The Best of CaliGirl Cooking: Top 15 Holiday Appetizers

Coming at you today with one final “best of” roundup before Christmas – today we’re talking all about the holiday apps!

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte | CaliGirlCooking.com

Before I get too carried away with CGC’s most popular holiday appetizer recipes, I wanted to give you a quick update on our sitch: We’ve been away from our home in SB for a week and a half now, escaping the smoke to save our precious baby girl’s lungs. As I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon, things aren’t looking great for our beautiful oceanfront town. Winds have been terrible since early this AM, which when combined with the very dry conditions in our area have made for a massive amount of evacuations in our area. Although our home is not in an evacuation zone yet, we are certainly surround by them and at this point can only keep our fingers crossed that the firefighters get SOME sort of break in the weather ASAP.

A couple of days ago it had been looking like we might be able to come home tomorrow, but now we’re second guessing that and thinking we may be up here in the Bay Area until Christmas. It’s certainly not what we had envisioned for our first holiday with the babe and the pup, but we’re trying to keep our heads up and make the most of this extra time we get to spend with our families. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as best as possible on social media but, in the meantime, let’s all get our mind off of things with some delicious apps. Shall we?

Without further ado, here are my 15 most popular holiday appetizers!

All-Dressed Party Mix | CaliGirlCooking.com

1. ALL-DRESSED PARTY MIX
2. BEST EVER WINTER VEGETABLE PLATTER
3. CREAMY MUSHROOM PATE

A fresh baguette is the perfect accompaniment to this Creamy Mushroom Pate.

4. FIVE INGREDIENT SMOKED SALMON AND CUCUMBER ROLL-UPS
5. PUMPKIN WALNUT PATE
6. BUTTERNUT SQUASH CROSTINI WITH CRISPY PROSCIUTTO AND SAGE

Curry-Rosemary Roasted Mixed Nuts | CaliGirl Cooking

7. CURRY ROSEMARY ROASTED MIXED NUTS
8. GOAT CHEESE, APRICOT AND PISTACHIO CROSTINI WITH HONEY
9. HOMEMADE ROSEMARY AND OLIVE OIL CRACKERS
10. HOMEMADE WHOLE WHEAT CRACKERS – TWO WAYS

Homemade Whole Wheat Crackers: Two Ways! | CaliGirlCooking.com

11. PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED PEARS WITH CREAMY BLUE CHEESE
12. ROASTED CAULIFLOWER HUMMUS WITH ROSEMARY AND GARLIC
13. BACON WRAPPED STUFFED DATES
14. SPICED ROSEMARY BAR NUTS

Portobello Hummus | CaliGirlCooking.com

15. PORTOBELLO HUMMUS

What are your favorite holiday appetizer recipes? Share them with me in the comments below!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese

Mixing it up with some hors d’oeuvres-y things today!

A tray of Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese ready to be devoured!

Because, I mean, what are the holidays without some delicious appetizers to snack on throughout the day? These Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese are certainly topping my list of delicious bites to get me through the day RN, especially as an extra-hungry breastfeeding mom. It doesn’t hurt that I am also completely reveling in the fact that I can enjoy charcuterie and moldy, stinky cheeses again!

Yes, these Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears do involve some pungent, creamy blue cheese (my favorite) but I do understand that not everyone is as freaky about stinky cheese as I am. That being said, you could easily sub in something a bit mellower like brie or even your favorite hard cheese. Just do me a solid and try the prosciutto-pear-cheese combo roasted up in the oven ASAP…You won’t be sorry!

I have always been a fan of fruit and cheese. After all, we’re all about balance here on this site and mixing in some fresh fruit with sometimes slightly more indulgent (although still arguably with some health benefits) cheese is a great way to cut back on the crackers and breads and get in some extra fiber and nutrients at the same time. A win-win in my book!

A platter of Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese is the perfect appetizer for entertaining.

In fact, you can rarely find my entire family getting together for any sort of occasion without some sort of cheese and charcuterie selection making an appearance, so you can bet these Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese will be one of our hors d’oeuvres selections for Thanksgiving, Christmas and more!

They’re sweet, salty and creamy all in one (or maybe two) bites and will absolutely just melt in your mouth. Plus, they’re pretty darn easy to assemble, so almost anyone should be able to assist in putting them together. I made a batch for my mother-in-law’s birthday at the beginning of October and they disappeared quicker than you can say “prosciutto.”

