Party Pleasers: Easy Appetizers & Sides

Pigs in a blanket, deviled eggs, cucumber salad and hummus are go-to dishes for parties. I used to panic a little about appetizers for parties, until my Mom put me at ease with these wise words: what about pigs in a blanket? Everybody loves pigs in a blanket. They are also foolproof to make. These are my simple steps for hors d’oeuvres.

Pigs in a blanket and deviled eggs are party classics.
Pigs in a blanket and deviled eggs are party classics.

Pigs in a Blanket: Buy two packages each of Hebrew National hot dogs and Pillsbury crescent rolls. For the latter, you can use the round ones or the traditional. Preheat over to 375. Open hot dog packages and slice each dog into thirds. Unfurl the crescents dough and slice into smaller strips to roll up the pigs into their blankets. Bake 9-10 minutes on lightly greased cookie sheets or until the blankets are golden brown. Serve with mustard of your choice. You’re done!

Deviled eggs: Either buy hard-boiled eggs in the eggs section of your grocery story (yes, this is a thing) or make a dozen hard-boiled eggs at home. (To make your own hard-boiled eggs, gently place uncooked eggs in a pot and cover with water, filling to about an inch over the eggs. Bring to a boil, lower to low and cover. Set timer for 15 minutes. Usually eggs will hard boil in 12 minutes, but because there are a dozen here, go ahead and let cook a few extra minutes. About halfway through the time, turn off the burner to stop the simmering and let them continue cooking until time is up. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a colander in the sink. Rinse with cold, cold water. While you let them cool off further, gather the other ingredients: mayonnaise, mustard, cider vinegar, paprika, Cajun seasoning, green onions and pimentos. To peel the eggs, set colander upon a tea towel or dish towel on the colander. Next to that, set some paper towels on a cutting board. Take an egg and gently tap the shell with the back of a knife blade to create little cracks all the around the egg. Peel egg. Be careful not to pull too fast so the egg white stays together. Place egg in back in colander. Repeat 11 times. Then, take a really sharp knife, such as the kind you use to trim fat from meat, and slice each egg in half lengthwise. Take a teaspoon and pop out the egg yolks in a big bowl and place the empty egg white halves on a platter. Add half a cup of mayo, a tablespoon of mustard and a two tablespoons of cider vinegar. Stir vigorously with a spatula until smooth. With two teaspoons, pick up little dollops of egg yolk mixture and place inside egg white halves. Once the eggs halves are full, sprinkle eggs with paprika and Cajun spice. Top with sliced green onions and pimentos. You’re done!

Cucumber salad is a refreshing complement to many BBQ meats.
Cucumber salad is a refreshing complement to many BBQ meats.

Cucumber salad: Grab six cucumbers, two jalapeños, a bunch of cilantro , red onion and roasted unsalted peanuts. Select a rice vinegar, perhaps a seasoned one. Peel the cucumbers and seed them. A regular potato peeler is the perfect tool; use the peeler blade to slice off the skin while retaining as much cuke as possible. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and then use corer (the hook side of the peeler) to pull out the seed core.

Cucumber canoes! These would be great serving dishes for tuna or chicken salad too.
Cucumber canoes! These would be great serving dishes for tuna or chicken salad too.

Now, you have cucumber canoes. Flip them over on a cutting board and slide them into 1/4 inch crescent moons. Place cucumber pieces in a large bowl. Put on latex gloves and similarly halve, core and slice the jalapeños and place in bowl. Clean and dry big hunk of cilantro and finely chop to place in bowl. Thinly slice about a half-cup of red onion and place in bowl. Mix 3/4 cup of rice vinegar and 3/4 cup sugar in a bowl, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Toss salad with dressing and sprinkle top with half of cup of peanuts. You’re done!

Hummus: one can of Bush’s Beans chick peas, 1/4 cup of Tahini paste, juice of two or three large lemons, two cloves of peeled garlic, extra virgin olive oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Drain and rinse chick peas in a colander in sink. Place in Cuisinart with Tahini, lemon juice, a couple of generous drizzles of oil, the garlic and some of the spices. Cover and spin the blade. While the machine is on, open the chute to drizzle in more olive oil until smooth. Taste test. Spice to your personal preference. You’re done!

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

White Elephant Party Hummus

Hummus is my go-to dip for entertaining and potlucks. Planning to whip together a batch the night before our neighbors’ white elephant holiday party, my heart sank when I realized the pantry lacked chick peas. I’ve made cannellini bean hummus and it was merely OK. A can of butter beans beckoned. I opted to use both cannellini and butter beans.

The upshot? This is one of the best hummus dips I have ever made. It is so good it has been given a name: Two-White-Bean White Elephant Hummus.

The final product, a smooth two-white bean hummus
The final product, a smooth two-white bean hummus

It’s better than anything store-bought. If you have a food processor, it is a snap to make. I start with peeled garlic, then toss that into the machine with Tahini, the beans, olive oil and fresh lemon juice (we are lucky to have a Meyer lemon tree and the fruit is abundant this time of year).

The fun thing about hummus is you just eyeball the ingredients and taste-test as you go. You can add just about any spice.

Tabasco and Cajun spice add some kick

I use black pepper, pink pepper, white pepper, Cajun spice, Tabasco, paprika and salt. I omitted the cumin this time.

Before rolling the beans into the processor, I rinse them in a colander. The lemon juice then adds back liquid and lends a smooth quality when combined with the olive oil. This is the kind of thing you can really make your own by experimenting with ingredients. I have tried to make my own edamame hummus and it was a bust. If someone knows how to make a great edamame hummus, please share in the comments section. Thanks!

Basic ingredients:

  • white beans, garbanzo beans, etc. One or two cans.
  • Tahini paste (about a quarter of a cup)
  • olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice
  • spices, you pick: cumin, coriander, Cajun, salt, pepper, paprika, dashes of Tabasco, etc. Go for it.

    the moment of Tahini truth
    the moment of Tahini truth