Tag Archives: Holiday Appetizers

sugared cranberries

These festive little gems are the perfect finishing touch for your holiday desserts.

Sugared cranberries are so simple to make, you can get the entire family involvled.

The recipe below is a basic sugared cranberry recipe. Feedback for this recipe has included the following:
“Superfine sugar is not necessary, we used regular sugar for rolling and it came out fine.

sugared cranberries


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar

Note: if you can’t find superfine, create your own by adding granulated sugar to a food processor for about a minute.

Optional: A few grates of orange zest and 1 or 2 cloves or vanilla added to the syrup adds a deeper flavor. Tweak and twist it a bit to suit your flavor and make the recipe your own.


  1. Using a toothpick, poke at least one hole in each cranberry to ensure the sweetened syrup gets inside the berry, otherwise they tend to be a bit too tart.
  2. Combine sugar and water, sturring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer, not a boil and remove from heat.
  3. Stir in cranberries, pour mixture into a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Remove cranberries and drain in a colander over bowl, reserving cranberry simple syrup. DO NOT RINSE the berries. The syrupy coating is needed. Refrigerate the left over simple syryp for cocktails.
  5. Place superfine or granulated sugar in a shallow dish or rimmed baking sheet, add cranberries and roll to coat completely with sugar. Note: if some of your berries are too wet, blot lightly with a paper towel, being careful not to dry them completely. This will help to keep the sugar from “clumping”.
  6. Spread finished cranberries in a single layer on baking sheet lined with parchment. Let stand approx. 1 hour at room temperature until dry.

pair & pour: holiday appetizer and cocktail pairing by blakely trettenero

Blakely Trettenero’s simple holiday cooking tips

Keep the menu simple and pick recipes that you can prepare in advance before your loved ones arrive. You don’t have to make a 10 course meal for everyone to be happy so don’t push yourself too much by trying recipes you’ve never made before. As long as you keep the cocktails flowing, they will think anything you make will be delicious! Enjoy the spirit of the Holidays and relax! They go by fast.

Mushroom, Herb & Gruyere Puffs


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound baby bella (or crimini) mushrooms, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 2 sheets thawed puff pastry
  • egg wash for brushing

Instructions by Blakely

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
  2. In a saute pan over medium high heat melt the butter and add the chopped onion. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, until cooked through
  3. To the onions add the minced garlic, finely chopped mushrooms, salt, pepper, and the chopped fresh herbs
  4. Cook until all of the moisture is out of the pan from the mushrooms, 7-10 minutes
  5. Sprinkle the mushrooms with the flour and stir to combine. Let it cook for about 2 minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor
  6. Add the white wine and Greek yogurt, mixing everything together
  7. Once everything is combined turn off the heat and add the shredded cheese. Stir to combine and set aside
  8. On a floured surface roll out the puff pastry lightly and cut it into squares. I got 12 squares per sheet of puff pastry
  9. Add a spoonful of the mushroom mixture to the middle of the puff pastry squares and brush the edges with the egg wash
  10. Fold the edges together, making little turnover shapes, and use your finger to crimp down the edges
  11. Add them to a parchment lined sheet tray, brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle with pepper and thyme leaves, and put into the oven
  12. Let them bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes

That’s it! Serve them while they’re hot and watch them disappear in SECONDS!

Cranberry Orange Champagne Cocktail


  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • 1 ounces Cointreau, or any orange liquor
  • sparkling wine
  • frozen cranberries (optional)

Instructions by Blakely

I love a good fancy cocktail for a special occasion! Makes everything seem festive with only a little effort. This cocktail is one of my favorites for the Holiday season and I know it will be yours too. In a champagne glass add the cranberry juice, orange liquor, and top with champagne. I like to add frozen cranberries or an orange peel to give is a festive look.

There you go! A delicious easy cocktail for any special occasion. Cheers!

About Blakely Trettenero

Blakely Trettenero, host of the  Everyday Gourmet with Blakely ~ GourmetwithBlakely.com and Hungry for Travels ~ Hungryfortravels.com websites, is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, Fla. She is a world traveler, having visited more than 30 countries, and is becoming a frequent guest on TV.


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deviled eggs with bacon

It’s that delicious time of year when “fresh” begins to dominate the menu. Days are lengthening, gardens are being prepped and foods are lighter.

