Now that I’ve covered the star of Thanksgiving (last week), the turkey, I say it’s time to move on to what people actually fill up on….the appetizers. You know nobody really fills up on the turkey. Sure, you enjoy it, just as you should on a day that is sometimes called “turkey day”. But it’s time to be honest. You know you really come for the other stuff. When else can you eat 3 pounds of stuffing or mashed potatoes on your own? When else can you eat enough green bean casserole and pie to necessitate loosening your belt and not have to feel badly about it? Thanksgiving is the day, folks. Let the feeding frenzy begin.
When I was little, my mom didn’t provide appetizers on Thanksgiving. She said that nobody would eat dinner if they filled up on appetizers before. I have a completely different view on this. I think that if you get to someone’s house three hours before the main event….you deserve appetizers for your wait. I have three really yummy appetizers to show you that are delicious and easy. I think “easy” is key for apps on turkey day. You (or whoever is cooking) already has 15 different things going on in the kitchen. Appetizers that are super easy, or even can be made in advance are the best.
My first recipe is a delicious blue cheese spread that is fabulous on crackers, crudité, or on toasted baguette slices. Everything is thrown in the food processor, and it can be made the day before (yay!). I use cream cheese, blue cheese, canned pears, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, salt and pepper. This spread is creamy, sweet and savory all at the same time. Plus, dried cranberries and pears just scream “fall”.
I spread my cheesy deliciousness on toasted baguette slices and topped it with thin sliced roast beef. I made it look pretty by sprinkling chives over the tops.
One or two of these will please your guests, and keep them from getting in the way in the kitchen when they start to get too hungry.
My second appetizer is Cranberry Stuffed Mushrooms. I love stuffed mushrooms. I always have. My friend, Michelle, makes amazing stuffed mushrooms, and I was afraid that my recipe wouldn’t compare. Well Michelle…..I think I might have gotten it!
My recipes uses two packages of whole, button mushrooms. It is close to twenty four mushrooms. I also use Gourmet Rooster Caramelized Onion and Chardonnay Spread, Whole berry cranberry sauce, pork sausage and brie.
I prepared the mushrooms for stuffing my cleaning them off, individually, with a damp towel. If you rinse them under water, they will get tough. Use a towel. I also pulled their stems out and tossed them. Then, I used a grapefruit spoon to make the holes a bit bigger. I realize not everyone has a grapefruit spoon, which is a spoon with a serrated edge. You can use a paring knife or even a regular spoon. Or you could go to my mom’s house and steal her grapefruit spoon like I did.
Now that the mushrooms are ready….I started the stuffing by browning the sausage in a big skillet. Make sure you break up the sausage while it cooks. You want little teeny-tiny pieces for this.
Once the sausage was browned, I stirred in ½ a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and ½ a jar of the onion spread. I cooked this mixture just until it was all heated through.
The onion spread is perfect in this. It is full of caramelized onions, wine, and rosemary. It has all the seasonings and spices that you would want, but if you can’t find it….caramelize your own onions and add some rosemary and white wine.
I filled each mushroom with about 1 teaspoon of filling. One heaping teaspoon. Then, I topped each mushroom with a little chunk of brie. These little guys got baked in a 400 degree oven for almost 20 minutes.
Holy moly, these were amazing. I served these at a little pre-trick or treating party and they went quick!
My last recipe is a yummy Butternut Squash Mousse. Don’t get scared, this isn’t a sweet mousse. It is a savory, airy, delicious mousse. And there is bacon involved.
This recipe uses mini phyllo shells, butternut squash, heavy cream, bacon, pecans, dried cranberries, garlic and a shallot..
The first step is to cook your bacon. I cook mine in the oven….less mess. I lay it out on a cooling rack which is layered over a baking sheet. I bake it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Easy, easy.
I start the filling by sautéing the garlic and shallot which have both been roughly chopped. This will get pureed later so don’t get too hung up on the size of your chop. I sautéed in olive oil, and I also seasoned with salt and pepper.
My butternut squash came in a bag, already diced up for me. This is available in most grocery stores, by the bagged salads. You can cut your own, or you could even use canned pumpkin or sweet potatoes. My bag had directions on the side for steaming in the microwave. I cooked mine, in the bag, for about 3 minutes. Then, I added the steamed squash to the garlic and shallots. I cooked it, over medium high heat, for a few minutes to get a color on it.
The squash mixture got a quick trip in the food processor to get pureed. I went smooth on this, like baby food smooth. You can go chunkier if you want.
You can also use a blender if you don’t have a food processor. If you have neither, mince your garlic and shallot, and when the mixture is cooked, smash it with the back of a spoon.
Then, I let the mixture cool off and come to room temperature. While the squash is cooling off, I whipped up some cream. I never sweeten this. It will literally just be whipped cream. Once the cream is whipped, I folded in the squash mixture. This just means that I gently mixed the two together, trying not to deflate the cream. Use a rubber spatula for this.
Once the cream and squash were folded together, I spooned the mixture into the mini phyllo cups. I would have liked to have piped this in with a pastry bag, but I couldn’t find my star tip. A spoon worked fine.
I topped each little cup with crumbled bacon, chopped pecans and a dried cranberry. I also seasoned these with a bit more salt and pepper over the tops.
Oh man, these were good. They are a little bit sweet, a little bit salty, and a lot bit good. I promise…your crowd will go wild if you make any of these recipes for your Thanksgiving. I hope you try them!
Blue Cheese Spread
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 ounces blue cheese crumbles
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup diced pears, canned
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup dried cranberries
Blend together cream cheese and blue cheese in a food processor, or with a hand mixer. Once blended add remaining ingredients. Pulse food processor until ingredients are mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Cranberry Stuffed Mushrooms
24 whole white button mushrooms
½ pound pork sausage
½ of a 14 ounce can of whole berry cranberry sauce
½ of a 9 ounce jar of Gourmet Rooster Caramelized Onion and Chardonnay Spread
5 ounces brie
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prep mushrooms by wiping them with a damp cloth. Pull out stems and discard. With a paring knife or spoon, make each hole a little bit bigger.
In a large skillet, brown sausage over medium high heat. Once sausage is browned, about 5 minutes, add cranberry sauce and onion spread. Mix well and heat through over medium heat.
Fill each mushroom cap with sausage mixture, about 1 teaspoon each. Top each cap with a small chunk of brie.
Bake at 400 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes or until tops are slightly brown and bubbly.
Butternut Squash Mousse
Athens brand mini phyllo cups, 2 packages
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounce bag butternut squash, peeled, cubed and steamed according to package directions
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 small shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
½ cup heavy cream
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup pecans
½ cup dried cranberries
In a large skillet, sauté garlic and shallot in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until garlic and shallot just start to brown, about 3 minutes. Add steamed butternut squash and sauté an additional 3 minutes over medium high heat. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat heavy cream, with a hand mixer, until soft peaks are formed. Fold squash mixture into whipped cream. Pipe or spoon squash mousse into each phyllo cup. Top with bacon, pecans and dried cranberries.