Easy Homemade Appetizers to Take to Any Gathering

I’m a big fan of making what I take to people’s gatherings but I follow a few simple rules: I must be able to make it ahead of time, serve it at room temperature and it must be a finger food of just a few bites-no plate required. Recently, baffled by what to bring to a friend’s annual lobster bake, I perused a collection of my family’s recipes and found two gems that fit all my requirements and would please all party-goers-  zucchini bars and pepperoni pizza bars.

Passed down from my great aunts, and compiled to a simple well-worn booklet by a distant cousin for a family reunion in 2008, I knew two things about what I was making to take one of my favorite annual events- both would be darn good and super easy.

Of all the excellent recipes in my family recipe collection, I chose these two because I thought the idea of dueling bars (one with and one without meat) would be ideal for noshing while sipping a summer cocktail and awaiting the main event.  These are not trendy recipes with lots of fancy ingredients, they are easy to follow, mix by hand treats the Italian women in my family served regularly, especially when having guests.

Recreate my family’s recipes to bring to your next gathering:

Aunt Louise’s Zucchini Appetizer

  • 3 cups of zucchini thinly sliced and quartered
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup parmesen cheese
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram (leaves or powder)
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic

Mix all ingredients together by hand. Transfer into a greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool then cut into bars sized to your liking; serve; enjoy. Excellent served at room temperature; this appetizer satisfies as a side dish for dinner or even as a vegetarian main course.

Aunt Lorraine’s Pizza Appetizer

  • 1 & 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick of pepperoni, diced w/skin removed
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8oz muenster cheese, diced
  • Oregano or Italian seasoning mix

Mix eggs, milk and flour to remove any lumps. add remaining ingredients and combine well. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool then cut into bars sized to your liking; serve; enjoy. These can be served hot, or at room temperature. This appetizer look and tastes like a deep dish pepperoni pizza.

Serving suggestion: Be the best guest at the party and bring a plate or platter the hosts can keep. The kindness of your hosts should not end in a flurry of empty dish drop offs the following day. I keep a stock of cute plastic platters and bowls on hand (purchased for a little over a dollar at my local Christmas Tree Shop) so that even when an impromptu gathering pops up I am prepared to plate well.

-Simplifying your appetizers one bar at a time, Jess

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5 Minute Ice Cream Sandwiches- A Recipe

There’s one thing I dread about pot lucks-being assigned dessert. I’m a great cook, but I’ve never been much of a baker so I typically try to avoid bringing dessert to any soiree. That was until I started making ice-cream sandwiches using Dancing Deer’s creative cookies and fun flavors of various brands of high end ice-cream. Now, I look for excuses to share a dessert that I can say I (kinda) made, following a simple recipe.

No matter how kitchen illiterate  you may be, you can make these easy to assemble at home treats to take wherever you may go.

Here’s how:


Buy Dancing Deer (or your favorite pre-made cookie) and a pint of high end ice cream that pairs well, open both packages, place cookies on a plate, flat side facing up


Scoop ice cream onto cookies, cover



Clean edges with a butterknife

Wrap in max paper or plastic wrap

Store in Freezer

Serve & enjoy!

-Taking the stress out of what dessert to bring to your next potluck, Jess

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Snacks that Outshine the Lit at Book Club

Hosting book club always leads to a menu complete with snacks from Trader Joe’s, cheese, wine and recipes I’ve been dying to try. My May menu was inspired by spring, a longing for summer and a desire to try something different. Having actually finished the book, The Girl on the Train, I was not only ready to discuss the literature (total thriller, few clues, was never sure of the ending) but excited to sit, eat and drink with the ladies I’ve been sharing lit with since 2010.

Along with my requisite cheese plate and no-fuss heat and serve Trader Joe’ s Shrimp Gyoza, I added two healthy, homemade appetizers and a crock pot dessert that made the ladies in my book club happy.

A big fan of green peas, I’d been dying to try Cooking Light’s Sweet Pea Crostini with Ricotta from the April, 2015 magazine. Feeling a little lazy (and entertaining a 2 year old all day), I skipped the whole make your own ricotta from Greek yogurt thing, and simply bought a small container of fat free ricotta cheese at my local market. This saved me a bit of time and clean-up so I could move along to other recipes before straightening out the disaster area I call my downstairs (in all fairness lots of fun is had here by my kids, but I never can quite keep up with the cleaning).IMG_2112

Assembled beforehand, these look lovely, but I opted for a make your own serving style as to limit waste because this pea spread would be fabulous on We Are Not Martha’s, Lemon Parmesan Spring Flatbread with Ricotta and Peas.

Along with the homemade crostini, I whipped up an Eating Well bean salad. Anyone with a blender, knife and can opener can master this healthy salad. A mixture of pink beans, yellow peppers, and edamame is topped with an herb focused avocado dressing that whips up in the blender in under a minute.  Served cold or at room temperature this meat free, protein packed powerhouse of  salad was flavorful and filling.

To drink we enjoyed our white and red, but in I was inspired to mix us a little sip of summer. Using pre-made Trader Joe’s Watermelon Cucumber Cooler I added a cup and 1/2 of silver tequila and a small bottle of champagne. Gently stirred, it was served in a glass over ice. This sipper was a star.

