Easy last-minute appetizer ideas

Registered dietitian Sue Mah shares her go-to recipes for quick and easy party appetizers

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Caramelized Pear with Brie

This fast and fabulous appetizer is one of my favourite recipes from Cook!, a cookbook published by the Dietitians of Canada. If you need to serve a bigger crowd, simply double up the ingredients.

Peel a pear (or an apple) and cut into eight slices. In a non-stick skillet, melt 1 tsp (5 mL) butter over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp pure maple syrup and swirl to coat pan. Add pear slices and cook, turning once or twice, for about five minutes or until caramelized. Place a thin slice of brie or Camembert cheese on each of eight whole-grain crackers, and top each with a slice of the caramelized pear (if crackers are small, use 16 and cut the eight pear slices in half). Garnish with mint leaves. Makes 8 to 16.

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Shrimp “Martinis”

This refreshing shrimp cocktail is a showstopper when served in a martini glass. It’s a lower-sodium version of a recipe that I found on recipes.com. Because these “martinis” are alcohol-free, the kids can dig in, too!

In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil, 3 Tbsp (45 mL) white vinegar, 1 minced shallot, 2 Tbsp (30 mL) fresh or dried oregano, 1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp (5 mL) lemon zest, 1 minced garlic clove and ½ tsp (2 mL) salt. To a medium bowl, add a 454-g package of thawed cooked shrimp (tails left on) and 1½ cups (375 mL) halved cherry tomatoes. Gently mix with dressing, and refrigerate for two to four hours, tossing occasionally. Spoon into chilled martini glasses. Garnish each glass with shrimp hanging over the edge of the glass. Serve with a small fork. Makes 8 to 10.

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Veggie & Hummus Crudités

Off the party platter and into a glass jar, these veggies and dip take on a new look that scores high on presentation. And the best thing is, you’re allowed to double dip because everyone gets their own glass or jar!

Spoon ¼ cup (60 mL) of hummus (you can use either store-bought or homemade) into the bottom of small clear glasses or jars (for example, small canning jars, baby-food jars or even large shooter glasses). Cut an assortment of colourful vegetables (such as cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers) lengthwise so that they are tall and wide enough to stand upright in the hummus. Arrange a variety of veggies standing “rooted” in the layer of hummus in each glass, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Mini Florentine Cups

These adorable appetizers are ready in just 30 minutes. I first made them for my sister-in-law’s bridal shower 10 years ago, and ever since, they’ve become a family favourite.

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix together a 283-g package of frozen chopped spinach (well drained), ½ cup (125 mL) shredded mozzarella cheese, ¹?³ cup (75 mL) light cream cheese, 1 Tbsp (15 mL) grated Parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp finely chopped onions and ¼ tsp (1 mL) garlic powder. Trim deli roast-turkey slices into 24 disks of about three inches in diameter  each (you can use slices of ham, beef or chicken instead of turkey, if you like). Save the trimmed-off turkey bits and use them when making other dishes, such as salads or omelettes. Line the inside of mini muffin tins with a turkey slice each, forming a cup shape. Fill each turkey cup with a scoop of spinach mixture. Bake for about 15 minutes. Makes 24.

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