Entertaining in the summer often means finding ways to keep cool while feeding a crowd. The best way to feed a large number of people is to find recipes with simple preparation and low-cost ingredients. I’ve discovered that inexpensive appetizers are a wonderful way to set the tone for a party — and feed a crowd. I’ve provided a fabulous recipe for “Crab” Stuffed Snow Pea Appetizers and some tips for planning and preparing a crowd-pleasing menu:
1. Plan your menu using inexpensive ingredients as the “foundation” of your meal plan. For example, pasta, potatoes, rice, seasonal vegetables and good-quality canned goods like beans and tomatoes make a great base for a variety of dishes from appetizers, salads and soups to main course meals.
2. Make a shopping list and plan your trips based on the items you can prep ahead of time, and the items that have to be done the day of the party. Purchase large, food-safe plastic storage bags to make storing huge quantities of food easier and to conserve room in your refrigerator. Incorporate coupons and sale items into your menu and shopping plan. Don’t try to shop and cook on the same day.
3. It’s often easier to make a recipe that feeds 6 to 8 people multiple times than it is to try to multiply recipe ingredients to feed 12, 20 or 50. This method also allows you to use smaller pans or bowls, making it easier to transport and to store the finished dishes.
4. Substituting inexpensive ingredients for more expensive ones, or using smaller amounts of more expensive ingredients helps to stretch your food budget. For example, instead of using more expensive smoked salmon, good quality canned salmon can be mixed with cream cheese and spices to make a low-cost and delicious dip or spread that can be served on toasted bagels for brunch or as an appetizer for dinner with crudites or crackers.
5. Decide the order of preparation in advance and enlist help with preparing the menu as much as possible. Don’t be shy about asking family and friends to bring drinks, side dishes or paper goods.
6. When making large amounts of food, cleanliness and holding the dishes at the correct temperature is very important. Invest in an instant-read thermometer and follow the temperature guide to determine if your dishes are at a safe temperature before serving. Crock pots, ice chests and placing dishes or pans in bowls of ice help maintain food-safe temperatures.
Most of all, remember that the purpose of the occasion is to celebrate with the people that you love, so relax and enjoy yourself!
“CRAB” STUFFED SNOW PEAS
This delicious, crowd-pleasing appetizer uses inexpensive imitation crab meat and fresh snow peas. You can cut costs even more by eliminating the “crab” meat and doubling the amount of eggs, mayonnaise, pickle relish, celery and spices the recipe calls for. The “stuffing” mixture can be prepared a day in advance and the appetizer can be assembled the day of the party.
1 pound fresh snow peas
2 pounds imitation crab meat
4 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped onions
4 teaspoons pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
3 dashes of hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
To make the stuffing mixture:
Dice or shred the crab meat. In a small bowl, combine the crab meat, eggs, celery, mayonnaise, onions, pickle relish, horseradish, hot sauce and salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and chill the stuffing mixture for at least one hour or overnight. Stir before using the mixture to stuff the snow peas.
To prepare the snow peas:
1. Wash and clean snow peas. Split the snow peas on the top side, removing and discarding any strings and leaving the bottom intact to form a little “boat” to hold the stuffing.
2. Blanch the snow peas in lightly salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Carefully remove the snow peas from the water and immediately submerge them into a bowl of cold water for a minute to stop the cooking and retain the color. Remove the snow peas from the water. Set the snow peas aside to drain.
3. Stuff the cooled snow peas generously with the crab-meat filling (about 1 heaping teaspoonful for each snow pea). Chill the appetizer in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes about 48 stuffed snow peas.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her website is www.divapro.com.