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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Set Your Party's Mood Right With Appetizers

Various hors d'oeuvre at a Romanian banquetImage via Wikipedia
By Michelle Ann Gelder

These little bits of meat and bread play a big role in entertaining guests. Many get intimidated by appetizers and resort to serving the microwavable kind. After all merely saying hors d'oeuvre is hard enough. This is unfortunate because the right kind of appetizer can make a party fun and memorable for guests and hosts alike.

Begin by considering the kind of theme the party has: Italian, Asian, Southwestern? Then start searching cookbooks and online references for appetizers that will express these different cuisines.

Some Asian foods have transcended their origin and go well with just about any theme. Crab Rangoon - a fried treat of creamed crabmeat wrapped in wonton - is one of these universal appetizers. Making authentic Crab Rangoon can be too much for a beginner. The easiest part is making the filling. You just mix crab meat with cream cheese and add minced garlic and onions along with a splash of soy sauce.

Crab Rangoon - A Party Favorite

The real trick to Crab Rangoon, however, is learning how to wrap up the wonton, a Chinese style dough wrapper that resembles the phyllo dough used to make Greek dishes such as baklava and spinach pie. Wonton usually comes in diamond shapes that are folded in half to create triangles, like a mini turnover. To create one Crab Rangoon, you need to put a heaping tablespoon of the creamed crab into the middle and spread it out. Then you have to moisten the edges of the wonton with water using a fingertip, fold it together and seal the edges, remoistening if necessary. These little triangles should be kept in a damp paper towel until it's time to deep-fry them. The result is mouth-watering deliciousness!

For Something Simpler...

This is an Italian staple. Bruschetta is French bread slices topped with salsa. To make the topping, mix chopped tomatoes and basil with garlic and flavor with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Let this mixture stand for 30 minutes. Lightly toast the bread on both sides and then top generously with the mixture you prepared earlier. Serve immediately to retain warmth and freshness but before you do, grate some parmesan cheese on top to give it that extra kick.

Also serve healthier options like crudits. Slice vegetables and serve with a variety of salad dressings as a dip. Another idea is simple crackers and cheese. Serve a variety of cheeses apart from cheddar and Monterey Jack to be unique. Don't always play safe though. Once in a while, try to go out of your comfort zone.

Sweet and sour meatballs will wow even the most uptight of foodies. Start by combining simple hamburger meat with milk, salt, egg, breadcrumbs, onions and Worcestershire sauce. Make small balls - remember, these are appetizers - and brown them in a skillet. Set these aside as you prepare brown sugar, cornstarch, pineapple, vinegar and soy sauce. Combine all these on the same skillet you used to brown the meatballs. All the goodies left behind by the frying will add intense flavor to your sauce. When the sauce has reduced a bit, add back the meatballs. Chop a green bell pepper and add it in. Keep cooking for a while. Now, isn't that simple? The sweetness of the brown sugar will play nicely with the vinegar and pineapple giving a unique burst of flavor.

You see, you are not limited to what you can find in the frozen foods section of the supermarket. Experiment with these suggestions and uncover a side of entertaining at home that you have not felt before. Wow your guests with your cooking prowess through the power of appetizers!

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