So let’s talk about the recipe for a minute. I decided to bake said Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese to give the pears a nice roast-y flavor and the prosciutto a little crispy crunch, but I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t end up being a little messy. That being said, if you love warm, oozy, roasted hors d’oeuvres, definitely give these babies their time to shine in the oven. But, if you’d rather keep things neat and simple (and also leave room for more important things, like a roasted bird or green bean casserole, in the oven) than it’s perfectly acceptable to serve these uncooked as well.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese can also be served completely raw for an even easier hors d'oeuvres recipe.

Tell me, besides making these Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese, what are your plans for Thanksgiving? Are you traveling to visit family and friends or staying put and entertaining on your own at home?

We’re gathering up the babe and headed up to NorCal on our first road trip with her. So far our game plan is to just take things slow and stop when needed (it’s normally about a four-hour drive) but I’d love to hear any suggestions you have for taking a newborn on a long car ride.

Delicious roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese ready to be enjoyed as a holiday appetizer.

I hope you have a wonderful week filled with lots of delicious food!

A tray of Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese ready to be devoured!
Print
Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

The flavors of sweet, salty and creamy all come together in this quick and easy appetizer that is perfect for entertaining. 

Course: Appetizer
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 5 ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips
  • 7 ounces creamy blue cheese (or your favorite cheese to pair with pears)
  • 4 pears, cut into 6 wedges each
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

  2. Take one strip of prosciutto and spread on a small amount of creamy blue cheese. Wrap around a slice of pear and place on baking sheet.

  3. Repeat this process with the rest of the pear wedges.

  4. Roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the prosciutto looks slightly crispy and the pears slightly roasted.

  5. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

You can also just assemble the pears and skip the roasting part for an even easier method!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears with Creamy Blue Cheese | CaliGirlCooking.com

Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers

Today I have for you your new go-to recipe for all your entertaining needs!

These Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers are the perfect accompaniment to your next cheese and charcuterie board!

Once you try these Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers, you’re never going to want to go back to store-bought crackers again. Seriously though, who knew something like homemade crackers could be so easy?

We’re talking seven ingredients, very little prep and bake time, and at least a day’s worth of delicious cheese accompaniments. Your holiday appetizer spread? Never been better.

I’m not sure what possessed me to try making my own crackers, it’s just one of those realms I felt I should venture into at one point or another in my cooking journey. That’s part of what this blog is all about, after all – getting people (myself included) to step out of their comfort zone and learn how to make delicious food that would otherwise seem intimidating or out of reach. I can guarantee that when you tell your holiday houseguests that the crackers gracing your cheese and charcuterie platter are homemade, they’ll be completely wowed and think you’re the most inventive cook on the planet. Promise.

A bowl of Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers.

I’m all about the recipes that seem fancy and complicated but really aren’t, and these Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers most certainly fit into that category. From start to finish, they take under an hour to make, making them totally attainable on any day of the week, no matter your schedule.

There are really no special ingredients in these bad boys, just the usual culprits: flour, salt, buttermilk and, of course, olive oil and rosemary. Oh, and a little maple syrup for a touch of sweetness! All of the ingredients get incorporated into a (somewhat dry) dough, rolled out as thin as possible and cut into the desired shape before baking. After a quick 20-25 minute turn in the oven, you’ll have a tray full of delicious Homemade Rosemary Olive Oil Crackers ready to serve to your hungry troops.

Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers ready for a quick turn in the oven.

This recipe makes enough for two very hungry or four mildly hungry guests, but if you’re entertaining a crowd, I suggest doubling up because these puppies are going to disappear FAST. The only caution I would give you is that they are best served the day they are baked, so only cook up as much as you think you’ll need. Since they’re so easy to make, you’ll be able to whip them up anytime the desire strikes!

Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers adorn a delicious cheese and fruit platter.

I hope this weekend has been treating you well. It’s been an eventful one over here at CGC headquarters, with one of my good friends giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, our fur baby getting spayed (:() and me cooking up a storm to get a bit ahead of the game for when baby girl comes in just a few short weeks.

We have our second baby shower here in Santa Barbara this weekend and are looking forward to seeing a bunch of our family and friends and of course eating a ton of delicious food. I may even see some Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers in my very near future…

These Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers are the perfect accompaniment to your next cheese and charcuterie board!
Print
Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

These homemade crackers are studded with rosemary and olive oil and so easy to make - the perfect addition to your next cheese platter!

