Archive for the 'appetizers' Category

Cheddar-Olive Shortbread Balls

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Shortbread and balls are the culinary keywords of the season, no?

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It’s the morning after (OK, afternoon after) our annual Polyester & Cheese Christmas party, wherein friends wear polyester and bring something cheesy, and our dining room table is so weighed down with cheese by the end of the night (as are we) that the next morning all you can do is come downstairs in your PJs, make some coffee and keep going. Polyester & Cheese is the official kick-off to the season of nibbling party food leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner (if you haven’t had warmed mince tarts for breakfast yet, I highly recommend it) straight through until Boxing Day.

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Last weekend my friend Elizabeth had their family Christmas party, a retro extravaganza not unlike ours, with cheese balls and pink peppermint pie and vintage Pyrex. She served these warm balls of cheddar shortbread, wrapped around an olive and baked, and Mike ate at least six. (I did too.)

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I texted her the next day for the recipe. She texted back: Mix 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 1/4 cups flour, 2 cups grated cheddar, wrap around an olive, chill for an hour then bake for 20 minutes.

So there you go. I love recipes like this.

cheddar olives 3 Cheddar Olive Shortbread Balls

The dough can be made in approximately three minutes, and the wrapped olives can chill for an hour or five, and be at the ready for that time when you expect guests to arrive at the door, at which point you can slide them into the oven to bake and have something warm and wonderful smelling (who needs potpourri or smelly candles you can’t eat?) and easy to eat that everyone seems to love, and that tastes just as good once they cool down. (Note: the olives stay hot for longer than their shortbread jackets do; and make sure you don’t buy olives with pits – emergency dental work can put a damper on any Christmas party.)

cheddar olives 4 Cheddar Olive Shortbread Balls

Cheddar-Olive Shortbread Balls

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups grated aged cheddar
a pinch of salt and pepper
about 1 1/2 dozen pitted olives

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, flour, cheddar and salt and pepper. Wrap some dough around each olive (patting them dry with paper towels seems to help the dough not slide off – just cup it in your hand and squeeze it together as if you were making a little snowball) and refrigerate for an hour or so.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F and bake for 20 minutes, or until pale golden on the bottom. Cool before serving – the olives inside can get hot!

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen olive balls.

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December 15 2013 | appetizers | 15 Comments »

12 Days of Recipes: Cranberry-Mandarin Christmas Preserves

Holiday Preserves on Brie 2 12 Days of Recipes: Cranberry Mandarin Christmas Preserves


Baked brie with Christmas preserves: it’s what’s for dinner. And breakfast, probably.

Christmas preserves 1 12 Days of Recipes: Cranberry Mandarin Christmas Preserves

I’ve embraced this season of chocolates, cookies and leftover party food as in place of our regular meals, or at least as supplements. I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten more baked brie in the last few weeks as I have all year – and I’m counting on more tonight.

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About twenty years ago, I was in my early twenties visiting a friend in Saskatoon – she lived in a corner bungalow that back then cost so little these days I could probably put it on my credit card – and she had two small kids, a work and soccer schedule, and the whole scenario seemed so grown-up, especially when we decided one day to make a big pot of preserves to divvy into jars and hand out as Christmas gifts. We came up with this mishmash of holiday flavours – citrus, cranberries, nuts and spice – and made a special run to the store for some liquid pectin, which it turns out we didn’t really need. It tasted like Christmas, and we sat on stools in the kitchen and ate so much of it spread on crackers that I had to curl up on the couch afterward. (We may have been chasing it with Bailey’s.)

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I’ve been meaning to make it again, and came across the old jotted-down-on-foolscap recipe, which it turns out (now that I know better) needed a lot of tweaking. It is perhaps the simplest preserve you could make, the high-pectin cranberries taking care of any jelling that needs to happen. It’s also a great way to use up those smooshy Mandarin oranges that seem to abound in every box. It’s sort of a holiday preserve cure-all; it’s not really jam, but is great on toast. It’s delicious warmed and poured over ice cream or cake, or spooned into the middle of those little shortbread thumbprint cookies. And of course – on top of a wheel of Brie. (Slice the rind off the top of a wheel of brie, put it in a baking dish, top with big spoonfuls of these preserves and bake at 350 or so until it starts to get all melty. That’s it.) And it keeps for ages in jars in the fridge or freezer – I imagine you could process it for longer shelf storage, too – I packed mine into Weck jars and will be bringing it along to Christmas parties for the next couple weeks.

Holiday Preserves on Brie 1 12 Days of Recipes: Cranberry Mandarin Christmas Preserves

Speaking of processing – this process was sped up by pulsing the oranges and lemons into a chunky mash in a food processor. It was part of a quest to come up with holiday recipes for fun kitchen appliances at London Drugs – and they have another $100 gift card to give away to one of you for your shopping pleasure! (Disclaimer: it doesn’t have to be for anyone else, you could just shop for yourself.) I should also mention that it’s my belief that kitchen appliances make perfectly suitable gifts – I know a lot of men are told they should be buying jewelry or some such, and that home appliances come with some negative domestic implications, but I for one would choose a waffle iron or coffee machine over diamonds any day. Just sayin’.

To enter, leave a comment here! If you’re heading to a Christmas party (or hosting one) this weekend, what was your favourite thing to eat? And if you’re hunkering down at home and avoiding those minus a hundred temperatures, what have you been eating curled up on the couch?

Cranberry-Mandarin Christmas Preserves

5-6 Mandarin oranges or 2-3 regular oranges
2 small lemons
4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Grate the zest off the oranges and lemons into a large saucepan or small pot. Peel the fruit and break (or slice) the insides into chunks (quarters are fine) into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, just until chunky. Add to the saucepan with the zest.

Add the sugar, cranberries, raisins, cinnamon and allspice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture thickens and becomes more uniform in colour and the cranberries pop. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks, if you used them, and stir in the pecans.

Store in jars in the fridge for up to a month, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Makes about 6 cups.

* This post was generously sponsored by London Drugs as part of their #LDHoliday campaign, but the words and thoughts are my own. Thanks, London Drugs!

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December 07 2013 | appetizers and preserves | 92 Comments »

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