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The Great Thanksgiving Feast: Appetizers

As this was my third year making Thanksgiving, I’ve settled into a couple routines. We serve buffet style, I start planning a month ahead, I cook all day Wednesday in prep, and I make the exact same appetizers every year. I really doubt anyone in my family is complaining, mostly because they’re freakishly delicious, but nonetheless, they are the same. I serve them two hours prior to the main meal, which is in my mind, enough time to regain some semblance of hunger.

And from my own mash-up of restaurant-style and slightly healthier versions, spinach artichoke dip:

Usually we also serve crudite and dip, but I completely forgot this year! But I don’t think anyone noticed.

Anyway, both are made pretty easily ahead of time, or assembled at the last minute.

For the brie, peel the apples

Then slice them up. Since I serve this with crackers, I try to keep the pieces pretty small. My sister came up with a pretty fool proof way to do it this year.

Draw the knife around 1/3rd and 2/3rds the way down, horizontally. Then slice down and into a bowl.

I used 6 apples and had too many. So go with more like 4 if they’re good sized.

Meanwhile, put a brie in a pie tin

In a skillet, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and 1/3rd cup brown sugar

On Wednesday, I toasted 6 cups of pecans, at varying levels of chopped-ness

I did a third whole, a third rough chopped and a third finely chopped. All toasted at 375 for 10-15 minutes.

Sautee 1 cup of the roughly chopped (toasted) pecans in the butter and brown sugar until well candied.

Meanwhile, take a larger saucepan with maple syrup and lightly sautee the apples

(this is actually the remnants of a maple reduction I made for cinnamon roll icing. But it worked!)

Add a pinch of cinnamon and then assemble!

First brie, then apples, then pecans

Then bake the whole thing in the oven at 375 for 35-40 minutes, until the whole thing looks melty. Serve with table crackers of whatever kind floats your boat. Serve hot and throw away whatever you don’t eat, it really doesn’t keep well.

For the spinach artichoke dip, roast some garlic

Note the very full stove top.

Make some alfredo sauce. See here for my recipe or be lazy and buy a jar.

But I guarantee this is better

In a bit bowl, combine a 10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained, an 8 oz package of softened cream cheese and a 14 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and chopped. And the roasted garlic, peeled and minced.

Oh, and black pepper and mozzarella cheese. The measurements aren’t really important, this whole thing is a cheesy extravaganza.

Add the alfredo and mix

Top with more cheese (mozzarella, asiago and parmagiana reggiano are pictured) and bake (I used the same square Pyrex in which I roasted the garlic) covered, then uncovered, until the cheese browns and is bubbly.

Now, I stopped trying to kid myself into thinking this was even remotely healthy this year, but there are ways to make it a little bit less calorically devastating. I use all part skim mozzarella, reduced fat cream cheese (never fat free, ew) and fat free half and half in the alfredo. I also use less mozzarella in favor of more flavorful cheeses like asiago and reggiano, which get the point across without needing a huge amount. I haven’t calculated how much of a difference these substitutions make calorically, but every little bit counts, right?

I serve this with tortilla scoops. Or with spoons. It’s up to you!

Next up: main course…in which I show off my totally experimental, yet delicious sweet potato dish.