I know so many people who can create some of the most delicious things imaginable in the kitchen, and as a result, throw really amazing sit-down dinner parties. I prefer, for reasons we’ll get into, a casual setting, with food you can eat with your fingers. Today we’re talking appetizers and desserts that will taste amazing and won’t make you break a sweat.
The best thing about doing a spread of finger foods is that you don’t have to keep the food all in the same place. You can put platters and trays everywhere, so no one is ever more than an arm’s reach away from a snack. I’ll stock each station with some little plates, fancy food-spearin’ toothpicks, napkins and extra utensils to make it as easy as possible for guests to grab and go. For snack mixes or nuts, I’ll stock some 4oz. Dixie cups if it’s super casual, or little bowls if I’m aiming for slightly fancier. (I own a shit-ton of these tiny square bowls and plates from CB2.)
The following collection comes from a variety of origins, from my big family picnics to my dear friend Angie who can make a dinner party out of a paper clip, a stick of gum and a wink. These are all Selena road-tested and approved. I won’t judge you if you make any of these for dinner one night. Which I may do myself, this evening.
30-second Crab Spread
Take one 8oz. package of softened cream cheese and spread it on a plate. Open a can of crab meat from the tuna aisle, drain and dump on top. Spread around. Douse in cocktail sauce. Serve with a hearty cracker.
Grab another bar of softened cream cheese and mix in a handful of chives, a good sized pinch of seasoned salt, diced green olives and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Spread liberally over a flour tortilla, making sure to cover the whole thing. Drape with very thinly sliced ham, turkey or both. Cook up and crumble some bacon, sprinkle on the meat. Top with something leafy, depending on your tastes, and roll it up tightly. Cut into thin slices and arrange on a platter.
The Most Awesome Cheese Ball There Is
Start with yet another slab of cream cheese, divided in half. In one half, mix 2 T. (or to your taste) of pesto and a dash of hot sauce. In the other half, mix 1 cup of shredded cheese, 1 t. spicy brown mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Form the pesto mix into a ball, and then encase it in the other mix. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least half an hour, until it’s firmed up a bit. Serve with crackers.
These will be at every party I ever have from here on out.
5-second Party Mix
Dump one can of skin-on peanuts in a bowl. Dump in a bag of Red Hots. Mix.
With a food processor or a good knife and some elbow grease, chop the following extremely fine:
- 2 cucumbers
- 1 clove garlic
- a few sprigs of fresh dill
Mix this into 8oz. sour cream and add the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Tzatziki is often served with lamb, but I’ve no intention of ever cooking lamb. I serve it with toasted pita triangles and feta.
Tiny Stuffed Tomatoes
Mix up a batch of your favorite rice with a hearty flavor. Core a bunch of cherry tomatoes and fill with rice. Arrange on a cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and place under broiler for a few minutes, until the skin on the tomato starts to wrinkle and brown slightly.
Fondue without a Fondue Pot
Melt 8oz. dark chocolate in a double boiler. When it’s completely smooth, take off the heat and add 1 t. butter, 1/4 cup heavy cream and flavor, if you want it. (Vanilla extract, espresso or almond liquor all work great.) Whisk until super smooth, then pour into a crock pot. Set on low and swing by the pot to stir it throughout the party. Serve with pound cake, fresh fruit, Girl Scout cookies, marshmallows – pretty much anything you’d want to dip in chocolate is okay. I put tiny bowls or Dixie cups by the Crock Pot so people can ladle up as much chocolate as they want.
Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a pan that’s tough enough to fry in, if you don’t have a deep fryer. Don’t try to fry in a cheap skillet. I’m sure I don’t have to warn any of you that frying on the stove can go horribly awry if you’re not paying attention, so be safe. Let’s review what we know about grease fires, while we’re all here. What is the worst thing for a grease fire? That’s right, water. Water makes grease fires bigger. Grease fires have to be smothered, either with a fire extinguisher rated for grease fires or with a lid that will choke off the oxygen. Safety first. Fire bad.
Pop open a can of biscuit dough. Divide each biscuit into four equal pieces and roll into loose balls. Use a metal slotted spoon or tongs to gently place the balls into the hot oil. After a minute or so, gently flip the balls over to brown on the other side. When both sides are golden brown, remove from the oil and place on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet to drain the excess oil. When you’ve finished frying all the segments, put all the fried balls into a bowl and drizzle liberally with honey, sprinkle with a touch of cinnamon and toss to coat.
In addition to a combination of these items, I’ll usually also put out a veggie tray and a cheese and fruit tray.