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hors doeuvres (some no brainers, 3 halfbrainers, and some sweets) for fifty needed

I'm having an open house cocktail party next Saturday. I expect about 50. And in addition to a ham, I'd like to have food set up around the house. I'd like to do some no brainers that requre little more than arranging, opening, or dumping...eg olives, crudite, nuts, cheeses. If I can add a personal touch to them that would be great. And I mean that in the least semi-ho way possible. I'd also like to do something for which I can take credit. Gougeres, perhaps. Any suggestions as to what I can do? I also need to do some sweets. I do not want to be in the kitchen the entire time or even for half the time. I won't be at work the day before the party, and I can use that time to prep. I'm going to a cookie swap this weekend (thanks for the great ideas!!), and plan on popping the (10 dozen) cookies right into the freezer so I can use them on the day of the party, but I'll probably need a few more things. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Prepped in advance gets major bonus points. Thanks again!


p.s. oh yeah, any punch recipes would be great, too. But nothing with ginger ale or fruit juice concentrate or sherbert please.... I'd love to do something with sparkling wine.

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  1. For your half brained guests, have you considered the Hebrew National "Franks in a Blanket"? They taste better than they sound.

    2 Replies
    1. re: speyerer

      so is this a heat and serve product? I never knew you could buy them pre-made.... this is definitely a no-brainer!

      1. re: speyerer

        I've seen these (Franks in a Blanket) at Sam's, what do you dip them in - I'm definately adding these to my upcoming party.

        I'm also doing at another party - the smoked salmon, cr cheese,capers, red onions, etc. Platter (because I could eat this all day)!!!

        And has anyone done the meatballs or kielbasa in a crockpot with that relish from Harry & David's mixed with BBQ sauce - I love their relish mixed with cream cheese and am dieing to try their recipe for this with little dogs, meatballs or keilbasa.

      2. I'm having 20 people over for lunch on Friday and for, hors d'oeuvres, decided to make

        endive w/ pears, pecans, gorgonzola salad
        smoked salmon mousse on cucumber slices
        phyllo cups w/ brie and jalapeno jelly

        They're easy to put together, most of it ahead of time, and I won't need an oven which will be used. If I hadn't had so much cheese in the rest of the menu, I would have done frico cups filled w/ watercress, pecans and persimmons or pears in the first recipe.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          I love your philo cups with brie and jelly, Not hot right? Just thawed phyllo cups with a chunk of brie and dollop of jalapeno jelly? What about a shrimp on top, maybe??

          1. re: lexpatti

            I was going to leave it cold but decided I'd pop them in the oven. I made this candied jalapeno:


            I just topped it off with a dried cranberry. Very pretty.

        2. Many ideas here. Cook under Appetizers, Appetizer Tips and anything else that looks interesting.


          1. I frequently make this great recipe I found in Gourmet magazine a few years ago-
            it is walnut and blue cheese coated grapes. People love them, and you can make them a day before your party-
            2/3 cup finely chopped and toasted walnuts
            6oz crumbled blue cheese
            4oz cream cheese
            20-30 seedless red grapes

            In a bowl with an electric mixe cream together blue cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Put a teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the palm of your hand and in it roll a grape, shaping the mixture around the grape to coat. Then roll in a walnut mixure to cover completely and chill for at least 30 minutes up to a day. Using a sharp knife cut grapes in half and serve!

            1 Reply
            1. re: polish_girl

              do you serve these grapes on toothpicks? I'm tring to picture it--

            2. Baked brie--i used organic jam compote, mixed in aleppo pepper, juice of 1/2 a lemon, lemon zest and some sea salt with herbs de provence to top. this was a big hit. baked in pepperidge farms puff pastry, which is not earth shattering, but was more than adequate--took a lot longer to brown than I would've thought from the package instructions.

              the zuni dried figs in wine are easy to make ahead and are a delicious cheese accompaniment: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/35599...

              1. sushi platters
                mini quiches
                mini bruchettas
                chicken wings/meatballs(pre cooked and nuked before serving)
                mac and cheese served in cup cake cases
                shrimp/scallops on Asian spoons, with a lime/soy dressing
                Antipasto platters.

                2 Replies
                1. re: purple goddess

                  Mac & cheese in cupcake cases? Sounds interesting - especially since our holiday celebrations always include kids. Do you mean the conventional paper cups or do you use silicone or something?

                  TIA :)

                  1. re: maplesugar

                    make up the mac and cheese, plonk it in ordinary cup cake cups and bake it off in the oven...

                    Here's a link to the ones I ate..


