Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hosting an Appetizers ‘n Champagne Celebration

Every now and then we don’t just feel like celebrating, but there’s a real reason to do so—an engagement, college graduation, mortgage payoff, retirement, job promotion or other career-related acomplishment (like passing the state certification test for a particular occupation), etc.

You could plan a celebration at a restaurant. That’s not always my first choice though. Restaurants can get loud and crowded, and your guests can feel “stuck” at one seat at the table and not be able to mingle.

My favorite way to celebrate is with what I call an “Appetizers ‘n Champagne” celebration. Invite your guests over for an intimate get-together at your home, and serve them a variety of appetizers and champagne or wine.

We had one of these celebrations tonight at our house. When I do these, I try to serve a wide selection of “finger foods”—covering all the food groups and enough to be your guests’ evening meal. Actually I’ve noticed people often enjoy the “finger foods” more than a traditional 3- or 4-course meal. There’s just something fun about sampling a lot of different kinds of bite-sized treats. And what a nice way to mingle! You can talk to just about everyone at these kind of get-togethers, because you’re not stuck in a particular chair.

I’ve jotted down some of my favorite appetizers for these kinds of get-togethers, which I made for tonight’s celebration. Besides what I have here, I also served mini meatballs, chicken salad sandwiches and cordial-sized chocolate and raspberry mousse cups. Those recipes I already posted earlier this year. To round out the menu, we also served raw vegetables and dip, and some cheese spreads (Alouette’s Garlic and herb cheese spread, and Boursin’s Chive and Herbs cream cheese spread) with crackers.

What was nice about this menu is that most of it could be made in advance (frozen or refrigerated), or required very simple preparation. Here are the recipes:


2 (10 oz.) boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
2 (8 oz.) tubs soft cream cheese with garden vegetables
8 green onions, chopped finely
2 large eggs, beaten slightly
16 oz. phyllo (9 X 14 inch size sheets), thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

Combine spinach, feta, cream cheese, green onions and eggs together in bowl; set aside. Take 3 sheets of phyllo at a time out of the package, brushing each layer with some melted butter. Spread about 1/3 cup of the spinach mixture in a strip along one of the short ends of the phyllo sheet. Fold in both long sides, and roll up to make a log. Repeat this with the rest of the spinach filling and phyllo sheets.

Using a sharp knife, cut small slits at 1-inch intervals on each phyllo log. Brush each log with some more melted butter. Place on waxed paper lined cookie sheet in freezer for 1-2 hours. Then when firm, wrap each log in plastic wrap. Keep frozen until ready to bake and serve. These can be kept in freezer for 3-4 months.

When ready to bake, take out of freezer and thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Place on cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until lightly brown and flaky. Cool for about 5 minutes, and then cut each log into pieces (where the slits were cut).


Pie crust—enough for a top and bottom pie
1 8-oz. can button mushrooms
1 8-oz. can Portabella mushrooms
2 T. butter
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large eggs
½ tsp. salt
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Roll out pie crust and put into 24 tartlet or mini muffin pans (spray with vegetable oil first). Chop mushrooms with chef's knife, and sauté them in the butter and olive oil. Cook the mushrooms over medium heat until all liquid is evaporated and mushrooms are brown and tender.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide mushrooms evenly among tartlet pans. In small bowl, combine egg, cream, salt and cayenne pepper and beat well. Pour egg mixture evenly over mushrooms (about 4 t. in each tartlet pan). Sprinkle each with grated cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden—about 20 minutes. Serve immediately, or as a do-ahead tip, freeze between layers of waxed paper in a plastic freezer container. Then just bake to heat through—about 15 minutes—in a preheated 375 degree oven. They’ll taste like they were freshly baked!


8 burrito-sized tortillas
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix (only ½ envelope may be used, depending on taste)
3 (6 oz.) pkgs. thinly sliced turkey
Bread ‘n butter pickle chips for garnish

Mix cream cheese and dip mix together. Spread each tortilla with some of the cream cheese mixture and top with a layer of turkey slices. Roll up tightly. Wrap in plastic wrap. You can do this up to the night before serving. When ready to serve, slice each roll in 6 pieces. Top each piece with a pickle chip. Secure with wooden picks.


2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
2 cups finely-shredded cheddar cheese
2 T. green onion, finely chopped
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. garlic powder
2 T. yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
2 T. red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups pecans, chopped

Blend cream cheese and cheddar cheese together. Add onion, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and bell pepper and combine well. Refrigerate one hour. Then shape into two balls. Roll each ball in chopped nuts. Refrigerate until serving time. Can be made 1-2 days in advance. Serve with crackers.

This one is so easy! Put a round of brie cheese in a small ceramic or glass baking dish. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Serve with crackers.

It was a nice evening. Next time you’re planning a celebration, consider an easy and elegant “Appetizers ‘n Champagne” get together!

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