Hot and cold, crunchy and smooth or sweet and savory, the array of finger foods for a celebration is limited only by your imagination. In addition to chips and dips, give your guests party foods that are festive and out of the ordinary, such as delectable cream puffs or unusual kale or zucchini chips.
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Keep hot foods at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the chances of bacterial growth; warming trays, slow cookers or chafing dishes with a heat source underneath can all do the trick. Hot finger foods include:
- Deep-fried pizza or cheese bites for a casual gathering. These commercial treats are precooked and only need warming in the oven.
- Mini quiches for a fancier affair. Make the quiches in small phyllo shells available in most grocery stores, and vary the flavors by adding ingredients such as bacon bits, chopped herbs and blue cheese.
- Stuffed mushrooms for casual and upscale alike. For better-tasting mushrooms, precook them slightly, then fill them and reheat. Tasty fillings might include cream cheese, herbs and garlic or sausage, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Buffet foods that stay out for longer than two hours provide a source for bacteria to grow, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Serve small trays of food and replace empty trays and bowls of food with foods you have kept cold in the refrigerator and warm in the oven.
Crostini and Crackers
Set out an assortment of cheeses and other toppings alongside a basket with different kinds of crackers. Let your guests put together their own creations:
- Crostini. Use a commercial salsa or pesto as a topping along with diced cucumbers or tomatoes, or spread on fig jam and top with blue cheese.
- Cheese. Choose an assortment of different types of cheeses, including soft types such as brie or Camembert, and hard cheeses such as Monterey Jack, Cheddar and Parmesan.
- Cheese spreads. Spreads work either with crackers or with toasts. Try pimento and cheese spread, a salmon and cream cheese spread or a cheese ball made with blue cheese, cream cheese and cheddar.
- Meats. Serve something unique that your guests may not normally buy, such as a country-cured ham or Italian prosciutto.
Make your own cheese spread with blue cheese, toasted and chopped walnuts and dried cranberries and serve it nestled inside an endive leaf or perched on a slice of cucumber.
Fruit and Vegetables
Even meat-lovers want variety in party snacks, so include one or two fresh and vibrant vegetables for guests to eat with their fingers.
- Apple or pear slices. Toss the fruits in lemon juice before topping them with a slice of prosciutto or a smear of mascarpone cheese. They will stay fresh, without any browning, for about two hours.
- Asparagus. Cook asparagus only until it is crisp-tender so the spears retain their crunch and are easy to eat with fingers.
- Grapes. Snip the stems from large bunches of grapes so your guests can easily take a small amount without having to wrestle with the stems.
- Vegetable chips. Try toasting your own kale, zucchini or sweet potato chips or serve those from a specialty market.
- Tomato appetizers. Make mini skewers with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese cubes or make small tomato tarts in prebaked pastry shells.
Hearty Protein Choices
Some guests expect enough finger foods to make a meal, so give them options to satisfy their hunger.
- Sliders. Make traditional sliders with hamburger patties, or use cold roast beef, deli ham or chicken salad.
- Shrimp. Serve shrimp with a portion of the shell attached on the end to give your guests something to hold on to when dipping the shrimp in a cocktail sauce.
- Oysters. Serve oysters either cold in their shells or cooked and wrapped in bacon or fried with a batter.
- Deviled Eggs. Surprise your guest with new variations, such as pesto eggs or ones made with Greek yogurt and topped with chives.
- Pate. Splurge on the best you can find at your local deli or make your own chicken liver pate.
- Nuts. Create intense flavors with your own spice mix, such as a hot mix with salt, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika or a sweet mix with salt, sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
Toss nuts with an egg white before toasting them to help any spice mix stick. Nuts gain flavor and crunch when you roast them in a 350 F oven for 7 to 9 minutes.