Covid cases are decreasing and vaccinations are increasing, so it looks like happy hour with friends is back.
Years ago, our friends and neighbors would gather after the long days with our children and have a glass of wine. Sometimes we called it “whine and cheese.” Sometimes we just wanted “wine to go with the whine from the kids.” We have many fun memories trying to get through the bewitching hours just before dinner, bath, and bed. It was always fun to be together and it taught me to have a simple snack ready for last-minute gatherings.
I try to keep a pretty neat house and got over the fear of having people in my ‘less than perfect house.’ I finally realized that if you wait for your house to be “clean” to have friends over, then you are going to be waiting a LONG time. My house is never clean and no one seems to notice. My mother told me to vacuum after the party, not before. She assured me that no one will notice and she is correct.
Although my kids are grown, I have to admit that I really miss those days, even the whining. I still try to keep a few quick snacks on hand or in the freezer so that I can always feel comfortable hosting an unexpected guest. Relax and have an impromptu gathering. These are a few of my favorite quick appetizer recipes.
Parmesan Cheese Crisps
Honestly, these might be one of the fastest, easiest, and tasty snacks around. They are perfect to eat alone or great with a bowl of soup or as crunchy salad topping.
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh or dried rosemary, optional
Non-stick cooking spray
Thoroughly spray a microwave safe plate with nonstick spray. Very lightly sprinkle plate with Parmesan cheese allowing many open spaces. Do not overfill the plate. If using rosemary, sprinkle a pinch over the cheese. Microwave for about two minutes. Time maybe different depending on the wattage of your microwave. Check to see if cheese is totally melted very crispy. Carefully remove the cheese to a rack to cool. The cheese should almost look almost like lace and is very crisp like a cracker.
Repeat process, spraying the plate as needed and sprinkling on cheese each time. Break cheese crisps into smaller pieces for serving.
Frozen Cheese Coins
These taste like cheese straws but they are super easy to make. And you can store them in your freezer to have something on hand in a snap.
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dried rosemary or 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, well chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus some sprinkling on top
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper, optional depending on heat
Beat the cheese and butter together in a stand mixer until it is well combined. Sift together the flour, rosemary, salt, and red pepper in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the cheese mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
Place dough onto a piece of parchment paper and form into a log shape, round or square. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for several hours or overnight for or freeze in a well-sealed bag.
Preheat oven to 375°. Slice log into 1/4-inch slices and arrange on a baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Cool completely before serving.
These are easy to prepare and store in the refrigerator until needed. When ready to serve simply toss in some cubed feta cheese and serve with crackers or warm pita bread.
12 ounces canned ripe olives, drained
12 ounces kalamata olives, drained
14 ounces pimento stuffed green olives, drained
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasonings
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Mix all ingredients in a large glass bowl or jar and all to marinate at least two hours or overnight. Store in refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Puff Pastry Breadsticks
I love puff pastry and try to keep a box in the freezer for a quick appetizer.
Allow the pastry to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, if possible.Take a sheet of defrosted puff pastry and gently unfold. Using a rolling pin and a little flour, roll out pastry into a 11x13 rectangle. Spread top of pastry with pesto, olive tapenade, or a mixture of butter, garlic salt and parmesan cheese.
Fold pastry in half on top of itself and gently press to seal. Using a pizza cutter or other dull knife, cut pastry into strips about 1/2 - 1/4 inch thick. Gently stretch and twist each strip and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
Repeat process with remaining pastry and bake bread sticks in a preheated 425° oven for about 12-15 minutes until nicely browned. Allow breadsticks to cool and serve in a tall vase or glass.
If you are not familiar with halloumi, it is a traditional Mediterranean cheese that can be grilled, fried, or roasted without losing its shape. It kind of squeaks when you eat it like fresh cheese curds, and it has a wonderful salty flavor. To grill it, simply season with salt and pepper and grill on a hot grill for about one minute per side.
My favorite way to serve this cheese is to slice it into 1/2-inch slices and scatter in a baking dish. Drizzle with some olive oil, a few oregano flakes, the juice of half a lemon, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Bake on 450° for about 15 minutes.
Allow to cool a little and serve warm.
Asparagus and Parmesan Pastry
This recipe may take a little longer to prepare than the puff pastry sticks, but if you have a box of frozen puff pastry on hand these make a delicious treat and can even be a light lunch.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
one sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1-pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish.
In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and basil.
