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Cheap, Quick & Easy Appetizers


Sony
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Hi All,

I've been whisked into a committee unexpectedly to come up with ideas for reception food for a lecture series on a weekly basis. The stipulations are:

1. It needs to require VERY little prep. Piping fillings into receptacles might even be a stretch....for 30 people, less than 45 minutes of prep.

2. No heat can be involved.

3. The budget is relatively low- $2 or less per person.

4. Relatively healthy would be an added bonus.

Ideas, please?

ETA: AppeRtizer?! :laugh:

Edited by Sony (log)
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Why the 45 minutes to prep rule? You could do things that can be done ahead and served cold or at room temp. Do 'em up a day ahead, fridge 'em and throw 'em on the table when you need to. That takes the pressure off the 45 minute limit and opens up more options. They can't expect it to be super fancy on that budget but you can put out a pretty nice snack spread for $60. Fruits and veggies fit in the healthy rule. Some nice cheese(s) and breads. Chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad are all fairly cheap to make and can be fancied up a little if you wanted (you can't by a dried out convenience store sandwich for $2 a person so you don't have to go overboard, just make sure it tastes good). If the rules on time and all that are because it's a committee of people trying to do as little as they can get away with (I'm not saying that's the case, I've just been in those situations before) then see if you can fish out 2 or 3 people who don't mind putting a little extra effort into it and do a little evening before "build the snack trays" party.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Why the 45 minutes to prep rule? You could do things that can be done ahead and served cold or at room temp. Do 'em up a day ahead, fridge 'em and throw 'em on the table when you need to. That takes the pressure off the 45 minute limit and opens up more options. They can't expect it to be super fancy on that budget but you can put out a pretty nice snack spread for $60. Fruits and veggies fit in the healthy rule. Some nice cheese(s) and breads. Chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad are all fairly cheap to make and can be fancied up a little if you wanted (you can't by a dried out convenience store sandwich for $2 a person so you don't have to go overboard, just make sure it tastes good). If the rules on time and all that are because it's a committee of people trying to do as little as they can get away with (I'm not saying that's the case, I've just been in those situations before) then see if you can fish out 2 or 3 people who don't mind putting a little extra effort into it and do a little evening before "build the snack trays" party.

Unfortunately, there's no Costco or like place nearby. And the catered offerings around here come out to more than $2/person. Unless I get fruit, vegetable, or tuna/chicken salad platters from the grocery store, which is what the group wants to move away from...

The 45 min guideline is because the food has to be prepped at the site of the event (at my workplace) in a kitchen that's up to code. And though it's at my workplace, I technically can't prepare the food in the appropriate kitchen because it's not directly linked to my duties. Instead, I have to provide direction for someone else to do the shopping and to prep. And it appears at this point that the person that I need to provide direction to is only willing to assemble- like cutting and arranging things. Heating/cooking things isn't in the picture right now.

:wacko:

I would LOVE to bring in stuff that I've prepared at home, even if I was just reimbursed for the ingredients, but I can't.

For the 1st session, the prep person is comfortable with the following:

Fresh mozzarella cube, cherry tomato and basil leaf speared on a toothpick

Store-bought olive tapenade and sliced bread

I'm hoping that this person will be gaining more confidence/willingness to stretch in prep, and that some budget expansion is on the horizon, but for now I just want to get something other than dried up carrot and celery sticks on the table. :wink:

Thanks for the ideas so far, everyone! Please keep them coming!

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- bruschetta on sliced ciabatta

- what about mini sandwiches on good dinner rolls? you could dress them up with some premium ingredients(cheeses, sun dried tomatoes, avocados) but the sandwiches themselves would be fairly inexpensive.

I like the idea of the tomato/basil/mozzarella on toothpicks

edited for typos

Edited by NimaCooks (log)

"In a perfect world, cooks who abuse fine cutlery would be locked in a pillory and pelted with McNuggets."

- Anthony Bourdain

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This may not fit in your budget, but these are excellent:

Salmon Canapes:

1/2 cup each chopped smoked salmon and cream cheese, softened, mixed with 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (optional), topped with 1/2 red onion, diced. Spread onto mini pumpernickel rounds, squares, or quartered sandwich slices.

Serves 6.

Edited by merstar (log)
There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.
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antipasti platter - salami, ham, pepperoni, olives, roasted peppers, marinated veggies, cheese w/ Italian bread.

deviled eggs

smoked meat platter (keilbasa,sausage) with different mustards and breads

Sub sandwich - variety of deli meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, dress with oil and vinegar, cut into 2 inch slices.

Green salad with chicken or shrimp (don't know if plates and forks can be used) can be dressed up with fruit, nuts, fancy dressings.

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Cream cheese spread on a large flour tortilla, layers of thin-sliced salami or other cooked meats atop that, perhaps olive tapenade or other interesting sauce if it isn't too messy and doesn't interfere with final adhesion. Roll the whole lot up tightly into a sausage shape. Cut crosswise into bite-sized spirals.

You can use any combination of spread that (a) fits the budget and (b) tastes good and © sticks together. That's where the cream cheese or neufchatel fits in. If it doesn't stay together you can secure it with toothpicks, but that takes more time and money.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I have a similar one: boursin cheese spread on fresh lavash bread. Add thinly sliced smoked turkey, roasted jarred red peppers, fresh spinach leaves. Roll tightly. Wrap in saran wrap, secured with toothpicks and refidgerate. Slice. Looks pretty and is easy. Only problem, is that it really could use 2 hours in the refrigerator to keep the cheese congealed enought to the lavash. Good luck there!

