comfort food recipe

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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Chipotle Mac & Cheese, Yes Please!

Nothing says comfort food like a great mac and cheese!  A subtle kick of chipotle paired with the smoky flavor of bacon and cheddar cheese makes this creation A-MAZING!

In the dead of winter, when there is a blizzard warning flashing at least once a week across the screen of your television or smartphone and you want to savor a hearty meal by the fire (preferably in sweatpants), choose this recipe.

Gourmet chef or not (like me), follow these simple instructions to impress your family, friends or guests, and possibly receive an invite to every pot luck get together until the end of time.


This dish is extremely addictive and calorie laden; if you are currently on a diet; don’t make it.



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot, bring 1 gallon of water to boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt and pasta and cook for 8 – 9 minutes.  Drain pasta and cool under cold running water. Pasta should be slightly firm. Toss drained pasta in oil and reserve.

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove bacon; allow bacon to cool then crumble and set aside.

Chipolte CheeseMelt butter in a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 4 – 5 minute.  Add flour and cook 1 – 2 minute but do not brown.  Add cream, half and half, kosher salt and white pepper.  Bring pot to a simmer. Cook until sauce is thick, about 5 – 6 minute Blend cheese into sauce and add cooked pasta.  Pour pasta and sauce into a 9 x 12″ baking dish. Reserve.

In a saute pan over medium-high heat, add oil and chipotle chili powder. Heat for 30 seconds, until pan starts to smoke. Remove from stove and stir in bread crumbs.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over the pasta and bake for 15 – 20 minute until golden. Cool slightly before serving.

**Kid friendly version**

If you want to serve this meal to your kids as well, but they haven’t yet acquired a taste for the chipotle spice,  melt 2 tbsp of butter in the microwave and add to the bread crumb mixture. Test the mixture, if it is still too spicy, add another tbsp of melted butter and this should dull down the kick of the dish.

I believe congratulations are now in order;  you successfully created and delivered a delicious meal to the ones you love!

– Just one lady rescuing you from the winter storms, Thia

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