All About Appetizers

The holidays are coming closer! Raise your hand if you’re not ready!

Now raise your hand if you are hosting one (or more) holiday parties and don’t know what you’re going to cook or serve. Here are some basic tips for navigating your way through planning, and shopping, for your menu.

The first things, of course, that you will consider is the who and the what: who is coming to your party (and also possibly, are there any dietary considerations) and what will you be serving. Because the holiday season is full of dinners and meals, sometimes it is nice to switch things up a bit and do an appetizer evening. Appetizers provide a welcome change to the often heavy meals that accompany the holidays: they can be lighter, there are smaller  portions, and a great variety of different things. It’s even better if you have your guests bring their favourite appetizer as well.

Here are some of our favourite ideas for appetizers:

A charcuterie or cheese platter: provides great variety and you can also customize it to include the cheeses, meats and crackers that you really love. If you have someone who has a gluten-free diet, swap out for some gluten free chips or crackers. Check out our Cheese Tray post for tips on choosing the best cheeses while shopping.

  

Dips: Dips are great options that are easy to make and a great time saver. Make any of your favourite dips up to a day ahead of time and store in the fridge. This not only helps you on the day of your party, but the flavours of the dip will be so much better once they’ve had a chance to mingle together for a couple hours. Check out our Roasted Red Pepper Hummus or our Fresh Salsa for the recipes and ingredient list.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

 

Finally, a baked brie is really my absolute favourite appetizer to enjoy at the holidays…well really any time. It does require a little more prep and will need to be baked before you enjoy it. Check out our cranberry topping, or if you want something with a little bit more crunch, check out our apple topping here

                                      Baked Brie with Apple Walnut Topping

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy entertaining and here’s to all the appetizers that you will eat this holiday season!

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How to Make a Charcuterie Board

So you’ve agreed to host some friends for a casual get together and you have no idea what to prepare?

Enter: charcuterie board.

Making a charcuterie board doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s basically a cheese board but with the addition of meats and ‘accessories’. Our simple how-to will show you how to throw one together in minutes and knock the socks off your guests.

Creating a Charcuterie Board

Meats

Depending on the size of your board you can choose just one variety or up to 3-4. Think about spice level: not everyone will like spicy meats but some may want at least one with a kick. Our favourites include proscuitto, calabrese, salami, and chorizo. If you’re feeling extra fancy you could even try a pâté. 

Cheeses

Use cheese to add texture to your board. Go with a variety of hard-er cheeses (cheddar, parmigiano, gouda) and soft cheeses (goat cheese, brie, blue cheese). Again, depending on the size of the board I would include at least 2-3 different types.

Carbs

AKA the meat and cheese vehicles and often the limiting reaction on a charcuterie board. I like to go with one or two types of crackers or one type of cracker and some kind of bread. The variety is nice when deciding what delicious food item from the board should be going into your mouth next.

Accessories

These can include: spreads (jam, chutney, jelly), fresh fruit (grapes), dried fruit and nuts (apricots, Craisins, almonds), or pickles/olives. The accessories are meant to give you a little nibble of something that isn’t meat or cheese – a palate cleanser. Again, depending on the side you can start with a couple, adding more if you like.

The most important thing to remember is that a charcuterie board is customizable and no two boards will be the same. Experiment with different cheeses, meats, and accessories. Maybe you’ll even find a new favourite!

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Baked Brie with Cranberry Topping

A few weeks ago, we posted a great apple walnut topping for brie, which is a great topping for the cooler evenings of fall. This cranberry topping pairs with the baked brie wonderfully, and it is a classic flavour for the wintry evenings that are coming, not to mention the many Christmas parties that you will be attending!

 

 

Baked Brie with Cranberry Topping
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup cranberries
  2. 1 tbsp lemon juice, bottled or freshly squeezed
  3. 1 tbsp sugar
  4. 1 inch long piece lemon zest
Instructions
  1. Simmer all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium low heat, about 10 minutes. Berries will soften and some will burst - this is okay!
  2. Remove lemon zest and place on top of baked brie.
Notes
  1. The topping can be made ahead of time and placed in the fridge, until the brie has been baked. Make sure to warm up before topping the cheese.
  2. For a slightly different flavour, try using orange juice and orange zest instead of lemon.
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/

 

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Hummus is one of my favourite foods. Not only is it really customizable, it’s cheap, and tastes great in so many applications! This roasted red pepper hummus is easy to make and and can be added to school lunches with veggies, spread on sandwiches, or added to a charcuterie board as an appetizer. 

