Enjoying time with friends makes the holidays -- or any day -- more enjoyable. If you're looking to save a little money, though, you can still have fun by entertaining at home. Whether it's a New Year's Eve countdown party or an intimate birthday party for friends, these 10 budget-friendly cocktail hors d'oeuvres will give you and your guests even more reason to celebrate. And you don't need a new custom kitchen to prepare these savory and sweet bites. Just making the most of your tiny flat with a minifridge and microwave can still score you the crown of hostess-with-the-mostest. The appetizer suggestions in the following sections make the most of a little bit of money, accentuated with a modest portion of creativity. Cheers and happy eating!
Cheese platters can make delicious and budget-friendly cocktail hors d'oeuvres. To get the most bang for your buck, select several varieties of cheese that are standard in your region -- they'll likely be the most economically priced. You can cut them into cubes and serve with small chunks of deli ham and turkey that your guests can stack up on party toothpicks like mini kabobs. Or, you can place slabs of different types of cheese on a tray with assorted crackers. Be sure to provide a knife to slice each variety of cheese.
Grissini (thin, salted pastry breadsticks) also go great with hard and soft cheeses. You can easily bake grissini or cheese straws using store-bought refrigerated pie crust. As a time-saving tip, Martha Stewart advises baking breadsticks two days in advance of your party (they'll still be fresh come party time) [source: Martha Stewart]. For a stunning presentation that's easy on the eyes and your wallet, try these recipes for Cheese Pinecones and a Pesto Cheese Wreath.
Fresh fruit dipped in chocolate is always a crowd-pleaser. Whether you prefer milk, dark or white chocolate, each type makes a delightful and budget-friendly appetizer when combined with in-season fruit (which is typically less expensive than out-of-season fruits). If you're looking for variety and an interactive experience for your guests, offer them a chance to dip banana chunks, kiwi slices or pineapple wedges in chocolate fondue. Marshmallows and dried fruits like apricots work nicely with fondue as well.
For a very simple approach to chocolatey fruit, try Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, which you can coat partially or cover completely with a cocoa shell. Or, you could use this recipe for a Chocolate Lace Bowl in which to serve raw fruit or candied goodies.
Arrange chocolate-dipped fruit on serving trays with green garnishes of fresh mint, lettuce or kale, or for a festive holiday touch, with small ornaments or candy canes.
Move over, filet mignon: Fruit wrapped in bacon is a hot hors d'oeuvre that your guests will rave about. Imagine juicy, sweet chunks of pineapple tucked inside crisp, smoky bacon, held together with a festive party toothpick. Why not try wrapping bacon around grapes or slices of apples, pears or mangoes? Different fruit and bacon combinations will result in unique taste sensations. Of course, you can marinate the bacon for extra flavor or provide complementary sauces to dip these hors d'oeuvres in. Barbecue sauce, poppy seed dressing and orange marmalade are good choices.
For party-goers who don't eat pork, prepare some wrapped fruit with beef or turkey bacon. And your vegetarian friends will appreciate mock bacon made from soy.
To keep costs down, buy fruit in bulk and use it for other appetizers, like the chocolate-dipped fruit we just read about.
Nuts make great appetizers all by themselves or blended with other ingredients into a party mix. You can serve several varieties of nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts and walnuts, in a platter with divided sections, and your guests can spoon out their favorites to create their own blend. For another option, combine your favorite nuts with pretzels, mini crackers, Melba toast, cereal and sesame sticks. Spice things up by adding chipotle seasoning or Worcestershire sauce. Try a gourmet blend of spiced nuts, such as this recipe for Rosemary-Scented Nut Mix, or save time and effort by stocking up on premade wasabi-flavored peas and seasoned baked lentils. These munchies are inexpensive but offer lots of flavor.
Crudité platters, also known as vegetable trays, offer endless, economical options. What's more, fresh veggies offer loads of vitamins and minerals, as well as different textures and flavors. And everything doesn't have to be fresh -- no one will complain if you slip in some baby dill pickles or a stack of bread and butter slices.
You can slice radishes, celery, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers (all crudité platter staples) into chips, wedges, sticks or whichever shape works best for sampling delicious dips. Then, arrange them on a tray or platter or inside individual martini glasses, centered around Creamy Dill Veggie Dip, roasted garlic or red pepper hummus or a zesty spinach dip with water chestnuts. For an elegant appetizer that's also budget-friendly, try Shrimp Dip with Crudités.
Call it a blast from the past if you want, but a tray filled with deviled eggs is a budget-friendly appetizer that's making a comeback. Not only is this throwback from the 1970s a super cheap treat, it's a quick-fix one, too. You can prepare deviled eggs in less than 20 minutes. What's more, one dozen eggs yields 24 noshes, stretching your cash even further.
Although eggs are chock full of protein, you can reduce cholesterol content with this Angelic Deviled Eggs recipe. Put a twist on the egg-yolk filling by substituting it with guacamole. For a heavier hors d'oeuvre, fill the hollowed eggs with tuna or chicken salad or chopped ham, roast beef or turkey.
