A fun holiday gathering is not complete without delicious appetizers. When I was training to be a chef, one of my teachers told me that anything can be an appetizer – you just have to think on a smaller scale. When you gather with family and friends this year, amaze them with these mouth-watering appetizers. They’re sure to be the talk of the party.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Asparagus Wraps

1 bunch asparagus
12 pieces prosciutto
1 red bell pepper roasted (cut julienne)
12 slices of Parmesan cheese

Blanch asparagus and set aside. Take a strip of prosciutto and lay flat on the cutting board.  Cut 1 piece of asparagus into three pieces, and lay in the prosciutto, take one piece of the roasted pepper and Parmesan place on the asparagus. Wrap the prosciutto around the asparagus. Display on a platter and serve. Can garnish with lemon zest.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Crostini with Rosemary Infused Mushroom Ragout

2 pounds fresh assorted mushrooms, sliced or cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
TT salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

In a large sauté pan, add butter and olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic, sauté until the garlic and shallots are softened. Add mushrooms, let cook until lightly caramelized. Add cream and rosemary, reduce until thick. Remove from heat, keep warm and place a spoonful on each Crostini.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Chocolate Truffles

8 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract or flavoring
Pistachios, chopped

Bring cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate, stir until smooth, add vanilla. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.  Place chopped pistachios in bowl. Using a measuring spoon, scoop 1 teaspoon of chocolate, and quickly roll into a ball. Drop into pistachio, roll each truffle in cocoa. Chill.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Sugared Pecans

1 pound pecans
4 tablespoons water
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

In a large sauté pan, cook nuts until they are golden in color and you can smell them. Coat the pecans with water. Toss with sugar and cinnamon. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Baked Brie en Croute with Cranberry Relish

1 round of brie cheese, any size that fits your party
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

On a floured surface, roll out puff pastry. Using the brie wheel, cut out round of puff pastry, cover the wheel with the brie, putting the ends on the bottom. Brush lightly with egg yolk and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake at 425 degrees until golden.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Cranberry Relish

4 cups dried cranberries
½ orange, zested and juiced
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

In a small sauce pan, combine all the ingredients. Place the cranberries on the stove and let boil for about 10 minutes. They may need to cook a bit longer depending on the moisture in the cranberries – you want them to be a bit thickened. Serve to the side or atop your Brie with crackers.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Wild Mushroom Frittata with Fresh Parmesan Cheese

2 pounds mushrooms (variety chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
½ shallot (minced)
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 eggs
½ cup shredded Parmesan
TT salt and pepper

In a medium sauté pan, add olive oil, when heated add mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms are caramelized.
Place mushrooms in the bottom of a small baking dish. Take eggs and beat, then add to the baking dish. Add ¼ cup shredded Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees until fluffy and lightly browned on top. Cut into small pieces and place on platter. Garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Apple Fillo Crisps

1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Combine brown sugar, oats, flour, and salt in large bowl; toss to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture comes together in moist clumps. Place in oven at 350 degrees until golden.


12-ounce dried cherries
1 ¼  pounds Golden Delicious or Fuji apples (about 3 medium), peeled, cored, cut into cubes
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup butter
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

In a large sauté pan, add butter, dried cherries and apples. Sauté for about 5 minutes then add sugar, cook until well glazed. Take off heat.

Fillo Crisp

1 package fillo dough
½ cup of butter melted
½ cup raw sugar

Photo © Jason LugoOnPhoto © Jason Lugoe piece at a time, lay fillo dough on a cutting board. Brush with butter and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut the fillo into four equal pieces and stack crisscrossing the sheets. When the four are stacked, place in a muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees until golden then fill each crisp with apple filling and top with crumble topping.