Christmas Eve Hors D'oeuvres Cocktail Party

Oh hello blogging world...I'm back! I took a little hiatus to enjoy my favorite time of the year with my favorite people! My parents came to visit and we had a very Maui Christmas touring them around the island we now call home and getting nice and jolly from too much wine and fancy dinners. I rang in the New Year at the Ritz surrounded by an amazing group of friends and a midnight kiss from my love. It was the perfect way to wrap up 2012 and I'm looking forward to what 2013 brings!

Speaking of change in 2013, I have a SHOCKING change for The Cook A Mama. I am no longer a vegetarian!!! After the past couple years of being a Veggie, I decided it was time for a more balanced diet. Not that I don't think a vegetarian lifestyle is amazing and healthy...but I felt like I was limiting my culinary growth by excluding meat from my diet. And I'll admit it, I was really craving a damn steak. Don't worry though, I promise I'll still be adding lots of veggie/ pescetarian recipes. But now all you meat lovers will have something to look forward to as well!

Ok now enough about me, lets get to cooking. Since I haven't posted in a couple of weeks I thought I would post 4 delicious recipes in just 1 post so you can forgive me for my absence. For Christmas Eve, instead of a formal sit down dinner we always just stay up late playing games, drinking lots of champagne, and eating all different fun small bite appetizers.  You don't have to wait until next Christmas to try out these recipes though, its a perfect Hors D'oeuvres menu for any cocktail party you host! 
First up was Individual Wedge Salads. I simply quartered a head of iceberg lettuce so everyone had their own mini wedge and topped it with the classics: blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumbles, chopped tomato, green onions, and even some diced avocado. 

This whole meat eating business is new for me and I still can't get used to the taste of I made mine veggie style and it was just as delicious. That's what is great about making wedge salads; since each person gets their own, you can much more easily adjust for vegetarians at your cocktail party instead of a large tossed salad.
I'm so excited to share these Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms with you. I hadn't made them in years but they were always such a hit and they still are! 
Mushroom caps are marinated in olive oil and  stuffed with a mixture of panko bread crumbs, crumbled Italian sausage, green onions, garlic, and mascarpone cheese swirled in. The stuffing is SO good- I mean so good its bad-because you will tempted to eat it all straight out of the pan before you even stuff the mushrooms.
Oh and did I mention popping a bottle of Dom Perignon is another Riley Family Christmas I have the best family or what?!
 Knowing that everyone will be feeling nice and boozy from the Dom takes off the pressure of trying out a new recipe like I did with this Shrimp, Arugula, and Tomato Bruschetta. I was really looking forward to trying this recipe I saw on Giada's Holiday Special but unfortunately I wasn't blown away by the flavors. Everyone still devoured it because at the very least it was a creamy tomato bruschetta topped on crunchy garlic bread-how bad could that be? Still next year I will definitely sub in one of my tried and true classics like Bruschetta or Spinach Dip.

And finally, because I'm now a crazy carnivore ;) I  made Mini Beef Wellingtons. I seared small pieces of filet mignon, topped them with a sauteed mixture of shallots and mushrooms, bundled it all into a puff pastry pocket, and baked until golden and flakey. They were delish!
I loved how the Hors d'oeuvres menu had a little bit of everything: greens, mushrooms, shrimp, and beef. Its important at any cocktail party to have variety so everyone can find something they love!
These appetizers are all delicious, fun to eat, cute to look at, and most of all they make for one lively party! I won't lie though, they definitely are time consuming and keep you on your feet and in the kitchen much longer than serving a sit down dinner. But hey that's where I'm in my element, cooking up a storm, keeping my guests full and happy, and getting to wear a cute Santa apron while doing it :)
I hope everyone had a lovely Holiday season and I wish you all a Happy & Healthy New Year! 

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms 
adapted from Ina Garten

16 extra-large white mushrooms
7 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 ounces mascarpone cheese, preferably from Italy
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it's completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste,
Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 40-50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.

Individual Wedge Salads
Serves 4

1 small head of iceberg lettuce
1 avocado, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
green onions, chopped
crumbled cooked bacon
blue cheese dressing, preferably Marie's
blue cheese crumbles

Quarter head of iceberg lettuce. Mix in extra blue cheese crumbles into dressing and spoon on top of each quarter of lettuce. Top with above toppings, omitting bacon for vegetarians.

Mini Beef Wellingtons 
adapted from Claire Robinson

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2 cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the beef dry with a paper towel and season all sides with salt and pepper. Quickly sear the beef on 2 sides only until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes total; do not overcook. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Add the mushrooms and cook until beginning to brown and release liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and continue cooking until mushroom mixture dries out, is golden brown and shallots are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
Preheat to the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
On a work surface, roll 1 sheet of puff pastry to a 10 by 14-inch rectangle. Put teaspoon-sized mounds of mushroom mixture on the pastry, evenly spacing them in 4 rows of 3. Top the mushroom mound with a piece of beef, seared side up. With a sharp knife, cut the pastry into even squares around the meat and mushrooms. Working 1 at a time, pull 2 opposite sides of pastry up over each beef piece, then fold the ends over the top to make a packet. Invert and arrange the packets seam side down on the baking sheet and press them lightly to seal the pastry. Repeat with the remaining beef, mushrooms, and pastry.
Bake the Wellingtons until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving platter and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Shrimp, Arugula, Tomato Bruschetta
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

1 (1-pound) loaf ciabatta bread, trimmed and cut into 14 (1/2-inch thick) slices
Olive oil, for drizzling
1 garlic clove, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 pound extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 packed cup arugula, chopped
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
For the toasts: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until light golden, about 10 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes. Rub the warm toasts with the cut side of the garlic. Set aside.
For the topping: In a medium skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 2 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, to taste, and add them to the skillet. Cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.
In the same skillet, add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook over medium-high heat until the tomatoes start to soften, about 4 minutes. Turn the heat to high. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the arugula, mascarpone cheese, and chopped shrimp. Stir until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the toasts on serving plates and drizzle with the sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving.