Aside from quality time spent with friends and family, the star (or flop) of any gathering is the food. People like to eat when they get together. Not only is food a conversation piece in itself, but a good spread can make your guests feel welcome and at ease.
Part of throwing a successful party is knowing what your guests like and planning ahead. Preparing food that is easy to eat with one hand and has tasty but not overpowering flavors helps guests carry on a conversation while grabbing a bite to eat. You also want to be part of the party and not just working at it, so here are a few recipes that can be made ahead and warmed before guests arrive.
Mini Brie Phyllo Cups
I had noticed these mini phyllo cups in the freezer section, never paying them much attention. But when my friend shared her relative's simple Christmas concoction, I promptly bought these pastries and loaded them with my favorite flavors.
The layered cups are small enough to eat in one bite but sturdy enough to hold melted cheese and other fillings. I followed my friend's instructions and filled some with brie and hot pepper jelly, while other brie bites were topped with fig jam.
These little snacks are easy to fill and can be made ahead of time. And because a lot of cups fit onto one cookie sheet and take less than 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven, these brie bites are ideal for parties. Other filling ideas include blue cheese and dried cherries, cheddar and apple, crab and cream cheese, and endless other combinations. The bites could filled with cold cheese as well, such as manchego or other hard cheeses.
Jalapeno Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms
I'm not a fan of raw mushrooms, but I adore cooked ones. These stuffed mushrooms are a departure from the usual breadcrumb and crab version, and this is my new favorite mushroom recipe. I could tell just by reading the ingredients (and by looking at the photo on Tasty Kitchen) that these would be incredible. The crunch of the panko topping, saltiness of the bacon and heat of the jalapeno are a perfect combination.
There aren't many dishes that are easier and satisfy more people than a good hot dip. The same foodie friend that introduced me to the wonder of phyllo cups brought this dip to a gathering. You know a dip is good when all the adults are hovering around, reaching for their next pita chip before they've even swallowed their previous one. And this Spinach and Jalapeno Dip disappeared before I could even photograph it.
As with many warm dips, these ingredients can be mixed ahead then heated right before serving. The warmth of this cheesy dip heightens the flavor of the onion and jalapeno, while the spinach cools it downs. This is best served with a sturdy cracker or pita chip.
Another popular appetizer is Buffalo Chicken Dip, which combines all the flavors of buffalo wings without the mess. Canned chicken cuts down on the cost while providing the same flavor as freshly cooked chicken. This dip can be served with crackers, but I love it with celery as well.
A few other favorites include: