Cooking Class: Four Festive Hors d’oeuvres

Platter of English cucumber slices topped with citrus whipped cheese and balsamic vinegar and chives
The small bite hors d'oeuvres are beautifully presented, everything is more sparkly and has an element of being that much better.
Beef tenderloin blue cheese bites with fresh chives and a mini plastic fork to hold it together
Beef tenderloin blue cheese bites
Crostini topped with arugula hummus and butternut squash relish, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar
Butternut squash crostini with arugula hummus
Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves topped with fresh celery leaves
Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves


Four Festive Small Bite Hors d'oeuvres

The December holidays are all about something extra: extra festive, extra special and hopefully not too much extra work. Our city's Parks and Recreation Department offers community cooking classes and I was once again fortunate to learn from one of the area's best instructors, professional chef Patrick Whetstone.

The small bite hors d'oeuvres we learned to make are beautifully presented, which is much of what makes this time of year so special. Everything is more sparkly and has an element of being that much better. More flavor, high quality ingredients and extra attention to make the presentation gorgeous. These small bite recipes accommodate a variety of  dietary requests: plant-based, meat eaters, cheese lovers and keto-friendly. You can adjust the quantities to your preference, the number of pieces is only an estimate, subject to many variables. For less stress, make at least some of the components a day or two in advance or purchase items you prefer not to make such as Parmesan crisps. Chef's tip: cooked food that will be chilled, such as the beef tenderloin and butternut squash relish can be a little more over seasoned when heated because it will become more subdued when chilled.

All four recipes are delicious, easy and most definitely suitable for snowbird entertaining. Not only are these hors d'oeuvres festive for the holidays, they are great for any event year round. The recipes shown here are written based on my notes from the class presented by Chef Whetstone. Bon appétit!

Snowbird meals tend to be much simpler, using fewer ingredients and a very limited selection of appliances and gadgets to prepare them. Choose the freshest, highest quality ingredients and find alternate ways to make your favorite recipes. Forget about what you don't have to cook with, instead focus on what you can accomplish with what you do have. - Midlife Snowbird

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Prosciutto Parmesan Crisps

Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves

24 - 36 Pieces


Recommended: Homemade or Purchased* Parmesan Crisps

24 - 36 Parmesan crisps, homemade or purchased

2 - 3 oz Prosciutto ham, torn into pieces

1/3 cup orange marmalade or apricot preserves, or to taste

Celery leaves for garnish

*Pre-made Parmesan crisps are typically available in the cheese or deli section of the grocery or specialty food store


Homemade Parmesan crisps recipe or use pre-made crisps from the grocery

Assemble Prosciutto ham piled on the Parmesan crisps, then top with a dollop of preserves and a celery leaf for garnish. Serve at room temperature.

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Beef Tenderloin Bites Stuffed with Blue Cheese

Beef tenderloin blue cheese bites

12 -15 Pieces


Recommended: Serve with mini plastic party forks*

6 oz. beef tenderloin, room temperature

4 oz. blue cheese wedge or crumbles, room temperature

1/4 c. heavy cream

2 - 3 t. fresh chives or to taste, sliced thin

2 T. canola oil, approx

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Kosher salt to taste

ALTERNATE CHEESES: Brie, goat or fresh mozzarella



Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine blue cheese and heavy cream. Set aside.

Heavily coat all sides of the beef tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Heat oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and bring to temperature.

Sear tenderloin in hot oil on all sides until there is a crust on every surface.

Place skillet with beef tenderloin in oven to finish cooking, about 5 to 7 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check until it reaches the desired temperature: rare, medium rare, medium, well done etc.

Remove meat from oven and let it rest about 5 - 10 minutes.

Slice beef tenderloin against the grain into 1/4" wide pieces.

Pipe or spoon blue cheese mixture into the middle of each slice of tenderloin. Fold over and place mini plastic fork into it to hold it in place.

Garnish with fresh chopped chives.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

*Mini plastic party forks can be purchased at party supply stores such as Party City

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Cucumber Rounds with Citrus Whipped Cheese

Cucumber rounds with whipped citrus cheese

36+ Pieces


Recommended: Honey Ginger Balsamic Vinegar

1 - 2 English cucumbers

Honey ginger balsamic vinegar to taste

3/4 c. cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 c. heavy cream

Zest from one lemon

Zest from one lime

Fresh chives to taste

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Kosher salt to taste


Combine cream cheese and heavy cream, then add salt and pepper to taste plus lemon and lime zest. Set aside.

Remove ends and 50% of the peel from cucumber/s, slice into approximately 1/4" rounds.

Pipe or spread a dollop of the whipped cream cheese onto the top of each cucumber slice.

Top with fresh chives. Drizzle with honey ginger balsamic vinegar or a flavored balsamic vinegar of your choice.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Crostini with Arugula Hummus and Butternut Squash 

Butternut squash crostini with arugula hummus

24 - 36 Pieces


Recommended: Pre-sliced baguette bread



One loaf pre-sliced baguette bread

1/4 c. Extra virgin olive oil or as needed

Kosher salt to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Brush tops of sliced baguette with olive oil

Bake on sheet pan approx 3 - 5 minutes or until toasted, the center of the bread should be soft. Do not over bake.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with Kosher salt, set aside to cool


Butternut Squash Relish

3 cups fresh butternut squash, small diced

1/4 c. red onion, diced fine

2 T. Balsamic vinegar

2 T. Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh basil, approx 5 - 6 leaves, sliced chiffonade style

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


Preheat skillet to medium-high. Add oil to skillet and allow oil to get hot.

Pan fry butternut squash in skillet until it is softened and brown, approx 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add onions to squash, season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill mixture in the refrigerator.

Prior to serving, add balsamic vinegar to the butternut squash mixture. Re-season if necessary.

Set basil chiffonade aside until ready to assemble.


Arugula Hummus

2 T. butter, room temperature

1 T. garlic, chopped (from a jar has stronger flavor)

1/2 c. onion, diced

2 fl oz. white wine

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 c. vegetable stock

3 c. arugula

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


Sweat onions and garlic in butter in saute pan.

Add garbanzo beans and white wine, cook until wine reduces.

Add stock, let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain liquid into bowl and reserve it.

Puree bean mixture with arugula until smooth in food processor OR use an immersion blender. Add reserved liquid as needed to achieve a spreadable texture. The desired consistency is wet sand, it should not be runny. Adjust reserved liquid if more is needed to obtain the proper thickness. Re-season as necessary.

Chill mixture in the refrigerator.



Assemble crostini with a thick slather of the Arugula hummus mixture. Top with butternut squash relish. Garnish with basil chiffonade. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.


"Life is like a giant hors d'oeuvre tray in that it is to be savored."

-- Jack Fitzgerald, Canadian Author

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