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A few years back, I liked doing an Italian-themed party platter complete with olives, various bruschettas, fresh mozzarella, fresh goat cheese, prosciutto, fresh basil, and a variety of crackers and crusty breads –  it was easy to make a big colorful platter and guests could assemble their own creations from these ingredients. 

An all-time favorite of mine is our Apricot Baked Brie featured in our first cookbook.  Lately it’s been stuffed mushrooms as well as a fantastic artichoke dip shared by one of our readers.  They’re both made from just a handful of ingredients and they can be assembled ahead of time and popped into the oven right before guests show up.

Some family friends recently brought over a pan of mushroom caps stuffed with an herbed cheese, similar to this recipe.  We put them in the oven and enjoyed them piping hot.   Everyone loves stuffed mushrooms and the creamy filling makes these little bite-size morsels so satisfying.  If you’re not familiar with Boursin, look for a cheese boxed in white cardboard packaging.  Use larger stuffing portobellos/mushrooms if you want to serve them as a side, but I thought they worked great as an appetizer using regular-sized white mushrooms.  

It’s fun to entertain but it’s not fun to stress about it.  Delicious appetizers get things off to a great start and I’ve got two excellent and easy ones lined up today.  Over the years, I always go through phases when I have a favorite appetizer I go to again and again. 

Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Ingredients

  • 40 regular mushrooms or 18 stuffing mushrooms/portobellos, cleaned with stems removed
  • 1 5.2-oz container Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs Gournay Cheese
  • 3 cups frozen spinach (1/2 a 16 oz bag) thawed
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs or Just Almond Meal

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Drain the thawed spinach, squeezing out the water firmly with hands. 3 cups frozen spinach should reduce to ½ cup thawed if all the water has been squeezed out.
  3. Add Boursin and spinach to a small bowl, stirring together until fully combined.
  4. Stuff mushroom caps with the mixture.
  5. Press the tops into the bread crumbs and arrange caps on baking sheet or dish.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes just until water starts to appear under the caps.

Kickin’ Artichoke Dip

Marcy C. from San Juan Capistrano was one of the winners of our holiday contest with this great recipe.  Trader Joe’s sells ready made artichoke dips, but we think this one is even better and takes only a few minutes of prep work.  I’ve made it several times over the last couple of months and have made a few little tweaks.  It makes a nice big batch, perfect for a large crowd or dinner get-together.  I made this just last night for my book club meeting, and again, most everyone commented on it and asked for the recipe.   It’s very, very good.

The star of the recipe is the topping of sweet and spicy pecans that contrast beautifully with the creamy dip.  If you’ve never tried these pecans – they’re really flavorful and not too spicy (my young kids always steal a few when I prepare the dish and they love them).  Even if you’re devoted exclusively to TJ’s ready-made artichoke dip, you can still use the trick of adding this pecan topping – buy 2 containers of the Grilled Artichoke Dip, empty into a small oven-safe dish, top with the chopped pecans and pop into the oven at 350° F for 30-35 minutes until bubbly on edges.

Kickin’ Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (reduced fat is ok)
  • 1 cup Freshly Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 8 oz. light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pkg Sweet & Spicy Pecans, chopped
  • Pita chips, tortilla chips, or Savory Thins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F.
  2. Mix all ingredients together except nuts.
  3. Transfer to a small baking dish.  Sprinkle chopped pecans on top.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes or until top is bubbly. Serve warm with pita chips, tortilla chips, or crackers.