By shopping early and using make-ahead recipes, you can throw a fancy, fuss-free cocktail party at a moment’s notice. Your guests will be sipping holiday punch and popping savory homemade appetizers, while you sit back and admire your handiwork. As you plan a party, appetizers likely will play an important role in the party menu. Because hosting a party requires many last-minute details, take care of the appetizers well in advance. When you make and freeze your appetizers, you can cross this important job from your list. Depending on the type of appetizers, you can then defrost them in the refrigerator for immediate serving or warm them in the oven before serving. Tackling the prep work in advance gives you breathing room for all the other fun cooking when company’s coming.
Your free time may be in short supply during the holidays, as one event after another fills the calendar. And the gatherings you host are naturally the most demanding. But a little planning can ensure success.
Following are a variety of simple, delicious hors d’oeuvres you can prepare and freeze days, weeks, or even months before your company comes. Some of these dishes don’t require thawing and can be reheated straight from the freezer, making them ideal for impromptu gatherings. Round out these offerings with a ready-made crudité platter from the supermarket and a selection of cheeses and breads, and your party food concerns are covered.
Facts on Freezing
To ensure your food doesn’t suffer during freezing and thawing, follow a few guidelines:
Freezer temperature should be below 0° to freeze foods safely. You can check the temperature with a freezer thermometer.
The faster foods freeze, the less they will be affected by the process. Slow freezing allows large ice crystals to form, which damages the food’s cell structure during thawing.
Chill freshly prepared foods in the refrigerator. Then, before freezing, wrap or package them tightly-with freezer-safe plastic wrap, zip-top plastic bags, or airtight plastic containers-in small portions, which will freeze faster than larger helpings.
Label each bag or container with the date and contents. Also include instructions for reheating on the label, if desired, as a reminder for yourself and others.
To avoid food safety problems, always thaw frozen appetizers in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
Keep a running total of what’s in your freezer and rotate foods often.
Using Frozen Appetizers
To reheat foods: Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F, reheat on the stove top on medium low heat, or cook in the microwave oven at 60-70% power. Foods generally need 1/3 to 1/2 more cooking or baking time than the original recipe called for.
To reheat on the stove top: add a few tablespoons of liquid to the frozen food and heat with the cover on, stirring occasionally.
Baked goods can stand at room temperature, in the freezer wrapping, until thawed
Some general ideas for make ahead appetizers
Mini crab cakes can be made and frozen ahead of the party time and when you are ready to serve them, reheat in the oven.. You can also freeze seafood soups ahead of an event and cooked shrimp for a shrimp cocktail.
Make stuffed mushroom caps filled with spinach and cheese. Small button mushrooms are most appropriate for hors d’oeuvre-size portions. You can freeze mushroom caps for up to two weeks and bake them from the frozen state. You can also bake olive, pepper and asiago pinwheels straight from the freezer. They hold up frozen for two weeks. Frozen puff pastry is convenient to have in stock for any last-minute or freeze-ahead appetizers due to its fast-baking nature. Brie, apple and walnut phyllo triangles freeze to perfection and can last up to two weeks in the freezer.
Meatball appetizers are a simple appetizer to freeze days or weeks in advance. Freezing meatballs in the sauce easily allows you to warm them all at once in one, no-fuss at the time when you need them. If you do not eat beef or pork, substitute turkey or chicken. Chicken wings can be prepared and frozen several weeks before the party.
Pre-made dough makes your party appetizers a cinch. Bake pie crust tarts in a miniature cupcake holder sprayed with cooking spray, so the tarts release easily. Fill the tarts with a custard-based mix that includes onion, spinach and mushroom or smoked salmon. Freeze the tarts after you’ve baked them and defrost at party time. Roll biscuits from the refrigerator case into bread sticks about 8 inches long and 1/2-inch thick. Brush with egg white and roll in nuts, dried herbs or seeds. Freeze after baking and then defrost at party time. Serve with various flavored dips.
