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ISO Make-Ahead Apps

Hi there. We're hosting a casual winter party / open house and I'm looking for your tried-and-true recipes for appetizers / hors d'oeuvres / dips that can be made ahead. I don't mind baking/reheating during the party, but would love items that can be frozen ahead, or, in the case of dips, that can survive in the fridge a day or two beforehand. Some hearty options are okay, as the party is starting around 4pm; dinner (pulled pork, chili) will be served around 7.

Looking forward to some fresh ideas to try this year! Thanks, all.

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  1. I'm a broken record on this...a great make-ahead app is pinwheels. Basically a flour tortilla (so many colors of them these days!) spread with cream cheese & herbs/spices, veggies sprinkled over the cream cheese...rolled up, refrigerated and then sliced down just before guests arrive. There are a great variety of recipes out on the 'net...I've been using the Hidden Valley Ranch recipe from their website with some tweaks.
    Another good frozen app is the English Muffin Crab Bites...if you need a recipe, let me know...that's an old-school one for sure. You do need to bake the bites but you pull them out of the freezer and just put them on a baking pan for a few minutes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Val

      Pinwheels are a great idea. They are versatile, easy and can serve as a lighter option for the heavier fare. Plus, they are easy & pleasing for kids to eat. Thank you.

    2. The spinach-stuffed mushrooms from the original Silver Palate are great. I make a huge batch of the stuffing (using pinenuts instead of walnuts) and freeze it, it lasts weeks in the freezer. Thaw in fridge the day before. Then day of the party wipe off a bunch of button mushrooms and loosely stuff (don't pack it in). You can do that early in the afternoon and shove them in the oven in batches during the party.

      Phyllo triangles (also from the original Silver Palate) also freeze well and can/should be baked from frozen.

      Spiced nuts are fine made the day before.

      Not very fancy but kids love it: layered bean dip. Spread a can of refried black beans in a pie plate, top with a layer of mild or medium salsa, bake or nuke till hot, spread a thick layer of grated jack cheese on top then bake or nuke again till melted and serve with tortilla chips. Most adults like it too -- I actually make two at a time for my parties, one for each generation. Can all be prepped ahead no problem.

      A big bowl of clementines on the table also tends to be pretty popular and they smell so good when people peel them!

      7 Replies
      1. re: GretchenS

        Good call on the spiced nuts! Forgot about those! People go crazy for them!

        1. re: GretchenS

          Great ideas. I've never tried the stuffed mushrooms but they sound easy and good. I will check that out as well as the phyllo triangles. Have you ever made the prosciutto palmiers (I think from the Good Times Silver Palate)? They are good, but I've never tried to freeze them. They are made with puff pastry, not phyllo. If you have tried them, do you think it would work to make ahead, freeze and then bake the day of the party?

          Do you have a favorite prep for the spiced nuts?

          Thanks, also for the kid-friendly options. And, I love clementines this time of year!

          1. re: camelliabean

            The ever-popular Ina Garten roasted rosemary cashews are always good:

            I made a sweet and spicy pecan recipe that's good too but I don't seem to be able to find it. It probably came from this thread through:

            As to the palmiers, I don't know how many times I have planned to make them and never have so not sure about the freezing but I don't see why not. Do they say in the book (I don't have that one)?

            On kids and the hot bean dip, don't let them touch it when it first comes out, it is volcanically hot. I set a timer for 5 minutes of cooling and they all hover around and push each other to go first - like penguins off an iceberg - it is always hilarious! But the dip is much better if it does get super hot before you take it out. Have fun and do report back on what you serve and what was a hit.

            1. re: GretchenS

              ooh, Gretchen...could it be these Sweet n' Spicy Pecans from epi? The challenge is to NOT eat them all yourself once they're finished:

              1. re: GretchenS

                Thank you for the nut recipes and the dip tips. And, please do try the palmiers. They are very easy to make and very popular with partygoers. (I just don't like to make them the day of the party, although I've done it several times!)

          2. We had these on Thanksgiving. http://www.yumsugar.com/2628737

            The cheese can be mixed up well ahead. The following day I was spreading it on toasts we hadn't gotten to the day before. They were still crispy so you could do that at least 24 hrs ahead too. Assembly is fast.

            I did them with slivers of pear instead of nuts because I was also serving nuts on their own. I liked it both ways. I also used a smaller cutter for the bread so that they were single bites.

            I used the breadcrumbs that were left from making the canap├ęs for stuffed mushrooms. I cleaned the caps, made the filling and stuffed the caps a day ahead and held then in the fridge. It only took a few minutes to bake them in a braising pan and then broil the tops for serving.

            These were good and easy. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/he... I roasted the olives (with the addition of roasted garlic cloves and Marcona almonds as well) the day before. You'd want to just warm them before serving.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rainey

              Thanks, rainey. I'd been looking for a good olive recipe, too.

            2. I used up the last of my cranberry relish spread over cream cheese and served with crackers. took it to work and was almost mobbed for it. very easy make ahead.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodwich

                Sounds easy, good and festive for the holidays. Thanks!

              2. Since you're making chili, you might want to consider good tortilla chips, salsa, queso, guac? Queso heats up really well in the microwave at the last minute.

                3 Replies
                1. re: southernitalian

                  Good options. Thank you. Do you think the queso would need to be kept over heat for serving (like fondue)?

                  1. re: camelliabean

                    Last time I made it, I kept it in a container in the fridge and put it in smallish bowls. As each one emptied, I grabbed another bowl, refilled it, popped it in the microwave and went back to the party. It was a huge crowd pleaser and didn't last long

                2. The big hit at Thanksgiving this year was crab deviled egg spread. I'd probably go easier on the Old Bay next time but everyone seemed to like it.


