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I need your help and advice re: appetizers

I am so busy this month that my head is doing the proverbial spin, double-time... so I could use your humble opinions-Please?

Friday I am hostessing a game night for about 16 gals. I am having real trouble narrowing down my appetizer list. It stares at me like that creepy Geico stack-o-cash. Can you help me whittle it down?

Here is what I am serving:

Beaujolais, Sauvignon Blanc & Riesling
Also thinking about having Brandy Manhattans (with dark cherries pre-soaked in brandy) or maybe a warm rum /apple cider drink because it's rainy and cool here. Maybe Cranberry and vodka?

Nuts and M & M's etc at game tables

Appetizers:
Blue cheese dip w/ crudites and crispy things (Make ahead)

Lobster/Shrimp spread (Costco)

Pea Pods w/ curry dip dipped in peanuts (Make ahead in 5 minutes)

Mixed Olives (Trader Joes)

Ham & Cheese puffs (TJ's)

Crab Quesadillas (served warm) with mango salsa (Fine Cooking, homemade- more work)

Bacon & Leek tarts (Can make ahead and bake on the day-also Fine cooking)

Chicken satay (Thai restaurant purchased ahead and reheated)

Greek salad skewers (feta, half grape tom, cuke, kalamata olives make shortly ahead)

Cocktail de Camarones (Mexican shrimp cocktail, make ahead & easy)
OR
Shrimp w/ a fresh tasting Thai dipping sauce (Fine cooking, make ahead and easy)

Parmesan-Rosemary Coins - like savory shortbreads (Make ahead)
OR
Cheese straws (make ahead)

Skordalia w sesame crusted bread (From local Greek restaurant, heaven if you like garlic)

Sweets:

Kolaches or lemon curd thumbprint cookies (Make ahead)

Brownies or flourless choc cake (both make ahead) or choc mousse in chocolate cups
(make day of and fill last minute in purchased choc cups)

Apples to dip in caramel (easy)

It would be nice to have a balance of do ahead and also flavors. I realize some of these choices are very different but isn't that is what grazing is all about?
I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. I have 3 days to get it done.

Thanks!!!

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  1. These are ALWAYS a big hit whenever I serve them. You might want to make a double batch.

    STUFFED MUSHROOMS

    1 container large mushrooms about 15-18)
    8 oz. fresh chorizo sausage
    1/2 roll Ritz crackers, crushed
    2 chicken bouillon cubes
    1 med. onion, chopped fine
    3-4 T butter
    3 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley
    2-3 cloves garlic chopped
    salt to taste

    Wash mushrooms, separate caps from stems. Dice stems into small
    pieces.

    Remove chorizo from casing. Saute until done, crumbling as you go. You don't
    want any large lumps.

    Melt butter in skillet, add onions, garlic, and stems and saute until clear. Add
    chorizo and saute for about 1-2 minutes.

    Mix bouillon cups with about 1 c. water. When dissolved, add to
    onions and chorizo (reserve about 1/2 c. of broth). Add Ritz
    cracker crumbs and spices. Mix well.

    Stuff caps with mixture. (I add stuffing to the point that it's
    starting to fall out.) Put mushrooms in a baking pan. If I have
    leftover stuffing, I just add it to the pan. Pour in remaining
    broth. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

    1. for the wine, are you serving a sweet riesling, since the sb will be dry? i find it easier to offer one white and one red. ymmv. i'd skip the manhattans -- very few people (especially women) like brown liquor these days. i'd also skip the cran/vodkas. i know cranberries are fall, but a cape codder is a summer drink. maybe a warm apple cider with a little brandy in it?

      no matter how many people are coming, you can safely limit yourself to 6 or 7 different selections. otherwise you'll be refilling a million different plates all night.

      nuts, olives, cheese straws, ham cheese puffs -- yes.

      you've got a lot of dippy or spready things. if people are playing cards or games, i'm thinking plates of one-bites would be best, and least messy.

      people always always always do crudites platters and all that gets eaten are the carrot sticks, some of the celery and a wee bit of broccoli. the rest gets chucked. why not just do a platter of carrots and cuke spears with a white bean dip?

      people love quesadillas, and you can buy very good salsas at trader joe's. (since you're already going there!) are you making or buying the quesadillas? if making, maybe do crabbies instead? a new england old-school app, with crab mixed with cheese and butter, baked on english muffin halves. you can use a round cutter to get smaller pieces of the english muffins. these can also be made ahead and freeze very well.

      mexican shrimp.

      chicken satay, maybe not, because reheated chicken tends to dry out. but, you can thread chicken strips on skewers and marinate in juice or yogurt. then coat with parm cheese, coconut, crushed wasabi peas or sesame seeds and bake easily.

      instead of skordalia, how about spanakopita traingles? pretty sure tj's sells these too, or they are easy to make ahead, freeze and heat night of.

      stuffed shrooms are also a nice retro idea.

      whenever i make deviled eggs they disappear in a flash.

      cookies and brownies, yes. cut the brownies into very small bits, one or two bites.

      skip the apples and caramel, but maybe a nice plate of grapes and pineapple chunks.

