(Family Features) Hosting holiday dinners can be stressful, even for the most seasoned home cooks. Between gift giving, cookie baking, home decorating and more, there’s often little time left to think through a festive feast for a hungry crowd of family and friends.
While the main entree and dessert are usually the first courses to be accounted for when planning, seasonal appetizers and sides can set your spread apart. Perfect for intimate gatherings or larger parties, a simple app like Cranberry Walnut and Brie Bites, filled with ingredients like Willow Tree Classic Chicken Salad and creamy Brie cheese, can leave guests anxiously awaiting the rest of the meal.
Round out your menu with must-have sides like potatoes. For example, a traditional French dish like Dauphinoise Potatoes are easy to make and feature a homemade butter and garlic sauce, thinly sliced potatoes and rich Gruyere cheese.
Once the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, however, one of the last things many hosts want to do is cook another big meal. With an option like Willow Tree Chicken Pies, you can skip the hassle and get a meal on the table quickly.
For more easy hosting ideas and recipes, visit willowtreefarm.com.
Cranberry Walnut and Brie Bites
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
- 2 packages (17 ounces each) puff pastry
- 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup sugar, plus additional, to taste
- 1 orange or lemon, zest only, cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons water
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 container (7 1/2 ounces) Willow Tree Classic Chicken Salad
- 4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 48 pieces
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- Heat oven to 375° F.
- Thaw puff pastry sheets according to package instructions. Once thawed, unfold into thirds.
- Cut each third into 12 equal squares to make 48 squares.
- Grease two mini muffin tins; press each puff pastry square into muffin cup.
- Bake 8-10 minutes; remove from oven and press center of each cup in with end of wooden spoon.
- While puff pastry is baking, prepare cranberry sauce. Add bag of cranberries into saucepan. In pan over low heat, combine sugar, one strip orange or lemon zest and water; cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium and cook until cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add sugar, salt and pepper, to taste; let cool slightly and reserve.
- Fill center of each puff pastry cup with chicken salad, 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce and one piece Brie cheese.
- Bake 5-7 minutes, until Brie is melted.
- Top with chopped walnuts and minced sage. Serve warm.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes
- 8 ounces potatoes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 ounce Gruyere cheese, for garnish
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Peel and finely slice potatoes.
- Add butter to saucepan and melt. Finely mince garlic and add to saucepan; saute gently until garlic is pale golden color.
- Add cream to saucepan and bring to rapid simmer but do not boil.
- In oven-safe dish, arrange slices of potato in even layers.
- Pour warm cream over potatoes slowly, allowing to seep between layers without overflowing dish.
- Top generously with sliced Gruyere cheese and place in oven, 30-45 minutes per portion. When done, potatoes should be golden-brown on top, bubbling at edges and a knife should slide easily into center.
Note: Recipe can be multiplied for additional servings.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Dauphinoise Potatoes)
Source: Willow Tree
(Family Features) Some of the first foods that come to mind when considering dining outdoors are greasy, messy meals. Instead, opt for a nutritious outdoor experience with a turkey wrap, grain bowl or chicken salad for a backyard bite that doesn’t go overboard.
Find more nutritious recipes for outdoor dining at culinary.net.
Lunch On the Go
A healthy combination of plant-based foods and turkey easily turns into a quick lunch. This wrap brings together a variety of textures with crunchiness from the apples and spinach, substance from the turkey and creamy, simple dressing. Find more quick, healthy recipes at aicr.org.
Turkey, Spinach and Apple Wrap
Recipe reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research
- 1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons honey mustard
- 2 whole-wheat lavash wraps or flour tortillas (8 inches each)
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves, loosely packed, washed and dried
- 4 thin slices turkey breast
- 1/4 Granny Smith apple, sliced paper-thin
- Combine mayonnaise and mustard. Lay out both wraps. Spread edges of each with mayonnaise mixture.
- Leaving space on one side of wraps, arrange layer of greens on top of wraps. Top each layer with two slices of turkey. Evenly divide apple slices and lay lengthwise across turkey. Fold over one end of wrap then both sides. Roll wrap as tightly as possible toward opposite side.
- Cover each wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate seam-side down, up to 4 hours, before serving. To serve, remove plastic wrap and cut each wrap in half at an angle.
Substitution: Two large leaves of soft, leafy green lettuce can be used in place of baby spinach leaves.
Greens and Grains
Dedicating more of your plate to fresh-from-the-garden produce as well as rice and grains can lead to a healthier lifestyle, according to Cheryl Forberg, registered dietitian and award-winning chef and nutritionist for “The Biggest Loser.”
To start living healthier and greener lives, Forberg recommends starting a garden. This hands-on approach is a fun way to learn about nutrition and where food comes from. Following produce from seed to plate can compel you to eat more healthfully.
Forberg furthers her personal dedication to the seed- to-plate journey through her involvement with Seeds of Change, which invests in healthier and greener communities by offering both organic seeds and foods, and delivers an annual grant program that benefits school and community gardening as well as farming programs. This year, the grant program will award $310,000 to participants who plan to help their communities and teach people about sustainability and where fresh food comes from.
Learn more about starting a community garden and living a greener, healthier life at seedsofchangegrant.com.
Warm Grain Bowl with Wild Salmon, Almonds and Salsa Verde
Total time: 20-25 minutes
- 8 wild salmon fillets (3 ounces each)
- sea salt, to taste
- fresh pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 cup asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup shitake mushroom caps, sliced
- 1 package Seeds of Change Quinoa, Brown & Red Rice with Flaxseeds
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
Salsa Verde (optional):
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup packed mint leaves
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Heat oven to 400° F.
- In oven-proof pan, season salmon with salt and pepper, and drizzle each fillet with olive oil. Bake 12-15 minutes, until cooked through.
- In blender or food processor, combine all Salsa Verde ingredients and pulse until fully incorporated but still rustic and chunky. Set aside.
- In medium saute pan over medium-high heat, heat remaining olive oil. Add mushrooms and asparagus and saute vigorously 3-5 minutes. Add grains and slivered almonds, and continue to saute until heated through, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Divide grains among eight plates, place a piece of salmon on each plate then finish with dollop of Salsa Verde, if desired, and serve.
Substitution: Shitake mushroom caps may be substituted with button mushrooms or other wild mushrooms.
Even when you plan to take dining outdoors, a tasty salad still makes for an ideally nutritious meal. This salad brings together an assortment of veggies for a Tomato-Cucumber Salsa to top succulent baked chicken and greens. Find more recipes perfect for dining al fresco at chickenroost.com.
Baked Greek Chicken Salad
Recipe courtesy of the National Chicken Council
- 2 plum tomatoes, diced
- 1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 green pepper, julienned
- 1/4 purple onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon basil
- 1/8 teaspoon oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon Greek seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
- 1 package mixed Italian salad greens
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- black olives
- pepperoncini peppers
- To make Tomato-Cucumber Salsa: In medium bowl, mix together tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, purple onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil, vegetable oil, pepper, salt, basil, oregano, Greek seasoning, sugar and dry mustard. Chill until ready to serve.
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Place chicken in baking dish. In medium bowl, mix together butter, lemon juice, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and Greek seasoning; pour over chicken. Bake about 50 minutes, uncovered, basting occasionally.
- Place salad greens in large serving bowl. Top with Tomato-Cucumber Salsa. Slice chicken in thin strips and arrange on top of salad. Sprinkle with feta cheese and garnish with olives and pepper.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images