Holiday Appetizer Fun

Have you ever just wanted to throw a fancy party? I know exactly how you feel. But feeding a lot of picky party guests can be super tricky and land you in some sticky situations. Instead of attempting to come up with the perfect three-course meal to satisfy your guests, try starting small with a variety of tasty appetizers.

Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts

The first suggestion I have is a very simple holiday treat. You know those chestnuts you’re supposed to be roasting over an open fire? Don’t do that. Instead, buy some canned water chestnuts and marinate them in a mixture of your favorite sauces. Chestnuts, specifically pre-peeled and canned ones, soak up flavors. Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and a bit of Worcestershire sauce create a salty, sweet and sort of tangy taste.

Soak your chestnuts as long as you can get away with, then cook up a little bit of bacon—not fully, just enough to be generally cooked—to wrap them in. Attach bacon via toothpicks—every-one’s favorite attaching device—and stick your chestnuts on a baking sheet with shallow sides or in some kind of baking dish. You do want to make sure whatever you cook them with can catch juices, because they will drip. That is a mess you do not want to deal with, like finals. But juicier. Anyway, then you just put them in your oven with the broiler on until the bacon is nice and crispy. Got that under control? Cool.

Stuffed mushrooms

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Now it is time for you to stuff some mushrooms. That’s right, you are going to need mushrooms. Whatever kind of the smaller, stuffable mushrooms you prefer is fine. I went with baby bella mushrooms myself, but white button mushrooms work just as well. Grab as many as you can handle and rinse them off before you begin to prepare them. Once they are relatively clean you can easily remove the stems by twisting and pulling them to create a hollow cap (you do not actually have to bop them as well…Get it? Anyone?).

Set your caps aside and begin making your filling. Once again, this can really be whatever you want it to be. If you want some delicious suggestions, I would go with bread crumbs (seasoned or plain, either works just fine), Parmesan cheese, Gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese, one of those good moldy ones), feta (…goat cheese, man. It’s really good!) and chopped green onions. You can throw in some of your Worcestershire sauce and a little pepper as well, but there is really no need to add extra salt to this mixture. Just put it down. Don’t get trigger happy with salt just because you like to cook. Seriously, stop, your heart might explode.

Stir your mixture together and press it into the mushrooms. It’s totally cool to really overfill them. Once they are ready, put them in a dish or on a baking sheet. These will be juicy, too, so put down some tin foil and try to use something that will catch any liquid. I say this for you. I am not trying to tell you how to live your life; it will just make clean up a lot easier. Bake your mushrooms for about 30 minutes. Then, if you desire a crispier top, broil them for a few moments. When you are done with that, make sure to let them sit until they are cool enough not to melt your tongue out of your face.

Stuffed tomatoes

Okay, still need something? Don’t worry, we can stuff something else! Tomatoes are also fairly easily to hollow out and turn into an empty shell (like us, you know, during finals). You will need as many tomatoes as you want. I don’t know how generous you are feeling or whether you are just making these for yourself. I like to use organic, vine-ripened tomatoes when I am feeling fancy, so you could do that same, but any good-sized tomato (or cherry tomato, if you are feeling up to a gutting challenge) will do. Rinse them off, cut off a portion of the top and use the knife to cut around the hard parts of the meat of the tomatoes.

After the guts of your tomatoes are free, post-knifing, you can use a spoon to scoop out the insides. You don’t need the insides; don’t save them. That is weird. Set your hollowed-out tomatoes aside and begin to work on your filling. Frankly, you can pretty much use the same filling that you did for the mushrooms. Want to be different? Try adding some canned tuna or maybe some freshly chopped spinach. Hate tuna? Fine, use chicken. Or don’t use meat at all. I don’t know you. You could be a vegetarian. If you do use spinach, adding a little bit of lemon juice will bring out a fresh flavor and keep your spinach a bright color. That looks pretty.

Your tomatoes can be cooked exactly like your mushrooms were. Remember, a dish or a pan with at least some sort of sides and some tin foil will make clean up easier. Or just use cooking spray. Then you can rinse the dish off, and the messy parts just slide away. 30 minutes in the oven and a few under the broiler creates some really good tomatoes.If you are a human with the usual human mouth-flesh, let them cool before you eat or serve them. Let’s try to avoid getting hurt. Finals are already going to suck out your soul and leave you a withered husk.