to prepare this for the oven. The sauce is also great with roast pork or ham.
One 8-inch round of Brie French baguettes, cut into ½inch slices (an artisanal fruit loaf would also be good) 1 cup chunky apple sauce (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the Brie in half horizontally; place the bottom half, cut side up, in a shallow, round baking dish. Pack the chunky apple sauce over the cheese, then place the top half of the Brie cut side down on top of the apple sauce. Press lightly.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling gently. Serve immediately with sliced baguettes (or assorted crackers). Makes 16-20 servings.
Chunky Apple Sauce
6 small to medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths ½ cup apple cider (apple juice can be substituted but cider has a richer flavour)
1 ?3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all ingredients together in a 15x10-inch roasting pan. Roast for about 45 minutes, tossing a couple of times while cooking, until apples are very tender, golden brown and have started to caramelize. Let cool and refrigerate until using.
Angela Shellard has done informal catering for sports and business functions. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.