When you're short on a time, putting together a full dinner menu can be a challenge. Serve simple, easy-to-make appetizers to give you more time to devote to the main course. The key is to make appetizers that require limited cooking or can be prepared ahead of time so you only have to reheat them before dinner. A few tasty appetizers can make the entire meal come together without too much work.
Salads are one of the easiest dinner appetizers to put together. They're also extremely versatile, so you can incorporate your family's favorite veggies and garnishes -- and you're not just relegated to iceberg lettuce either. Choose from a wide range of greens available at the grocery store that make tasty salads, like peppery arugula or tart escarole. When you're short on time, purchase bagged greens or salad mixes that come with veggies, nuts, cheese and other garnishes for a quick, easy salad. To complete your salad, don't forget a tasty dressing. If your kids are reluctant to try salad, a drizzle of honey mustard or creamy ranch dressing may win them over.
Like salad, soup is an extremely versatile dinner appetizer because you can tweak any recipe to add in your family's favorite ingredients. Serve pureed vegetable soups to get your kids to eat veggies that they might otherwise refuse. Cream of tomato is a classic, but cream of carrot and cream of broccoli are tasty options as well. In the summer, a cold gazpacho soup can be a perfect starter for a dinner. An added benefit of soup as an appetizer is that you can make it ahead of time and reheat it right before dinner. You can even freeze a pot of your favorite vegetable soup because pureed soups can last up to three months in the freezer.
Take a page from a classic Italian dinner table and make an antipasto platter to start off your next dinner party. Traditional antipasto platters contain a variety of roasted vegetables, cheeses and meats, but you can customize yours to include your family's favorites. The best thing about an antipasto appetizer is that you can buy most of the ingredients already prepared, so you simply have to arrange them. Basic sliced deli meats and a selection of two or three cheeses work well for antipasto. With its mild flavor, mozzarella is an ideal option for the kids, or include a stronger flavored cheese like Gorgonzola to appeal to adults. Roast any veggies that you like, but bell peppers and tomatoes are classic options. Include marinated olives and artichoke hearts as well. Serve with some crusty bread and crackers to create a tasty appetizer that pleases a variety of palettes.
It may seem a bit strange, but fruit can be an ideal dinner appetizer as well. Canned fruit cocktail was a dinner table staple in the 1950s and 1960s; put a modern -- and healthy -- spin on it by cutting up fresh fruit for your own cocktail. Pineapple, melon, pears, peaches, strawberries and grapes are delicious options for a fruit salad, but use whatever fruits your family likes best. Surprise guests and family members with a fruit soup. It is usually served cold and there is little cooking involved, so it's ideal for summer dinners. Try a refreshing pureed watermelon soup to start your next grilled meal.
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- "The Joy of Cooking"; Irma S. Rombauer, et al.; 1997
- Whole Foods Market: Guide to Antipasto
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