Yummy holiday appetizers

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Looking for an easy way to keep your hungry holiday guests happy until they can dive into your Thanksgiving or Christmas feast? Or are you searching for impressive cocktail food for an upcoming holiday party? Regardless of the occasion, offering tantalizing and beautiful bite-sized delights will not only keep your guests deliciously fed - it will have them talking about what a superior holiday hostess you are. Here are some palate-pleasing appetizers that also have alluring eye appeal.

Blue Cheese and Chutney Shortbreads

Makes 24 A mouthwatering mélange of sweet and savory in every scrumptious bite. Ingredients: 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese 1/4 cup mango chutney (Major Grey's or your favorite brand) 1/4 teaspoon dried lemon thyme or 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme leaves A few turns freshly ground black pepper 24 (about 1-inch round) shortbread cookies 24 toasted pecan halves Directions: In a small food processor, blend blue cheese, chutney, thyme and black pepper until smooth. Spread each shortbread cookie with 1 teaspoon cheese mixture and top with a toasted pecan.

Feta Stuffed Crimini

Makes 24 A fusion spin on the classic stuffed mushroom. Ingredients: 1/2 cup walnut halves 1 cup canned white beans, rinsed 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves 1/2 cup crumbled feta 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander Pinch cayenne Extra virgin olive oil 24 same-sized crimini mushrooms, stems removed Paprika Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pulse walnut halves in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add beans, cilantro, feta, cumin, coriander and cayenne and process for 20 to 30 seconds or until blended. With motor running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mixture will be thick but should be well combined. Set aside. 2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 mushrooms and cook, stirring often to brown all sides, for about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add more oil to skillet, if needed. Repeat with remaining mushrooms. 3. Fill mushrooms with feta mixture and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until cheese mixture is warmed through. Transfer to a serving platter and dust with paprika.

Prosciutto Frittata Bites

Makes 24 Buy a wedge of good quality Parmesan and freshly grate it for this dish. Canned Parmesan is out of the question. Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 red onion, finely chopped Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 5 eggs 1/3 cup heavy cream 6 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. and butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and translucent. 2. Meanwhile, beat eggs and cream until well-blended. Add prosciutto, Parmesan, bread crumbs, and chives and mix well. Pour egg mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with parsley. Bake for 40 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool on a wire rack. 3. For the best presentation, use a sharp knife to trim away a small border around the edges. Cut into 24 squares and serve warm.

Crostini with Olive Dried Plum Tapenade

Makes 24 A tantalizing meld of tastes and textures. Ingredients: 1 long baguette, ends trimmed, cut at a diagonal into 24 slices Extra virgin olive oil Large garlic clove, halved 1/2 cup dried plums (aka prunes) 1/2 cup Kalamata olives 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley 1/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion, soaked in ice water for 15 minutes 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Freshly ground black pepper to taste Salt to taste 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place bread slices on a large baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Rub each slice with garlic. Toast bread for 5 minutes or until lightly browned but still tender. Set aside. 2. In a food processor, combine dried plums, olives, parsley, onion, vinegar, olive oil, pepper and salt and pulse until coarsely chopped and well combined. Top each toast with olive mixture and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with pine nuts, making sure each crostini has at least two pine nuts.

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