The deviled egg is so basic, yet can be dressed in so many accessories. Here we add a bit of bacon and green onion rounds both for their deliciousness and color.  I hope you experiment a bit with different flavors, twist, tweak and make it your own.

deviled eggs with bacon

  • Difficulty: very simple
  • Print

Deviled Egg with BaconIngredients

  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 or 2 green onions, sliced into small rings
  • 4 slices thick bacon
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper


Place eggs in a saucepan and fill with enough cool water to cover the eggs by an inch or two. Bring to boil over high heat. Once water reaches a boil, remove pan from heat, cover and let stand 15 minutes. There are so many methods for boiling the perfect egg, go with what works for you.

Add bacon to a skillet and cook until browned and crisp, flipping half way through, about 5 to 6 mins total. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate to drain and wait until bacon is cool enough to handle. Crumble the strips into small pieces.

Remove eggs from pan with slotted spoon and gently tap each egg on bowl or counter top, making a few cracks in each egg. Submerge all eggs in ice water for about a minute, remove, peel and slice lenghtwise.

Being careful not to tear the whites, use your fingers to gently remove the yolks. Place yolks in medium bowl and arrange the empy whites on platter or egg plate, cut side up.

Mash yolks with fork until they are completely crumbled. Add the mayonnaise and mustard and mash into the filling until you have a smooth paste. Add a bit of salt and pepper.

Use a spatula to scoop the filling into a plastic zip or pipping bag and press the bag with your hand to push all the filling to one corner and preess any air out of the top. If you are using a zip-plastic bag, snip one bottom corner off with a pair of scissors. Pipe the filling into the cup of each egg white so the filling mounds a bit over the top.

Sprinkle the deviled eggs with the bacon crumbles and small cut green onion rounds.

Recipe notes
The eggs can be hard-boiled and peeled up to 1 day in advanced and chilled overnight.

Texture is everything
Some people like the filling to be creamy and some like it a bit drier or crumbly with the egg yolk as the star of the show. Experiment with different quantities of mustard and mayonnaise and texture of your eggs.

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As always, I am raising a glass to you. Karie

You can find us on facebook and instagram @basilandsalt email: karie@basilandsalt.com

profile picKarie Engels is an author, founder and publisher of Basil & Salt Magazine. She enjoys a quiet life in a small farmhouse in Washington state with her quarrelsome cat, Pippin.



smoked salmon, cream cheese, horseradish and dill on rye

I first shared this recipe with my Basil & Salt Magazine readers over the last holiday season. It’s a rich, delicious appetizer that my guests and I have enjoyed each cocktail season.

I enjoy all the recipes I’ve added to Basil, however in light of a recent health concern, it’s necessary I drastically modify my diet. What’s a food writer to do? My answer was quick and simple. Add, subtract and modify each recipe without sacrificing an ounce of flavor.

Along with the occasional indulgence, fresh and delicious recipes are always on the menu. I thought it would be a great idea to pick up a few of my recipes from my other publication to modify and share them here with my new recipes. When you see Slim it Down inside on the ingredients list or in notes, this means it’s a modification of one of my original, full fat, full flavor recipes. I may post the original ingredients and then a “slim it down” version, or you may simply see here, my new and improved “slimmer” version. I loved this recipe so much I wanted to share it with the all of my readers!

This appetizer is gorgeous in presentation and your guests will love the flavor combinations. This is a simple recipe with plenty of room for improvisation. For example, pictured, I presented the salmon and cream over rye bread, however you can easily nix the bread and serve as a spread with crisps or crackers. However you choose to present, it’s delicious. Enjoy!

A couple of tips 
Before creating your spread, taste the salmon you have chosen, as some is packaged with more salt than others. Adjust your salt accordingly.

Drain your salmon of any oil or liquid before adding to your spread.

Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, Dill & Horseradish on Rye

Servings: 8        Difficulty: simple

Salmon App IIIngredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened | slim it down 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream | Slim it down 1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, we use LaBaleine Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces smoked salmon, minced (as pictured)Slim it Down: instead of mincing the salmon and adding to the spread, spread a thin layer of cheese mixture on light crackers and place a larger strip of salmon on your cracker. More protein, less cheese. The cream cheese still imparts a rich flavor while the horseradish gives it that delicious “kick”.


  1. Using an electric mixer, cream the cheese until smooth.
  2. Add sour cream, lemon juice, dill, horseradish, salt, pepper and mix.
  3. Add smoked salmon and mix well.
  4. Chill and serve.

*Note: To save time prepare, cover and chill overnight. Use a small cookie cutter to create the shape you desire for bread. We used a rye bread cut into small rounds, however feel free to create the flavor, color and shape of your choice as your base.

Do you love what you see? I am working hard on the backside to bring you beautiful delicious recipes in the front. Please follow the blog and follow on Facebook and instagram. I look forward to seeing here often!

