Organizing the ideal party can be just as challenging as conducting a symphony, and just as rewarding when you succeed. Appetizers help set the right tone when orchestrating a party. Light appetizers are flavorful and filling enough to keep guests satisfied while also allowing the main dishes to shine through. Turn your kids into helpful instruments by letting them mix nuts, decorate pizzas or shape crabcakes.
Crunchy nut-based appetizers are light and satisfying. For a simple yet unforgettable appetizer, roast whole almonds with a little olive oil and sea salt. Add a dash of cayenne pepper for a kick. For a spicy tang that works equally well at Christmas or during summer, try orange chipotle pecans, sweetened with dried cranberries or raisins. A creamy peanut dipping sauce is a savory complement to an Asian-inspired appetizer such as spring rolls.
As an alternative to cheese sticks, zucchini sticks feature a crispy coating of cornmeal, whole wheat flour and pepper and taste just as delicious when dipped in a chunky tomato sauce. Miniature cornbread crab cakes, baked in muffin tins, bring a summery flair to any party. For a little Italian elegance, update bruschetta by baking a garlic flatbread pizza, topped with grilled tomatoes. Divide the finished pizza into thin, triangular slices for light snacking.
Dips make vegetables more entertaining to eat. Use a variety, such as ranch dip, spinach dip or hummus. Hummus is a savory dip usually made with chickpeas, but using black beans instead provides a rich flavor. Serve the dips with baby carrots or celery stalks. Offer a playful appetizer of homemade potato chips, cut into paper-thin slices and then baked with a variety of fresh herb toppings. Baba ghanoush is a zesty, low-fat Middle Eastern mixture of eggplant, olive oil and lemon juice. The creamy dip works well with triangles of pita bread. Toss fresh, crunchy green beans in olive oil, pepper and a vinaigrette for a flavorful salad.
Meats and Seafood
Prosciutto is a thinly sliced and dry-cured Italian ham. When one slice of prosciutto is wrapped around a whole date, the mix of sweet and savory creates a memorable light appetizer. Create summery canapes with half a slice of bacon, light cream cheese and a ripe tomato slice arranged on a thin, crunchy baguette slice. Shrimp are flavorful and typically low-calorie, whether cooked with garlic and pepper flakes or lightly breaded and arranged on kabobs for easy eating.