Just because you don’t consider yourself a chef does not mean you get to squirm out of appetizer duty or bringing a dish the next holiday potluck. Most people I know make at least one meal a week out of riff-raff leftovers and would happily consume a bunch of delicious appetizers as a meal! Here are some foolproof appetizers for the cooking impaired.
Dips. Dips. And More Dips.
Dip is a magical word and it’s simple to make. It is often comprised of simple ingredients and is practically a meal. Keep these on hand. They are usually bought in jars and will keep for months if not years. Different types of dips and salsas are found at any grocery store, but they are also fun to buy locally on a road trip or at a farmers market. That way it’s a little more unique than the ones anyone can get at the store. And don’t just think salsa and onion dip, branch out! Tapenades, chutneys, ricotta cheese, red bell pepper spreads all make amazing additions to your dip spread.
Tip for Dip: Get funny knives to put in the bowls to help dish out that tapenade so your guests aren’t fishing around for their broken chips! The handle of my cheese and dip knives are old women in bathing suits and pool floaties and they are a hit, I can assure you.
The Cheese Plate That Keeps on Giving
Another classic staple is to learn how to make a good cheese plate. It doesn’t end with the cheese, but that’s a great place to start. Make sure to mix up the textures and animals – hard and soft cheeses from cows, sheep and goats. Any cheese section at the grocery store should have the animal the cheese is from on the label and you can squeeze or feel the texture of the cheese, but if you are overwhelmed feel free to ask for help also! Whisper ‘cheese board’ in the ear of an employee and they will know just what to do.
Add dried nuts and fresh or dried fruit to your plate to help balance out the flavors. Goat cheese pairs great with dried apricots or cranberries. I love fresh grapes with a sharp cheddar. I always keep dried nuts and fruit on hand for granola mixes or Greek yogurt toppings so don’t think too hard about buying almonds if you already have walnuts. A nut is a nut!
Brie Wrapped in Phyllo Dough
Brie wrapped in phyllo dough is the perfect way to trick people into thinking you know how to cook because it looks intricate and involves an oven, but is Easy City. Buy some Brie (I like triple cream the best), some phyllo dough (also known as puff pastry) and a jam or fruit spread. Roll out the dough, spread some jam the shape of the cheese in the middle, plop the cheese on top of that, spread more jam on top of the cheese, and wrap the phyllo dough around the cheese to cover it, pressing down on the top so it all stays together. Flip it upside down onto a baking sheet so the weight will help keep it together and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Gooey, crumbly, sweet scrumptiousness awaits!
If you’ve brought cheese or dips to every potluck, people are going to start catching on, and no one’s pants will fit anymore. Roasted asparagus spears will help lighten up the spread, add some color to the table, and can be made with three ingredients: Asparagus, balsamic vinaigrette, and shaved Parmesan. Yes – more cheese.
Set that over to broil, cover a baking sheet or broiler pan with some tinfoil for easy clean up, trim your spears, arrange them evenly in rows, drizzle some balsamic and cheese evenly and broil. Deelish!
Stick A (Mini) Fork In Em’: Saucy Meatballs
For these saucy little things, that nearly everyone loves to devour, there is hardly any cooking involved at all. This appetizer takes just five ingredients, okay maybe six if your feeling fancy with the chives, but essentially ground meat, oil, panko breading, seasoning & sauce are all it takes. Simply mix up the ingredients until well combined, roll the meat into ball size of choice, bake them until golden brown and dip or roll them around in your sauce of choice. If you’re really lacking time or ability you can buy pre-made or frozen meatballs, nuke them, sauce it up stick toothpicks in them and the crowed will barely be able to tell the difference between the two. For more detailed instructions on mastering the meatball you can click here.
Just go HAM (Or Turkey)
Every party, potlock or whatever the occasion maybe, calls for a appetizer with delicious surprise and you can be the one to bring the heat! Everyone loves bacon and WHISKEY-spiked bacon will be the dish to catch everyone off guard. And guess what? It’s just four ingredients, thick-cut bacon, whiskey, maple cream and black pepper. At most, it takes minor painting skills and the ability to set a timer to properly execute this dish. Pop the bacon you’ve covered with black pepper in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, remove and paint it with the maple cream and whiskey that you’ve premixed. Pop it back in the oven for 15 minutes, flip it, paint and repeat until the bacon is golden and crispy (details here of course). Your guests will be drooling, but let it cool before devouring and be sure to nibble cautiously, because after enough consumption that kick might just catch up to you.
– Guest Contributor, CR