Tips on appetizers and decorating

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 13, 2013

SALISBURY — When we last spoke, we had just planned the who, what, when, where and why of your party. With that part out of the way, it is time to focus on gathering our recipes and ingredients and figuring out how much to prepare. This is where the real work begins.
Recipes — When selecting recipes, choose ones that will give you a large yield because you may have to double or even triple the recipe. Keep in mind when making changes to the recipe to include all ingredients. Read and study your recipe beforehand because some recipes suggest that you not double them but instead make one batch at a time. Consider choosing recipes that are simple, delicious, do not have a laundry list of ingredients or complicated cooking methods, and do not use utensils that you do not have or are unfamiliar with.
How much to prepare — It all depends on what you choose to have and how many people you are expecting. Thankfully, party menu planning basically boils down to simple math, and there are some simple rules of thumb to take the guesswork and stress out of entertaining.
How many different appetizers should you serve?
• Less than 12 guests: two to three types of appetizers;
• 12 to 20 guests: four to five types of appetizers;
• 20 guests or more: six different appetizers or more.
How many appetizers should you make?
• Breakfast, lunch or afternoon: one to three pieces per person per hour;
• Evening event followed by dinner: two to three pieces per person per hour;
• Evening event without dinner: five to six pieces per person per hour.
For example this is how much you will need to prepare if hosting a small event with dinner:
• Number of guests: 10
• Time: 8-10 p.m.
• Items to prepare: 2 pieces x 10 people x 2 hours = 40 pieces
As a host you always want to make sure that you have enough food for your guests throughout the entire party and also remember those who may have special dietary concerns. There should be something for everyone.
To kick up your recipes another notch, add some locally sourced items to your recipes or centerpieces. The great thing about having an agriculturally rich county is that there are plenty of local items to add to your holiday party. The Salisbury Farmers’ Market will remain open until Dec. 21. Even though the peak season for summer vegetables has passed, there is still produce available such as greens, potatoes and root vegetables. They all make perfect appetizers, side dishes or accents to your main dish. Rowan County also features farms that specialize in meats. How about making a locally sourced roast for your centerpiece dish? This helps the local economy and your local farmer. Visiting the local farms and markets can also provide excellent gifts. Most provide gift cards, holiday gift sets, and some even provide gifts for your furry family.
If you need some decoration ideas, try growing some of your own. This year, I bought a Fraser fir wreath from 4-H’s annual wreath sale. It is simply gorgeous without any decoration, but I wanted to make mine extra special. To enhance the natural beauty of the wreath, I selected herbs, berries and greenery from some of my plants. The herbs I selected were rosemary, sage and thyme. Their greenery has different hues of green, and their leaves provide some textural difference from the Fraser fir.
The berries I selected were from hollies and nandinas. Their red berries make the centerpiece pop with their vibrant colors. If you like a natural landscape, hollies and nandinas are fairly easy to grow and require very little maintenance. There are many varieties of each, and they have different growing types (some vigorous and others of a bush variety). Be sure you select the best one for your landscape. If you use berries in your arrangement, make sure you know if they are poisonous. Hollies and nandina berries are toxic, so it is most often necessary to create your wreaths outdoors, clean up after decorating and hang your wreaths outside of your home. To finish my wreath, I added magnolia leaves to give some more texture. In all, it took about 15 minutes to complete.

Happy partying!
For more information on decorating, growing or creating your own masterpieces, contact Toi N. Degree, family and consumer education agent or Danelle M. Cutting, horticulture and local food agent at the Rowan County Cooperative Extension office 704- 216-8970.