Elegant holiday appetizers for easy entertaining

Nov 11, 2008 at 2:55 p.m. ET

Impressively presenting your holiday appetizers and dips in -œedible bowls- is a creative and decorative way to serve guests at your holiday parties and family gatherings. Easy to make - yet elegant in presentation - these appetizers will be a memorable part of your Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers.

Tomato and Tuna Cup

Tuna-Tomato Cups

Serves 10

10 small, vine-ripened tomatoes
3 cans albacore tuna
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup French fried onions
Minced fresh parsley
Honey mustard dressing

1. Remove the core and seeds of the tomatoes, making sure not to cut a hole in the bottom of the tomato.

2. Mix tuna, scallions, celery, mayonnaise, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Fill tomatoes with tuna mixture. Top tomatoes French fried onions as desired.

3. Place tomato cups on a serving platter and scatter with parsley. Serve drizzled with honey mustard dressing.

Cucumber-Lobster Cups

Serves 12

4 large cucumbers, ends trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 (6 ounces each) cans lobster knuckle and claw meat, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh dill
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 finely diced red onion
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1. Cut cucumbers lengthwise into thirds. Hollow out each piece about three-quarters of the way deep, making a long "cup".

2. Use a citrus zester or small sharp knife to make a decorative strip pattern on each cucumber cup. Rub with a light coat of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Place lobster meat in large mixing bowl and add dill, mayonnaise, red onion and lemon juice. Mix ingredients together, taste, and season with salt and pepper. Fill cucumber cups with lobster mixture and serve on a platter garnished with fresh dill.

Parmesan Risotto Shot Glasses


3 cups shaved Parmesan cheese*
1 small box instant risotto
1 teaspoon minced rosemary leaves
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes chopped finely
10 shot glasses

1. Chill shot glasses in the refrigerator while preparing recipe. Place a large nonstick skillet on the stove over medium heat. Use a 1/3-cup measuring cup to ladle Parmesan cheese into skillet, keeping space in between portions. Melt cheese until it becomes a flat circle.

2. Place shot glasses upside down on the counter. Carefully slide cheese over top of chilled shot glasses making sure cheese covers the entire shot glass. Let cheese cool slightly. Once cheese is slightly firm, carefully cut excess cheese from around rim of shot glass. Once cheese is completely cooled, remove from shot glasses, flip over and set aside.

3. While you are waiting for cheese to set up, make risotto following instructions on the package (add rosemary when you begin to cook risotto). Stir sun dried tomatoes into finished risotto. Fill cheese cups with risotto and serve on a platter garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs.

*Cheese much be shaved from a block of Parmesan – grated cheese in a can won't work.

Grilled Sirloin-Caramelized Onions Stuffed Potato Skins

Serves 10

More like a hearty first course or impressive light main course, these potato skins are festive and filling.

5 baking potatoes, washed and scrubbed
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1-1/2 pounds beef sirloin
1 stick of butter, sliced
3 large onions, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup A-1 sauce
Fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pierce potatoes with a sharp knife and rub with oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and cook for one hour or until fork tender. Set aside to cool completely.

2. Rub sirloin with olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside to marinate. Once potatoes are cooled, slice potatoes in half lengthwise and remove the inside of each half of potato, leaving a 1/4-inch border around peel (use the potato flesh for pancakes or mashed potatoes).

3. Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until onions turn golden brown. Stir in maple syrup. Remove pan from heat but keep warm.

4. Grill sirloin to desired doneness. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Coat inside of potato with A-1 sauce. Heat potatoes in oven until insides are crispy.

5. Slice steak into very thin slices. Fill potatoes with caramelized onions and lay three to four slices (2 to 3 ounces) of sirloin over onions. Serve on individual plates garnished with fresh parsley.

Other simple ideas for decorative appetizers

· Guacamole dip inside avocado cups served with tortilla chips.
· Individual cored lemon cups filled with cocktail sauce for shrimp dipping.
· Use fresh coconut halves filled with chocolate sauce or chocolate mousse for dipping fresh fruit.

More holiday entertaining ideas

A succulent Thanksgiving menu
Tips for a terrific Thanksgiving
A Thanksgiving table set for thanks