Chips and salsa are always yummy, and when you dress up this Tex-Mex combination, it's even more fun and tasty. Get swanky with lime and sea-salt seasoned Corn Tortilla Chips -- a rather frugal recipe that calls for day-old tortillas -- served with peach, mango or black bean-corn salsa. For a thicker, more whimsical dip, opt for Cowboy Caviar. If you want your guests to save their calories for your raspberry margaritas, you can whip up a guilt-free version of chips and salsa using jicama chips in place of fried tortillas. Garnish your salsa with fresh cilantro, green onion and black olives.
This appetizer provides the perfect way to fuse opposites like hot and cold temperatures and sweet and spicy flavors, tantalizing your guests' senses. To save even more money, purchase off-brand tortilla chips and pick up a big jar of salsa instead of making your own with fresh ingredients.
Create an interesting spin-off of the antipasto platter with an assortment of olives. Display a variety of black and green olives in cocktail glasses. (Be sure to purchase pitted olives; nobody wants to break a tooth at your party.) You can fill small olives with a sliver of almond or pimento. Or, think dirty martini and stuff medium-sized to jumbo olives with a blue cheese mixture, and you'll get surprisingly yummy hors d'oeuvres [source: Lagasse].
In just a few minutes, you can make a classic, succulent tapenade that your guests will find fabulous. Spread this mixture over warm bread, which we'll explore in the next section.
What can't you do with day-old French bread? We've got a few ideas that go beyond bruschetta.
At your favorite happy hour spot, you may have fallen in love with decadent chocolate and sea salt spread on a toasted baguette. It's reportedly a popular snack for children in Spain, and it's sure to bring out the kid in your guests, as they'll all be scrambling for seconds and thirds [source: Adria]. All you need is baker's chocolate, olive oil, French bread and coarse salt. Melt a slab of chocolate on each slice of bread, then add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Not only is it easy to make, but this appetizer is relatively inexpensive as well.
For a heavier hors d'oeuvre, spread toasted baguette rounds with crab dip. Buy it premade, or make your own with canned or imitation crab meat as budget-friendly alternatives. Another creamy spread is found in this recipe for Quick Pimiento Cheese Snacks. This one is a good choice for diet-conscious guests; a low-calorie appetizer, it calls for Neufchatel cheese, which tastes similar to cream cheese but has less fat.
Stay on budget and impress your guests with phyllo cups, miniature pies made with the same thin dough you sink your teeth into when you chew baklava. Fill phyllo cups with vegetable-cheese combinations, meat or fruit -- just about everything tastes good baked in phyllo dough. Following the guidelines in these Spinach Cheese Appetizers recipes, you can whip up mini spanakopita or tiropita in no time. Using the same dough, you can create a Spinach Phyllo Bundle.
Apricot and Toasted Almond Phyllo Cups make delicious sweet hors d'ouevres. If you're not ready to venture into preparing flaky pastry dough from scratch, keep in mind that the store-bought frozen phyllo dough works just fine.
If you love history and cookies, you might want to try this ancient twist on the gingerbread cookie. Learn more at HowStuffWorks Now.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Adria, Ferran. "Toasted Bread and Bittersweet Chocolate." Food and Wine. (Dec. 9, 2009).http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/toasted-bread-and-bittersweet-chocolate
- British Cheese Board. "How to Enjoy Cheese at Its Best." (Dec. 5, 2009).http://www.britishcheese.com/enjoy_cheese
- Cowie, Colin. "Green and White Crudite Platter." (Dec. 5, 2009).http://www.colincowie.com/recipe/green-and-white-crudite-platter
- Food Network. "Crudite Platter."(Dec. 5, 2009).http://www.hgtv.com/holidays-entertaining/crudite-platter/index.html
- Hoyt, Alia. "5 Scrumptious Thanksgiving Appetizers." (Dec. 5, 2009).https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/menus/5-scrumptious-thanksgiving-appetizers.htm
- Lagasse, Emeril. "Dirty Martini with Blue Cheese-Almond Stuffed Olives." (Dec. 9, 2009).http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/dirty-martini-with-blue-cheese-almond-stuffed-olives-recipe/index.html
- Martha Stewart. "Make Crudites." (Dec.5, 2009).http://www.marthastewart.com/article/make-crudites
- Martha Stewart. "Parmesan Puff Pastry Straws." (Dec.5, 2009).http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/parmesan-puff-pastry-straws
- Martha Stewart. "Phyllo Dough." (Dec. 5, 2009).http://www.marthastewart.com/article/making-phyllo-dough
- Pillsbury. "Asiago Cheese Straws." (Dec.5, 2009).http://www.pillsbury.com/Recipes/ShowRecipe.aspx?rid=42027
- Toothman, Jessika. "5 Holiday Cooking Tips: How to Save Money and Time." (Dec. 9, 2009). https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/menus/5-holiday-cooking-tips.htm