Two Fresh Twists on the Classic Easter Brunch with Jarlsberg® Cheese



breakfast-easter-eggs-largeOut of all the tasks on the “to do list” before family arrives on Easter Sunday, creating the menu is my favorite. I spread many recipes out in front of me and begin pairing appetizers, main dishes and desserts, switching them out several times before the final decision. It’s a simpler process and there are fewer items on the menu if I make sure I’ve eaten beforehand.

The choices are many and I select the centerpiece first and then “accessorize”. Family members bring their own signature dish to the table each year, which counts as one of the paired items. For example, each year one gentleman brings a caramelized onion dip and deviled eggs. I love this. He is like “old faithful”. Always on time, always packing something delicious. The eggs and dip are accessories for the appetizer bar and this year, I am adding two new delicious flavors that I know fam and friends will love.

This year, my new additions are centered around Jarlsberg® Cheese.  Naturally gluten and lactose free, it raises the bar for the Easter table. I look forward to bringing these new additions to my family and friends year after year.

Jarlsberg® Cheese is available nationwide in the specialty cheese case in grocery retailers, and comes in pre-sliced packages, or sliced at the deli counter, and is also available in club stores. There is a flavor for every palate:

  • Jarlsberg® Cheese, is a mild, semi-soft skim cheese made from cow’s milk, and is famous for its characteristic mild, sweet and nutty taste and its large round holes.
  • Jarlsberg® Lite Cheese has the same mild, nutty flavor as regular Jarlsberg® Cheese with 50% less fat and 30% fewer calories, than regular Swiss cheese. This low-fat variety of the original has the characteristic large round holes, with a lower fat content – perfect for those days when you crave the sweet, nutty flavor delights  but need to watch your diet.
  • Jarlsberg® Hickory Smoked Cheese has a piquant smoky taste, and like most smoked foods has a darker, browner surface.  It’s cold smoked over smoldering, hickory chip embers, this Hickory smoked flavor will enhance your cold or hot foods, with its deep, smoky charms.

“Easter is the perfect holiday to welcome everyone to the table, with Jarlsberg® Cheese ideas that are sure to please all ages,” says Deborah Seife, General Manager of Marketing. “Whether it’s Easter brunch or your Easter holiday dinner, Jarlsberg® Cheese will bring a wholesome, delicious taste to whatever you serve.”


Jarlsberg® Corn Muffins


  • ½ cup Jarlsberg® Cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups of cornmeal
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter

Nut Pesto

  • 1 tablespoon
  • Chopped fresh parsley (1/4 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup chopped cashew nuts

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 F. Whisk together eggs and milk. In a separate bowl, mix flour, butter, baking powder and sugar. Combine all ingredients and stir well. Spoon into paper muffin cups. Cut the Jarlsberg® cheese and press down into the center of the mixture in each muffin cup. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve the muffins with the Nut Pesto and enjoy!

Jarlsberg® Croquettes


  • 4 ounces Jarlsberg® Cheese
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 cups oil
  • 10 ounces canned tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Teaspoon of sugar
  • One clove of garlic
  • 10 gelatin leaves
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 ounces any style ham (cooked)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon curry

Cooking Instructions

Tomato Sauce

  1. Cook tomato sauce and set aside, using fresh garlic and tomatoes. Simmer garlic and tomatoes for 20 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Grate the Jarlsberg® Cheese and dice up the ham. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.  Make a white sauce with butter and flour, cooking for about 3 minutes on low heat, and then slowly add in milk. Thicken, by cooking about 5 minutes.
  2. Squeeze the soaked gelatin leaves and then add to the sauce. Stir until smooth. Add the ham, shallots and parsley.
  3. Pour the entire mixture into a 1 inch high dish or pan and let sit to cool, about 30 minutes. Then, cut into about 40 slices.
  4. Set up your assembly line of: eggs, flour and bread crumbs. Dip the pieces and then fry in the oil. If you would like an even crispier treat, dip again and refry. Enjoy!

Enjoy these fresh new recipes for a stunning Easter brunch and a holiday worthy side dish. For more great ideas, tips and information on Jarlsberg® Cheese visit them at www.jarlsbergusa.com and like them on Facebook.

About Jarlsberg® Cheese

In 1956, we created Jarlsberg® Cheese, using an original Norwegian recipe. Why does Jarlsberg® Cheese taste so mild, nutty and delicious? It’s all part of the legend…and Norway’s most guarded recipe!  www.jarlsberg.com





Wow the crowd with two simple and delicious holiday appetizers

Friends and family have a fabulous habit of stopping by unannounced this time of year and it’s important to have a few ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry for these delightfully festive occasions.

