Stephen Fries: Flaky fillo recipes made easy for celebrations

The day after Christmas begins another frenzy, the returning and exchanging of gifts, scouting stores for huge after-Christmas sales and of course, the preparation for New Year’s Eve celebrations. For those who celebrate in the comfort of their homes or host a home party, the menu is at the forefront. If you are looking for some bite-size finger food that looks sophisticated but easy to prepare, look no further.

Displays of Athens Mini Fillo Cups on display in several supermarkets caught my attention. Filo, also spelled phyllo, means leaf in Greek, and it consists of flaky sheets of paper-thin pastry. Phyllo is one component of a recipe that might not be worth the time and energy to make, especially when there is a quality product available. Common recipes using phyllo are baklava and spanakopita (spinach pie).

I did a bit of research and learned that Athens Foods, founded in 1958, is the world’s largest producer of phyllo dough products. They produce 85 percent of this type of dough in the United States.

Curiosity led me to prepare a few recipes using the mini cups. Whether used right out of the box or heated and served warm, they add a sophisticated and elegant presentation and crispy texture to appetizers, snacks and desserts. One simple and delicious shell with endless possibilities. Perfect for your New Year’s gathering.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and food-filled New Year. I look forward to another year of sharing my passion for food with you.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine oats, Yumbutter, honey, chocolate and hemp seeds. Form mixture into 30 small balls. Press each gently into mini fillo shells. Garnish with dried cranberries. Serve at room temperature. For added crispness, preheat oven to 350⁰F. Place empty shells on a baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes. Cool and fill. In just a few minutes, this easy energy snack is perfect, providing extra energy as you prepare for your guests. They contain healthy and delicious super foods. I couldn’t eat just one.

Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Place empty shells on a baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes. Cool. In a medium chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fill a medium pot 1/3 with water and bring to a simmer. In a small metal bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until combined and light in color. Add 1 1/2 cups champagne and whisk to combine. Place the bowl with the egg mixture on top of the simmering water. Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens and foam subsides. Remove from heat and whisk for 2 minutes as the mixture continues to thicken. Set aside. Pour remaining 3 tablespoons champagne in a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle with gelatin and let sit until absorbed. Once absorbed, microwave for 10 seconds or until gelatin has dissolved. Whisk the gelatin into the egg mixture. Add salt. Gently fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes or until firm enough to pipe. Pipe into each shell and top with a raspberry half. This recipe is sure to be all the buzz at your New Year’s Eve gathering.

Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Place empty shells on a baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes. Cool. In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the coconut, confectioner’s sugar and almonds. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract, mixing well. Roll the mixture into 15 balls approximately 3/4”-1” in diameter. Roll balls in the remaining coconut. Place 2 candy eyes on each ball and squeeze the area between the eyes to sculpt a nose. Hull the strawberries, cut off the tips and set tips aside to be used as “hats”. Place a strawberry into each of the 15 shells, hulled side up. Gently press the coconut balls onto each. As you press, pull a little of the coconut down to the front of the strawberry to represent a beard. Press strawberry hats on top. Pipe a small amount of cake frosting onto each as a “pom pom”.

On a plate, pipe two rows of cake frosting approximately 3/4”-1” apart and fill in the area between with more frosting. (This will be the “glue” that will hold the sleigh together.) Press 1 candy cane into each line of frosting. Set the Santa in between the canes towards the front. Place another empty shell behind it to form the back of the sleigh

• Candy eyes can be purchased at most grocery, craft and baking supply stores.

Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Place empty shells on a baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes. Cool. In a medium bowl, whip the cream cheese, marshmallow cream and peppermint extract. Fold in whipped topping and food coloring. Pipe filling into the shells using a round pastry tip.

Garnish trees with candy stars, rainbow nonpareils or sprinkles.

1 4-ounce package sliced prosciutto

In a large pan over medium heat, or on a baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven, crisp prosciutto. Place on paper towels to cool. Once the prosciutto is cooled, cut it into small pieces. Place one cube of brie into each shell. Spoon a teaspoon of fig preserves over the brie. Bake shell in preheated 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until brie is melted. Remove shells from oven and garnish each shell with small pieces of crisp prosciutto.

Tips: substitute prosciutto with raspberries, apples, blueberries or pomegranate. Fig preserves can be substituted with apple butter, pumpkin butter, marmalade. Garnish with pistachios, walnuts, pecans or almonds.

A new twist on an old favorite, and so easy.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of cocktail sauce into each shell, add one cooked shrimp (tail up and garnish with a sprig of dill.

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