This is a guest post by Kirsten Nunez from Fix.com! Whether it’s poolside parties in the middle of summer or holiday get-togethers as fall melts into winter, rarely a season goes by when there won’t be an occasion to host a party or gathering of friends and family. But when you’re trying to save your hard-earned cash, throwing a shindig can get pricey. Fortunately, it’s totally possible to host a party without spending a pretty penny. It comes down to developing a clever approach for preparing one of the most important components of any party: the appetizers.
Regardless of the occasion or event, appetizers are essential for getting the party started. They’re extremely easy to split and share, making them ideal for entertaining a large group of guests. And thanks to the bite-sized nature of party appetizers, they’re perfect for keeping everyone occupied while they socialize and chat the day away. It doesn’t hurt that there’s less cleanup, too.
Because appetizers have such a significant role at any get-together, it’s still important to make sure they’re presentable and tasty. The key is to shift your focus away from how “fancy” each ingredient is. Instead, concentrate on creating a quality combination of simple, basic ingredients. This mindset will help you construct a solid party appetizer while treating your wallet well. You might even already have some of the ingredients in your pantry or kitchen.
To get you started, here’s a list of six deliciously inexpensive party appetizer ideas. Remember, don’t be afraid to experiment with what you already have on hand. It’s the best way to please both your wallet and guests.
Goat Cheese Balls
No time? No problem. With zero fancy skills and just 15 minutes, you can whip up a batch of flavored goat cheese balls. Using your hands, roll goat cheese into similarly sized balls, 2 teaspoons at a time. Set aside. Next, combine a medley of dry ingredients in a shallow bowl. Roll around each ball in the mixture until fully covered. Take it up a notch by inserting toothpicks or pretzel rods. Display the bite-sized pieces of goodness on a tray or plate.
Savory Version: Spices and herbs (rosemary, parsley, oregano, cilantro, basil, black pepper, salt) and crushed crackers.
Sweet Version: Smashed figs, dried cherries or cranberries, nuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon, brown sugar.
Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers
For a tasty appetizer that’s easy to both make and eat, buy a batch of mini bell peppers. These colorful vegetables are excellent for livening up any table spread. Cut each bell pepper in half and remove the flesh with a spoon. Set aside on a plate or tray. In a separate bowl, combine your preferred choice of cheese, cooked meat and rice, vegetables, and spices. Fill the hollowed bell pepper halves with the mixture. Top with a generous sprinkling of cheese and spices. Grill for 8-9 minutes or until the sides of each pepper are lightly blackened. The peppers should be soft to the touch.
Mexican Version: Taco meat, avocado chunks, quinoa or rice, salsa.
Mediterranean Version: Tofu, spinach, feta cheese, olives.
Hawaiian Version: Ham, cheddar cheese, pineapple.
Mini Sandwich Wrap Bites
Take the classic sandwich wrap for a party spin by making miniature versions. Simply lay a tortilla wrap on a flat surface. Spread a thin layer of sauce or dressing. Layer meat, cheese, and vegetables along the center of the tortilla. Vegetables such as lettuce, tomato, olives, and shredded carrots all work excellently. Roll the tortilla to close. Using a sharp knife, cut into 3-5 uniform pieces. Pierce a toothpick into each mini wrap to hold together.
Buffalo Chicken Version: Buffalo chicken bites (can be purchased frozen), lettuce, tomato, blue cheese dressing.
BLT Version: Bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing.
California Version: Turkey cold cuts, spinach, tomato, avocado, mayonnaise.
Cucumber Tuna Cups
Preparing cucumbers in a specific way can result in a clever and delicious appetizer. Cut a cucumber into slices measuring 1½ inches thick. Use a spoon to hollow out each slice, creating a tiny bowl. Avoid inserting the spoon straight through the slice. Next, mix a simple tuna salad using canned tuna, mayonnaise, and a dash of salt and pepper. Add additional herbs and spices as desired. Fill each cucumber slice with a scoop of tuna for refreshing bite-sized goodies.
Spicy Version: Canned tuna, mayonnaise, hot sauce to taste.
California Version: Canned tuna, mashed avocado, bacon bits.
Protein-Rich Version: Canned tuna, hummus.
Often, the most attractive recipes are all about presentation. Store-bought frozen cooked tortellini makes an excellent appetizer when served on wooden skewers. Buy a package or two of frozen tortellini and cook according to the package’s directions. You can find both cheese and meat versions at the grocery store. Once cooked, thread 3-5 pieces of tortellini onto a skewer. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice, such as tomato or pesto sauce.
Salami Cream Cheese Pinwheels
If you like to work with your hands, you’ll love the process of creating pinwheels out of salami and cream cheese. This classic flavor combination makes for the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Cut a sheet of plastic wrap measuring the same size as a sheet of paper. Place on a flat, hard surface. Add 4-5 tablespoons of softened room-temperature cream cheese. Layer a second sheet of plastic wrap on top of the cream cheese and flatten with a rolling pin. Remove the top sheet of plastic and layer salami slices. Place another sheet of plastic on top of the salami and flip over. At this point, the cream cheese should be facing you. Remove the plastic wrap from the cream cheese and add ingredients for extra flavor. Roll up the sheet of salami. Slice with a sharp knife and serve the pinwheels on crackers.
Traditional Version: Chopped green onions, olives, and spices and herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper) on cream cheese with buttery crackers.
Spicy Version: Chopped green chiles, pepper jelly, cilantro on cream cheese with wheat crackers.
Try three or four of these recipes the next time you’re having a gathering!