Simple, easy holiday appetizers

Michelle Peyree’s berries with mint and cream appetizer. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Michelle Peyree’s berries with mint and cream appetizer.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

While most people think of Martha Stewart while setting their tables, on Mercer Island, we have our own food staging artist: Michelle Peyree.

The only thing that these two have in common is the ‘M’ in their first names. Michelle is a very busy, active mother of two small children. I had the honor of meeting Michelle and getting to know her through the Mercer Island Country Club tennis program, where we played on the same tennis team.

After a tennis match it is customary at this club to host a little lunch gathering for the opposing team. Michelle’s platters were always picture perfect, and at most times looked too beautiful to eat. Most people would comment how she must have spent hours preparing these delectable bite-sized treats. To all of our dismay, Michelle dished out the secret to me and has graciously allowed me to share this inside information with you.

Michelle’s philosophy is simple, easy and four ingredients or less. During my visit with Michelle, she had four appetizers for me to sample, all of which took under 45 minutes to prepare and stage.  The staging of the delectables was gorgeous. Michelle believes that all holiday foods can be made simple and all recipes can be adjusted to one’s dietary concerns or tastes.

Growing up with an Italian mother who happens to love to cook and garden, Michelle is no stranger moving around her kitchen with ease. She loves things to be fresh and pretty to look at. Michelle states that people like to see what they are eating. If the recipe calls for broccoli, then why not add a little piece of broccoli as the garnish? As she did on the cheddar cheese broccoli soup that she presented me.

Michelle also loves, single serve and bite-sized. Her entertaining style is casual. She wants people to feel very comfortable and to be able to move around her home with ease all while enjoying a bite-sized treat. Michelle also believes that you can substitute ingredients. If you do not have time to make a homemade whip cream, simply purchase a REAL whipped cream (any brand) and add it to your dish. No one will know the difference. Where people tend to notice the homemade vs. the store-bought is when they are served fat free or low fat versions of the real thing.

Michelle’s talents are not only on the tennis court or kitchen, but this year she and her husband are the co-chairs of the Make-A- Wish Foundation Gala and Auction on March 10, 2012, at the Westin Hotel in Seattle. For more information, please contact Lindsey Johnson at

Michelle’s favorite soup company is Got Soup?. They are present at the Mercer Island Farmers Market, and they have a website. For more information, contact or (425) 736-1509.

Tomatoes with Smoked Salmon Filling

• Small sweet tomatoes

• 1 package of Philadelphia cream cheese, softened (leave out at room temp)

• 1 package of smoked salmon

• 1 lemon

• Chives

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, smoked salmon and lemon. Snip pieces of chives off with kitchen scissors and combine with mixture.

Take thin slices off of the top and bottom of tomatoes, scoop out with melon baller. Fill tomatoes with salmon filling and place on dishes. Garnish with small bits of chives.


Berries with Mint and Cream

• Variety of fresh berries

• Fresh mint, chopped

• Granulated sugar

• Graham crackers, crumbled

• Heavy cream

• Powdered sugar

• Small candy canes

Mix washed berries with a small amount of sugar to sweeten if necessary. Add a few teaspoons of chopped mint and mix.

Using a hand blender, whip heavy cream. Add powdered sugar to desired sweetness.

Put crumbled graham crackers on the bottom of serving glasses. Spoon berries on top. Put a dollop of whipped cream on top.  Sprinkle few crushed graham crackers and crushed candy cane. Garnish glass with candy cane hanging off side.

Puff Pastry with Basil and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

• Frozen puff pastry, thawed

• Basil pesto

• Sun dried tomato pesto

Heat oven to 400. Spread basil pesto on one sheet of puff pastry. Spread sun dried tomato pesto on other sheet of puff pastry. Starting from short ends, roll pastry toward middle. Cut slices about 1/4 inch thick. Place on parchment paper and bake in 400-degree oven for 12-14 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.


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