I know Labor Day has come and gone, but hey, it came early this year. And while I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to summer, I must admit, there’s something that I just love about fall. It always brings back memories of being so excited for another school year. New clothes! New experiences! New everything! Even now, I just love what fall ushers in….crisp mornings and evenings, football games, gold and red leaves, great soups and chilis on the stove, cashmere sweaters and scarves, the return of boots….the list goes on and on.
“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” – Oscar Wilde
However, I’m going to be an optimist and say we have a few more weeks at least of summer-like entertaining. And speaking of entertaining, what’s more festive than drinks and appetizers? In my book, not much! But then appetizers are my thing. I love having a bite of this or that and not committing to a full-blown meal. I guess you’d call me a “grazer,” though I’m not crazy about that term as it brings to mind farmyard animals.
Yes, there are those beautiful appetizers. You know the ones; they look like they’re out of a photo shoot and sometimes look almost too pretty to eat. I have a folder full of these recipes on my laptop and a binder full of printed ones. And yes, there is always a time and a place for these elegant starters.
But, there are those times you need a quick appetizer you can whip up in no time. (“Come on over. Now? Sure!” or “You boys must be starving after practice…let me throw something together.”) I love appetizers you can make in your sleep with ingredients you always have on hand. And even if you don’t have quite everything you need, you can improvise and the end result is still delicious. I have a few of these in my arsenal and I make these all year round. I’m going to share two of my go-to’s that are most requested… and they couldn’t be any more different from each other. I promise, you’ll make both again and again.
RECIPE 1: QUESO-ISH DIP
My first go-to “low-brow” app is a queso-ish dip given to me by the late, great Sally McNaughton, the mother of my dear friend, Krysta (or, as I call her, Jane) from Cranbrook Kingswood. What’s so funny about this app is there was nothing low-brow about Sally McNaughton!
Background: We had just graduated from college and the McNaughtons were taking us out to dinner to celebrate. Beforehand, we went to their house for a cocktail and what turned out to be this delicious appetizer. The whole thing was devoured in about ten minutes. When I asked her for the recipe, she laughed and said it was the easiest thing in the world to make. Well, she was right, but I will tell you this: I’ve served it many times and the entire serving dish is always scraped (the operative word here is scraped) clean. While everyone is a fan, high school and college kids (especially boys) will devour this! There are many variations of this out there, but something about this one is special—just like Mrs. McNaughton. PS: I like to use a pretty, fluted ceramic quiche dish for this dip.
MRS. McNAUGHTON’S QUESO DIP
1 8 oz. tub whipped cream cheese (light or regular)
1-2 finely chopped scallions (white, light green and green parts)
I can Hormel chili (with beans or without, your choice)
2 cups sharp grated cheddar cheese
Good tortilla chips
* Cover the bottom of the dish liberally with the whipped cream cheese. I use at least ¾ of an 8 oz. size.
* Sprinkle finely chopped scallions on top of cream cheese. You may want more or less, depending on if you like more or less onion flavor.
* Cover the cream cheese layer with the can of chili.
* Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.
*Put in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
* Serve immediately with tortilla chips.
RECIPE 2: MINI BRIE BITES
My second go-to is a bit more high-brow and it was served many years ago at a bridal shower in Grosse Pointe for our dear friends, Fred and Heather Ollison. While it’s elegant, it couldn’t be easier, made especially easy with the use of mini phyllo (filo) cups. They are already baked so nothing could be simpler. I always have a box or two in my freezer. I especially like the Athens brand. Find the cups at Whole Foods and other good grocery stores. These little bites pair perfectly with champagne or wine, or most anything. Again, these go fast so make enough!
MINI BRIE BITES
Athens (or other brand) small phyllo cups
Raspberry (or whatever flavor you like, though, a berry flavor is best) preserves/jam.
(I like American Spoon Foods preserves.)
- Fill bottom of each phyllo cup with a small piece of brie cheese. (The piece should be big enough that you don’t see the bottom of the shell.)
- Top with a tiny dollop of preserves/jam.
- Bake as instructed on the box.( Usually about 10-12 minutes)
ONE GREAT TIP:
Another great easy app for phyllo (filo) cups: This idea comes from my sister, Katie. aka KK. Buy a great spinach or spinach/artichoke dip and fill the cups up a bit more than ¾ of the way. If you like, add a little sprinkle of feta cheese on top and again, follow the instructions on the box. (10-12 minutes usually works.) It’s kind of like having spanakopita, without the hassle. You can also make the cups and re-freeze them back in their original packaging. Just cover with plastic wrap or foil and you’ve got an appetizer that’s ready to go!
Enjoy! When it comes to food, it’s good to share. Let us know your go-to app recipes; we might just feature them here!