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Easy but impressive appetizer ideas??

Beatrix's picture

I entertain often, but usually rely on the "old standbys", ie. spinach dip in pumpernickel bread, nachos with cream cheese dip, stuffed mushrooms etc....It's time for something new for a birthday "bash" this weekend. I would love any great favorites that any one might want to share.



Andrea_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #1 of 35)


Try wrapping some cooked shrimp that has been marinated in olive oil, shallots, mustard, dill and black pepper with snow peas. This is one of my favorite appetizers. Also, blanching whole almonds and baking them in the oven sprinkled with some sea salt and butter are yummy. Peel the almonds after you blanch them - place on a baking sheet - drizzle with butter and salt and bake just until the almonds turn a light golden brown - Do not walk away from the oven when you make these!! Hope you have a nice birthday weekend!

Cleaver's picture

(post #25613, reply #2 of 35)

California rolls. You can fill them w/ avocado, cucumber, shrimp... just about anything. These are elegant too. You can make them as plain, or complex as you want. (I prefer simple.) Serve w/ wasabi, pickled ginger, and a dipping soy. There was an article a couple issues back that you could refer to, or let me know and I will post my faves.

Cleaver's picture

(post #25613, reply #3 of 35)

California rolls. You can fill them w/ avocado, cucumber, shrimp... just about anything. These are elegant too. You can make them as plain, or complex as you want. (I prefer simple.) Serve w/ wasabi, pickled ginger, and a dipping soy. There was an article a couple issues back that you could refer to, or let me know and I will post my faves.

Beatrix's picture

(post #25613, reply #4 of 35)


Thanks for the ideas, but...I should have said that I have a severe allergy to shellfish and mustard. Thus, they are never, ever allowed in the house. Any more ideas would be great!


mebird's picture

(post #25613, reply #5 of 35)

Try stuffed wanton wrappers.Use a cream cheese base and add what ever ingredients you like.Chopped beef with parmesan cheese garlic,whatever you like.Get some water on your fingers and seal them up like little bundles in a muffin pan.bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes.The combinations or endless for these and their easy to make.

Adele_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #6 of 35)

Liver wrapped in bacon, mini quiches, mini pizzas, Fruit kabobs, Baked Brie w/sauce, spinach & cheese filo, puff pastry w/different fillings......

Cissy_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #7 of 35)

These always disappear...

Bourbon Rosemary Almonds

* 3 cups whole almonds (unpeeled)
* 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
* 1/4 cup bourbon
* 2 Tbsp water
* 1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary needles
* 2 tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp Kosher salt (I use a little less)
* 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Toast almonds in preheated 375 oven for 10 min. Cool. Combine rosemary, cumin, salt and cayenne in small bowl. Butter a cookie sheet and set it aside.
Heat sugar, bourbon and water in a saucepan over medium heat. When mixture comes to a boil, allow to boil gently for 10 min.
Add almonds and seasonings and stir quickly to coat almonds with spices and syrup.
Pour almonds onto prepared cookie sheet and separate with two forks while still warm.

kai_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #8 of 35)

Hi Beatrix,

Andrea's post prompted part of this: have you ever tried pan-fried (toasted) pumpkin seeds? Honestly, they look like cockroaches (without legs), but toasted like popcorn until they stop popping, they are great! They would be a great topping for this:

1/4" rounds of cuke (rind on, preferred--after washing with soap, etc.)
spread each slice with creme cheese (pimento-enhanced would work well)
embed some pepitas (fried pumpkin seeds) on top

garnish with (optional) paprika, garlic powder, minced chives--use your imagination :)


Rebecca's picture

(post #25613, reply #9 of 35)

These all sound so good; the most popular snack at our gatherings is always nuts spiced in some way like Cissy's recipe - which I'll have to try! We make Spicy Orange-glazed pecans and also Vanilla SPiced pecans and I always have to make double batches because DHMongo eats the first batch for himself. These recipes are kind of involved, though.

For a really easy and "voluptuous" appetizer you can make Wine Baked Olives (Recipes 1-2-3):

1 lb Kalamata olives - pitted (they are often available already pitted)
1/2 C dry red wine (a cabernet)
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
2. Put the olives in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Drain well in a colander.
3. In a small, ovenproof, nonmetallic dish, put olives, wine, and olive oil.
4. Bake 30 minutes or more, turning once during baking. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serve alone or with slices of Frawnch bread (they're kinda rich so don't serve before Stilton soup and a rich lamb braise like I once did).

nihon_no_cook's picture

(post #25613, reply #10 of 35)

I made rolled-up sandwiches, sliced really thin, for an appetizer once, and they were universally adored. Take flour tortillas, spread with some sort of creamy spread of your choice (mayo, or cream cheese mixed with salsa, or guacamole, or whatever), top with thin slices of meat and cheese, top with thin slices of veggies, roll up tightly, and wrap in saran wrap for a few hours ing the fridge. Before serving, cut into slices at an angle to the roll. The trick is to not stuff the things too much, or they unroll when you serve them and stuff goes everywhere.

