Delicious beginnings

Cooking with Cathie

editorial@sierrastarNovember 12, 2013 

We've all heard that we had better not get full too close to the serving of the Thanksgiving feast, but who can resist a few nibbles when the aroma of food cooking wafts in from the kitchen? It's enough to make your stomach growl! If you want to set out a few appetizers on Thanksgiving Day, here are a few that might help your guests with their hunger pangs. It's never too soon to at least start looking, in case you might like to try something new.

Spinach and mushroom pinwheels

I find it better to cook the spinach before draining.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • Mushroom and spinach filling:
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 package mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped (either fresh or frozen – must be thawed and squeezed dry)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork and set aside.
  2. In a sauté pan or wok, add 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the chopped garlic to the pan and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add the spinach and mushrooms and cook on high heat uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped cilantro and cook further until there is no liquid in the mixture and the mushrooms have cooked down, about 5 minutes or so. Add seasonings to taste. 
  5. Sprinkle flour on the work surface. Unfold the pastry sheet on work surface. Brush pastry sheet with the egg mixture. Top with the mushroom and spinach.
  6. Starting at a short side, roll up like a jelly roll. Cut into 10 to 15 (1/2-inch) slices. Place the slices, cut-side down, onto two baking sheets. Brush slices with the egg mixture.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Remove pastries from the baking sheets and let cool on wire rack. Serve warm or cooled with hot pepper sauce. Makes about 10 servings.

Stuffed mushrooms

  • 20 extra large white mushrooms (you can also use mini portabella mushrooms)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine (can also use balsamic vinegar for a slightly different taste - use only 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Remove stems from the mushrooms. Chop stems and set aside.
  2. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons olive oil and Marsala. Set aside. 
  3. Heat remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook sausage for 10 minutes, stirring often, until it's completely browned. Add the mushroom stems and cook for 3 additional minutes. Add green onions, garlic and panko crumbs and cook for additional 2 minutes. Lastly, add in the mascarpone cheese. Remove from heat. 
  4. Fill each mushroom with sausage mixture, arranging mushrooms on a baking dish. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 50 minutes. Makes 20 appetizers.

Pimiento cheese balls

  • 2 ounces cream cheese (a generous 1/4 cup), softened
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained, chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  1. 1 1/2 cups finely chopped toasted pecans
  2. Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. Place pecans in a medium bowl. Roll the cheese mixture into 1-inch balls and coat each ball evenly with pecans. Serve the cheese balls at room temperature or chilled. Makes about 3 dozen balls.

Curried cashews

If you use salted cashews, omit the salt in the recipe.

  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons curry powder
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 cups unsalted cashews
  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 250.
  2. Whisk lemon juice, curry powder and salt in a large bowl. Add cashews; toss to coat. Divide between two large rimmed baking sheets; spread in an even layer.
  3. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until dry, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes 6 cups.

Sun dried tomato jam crostini


  • 1 jar (8-oz.) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  1. For the jam: Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, olive oil, onion and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, chicken broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the mixture is the consistency of jam, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. For crostini: Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the baguette slices on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the baguette slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Place the soft goat cheese in a small bowl. Stir in thyme.
  3. To assemble: Spread the crostini with sun-dried tomato jam and top with the goat cheese and herb mixture. Transfer to a serving plate and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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