Course: Appetizer, Snack
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt, for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl, then stir in the remaining ingredients to form a somewhat crumbly dough. 

  3. Using your hands, mold the dough into a thick square or rectangle. 

  4. Sandwiching the dough between two pieces of parchment, use a rolling pin to roll it out as thin as possible, keeping it in as much of a rectangle or square as possible. 

  5. Once you have your dough as thin as you can get it, remove the top piece of parchment paper and cut the dough into the desired shapes. (I cut mine into small rectangles.)

  6. Place cut cracker dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges of the crackers take on a golden brown color. Remove from oven and let cool completely before serving. Best if served the day they are baked. 

Homemade Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers | CaliGirlCooking.com

Chocolate Cherry Bread

I’m becoming your one-stop shop for cherry recipes!

A loaf of delicious Chocolate Cherry Bread, fresh out of the oven from the kitchen of CaliGirl Cooking.

I don’t know what it is (maybe the fact that I finally realized how easy it is to actually pit cherries?) but this year I have been on such a cherry recipe kick. Isn’t it funny how that works sometimes? Some years, you become so absolutely obsessed with an ingredient that the ideas just keep flooding in. I suppose I have pregnancy to blame for my obsession with certain foodstuffs, and when those foodstuffs involve things like red, juicy cherries, I don’t mind one bit.

To be fair, this Chocolate Cherry Bread is a recipe I’ve had in my back pocket for ohhhhh, over six years? You see, when I lived in Honolulu, it was a weekly ritual for my friend Leslie and I to go for a Saturday morning run around the base of Diamond Head, and then hit up the Kapiolani Community College Farmer’s Market (one of THE best farmer’s markets around if you ask me) to stock up on yummy goods for the week (okay, and maybe enough samples to count as breakfast.)

Now, this farmer’s market is seriously no joke. Not only will you find a ginormous selection of local fruits and vegetables, you’ll also find rows and rows of prepared food (we’re talking fried green tomatoes, roasted Kahuku corn and the like) PLUS my favorite: baked goods!

One of my favorite stops was the Ba-Le stand, which is a French-Korean bakery/deli with stores throughout the island. I was still in the midst of my food obsession/eating qualms at the time, so heaven forbid I splurge and buy a whole loaf of their delicious bread to eat on my own, but what I loved about the Ba-Le stand was the SAMPLES. Man, oh man, the samples. They would cut up every single flavor of bread they made and have them all sitting out there for everyone to try. As you can imagine, after a long run (and as someone who had not been nourishing myself properly for these runs) I was alllll about the bread samples.

A partially sliced loaf of tasty Chocolate Cherry Bread.

One of my very favorite flavors that Ba-Le had for sale (and to sample!) was the Chocolate Cherry Bread. I don’t know about you, but whenever I had imagined a Chocolate Cherry Bread, I would think of a quick bread, with a dense, pound cake-like texture. But this Chocolate Cherry Bread was different. It was a yeasted bread, which meant it had plenty of heft and was perfect for toasting and slathering butter or cream cheese on.

On one of my Dad’s many visits out to see me, I took him to the market and made him try this bread that I had so madly fell in love with. My Dad is my confidant when it comes to recreating recipes I try out in public at home. His palate is spot on and he knows exactly what it will take to make our own version of whatever we’ve fallen in love with. Needless to say, the next time I was home visiting my parents in Santa Cruz, we tackled the task of making our very own version of Chocolate Cherry Bread.

The result is this recipe I’m sharing today, which has finally made its way off of the piece of scratch paper I had scrawled it on and into my “official” recipe archives.

This recipe for Chocolate Cherry Bread offers a dense loaf studded with chocolate chips and dried cherries.

Our Chocolate Cherry Bread is a dense, chocolate- and molasses-flavored loaf studded with dried sweet cherries and semisweet chocolate chips. It’s just as irresistible fresh out of the oven as it is two days later, toasted and slathered with your favorite spread (butter, cream cheese and jam are all equally acceptable.)

Yeasted breads can often seem intimidating but, with a little planning, I promise they’re not. In fact, they’re probably one of the easier baked goods to tackle, simply for the fact that much of the prep time involves just letting the dough rest and rise. The actual dough-making and baking process takes less than an hour.

Thick slices of Chocolate Cherry Bread slathered with butter.