The ones I made were cream cheese and salsa, roasted chicken, a little bit of Monterey Jack cheese, a little shredded lettuce, and a little diced tomato and avocado. These are nice because you can make them several hours in advance, and the look impressive when sliced and arranged decoratively on a plate. Plus they won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Rebecca's picture

(post #25613, reply #11 of 35)

nihon, those sound good & you just reminded me of a really popular appetizer we made once. I thought it was pretty good but all the neighbors were totally ga-ga over it. Similar to nihon's creations and pretty easy to make but not the cheapest thing:

Smoked Salmon Spirals

1 lb Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat cream cheese, softened (no cheap store brand, Baba!)
1 T minced lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
3 scallions, minced (green & white parts)
1 T
crumbled dried dill OR 3 T fresh
2 t Hungarian sweet paprika
8 large flour tortillas, 10" to 12" in diameter
2 T small capers, rinsed & drained
1 lb smoked salmon, thinly sliced

fresh dill sprigs for garnish (opt)

1. Beat together cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, scallions, dill, and paprika. Mix well.
2. Stir in capers.
3. Spread each tortilla with 1/8 of the cream cheese mixture, leaving a ¼" margin.
4. Cover the cream cheese with slices of salmon.
5. Roll up the tortillas tightly, pressing down hard as you roll.
6. Wrap each roll tightly, without breaking the tortilla, in plastic wrap.
7. Chill at least 3 hours and not longer than 12.
8. To serve, slice the rolls ½" thick, arrange on a platter, and garnish with dill sprigs. All the
uneven ends are for you , eat them right now. Your comp for cooking.

-Advance Preparation: These need to be chilled for 3 to 12 hours before serving.
-Note: These are a little rich and the recipe makes a huge amount so make half the recipe for a small party.
-Keeping: Should be eaten the same day they are made. They will keep for a day or so in the refrigerator and will taste ok, however, they start to get a little soggy - not suitable for company.

Beatrix's picture

(post #25613, reply #12 of 35)


Speaking of an arm and a leg, I bought the rolled up sandwiches over Christmas, they were a big hit, but that's exactly what they cost! I'm writing my shopping list tonight, will surely "wow" everyone this weekend. Thanks for all of the recipes....but the night is still young!


MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #25613, reply #13 of 35)

How about hummus or baba ganouj.

nihon_no_cook's picture

(post #25613, reply #14 of 35)

or snipe with haggis sauce!

kai_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #15 of 35)

ROFL! Or, the dreaded lol

Sandra_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #16 of 35)

nihon -- have you got a recipe for that one? Sounds delish! Just the thing to go with braised rabbit and kitty sushi!

Jean_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #17 of 35)

Don't forget the cardoons.

nihon_no_cook's picture

(post #25613, reply #18 of 35)

I thought I was safe from cardoons, but they popped up when I was reading the latest issue of Good Housekeeping . . . or was it BH&G? Anyway, they were talking about how to use them as an ornamental plant in home landscaping . . . the ones they pictured must be different from the ones you eat, since the ones they pictured didn't look edible at all. Then again, neither do kiwi fruit, if you just look at the outside. Nor pomegranites (sp?). Artichokes just look challenging . . .

Jody's picture

(post #25613, reply #19 of 35)

Try Wrapping asparagus in Phyllo dough, then serve along side a creamy dip.

Cut asparagus spears so that they're all uniform in length. Trim phyllo so that it's slightly larger than the spears. Place 1 spear on 1 sheet of trimmed phyllo then roll and fold in ends as you roll to seal the spears in. Repeat w/ remaining asparagus. Bake in 350F oven for about 15-20 minutes until asparagus are tender and phyllo is golden. You may want to experiment with the timing, since it's been a while since i've made this, and it's not documented in a book for me to reference. Like a said a good creamy dip is good. I think last time i did this i used a sour cream dill.
Careful, these can be very hot when you bite into them due to the built up steam.

Gretchen_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #20 of 35)

How about bruschetta?
Slice good French baguette in thin rounds. Brush with olive oil and toast
both sides in oven. Let guests spread with goat cheese, then roasted red peppers
and marinated artichoke hearts.

