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Cooking With Friends for Easy Entertaining

Convenience is becoming increasingly important in cooking and baking, yet many cooks do not want to give up their homemade favorites or cut corners with guests when entertaining. When it comes to hosting a casual gathering in your home, one thing you can do to save time is to host an appetizer-making party. It’s similar to a cookie exchange, except that everyone shares in the costs, and each person takes home a sampling of the appetizers made.

As the host, you may spend some time on shopping and preparations (e.g., chopping and washing vegetables), but you’ll save money and enjoy the cooking adventure with your friends. (They can help with clean-up, too.) When you’re done, you’ll all be ready to serve an assortment of mouthwatering appetizers at your next gathering with just a few minutes’ notice!

 

Here are some tips and how-tos when planning this party:

  • Determine the number of guests and the type and number of appetizers you’d like to prepare. Select appetizers that freeze well. Cooks need not be seasoned, just be willing to learn and have fun!
  • Inform guests as to which recipes are being prepared (send them copies of the recipes ahead of time), how many appetizers they will make, and the approximate cost per person. Purchase the ingredients and set up a work station for each recipe.
  • Determine whether any of the recipes will require you to prepare ingredients ahead of time. Make sure to have those ingredients ready to go before your guests arrive.
  • Tell guests to bring their own plastic freezer food containers (or freezer bags) and a cooler to transport food home.
  • Prepare labels for each recipe and guest. Include the recipe name, date, and reheating instructions on each label. Print a copy of the recipe for each guest to use at the party, and give each guest another copy to take home.

Check out our selection of appetizer recipes below. All of these recipes freeze well. Use them for holiday open houses, impromptu entertaining, late evening nibbling or anytime. Just take them from the freezer and reheat at a minute’s notice.


Sedona Appetizer Bites – Chicken, chili and cheese all come together in buttery phyllo dough to offer a little taste of the Southwest. Prepare these phyllo appetizers as directed, and then freeze. Pull them out of the freezer and bake them when you are ready to serve them.


Mini-Reubens – If you love the taste of classic Reubens, you’ll love this bite-sized version. These freeze perfectly in a resealable plastic freezer container between layers of waxed paper.


Forest Mushroom Pastry Cups – Shitake mushrooms, hoisin sauce and Monterey Jack cheese in a pastry cup make tempting, sophisticated appetizers. They are fragile – but easy to freeze! Just store them in a freezer container, and take them out as you need them.


Red Pepper & Asiago Gougère Bites – Shredded Asiago cheese and chopped red peppers come together in a warm, cream puff-like pastry. Freeze individual baked gougère puffs on a baking sheet. When frozen, put the puffs into a resealable plastic freezer food bag.


Pull-Apart Party Loaf – This recipe is a showstopper, with melted Deli American, bacon and a little heat from chopped jalapeno peppers. Send each guest home with one party loaf. It will be ready to thaw and bake for a big game get-together.


Mozzarella-Stuffed Appetizer Meatballs – We all love meatballs, but this recipe is especially tempting with the mozzarella surprise in the middle. Prepare the meatballs and then freeze for your next party. Allow enough time for the meatballs to thaw in the refrigerator, and then bake them at serving time.

 

Try out an appetizer-making party! You’ll not only have fun cooking with your friends, but you’ll get the added convenience of having great food set to go for your next big gathering. Let me know if you’ve got other ideas to take this concept even further.

 

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