Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Semi-Homemade Appetizer Buffet for Christmas Eve

I am getting so excited for Christmas Eve.  Instead of a traditional big dinner this year, we are having a deli style lunch, and then having a tapas style buffet spread for dinner.  Two years ago, my sis and I made homemade potato gnocchi for Christmas Eve dinner.  It was delicious and fun to make, but a ton of work.  Last year, we were less ambitious with dinner, but still logged some time in the kitchen, making a feast.  This year, the goal is to spend less time cooking and more time eating and drinking!

In the spirit of "less is more," I have decided to scale back the appetizers I contribute to the buffet by making semi-homemade versions of some of my favorite recipes, and I am going to my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe's, for help.  Here is what I have planned for my portion of the spread.

Photo via

Artichoke Pesto Crostini
Alicia Silverstone shared this great recipe on her blog a while ago.  It is one of my favorite appetizers to serve, but it is a lot of work.  You have to make the crostini, the spread, the pesto, and sautéed mushroom-leek topping.  Instead of doing all that this year, I am taking the inspiration of flavors and textures and creating this recipe:

1 jar of TJ's Artichoke Pesto
1 tub of Roasted Garlic Hummus
1 French or sourdough baguette
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of diced onion
1 teaspoon Umeboshi plum vinegar
1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons of finely chopped Italian parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Slice baguette into 1/4-inch slices and place on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

3. Meanwhile, sauté garlic, onion and olive oil in a pan, until onion is translucent and garlic is golden brown.  Add mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes.  Stir in the Artichoke Pesto and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the parsley.

4. When ready to serve, place bread slices on platter.  Spread hummus on slices first.  Top with a dollop of the artichoke pesto and mushroom mixture.

Bruschetta Hand Purses
These cuties are inspired by the tomato-olive hand pies that I learned to make in one of my favorite cooking classes with Spork Foods.  Using TJ's pre made bruschetta, (I could eat this out of the tub!), this recipe is a cinch.    

1 package of vegan puff pastry (I like the Aussie Bakery brand, available at Whole Foods)
1 tub of Trader Joe's bruschetta (in the refrigerated section)
1/4 cup of kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Thaw puff pastry.  Cut each sheet in half.  Cut each half in half.

2. Mix bruschetta and olives in a bowl.  Stir in balsamic vinegar.

3. Spoon a teaspoon of filling into a pastry square.  Gather all four corners and pinch together.

Photo via

Arugula Topped Polenta Rounds
I pinned this recipe to one of my "Appetizers to Try Board," but decided to take out the polenta step and use a tasty pre-made log from Trader Joe's.  Super simple and just as delicious.

2 logs of Trader Joe's polenta
1 bag of TJ's arugula
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon agave
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat oven broiler.

2. Slice polenta into 1/4 inch slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Broil for 10 minutes until crispy and brown.

3.  Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, agave, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Toss in arugula.

4. Plate polenta.  Top with arugula.