                2. Here are some low-brain ideas...
                  -Goat cheese balls rolled in chopped herbs
                  -Brie en croute with jam inside, it takes really only 3 minutes to prepare if you buy pillsbury crescent dough for the outside
                  -you could make a few really large paninis and cut them into 1" pieces as hors d'ouevres

                  My favorite for "looks impressive" which does take a little more work is vietnamese spring rolls. Those rice paper wrappers go with almost any flavor inside, you can even just wrap up salad greens and a piece of vegetable... I've also seen those sliced into sushi-style rounds and they are beautiful that way (and also less work, because then you don't have to get the burrito shape to hold)

                  1. We're doing cocktail open house this weekend, too, and I'm serving:

                    Baked brie (Paula Deen's recipe with brown sugar and nuts -- super easy)
                    Swedish meatballs (from ikea -- I add dill)
                    crudites with yogurt chive dip (bought)
                    devilled eggs
                    gingersnaps topped with mango chutney cream cheese
                    clam dip

                    cookies, a pear bundt cake and cheesecake

                    1. I recently posted this link to one of the easiest-to-prepare canapes I've ever made. I served them at a dinner party and, a week later, one of the guests asked me to make them for her party, as well. A major hit with almost NO effort. It's just sliced genoa salami, crisped in the oven and then hit with a dollop of sour cream and a little chiffonade of fresh basil. Amazing.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Deenso

                        These look great. Did you use presliced or buy one of those whole ones and slice it yourself?

                        1. re: GretchenS

                          I used presliced, packaged genoa salami from the supermarket and, as a test, also bought some sliced-to-order from an Italian deli, to see if there was a difference. We actually liked the supermarket stuff better, which was a big surprise.

                      2. (going along the same ball-shaped theme. . .) date balls! or even easier, stuffed dates.
                        For the date balls, I puree (or chop) dates and your choice of nuts (usually cashews or walnuts in my case) together and roll up into little balls. I've added cardamom to it for a different variation. Then you can serve as is or roll them in cocoa powder or finely chopped nuts.

                        If you have access to fresh curry leaves, you can roast cashew nuts till they get light brown, then saute in a skillet w/ melted butter and a bunch of curry leaves. The curry leave impart a really nice flavor.

                        I recently saw a recipe somewhere (maybe on this board? or last week's NYT?) where you take a date, stuff it w/ cheese and nuts, I think, and then wrap prosciutto around it, then briefly put it in a hot oven so the cheese melts.

                        I think someone already mentioned this idea, but can you make sushi rolls in advance? Inaris (if you buy the pre-seasoned skins) are also easy-- you make the sushi rice, then stuff, and they make great room temp appetizers.

                        As for sweets-- can you pre-make strawberries dipped in chocolate?

                        1. I usually go to TJ's and buy jars of olives, artichokes, red peppers, marinated mushrooms and hit the deli for some Italian ham and cheese, the produce section for some grape tomatoes and lettuce and throw together an anti pasto platter.
                          Or buy jars of stuffed grape leaves, greek olives, any mid eastern appetizer and some humous and triangles of pita and make a greek platter. I like to keep things that compliment each other together- I think they taste better and things look awesome when you get them arranged on a big platter.

                          1. Halfbrainer: Pizza Crescents. Buy Psbury Crescent Rolls, fill inside w/ favorite marinara, mozzarella, and a basil leaf (or fillings of choice). Roll and bake as directed. Do not overfill or the rolls get messy. If you don't want to have to roll a bunch of individual pieces, you can do it log style. Roll out the entire rectangle of dough, pinching the perforations so that they don't separate. Fill and roll into log. Chill until firm, slice and bake. Can also be done w/ puff pastry, which is a bit more elegant, but a bit more difficult to get a good dough-to-filling ratio.

                            Sweet: mini cheesecakes. Crust: nilla wafers (or gingersnaps, if you want a more holiday-ish twist - just make sure they're the right size). Filling: Make your favorite cheesecake filling, or buy that readymade Philly stuff if you're in a real pinch. Topping: Make your favorite fruit topping, or use jam or pie filling. Blueberry, Cherry, or Strawberry are my favorites. Or use caramel or chocolate sauce. Assemble: Use mini-cupcake liners. Place a nilla wafer/gingersnap in bottom, flat side down. Top with filling until 3/4 full. Bake until set. Let cool, top with topping of choice.

                            Good luck with your party!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Aloo0628

                              Here's a link to The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

                              Her app that is pictured is amazing!


                            2. Can't help with punch per se, but I have a fantastic white sangria recipe that has been the hit of every affair it's been served at this year.

                              - Cheap white wine. I have been using Vinho Verde, a sparkling white from Portugal that you can get from $6 to $8 per bottle. Go for the lowest cost if you can find it -- 3 bottles
                              - Brandy -- good, old fashioned, unflavored variety - 1 1/2 cups
                              - Orange liqueur - Triple Sec is fine, I'd save the Cointreau for something else - 3/4 cup
                              - Peach Schnapps - 3/4 cup
                              2/3 cup sugar - extra fine dissolves better, but regular is okay
                              1 1/2 cans Sprite. You can use club soda if you don't like the citrus overtones, but you'll need to increase the sugar just a little bit if you use club soda. The Sprite version is more popular.

