Classy Snacks, Hors D’oeuvres and Appetizers

How often has it happened? You want to serve snacks, hors d’oeuvres or appetizers for a gathering with friends or family, possibly business associates, or even a holiday party, but you have no idea what to serve? Chips and salsa may be tasty, but you’d prefer something that’s not only tasty, but has class. And even if you knew what to serve, you need a good, yet simple recipe.

I’ve listed six delicious ideas, along with their recipes, that are actually simple and easy to make, yet sure to impress your guests. The first five require various cheeses, while the last (rumaki), which is my absolute favorite, requires bacon.

First, the quickest ideas and recipes for classy snacks, hors d’oeuvres and appetizers:

HAVARTI DILL CHEESE: There are several varieties of havarti cheese, but the dill-flavored will temptingly tweak your taste buds. Here are two delectable ideas on how to use it:

Option one: Simply spread the cheese on caraway rye crackers. Although this treat will look simple, the blending of these flavors is so tantalizing, your guests will be grabbing for more.

Option two: Spread the cheese on your favorite toasted multi-grain bread. First remove the crusts from the bread, then lightly toast the slices. Immediately afterward, spread on a thin layer of butter, followed by a layer of havarti dill cheese. After that, you can either cut each piece of toast in half or cut them into smaller portions.

FRENCH FETA CHEESE: Get the French variety of feta cheese, which is creamy and easy to spread, instead of the Greek, which is clumpy. Spread the cheese on caraway rye crackers and top with sliced tomatoes. A taste sensation!

Try this suggestion, too! Serving some slices of fresh fruit as another option for your guests to have with their crackers will be a savory hit, too. For some healthy, nutritious suggestions, see my article on the Four Best Fruits

Whether you serve them as a snack, hors d’oeuvre or appetizer, these following ideas definitely are classier. Although they’ll take more time to prepare, they’re still fairly simple:

BRIE CHEESE: Brie is soft, covered with a semi-soft rind that is definitely edible, and delicious, too. The cheese comes in various-sized round cardboard cylinders, and even the rind is packed with flavor. Of course, the size you need is dependent on the number of guests. A small 16-ounce (1 lb.) cylinder should be sufficient for 4-6 hungry people, or even more if there are other hors d’oeuvres and appetizers available. Below are two ways I recommend for serving it, including (1) brie and a fruit spread on crackers, and underneath that, (2) baked brie:

1. Brie and a fruit spread on crackers: The least time-consuming preparation method is to simply put the cylinder of cheese on a decorative plate, and cover the top and sides with a fruit spreading. Your guests can then cut off portions with a table knife and spread the brie on their crackers. (See below for fruit spread and cracker suggestions.)

Fruit spreads: I find the “Fig Orange Spread” to be delectable, but you can use a fig spread without any additions, a strawberry spread, or any flavored fruit spread you prefer, including marmalade. Or, instead of using one flavor, you can divide the cylinder into sections and use a different topping on each.

Another option is to put the cheese on a plate, and put your topping/toppings in separate decorative bowls. Then your guests can cut off the cheese and spoon on the toppings themselves. Just remember to put out several table knives for the cheese itself, and a different spoon for each topping. Note: Some people will take the rind off their portions.

Crackers: I love the flavor sensation and slight crunch created by using any of the Italian flatbread crackers with olive oil, but you may want to put out several other kinds of crackers, too.

2. Baked brie: Although this method is more time-consuming, it shouldn’t take more than half an hour at the most.

What you’ll need: A small cylinder of brie cheese (based on a small group of guests), either a tube of one of those refrigerated (instant) croissants or dinner rolls for the crust, a topping (suggestions below), and an ungreased cookie sheet. You can serve it as is, or put out crackers, too.

How to make: Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lay your croissants or dinner rolls out flat on the cookie sheet, place the entire cylinder of brie on top, spread your topping over the top and all sides of the cheese, and fold the croissant or crescent roll dough over that. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes, and you’re done. (You may want to let it cool up to 10 minutes before serving.) Again, you can serve it as is, or put out crackers, too.

Suggested toppings: Before you wrap the dough over the top, cover the cheese with a layer of one of the fruit spreads mentioned above for brie and crackers, or instead, try a combination of honey and cinnamon, or brown sugar.

And now for my ultimate favorite, for parties or just playing cards:

RUMAKI: Rumaki is an instantaneous hit either for snacks, hors d’oeuvres, or appetizers, so be sure to make a lot. Basically, it is bacon wrapped around water chestnuts, skewered with a toothpick and baked, but there are various other ingredients you can add, depending on your taste preferences. I’ve listed the easier version first, and the recipe using the optional method underneath.

You’ll need: At least a pound of bacon (thawed but not excessively soft), two cans of sliced water chestnuts, thick wooden toothpicks without any foil trim, an ungreased cookie sheet. (Optional for the second version: chicken livers and soy sauce.)

Serving portions: As of 2011, I’ve noticed that the bacon in packages tends to be shorter than before, when I often could cut some slices into thirds. At the minimum, I try to estimate for at least five rumaki per person. Placed on a large cookie sheet, I get five per row. I recently used 3 lbs. of bacon, with each slice halved; 3 cans of water chestnuts; and produced 97 rumaki. This was sufficient for four of us, although we had other snacks, too. I only serve about half at first, refrigerating the rest until later, when I lightly microwave what’s left. There seldom are leftovers.

To make the first version:

Cut each slice of bacon in half.

Preheat broiler or oven to 4000 degrees F.

Wrap each half slice of bacon around a slice of water chestnut, skewer it with a toothpick, and place on the cookie sheet. (I like to use two slices of water chestnuts if I have thicker slices of bacon.)

Put the cookie sheet in the broiler or oven; cook 15 or more minutes until the bacon is crisp. (The pieces will shrink as they cook.) If the bacon starts to smoke, I usually pour off the grease midway. Otherwise, my smoke alarm goes off.

When your rumaki are done, put them on a dish with a paper towel to drain off any excess grease. Note: Since you’ll probably be making them a while before your guests arrive, you can put them back in the oven, either on the cookie sheet or in a casserole dish, at warm or 250 degrees.

To make the second version:

Marinate: Put both the chicken livers and water chestnuts in a bowl, pour in enough soy sauce so they’re slightly covered, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 550!

Cut each slice of bacon in half.

When you’re done marinating the ingredients, drain off the excess sauce. After wrapping both some chicken liver and a water chestnut in a half slice of bacon and skewering it, follow the same steps as above, although it may take less time to bake. Enjoy!

In conclusion, whatever your occasion, try serving your guests any or all of these classy snacks, hors d’oeuvres, appetizers-whatever you want to call them-and the odds are they’ll be begging you for your recipes. With all my best wishes for a delightful time, Darlene

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