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Appetizer suggestions for a grad student!

This weekend I am having a few girls over that I haven't seen in 10 years or so, and I need food/drinks suggestions! I recently moved back to the city where I spent my elementary school years for grad school, and I am having a few girls I knew eons ago over for drinks/appies before we head out a bar or pub. I am a big foodie and love to cook, but I am really worried about "over doing it" and making my guests uncomfortable (ie. I have been directly warned by my brother that I need to tone my cooking down for this event). Does anyone have any appetizer suggestions that are tasty but casual, and recommendations on how many varieties I should make? We are in our early to mid twenties, if that makes a difference, and I have easy access to an oven/stove top.

Thanks so much for your help!

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  1. I have a a recipe for Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa, that is very casual and easy. I get raves when I make it and, if you elimate roasting the corn in oil as I do, it makes it pretty low fat.. It makes a ton and I serve it with scoops and Margaritas.


    1 Reply
    1. re: mcel215

      The salsa is a good idea, along with homemade guacamole and homemade chips. I bake the chips, easier and healthier.

      Food that everyone will recognize, but a little fancier

    2. Don't listen to you brother (I never listened to mine). I have never met anyone, in all of my 63 years, who objected to being served good food. If you don't want to overwhelm, hold the truffles, but 3 or 4 dishes, perhaps a dip with veggies, a charcuterie plate, maybe some spanakopita should please without freaking people out. I like mce's idea.

      1. Are you going out to drink or eat or both? If you're just going out to drink, I would go with substantial apps because you'll want something in your stomach - the variety and ingredients depend on your taste, of course, but make enough that you can actually make a meal of it. If you're heading to dinner, keep it light - crudites with a homemade dip, one canape of some sort and maybe a sweet.

        I agree with Pika that no one ever complains about being served good food, and in my experience ladies in their early-mid 20s are a VERY receptive audience. I threw a lot of wedding showers when I was that age and the girls were ALWAYS thrilled with tasty bites and pretty presentations.

        1. If it's really just a few girls (less than 5?), then a couple of items is probably fine. I would say partly depending on how long you expect to stay at your place before going out, and if you are gathering over dinner hour (then you should have heartier/more snacks), or this is just a starter before going out for dinner.

          Some simple hot item like puff pastry with mushroom duxelles and goat cheese rolled up in a spiral, sliced and baked would be nice. Then, perhaps a dip (doesn't have to be boring - maybe romesco?) or cheese plate - something interesting like Manchego with fig jam or quince paste, and some charcuterie would all be very nice, pretty simple, but different.

          Prosecco would be great to drink - bubbly would be a fun suprise for a festive reunion such as this, and it goes with everything!

          1 Reply
          1. re: gingershelley

            Great suggestions! I like the idea of a pintxos (San Sebastian small plates) cocktail party. A Spanish cava, inexpensive and festively bubbly, would be perfect. I would suggest making manchego w/ quince paste (membrillo) on crostini w/ a serrano ham or prosciutto and a simple mint oil gives. These give the impression of easy and casual but tastes amazing. Here's a link on CH to a recipe: http://www.chow.com/recipes/10444-ser...

            Round it out with marcona almonds and a crudite or salsa and you will enjoy the moment and still have room for dinner later.

            Have fun!

          2. +1 on not listening to the brother.

            Years ago, I had a 24/25 yr old colleague who loved to cook and everyone in the office (age range 22-42) always looked forward to her potluck contributions. I still remember a delicious sun-dried tomato/cream cheese/pesto torta she made & when I asked her about the creamy cheese, all she would tell me is that it was a 1:1 ratio of cream cheese to butter :)

            So, there's one idea :) Or may be artichoke dip with toasted baguette.

            1. Why not make 4 appetizers: one very popular and common (meatballs, pigs in blanket, crescent rolls w/filling), one cheese selection, and two more interesting items? That way you have something for the less adventurous and something for those with more exotic taste.

              You know you friends better than we do though. I have friends who would LOVE pigs in a blanket, and others who would lovingly mock me for years if I served it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Main Line Tracey

                You could do those appetizers "best in class" as Ina Garten would say. Pigs in blanket would be awesome with a chicken sausage wrapped in puff pastry. Deviled eggs could be topped with scallions, chopped cilantro and smoked paprika. Pimento cheese could be made with an aged cheddar, fromage blanc, and fire roasted peppers.

              2. I agree with what the other posters are saying in principle. I mean, not listening to your brother. But, if this is going to worry you, then I think that it's best to plan the food in such a way that it will cause the least amount of stress and you can relax and enjoy yourself. That being said, I would go with crispy chicken wings that have been marinated your favorite flavors; crudite with a slow caramelized onion or artichoke dip; chedder cheese bread sticks; and chocolate cake with fresh fruit.

                1. I like crostini (or just toast) with various toppings: e.g., guacamole, a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, and a few parsley leaves; smoked salmon, mascarpone, dill, and capers; baccala spread; tapenade; mozzarella, tomato, pesto; etc.

                  I don't know how "big" these girls are, but it might be good to have lighter, vegetable-based snacks, such as cucumber canapes.

                  1. What about miniature crab cakes, miniature grilled cheese sandwiches (fancied up of just plain american), blt stuffed cocktail tomatoes or stuffed with tuna/shrimp salad, feta-stuffed cucumber slices, chicken wing lollipops, cheese plate, assorted nuts, assorted olives, crudites, guac/salsa and chips, stuffed endive leaves, meatballs.

                    To drink, the old standbys, wine, beer, soda, sparkling water, still water, but, since you're going to a bar or a pub, maybe something a little lighter like a sparkling sangria. Or completely alcohol free- an iced tea punch?

                    1. Will you eat at the pub? That would be my only concern about "overdoing" it...there's a pub I frequent mostly for their lamb stew, and I'd want to have room for it. If you want to talk a while, linger and visit with your friends, I think a mix of hot and cold apps would be nice....lots of great suggestions in the previous posts.

                      I myself have never been offended by anyone who offered me cheese in any form. :-)