Caprese Bites

By Corinne

This is one of my favourite apps in the summer when basil is readily available, but if you can find fresh basil and some good looking cherry tomatoes in the winter it makes a pretty, seasonal coloured appetizer for a Christmas party.

Mini San Marzano tomatoes are my favourite variety of cherry tomato. If you happen to come across them, you must buy them. They are SO full of incredible, rich tomato flavour, much like their namesake, the San Marzano tomato.

You can generally find balsamic reduction in most grocery stores these days. I actually didn’t use a reduction for the photo, as I happen to have a good quality balsamic that is fairly thick, though not quite as viscous as a proper balsamic reduction, but it did the trick.

Bocconcini is a mild unripened mozzarella cheese. They come in a variety of sizes, and sometimes you can find them in slices as well. For this recipe, use the mini ones so they don’t overwhelm the tomatoes.

Time: 10 min

Makes: 20-22

You will need:

  • about 20-22 mini bocconcini  (this is usually about how many come in the container)
  • 10-11 cherry tomatoes, preferably mini San Marzano’s if you can find them
  • fresh basil, about 15-20 leaves
  • balsamic reduction
  • fresh ground pepper
  • toothpicks -make sure you use plain and not mint or cinnamon!

Drain mini bocconcini and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. If your basil leaves are particularly large, you can halve those as well.

Assemble your caprese bites! Slide one bonconcini onto the toothpick, follow with a leaf of basil, folded in half if desired, and then slide the halved cherry tomato on last, cut side down so they will sit nicely on a plate.

Drizzle with balsamic reduction and a grind of fresh pepper to finish.

Pears with Prosciutto and Cheese

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By Corinne

I know there are a lot of people who love blue cheese. I do not. I appreciate what other people like about it; I get that it’s tangy and creamy… but… to me it tastes mostly like licking the damp corner of the basement. Not to dissuade you from doing this with blue cheese if that’s your thing. I made half of them with Stilton because I know people love it. The half I wanted to eat I made with Oka cheese.

Oka is a Canadian cheese with a rich history. It originated in around 1893 in an abbey in Quebec. It has a unique taste and a pretty and edible orange rind. If you find the rind makes it a bit too tangy for you, you can of course remove it for a milder flavour.

I feel like the combination of pears and prosciutto will likely work with any good flavourful cheese, so try it with something you enjoy!

These are a super quick app to make, but you don’t want to make them too far in advance (an hour or so at most) as the pears will discolour a bit as they sit.

This is easy to double if you wish, but I made a fairly small amount as I was making a variety of other apps as well 🙂

Time: 5-10 min depending on if you’re doubling or not. This comes together super quick

Makes: as written – 10-12 pieces

You will need:

  • 1 ripe pear
  • 5 -6 slices of prosciutto*
  • cheese of your choice! for this plate I used Stilton (blue cheese) on half, and Oka on the other half
  • blackberries for garnish if desired

Cut pear in half and remove seeds and stem. Cut into 10-12 equal sized slices.

Cut up your cheese- I used blue for half and Oka for the other half.

Cut each piece of prosciutto in half length wise.

Begin your assembly. Grab a piece of pear, put a piece of cheese on it and wrap your piece of prosciutto snuggly around it. The prosciutto tends to sort of stick to itself a bit, so it’s unnecessary to use a toothpick to keep it together.

Arrange on a platter and toss some blackberries on there, because they’re pretty and the acidity of them nicely complements the richness of these delightful bites.

*prosciutto is generally gluten free, but you should always double check the package if you are sensitive to gluten

Three Cheese Spinach Dip

By Corinne

With the holiday season quickly approaching, it seems everyone is having a party. What do the best parties include? Amazing apps of course – oh, and of course wonderful company, music, etc. But back to the food. Appetizers of all sorts abound in the Christmas season, and at the suggestion of a friend, I’ve decided to round up some of my favourites over the coming week.

This spinach dip is easily my favourite hot dip. One of the things I love about it is that even once it cools down, it’s still amazing, though it rarely lasts long enough to cool on the table! Speaking of cool though, if you’re looking for a non-heated dip, smokey caramelized bacon dip is amazing, can be prepared a few days in advance, and won’t take up any precious pre-party oven space.

If you’re feeling as though there is already quite enough cheese in the dip itself, you can skip topping with additional cheddar but unless you have a really good reason you shouldn’t skip it! Just stir twice in the same amount of baking time.

I always make a double batch of this dip and freeze half of it as it reheats well. It can be prepared a few days ahead (without the heating step!) and then popped in the oven when needed.

Time: Prep 10 min* bake 25 min

*depends on if you are using a food processor or hand mincing and mixing all ingredients. 10 minutes with food processor, at least 2o without.

Oven: 400F

You will need:

  • 1 package of frozen chopped spinach (300g package)
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup minced red pepper
  • 2 250g pkg of cream cheese (2 cups)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup grated fresh asiago or parmesan
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar + more for topping
  • 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp cayenne

Thaw and drain frozen spinach, squeezing out all excess moisture.

Using a food processor, mince 1/2 cup of red onion and remove from processor. Mince 1/2 cup red pepper (about half of a pepper) and remove from processor. Add 2 bricks of cream cheese and 1 cup of sour cream and the cayenne pepper to the food processor. Process until smooth. Add 3/4 cup grated cheddar and 3/4 cup asiago and the drained spinach. Pulse in food processor until mixed.

Remove spinach and cheese mixture from processor and stir in the red onion and red pepper by hand to avoid over processing them.

Portion into  two oven safe dishes and bake uncovered for 15 minutes at 400F. If you portion the whole amount into one dish, the baking time with be longer. Baking time is accounting for the dip being portioned into two dishes.

At 15 min, stir the dip and top with a generous portion of grated cheddar.

Return to oven for another 10 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

Serve hot from the oven with pita bread or tortilla chips.

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