                              Float sliced apples, oranges, tangelos or strawberries in it -- or mix it up. Make sure you make it ahead and serve it chilled. You might need an ice ring if you are planning to serve in a punch bowl rather than a pitcher.

                              As for easy appetizers -- buy 2 lb. bags of large or extra large shrimp that are cooked and cleaned with the tails on. Sam's and Costco have good deals on these, but you can get them in the supermarket. Rinse to thaw, serve on platters with cocktail sauce, add lemon wedges and toothpicks. Always a crowd pleaser, easy as anything. People will think you were boiling and cleaning shrimp for hours!

                              Have fun and good luck with your party.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: RGC1982

                                Another good idea for big groups is Prosecco....an Italian sparkling wine. It's got the "feel" of champagne, very light and festive. And there are several brands that are very reasonably priced.

                              2. Half brainer - can be done in advance. 1/2 dried mission fig topped with a small dollop of marscapone wrap/gather with a piece of hard or dry salami. Hold with a toothpick.

                                1. Caviar Pie--can be prepped ahead, looks elegant, and is always a big hit:
                                  Make a dryish egg salad from about a dozen eggs and spread in the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch springform.

                                  Cover with a layer of chopped onion.

                                  Cover that with a mixture of 2/3 cup sour cream and 8 ounces cream cheese which have been blended together.

                                  Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, uncover, remove sides of springform and spread with black caviar (inexpensive caviar is fine--I use a 3.5 or 4 ounce jar).

                                  serve with toast points or plain crackers. (I use Arnold white bread, cut in quarters and toasted in the broiler on a cookie sheet.)

                                  Also, several people have suggested baked brie. As someone has said, it takes longer to brown than you would think (at least 20 minutes). I find it better to use small wheels of brie and stage them, so that you can periodically bring out fresh, hot brie. Once it cools, it's far less appealing. I like to put a mix of brown sugar, chopped pecans and dried cranberries on top, then wrap in puff pastry.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Marion Morgenthal

                                    I gotta say: everyone loves a deviled egg.

                                  2. I just came across this punch recipe in an old F&W.
                                    -1 quart pomegranate juice
                                    -2 cups fresh OJ strained
                                    -2 cups chilled limeade
                                    -1 750 ml bottle of Prosecco
                                    -Lime and orange slices for garnish
                                    -1 cup pomegranate seeds

                                    In a punch bowl, combine the pom juice, OJ and limeade. Pour in the prosecco, float lime and orange slices on top. Ladle into 12 ice filled glasses, sprinkle with pom seeds and serve.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ultrvioltx

                                      awesome. what do you think i can use instead of "limeade"?

                                      1. re: eLizard

                                        I make my own limeade with fresh lime juice, bar sugar and seltzer. It's really tart and not at all artificial. I bet this punch would be good if you added some triple sec, or even orange vodka if you wanted it to have more kick....

                                        1. re: ctscorp

                                          Thanks. Is "bar sugar" the same as superfine?

                                    2. muffaletta olive "dip"
                                      2 parts black olives
                                      2 parts green olives
                                      1 part jarred roasted red peppers in water or oil, not pickled
                                      roughly chopped garlic to taste
                                      1/2 part parsley stemmed
                                      splash red wine vinegar
                                      olive oil

                                      chop all in a food processor and store at room temp in covered bowl. Best if prepared 1 day ahead.

                                      Serve with lightly toasted pita or tortilla chips, or a good rustic bread, torn into small, bite-sized chunks

                                      1. Costco has a fantastic heat and serve appetizer in the frozen food section, pesto chicken in pastry purses. They are delicious, easy and always a big hit. plus, they aren't terribly expensive.

                                        1. in the half-brainer cattegory, take a 1 kilo brie, slice in half, spread with a good cranberry/orang/nut relish or other savory-sweet relish, or what's my favorite, but which veers over into the full-brain side, make some duxelles(super-finely chopped white mushrooms with asmall amount of finely minced shallots, sauteed slowly in butter 'til black, then cooled to a paste) and spread that generously, put the top of the brie back on and refrigerate overnight. then take a 2 refrigerator pie crists and unroll 1 onto a cookie sheet. center the brie and lay the other one over the top. with an egg wash seal the edges and trim the excees off so that there is a fairly tight package. (you can take the scraps and make a decortion for the top and brush the whole thing with the egg wash and bake in a 350 oven till the crust is browned. serve with croustades or lavosh.