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Holiday Appetizers To Wow Your Guests

We’re feeling jolly at this month’s Local Life. The holidays are practically here, the temperatures are crisp, the Mayor’s Christmas Tree was lit tonight in Downtown Overland Park, and we’re starting to plan menus for entertaining.  In that spirit, Chef prepared some of our favorite appetizers. Try these at your next gathering – your guests will love them!

Chocolate HummusChocolate Hummus

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chips, high quality such as 60%

Combine the chickpeas, maple syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla and blend in a food processor to desired consistency.  Add the chocolate chips toward the end of the processing.  Serve with sliced apples or cinnamon-sugar pita crisps.  Makes 2½ cups

Blue Cheese, Bacon & Onion Savory Cheesecake

savory cheesecakeCrust

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, melted


  • 2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup cream
  • ½ cup bacon, cooked, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, melted
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ½ pound blue cheese, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 to 4 drops hot pepper sauce
  • ¼ cup scallions, finely chopped, for garnish

Preheat oven to 260 degrees. 

For the crust, line a 10-inch springform pan with aluminum foil.  In a mixing bowl add bread crumbs, cheese, and butter and stir to combine.  Transfer to pan.  Using hands (or back of spoon) press crust into the bottom of pan.  Set aside.

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl add cream cheese, eggs, and cream and mix thoroughly.  Add bacon, butter, onion, blue cheese, salt, pepper, and hot sauce and stir to incorporate all ingredients well.  Using a spatula, transfer cheese mixture to prepared springform pan, scraping sides to remove all of the mixture and smooth to cover entire pan.  Place in oven and bake for 90 minutes or until puffed and golden.  Turn oven off and allow cheesecake to sit in oven an additional 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and place in refrigerator overnight or until thoroughly chilled and set.  (Cheesecake can be made up to 3 days ahead of time.)

To serve, remove cheesecake from refrigerator.  Top with scallions, for garnish.  Serve with crackers.   Makes 20 to 40 appetizer servings

Serve with salted rice crackers which are usually packaged in tubes and can be found in the deli section of most grocery stores.  The combination of the salted crispiness of the cracker with the smooth and tangy texture of the cheesecake is perfect! 

Sweet Potato Empanadas with Beef Picadillo Filling and Harissa Sauce

Sweet Potato EmpanadasHarissa Sauce

  • 2 large red bell peppers, roasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
  • 2 whole jalapeno peppers washed, stem removed (or other hot pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup mayonnaise


  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ large onion, peeled, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries (or raisins)
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, unsalted, roasted, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons green olives, chopped (or capers)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ¼ cup cilantro, fresh, washed, chopped (or parsley)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound butter, unsalted, cold
  • 2 cups sweet potato puree, chilled
  • 1 large egg white, beaten

For the sauce, in a food processor add red peppers, garlic, hot peppers, cumin coriander, caraway seeds, and salt.  Pulse until mixture is consistency of paste.  While processor is running, slowly add oil and continue to blend until mixture is smooth.   Turn off processor and add mayonnaise.  Pulse mixture until smooth.  Set aside.

For the filling, in a skillet heat oil.  Add beef, onion and garlic. Sauté until beef is no longer pink, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  Add cranberries, almonds, olives, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, and cilantro. Stir to combine well.  Set aside.

For the pastry, in a food processor add flour, cornmeal, salt, and butter.  Pulse until pieces of dough form to the size of a pea.  Add puree and egg white.  Continue to pulse until dough is moistened throughout.  Transfer dough to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator to chill for an hour.  Remove from refrigerator and set aside until dough is pliable and able to be rolled out. Transfer dough to a lightly floured countertop (or pastry cloth).  Using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll dough out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter, cut dough into 3-inch rounds and transfer to a baking sheet. 

To assemble empanadas, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place 1 tablespoon of the filling into the center of each dough round. Using a pastry brush (or your fingers), paint edges with beaten egg.  Fold dough over filling and pinch (or press with the tines of a fork) to seal edges.  (Make sure that edges are completely sealed so that the filling doesn’t bubble out when baking.)  Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter.  Serve warm with Harissa Sauce for dipping.  Makes 16 to 20 empanadas.

To prepare the sweet potato puree, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash outside of 2 small sweet potatoes. Using a fork (or sharp knife), pierce each potato 2 to 3 times so that steam can escape during cooking.  Place directly on rack in oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until potatoes are soft and sharp knife can be inserted easily.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool to the touch.  Remove peels and place flesh in a food processor.  Puree just until mixture is smooth.  Transfer to a covered dish and refrigerator until chilled. (Puree may be made up to one day in advance and stored refrigerator.)

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