Party Appetizers for Holidays or any Time
Attractive Tray of Hors d'Oeuvres
Taste and Presentation is top Priority
If you are planning a party, these are perfect appetizers to serve to your guests. Always remember that taste and presentation is top priority for tempting and satisfying your guests. People love tasty and unique foods when attending a party. The first thing that attracts guests and helps to start conversations is the appearance of an attractive, inviting table setting. Have your decorations reflect the holiday or special occasion.
The main table should be easily accessed and a showcase. Remove all chairs so the table and foods are easy to get to. The chairs can be sat around in rooms where extra seating is needed. Smaller tables to hold attractive bowls of nuts, mints or other treats can be placed in seating areas. The main table is where you want to have all your cold sandwiches and appetizers. Hot appetizers should be served to guests by the hostess making the rounds to seated and standing groups. Hold the tray in one hand and napkins in your other hand.
A tray or two of small open-faced sandwiches (commonly referred to as "finger sandwiches") is always a popular treat. Make them small enough to be easily picked up and eaten in one or two bites. The bread should be firm enough that it will hold together and not be squashed when picked up.
First, let's look at some basics to put those favorite spreads or toppings on.
Bruschetta is Great with Toppings
Little Toasts, Crackers, Breads
Crostini is Italian meaning "little toasts". Traditionally, crostini is made with white bread. For small round crostini, try using a long, thin baguette loaf. For light and crispy toast, cut the baguette in 1/4 inch slices. Place slices on baking sheet and rub with sliced garlic clove. Brush slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven. Letting the oven preheat for at least 15 minutes will help to brown all slices evenly. Bake for about four minutes, turn sheet and bake another four to five minutes. Slices should be browned around the edges and light golden in centers.
For the best crackers, choose ones that are crisp and delicate in flavor. The prominent taste should be your special topping or spread.
Party rye, white or wheat bread all make a nice selection for a sandwich tray. Rye has a very distinctive flavor, so put something light on it, like cream cheese and an olive slice. An attractive and tempting way to display small triangle sandwiches is on a round tray. Place a layer of wheat bread sandwiches with all the points of the triangle towards the center. The next layer is white bread sandwiches. Continue till this "tower of sandwiches” is six layers tall. Line the edge of the platter with parsley sprigs.
Bruschetta is also a very good bread to serve with toppings. It is an Italian bread, very similar to crostini.
Hors d'oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.— Jack Benny
Spreads and Toppings
Spreads and toppings are what makes the appetizers score big. Flavor is top priority, and color is very festive. For any spread that is a bit lacking in color, place a bright green stuffed olive in the center, or just a slice of pimento. Garnishes should be colorful to add that pizazz to your presentation of delectable taste treats.
Tapenade is a rich olive spread that is popular in the Mediterranean.
1 cup Nicoise olives, pitted
1 cup small green French olives (Picholine), pitted
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 clove garlic
1 anchovy fillet
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Pulse till coarsely chopped and well mixed. Slowly add the olive oil, using the pulse button, until mixture is well blended. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate till ready to use. Serve on crostini with a thin slice of herbed goat cheese. (see next recipe)
Herbal Goat Cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (7 or 8-ounce) log goat cheese
Combine the parsley, chives, thyme, and pepper and place on a flat surface. Roll the log of cheese in the mixture, coating all sides and retaining the shape of the log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. This can be served with the tapenade spread on Crostini. Place a thin slice of cheese on the toast and cover with the tapenade. Top with a green olive.
Herbal or Spiced Cream Cheese
You can buy a soft spread herbal cream cheese, but it is less expensive to make your own and choose your own herbs or spices.
Let cream cheese set at room temperature till soft enough to whip. Place it in a bowl and add the herbs or spices of choice. Mix thoroughly with a fork and then with a wire whip till completely blended. Spread on crackers. Breton vegetable flavored crackers are great for this spread.
Canapes and Finger Sandwiches
Finger sandwiches are small sandwiches that are easy to pick up with just one hand.
