I love to cook and am pretty darn good at it too! However, cooking for the family each night does not rock my world. What does rock my world? Cooking for a party!
For some reason, I thoroughly enjoy cooking for a large group. Give me a party to cook for each weekend and I'm in my glory!
Unfortunately, my little kitchen cannot seat a large group for a formal or casual dinner party. My soultion - Cocktail Parties! This way I can entertain everyone, they can mingle and I don't have to worry about seating everyone.
Below are some of my friend's favorite and most requested "small bites". Hope you enjoy them as well!
Mini Cocktail Meatballs
These cocktail meatballs are a great "finger food" to serve when you are having a small party. Put them on a platter, stick some toothpicks in them and they're ready to go. They can be made ahead of time and reheated (in the sauce) the day of your party. The men seem to really like them.
1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef (you can use ground turkey if you prefer)
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I like to use seasoned)
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup of water
3 tbs. minced onion
1 clove minced garlic
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 cup chili sauce (I like Heinz)
1 cup grape jelly
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine first eight ingredients. Form into 60 bite-size meatballs. Place on cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes or until cooked. Remove from oven and set aside. In a saucepan combine chili sauce and grape jelly. Heat until jelly has melted and mixture has a smooth consistency.
Place meatballs in a serving dish and pour sauce over meatballs ensuring all meatballs are coated. Serve immediately.
White Bean Bruschetta
I'm not overly fond of tomatoes and neither is my husband (or my kids & some of my friends) so as an alternative to the standard tomato bruschetta, I serve this instead. I'll serve it in a bowl along side some toasted french baguette bread. This can also be made ahead and refrigerated. Try it - you'll like it :-)
3 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
15 1/2 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained
2 TBS. water
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the beans, water, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for about 10 minutes. Mash the beans with a wooden spoon or hand-held potato masher to maek a rough puree. Salt and pepper to taste.
Who doesn't love hummus? My friend taught me how to make this over 10 years ago and it's been a hit ever since. I usually serve this with an assortment of raw veggies and pita chips. The recipe will serve about 24 people. If I have any left over (which I rarely do), I'll refrigerate it and the kids have it as a snack over the week. What's also great is that it can be made ahead of time - saves me time the day of the party so I can worry about other things!
4 cups chick-peas (about 2 1/2 cans)
2 TBS. tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup vegetable stock
2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne
2 TBS. cilantro
Combine chick-peas, tahini, vegeatble stock, olive oil, and juice of 1 lemon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade (blender will do in a pinch). Process until smooth and creamy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Add garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne, and cilantro and process to blend. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Add more lemon juice to taste. Transfer into storage container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Bang Bang Chicken In Wonton Cups
My friends love these. They always ask me where I bought the wonton cups and are very impressed when I tell them that I made them myself (it's really no big thing but I don't tell them that).
2 TBS. sesame seeds
4 TBS. smooth peanut butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 TBS. lemon juice
1 TBS. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. tobasco
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half
wonton cups (see below)
1 scallion, finely sliced for garnish
Toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over low heat until nutty and golden (about 3 minutes).
To make the bang bang sauce, mix the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, lemon, soy sauce and tobasco until smooth and creamy.
Put the chicken in a pan and cover it with cold water. Bring slowly to simmering point. Simmer gently without boiling until chicken is cooked through (about 7-10 minutes). Cool the chicken completely in the cooking liquid. drain and cut the chicken, diagonally, into 1/8 inch thick slices. Cut the slices in half. Place chicken slices in wonton cups, drizzle each with bang bang sauce, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and garnish with the scallion slices.
1 package small wonton wrappers
vegetable oil or vegetable cooking spray
Mini muffin baking tins
Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Brush mini muffin tins with oil or spray with cooking spray. Place 1 wonton sheet in each opening, pushing down in the center to form a cup.
Bake about 5 minutes, just until the cups are golden.
Remove the pan from the oven and tip out the cups. repeat until you have used all the wrappers.
*The wonton cups can be made a week ahead and stored at room temperature in an air tight covered container*
Bite Size Ceasar Salad Croustades
My kids love these so much that when the party is over, they are already asking me when I'm gonna make them again. Hey - lettuce is a vegetable, right? And I do make the croustades (fancy name for bread cups) with whole wheat bread instead of white - that's healthy too, right? So yeah, I'll make it just for them every once in a while.
The adults luv them too! And once again I'm asked where I bought the croustades (too funny)!
2 romaine hearts, cleaned and leaves separated
2 to 3 TBS. bottled ceasar dressing (to taste)
croustades (see below)
freshly grated parmesean cheese to sprinle on top
Stack salad leaves and roll them up tightlly. Slice across the roll to make 1/4 inch strips. Toss with the salad dressing. Fill croustades with salad. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesean cheese.
7 thin slices of white bread
2 TBS. melted butter
2 inch round pastry cutter or cookie cutter
mini muffin baking pans
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll out the bread slices thinly with the rolling pin. Cut out 3 rounds from each slice using the pastry cutter/cookie cutter. Place one round in each opening, puching down gently to form a cup. Brush each round with the melted butter. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Repeat with the remaining bread.