Appetizers – Keeping it Simple

If you’re not a party animal like I’m not, someone whose social calendar is full with the expectation of guests several times a year, you probably don’t think often about appetizers you can make at home. You might consider buying a tray of those frozen, but tasty looking, options now being offered in your grocer’s frozen food section, but maybe the price is out of reach for your budget.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have something more than just the omnipresent chips and pretzels to offer? Without the hassle of having too many things to cook? Things that are easy enough to throw together that it will seem like you slaved for hours in the kitchen.

First of all, be sure you have at least one can of mini salad shrimp on hand. Seriously. I could make macaroni salad for an office potluck and get mediocre response if I used tuna. But, the first time I decided to add a can of shrimp instead, everybody wanted some of my “shrimp salad”. Those tiny little shrimp had transformed my plain, ordinary, everyday pasta salad into something so irresistibly exotic that they felt compelled to have some.

Now, if they can do that for macaroni salad, just think of what they could do as an appetizer.

Let me share a few ideas with you today.

Low Fat Salsa Shrimp Dip (adapted from kraftrecipes.com)

4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Neufchatel Cheese, softened (or your choice)
1 jar (16 oz.) Thick ‘N Chunky Salsa
1 can (6 oz.) tiny shrimp, drained
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 green onions, sliced
Reduced Fat Baked Wheat Snack Crackers (or your choice)

BEAT cheese in small bowl with mixer until creamy. Gradually add salsa, beating after each addition until well blended. Stir in shrimp and vegetables until well blended.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour.

Suggestions of those who tried this recipe have said that either more cheese or less salsa is needed to keep this from being too runny. Serve with the crackers of your choice. Make the day before and keep in the fridge until just before your guests arrive.

**Here’s another recipe using one of those fabulous little cans of shrimp.

SHRIMP AND CREAM CHEESE DIP (from cooks.com)

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 sm. onion, minced
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 sm. (5 or 6 oz.) can shrimp
1/2 c. seafood cocktail sauce

Blend together cream cheese, onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce in small bowl. To mold, shape to fit in center of shallow soup dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

To serve, invert dish to remove molded mixture in center of a large platter. Cover rounded top with seafood sauce, then shrimp, so that entire surface is covered. Surround with assorted favorite crackers.

Quesadillas

These are basically Mexican grilled cheese, but can be so much more. If you have leftover steak or chicken, pot roast or pork, these can be put together quickly and easily before guests arrive. All it takes is flour tortillas, shredded cheese (cheddar or cheddar/jack), some diced green onions (optional) and some sides of salsa and sour cream. You can do these on top of the stove or in the oven. I prefer on top of the stove. If you have leftover meat of any kind (seasoned, preferably), cut it up into small strips. Lay the tortilla(s) in the hot pan, place your shredded cheese on top, some diced green onion, and then some of the meat with just a little more cheese to seal on to one side of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla in half and brown first on one side, then the other. Remove from the pan to a cutting board and, using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut into serving wedges. Repeat with each tortilla until you have the number of wedges you want to serve. These can be reheated briefly in the oven just before serving along with the condiments.

Zesty Beef Roll-Ups (from razzledazzlerecipes.com)

1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
5 flour tortillas (8-inch)
30 fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
10 thin slices deli roast beef
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, horseradish and mustard. Spread about 3 Tbsp of mixture evenly on each tortilla. Arrange 5 or 6 spinach leaves over sour cream mixture. Place 2 slices roast beef over spinach. Sprinkle with about 3 Tbsp cheese. Roll each tortilla up tightly; wrap with plastic food wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. To serve, cut each tortilla into 1-inch pieces or diagonally in half. Makes 10 appetizers or snacks.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a really neat idea for an appetizer that someone locally posted in a fundraising cookbook for a local high school’s booster club. I’ll even add my two cents’ worth to it.

Cheesy Bacon Bites (by a Gateway High School Booster Club supporter)

1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup bacon bits
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 (8 oz.) pkg refrigerated crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 350 °. Combine cream cheese, bacon, onion and pepper in bowl. Separate crescent rolls into 2 rectangles. Pinch seams together. Spread mixture on each rectangle. Starting at longer side, roll up and seal. Cut into 16 slices. Place slices, but side down, on cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

My two cents – don’t limit yourself to plain cream cheese. Try some of the flavored cream cheeses: garden vegetable or chive & onion. One of our local grocers also offers lox and smoke salmon cream cheeses. How about strawberry or pineapple cream cheese for a sweeter version? Put a little dab of icing on top while they’re warm for a sweet glaze?

So, now that you have a few really simple and basic ideas for appetizers that won’t drive you up a wall to create, how about inviting some friends over for game night or a few movies? They can bring the wine.