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Easy to eat foods for entertaining...

Hi All. I am looking for suggestions for some foods/snacks/appetitizers that would be "easy" to eat for entertaining guests. Here is the scenario: We are having another couple over as a sort of "Get to know each other" first time meeting. We have chatted casually previously in passing but this is the first time they will be over our house (likewise we have never been over their home). The setting will be our deck and I suspect it will be a late afternoon visit (after lunch but before dinner). I want to put out some snacks /resfreshments but am thinking dips like salsa but be too messy and make people feel self conscious? Am I over thinking this? Should I stick to pretzels and nuts? Do you chowhounds have any great suggestions? Thanks all!!!

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  1. Hmmm...maybe some pinwheels would be nice...they're quite neat...you take a flour tortilla or wrap..spread with a sauce or even hummus and then sprinkle with veggies or meat...roll up, chill and slice down just before serving. I have a pretty nice and colorful pinwheel recipe if you want it or you could google for a recipe..tons of great ones out there! Spiced nuts are always great. Maybe a savory shortbread or herbed oyster cracker would also be nice...Epicurious has a Rosemary Shortbread recipe that sounds so very intriguing and easy; not sure if it would go with alcoholic drinks but the reviews make it sound like they could go either way.

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    1. re: Val

      Oh oh. I second spiced nuts. Cashews roasted, then lightly pan fried w/ butter and curry leaves is subtle and nice (and addictive). On the sweeter side, cashews with sugar (use good brown sugar--e.g. billingtons), rosemary and sea salt is a nice simple combo, too. (I've been on a cashew kick, but you can use any nut, really)

    2. Gougeres...light airy and not filling ..relatively easy to make and u can make the batter ahead and just cook for 20 min when they are due to arrive

      1. There have been situations where I haven't reached for the huge chip for that very reason.... I think the other folks' suggestions sound good and I also think that you can't go wrong with a cool dip (because of the patio, which might be hot in the summer). A cold creamy dip with crudites always seems to be well-received. And since it's an afternoon snack, rather than an app for dinner, I would be tempted to serve something sweet along the side, like cookies or something simple (that rosemary shortbread sounds perfect!!!).

        I have served this easy dip with blanched asparagus and other veggies to rave reviews, even when substituting low-fat dairy products. For best results, make it several hours in advance for the flavors to meld: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        I have also had some very good luck with taking the spinach dip sold in the fresh deli section of the grocery store (Publix) and doctoring it up by adding some crushed fresh garlic. I served it with some veggies (endive is a good scooper) and the little melba toasts.

        Oh yeah... and I always enjoy wine when mingling, but that's just me.... :o)

        1. Dips or spreads with quality chips and unusual crackers are workable. I just make sure I have small paper plates and spoons in the dips. Sometimes I break the ice by fixing a little plate for myself first. I would add some fresh fruit that can be easily picked up or tooth-picked, and I like a nice dry salami- take a thin sliced round, fold in half and half again and skewer with a toothpick. Mini quiches are usually popular. Good old home-made chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies or whatever your specialty are an appreciated sweet touch. Also if on the deck make sure the trash can is obvious, and if using paper plates set them at ease by telling them to just ditch their plate and get a new one for "round two". If serving beers and soft drinks, set them in a chest or tub full of ice and make sure you tell them to help themselves, and be sure to take one first so they don't feel weird. Sangria in a pitcher is also a nice idea. Offer to top up glasses frequently. Guests who are not close friends tend to follow the host's leads and if you are not eating or drinking much they will often try to adjust to your pace.

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