As the More is More Mom®, I believe that every event should start out with a bang and end with something sweet.
When your guests first arrive, corks should be popping, bottles should be opening, and glasses should be clanking with festive cheers. A cocktail party is the perfect opportunity for a flashy spread of wonderful appetizers. When I’m throwing a dinner party, I want to be sure to offer my guests some snicky-snacks to tide them over. These offerings don’t need to be ambitious, just tasty.
For my Memorial Day Party I served a little variety of simple treats.
Fresh Bruschetta with Garlic Toasted French Bread:
This is one of my all time favorite appetizers; it’s straightforward, it’s fresh and it’s delicious! Whenever I serve Bruschetta I always make a double batch (more, more, and more!). The leftovers are perfect the following day served atop a bed of fresh cooked pasta (I like a penne pasta, so the chunks of tomatoes get lost inside the tube!), and tossed with a little feta cheese (though a mozzarella, or a shaved parmesan would be lovely as well……).
This is another dish that can be multiplied for a crowd!
In a large bowl, mix together:
- 4 Roma tomatoes (or whatever variety you happen to have on hand, or happen to prefer. They just need to be nice and ripe.), chopped…..like you would for salsa
- A bunch of scallions finely chopped. I use the white, pale green and green parts (but not the very dark green.).
- A big handful of basil, rinsed and chopped (I like to run mine through my salad spinner. The leaves are so much easier to chop, and so much more attractive, if they aren’t soggy.).
- 2-3 gloves of garlic, pressed (because the garlic is raw, it is extremely potent. If you don’t want to keep the vampires away, and everybody else for that matter, you may want to be mindful of just how much garlic you use.)
- 2 splash’s of good balsamic vinegar. The point here is to wet your tomato mixture, and give it a hint of that wonderful, tangy, balsamic-y flavor, not drown it in vinegar.
- 1 splash of olive oil. Again, the intention here is not to drench the mixture, but to give it a little glistening, and add depth to the consistency (way too much Food Network?).
- (Sea) salt and (black cracked) pepper to taste.
Garlic Toasted French Bread:
This is really no trouble at all and can be made earlier in the day (but seal it in an airtight container until you are ready to serve. You know how bread is.).
Pre-heat your oven to 350°.
Slice a loaf of French bread to desired thickness.
Place slices on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet (always about the quick cleanup!).
Toast until slightly golden, 10 minutes perhaps, but watch ‘em.
When just cool enough to handle, take a raw clove of garlic and rub it directly over the toasted French bread slices (approximately 1 large clove per 4 slices of bread). The taste of the garlic is so subtle! Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Top each slice of French bread with bruschetta and sprinkle grated cheese on top if that is your heart’s desire. Either way, there will be a party in your mouth!
Grilled Shrimp with a Little Kick:
Shrimp always makes for a generous appetizer. They’re great served raw with lemon and a classic cocktail sauce (who doesn’t like that, except for people allergic to shell fish?), but they are just a little bit more special when skewered and grilled.
Soak your skewers in water for at least 30 minutes so they don’t catch on fire. Grilled is good, charred, with a visit from the fire department, is not.
2-3 pounds of large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I buy them that way because otherwise that is just unnecessary work!)
Sauce with a Little Kick:
- ½ cup of sugar
- Zest from one lime
- ¼ cup of lime juice (bottled works quite fine, especially as it is getting cooked and blended with other flavors. Save the real juicing for a recipe where that completely authentic flavor really matters.)
- 1 heaping Tbsp of Asian chili paste (less, of course, if you prefer a little less spice)
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
In a saucepan, bring the sugar and lime juice to a simmer. If I were capable of following all the directions I would have waited to add the zest until the next step, but you know, it didn’t appear to matter in the very least. Simmer and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from the heat, and add the lime zest (if you haven’t already), the chili paste and the fish sauce. Stir well and season with a little (regular) salt.
Heat the grill. Reduce to medium-high.
Thread shrimp on skewers. I happened to use three shrimp for each skewer. That seemed like a very acceptable serving size.
You can brush the grates with a little oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. I didn’t, because our grill gets used almost daily, and is the right amount of slick.
Brush the shrimp with sauce and place on the grill. After about a minute flip the skewered shrimp over, baste on that side and cook for another minute. Continue to flip and baste until the shrimp is opaque and ready to serve.
If you like the idea of grilled shrimp, but aren’t sure about the spicy sauce, you can certainly simplify. I would still skewer the shrimp because it makes such an elegant presentation, but I would mix up my own little marinade of; olive oil, a pressed clove of garlic, chopped fresh herbs (like basil, oregano and thyme), sprinkle in some sea salt and cracked black pepper, and whisk together. Baste the shrimp while on the grill, and flip and baste as specified in the directions above. Remove from the grill and serve.
Fresh vegetables are perfect for a party. They satisfy so many criteria….they are crunchy, colorful and calorie conscious (until you add the dip….but how else do you choke them down?). Veggies are a good addition to an appetizer array. They can be elegantly blanched or simply sliced.
Now, dessert is a horse of a different color. Decadence is the only course of action! For an All American Celebration what could be more appropriate than; sliced watermelon, practically homemade (if Dunkin Hines mix’s count) chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting (from Betty Crocker) and red, white and blue sprinkles, completely homemade Peanut Butter Cream Filled Peanut Butter cookies, and what could be more All American than a serving of Girl Scout Thin Mints?
Peanut Butter Cream Filled Peanut Butter Cookies:
I’m not even kidding when I tell you that I make PB & J sandwiches nearly every single day. I pack two for just Nick each morning! So, one might think that I would be tired of the sight, and smell of peanut butter, but these treats were delectable!
This recipe made approximately 36 sandwich cookies (not nearly enough!).
Whisk together, in a bowl:
• ¾ cup chunky peanut butter (I used Skippy, because we are a Skippy family)
• 1 – 7.25 oz jar of marshmallow fluff
• 3 Tbsp milk
• ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ cumin (how about that for a kick in your dessert?)
Whisk in 3 Tbsp of powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time (or just all at once like I did).
Pre-heat oven to 350°
• ½ cup chunky peanut butter (always love the Skippy)
• ½ cup shortening
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/8 tsp salt
• 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
• Granulated sugar
In a bowl, beat peanut butter and shortening with an electric mixer.
Add brown sugar, egg and vanilla, beating until combined.
With the hand mixer, beat in baking soda, salt and flour.
Using a level teaspoon, form the dough in to balls. Place the dough, separating by about 1 ½”, on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Using a fork, first dipped in granulated sugar, flatten each ball of dough marking each with a criss cross pattern with the fork.
Bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned; remove and place on a wire rack to cool.
When cool enough to handle, spread approximately 1 tsp of the cream filling on a cookie and top with an additional cookie to form a happy sandwich.
This recipe makes approximately 36 sandwich cookies. You are going to love and savor each and every one!
I arranged my desserts in galvanized, two tiered stands, which worked out perfectly! For a festive embellishment, I inserted mini American flags in random appetizers and desserts and they were darling!
I hope you celebrate the holiday weekend with your family and friends! Take some of my inspirations and ideas and make them your own…..Creating Meaningful Life Experiences!