Lunchbreak: Holiday appetizers from The Suburban Epicurean

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The Suburban Epicurean

For recipes:

Holiday Themed Appetizers:

Cranberry Blue Cheese Ball Pinecone

  • 4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces blue cheese
  • 2 Tbls. diced green onion
  • 3 ounces dried cranberries

Sliced almonds

Place cheddar cheese in a food processor, pulse until coarsely chopped, and add remaining ingredients until well combined.  Lay out a large sheet of plastic wrap and place cheese mixture on top, form into pinecone shape as best you can then refrigerate several hours and reform, let come to room temperature and gently place sliced almonds in cheese ball.  Best at room temperature.  Serve with baguette slices or crackers.

Serves about 12.

Mini Greek Burgers in Pita

  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 Tbls. Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced Kalamata Olives
  • 2 Tbls.minced roasted red pepper
  • 2 Tbls. minced red onion
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Mini pita bread
  • Tomato Slices


1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeds removed; chopped fine salt

1 cup plain Greek Yogurt

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 Tbls. lemon juice

1 teaspoon dill

Salt to taste

Combine the finely chopped cucumber with the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and dill, season with salt. In a large bowl combine the ground turkey (season with salt and pepper), parsley, garlic and oregano. Add the olives, roasted red bell pepper, egg and onions to that as well. Add the crumbled feta, mix by hand until everything comes together. Form into mini patties. Pour a little olive oil in a non stick skillet and cook each burger until browned, if necessary or doing ahead, finish in 375 degree oven for a bout 5 minutes or until fully cooked. Spread some of the sauce on pita bread. Top with the Greek turkey burger and tomato. Makes about 20.

Mini Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 2/3 cup mixed veggies (carrots, peas, corn) or similar combo
  • 2 cups cup cooked chicken, diced
  • 4 Tbls. roux
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbls. sherry
  • pinch of thyme
  • fresh ground pepper

Sheet of puff pastry; using star cookie cutters cut out shapes, brush with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Melt butter and add flour to make a roux, whisk in stock, milk, sherry, thyme and roux season with fresh ground pepper.  Add chicken and veggies.  Pour into mini bowls and top with puff pastry stars.

White Chocolate Popcorn

½ cup popcorn popped in oil on stove top (my favorite brand is Tiny but Mighty) Sprinkle with salt after popping

1 bag white chocolate chips

Christmas colored sprinkles or Gold Sugar (available at Williams Sonoma) Melt bag of white chocolate in a double boiler (do not let get too hot or it will seize) drizzle melted white chocolate over popped corn. Immediately follow by decorating with Christmas sprinkles. Allow 1 hour for chocolate to harden.

Buche de Noel

Sponge cake:

  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cake flour

Chocolate buttercream:

  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan with a 1-inch lip (jelly-roll pan) and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

Beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes. Fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture. Once the flour is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. Do not overmix or the cake will bake up into a tough texture.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth over them, but do not press the batter down. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set. Invert the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait 3 minutes and then gently roll the cake, still in the towel, starting at the 10-inch end. Allow it to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream:

In a clean, completely dry bowl beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Set them aside for a moment.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Allow it boil until it has reduced into a slightly thickened syrup. Begin beating the egg whites on high speed again, and pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow, steady stream. Pour the melted chocolate and vanilla extract into the egg whites and continue beating them until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.

Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny at any time in this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through and continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.

To assemble the chocolate yule log:

Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. Evenly spread 2 cups (or desired amount) of the chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake and following its natural curve, gently form it into a cake roll. Cut off the ends of the cake roll on the diagonal and reattach them in the center of the cake with a bit of buttercream to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log.

Spread the exterior of the buche de noel with enough chocolate buttercream to cover it and gently pull a butter knife or small, offset spatula through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark. Add meringue mushrooms to complete the festive look. Serves 12.

Carol’s Tips:

Choose 1 or 2 colors to make your table “pop”

Repurpose items

Balance food flavors

Do food ahead of time

Presentation and taste important

The items presented:

decorative picks and popcorn cones

birch straws, woodland ice cubes, woodland moving animal picture

wood grain wrapping paper

peppermint cotton candy

woodland ornaments, white timber ceramic plates, small white dishes used for mini chicken pot pies, plaid thermos

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