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Skip the Dinner, Bring on the Appetizers!

Fall is more than the kickoff to all of our favorite holidays. For me, it’s also the season of dinner parties, casual get-togethers— and lots of entertaining. We’ll be hosting our first big event of the season in only a few weeks and I’m so excited!

I’ve learned the hard way just how risky it can be to kick off a dinner party with hors d’oeuvres. Generally, guests arrive hungrily, fill up on the appetizers, soon becoming less than interested in the main event.


Does this mean we should forget about the appetizers? I’m not ready to do that. Instead, I have a great idea:

Make it an Hors d’Oeuvres Party, followed later by dessert—just skip that dinner part between and you’ll save a lot of time and money and at the same time give your guests a guilt-free hors d’oeuvre experience.

Baked Bacon and Clam Dip

  • 1 pound jack cheese, grated
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 pound cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 or 2 cans minced clams, drained
  • 2 round loaves sourdough bread

Mix together first six ingredients. Cut off the tops of the bread loaves and set aside. Hollow out the loaves. Pour mix into the loaves, replace the tops. Wrap the filled loaves in foil. Bake at 300 F for 2-3 hours. Serve with the pieces of bread on the side, that you removed from the loaves that you have cut into large “cubes.” Serves: 16-20.

Vegetable Dip

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or Best Foods)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion (scallion)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped canned water chestnuts
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chill for several hours. Serve with crisp fresh vegetables. Serves: 6-8. Note: Recipe multiplies well.

Bacon-Wrapped Smokies

  • 1 pound bacon, cut into thirds
  • 1 14-ounce package smoked beef cocktail wieners
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, or to taste

Preheat oven to 325 F. Refrigerate 2/3 of the bacon until needed. It is easier to wrap the wieners with cold bacon. Wrap each cocktail wiener with a piece of bacon and secure it with a toothpick.

Place on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle brown sugar generously over all.

Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until the sugar is bubbly. To serve, place the wieners in a slow cooker and keep on the warm setting. Serves: 16 (or fewer—these go fast). Multiplies well.

Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

  • 1/4 cup oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or Frank’s), to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

Place all the ingredients except the fresh basil in food processor. Process until well-blended. Add the basil and continue processing until smooth. Chill at least one hour in the refrigerator before serving. Serve with fresh vegetables, any type of crackers or pita chips. Serves: 16.

Party Squares

  • 1 (8-ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (1-ounce) package dry Ranch-style dressing mix (or make your own)
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out crescent rolls onto a large non-stick baking sheet. Stretch and flatten to form a single rectangular shape. Bake 11 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven, or until just golden brown (do not overbake). Allow to cool.

Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and mix with 1/2 of the ranch dressing mix. Adjust the amount of dressing mix to taste. Spread the mixture over the cooled crust. Arrange carrots, red bell pepper, broccoli and green onions on top, pressing them into the cream cheese. Chill in the refrigerator approximately 1 hour. Cut into bite-size squares. Best when served immediately. Yield: 24 squares (or fewer depending on how you cut them).

Japanese Chicken Wings

  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour for coating
  • 1 cup butter


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut wings in half, dip in egg, and coat with flour. Heat butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Fry wings until deep brown. Place in a shallow roasting pan.

In a small bowl combine soy sauce, water, sugar, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt. Pour over wings. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, basting wings with sauce often. To serve, place the wings in a slow cooker and keep on the warm setting. Serves: 6.

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2 replies
  1. Mary says:

    This is an old recipe for an appetizer that nearly always was on an appetizer tray. Several years ago, I spent several hours helping a friend make hundreds of these for her daughter’s wedding reception.


    1 – 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    8 slices of bacon cut in half crosswise

    Marinate the water chestnuts in soy sauce for at least an hour. Dip one side in brown sugar. Wrap each one in a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

    Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until bacon is cooked on a rack in a baking pan. Drain on paper towels. Can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator until ready to cook.

    Makes about 16-18.

    • Luisa says:

      Thanks, Mary, for the recipes in this column. And thanks, reader Mary, for this bacon and water chestbut recipe. I used to make these, too. 😉


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