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ON COOKING: Sharing ideas for holiday appetizers

Look for something easy, that can be managed with just one hand, chef suggests
Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at your cooking questions to Chef Dez at

By Chef Dez/Special to Black Press Media

Whether it’s a formal champagne event, or just a get-together with loved ones, tasty appetizers are a must for any successful holiday season party.

In today’s marketplace, there are so many outlets for one to buy appetizers pre-made from the freezer section, but this eliminates all the fun and creativity.

Preparing for an evening of guests should be enjoyable, and what you prepare should be an expression of your personality.

There are numerous options that are not only delicious, but easy as well.

For fancier events, it is nice to have small morsels of food that people can manage with one hand to “pop” into their mouths.

This is extremely helpful when a drink is being held in the other hand and there is an abundance of standing and socializing.

A perfect example of this would be canapés. Don’t let the fancy French name scare you. They are simply pronounced (can ah pays) and are defined as bite-size open-faced sandwiches.

Most canapés consist of a base, a spread, and a garnish. Get the bakery to slice your bread lengthwise and toast these sheets of bread in the oven. Then symmetrically place small dollops of spread on every square inch and cut the bread into the squares that are now mapped out. Garnish each one and place them on a platter.

An example of a spread and garnish would be horseradish flavoured cream cheese with small pieces of thin beef and a parsley sprig.

Chicken wings are an extremely popular appetizer, and the price of ones that are already “flavoured and cooked” compared to raw ones is drastic.

A simple marinade or sauce can be made from ingredients you most likely have in your refrigerator already like barbeque sauce, ketchup, or hot sauce, mixed with a variety of other ingredients.

Half the fun is creating something uniquely yours.

Nothing is more satisfying than hearing someone say, “Wow, have you tried Katherine’s wings? They’re incredible!”

The other half of the fun is all the money you will save.

A very extraordinary appetizer would be an Italian antipasto platter.

This can be easily assembled as a last minute dish with a collection of morsels normally found in an Italian pantry.

Make a quick marinade of equal parts of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for artichoke hearts, tomatoes, grilled asparagus, roasted peppers, or any other vegetables you prefer.

Arrange these marinated veggies on a platter along with sundried tomatoes, melon pieces wrapped in proscuitto, roasted garlic heads, chunks of Parmesan cheese, and slices of baguette, for example.

The possibilities are endless, so be creative.

The options to choose from for the appetizers you are going to serve are immeasurable, but hopefully I have given you some ideas.

Food is a great social aspect of bringing people together, and even more wonderful when you have made it from scratch.

Dear Chef Dez:

I like to make nachos as an appetizer, but they always seem to be lacking something. Do you have any suggestions?

Sherri D., Abbotsford

Dear Sherri:

To make something taste great, you have to stay focused on flavour when you are assembling it.

Some simple changes will help you with this.

The two main ingredients in nachos are tortilla chips and cheese. Make sure that the chips are lightly salted and of high quality, and if using cheddar, choose the extra-old variety for the most flavour.

Then add tasty morsels on each layer such as spiced chicken, black olives, diced tomatoes, green onions, and chilies for example.

Most importantly, season each layer of cheese with chili powder, salt, and fresh cracked pepper to help bring out the flavours of everything.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, guacamole and enjoy!


– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at Send questions to or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4


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