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Delicious Holiday Appetizers

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For the family party I went to on Sunday, I took these two items with me.

cheese1pic

Snowman Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

Cream cheese:  I used 3 bricks of it because I wasn’t sure how many guests were going to make it to the party and wanted to be sure I made enough.  Let me tell you, it was a BIG snowman and I could easily have gotten away with using 2.

Grated cheese:  it can be any kind you like!  I used a four cheese mix that was all white cheeses so it would keep the snowman relatively white (parmesan, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Provolone) – I used an entire 340 gram package of shredded cheese because of how large the snowman I was making was

Dried cranberries – I used 1 cup (if wanting a more savoury one, I chop up the little gherkins or some dill pickles and use those in place of the cranberries…chives, grated carrots, minced celery, green or red peppers,  and green onions are other delicious options…other sweet options are other dried fruits besides cranberries)

Pecans, chopped – I used 1 cup (walnuts or almonds are another good choice)

A tablespoon or two of maple syrup is a tasty addition to this as is a couple tablespoons of port wine but I didn’t use either this time – there were going to be children there so I avoided the alcohol and I knew we were having birthday cake and possibly other sweet items so I didn’t feel the need to sweeten this up any more than it was already –if you’re not making this into a snowman shape, you can also just make a typical cheese ball and then pour a bit of maple syrup over it instead of mixing it right in.

If you’re making a savoury cheese ball, you can also mix in some of your favourite herbs and some garlic.  This looks really pretty (if not making a snowman) if you roll the finished cheeseball in nuts or parsley or even seeds like poppy seeds)

As you can see from the photo, I used some raisins for eyes and a mouth, a couple stalks of celery as the arms, and the tip of a carrot as the nose.  You can also cut a sliver of carrot or cucumber and wrap it around as a scarf around his neck and can create a hat for him by stacking up things like circles cut out of pumpernickel bread, crackers, and/or cucumbers or any combination of these.  Since I was taking this several hours away, I wasn’t sure the hat would stay put, so I didn’t use one this time.

Directions:  Let the cream cheese soften enough so that it can be beaten.  Beat in the shredded cheese, cranberries, and pecans (or whatever add-ins you’re using) until well blended.  Form into a ball, a snowman, or even a wreath shape (form around a drinking glass to make it easier) and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.  You can make this a day ahead of time. 

Cranberry Brie En Croute

En Croute means encased in pastry.  My daughter and I loved these little cranberry brie bundles that were sold at Loblaws under the President’s Choice label but they’ve been discontinued.  They are basically small bite sized portions of what I’m presenting here.

Ingredients:

450 gram wheel of Brie (I used President’s Choice Double Cream Brie and it was the best I’ve ever had!)

1/3 cup of whole berry cranberry sauce (homemade or canned) – note:  I adore cranberries and it’s what my daughter would be wanting too but I’ve made this before with apple, cherry, or peach pie filling instead and it’s really tasty too!

1 sheet of Phyllo or puff pastry (I used President’s Choice puff pastry – it came in a 450 gram package of 2 sheets so I used half the package)

1 egg, beaten

Optional ingredients:  This is delicious if you sprinkle some slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, or chopped pecans over the cranberry sauce inside too.  I didn’t do this because I had my daughter in mind and so was trying to make it as close to the ones she liked as possible but I love it with some kind of nuts in it as well!

Directions:  This is so simple to make!  Thaw the piece of puff pastry (it took about half an hour) and lay it, opened up flat, in a baking pan.  You can use a baking sheet instead of an actual pan but it really should have raised edges around it in case any of the filling leaks out.  I used a nonstick pan – if yours isn’t, you really should spray it with some kind of spray like Pam or line it with parchment or that easy release aluminum foil.  Trim about 1/8 inch of the rind of the Brie from the top of the wheel.  Place this cut side up on the sheet of pastry and top with the cranberry sauce (and nuts if using).  Pull up the edges of the pastry to cover the filling.  I just kind of pleated it as I went around and then twisted a knot at the top but you can trim away some of the extra dough if you prefer.  If you do this, you can cut some leaf shapes or something festive from the extra dough to make little embellishments for the wheel.  Now, at this point, you can simply cover this with plastic wrap and put it away until your guests arrive.  I’ve made it as early as 12 hours prior to actually baking and serving.  When ready to serve, if using some pastry scraps to make embellishments, you need to “glue” them onto the wheel with some of the beaten egg.  You then need to brush beaten egg all over the whole pastry parcel.  If there are any overlapping edges that don’t seem to be holding their seal very well, use some of the beaten egg to glue those together as well.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  As everyone who tried it said, when you cut into it, the inside is all melted and smooth and buttery!!!

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