      1. I tend to want to make lots of different things but, it works out better
        -to simplify-a tried and true drink that can be made by the pitcher- and red and white wine- maybe 6 or 7 apps and 2 sweets.
        -plan your menu to do as much ahead as possible so you can enjoy your own party.
        -Know what your friends eat and keep that in mind. Most people (that I entertain anyway) go in for what they are familiar with, with a limited number that will eat the more unusual. If you have friends that will eat a lot of different things you are lucky. I do always have a couple new things but I can count on a few old standbys to be gone.

        1. ya know, i didn't ask -- is this supposed to be "dinner"? then figure about 6 savory pieces per person.

          1. Looks like a great list, but seems to me there's a lot of little finger foods, for grazing, like you said, but nothing real substantial. And besides having a lot of make ahead work to do, you will probably be left with a lot of leftovers in the form of a bite of this, a scoop or two of that, not really anything enough to save.

            My suggestion would be to make the bacon & leek tarts as whole ones, not minis, maybe do two (they freeze beautifully, btw and can be cooked from frozen, at least my recipe does) and add a nice fall salad, maybe with some pecans and dried cranberries with mixed lettuces in it. That way people can have a slice of tart & salad, and a bite of everything else, and then feel satisfied. I just know when I go to a party/get together, and all we do is graze on bites and dips, etc. I feel like I haven't "eaten" much, and I end up looking to make myself something more substantial when I get home. Maybe that's just me, I don't know.

            By doing that, you can probably eliminate some of the more time consuming dishes like the quesadillas (not time consuming, but not do ahead, either, you need to be at the stove for each one), the satays,( a little played and they don't reheat that well, unless parcooked to begin with) and maybe one of the dips/veggies. I think you will find you have plenty of food.

            1. I should probably add that we meet around 7:30. We have cocktails and nibbles for half an hour during which everyone arrives. We play some games and then we break for more conversation, drinks and nibbles.

              We don't eat at the tables except for little bowls of nuts, candy etc.

              None of us are big on the sweets so one chocolate item and an alternative for non-chocolate folks will do.

              Thanks again.

              5 Replies
              1. re: twodales

                Thanks for the great advice.

                Here are my Final choices:

                Blue cheese dip w/ crudites and crispy things (Make ahead)
                Our bunch loves the veggies but I prep my own selection and don't buy those pre-made trays. It makes a difference in flavor.

                Brie baked in puff pastry with dried cherries and fresh thyme. Just because.

                Lobster/Shrimp spread (Costco)

                Pea Pods w/ curry dip dipped in peanuts (Make ahead in 5 minutes)

                Mixed Olives (Trader Joes)

                Ham & Cheese puffs (TJ's)

                Bacon & Leek tarts (Can make ahead and bake on the day-also Fine cooking)

                Chicken satay (Thai restaurant purchased ahead and reheated) only if I think I need more. This reheats very well as it is very moist.

                Greek salad skewers (feta, half grape tom, cuke, kalamata olives make shortly ahead)

                Cocktail de Camarones (Mexican shrimp cocktail, make ahead & easy) w/ tortilla chips

                Parmesan-Rosemary Coins - like savory shortbreads (Make ahead) New recipe

                Another time:
                Skordalia w sesame crusted bread (From local Greek restaurant, heaven if you like garlic)

                Shrimp w/ a fresh tasting Thai dipping sauce (Fine cooking, make ahead and easy)
                More of a summer taste.

                Cheese straws (make ahead) Popular item but want to try something different and I love rosemary!

                Crab Quesadillas (served warm) with mango salsa (Fine Cooking, homemade- more work) Too last minute

                Sweets: Kolaches & lemon curd thumbprint cookies (Make ahead)

                Brownies or flourless choc cake (both make ahead) or choc mousse in chocolate cups
                (make day of and fill last minute in purchased choc cups) Still undecided

                  1. re: twodales

                    I really like your greek salad skewer idea. Do you put vinegar or anything on them or serve them with a dip or just as is?

                    1. re: aguacate

                      i've made them with marinated tomatoes. also be sure to halve the tomatoes, otherwise they spurt. ;)

                      1. re: aguacate

                        Olive oil and some fresh black pepper is good. You could drizzle with a greek vinaigrette too.