Last Minute Quick and Easy Appetizers

I love to entertain and I’ve been known to spur of the moment, last minute invite people over without giving much thought to what I’m going to serve or if I even have time to run to the grocery.

Once you’ve invited people over, you can’t back out. Through trial and error I’ve learned to make appetizers and side dishes by raiding my pantry. I’ll be honest, typically I keep a pretty stocked pantry and refrigerator but some times it does get a little bare. It is for those occasions I have created these no fuss, no muss, 911 emergency appetizers.

Quick and Easy appetizers

Baked Goat Cheese and Marinara Dip

Ingredients
4oz Log - Goat cheese at room temperature
3 Cups Marinara - Your favorite brand in the jar
Dried Basil - optional
Dried Oregano - optional
1 - 5 x 7 (or similar) baking dish

Directions Preheat oven to 350F. Coat baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Using the back of a spoon or your fingers, press goat cheese into the center of the baking dish, do not press cheese to the edge of the pan. Keep at least an inch of free space all the way around. Then, spoon the marinara into the trench or gully around the edge of the dish, leaving the goat cheese exposed in the middle. Sprinkle on the basil and oregano (if using). Lightly cover with foil and bake 20 min. Remove foil and bake another 10 min or until cheese and sauce are hot and bubbling.

Notes - I like to serve this dip with slices of warmed fresh bread or if I don’t have any in the pantry I’ll use pretzels and/or pita chips. To jazz this up another notch you could add sliced kalamata olives and/or pieces of sundried tomatoes to the marina after you remove from the oven.

Olives on a Stick

Ingredients
Large pitted olives, 20 to 30. I use a mix of green, black and kalamata or whatever I have on hand.
Cheese - cut in to bite size pieces. I like Gouda, cheddar, Swiss, manchego or whatever I have available.
Pepperoni (or salami, ham, prosciutto, whatever is your preference) cut or folded into bite size pieces
Sundried tomatoes - cut into bit size pieces
Toothpicks - 20-30, based on how many pieces you want/ need to serve

Directions Start by making an assembly line. Get all the ingredients prepared and out on a plate in front of you. Then slice the olives in half long ways. Place one half of the olive on the toothpick then layer on 1 meat and 1 cheese and a piece of sundried tomato then finish with the other side of the olive. If I’m using a variety of meats and cheese I like to mix it up, making different flavor combinations. To finish, sometimes I will add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic over the top. This step it totally optional, these skewers taste great with or without the drizzle.

Note - I would plan for guests to eat at least 3-4 olive skewers each. Plan on a few more if you’re only serving 1 or 2 appetizers.

Seasoned Popcorn

Ingredients
1 bag of your favorite popcorn
1 pouch of ranch dressing seasoning mix
2 handfuls of pretzels (or nuts if you don’t have pretzels)
2 tablespoons of melted butter

Directions Pop popcorn in the microwave according to the package directions. Pour popcorn into a large bowl. Using your hands gently breakup pretzels into bite size pieces and toss with popcorn. Drizzle melted butter over popcorn/pretzel mix then shake half the packet of ranch seasoning mix over the popcorn and pretzels. Toss to combine. Repeat with remaining butter and seasoning packet. Serve warm.

Note - if you don’t have a ranch packet try one of these substitutions.
Grated Parmesan cheese and dried rosemary
Paprika and garlic salt
Old Bay Seasoning
Cumin and cayenne pepper
Cinnamon and sugar

Apples with Cheese and Bacon or Ham

Ingredients
1 large Honeycrisp Apple (or your variety of choice) cored and cut into 16 slices
5 or 6 pieces of cooked bacon, cut or broken into small pieces
Cheddar cheese - 16, 1 inch pieces. I fold or cut a traditional slice of cheese into 4 pieces
1/4 Cup - Maple Syrup
Pepper to taste

Directions Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Place apples slices on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Then place 1 piece of cheese on each apple. Next, layer on a few pieces of bacon to each slice. Bake for about 8 min or until the cheese is melted and bacon is heated. Remove from oven and drizzle a little maple syrup on each apple slice. Top with a crack of fresh black pepper. Plate and serve hot/warm.