hosting a mid-week appetizer party

Getting together with friends or family can be one of the best ways to pass a cold winter evening. There is nothing better than sharing a good bottle of wine, a scented candle or two (someday we will have a real fireplace...), and some delicious nibbles with your pals. But preparing an array of appetizers can be intimidating, especially when each small bite requires multiple components and assembly.

Here are a few quick tips for hosting your next finger food party:

1. Plan and prep ahead: If you know you will be having guests over mid-week, plan ahead and stop at the store over the prior weekend to grab your ingredients. Most ingredients for appetizers can be prepared, chopped, and stored in Tupperware for a few days in advance. This will save you the headache of running to the store the day of your party, plus you avoid washing knives and cutting boards before your guests arrive.

2. Focus on a few key dishes: Do not try to prepare too many things; it will simply give you a headache. Focus on a few key dishes, like a bountiful cheese and meat platter, a creative crostini or bruschetta, or an array of vegetables with homemade dip. Your dish can be the anchor for the buffet, and you can always encourage others to contribute potluck-style. Also try to serve items that can be eaten without utensils; this will make clean-up that much easier - no plates or forks to wash!

3. Make it colorful: If you focus on serving foods in a variety of colors, you are bound to have a more healthy, exciting, and appetizing spread. Think about serving a rainbow of vegetables - from purple and yellow carrots to cauliflower to asparagus - and make your own roasted bell pepper dip or green goddess dressing. Right there you have five or six different colors to please the eye and palate.

Most of all, have fun! The recipes below will add color and flare to your next party, without adding time and stress to your night.