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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Appetizer-Type Foods We Served: What Was Good and What Was Not so Good

First of all, so sorry that I've not responded to any comments, yet. I am trying to get everything back on track in the house and garden, working my side hustle, and recovering from a cold. However, a couple of you asked some questions that I definitely want to answer, so I will get to responding to comments in the next couple of days.

I think that I'm getting down to the very end of our reception descriptions, here. Yay! Finally onto to new topics, right?

I served 5 appetizer-type foods: a veggie and dip tray, a hummus and cracker tray (mentioned yesterday), smoked sausage and tater tot kabobs, frozen spanakopita, and frozen mini spring rolls.

The cold trays
I put together my own veggie tray, using broccoli crowns for making my own florets, baby carrots, a bundle of celery for sticks, and grape tomatoes. When shopping for the broccoli crowns, I specifically looked for ones who had a short stem and lots of individual side branches to the head, so that I would use practically all of the broccoli crown for the florets. This worked well. I bought 3 crowns, trimming about 1/8th-inch from each crown to compost (browning/aged-looking) and another 1/4-inch that wasn't needed as part of each floret (I ate these trimmings as I was cutting, so no waste there). We didn't even use one of the crowns, and had a lot of leftover broccoli florets. In the future, I would buy just one broccoli crown, if there were 3 other vegetables on the tray. I also over-bought on the baby carrots. I bought a 2-lb bag and used about 1 pound. Ditto with the grape tomatoes. I bought 2 pints and only used 1 pint. I bought 1 bundle of celery and used most of it, not in the veggie tray but in the preparation of the potato salad and chicken salad. If I didn't have use for the rest of a celery bundle, then perhaps I would have chosen a different 4th vegetable in place of celery, such as a sweet pepper to cut into strips. Anyway, over-buying seems to be one of my problems with planning. I had a packet of dip seasoning that had been given to me as a gift a couple of Christmases ago. I used that packet (Parmesan-Asiago dip) along with strained plain homemade yogurt (in place of sour cream) and mayonnaise to make the dip. Plain yogurt works well as a sour cream substitute in dips. The dip packet instructions called for a pint of sour cream. That would have cost me $1.74 at Walmart. In contrast, because I make my own yogurt, a pint of plain yogurt cost me about 30 cents. Savings of almost $1.50.

Since we had so many foods offered, I could have easily set out just one box/type of crackers with the hummus. So, I over-bought by 1 box. Lesson learned.

The hot appetizers
The smoked sausage and tater tot kabobs must have been pretty popular. After I set the tray out, I never saw any kabobs again, just lots of empty toothpicks. To make the kabobs, we used smoked sausage (the type of sausage that you might use in place of a hot dog on the grill -- fatter and more flavor than standard hot dogs. You could also use kielbasa.), frozen tater tots, and toothpicks. I had planned on making a dipping sauce, but I ran out of time and didn't think a dipping sauce would be necessary. I used 1.25 pounds of smoked sausage, cut into 28 chunks (not quite 3/4-oz each). I browned the sausage on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, until looking lightly browned and a bit puffy). Meanwhile, in a 410 degree F oven (second oven), I browned about 30 individual tater tots on a baking sheet for about 25 minutes, or until browned and crispy. When both were done, I speared a sausage piece and tater tot together with a toothpick. I had thought I could bake the two items on toothpicks together, but at the last minute, 1 decided to bake them separately so that both parts would be perfectly cooked. The whole meat and potato thing must have appealed to a few of our guests and these were the only hot appetizer of which we completely ran out. The smoked sausage cost $1.75 and the amount of tater tots cost about 25 cents. Each kabob, then, cost about 7 cents.

The frozen spanakopita is an item that I have bought once before. I love these. They're pastry triangles filled with a combination of feta cheese and spinach. This product is part of an up-scale line offered at our local Fred Meyer. It's my understanding that other Kroger affiliates carry the Private Selection label. Selling for $5.99 per box, each has 16 pieces. I saved about 60 cents per box, using my Senior Discount, so each serving costs 33 cents. That's kind of pricey, I think. If my budget were even smaller for an event like we hosted, I would nix this item based on cost alone, yummy as it is. I bought 2 boxes and didn't bake up the second box. So, we have a box in reserve for another special occasion.

The frozen mini spring rolls were the items that I thought were not great. The flavor was good, but the texture was just so-so. The instructions on the box suggested baking the product. Well, baking them yielded a wrapper that was tough and crunchy, not light and crispy (as you'd have deep-frying the rolls). I thought it was a disappointment. I bought 2 boxes and only used 1. When I use the second box, I will at the very least, shallow-fry them in oil. I think the resulting texture would be much improved. I paid $4.98 at Walmart for 15 pieces, working out to 33 cents per roll. The package did come with a dipping sauce, so that was nice. However, at 33 cents per piece, I would give this a pass. 

Both of the frozen appetizers were over 4 times the cost of the sausage and tater kabobs, per serving. I think I could have saved myself a chunk of money and doubled-up on the sausage and tater kabobs.

I learn something with each event or party that I host. If such an event comes up again, I think I could pull it together for about $85 and feel like the offerings were good, simply by eliminating some of the over-buying, even more careful shopping, and skipping foods that were over-priced for the quality.


  1. Good job! And it goes to show that often the simplist thing are the best and cheapest!


  2. I think food consumption varies with the guests you have, which makes it difficult to know how much to serve. It's good to have an overall sense of what goes over well and what doesn't, but I know I would have to plan very differently for a party for the guys my husband works with versus feeding my extended family. You were smart to have a wide variety of foods.

    1. You're right, Kris. It can all vary according to the crowd.

  3. I always over buy too. We will happily eat leftovers so it is not a problem. I also do not cook everything at the start. We cook as we go and add items when we need them.

    1. Hi Marybeth,
      we've all been enjoying the leftovers, so that is a plus side to over-buying.


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