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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:
            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

            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:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/455356

            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:
              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              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