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Only problem, is that it really could use 2 hours in the refrigerator to keep the cheese congealed enought to the lavash.

Hi newsbabe! I think that things can be done 2 hours ahead of time, and the idea sounds great! All of the wrap/sandwich/canape ideas sound good.....

Merstar, maybe the smoked salmon spread for the canapes can also work as a dip for cucumber rounds and crackers? It would be great to pair that with an herbed cream cheese spread option for the vegetarians....

Crouching tyler, what cheese do you suggest for date-stuffing?

Prosciutto and cantaloupe.....classic, easy combo! And I'll have to check into prices of prepared antipasti around here, but that's a great call.....

Boiled eggs are hopefully something that the prep person will become comfortable with, because deviled egg variations would be great to include!

Oh yes! Chutney and cream cheese! Good call, hummingbirdkiss!

Other ideas on the list:

Layered Mediterranean dip (hummus, feta, chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chopped parsley) with pita chips

Cream cheese & Pickapeppa dip for cut vegetables

Peanut butter and vanilla yogurt mixed as a fruit dip (sounds weird, tastes good :wink: )

Soft goat cheese topped with ajvar for crackers

Cream cheese mixed with blue cheese, chopped walnuts for pear/apple slices and crackers (maybe dried cranberries in the cheese mix?)

Thanks so much again for your help so far!

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Prosciutto and cantaloupe.....classic, easy combo!

I did my own napoleon-ized version of that for the "dessert-a-thon" last weekend.

Two layers of cantaloupe sherbet and one of honeydew sherbet seperated by layers of caramelized prosciutto and topped with honey/peppercorn whipped cream. It was a bit salty for a dessert and would work better as an appetizer. Of course, making two kinds of sherbet and caramelizing the prosciutto doesn't fit in the quick and easy theme and it wouldn't sit out on a tray too well... but it wasn't bad.

gallery_53467_5046_99012.jpg

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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AHA! Old faithful to the rescue: about a pound of deli ham sliced not too thin, spread with softened cream cheese mixed with chopped scallions, and rolled up like a rug. You can even use premade "Cream Cheese and Chive Spread" but that would up the cost. This is easy, cheap and has always been very well received. After Cut each roll into quarters or thirds. Refrigerate to set cheese and serve cool. HTH!

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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AHA! Old faithful to the rescue: about a pound of deli ham sliced not too thin, spread with softened cream cheese mixed with chopped scallions, and rolled up like a rug. You can even use premade "Cream Cheese and Chive Spread" but that would up the cost. This is easy, cheap and has always been very well received. After Cut each roll into quarters or thirds. Refrigerate to set cheese and serve cool. HTH!

The above done with roast beef and there is one other sliced deli meat I can't think of.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Everyone!

I've been meaning to supply an update for some time- I'm home from work (cold) and think this is the perfect time :smile: .

I appreciate your ideas SO much- people have really noticed the change in offerings, and it's nice to hear people making positive comments without having to take obvious credit/responsibility.....

The fall bounty has made many weeks very easy......varietal grapes, pears and apples have added to the cheese board spreads. Olives and good jarred giardiniera have filled in for homemade marinated vegetables. Homemade cheese spreads (not more Kaukauna for this bunch :wink: ) and dips have often been part of the offerings, and ideas were definitely coming from this thread (for example, one week, instead of stuffed dates, we mixed cream cheese, blue cheese, walnuts and dates to make things less labor-intensive).

Apparently, there are a lot of folks who don't eat meat (not vegan, just ovo-lacto vegetarians) in this crowd. Some some of the ideas are on the back burner for personal use when I'm time- and cash-strapped!

Thanks again!

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...

Soft goat cheese topped with ajvar for crackers

...

chile pepper jelly also goes very well with goat cheese or cream cheese..

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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OOOOH, brainstorm! Beautiful walnut or pecan halves sandwiched together with cinnamon raisin cream cheese. :wub:  :rolleyes:

That sounds WONDERFUL :wub: ... I tend to blank on sweet ideas, and this will fit perfectly!

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Fingerling potatoes, steamed and cut in half, can substitute for bread or crackers as a vehicle to deliver something yummy. I personally like the sour cream and caviar topping, but it's really good with any simple flavored soft cheese (goat cheese, cream cheese, etc.), onion confit, or other topping.

They can certainly be cooked ahead of time, and just assembled right before serving. (I find that they taste best when served at room temperature and I generally scoop out just a bit of the middle to provide more room for the topping).

With all the varieties and colors available now, you could really make an interesting presentation and impact for a (relatively) low cost!

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Fingerling potatoes, steamed and cut in half, can substitute for bread or crackers  as a vehicle to deliver something yummy.  I personally like the sour cream and caviar topping, but it's really good with any simple flavored soft cheese (goat cheese, cream cheese, etc.), onion confit,  or other topping. 

They can certainly be cooked ahead of time, and just assembled right before serving. (I find that they taste best when served at room temperature and I generally scoop out just a bit of the middle to provide more room for the topping).

With all the varieties and colors available now, you could really make an interesting presentation and impact for a (relatively) low cost!

Taramosalata is wonderful (and pretty, with its pink color) on top of boiled and halved fingerling or new potatoes. With new potatoes I like to use a mix of red and yellow for an even prettier presentation. I make a small divot in each half before spooning some taramosalata on top.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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