Paleo Holiday Appetizers + Tips for a Great Cocktail Party (Paleo, AIP, Gluten-Free)
Happy Almost New Year!
I taught a Paleo Holiday Appetizers class at Kitchen in the Market last week. I don’t know about you, but few things are more fun for me than eating a bunch of appetizers for dinner! Bring on meatballs, sticky wings, and stuffed mushrooms and I am a happy partier.
For the class, as in life, I kept everything dairy-free, gluten-free, and even nut-free, so if you’re needing some allergen-free tasties over the next few weeks, read on.
Even as someone who is in the kitchen and developing recipes allllll the time, I have to keep my cooking simple and pretty fast, or I start to resent what I’ve committed myself to.
Nothing squeezes the joy out of the holidays as fast as piling on too much fun. Too much decorating, too many parties, too many gifts: there is definitely such a thing. The older I get, the more I have learned to pare back my entertaining and celebrating or I turn into a very tired Grinchette.
If you subscribe to my Project Vibrancy Meals meal plans, you already know that my strategy has (thankfully!) shifted to “keep the fun and delicious but simplify.” (This article about PVM in the Star Tribune shares my overall philosophy really beautifully – thank you Star Tribune!)
Well the same is true for entertaining.
If I’m hosting, I now plan a menu that can be mostly batch cooked (and cleaned up!) ahead.
Then I can enjoy the party too. What a novel thought! Hahahaha.
And so, below I’m sharing the recipes from my class. I give notes for working ahead. All but one are autoimmune protocol (AIP) adaptable (the deviled eggs). They can all exist together on a buffet – a complementary variety of ingredients, colors, textures, and flavors.
If you like, farm out some of the recipes to guests so you don’t have to make all the food yourself. If a party isn’t a party without a dip – which I totally get – I’d add a simple guacamole with tortilla or plantain chips (for AIP).
For drinks? Batch them too! Think sangria or punch (boozy or alcohol-free), or prep and chill pitchers of favorites like Old Fashioneds or martinis ahead of time. Of course sparkling wine and sparkling water are festive with no work at all.
I wish you the happiest of simplified holidays and most all, a Very Healthy 2019!
Ground Pork/Beef Meatballs
Serves 8 as an appetizer
Note: Meatballs and chimichurri can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate separately. Gently reheat meatballs at 300 degrees F for 10 minutes or until just hot. Bring chimichurri to room temperature before tossing with meatballs.
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
4 teaspoons tapioca starch
1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper (skip for AIP)
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Mint Chimichurri (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Using your hands, mix gently. Scoop and roll mixture into 1-inch meatballs, setting on baking sheet as you go.
Bake meatballs for 15-20 minutes or until just cooked through.
Add hot meatballs to a large bowl. Drizzle with chimichurri and toss to coat. (Alternatively, arrange hot meatballs on a serving platter and spoon chimichurri over each one individually.) Serve warm with toothpicks.
1/2 cup packed arugula leaves
2 tablespoons cup packed fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons packed fresh dill sprigs
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (skip for AIP)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (skip for AIP)
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine ingredients in bowl of a high-powered blender. Start low, then increase speed slowly and blend until smooth. Add more salt or vinegar to taste.
Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms
Serves 8 as appetizer
Note: Mushrooms can be prepared up until right before baking, 1 day ahead. Cover baking sheet and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing. Bake as directed.
16 medium-to-large button mushrooms (all similarly sized)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces bacon, finely diced
8 ounces chicken or pork sausage
2 medium onions, sliced very thinly
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove stems from mushrooms, adding caps to a large bowl as you go. Finely chop the mushroom stems and reserve. Add olive oil to the mushroom caps and toss to coat. Set aside.
Add diced bacon to a large skillet over medium heat. Saute bacon until lightly crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a medium bowl and reserve.
Return pan to heat and add sausage and mushroom stems to pan. Saute, breaking up sausage as it cooks, until sausage is just cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage and mushroom stems to the bowl with bacon.
Return pan to heat again add onions with a generous pinch of salt. (At any point, if the onions seems dry, add a bit of olive oil.) Cover onions and cook for 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Remove cover, add thyme, turn heat to medium-low, and continue slowly sautéing onions, until very soft and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar to the pan and cook until evaporated. Season with salt (if needed). Add caramelized onions to the bacon and sausage along with the parsley. Toss to combine.
Set mushroom caps in even rows on the baking sheet. Fill caps with filling. Bake mushrooms for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Curried Deviled Eggs
Note: Deviled eggs can be prepared 1 day before serving. Cover and refrigerate.
8 large eggs
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons minced green onion, divided
1 tablespoons minced jalapeño
2 teaspoons minced chutney
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. With a spoon, slowly lower eggs one at time into boiling water. Set a timer for 9 minutes.
While the eggs boil, fill a large bowl with ice water. When the timer goes off, drain eggs and plunge into cold water. Let eggs chill.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons of the green onion (reserve remaining tablespoon for garnish), jalapeño (to taste), chutney, curry powder, and lemon juice. Set aside.
Peel eggs then cut each egg in half. Remove yolks and add to bowl with mayonnaise mixture. Mash yolks into mayonnaise mixture until smooth. If mixture seems too thick, add a bit more mayo.
Spoon (or pipe) yolk filling into whites. Garnish with remaining minced scallion. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
Honey-Garlic Chicken Wings
Serves 8 as an appetizer
Note: Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Warm to thin before continuing. The wings won’t brown properly if crowded on the pan, so use 2 baking sheets if you need.
For the wings:
16 chicken wings, cut in half at the joint
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
For the sauce:
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup tamari or coconut aminos (use coconut aminos for AIP)
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3-inch piece peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sriracha (or more to taste; skip for AIP)
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add wings to a large bowl and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat. Spread evenly on baking sheet. Bake wings for 15 minutes, turn wings, and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
While wings bake, combine sauce ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth and transfer to a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring sauce to a boil and simmer until thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
When wings are done, transfer to a large bowl, reserving pan. Toss with sauce. Return wings to pan and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until wings are sticky. Serve hot.
Pancetta-Wrapped Shrimp with Sage
Serves 8 as an appetizer
Note: This recipe has been on Fresh Tart for years – perhaps you’ve made it. It’s SUCH a winner. You can prepare the shrimp without cooking up to 1 day ahead. Fry them just before serving.
32 thin slices pancetta
16 large peeled, deveined wild-caught shrimp
16 fresh sage leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges for serving
Lay two slices of pancetta on a work surface, overlapping slightly. Lay a shrimp at one end of the pancetta and top with one sage leaf. Roll the shrimp in the pancetta, smoothing down the ends as you go.
Add the oil to a 12-inch skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add several of the shrimp (without crowding the pan). Fry the shrimp until the pancetta is golden brown and crispy on all sides. Transfer the shrimp to a platter as you continue to fry them all.
Serve the shrimp with lemon wedges.