If you want to take this recipe to the next level try roasting your own red peppers instead of buying them jarred. It makes the recipe a little more complex but the flavour it adds is worth it. 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
A flavourful spread that would be a great addition to any sandwich, lunch box, or appetizer spread.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 can chickpeas (540mL), drained and rinsed
  2. 4-5 pieces of jarred roasted red pepper (or roast your own, see note)
  3. 1/4 cup oil (olive or canola would work in this recipe)
  4. 3 garlic cloves
  5. 2 tbsp tahini*
  6. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  7. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Prepare all your ingredients and add them to a food processor.
  2. Pulse ingredients until smooth.
  3. Store for up to 1 week in an airtight container in the fridge.
Notes
  1. *Tahini is sesame paste, you can also substitute peanut butter if you don't have
To roast a red pepper
  1. Move your oven rack to the top position and set to broil.
  2. Prepare a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper, set aside.
  3. Slice the top of your pepper off, chop into 3-4 pieces, and remove seeds and pith (the white stuff!).
  4. Place peppers on the cookie sheet with skin side up and make them lay as flat as possible (this might mean strategically breaking them or cutting them - this creates an even roast).
  5. Broil for 2-5 minutes. This will depend on your oven, but the goal is to have lots of black bits and bubbles in the skin because it will make the next step easier.
  6. Peel the skin off your peppers. I find a pairing knife works well for this step.
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
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Baked Brie with Apple Walnut Topping

Baked Brie with Apple Walnut Topping

The crispness of fall is in the air and with that brings me the desire to eat rich, delicious comfort food. 

Enter: baked brie

Not only is this baked brie perfect as a stand alone appetizer, but also makes the perfect addition to a charcuterie board. The apple walnut topping is super simple to prepare and hilights some of the beyt flavours of the season. This brie is sure to be a hit in your house. 

 

Baked Brie with Apple Walnut Topping

Baked Brie with Apple Walnut Topping
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Total Time
20 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 wheel of brie
Topping
  1. 1/2 apple, diced thin
  2. 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped fine
  3. 2 tbsp Maple syrup or liquid sweetener of choice
  4. pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400F
  2. Slice the top rind off your brie and place in a brie baker or on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until centre is liquid-y and melted.
  4. Meanwhile add all topping ingredients to a small pot and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples have softened a little.
  5. Serve with crackers or as part of your next cheese board.
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
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Caprese Bites

Caprese Bites

As fall arrives, many of us are struggling with an overload and excess of tomatoes – many shapes and sizes.  Some beefsteaks and most likely some lovely sweet cherry tomatoes.  In my family, those cherry tomatoes are just as good as candy – we all pop them in our mouths, sometimes fresh off the plant!

This appetizer is a great way to use some of those tomatoes in a classic combination, in appetizer size – caprese salad bites.

 

 

Caprese Bites
Serves 5
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Ingredients
  1. 10 basil leaves
  2. 10 cherry tomatoes, various colours
  3. 10 mini bocconcini balls
  4. balsamic vinegar (optional)
  5. olive oil (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pull out 10 longer sized toothpicks.
  2. On each toothpick, stack a cherry tomato, a basil leaf, and a cheese ball.
  3. Place or stack on serving plate of your choice.
Notes
  1. This recipe is very easy to scale up (or down) depending on your party size. If you are making it for yourself, then the sky is the limit!
  2. If you want to make it a bit more fancy, you could either drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over top, or place it on the side for dipping. Both those flavours complement the cheese and tomatoes very well, making it a classic combination.
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
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Fresh Salsa

Nothing beats the fresh summer produce that we get fresh from the garden – zucchini, peppers, beans, peas, cucumbers, and not least of all tomatoes.  Pretty soon, any avid gardener is going to have more tomatoes than they can shake a stick at!  