So much so that I made similar by the glass cocktails for a smaller crowd a few days later, altering the recipe to create something slightly different. Using the same Trader Joe’s Watermelon Cucumber Cooler, I subbed in a shot of  Privateer Rum and a splash of club soda. This cocktail was another winner and has me thinking that I’ll be stocking up on Trader Joe’s Watermelon Cucumber Cooler to use at all my summer gatherings.

A baker I am not; so when I found a crockpot rice pudding recipe in the June, 2015  issue of Cooking Light, I was determined to test it out, and book club gave me the perfect excuse.  This crockpot special features cardamom and vanilla beans and is topped with fresh seasonal fruit (peaches are suggested, I used nectarines).One of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made, all this recipe needed was a quick mix before I set it for 7 and 1/2 hours and forgot it for the day. The results were rich and creamy, with a sweetness that was not too strong and the essence of cardamom and vanilla. Comfort in a bowl that when served room temperature worked well for a cool spring evening.

This spread was as special as the ladies I was lucky enough to share it with.

-Finding excuses for good food and drinks on every occasion, Jess

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Meet Amazing MOM: Rebekah Wilbur

11091184_10205985066844006_679079702_nOne part wonderful wife, two parts mom, and two parts business woman, Rebekah Wilbur is certainly worthy of the title Amazing MOM. Our April pick, Rebekah Wilbur, owner of Rebekah Namoi Cake Designs & piano instructor extraordanairre, is one inspiring lady you want to know.

Originally from the U.K., Rebekah’s modern day love story transported her to the US ten years ago, and she’s never looked back.  An inspiration for internet fearing individuals everywhere, Rebekah met her husband, Michael, when researching study abroad programs in Massachusetts. After chatting online for quite some time, Michael made his way to England for a Master’s program where he and Rebekah moved in together, eventually returning to the states where they married, started a family and are currently settled outside of Washington, DC. Talking to Rebekah 10 years into their relationship, it is clear to see that this is one couple who has what it takes to last. Rebekah gushes that:

We share common goals and we work hard for each other- making the necessary sacrifices to help one another succeed at the things we are passionate about. He is calm, patient and understanding and I am driven and ambitious – he compliments my personality and brings the things to our relationship that I lack. We make a great team.

10958398_10205631862654122_373924516_nRebekah’s support for her husband’s career kept her home with her kids since moving to the DC area. After her second, Teddy, came along, Rebekah found herself seeking a creative outlet beyond play dough. Known for her skills in the kitchen, Rebekah began exploring her cake decorating talents. In 2014 she launched her first business, Cakelicious.  Rebekah’s elegant cake designs increased in popularity very quickly, edging out her children’s cake creations and causing her to relaunch her business with a new look and new name, Rebekah Namoi Cake Designs. Having undergone a full business transformation in just one year, Rebekah is finding herself the focus of more than her clients.

Her ambition and determination has led Rebekah’s creations into publications everywhere. You’ll find her work included as part of a bridal photo shoot with award winning event planners ‘Order and Organization’ in a Persian wedding themed spread in Washingtonian Magazine. 

As well as an Editor’s choice winner for the international sugar artist collaboration included in  The Easter Coloring Book Cake CollaborationRebekah’s winning design will be featured in:

With 3 1/2 year old Esme and 1 1/2 year old Teddy at her feet, Rebekah often has company in the kitchen. An expert in the art of distraction, and one of the most patient women around, she puts the kids to “work” churning out masterpieces of their own that “help” mommy complete her projects. Even with her kids meddling, she always manages to meet her deadlines.

Rebekah’s cake design business is not all she has going on. Her second business venture is musical, showcasing her life-long piano training. With 18 years of private piano training and a music performance degree in saxophone, clarinet and piano from the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music, BA Hons, Rebekah rocks it on the keyboard; teaching piano lessons to budding music stars. She works so well with those she tutors that word is rapidly spreading and Rebekah is quickly finding herself as an instructor in demand.

There’s more to Rebekah’s success than her skills. If you’re lucky enough to meet Rebekah, the first thing you’ll notice is that she has a presence that’s larger than life. From her astute posture to her genuine smile, Rebekah’s welcoming persona instantly puts you at ease and makes you feel you’re as fabulous as she is. She is confident and charismatic and her passion is contagious.

Although a go-getter, balancing life’s many demands, Rebekah’s a multifaceted lady just like you. She’s an iphone addict, and has to be. Work is not 9-5, in reality it never stops, and the social media savvy know that it takes a continuous presence to get ahead in the digital age. To stay on top of things, you’ll find Rebekah making important business moves on the go. So, although she may look like the distracted mom at the playground, she’s multitasking to the max, taking orders, communicating design ideas with clients and keeping current on social media all the while being there with her kids.

When she gets a little down time she tries to sneak away for a massage, or in a pinch takes a long hot bath all by her lonesome. She misses her make-up and feeling glamorous. As most stay at home moms of little ones can attest, it’s not easy making time for yourself, and Rebekah admits that she barely has time to brush her teeth let alone locate and put on make-up.

So, when the day is done, and Rebekah is beat, she does one thing for herself to help her remember that she is a beautiful woman; she straightens her hair in preparation for the day to come because she knows it is bound to be another busy one. And she’s grateful.

Rebekah can be reached on her website or Facebook.

“I never dreamed of success, I worked for it.”- Estee Lauder

Know someone we should feature as an Amazing MOM? Let us know. Contact us via email:, or private message on Facebook: Amazing Matriarch. And share all your amazing moments with us via Instagram: amazingamtriarch or Twitter:@AMatriarch using #amazingmatriarch.

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