These little balls freeze very well, so make some ahead of time and be ready for company.
- 2 (10 oz.) pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 2 cups crushed crumbs made from herb seasoned stuffing mix
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon onion or garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- pinch nutmeg
Drain spinach well by pressing in colander and squeezing paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Crush enough of the herb stuffing cubes to make 2 cups of crumbs. Mix with the spinach and remaining ingredients in large bowl. Roll into 1″ balls.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Makes about 50 appetizers.
To freeze ahead, make appetizers and freeze unbaked. Bake, frozen, in preheated 350 degrees F oven for 14-18 minutes until hot and crisp.
Crab & Cheese Crostini
- 1 cup crab (frozen or fresh)
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 1/4 cup parsley , minced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- Salt and pepper
At least 32 thin slices baguette.
Combine all filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
Bake the bread slices in a 250-degree F oven in a single layer for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.
Mound about 1 tablespoon of filling on toasted baguettes slices. If serving right away, bake in a 425-degree F preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
To freeze: Place prepared crostini on a baking sheet and slip into the freezer for at least an hour. Once appetizers are frozen, place gently in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between layers. They will keep about 3 months in the freezer. Bake frozen for 10 to 12 minutes at 425 degrees F.
Makes at least 32.
Blue Cheese-Walnut Cheese Twists
- 2 (9- by 9 1/2-inch) sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup minced walnuts
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lay 1 sheet of thawed pastry dough on lightly floured surface. Sprinkle evenly with blue cheese, walnuts, salt and pepper. Place remaining pastry on top. Using a floured rolling pin, press the sheets together and roll into a 10-inch square.
Using a sharp knife, cut the square into 12 equal strips, then cut those strips in half. You will have 24 (5-inch) strips.
Gently hold each strip at the end and twist. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown; about 10 minutes.
To freeze: Place the baking sheet with the twists on it in the freezer for at least one hour. When twists are frozen, store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment or wax paper, for up to three months. Add 2 to 3 minutes to the cooking time for frozen twists.
• Cheddar-Adobo Cheese Twists: 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheddar, 1 tablespoon minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
• Parmesan Twists: 2 ounces (1 cup) Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
• Everything Cheese Twists: 2 ounces (1 cup) Parmesan, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds, 1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds.
Chicken Nut Puffs
- 1 1/2 cups ground chicken, cooked
- 1/3 cup toasted and chopped almonds
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
Combine chicken and almonds and set aside. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, seasoning salt, celery seed and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Add flour all at once; stir mixture until a smooth ball forms. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat until smooth. Stir in chicken and almonds. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.
To freeze: Cool completely and store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment or wax paper, for up to three months. To reheat, place in single layer on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.
Peppery Ham Pate
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 pound baked ham, sliced thin
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 1 tablespoon Cognac or Brandy (or use brandy extract)
Blend the pepper, butter, garlic and onion powder in a food processor or blender for 1 minute or until smooth. Add the ham slices one at a time and process until minced, about 15 seconds after each addition.
Add the mayonnaise , mustard and Cognac/Brandy or extract . Transfer to a freezer proof container and freeze for up to 3 months.
When ready to serve, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and serve at room temperature with party pumpernickel or french bread or crackers.
- Holiday lesson learned (wvgazette.com)
- The big freeze (thehindu.com)
- Frozen Just Got a Lot Cooler (wholefoodsmarket.com)
- Do-Ahead Holiday Baking: 3 Ways to Make Pies and Pie Dough in Advance (thekitchn.com)
- The perfect holiday appetizer (minbcnews.com)
- Five Easy Appetizers (and a Drink!) (smpauthors.wordpress.com)
- Chill out: how to make last minute entertaining a breeze #blastorchill (thismamacooks.com)
- Sizzling kickoff: Hot and spicy appetizers to ring in the new year (sacbee.com)