10 Appetizer Ideas

One reader asked about hot appetizer ideas. IT seem that around this time of year, it is a popular pitch-in request! Personally, I love appetizers – they make a great, fun dinner and a festive start to a meal or contribution to a party. However, I don’t usually have a lot of time to spend on them so I have a few quick (but super tasty) recipes that I depend on!

1) BBQ meatballs or mini sausages (or both!) – I usually use pre-made, frozen meatballs…shhh…don’t tell. 🙂 Put them in your crockpot and pour your favorite, nice quality bbq sauce over it and cook on low.

2) Hot Chipped Beef dip – My mom’s recipe and definitely delicious! This is delicious with crackers!

3) Jalapeno Popper Dip – My boss made this last year and I LOVED it! This is my version of it. I serve it with crackers and cubed bread.

4) Baked Brie (pictured above) – You can find large wheels of brie fairly affordably at the large discount warehouses. I slice the top rind off and cover with any manner of things – jams, nuts & honey, or nuts, honey, & fruit. You can bake it until melty or you can even microwave it. Serve with sliced pears, apples, crackers, and bread. This is probably my most requested appetizer at family events. 🙂

5) Orange Cranberry Dip – You might notice a theme of dips but they are just so easy. I have one of the little dipper crockpots which makes keeping these warm and making them very easy.

She didn’t specifically ask for cold appetizers but here are five of my favorites:

1) Antipasti platter – an assortment of olives, marinated vegetables, cheese and cured meats. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you like! The marinated mozzarella above is easy and delicious!

2) Cheese ball & crackers – There are so many, many variations! You can  make a large cheese ball or small individual ones.

3) Cheese tray – Use 3-4 different cheeses and arrange on a platter. Garnish with grapes and assorted fresh fruit. Serve with crackers.

4) Hummus – You can make your own or buy it prepared! You can serve with fresh vegetables, pita, tortilla chips, and/or crackers.

5) Cream Cheese dip – Spread cream cheese on a plate, top with your favorite preserves (cherry is my favorite!). Serve with crackers.

What are your favorite appetizer recipes? Or what are your favorite appetizers to eat?

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Party Snacks

It’s that time of year with parties and gatherings galore!  In honor of New Year’s Eve tomorrow evening, I offer you two simple and delicious snack ideas. Neither of these are super sweet, but both are quite satisfying and a nice addition to a party spread.

I occasionally peruse the blog Nourishing Gourmet, and not too long ago she offered this spiced nut recipe. I love spiced nuts, but was happy to find a recipe not so laden with sugar, so I don’t have to feel guilty while indulging a little bit! These would also make a lovely gift, if you were so inclined.

CINNAMON VANILLA SPICED NUTS
(from The Nourishing Gourmet)
Print This Recipe

1 egg white
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. sugar (sucanat, coconut sugar, maple sugar are all alternatives to refined sugar that work just fine here)
2 1/2 c. nuts (I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper.

Lightly beat the egg white with a whisk just until a bit foamy. Stir in the cinnamon, vanilla, salt and sugar. Add the nuts and stir to coat well.

Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon (allowing extra coating to drip out), and spread out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove and cool for 20 minutes. Can store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe came from the December issue of Cooking Light and was frankly the only recipe I found of any particular interest. I did scale the sweetener back a little bit and thought it perfect, like slightly spicy caramel corn. I also decided we weren’t eating the whole batch the night I made it, so I did pop this in the oven for 10 minutes at 250°F to dry it out just a little bit so I could store it without lots of clumping. We happily consumed the leftovers the next day in our lunches.

SPICY MAPLE-CASHEW POPCORN
(from Cooking Light, December 2010)
Print This Recipe

1 Tbsp canola or coconut oil
1/4 c. popcorn kernels (about 6c. popped)
1/4 c. dry-roasted cashews
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a pan and pop the popcorn. (I use a Whirlypop Pan, but you can use a traditional pan, just make sure you shake often as it’s popping.)

Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Stir the cashews into popped corn.