Since I’ve been preggo, I’ve needed to eat something as soon as I wake up in the morning, and this Chocolate Cherry Bread has been just the answer. We (just the two of us) can go through a loaf in less than a week, but if you don’t consume carbs at the rapid pace that we do (or simply want to save your Chocolate Cherry Bread for a special occasion,) the loaf will freeze incredibly well.

I’m thinking this is another thing I’ll have to stock in our freezer for the weeks after baby comes?

A fresh loaf of Chocolate Cherry Bread from the kitchen of CaliGirl Cooking.

A partially sliced loaf of tasty Chocolate Cherry Bread.
Print
Chocolate Cherry Bread
Prep Time
2 hrs 20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
3 hrs
 

This dense yeasted bread has a chocolate-molasses dough that's studded with chocolate chips and dried sweet cherries. Perfect when toasted and served warm!

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Servings: 1 loaf
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 package Rapid Rise Yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried sweet cherries
  • 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients (starting with just 2 ½ cups flour) to a food processor and process until they begin to come together to form a sticky dough. Add additional flour, ¼ cup at a time (processing in between,) until you are just able to pull out the dough without it sticking all over your hands. (It’s okay if the dough is still a little sticky. You don’t want to add too much flour or the dough will be tough.)

  2. Turn the dough out of the food processor and into a medium mixing bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size. 

  3. Take dough out of bowl and knead a bit, either just between your hands or on a lightly floured surface, before placing dough in a greased 8-inch round cake pan. Let rise, uncovered, in a warm place for another hour. 

  4. Towards the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When dough is finished rising, bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, or until bread sounds a bit hollow when you tap on the top. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out on to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Cherry Bread | CaliGirlCooking.com

Cherry Salsa

My cherry obsession is still going strong…

A bowl of delicious Cherry Salsa just waiting to be eaten with your favorite tortilla chips!

I honestly can’t get enough! Do you ever obsess about a certain produce item coming into season so much that your list of what to do with it is about a mile long? Hi, yea, looking at me right here. This Cherry Salsa is just another in the long list of recipe ideas I’ve been dreaming about since cherries went out of season last year, and I’m so excited about the way it turned out!

I know I’ve been inundating you with the cherry recipes lately, so I can only hope that you’re enjoying these Cherry Bourbon Breezes and this Herbed Cherry and Ricotta Crostini as much as I am. If so, I’m confident that you’ll be totally digging on this Cherry Salsa as well.

It’s an easy recipe, with no cooking involved, that can easily be served up on its own as an appetizer or snack, or as a topping for your favorite barbecued meat (I have some juicy grilled pork chops in mind.) Might I also mention it would be the perfect addition to your Father’s Day menu this weekend?

This Cherry Salsa is the perfect appetizer or snack for any barbecue or family get-together you're having this weekend!

Speaking of, what are your plans for celebrating Dad on Sunday? We’re so lucky that both of our dads live relatively close to each other, so we’re heading up to the Bay Area to spend some quality time with them, and of course to make them some delicious food!

I think some Cherry Salsa might definitely need to make an appearance alongside the tri tip, chicken and sausages we’re already planning on serving. Still need to think of some more sides and dessert though. Any fun suggestions?

As I mentioned above, this Cherry Salsa is a breeze to make, and you can have it ready to serve in under 20 minutes. It involves basically all of the same ingredients as a regular pico de gallo salsa, but subs in fresh, pitted cherries instead of  tomatoes. That’s it! So easy, right?

Fresh cherries, rinsed and ready to be made into delicious Cherry Salsa!

And if you’re looking for another, more traditional salsa to serve alongside (or instead) of this one, be sure to check out my Spicy Homemade Salsa. You could even go with a fancy selection and add this Mango Salsa to the mix! Clearly I’m a salsa-lover and I’m not ashamed to show it.

Even if you have no plans for Father’s Day, this Cherry Salsa needs to make an appearance in your household in the next week. Cherries are at the top of their game right now and you wouldn’t want to miss out on another great opportunity to use them.

An overhead shot of a big bowl of delicious Cherry Salsa.

Happy Monday and I hope your week is made even better with this delicious recipe!

A bowl of delicious Cherry Salsa just waiting to be eaten with your favorite tortilla chips!
Print
Cherry Salsa

A fun take on everyone's favorite Mexican condiment, this salsa uses the season's best fresh cherries in lieu of tomatoes - a delicious twist!

Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Servings: 6 people
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces fresh red cherries, pitted and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate for a half hour or so for best results. Serve with tortilla chips!

Cherry Salsa | CaliGirlCooking.com