Cleaver's picture

(post #25613, reply #21 of 35)

Here is another asparagus idea:

Pickled asparagus spears


cream cheese (plain or flavored)

Spread a little cream cheese on prosciutto and wrap around asparagus. Mmmmmm....

mangia!'s picture

(post #25613, reply #22 of 35)

Here's two:

Baked Olives

36 large, meaty cured olives (what is nice is to mix the olives, black, green, Calamata, whatever you like); 3 garlic cloves, chopped; 1/4 cup white table wine( Chenin Blanc or other dry wine); 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the olives, garlic, wine, and olive oil in a clay baking dish. Cover and bake in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cured olives plump up.

Can be served warm in the baking dish with thick slices of crusty bread. You can do all but the baking up to 2 hrs. in advance.

Recipe # 2

Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce,

1 pound small mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed; 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped; juice of a lemon; fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste; 4 Tbl. chopped, fresh, flat leaf parsley

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, add the mushrooms and garlic, saute over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and parsley and saute one minute more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or chilled. Good either as antipasti or with your meat or poultry. (Homechef)

kai_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #23 of 35)

Hi again Beatrix,

I thought of one more with cukes: Slice in rounds about 1/2" thick. Top with a pastry-bag shot of creme cheese mixed with anchovy paste. These look really good if you have scored the uncut cuke with fork tines, exposing some of the flesh.

Also, and this is SO simple: grate a daikon (long, white radish) and use to stuff mushrooms. The contrast of the crispy, spicy radish and the soft, mellow, earthy mushroom is delightful!

I'm a huge fan of regular red radishes, too. When allowed to sit a while in cold or ice water, they expand into their fanned shape (cut from top, make 4-8 cuts from the root end (removed) in a tic-tac-toe formation--#--to just before the stem end--they will open like flowers). They make a beautiful garnish and snack. Their freshly-steamed (young) greens also are a great insert for mushrooms.

Hope this makes sense as I have a cold in my brain!

Have a great birthday bash!


Andrea_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #24 of 35)

the Bourbon Rosemary Almonds sound delish, Cissy. Do they keep well in airtight containers?

Cissy_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #25 of 35)

For anchovy lovers ---

Pipe a cream cheese - mayonnaise mixture onto cucumber rounds and top each with an anchovy rolled around a caper. You may be surprised at how many anchovy lovers are at your party, because these disappear very quickly.

Cissy_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #26 of 35)

Andrea, I store them in old-fashion mason jars -- the kind with the glass top and wire. I usually make them the day before they're to be served, so long-term storage hasn't been an issue. They also make great gifts at Christmas. The 3 cups of almonds that you start with take up well over 4 cups of space.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #27 of 35)

Totally late for your weekend...but for next time. It doesn't get easier than this...

c Steamed Fresh Asparagus Tips (about 3" including tip)
c Boursin (or your own flavored cream cheese)
c Slices of Prosciutto

Take 2 asparagus spears, hold them together. Smear a tablespoon or so of boursin or flavored cream cheese at the stalk end, wrap with a piece of prosciutto into a neat bundle.

Credit where it's due - this was my brother's idea.

Also ez - take endive leaves and make sure the root end is trimmed evenly (no ragged edges). Pipe Boursin or your own flavored cream cheese, starting from the wide end (leafy end) and ending at the stalk end. Garnish with tiny
i brunoise
of red pepper and carrot.

Check recipes for
i Tapas
next time you want to throw a party with lots of nibbles or to use for an appetizer.

FlavourGirl_'s picture

(post #25613, reply #28 of 35)

Two of my favorites are Goat Cheese Terrine and Antipasto Stuffed Baguettes. They both can be made ahead and are always a hit. I got them both from Gourmet magazine. They are too long to input here. Goat Cheese Terrine can be found in May 1995, pg 44. Baguettes in July 1994, pg. 83 & 113. If you do not have access to these issues, I'd be happy to e-mail them to you.

Beatrix's picture

(post #25613, reply #29 of 35)

Thanks everyone for the great ideas. Just had another bash this weekend (my husbands 40th) and tried several more of them. The prosciutto wrapped asparagus,the bourbon almonds, the cream cheese cucumbers and bruschetta were BIG hits. Don't you think that most people do really like anchovies,but don't want to admit it :-)? What would a caesar salad be without them??


alix's picture

(post #25613, reply #30 of 35)

hi, rebecca, i haven't seen that recipe for smoked salmom spirals in days! i worked for a caterer for ~5 years and that was one of our standbys, only we rolled them in spinach dill crepes. i am sure that it's quite good in the tortillas, but i cannot imagine anything better than the spinch dill crepes. they didn't have the "sog" problem that you mentioned, i once experimented with a 2 day delay, they weren't perfect, but they were still very good.