Potluck events save the host from having to prepare an entire spread on his own, and the unexpected array of dishes brought by the guests allows everyone to try new flavors. Bringing an appetizer with you to a party means finding a dish that transports easily and requires little or no final preparation upon reaching your destination. Keep a cooler in your car for toting the appetizer and keeping it chilled. The cooler also protects the food and cushions it during the car ride to the event.
Instead of cereal snack mix, make an elegant appetizer of sugar and spice-glazed nuts. Use any shelled nuts available in your area: walnuts, almonds, pecans or peanuts. Toss the nuts in a sugar syrup with spices added, and bake the coated nuts in the oven until they are toasted and the sugar glaze sets. Roll the nuts in additional sugar for more sweetness. Once prepared, the nuts do not require refrigeration or additional heating before serving. Carry the nuts in a covered serving bowl to the event and set it as soon as you arrive.
Seven Layer Dip
Seven layer dip is a staple of sports viewing parties and tailgating. It requires no cooking, but you might need to supply tortilla chips for dipping. In a shallow bowl, spread refried beans to evenly cover the bottom. Spoon a layer of cream cheese over the beans for the second layer. Add a layer of salsa or guacamole on top of the cream cheese. Scatter shredded iceberg lettuce to make the fourth layer of the dip. Cover the lettuce with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese. Add chopped tomatoes on top of the cheese. The final layer of the dip consists of either sliced black olives or dollops of sour cream. Keep the dip chilled until ready to serve.
Samosas are triangle-shaped Indian pastries. The fillings inside are up to you, but for a more traditional dish, opt for a potato and green pea filling spiced with garam masala seasoning. Instead of making the pastry from scratch, use frozen phyllo dough. The dough cooks to a light and flaky crust. Look for phyllo dough in the freezer section of International or gourmet food markets. Once cooked, you can serve samosas at room temperature.
Transform a stacked salad into a portable skewer appetizer. A salad with slices of tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese stacked on a plate can be slightly changed to fit onto a wooden skewer. Use cherry tomato halves instead of larger tomato slices. Alternate the tomatoes with basil leaves and coin-sized rounds of mozzarella cheese. Keep the skewers chilled until ready to serve. At the event, put the skewers onto a serving platter and drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil.
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