Four easy apps

When my sister and I plan a girls’ night out, chances are we’ll skip a big meal and stick with a lineup of appetizers.

After all, those bite-size delights are too small to count calories, even if tray after tray mysteriously empties.

Over the years, I’ve developed a few go-to options when company’s coming and I want to impress. Basil-sausage stuffed mushrooms have convinced more than a few fungi-doubters to change their tune. Hummus-and-olive filled cherry tomatoes look great on a plate or platter and taste even better. And bocconcini cheese balls make for a gooey surprise in the centre of my Italian meatballs.

Rosemary pork tenderloin skewers

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 20 sturdy sprigs of rosemary, washed and patted dry
  • Pork tenderloin, cubed
  • 1 small zucchini, cubed
  • 20 mushrooms, washed, dried, stems removed
  • 2 red sweet peppers, cores, stems and seeds removed, cut into 1-inch squares

Directions

  • Marinate pork, mushrooms, zucchini and pepper in a mixture of:
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    • 1 tbsp. garlic
    • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
    • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
    • 1 tbsp. honey
    • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • Leaving a 2-inch “tuft” of leaves at the top, remove remaining leaves from rosemary skewers. (Reserve and dry for future use.)
  • Using a sharp knife, slice bare end of rosemary skewer into a sharp diagonal point
  • Slide pork, mushroom, zucchini and pepper chunks onto skewers and place on a cookie sheet
  • Grill on barbecue approx. 10 minutes, ensure meat is thoroughly cooked OR bake at 350 F for 20 minutes

Basil-sausage stuffed mushrooms

stuffed-mushroomsIngredients:

  • 1 package cremini or white mushrooms
  • 20 medium-to-large basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil (lemon-infused is lovely)
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp. garlic
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Black pepper

Directions:

  • Wash and stem mushrooms, place tops-down in a 9×13 oven-safe dish
  • Wash basil leaves and pat dry
  • Drizzle mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • Press a basil leaf into the hollow of each mushroom
  • In a large bowl, combine sausage meat (remove from casings if necessary); crumbled feta; 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar; garlic; and 1 tbsp. each of dry oregano, parsley and thyme.; and any extra basil leaves, finely chopped. Mix well.
  • Press approx. 1-2 tsp. sausage mixture into each mushroom cap
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with fresh-ground black pepper
  • If you have extra sausage mixture, form into small meatballs and place among the mushroom caps
  • Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes

Hummus and olive-stuffed mini-peppers

  • stuffed-peppersStart with approx. 2 cups washed mini sweet peppers (this works well with cherry or grape tomatoes, too)
  • Cut off tops and remove ribs and seeds
  • Place hummus in an icing bag or small freezer bag with 1-cm piece cut off bottom corner
  • Pipe hummus into cored peppers
  • Top with a slice of Kalamata olive and 2-3 rosemary leaves
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve

Bocconcini meatball surprise

  • Drain one container bocconcini cheese pearls. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. Italian pork sausage meat
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. garlic
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix well. Form meatballs with a cheese pearl at the centre of each. Press tightly, ensuring cheese is completely covered. Place in a 9×13” over-safe dish, ensuring meatballs don’t quite touch.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, until browned. Pour 2 cups of tomato sauce over meatballs and cook 10 minutes longer.

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