When I think about last minute entertaining, I’m reminded of an old southern cookbook I own where the author talks about a favorite family recipe “lane cake.” The recipe is good, but what is most amusing about it is the reason it got it’s name. It’s a cake they can make in the time it takes the preacher to make it up the lane for an unexpected visit to their house. Just like those pillars of southern society of days past, every good modern hostess still needs a few things up her (or his) sleeves that they can put out in the time company makes it up their proverbial lane. Here are a few recipes for last minute entertaining to get you started!
The most successful instant appetizers are going to be made from things you already have hanging around the pantry. Which brings me to my first recipe, and probably my favorite, Apricot Brie. Once upon a time I used to wrap this in puff pastry and bake it in the oven — and it was heavenly. But rarely do I have puff pastry just there and thawed in my freezer. I do, however, almost always have an open jar of apricot preserves, a hidden wedge of brie and a box of crackers. That’s really all this is! Place the brie on the plate, mound on your apricot preserves and serve along side some crackers.
Jalapeno Cream Cheese
This is just a variation on the idea of the apricot brie. Take a brick of cream cheese, slather it with jalapeno jelly and serve with some crackers. It’s addictively delish–promise! And it takes about 2 minutes to put together. You’d have time to fix your hair before the preacher made it to your door.
The Mighty Cheese Plate
Never underestimate the entertaining power of a cheese plate. The protein and carb-loaded crackers or bread fill tummies fast, and it’s basically an open and dump proposition. There are lots of theories on how to put together a cheese plate, but here’s mine. And I completely base this theory on the most fabulous cheese tray I’ve ever had at a little french restaurant a decade or so ago. Purchase a few things that fall into these categories:
- Sharp cheese (one of those hard, dry looking ones)
- Soft cheese (brie, triple cream, goat)
- Something you’d put on a sandwich – technical term, right? Well, the hard cheeses I find so bursting with flavor I only have a little nibble at a time of them. A Swiss, mild cheddar, Jack cheese, Havarti, Muenster, etc. are a tad milder as an app and compliment the stronger flavors wonderfully.
- Dried Fruit – cranberries are fabulous here
- Nuts – pecans, walnuts, almonds
- Pot of honey – makes for the perfect drizzle over your cheese
Apricots with Goat Cheese and Pistachio
This is a little more fussy than just inverting things on a plate to serve, but it really only takes about 5 minutes to assemble. Buy yourself a bag of dried apricots. Lay them flat on a plate. Cut about a half teaspoon to teaspoon size piece of goat cheese and place on top of the apricot. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. I used to make this all the time for the really big cocktail parties we had–it was much loved and always disappeared quickly.
Another dump and serve proposition with an intermediate shake-it-in-a-bag step! Take a gallon sized bag and dump in carrots, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower and cucumber chunks until the bag is about half full. Put about a 1/4 cup of prepared pesto in the bag with the veggies and shake it up until the pesto coats everything. Spread on a tray and serve with toothpicks or plates to eat with a fork. I actually used to skewer the vegetables, but it took a little more time and wasn’t quite instant!
Fruits and Veggie Spreads
An entertaining staple! Veggies and fruit even come pre-chopped in bags now so all you have to do is empty them on the plate, and you can buy the veggie dips to accompany them already made as well. It’s always a good option to have one of these available–it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free and all the other allergy free things you can think of so if you’ve got a sensitive guest, they’ve got something to eat. And bonus for you, it was easy to make!
Hummus is officially trendy. I can buy it in at least a dozen flavors from a minimum of three different brands at my local Publix. It’s a good thing–it’s very much an instant party maker. Pair your hummus with different interesting things – pita chips, flat pretzels, corn chips, and carrots and veggies (for your gluten free friends). It’s one of those dips that is immensely flexible.
This is Italian for put alot of meat, cheese and marinated things on a plate. Again, instantly easy, you just have to gather the ingredients. On my antipasto plates, I like to put pepperoni (in little rolls), salami, soft mozzerella cheese, olives, banana peppers and bell pepper slices. Again, this is one of those creations that is going to work with whatever you have on hand or available to you.
The Frozen Food Aisle
While it’s a bother to heat up the oven and wait around 15 minutes or so while something cooks up, the frozen food aisle is really a fantastic place to go looking for instant-type appetizers. There’s everything from egg rolls to mini-quiches to potato skins and they’ll all do in a pinch if you need something to serve a bit of company. Frozen appetizers are a good thing to have lurking in your freezer on the off chance you’ve got company coming and you’re not ready!
These, of course, are the tip of the iceburg; but if you only have a few minutes they’re a great place to start to be a great host for unexpected entertaining!