Gearing up for a party includes creating a menu of mouth-watering treats for your guests. Often the main dish will be inspired by the occasion. Turkey for Thanksgiving, Crown Roast for Easter, Burgers and dogs for the 4th of July. But what about those appetizers to keep your guests happy before the meal is served? This all important menu item is often overlooked in the mad dash to ensure all is ready. But, with a few simple ingredients you can serve your guests appetizers that will not only keep them happy and their fingers out of the pots until the meal is ready, they will spark conversation and set the mood for fun.
What is an Appetizer? An Appetizer is a small serving of food or sometimes a beverage that is served before the main meal. It is intended to ‘wet the appetite’. Digestion begins in the mouth. Saliva is generated when you begin to chew. This helps to begin breaking down the food for digestion. Ok, I know that may be too much information, but think about it this way. Not only will a good appetizer get your guests primed for that great meal, it may be the reason they don’t stuff themselves. Most people know that it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to send the signal to the brain that it is full. Eating an appetizer just before a meal is served may cause you to eat less. Now there’s a bonus. Appetizers as a diet aide.
Cold Appetizers:Some basics to keep on hand so you are ready at a moment’s notice to serve up a tray of treats.
- Cheese – several varieties are best but at least have a good cheddar
- Olives – black and green
- Cream Cheese
- Assorted Dried Fruit
- Sour Cream
- Party Franks
- Canned Shrimp
- Canned Oysters
- Canned Salmon
- Lemon and Lime juice
- Assorted spices including dried parsley
These are just a few of the things I keep on hand. With these I can almost always come up with a tray of treats as guests walk in the door. For Example:
HALF AND HALF
- You will need about 8 slices of your favorite bread. You could also use crackers for this instead. This will make about 16 crackers. Mix 1/2 cup drained and flaked salmon with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice (you may substitute lemon pepper if you don’t have juice). Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. TIP: I omit salt as I have friends and family on low salt diets, but it you think it needs salt and perhaps a little pepper, go ahead.
- Mash 1 avocado and mix in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Using a large drinking glass cut each slice bread into rounds. You will be cutting off the crust, but don’t toss it. I put the crusts in a zipper bag in the freezer to use for bread crumbs later. of Toast bread in the toaster or on a cookie sheet. Omit this step if using crackers.
- Spread toast lightly with butter or margarine. This helps keep it from getting soggy from the spreads.
- Spread 1/2 of each round with the salmon mixture and the other half with the avocado mixture.
- Garnish with pimento or olive slices.
This makes a tasty and welcome open sandwich to get the party started. The Salmon and avocado are a nice complement.
- You will need 8 slices each or a light or white bread and a dark bread. I like using seedless rye and pumpernickel.
- Remove the crusts from the bread and set aside. Remember to add those crusts to your zipper bag in the freezer. You are going to have a great mixture for bread crumbs.
- Mix up some canapé’ butters. You have a lot of choices. Cream 1 cup butter with any of the following additions: TIP: You can use cream cheese instead of butter.
- 1 cup cooked Minced shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, dash of paprika and 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 can anchovies or 4 tablespoons anchovies paste, w teaspoons lemon juice, 4 drops of onion juice or 1/2 teaspoon finely minced onion. You can also substitute other canned fish like herring, smoked salmon, or sardines.
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese or 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, or 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 2 tablespoons chili sauce, drained. Just be sure it is not too runny.
- 1/4 cup chopped olives and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice.
- Spread each slice of bread with one of the butters above.
- Stack the slices, alternating dark and light until you have stacked all 16 slices of bread.
- Slice the stack into 4. You want to have four stacks about the same size. Lay the stacks on the side.
- Spread one side of 1 stack with a different spread. You can use the same but adding a second spread makes it more fun.
- Take the next stack and turn it over so that the pattern of dark and light is reversed and place it on top of the first that has been covered with the spread.
- Repeat this process with the other two stacks. Do not put spread on the top of the last addition.
- Again slice the new tower into four slices. You can then cut each of those length wise to create 4 mini sandwich towers each. You should end up with about 16 appetizers.
These look impressive and although it sounds complicated it really isn’t. You can make this in about 5 minutes.
DEVILED EGGS an old standby but one almost everyone loves. Here is a little twist.
- Boil a dozen eggs and set aside to cool. When cool peel and prepare by slicing in half lengthwise and removing the yolk.
- To the yolk add sour cream and 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise. Use just enough sour cream to make the mixture creamy. Separate into two small bowls.
- To one bowl add 1 tablespoon chopped olives and 1/4 teaspoon pickle relish.
- To the other bowl add 2 tablespoons finely chopped ham.
- Put each mixture into a small zipper bag. Cut a corner off of the bag and use it to pipe the mixture into the cavity left by the yolk in each egg.
- Garnish with pimento or a small curl of ham, or a small triangle of ham placed into the yolk center.
These look as good as they taste and it only takes a minute or two to add a little surprise flair. You could also add chopped fresh tomato instead of olives, or chopped pepperoni instead of ham.
- You will need several varieties of fresh fruit, some maraschino cherries, and bamboo skewers.. Cut fruit in chunks. For apples, pears, and other similar fruit, dip in lemon juice or orange juice to reduce browning.
- Alternate chunks of fruit and cherries on the skewers. Be sure to leave about 4 inches at the end as a handle.
- Serve with Vanilla Yogurt mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons of the cherry juice as a dipping sauce.
You can’t get much quicker than this and it tastes great too.
DON’T FORGET THE CHEESE
- 1 pound brick of cheese, this may be the cheese of your choice, but a favorite is mild cheddar
- Crackers, a good buttery round or a whole wheat cracker is great for this. Try one of those new flat bread crackers too.
- Sliced Ham
Slice cheese into small slices that will fit on the crackers you have chosen. Slice the ham into strips and wrap around the middle of the cheese slice. Place on crackers. You may wish to garnish some or all of the crackers with a piece of pimento, and olive, a sprig of parsley, or even a small stem of celery. Those slender tips with a couple of small leaves remaining look good and are edible.
With a little advanced planning and less than an hour you can put out a tray of assorted crowd pleasers. I can prepare these 5 dishes in about half an hour, but I do them often. Once you have your ingredients ready, assembly is quick. If you have children in the house, encourage them to help. They will be proud to carry the trays of appetizers they helped make and urge every one to try a taste. Happy Entertaining.