If you were taught to always put something out for guests to snack on, then surprise guests can cause some panic while you rummage through the pantry looking for something feasible. Pandemic aside, this is the exact time of year surprise guests pop in. From old friends to distant relatives to neighbors, you never know who might knock on the door during the holidays to say hi. You don’t want to give them the basic cheese and crackers—you want to give them something special.
Putting out appetizers for guests doesn’t have to mean keeping expensive items on hand. If you get creative, you can make appetizers from items you likely already have in your kitchen for casual meals that look party-ready. Here are easy appetizers that look fancy.
Invest in some long toothpicks or appetizer-size skewers. These come in handy for many hor d’oeuvres and instantly elevate the look of a snack. In this case, you’ll be using them for Caprese skewers. This diminutive version of the Caprese salad calls for cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. However, you can easily swap in dried basil if you don’t have fresh, and leave out the balsamic if you don’t have that either. Put your washed tomatoes and mozzarella in a large bowl, toss them with the oil, vinegar, and seasoning, and arrange them on the skewers. Add one cheese ball, one tomato, one basil leaf and repeat.
Smoked Salmon Toast
Smoked salmon is a great item to keep on hand for surprise guests. When left unopened, it can last months in the refrigerator and it always feels like a sophisticated treat. Plus, it goes well on many items. If you have cream cheese at home, you can simply make crackers with a bit of cream cheese, a small piece of the salmon and some fresh chives. If you don’t have crackers, you can also make full-size pieces of toast and cut them into appetizer sizes.
A Dressed Up Hummus Platter
Your store bought hummus can look party-ready if you dress it up a little, which you can do easily with items in your home. If you have pesto, you can stir that into the hummus to give it a pretty green color and burst of flavor. Or, if you have sun dried tomatoes, you can add those to the top of your hummus with a drizzle of olive oil. Another option is taking one bell pepper and fire roast it, cutting it into small pieces, and stirring that into the hummus. Then serve with your favorite snacks like carrots or pita chips.
Sausage bites are the ultimate easy/fancy appetizer because they rely on the most casual food of all: the hot dog. You can use regular hot dogs, or if you happen to have some more high-end sausages at home, use those. Just grill them up so they get a nice char on the casing, then cut them into small pieces, put those on toothpicks and arrange them on a plate around some really good brown or grain mustard and ketchup.
Tiny pickles, also known as cornichons, are another powerful ingredient every host should keep on hand. They can last for months unopened either in a pantry or in the refrigerator, look fancy and are very versatile. For this recipe, you’ll simply use any deli ham you have at home, wrap a piece around each individual cornichon, adding a dollop of Dijon mustard inside the roll if you have it. Then put a toothpick through them, and you have a tasty, salty and sweet snack.
Bruschetta sounds complicated and often looks that way in restaurants, but you can make a simple version at home with very few items. First off, you can use nearly any bread you have. While focaccia can be nice, a plain English muffin, white bread or whole grain bread works great as well. You’ll dice up any type of tomatoes you have – cherry, heirloom, Roma, you name it – and mix that in a bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Put a few spoon-fuls of this mixture on each piece of toast, and you have bruschetta. If you have fresh basil, you can add a leaf to each piece.
White Crab on Radishes
It’s hard to believe anything fancy comes from a can, but in this case, it does. Keep canned white crab meat on hand and you can make a sophisticated appetizer in no time. You’ll make a salad much like a tuna salad, but using crab meat. Add a bit of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, lime or lemon juice, salt and pepper and chives if you have them. Once that mixture is ready, you can put it on top of sliced radishes for beautiful bite-sized appetizers. Or, you can simply put it on toast for a crab bruschetta.