Peel and slice a cucumber. Spread butter (or margarine) on two pieces of party rye. Place a cucumber slice on one piece of bread and top with the other piece of bread.
Cream Cheese and Tuna Spread
2 large cans white albacore tuna, drained
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
Place tuna in a medium bowl and break it up with a fork. Add the softened cream cheese and mix tuna and cheese till thoroughly blended. Remove crusts from white or wheat bread to make a square. Spread tuna mix on one slice. Top with another slice of bread and cut sandwich into four squares or triangles.
Ham Salad Spread
1/2 pound deli sliced ham
1 small can chopped black olives
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
Chop ham finely and mix with other ingredients. Spread on party rye bread and top with a green olive. Or, use white or wheat bread to make closed sandwiches cut in squares or triangles.
Egg Salad Spread
6 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Eggs can be boiled the day before and refrigerated. When ready to prepare, peel eggs and chop finely. It will be easier to peel the eggs if you place them in warm water for a few minutes. Mix the eggs with mayonnaise. Remove crusts from wheat or white bread. Spread egg salad on one slice of bread, sprinkle lightly with nutmeg and top with another slice of bread. Cut into four squares or triangles.
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Quick and Easy Hot Appetizers
Tomato, Cheese and Herb Topping
6 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven broiler for at least five minutes. Combine all ingredients except cheese in large bowl. Mix and allow to set for at least ten minutes so the flavors blend. Arrange crostini slices on cookie sheet. Top each slice with the tomato mix. Top with the cheese. Broil for about five minutes till cheese is melted. Serve warm.
Crab and Cheese Diamonds
2 sheets of puff pastry
2 cups crab meat or imitation crab
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Place crab meat in blender and pulse till very crumbly. Empty into bowl and mix with onions and cheese. Place one pastry sheet on non-stick cookie sheet and roll out till fairly thin. Spread crab mixture over pastry. Roll out other pastry sheet on wax paper, gently flip it over on top of crab mixture, peel off wax paper. Bake at 350 degrees till pastry is done and light golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for at least five minutes, till cheese sets a little. Slide onto bread board and cut in a diamond pattern with pizza cutter. Arrange on a platter with parsley sprigs around edges and serve warm.
Stuffed Mushroom Caps
Fresh mushrooms should not be washed in water. Rub them gently with a paper towel to clean them. Remove stem from large mushroom caps. Hollow out the cavity with a small spoon and fill with shredded Monterey Pepper Jack Cheese. Place on nonstick cookie sheet and broil till cheese is bubbly. Serve as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
Little Sausages in Blankets
You can buy a package of miniature sausages in the meat section of your local grocery. You will also need tubes of crescent roll dough.
Dry the sausages with paper towels.
Unwrap and cut the crescent triangles in half.
Wrap each sausage in the dough.
Bake at 375 degrees till dough is light golden brown.
Serve with a dip of mayonnaise mixed with spicy brown mustard to taste.
These are always a welcome sight at any party. Simply arrange small slices of cheeses (the more flavorful, the better), and crackers. Add a few small clusters of green and purple grapes. Place little handfuls of cashew nuts in empty spots. Adding sliced salami gives a little spice. Have a few cheese boards with different presentations for variety.
A special cheese, like Mozzarella, can be arranged on a raised serving dish. Garnished with parsley flakes and surrounded with olives, sun dried tomatoes, or short pieces of green onion is very attractive and appetizing.
Mozzarella Cheese is a Favorite
Mints and Fresh Fruits for a Refreshing Finish
It is always a good idea to serve some after dinner mints, sliced apples and oranges, and grapes when the party is winding down. The apples and oranges arranged alternately on a round tray with a sprig of parsley in the center is very attractive. Not only is this a refreshing taste after all those seasoned and highly flavored appetizers, it can be a subtle yet polite signal to everyone that the cocktail party is nearing the end.
People will begin to wrap up the evening when the appetizers are depleted and the fruit and mints are served. It might be a good idea to have a freshly brewed pot of coffee for those who would like it.
Enjoy your party and friends.
End Your Evening Pleasantly With Coffee
© 2010 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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