Pita chips in the pantry, fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses chilling are all you need to create a couple of delicious plates of finger foods. Pair these with a bottle of bubbly or cocktails and you have all the ingredients for a successful impromptu gathering

Strawberry Mascarpone Dip

Prep Time: 15 Minutes   Yields: 2 ½ cups of dip


  • Strawberry Mascarpone Dip1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • ½ cup sliced strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic glaze
  1. Beat mascarpone with ricotta, maple syrup, and Grand Marnier in large bowl with electric mixer until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  2. Spoon mascarpone mixture into serving bowl. Top with strawberries and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve with New York Style Pita chips.

Pairs best with: New York Style Ancient Grains & Flaxseed, Chia Seeds & Quinoa or Sea Salt Pita Chip.


Butternut Squash Bruschetta Dip

Prep Time: 20 minutes  Cook Time: 8 minutes   Yields: 3 cups of dip


  • Butternut Squash Bruschetta2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups diced butternut squash
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 ounces prosciutto
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  1. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add squash and cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender-crisp.
  2. Stir in cranberries and prosciutto. Cook 2 minutes or till squash is tender. Remove from heat, let cool; stir in blue cheese and sage.

Best Paired with:  New York Style Pita Chips

New York Style Pita Chips, which are available in six flavors, are not just tasty but are also twice baked and never fried,  and provide more crunch with less mess. They’re the chip to dip! Flavors include:

  • New York Style Ancient Grains & Flaxseed Pita Chips (NEW)
  • New York Style Chia Seeds & Quinoa Pita Chips (NEW)
  • New York Style Sea Salt Pita Chips
  • New York Style Parmesan Garlic & Herb Pita Chips
  • New York Style Red Hot Chili Pepper Pita Chips
  • New York Style Garden Fresh Ranch Pita Chips



Appetizers to usher in the Holiday Cocktail Season

Thanksgiving is almost here, menus are being finalized and shopping lists are being created.  Holiday parties are in full swing and will continue through New Years Day, so having a diversified array of cocktails, appetizers, main and side dishes is a must.

Credit: Martha Stewart

Toasted rustic bread smothered in a warm and tasty spread or dip is an irresistible starter on my menu for each holiday party and Martha Stewart’s site has a delightful assortment to choose from.  As I always suggest, browse around the site links provided.

Warm Fennel and Parmesan Dip.  Roast garlic and fennel, puree and sprinkle in the cheese.  Transfer to baking dish and bake until hot in center and cheese is golden brown.  The complete ingredients list and instructions can be found here.

I have a weakness for olives of every kind.  I don’t feel a cocktail party is complete until they are in attendance.  I took a quick trip over to Food and Wine to find a new recipe to add to my collection and stumbled upon a spicy gem.  The complete recipe can be found here.

Photo Credit: Wendell T. Webber
-for Food and Wine

Marinated Olives ~ this recipe makes 2 pounds

  • 1 pound Nicoise olives ( 2 1/2 cups )
  • 1 pound Pieholine olives ( 2 1/2 cups )
  • 5 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon rushed red pepper
  • Zest strips from 1 orange cut into fine julienne
  • About 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  1. In a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Rinse the olives in a large strainer; drain well.  Transfer the olives to a medium bowl.  Stir in the toasted fennel seeds garlic, crushed red pepper and orange zest and add enough olive oil to cover.  Let stand at room temperature for at least  hours before serving.

Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

Hanging around Martha’s site yielded some great results this afternoon.  The combination of flavors in this next appetizer has my head bubbling and brewing with inspiration and possibilities of pairings and combinations.  The full recipe can be found here

Baked Brie with Pecans ~ Serves 8

  • 1 small wheel of Brie or Camembert ( about 9 ounces )
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • crackers or sliced baguette, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place cheese on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until softened 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer to a serving plate; cool about 20 minutes.
  2. While cheese cools, place nuts on a clean baking sheet; bake until toasted and fragrant 7 to 10 minutes.  Sprinkle over cheese.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and maple syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Drizzle warm sauce over slightly cooled cheese and nuts; serve with crackers or baguette.  Full recipe here

Photo: Chow

Something sweet added to the menu is always a grand idea for a bit of a nibble here and there.  Saveur Magazine featured Chow’s Toasted Cashew and Bacon Brittle and I couldn’t resist adding it to the docket.  The ingredient list is cashews, bacon, granulated sugar, water and salt.  It serves 8 – 10, makes about a pound and can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in an air tight container at room temp.  You can find the full recipe here