Unfold pastry on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray or parchment paper. Cut into four rectangles, placing them slightly apart on a baking sheet. Spread cream cheese mixture to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Trim asparagus spears to 1 1/2 inches shorter than the pastry. Press for spears into the pastry alternating their directions. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400° for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese. Slice each pastry and a half and serve warm.
Hot Onion Souffle’
This simple but delicious recipe never fails to impress. It is easy to throw together in a snap if you keep a bag of frozen onions on hand. You can substitute the parmesan cheese for another variety.
1 – 14 oz bag frozen chopped onions, thawed and drained
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
Mix all ingredients and pour in a well-greased baking dish. Bake 20 minutes at 350°. Serve warm with crackers, vegetable slices or toasted baguette slices.
The first time I made these I could not get over how easy and delicious they were. It was for a kid’s program at church and we sampled “some of the foods that our missionaries might eat.” Everyone, kids included, loved them and I consider them a healthy and delicious snack.
1 (12 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic salt, red pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 450°. While oven is preheating, open can of chickpeas and drain well. Allow to dry on few paper towels for a least 10 minutes. Toss chickpeas with oil and preferred spices. Spread on a rimmed-baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes until browned and crunchy. Watch carefully and do not allow to burn. Shake pan occasionally to be sure all peas brown evenly. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve.
Danelle’s Burrata cheese
Danelle Garraway brought this dish over for an impromptu gathering one evening. Burrata cheese is a fresh mozzarella with a creamy center. It can be found at most grocery stores in the specialty cheese section. The fresh milky flavor is out of this world.
Put three to four medium size balls of Burrata cheese in a bowl. Cover them with your best quality olive oil, a few grinds a fresh black pepper, sprinkle with coarse kosher salt, 1 tablespoon fresh basil cut into strips, and one tomato chopped and drained. Gently stir and serve with baguette slices or good crackers.
Cocktail Nut Mix
2 1/4 cups assorted nuts: You can use cashews, almonds, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts or any store-bought mix.
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt (Store bought nuts are often times already salted so you may need to omit.)
Preheat oven to 350° spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about eight minutes. In a large bowl combine all the other ingredients and then thoroughly tossed the warm nuts in the butter mixture.
Store in an airtight container.
Augusta’s Goat Cheese
Sometimes simple and easy really is the best. This super quick and easy appetizer is amazing and can be whipped up in a few minutes.
1 log goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, rough chopped
2-3 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Scatter goat cheese on a small (about 5-6 inch) plate. Top with rosemary, honey and the salt. Serve at room temperature with pita chips or your favorite cracker.
This recipe came from a friend from the Delta so you know it is good. Their family was a combination of Greek, Lebanese, Italian and Mississippi Delta, and everything she made was fabulous.
3 cups eggplant, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup flesh sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup olive oil
1 - 6 oz. can of tomato paste
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup stuffed olives, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine eggplant, bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, garlic, and oil in a skillet. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring as needed. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Simmer for about 30 minutes and then allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. Allowed to come to room temperature and serve with crackers or toasted pita triangles.
These have to be one of the easiest and most addictive snacks. We have used almost every kind of cracker shape and size and all have worked with the recipe. We have also used cheese crackers and small pretzels with great success. I think the first time I made these was when my friend, Amanda Roberson, submitted them for a fifth grade class cookbook. They were a class favorite and have remained a popular snack at our house.
4 sleeves of premium saltines or a box of the mini saltines
1/2 cup to 1 cup oil, we use popcorn oil for extra flavor
1 envelope dry ranch dressing mix
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, more or less depending on your heat tolerance
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried dill
Stack crackers in a large plastic container or large zip-lock bag. Mix all other ingredients well and pour over crackers. Gently toss crackers making sure all are well coded with mixture and allow to sit in the airtight container overnight. Turn occasionally for the next day. Make sure it will be absorbed into the crackers.
Store in a clean airtight container.
Texas Ranch Water
Recently, I was looking for a new cocktail recipe idea for a party and my friend, Missy Wyatt, suggested that I check out this recipe for a quick and delicious drink. I looked at the ingredients and could not imagine that it would be good, but I was wrong. It is delicious and quite refreshing. Give it a try.
2 ounces “good” Blanco tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
About ¼ - ½ cup club soda or Topo Chico if available
Fresh lime wedge for garnish
Fill a high-ball glass with ice. Add tequila and lime juice and top with soda/Topo Chico. Stir and add lime wedge. Adjust the amount of soda to your taste.
I made a big batch for the party by keeping the 2:1 ratio of tequila to lime juice and added a liter of club soda. It was a hit with guests.