Here is a great, super simple fresh salsa to answer the age-old question: what do I do with all these tomatoes?


Fresh Salsa

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How to Host a Dinner Party

How to Host a Dinner Party

If you’re anything like us this awesome summer weather has given you the urge to get together and share some beautiful food with your friends and family! You need not worry if you’ve never invited more than one person over to your home for a meal before. Today we’re sharing some of our best tips for hosting a dinner party!

Make it what you want

  • When you’re the host, it’s up to you: you don’t have to do all the cooking – make it a pot luck and ask specific people to bring specific items
  • Try choosing a theme! Brunch for dinner, foods from different cultures, or different cooking methods (BBQ).
  • When it comes to cleaning your home ahead of time don’t waste your precious minutes scrubbing the floor with a tooth brush! No one is going to notice, your guests are there to spend time with you not to inspect your floors!

How to Host a Dinner Party

Keep it Simple

  • The idea of hosting a dinner party used to give me so much anxiety – I’ve learned the best thing to do if you’re new to entertaining is to keep it simple. Simple menu, simple drinks, and it’s not necessary to blow your budget either. Pinterest may have given us some unrealistic dinner party goals, but all your guest will remember is good food and the people they were with.
  • It may not be the best idea to try a new, complicated recipe – stick to what is comfortable (or test it out ahead of time if you’re nervous)!

How to Host a Dinner Party

Do the prep ahead

  • We’re not saying you need to spend hours in the kitchen before your guests arrive to get things organized but we think spending some time ahead of your guests arrival will ensure you’re not spending the entire night in the kitchen.
  • We prep ahead as much as we can – make your appetizer dips a head of time, pasta sauces can be made ahead and even frozen, make a tossed salad earlier in the day (just don’t add the dressing!), or let your slow cooker do the work. Less time in the kitchen means more time with your friends and family enjoying the food and each others company. I know you’re picking up on the theme 😉
  • One final prep ahead tip: set the table the night before!

How to Host a Dinner Party

Be a thoughtful host and attendee

  • Be mindful of your guests dietary restrictions: this may mean tailoring a menu or providing an alternative option. 
  • We like to have a few beverage options as well, and will often have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Not everyone will want to have an alcoholic beverage; soda water, pop, or juice can be great alternatives.
  • If you’re attending a dinner party it’s nice not to come empty handed. If the host indicates not to bring anything for the meal, a small token of appreciation is a kind gesture. We’ve brought wine, chocolate, or another small gift.

How to Host a Dinner Party

What are your best tips for hosting a dinner party? Please share below in the comments!

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Creating a Cheese Tray

Creating a Cheese Tray

At any kind of party, there is really nothing better than a fabulous cheese tray.  With the beginning of May, comes endless brunches, barbeques, and spring and summer nights in which a cheese tray could do no wrong.

Here are a few simple ideas that can help make your cheese tray appealing to ALL of your senses:

  • It is always best to go for a wide variety of cheeses: this means you want some hard and soft cheeses.  You also want a variety of tastes: play around with mild, strong, and smoked cheeses.  These will provide some visual interest as well.
  • Cheese is not the only thing that goes on a cheese tray – add some grapes or some nuts, like walnuts and almonds to add some texture.
  • To take your cheese tray to the next level, add some salami or prosciutto, and some olives to make it more of a charcuterie board. 

The next thing you need is some sort of vessel, to get the cheese to your mouth.  My #1 go-to is the cracker!  The options are endless in the cracker aisle, so feel free to go crazy with flavour here.  If you don’t love the cracker like I do, a baguette or a ciabatta loaf will do nicely as well.

Creating a Cheese Tray  

For the cheese tray above, we used brie, edam, a double smoked cheddar, and a jalapeno monterey jack.  Using a ciabatta as our bread, and some nuts, dried fruit, and grapes to break it up with some texture and colour.  Other cheeses you could use could be marble cheddar, goat cheese, blue cheese, or a crotonese.  An Italian crotonese is a very hard, crumbly cheese with a similar nutty taste and smell to parmesan.

To help you create your own wonderful cheese tray, here are a few helpful tips!

Cheese Tray Cheat Cheet

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