It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Truly, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite. Twinkling lights, yummy smells and all of the excitement that fills the air. Last year holiday parties weren’t as prevalent, but I’m hoping this year will be different.
As you begin your party planning, I encourage you to think about ways to make it special, but also easy on yourself. Many of my party staples start with things I can pick up at a local specialty store or grocery store. Why should I make homemade jalapeño jelly when Perini’s makes the best? I’ve included several of my favorite easy appetizers. One of my favorite, semi-homemade appetizers is Athenos phyllo tarts (found with frozen pie crusts) baked according to the box and cranberry turkey salad from HEB or the chicken salad from United. Always yummy and always a favorite!
I’ve given out the recipe for my Kahlua Brownies more times than I can count! The Cheddar Thumbprints are a new favorite that can be made ahead of time and they would also be great for gift giving, tied up with pretty ribbon on a holiday plate. The fig tart with bacon, arugula and blue cheese will need to be assembled close to party time, but isn’t time consuming at all and makes a beautiful presentation.
However you are spending your holidays this year, I hope that you and your family will have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Cheers to 2022!
Fig Tart with Bacon & Blue Cheese
1 sheet of puff pastry
Flour for dusting
¾ to 1 cup of fig jam
4 strips of thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into ½ strips
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of whole grain mustard
4 cups of arugula
Kosher salt and course ground pepper
½ cup of blue cheese crumbles
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper
2. Roll puff pastry out on a floured surface. Use a biscuit cutter or small glass to cut pastry into small circles (I used the lid from a mason jar to cut the circles). Transfer to baking sheet. With the tins of a fork, dock a border around the edge of each circle. Dock the centers a few times to prevent the dough from rising as it cooks. Spread the jam evenly over the pastry. Bake until golden brown and the border is puffed, about 20-25 minutes.
3. Cook the bacon in a sauté pan over medium heat until browned and crispy. Drain on a paper towel.
4. In a mixing bowl, add the olive oil then whisk in the vinegar and mustard. Add the arugula and toss to fully coat. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Remove tarts from the oven and allow to cool. Top with the arugula and sprinkle bacon and blue cheese on top. I used my kitchen torch to slightly melt the blue cheese.
Cheddar Thumbprints with Pecans & Jalapeño Jam
2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
1, 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup of salted butter
1 ½ cups of finely chopped pecans
3 TBS of jalapeño jam (Perini Ranch makes the best!)
1. Pulse flour, cheese and butter in a food processor at 5-second intervals until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in chopped pecans. Place balls on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Press a thumb in the center of each to make an indentation. Chill for 30 minutes before baking.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until light golden brown, 15-18 minutes. You may need to press the indentation again when they come out of the oven. Transfer to wire racks. Cool completely for about 30 minutes. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon of jam into center of each.
Kahlua Brownies with Buttercream Frosting & Chocolate Glaze
1/3 cup of light brown sugar
5 ½ TBS unsalted butter, at room temp
2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
½ finely chopped pecans
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
¼ cup vegetable shortening
4 TBS unsalted butter
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup Kahlua
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ chopped pecans
6 TBS unsalted butter at room temp
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 TBS Kahlua
1 TBS heavy cream
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 tsp. vegetable shortening
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking dish with parchment paper (I lightly pat the bottom of the pan with wet hands to
make the paper stick).
2. Crust: Combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add flour until blended. Add pecans. Chill crust while you prepare filling.
3. Filling: Combine chocolate, shortening, and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Cool. Combine eggs, sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix until blended. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture. Add Kahlua. Slowly add flour and salt, mix until batter is smooth. Stir in pecans (sometimes I leave pecans out of the filling). Pour over crust and bake for 25 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cool.
4. Buttercream: Cream butter, sugar, Kahlua, and cream in a bowl until fluffy and smooth. Spread over cooled filling mixture. Add more Kahlua to mixture if you want to. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. I cool them overnight most of the time.
5. Glaze: Melt chocolate and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool and spread over top. Chill again.
6. Lining the pan with parchment makes cutting so much easier, simply lift the brownies out of the pan onto a cutting board to cut. I typically cut them into small bites.
By Nancy Roberts
Photography By Shayli Anne Photography