Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012, 9:11 am

Bite by bite: Festive appetizers for your holiday gatherings

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By Sarah J. Gardner, sjgardner@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Inside-out strudel bites are made using the traditional strudel stuffings--apples, raisins and nuts--spooned into little phyllo cups for ease of snacking.
If you love eating cookies, the holiday season clearly is your time to shine. I know. I am in the cookie lovers' camp. Thin and buttery or studded with chocolate and nuts, slathered in icing or sandwiched with jam, the wealth of cookie confections is never more on display than during the holidays -- which, if you're not careful, quickly can lead to cookie burn out.

The solution? A variety of treats, both savory and sweet, at your next holiday party. If you are looking for appetizers that won't suffer in comparison when set out next to your famous Santa-shaped snickerdoodles, try any one of these crowd-pleasers. Your guests will be delighted.

Inside-out apple strudel bites

2-3 tart, crisp apples, such as Granny Smith or Jonathan apples
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 packages (2 ounces each) frozen mini phyllo cups


Peel, core and finely dice the apples. Place in a bowl with the lemon juice and brandy; toss to coat to prevent browning. Add lemon zest, cinnamon and brown sugar. In a food processor, pulse walnuts to a coarse, crumbly texture resembling corn meal. Add walnuts to the apple mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate for four hours or more (up to 24 hours) to allow flavors to combine.
When ready to eat, place individual phyllo cups on a baking sheet and bake for three to five minutes at 350 degrees (just until golden brown -- be careful not to scorch). Allow to cool before transferring to a serving dish. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the apple mixture into the phyllo cups. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe by Sarah J. Gardner, Radish editor

Spiced Pineapple Chunks

2 large cans (20 ounces) pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods


Drain pineapple, reserving one cup juice. In a saucepan, combine the reserved juice with the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and discard cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Add pineapple. Return to a boil; cook and stir for two to three minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and store in cooking liquid in a covered container. When ready to serve, arrange pineapple chunks on a rimmed plate and drizzle with the cooking liquid (can be re-warmed). Place a container of toothpicks nearby for easy snacking.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home magazine.

Festive Lentil Dip

1 cup red lentils

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, diced apples, pears or a combination of both
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 cup raisins
2 teaspoons garam masala

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and 21/2 cups water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are very soft and most of the water absorbed — about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions, apples (and/or pears) and garlic with a dash of salt, for about five minutes on medium heat. Add raisins and garam masala. Continue to sauté for 10 minutes more, until tender.
Combine lentils, onion mixture, lemon juice and apple cider, and using an immersion blender or food processor, puree to a slightly chunky texture. Add salt to taste. Serve either chilled or at room temperature with chips or a vegetable platter.

Recipe adapted from "Moosewood Restaurant New Classics."