                  Instead of topping with potato chips, I used Trader Joe's fried onion toppings. It was my concession to not having green bean casserole.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    Thanks, chowser. Did you serve it as a dip or as canapes?

                    1. re: camelliabean

                      Dip with crackers and crudite. But it would be nice as canapes, too. I kept it chunky.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I'm serving about 24 adults --- how far did you stretch your recipe (for how many)?

                        1. re: camelliabean

                          We had 27 people, but includes a handful of little ones. It was part of Thanksgiving and I had other appetizers, too. People just take a little dollop on their crackers, though it was good enough to eat by the spoonfuls, so there was plenty. I used regular mayo not low fat. It's a dip but I served with a knife.

                  2. I made gougeres that were (fatally) popular over thanksgiving. They freeze and reheat well. Quiche also freezes and reheats brilliantly, although it often doesn't work as well as finger food. It's easy to make your own hummus (I like Bittman's recipe), and I think it's better the second day. I serve it with dressed up crudite (red and yellow peppers, steamed asparagus, radish slices, steamed broccoli plus grilled pita triangles and often a bowl of olives). If you want to offer a sweet option, small, elegant cookies are easy to make and freeze as raw dough so that you just have to bake them day of.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sholli

                      Hopefully, you mean fatal, as in TDF or "I just died an went to heaven!" What do you add to your gougeres? If you have a recipe or link for those or a good quiche, please share. I do have a favorite baked hummus recipe that I was planning to make, although now I have lots of other ideas from all of you helpful 'hounds!

                      1. re: camelliabean

                        Fatal as in an adult cousin literally ate himself sick. I was flattered (sort of) and everyone else consumed happily and in moderation. I use Julia Child's recipe for gougeres w/ gruyere rather than swiss. This recipe looks similar: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/200..., although I can look up the original (not at home now) if you prefer. They're surprisingly easy to make, and Julia does offer very clear directions with photographs.

                        I also use Julia Child for quiche, but in the free form sense of using her proportions. I make a pastry crust (I use square or rectangular pan when cutting small for a group) and then add whatever goodies and then an essentially a 50/50 mix of eggs and either cream or milk, depending on decadence. Most recently, I had great success with leeks and chevre:

                        For a shallow 13x9 pan, I used something like
                        10 largeish Leeks
                        close to 1 stick of butter
                        4 eggs
                        ~1/2 cup heavy cream
                        1 large 'log' of soft chevre (7 oz.?) (could easily add 50% more if you like it cheesy
                        )Salt and pepper

                        Pre-bake the crust. Sautee the leeks in butter w/ salt and pepper over medium heat until very soft. Layer slices/gobs of cheese (about half of the total) across the bottom of the pre-baked crust. Smooth the leeks over the cheese. Add the rest of the cheese. Whisk the eggs and cream/milk with the salt and pepper. Pour mix evenly over leeks and cheese. Jiggle to even out and bake at 400 for 30ish min., although this will vary substantially depending on the depth of the filling. Bake until the middle sets. You're likely to need to put foil around the edges of the crust to keep from browning too far. Lots of people add bacon, parsley, and/or thyme to this. I like it plain so that you taste the leeks, but you can use this with ANY veggie, meat, cheese, herb combo that you like. To reheat from frozen, take out of the freezer ~ 1-2 hours before serving and leave in a warm place (near oven vent?). Bake at 300 for about half an hour. Serving at room temperature is fine.

                        1. re: sholli

                          Looks great. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this!

                          1. re: camelliabean

                            Good luck. And vary the quantities depending on the size of your pan. I think I got this about right for a shallow 13x9 quiche, but I tend to make the filling and then scale everything else accordingly, and so it may be a bit approximate. This is also on the less eggy side (i.e., egg fills all the crack and binds the ingredients, but isn't a big, solid wall of egg when you cut the pieces).

                      1. re: laliz

                        how far ahead can you make these? I find that my frico get chewy (not crisp) unless they are eaten right away.

                        1. re: sparkareno

                          3 days.
                          layered in wax paper in air tight container at room temp

                      2. spiced nuts/rosemary nuts would have been my top picks w/homemade nachos and a few dips based on your menu. how about a homemade cracker:

                        -zesty cheese straws by paula deen: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pa...
                        -martha stewart has a bunch of icebox crackers on her site: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/b...

                        other ideas:
                        hummus or black bean dip
                        olives, hard cheese platter, goat cheese (pressed in fresh herbs
                        )grapes, clementines, mixed dried fruit slices

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: superfinespot

                          superfine---Very good and streamlined (do-able) menu. Thank you. i'm definitely making hummus. Unfortunately, I can't always rely on finding excellent pita to purchase. Would you happen to know of a good pita recipe to make at home? I may not be able to make it for the party, but I've always wanted to know how to make fresh pita at home. Just curious.

                        2. You can make spiced nuts a week or two in advance. My husband made some awesome ones using roasted salted peanuts and cashews. Tossed those in a hot skillet with sugar, cayenne pepper, a little garlic, and eventually some soy sauce. Everyone kept asking for the (non)recipe.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                            Sometimes, non-recipes are the best ones of all (as long as you can remember how you did it for the next time). Thanks for sharing. Judging from the posts, it looks like spiced nuts are a must.

                          2. I had an open house a few years ago and did a spinach frittata that I cut into triangle wedges and froze. I reheated them before the party and they were very good and held up well. They're good at room temp if you don't want to reheat them. If you want I can find the recipe and post it, or you can search and find one you like. They were very colorful w/red bell peppers, and fit the holiday color scheme (tho I don't celebrate Christmas) very well.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rednails

                              I'd love the recipe if you are able to post it. Thanks!