Holiday Recipes: Life of the Party

    We asked local caterers for their favorite holiday finger foods—so you can be the star at your next seasonal shindig with these holiday recipes.

    Autumn holiday recipes dishes set with decorative pumpkins, apples, red leaves with vintage cutlery, red wine, candle over wooden table. Rustic style.

    Bacon-Wrapped Dates Filled With Pumpkin Cream Cheese

    Sweet, savory and decadent. Pumpkin cream cheese gives this appetizer a sweet, rich fall flavor, while salty bacon lures you to pop one in your mouth every time you pass the food table.

    Locally Sourced: Larissa Vendola, executive chef, Garden of the Gods Market and Cafe

    Best For: Football parties and Friendsgiving.

    Skill Level: Easy—but time consuming.

    Tasting Points: “It can be casual, or it can be fancy, depending on what you want it to be and what you pair it with,” Vendola says.

    Try This at Home

    Yields approximately 24.

    You’ll Need
    • 8 slices of bacon, cut in thirds
    • 24 dates, pitted
    • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
    • 8 ounces pumpkin pie filling—Want to make your own? Follow the recipe below.

    Pumpkin Pie Filling*
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
    • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

    Simple Steps
    » Place cream cheese and pumpkin pie filling in food processor. Puree until smooth.
    » Place filling in a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Squeeze, or pipe, filling into dates.
    » Wrap with 1/3 piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
    » Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, until the bacon is brown and mostly crisp.

    *Note: Extra pumpkin cream cheese filling can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. If frozen, defrost and mix well before piping.


    Holiday Mini Turnovers

    These mini turnovers filled with turkey, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce deliver a taste of Thanksgiving dinner in one bite. Save those turkey day leftovers and freeze for use in December or when you’re pressed for time before the party.

    Locally Sourced: Michelle Talarico, co-owner, The Picnic Basket, Cravings Five Star Catering, Buffalo Gals Grilling

    Best For: Early season office parties and friendly gatherings.

    Skill Level: Easy to difficult, depending how homemade you go. See “Try This at Home.”

    Tasting Points: “It tastes like home,” Talarico says. “It smells and looks like your grandma’s kitchen, and it’s such a fun bite of comfort.”

    Try This at Home

    All the ingredients for these tasty bites can be made from scratch or purchased premade in any supermarket, including rolled pie dough. You can vary amounts to your needs, but plan on 2 tablespoons of filling mix per turnover. Of course, you can skip the turkey for a vegetarian version.

    You’ll Need
    • Roast turkey, shredded or diced
    • Turkey gravy
    • Stuffing
    • Cranberry sauce
    • Pie dough
    • 1 egg
    • Water

    Simple Steps
    » Mix all turkey, stuffing and gravy.
    » Separately whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water into an egg wash.
    » Cut a 3- to 4-inch round circle of dough. Fill one side with 2 tablespoons of turkey mixture. Top with a dollop of cranberry sauce.
    » Fold dough over the top like a turnover. Press and seal the edges with the egg wash, using a pastry brush.
    » Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.


    Rosemary Candied Marcona Almonds

    All you need is a wooden spoon and a pan, but the result says unique elegance. Rosemary adds a piney flavor perfect for the holidays and easy to pair. Set them on bars or tables, or wrap them in small bags to send home with guests at the end of the night.

    Locally Sourced: Barry Dunlap, owner and chef, Summit Catering

    Best For: Big holiday potlucks or party favors.

    Skill Level: Easy—just three ingredients.

    Tasting Points: “These are so versatile because you can have them with cocktails only, or as a complement to other hors d’oeuvres,” Dunlap says.

    Try This at Home

    You’ll Need
    • 1 pound Marcona almonds
    • 1/2 cup sugar, granulated
    • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
    • 1 teaspoon salt, kosher or coarse sea salt

    Simple Steps
    » Place a large saute pan on medium heat.
    » Sprinkle sugar evenly over surface of the pan.
    » As the edges start to melt, add the almonds.
    » Stir the almonds with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and coats the almonds. The sugar will start to brown. Keep the almonds moving so they do not burn.
    » Stir in the rosemary and salt, and cook for another minute or so.
    » Turn out onto a cookie sheet and spread out to cool.
    » Once cool, break apart and enjoy.

    Note: “The melted sugar is extremely hot. Do not touch or taste until completely cool,” Dunlap says. “Do not ask me how I know this.”

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