Three kids, two jobs and seemingly endless activities … it seems as hectic as life is, it ramps up even more during the holiday season when you layer in holiday parties. I for one am guilty of sometimes inviting guests over before thinking about all that needs to be done to entertain.

Here are a few holiday-inspired hors d’oeuvres recipes that I hope get you (and me) out of your next holiday entertaining jam.

Pistachio & Dried Cranberry Crusted Goat Cheese Balls

  • Makes 15 balls

Ingredients

  • 1 large log goat cheese, room
  • 3/4 cup chopped pistachios, lightly toasted
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 2 tbsp honey


Directions:

  1. Divide goat cheese into 1 tablespoon portions.
  2. Form into balls and set aside. In a bowl combine pistachios, cranberries, lemon zest and honey.
  3. Roll goat cheese balls in pistachio mixture.
  4. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Crackers with White Cheddar and Cranberry Jam

Ingredients

  1. 3 cups cranberries
  2. 2 large oranges, juice, zest
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1 cup water
  5. White Cheddar
  6. Crackers
  7. Thyme for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place cranberries, orange juice, orange zest, sugar and water in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. Set out a serving tray with sturdy crackers such as Triscuits. Top with a slice of white cheddar and top with a small amount cranberry jam. Garnish with a sprig of thyme (optional).
  5. Set out bowls with additional jam, crackers and a cutting board with extra cheese for guests to serve themselves.

Turkey Sliders with Cranberry Apple Grapefruit Relish

  • Makes 15 Sliders

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp panko
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • Pinch each salt & pepper

Directions:

1. Combine the ground turkey, panko, thyme, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl; mix thoroughly.

2. Form the turkey into small patties. Make them the same size as your slider buns.

3. Fry the sliders in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes per side.

4. Place sliders on homemade sliders buns (see recipe below) and top with Cranberry Apple Grapefruit Relish.

Slider Buns Ingredients

  • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • Vegetable oil
  • Egg wash (1 egg yolk whisked together with 1 tablespoon water)
  • Sesame Seeds

Slider Buns Directions:

  1. Add the dry yeast, flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer; mix lightly.
  2. Meanwhile, place the buttermilk in a saucepan over medium heat. When the buttermilk is simmering add the vegetable shortening and whisk until dissolved. Remove the milk from the heat. Let cool slightly. The ideal temperature is approximately 100-110 °F.
  3. Add the warm buttermilk to the flour mixture. Mix over low speed for a minute then increase to medium and mix for a further 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Lightly grease a bowl. Add the dough.
  5. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour.
  6. Divide the mixture in 15 pieces and form into small balls. Place on baking sheet. Cover with towel and let rise for another hour.
  7. Brush buns lightly with water and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake in an oven set to 400 °F for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.

Cranberry Apple Grapefruit Relish

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 large honey crisp apple, peeled, cored, chopped
  • Juice of 1/4 grapefruit
  • 1/4 grapefruit, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ginger, finely minced

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Get Into the Local Spirit

I am firm believer in having a signature cocktail for your party. Like everything, your get-together should begin with a good first impression. And what better way than to serve a delicious and colourful cocktail featuring a local spirit from one of Nova Scotia’s ever growing artisanal distillers?

By all accounts, there are now more distilleries per capita in Nova Scotia than anywhere in the country. Some of its newer producers, including Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery and my personal favourite, Arisaig’s Steinhart Distillery, are even gaining international acclaim for their products. The purity and freshness of Steinhart’s distillates exude a level of professionalism, detail and in the case of Thomas Steinhart, 300 years of family distilling history. I was only too happy to have a little elf drop me a bottle of his Haskap Gin, produced in partnership with LaHave Natural Farms (producers of Haskapa products). Like his other spirits, this gin delivers pure Haskap flavours and a distinctly dry, very warming finish. This one is best served in a cocktail with a light sweetening agent to deflect some if its lingering warmth.

Haskap Pomegranate Martini

Ingredients

  • 1 fl oz Haskap Gin
  • 2 fl oz pomegranate juice
  • Dash orange liqueur
  • Sprig mint
  •  

Directions:

  1. Place liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.
  2. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Other Local Spirits that are Great for Gifting

  • Ironwork Distillery Bluenose Rum, available at the distillery and at select NSLC stores
  • Steinhart Maple Vodka, available at the distillery and at select NSLC stores
  • Caldera Hurricane 5 Canadian Whisky, available at the distillery and at select NSLC stores