Whether it is a holiday or some other special occasion, you can expect guests to stop by to celebrate with you and your family. It is for times like these that the pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and liquor cabinet need to be stocked for about any eventuality. A well-stocked kitchen will be your savior when company comes.
Here are some fast and easy appetizer ideas you can put together in a hurry and without fuss -- you won't need a recipe, and because your kitchen is well-stocked, you won't even have to drive to the supermarket.
Olive Spread Toasts: Beat room temperature butter with a spoon until smooth. Stir in some of your favorite chopped olives, a little minced parsley and garlic. Spread on crackers or toasted slices of French bread.
Fruity Mustard Bites: Spread your favorite mustard on a plain cracker or slice of French bread. Top with diced fruit -- mango, apple, or pear are good -- and shredded sharp Cheddar cheese. Broil just until cheese is melted.
Herbed Olives: Drain your choice of olives into a small bowl. Sprinkle with fresh or dried herbs and some freshly ground black pepper. If desired, garnish with lemon or orange zest.
Quick Pepper Dip: Drain a jar of roasted red bell peppers. Purée in food processor or blender with a clove of garlic, a couple of heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise, and maybe a sprinkle of lemon juice. Serve inside a hollowed-out red or green bell pepper with raw veggies.
Experimental Deviled Eggs: Jazz up a traditional deviled egg recipe by adding hot sauce, curry powder, minced capers, tarragon, minced jalapeños, or even mango chutney to the filling.
Honey Cheese Crackers: Spread soft cheese -- such as Brie, Camembert, or blue cheese -- on a plain cracker and drizzle with honey.
Caprese Crackers: Top a plain cracker with a fresh basil leaf, a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, and a slice of cherry tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Salsa & Chips: Instead of the same-old, same-old, make fresh salsa to serve with chips. It's no more difficult than chopping vegetables: Try chopped avocado and pineapple with green onions, or chopped mango, red bell pepper, red onion, and cilantro; add a chopped jalapeño for a little heat.
Boston Wraps: Leaves from Boston or butterhead lettuce can be used as wraps for any number of fillings. For an Asian flavor, fill lettuce leaves with a mix of sprouts, leftover cooked rice, shredded carrots, and drained pineapple bits, and drizzle with bottled peanut sauce.
Quick Hummus: Drain a can of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans); purée in a food processor or blender with lots of garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little olive oil. Transfer to a plate and drizzle with more oil; sprinkle with some chopped olives. Serve with pita wedges and/or raw veggies.
Spiced Nuts: Preheat oven to 300°F. Pour nuts onto a nonstick baking pan. Sprinkle with spices of your choice: Try freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of cayenne, ground ginger, garlic powder, or curry powder, or a combination. Bake until the nuts are toasted to your liking. Immediately transfer to a serving dish.
White Bean Dip/Spread:
Drain a can of cannellini beans. Purée in a food processor or blender with fresh garlic, some lemon juice, and enough olive oil to make it smooth. Add cayenne pepper for a little heat. Use for spreading onto crackers or for dipping raw veggies.
Herbed Cheese Spread: Add chopped fresh herbs of your choice to a container of goat cheese; try chopped green onions, garlic, parsley, oregano, freshly ground black pepper, or chopped fresh basil. Serve on crackers or slices of toasted French bread, and garnish with fresh basil.
Find out more about how to throw a party in the next section of this article.