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Party Al Fresco Style in Your Garden

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(Family Features) An outdoor canapé party is a great way to admire your beautiful thriving garden and entertain inexpensively. Finger foods offer delicious diversity for a crowd and can be dressed up or down for occasions like Sunday brunch or intimate at-home weddings.

Whether it's a few friends gathering or several dozen, here are some tips-offered by professional party giver Gisele Perez-to streamline your efforts and guarantee a memorable occasion. Owner of Small Pleasures Catering, Gisele has a reputation for providing stylish comfort food, along with unmatched service, and suggests you:

Watch the weather. Have a tent or some kind of cover to keep food and friends out of the sun or rain.

Set your tables in advance, adorn with edible arrangements. Arrange multiple seating areas plus one communal table to encourage intimate and group conversation. Use splashes of vibrant color most pronounced in your garden. Arrange wildflowers, herbs and grasses, summer fruits-such as ripe cherries, strawberries, small apricots and plums-in favorite pitchers and tall clear canisters. Garnish trays with edible herbs, blossoms and leaves.

Add ambiance with mood lighting. For a pleasant subtle glow, string twinkling lights throughout bushes, planters and tree trunks.

Streamline kitchen time. Set up your coffee maker/service the night before. Clean, cut and bag produce for quick-assemble salads and spreads. Stagger your foods. For example, while something is cooking, cooling or being prepped, start the proceedings with a selection of small simple-assemble open-faced sandwiches. Purchase mini fruit tarts and petit fours from a favorite bakery; serve with selection of truffles.

Communal punch is pleasing. Festive and unfussy with less mess (no bottles or cans to clean up), the bowls also make lovely centerpieces.  Have two styles, cocktail and mocktail.

For additional canapé and finger food ideas-including frittata bites, salmon and shrimp sliders-plus sparkling punch combinations and more, visit www.smallpleasurescateringblog.com.

To Make Canapé Base

  1. Use "pain de mie," a sturdy, firm thin white sandwich bread available at many bakeries (Pepperidge Farm or Thomas' are good supermarket choices).

  2. Spread layer of cream style cheese (such as Snofrisk, a light spreadable Norwegian cream cheese) mixed with a favorite herb mixture on slice of bread; top with slice of Jarlsberg cheese.

  3. Use cookie cutters to shape the canapés (circles, squares, triangles, leaf, half moon shapes, etc.) before decorating with variety of toppings.

Topping Suggestions

  • Grilled zucchini
  • Thin sliced radish, cucumber
  • Thin sliced apple, peach, pear, plum
  • Grapes, halved
  • Smoked salmon
  • Capers
  • Roasted red and yellow peppers
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Sliced hard-boiled egg
  • Thin sliced red onion
  • Thin sliced beets
  • Blanched asparagus tips
  • Colorful grape tomatoes
  • Fresh herbs for garnish (dill, thyme, basil, oregano and chive)

Honey-Mustard Ham & Cheese Sliders

Mix 1/4 cup soft butter with 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons mustard and 1/4 cup grated onion. Slice store-bought mini biscuits (or rolls) in half; smear insides with honey-mustard spread. Add sliced ham and Jarlsberg, cut to fit. Form sliders; cover with foil.  Bake in preheated 325°F oven until cheese melts, 15 minutes. Visit www.smallpleasurescateringblog.com for Mini Hazelnut Buttermilk Biscuit recipe.

SOURCE: Jarlsberg



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