Combine sugar, maple syrup, butter, salt and cayenne in a small pan; bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Pour hot syrup over popcorn mixture. Toss to coat. Immediately spread onto prepared pan. Cool 3 minutes. Enjoy!

Weekend Fare: Game Day

Today, I wanted to share a few favorite football/game day snacks as well as some other easy, great dishes to serve! And lest you stop reading because you don’t care about football or sports in general, let me assure you that this would be suitable for ANY gathering – game night, movie night, you name it.

This caramel corn is so good and so addictive!

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CARAMEL CORN
(I believe this recipe orginated from allrecipes and I adapted it for our taste! We love it!)

7 quarts plain popped popcorn
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans. You may use roasting pans or jelly roll pans.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 min. while stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat.

Bake for 1 hr., removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 min. Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.

This dip is always popular. I have a mini crockpot that I make it in so it stays warm. It’s delicious served with a variety of crackers.

HOT CHIPPED BEEF DIP

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tb. milk
3-4 Tb. dried chipped beef or lunch meat beef, finely chopped
2 Tb. onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. pepper
dash of garlic salt
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. pecans, chopped

Combine all ingredients except the pecans in an oven safe dish or a small crockpot. If baking in the oven, sprinkle the pecans on top and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. If using crockpot, turn on low and thoroughly heat then sprinkle nuts on top.

Chex mix is an old standby! You can make it in the oven or even in the microwave. It’s so good and so easy!

CHEX MIX
3 c. rice chex
3 c. corn chex
3 c. wheat chex
2 c. pretzels
1 c. mixed nuts or peanuts
6 Tb. butter
2 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder

Melt butter and Worcestershire. Add salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Pour over cereal mix. Bake at 250 for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes. OR microwave 6 min., stirring every 2 min. Spread on a waxed paper or brown bag to cool.

A few other good things to serve:
– Veggies & Dip (pepper, cucumbers, and carrots are the most popular around here)
– Chips & Salsa or Nachos
– Crackers & Cheeseball
– Cookies
– Assorted candy – M & Ms, Skittles, mini candy bars etc.

Entertaining 101: Easy Appetizers

I (Alaina) like to provide a couple of appetizers when people arrive so I can put the finishing touches on dinner. Fresh veggies and dip are a great option as well as an assortment of olives or a cheese & fruit platter. My advice is to keep appetizers simple and light. Here are just a few of our favorite recipes – they would also be suitable for snacks at a party.

This brie is probably my all-time favorite appetizer. It’s easy, delicious and gourmet. I buy the brie at Costco – it’s under $6 for a 27 oz. or so wheel of baby brie. I serve it with crackers and/or bread, pears, and apples.

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HONEY FRUIT & NUT BRIE
Alaina

1/2 c. dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 c. pecans, walnuts, or almonds, coarsely chopped
2 Tb. butter
1/3 c. honey
1 lg. round of brie

Saute pecans in butter. Combine fruit, nuts, and honey. Cut rind off top of brie. Pour fruit & nut mixture over brie. Bake in oven until melted or you can  microwave it for a couple of minutes until soft and melty. Serve with crackers, bread cubes, and/or fruit slices.

This is perhaps one of the easiest appetizers. It is delicious! You can use any kind of preserves but my favorite is cherry. I generally choose a jar of locally made preserves – they taste so fresh.

FRUITED CREAM CHEESE
Alaina

1 – 8oz. block or tub of cream cheese (can use reduced fat)
1 jar of preserves

Spread cream cheese on a plate and top with preserves. Serve with crackers,

This delicious hummus recipe is from Heather. This dip looks so festive surrounded by blue corn tortilla chips. You could also serve it with fresh vegetables, crackers, or pita wedges.

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SUN-DRIED TOMATO HUMMUS
Heather

4-5 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water for about 15 minutes
2 (15.5 ounce) cans chick peas, drained
1/4 c. olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper
1-2 tsp. ground cumin (to taste)

Put the soaked sun-dried tomatoes, chick peas, olive oil, and lemon into a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is formed. If you feel it is too thick, you can either add more olive oil, or a few teaspoons of water. Add salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator.