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Screen Shot 2017 10 27 at 10.18.05 AM CroppedAnytime you're hosting a party is a time where you get to have some fun because the menu can be a little bit "anything goes".  While of course you want to accomodate your guests and their dietary needs, you also want to have fun with the menu!

The next time you find yourself crafting an invite try to think outside your "comfort" box and add a few surprise recipes to the mix. And of course, we've got some ideas.

Dips and Spreads

These are always the hits of the party menu, so sneak in a few unexpected surprises.

Cranberry Salsa

This flavorful twist on traditional cranberries isn't just good for a Thanksgiving table. Pulse together a bag of cranberries, 1 bunch of cilantro, 1 bunch of green onions, a minced jalapeño pepper, the juice of 2 limes, 3/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. This salsa is tangy and sweet with a bit of a fiery kick!

Pistachio Cheese Log

This simple dish takes about 20 minutes to throw together and a few hours to chill in the refrigerator. Just mix cream cheese, white cheddar, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a dab of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Set it aside to cool while you toast your unsalted pistachios in a skillet. Use wax paper to shape the creamy mixture into a log and sprinkle your golden pistachios on top!

Pumpkin Dip

Here is a lighter and healthier treat for guests, not to mention an extremely quick fix for the chef of the house. With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup low-fat cream cheese, 1/2 cup real canned pumpkin (no pumpkin pie filling!), and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Then add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, mix until smooth and refrigerate until your guests arrive. Serve with apples, carrots, or anything else that would compliment this simple dip.

Edamame Dip

This light and refreshing dip pairs perfectly with a selection of sliced peppers, sugar snap peas and any other vegetable you might have on hand. All it takes to prepare is edamame, white beans, red onion, rice vinegar, cilantro, water, chili garlic sauce, salt, and olive oil all blended smoothly in a food processor.

White Bean Dip

If you are looking for a smooth party favorite, stick with this bean dip. Puree together reduced-fat cottage cheese, thyme, apple cider vinegar, white beans, and salt and pepper to taste. Once creamy, chill until guests arrive and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika and chives.

Bites, Crisps, and Stuffed Savories

The heart of the menu also can and should be rich and filling - even if we're only talking about snacks!

Cranberry Meatballs

Not everything needs to be made from scratch for it to taste like you made a real effort! Pick up some packages of Italian Turkey meatballs from the store, thaw and place them in a crock pot. Cover and coat them in a sauce made from cranberry sauce, chili sauce (a little less than the cranberry), and a few tablespoons of brown sugar. Heat these and let your guests help themselves!

Mini Zucchini Pizzas

Coat zucchini slices in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Broil for a few minutes, top with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese, and heat for an additional minute. Now you have a terrific appetizer that only took about 5 minutes!

BLT Bites

This appetizer has an adorable presentation along with its fresh bite. Mix 1/2 pound of cooked (and crumbled) bacon in with 1/3 cup green onions, 2 tablespoons parsley, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, and 1/3 cup of mayonnaise. Slice the top of your cherry tomatoes off, hollow them out with a spoon, and fill with the blend!

Mini Turkey Apple Sandwiches

Cut rounds out of puff pastry, brush with an egg wash, and bake for 5 minutes. Sandwich mini slices of white cheddar cheese, turkey, and Granny Smith apples in between the puff pastries. Keep together with toothpicks and garnish with dried cranberries.

Loaded Potato Bites

These bites are great for the day of the party, but they can taste even better as leftovers! Combine mashed potatoes, a couple tablespoons of flour, a few strips of bacon, and as much cheese as you prefer! When you roll these into balls, dip them in one beaten egg and a bowl of bread crumbs. Then fry them up in some oil and call it a day!

Avocado Tomato Crisps

Throw this healthier treat together in 20 minutes! Baste both sides of baguette slices with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees until golden. Mash an avocado with fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, spread onto toasted baguettes, and top with ripe grape tomatoes!

Apple Bacon Bites

Try this quick, salty-sweet delight! Wrap apple slices with bacon strips, line them up on a cookie sheet covered in foil, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, flip the bites and then finish baking for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar when they are hot out of the oven!

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

Make these rich little bites in just an hour, which means they would be a great option to have piping hot for when guests arrive. Now, the exact measurements are going to rely on how many of these you are going to need (and they do go quickly!), but here is the general rundown. Pick up some large-capped mushrooms, Italian sausage, cream cheese, scallions, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. Brown the meat, sauté the scallions, and then mix it all together with a bit of salt and pepper and stuff those mushroom caps! Give them 20 minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees for all the flavors to mingle.

Caprese Tomato Skewers

All you need is a few minutes for a classic and healthy appetizers for the big day. Halve cherry tomatoes and slide onto skewers. Dip mozzarella balls into olive oil and then into lemon zest and parsley. Slide onto skewers on top of tomato so that it fits into the opening. Delicious!

