by Jolene Adams, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Another year draws to a close and with it, one last celebration.
The holidays are a wonderful time of year for food, each having their own traditions. Last month we came together for a gigantic meal of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and pie. The Christmas feast includes ham, stuffed pork loin, breads both sweet and savory, all sorts of side dishes and of course dessert. The table is always covered with trays and platters containing every type of cookie, fudge, quick bread and dessert bar known to man.
Dessert is definitely the main event at our Christmas dinner. By the time New Year’s is upon us, I’m definitely not ready to give up feasting, yet I’m ready for a change from the large, sit-down meal to more of a snack-all-night kind of menu.
One of my favorite gatherings to cook for is New Year’s. I like it because we celebrate with appetizers, finger foods and dip. I’m ready to gorge myself on bacon-wrapped everything, shrimp galore, an array of dips from mild to spicy and last but not least, a variety of cheeses! So get out your slow cooker, trays and toothpicks and get busy making these fun appetizers to munch on when ringing in the new year!
Sweet and Tangy Asian Meatballs
2 pounds ground pork
1/2 cup green onions chopped, about 6 or 8 green onions
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon ginger freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste
sesame seeds for garnish
2/3 cup Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
5 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoon ginger freshly grated
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl. Shape into 1 inch in diameter meatballs and place them on the prepared baking sheet. This should make about 35 meatballs.
Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes or until just slight brown and no longer pink inside.
In the meantime, mix all the sauce ingredients together.
Toss the meatballs together with the sauce and pour into your slow cooker. Cook on low for two hours. The sauce will reduce and thicken a bit.
Serve garnished with additional chopped green onion or sesame seeds.
Sweet Chicken Bacon Bites
2 chicken breasts boneless and skinless, cut into 1 inch cubes
8 to 12 slices thin cut bacon cut into halves or thirds
3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
Depending on your bacon, how thin or thick it is, cut each slice in either half or three pieces; leave enough length to wrap around a chicken piece.
Wrap each piece of chicken with a piece of bacon. Skewer with a toothpick if necessary.
Coat the wrapped chicken with brown sugar and make sure each piece is evenly coated.
Place chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet and season again with more salt and pepper.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until bacon is nice and crisp.
Garnish with parsley.
Spicy Spinach Dip
6 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained
1 large onion chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil
14 1/2 ounce can Mexican diced tomatoes
8 ounce cream cheese
16 ounce shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 jalapeno pepper finely diced ***
1 tablespoon hot sauce
Thaw spinach, wrap in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove excess water.
In a large skillet, sauté onion in oil until tender, about five minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cream cheese until blended. Stir in the spinach, cheese blend, jalapeno, and hot pepper.
Transfer to an 8 inch baking dish or individual size ramekins. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for the 8 inch baking dish and about 15 min for the ramekins.
Serve warm with chips.
*** Note: always wear gloves when chopping hot peppers and do not touch your face or eyes. Remove the seeds and inner membrane for less heat.
Cranberry Bacon Jam Crostini
Cranberry Bacon Jam
1 pound thick cut bacon
2 cups large yellow onions, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste
1 baguette, sliced into 2″ thick slices
1/2 pound smoked Gruyere cheese
Freshly chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Lay bacon pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Cook for 20-30 minutes until crispy.
After cooked, immediately remove bacon from pan and place on paper towels to drain. Reserve bacon grease from sheet pan for next step.
Heat two tablespoons bacon fat over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onions, stir and cook for about 10 minutes.
Chop the cooled bacon and set aside.
Once onions start to turn a light golden color, brown sugar, sherry vinegar, thyme, and season with salt and pepper.
Add bacon, cranberry juice and dried cranberries. Cook on medium low heat about 15 minutes or until mixture has reduced. The color will be dark brown and sauce will have a jam like consistency.
Allow the bacon jam to cool.
To prepare the crostini, preheat the oven to 400 and slice the baguette into 2″ thick slices. Place the bread pieces onto a sheet pan and toast for five minutes. Top with Gruyere cheese and continue baking another few minutes to just melt the cheese.
Cool slightly before topping with a spoonful of the bacon jam mixture.
Garnish with parsley before serving.
Lemon Garlic Shrimp
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 and a half pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of 1/4 lemon, plus wedges for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic and cayenne, if using, and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 tablespoons water, the lemon juice and parsley; stir to coat the shrimp with the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Serve shrimp warm with lemon wedges.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.