This past weekend, good friends of ours from New York came to visit. When I was planning what to serve, I had a few things to consider: at least some of the dishes needed to be vegetarian, I needed to appeal to both young and old and I didn't want to be bogged down with cooking while they were visiting.
The last item is generally important for cooking for any party. What fun is it to spend party time slaving over a stove or wrist deep in a recipe? It's not. So, if you are planning party apps, then make sure you keep an eye on make-ahead appetizers.
Our pre-dinner bites this weekend included my Sundried Tomato Spread
, a thick, flavorful spread that is fab on thin slices of French bread. (Leftovers are also great for spreading on sandwiches - I had some on a whole wheat wrap with roast beef and Swiss today.) That drew raves, as my guests went back for more again and again.
We also had roasted shrimp cocktail with cocktail sauce. That is super easy - peel the shrimp, leaving tails on, and spread on a baking sheet (I like to cover mine with aluminum foil first). Drizzle with a little olive oil and lime juice and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil for about five minutes per side, flipping once. Then serve - these can be eaten hot or cold. Another great shrimp appetizer? My Mango Chipotle Shrimp
, which can be made ahead or just before guests arrive. Serve it with cute toothpicks.
I rounded out our spread with a cheese plate. I love cheese plates - not only are they the easiest things in the world (choose three cheeses, put on plate, serve with crackers) but they are always so popular. Ours had Tillamouk cheddar, Mahon cheese and a third cheese made from raw milk.
It was perfect - three appetizers was just the right amount for our group of six. If I had more people, I might have added one more to the mix, but you don't want to overdo it.
What are your tricks for planning a great party? Share in the comments!
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Sarah W. Caron (aka scaron) is a food writer, editor and blogger. Find her online at Sarah's Cucina Bella.