Roast Beef Spirals

This appetizer is extremely simple and a nice step away from other pinwheel appetizers. All you need is a mixture of cream cheese, garlic, and ginger beaten thoroughly and thin slices of roast beef from the deli. Carefully spread an even layer of the mixture onto the slices, roll them up, secure in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a couple hours so that they are nice and firm. Cut into 1-inch servings and enjoy!

Pineapple Smoked Sausage Bites

Top a smoked sausage slice with a pineapple bit and secure with a toothpick. Brush a glaze of honey, sweet chili sauce, pineapple juice, and teriyaki over the bites and bake them in the oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

Zucchini Bites

Test these delicious tiny muffins out on family and friends. Quickly sauté 1 chopped onion, 1 grated zucchini, and 1 grated carrot and set aside. Beat together 3 eggs, 1/4 cup whipping cream, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Add to your zucchini mix with 1/2 cup flour, pour into a muffin tin, and bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes. This is very simple, but flavorful with that extra boost of sautéed vegetables.

Red Pepper and Brie Crostini

Make a quick salsa with chopped peppers, garlic, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a dash of salt, a dash of sugar, and fresh parsley. Baste baguette slices on both sides with olive oil and bake for 2 minutes at 350 degrees. Add a slice of brie to each crostini and return to oven until the cheese has melted. Once everything has cooled, top with the salsa and serve to your guests.

Stuffed Baby Potatoes

These easy spuds have a terrific presentation! Boil small red potatoes until tender and cut into halves. (Slice a bit from the bottom so they can stand up!) Use a melon ball scoop to remove some from the centers and use the removed portion to mix with reduced-fat sour cream, crumbled bacon, and chives (all seasoned to your liking). Fill the holes and serve!

Cranberry-Brie Tarts

A simple make for fans of sweet and savory. Spoon cranberry sauce into puff pastry cups, top with brie, one pecan for bite and decoration, and bake until melted and golden (about 5 minutes).

Butternut Squash Cigars

Have these crispy rolls at the ready when guests arrive as they are best piping hot. Slightly mash together cooked butternut squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of salt. Butter phyllo pastry sheets, add in a spoonful of the mixture and roll into long cigar shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Parmesan Potato Puffs

These are ideal for mashed potatoes that are not too creamy. Mix with 1 cup of Parmesan cheese and a couple teaspoons of finely chopped green onions. Let set up in the refrigerator, and then roll into balls. Dip into a beaten egg, coat with breadcrumbs, and bake for 12 minutes, or until crispy.

Sweet Potato Latkes

Sweet potatoes are perfect for the holidays, so even though this might take closer to an hour to make, the effort is well worth it. In a bowl, combine 2 shredded sweet potatoes, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and cloves. Then form into pancake patties and fry them in a thin layer of oil.

Miscellaneous Delights

These recipes defy categorization, but they are certainly delicious!

Cheese Straws

Add a little kick to your appetizers with these tasty cheese straws, and they should only take about an hour to make (that means prepping, baking, and cooling)! With your trusty food processor, pulse together 1 1/2 cups of grated sharp cheddar, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 3/4 stick unsalted butter, a dash of salt, and, however, much cayenne pepper you can handle. Then add in 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk to make your dough, roll it out on a floured surface about 1/8 inch thick, use a knife to make your strips, and bake them at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Asparagus Spirals

This is good for any family gathering no matter what time of year it is. Cut long strips of puff pastry and wrap (spiral) them up the asparagus. Arrange on a cookie sheet, season with a pinch of salt and shredded Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. 

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Prepare this pull-apart loaf in no time. Take a sourdough loaf, slice 3/4 way through diagonally into diamond shapes. Mix garlic into melted butter and drizzle into the cracks of the bread along with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake wrapped in foil at 350 degrees for 10 minutes and an extra 5 unwrapped.

Glazed Nuts

These are perfect to whip up in 10 minutes and leave in a dish for guests to nibble on throughout the evening. Take 1 1/2 cups almonds, cashews, or whatever nut you prefer and cook in a skillet over medium heat with 1/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons butter for about 7 minutes for that toasted flavor. 

Veggie Platter

Sure, a veggie platter might not be a new addition to family gatherings, but it is a classic. Make the platter festive by serving your favorite veggie dip in a hollowed out gourd!

Spiced Pumpkin Popcorn

Make your popcorn irresistible with just a few extra steps. Heat up white chocolate melting candy, mix in pumpkin puree, and season with cinnamon and nutmeg. One combined, immediately pour over popped popcorn and give it a quick toss.

Apple Pie Fries

This might be more of a dessert, but some might like a sweet little bite before dinner. All you do for this recipe is sandwich apple pie filling in between 2 pie crusts. Cut into long strips and bake for 15 minutes, or until you have a flaky golden crust.

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