Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life

Appetizers – The Opening Handshake


Cheese board

Chances are, no matter what you are hosting, be it casual dinner or a week-long visit, you are going to want to have a little something prepared for your guests’ arrival.  For this, it’s great to have a few signature appetizers you can present with flair.  I enjoy whipping up my famous crab-cake canapés with herbed fresh butter and caviar; recipe from Phenomenal Living Magazine.

…Yeah right.

For a little something to serve when my guests arrive, I like to follow this axiom:

Something Hot, Something Not, Something Sweet, and Drinks.

Nothing says “It’s so special to have you here, please enjoy and relax” like simple, easy food arranged in pretty little dishes.  Here’s what I do:

Something Hot: Baked Pecans

Find a bag of pecan halves at the store, usually by the produce.  Toss pecans with I TBS melted butter.  Arrange on cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Cook in 350’ oven for 11 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheet immediately or they will keep cooking and burn.  Serve in various little bowls (or tea cups or anything cute and little) around your counter.  Your house will smell lovely, and for me, it’s a little Welcome to the South for my Yankee relatives.  (For any true Southerners reading this blog, I wasn’t born here, but I got here as soon as I could)

If you want Something Hot that takes a bit longer than 12 minutes but is almost as easy and twice as amazing, check out this recipe for Brown Sugary Goodness

Something Not: Cheese and Crackers

Groundbreaking, I know.  Here’s how to make it special:  Buy 2 little sampler wedges from the sale basket by the cheeses.  Also pick up a goat cheese or another soft cheese.  Arrange on a wooden cutting board and drape some grapes artfully around the cheeses for fanciness.  Cut a few slices of each cheese and place in front of the wedge.  Set out a clean, sharp knife.  Serve with a bowlful of your favorite crackers.

Something Sweet:  Cookies, Candy.

If you are a sweet-tooth fanatic or a baker, bake some cookies.  I set out candy because it’s easy and baking for me only recently wasn’t a guaranteed castastrophe.  Unwrap old Easter candy if that’s what you’ve got and pour in a pretty bowl.

If you are hosting small children, animal crackers, goldfish crackers, juice boxes, milk, and grapes/blueberries are beloved of almost any kid.  Serve these appetizers in your prettiest plastic bowls. 

Drinks: Your guests’ favorite beverage and yours too.

Nothing says Welcome Friends like “Hey, I picked up your favorite pop/wine/booze and it’s nice and cold in the fridge if you’re thirsty.”  And nothing puts you in a more welcoming mood than your favorite beverage in your hand.

Now that we have the menu down, let’s discuss the rest of preparation for the Arrival of Guests:


My children are 3 and 1.  If I’ve managed to vacuum (right before the guests arrive or what is the point?), surfaces are fairly clean, my guest bathroom is actually clean, and the toys are at least cleared out of the pathways, I’ll consider my cleaning efforts to be a rousing success.  If you want to continue to be impressed, I suggest not going upstairs.


If you are having overnight guests, you’ll want to have clean towels and bed linens, even for the couch if the couch is serving as the guest bed.  If you are at my house for Thanksgiving, I will also present you with real cloth tablecloths and napkins for the big meal.  They will not be ironed.


I always have more fun with my guests when I am fed, watered, and bathed before they arrive.  After all, your guests haven’t come to visit you so they can administer the white-glove test to your mantlepiece.  They’ve come to visit you because you’re wonderful and charming.  So be wonderful and charming.  This has been a tough one for me to learn.  I do know I’ve had the most fun  greeting my guests when I’ve prioritized eating lunch and brushing my hair over vacuuming and making famous crab cake canapés.

My friend Alysa over a Kitchen Fellowship has wonderful things to say about how to make people feel truly welcome and comfortable in your home.

Note, if you are a new mother to a tiny baby, stop reading this immediately.  Take your beautiful child and your exhausted self and go lie on your bed.  Have your guests and/or your partner bring you a giant glass of water and a plate of snack food and enjoy a cuddle with your new baby.  You are not hostessing, Lady – not this time.  Order pizza 3 meals per day if you want, and if someone offers to help you with anything, you only know two words: Yes Please.  Believe me, if your guests are anything like mine, they are there to see the baby and help your family – truly.  You’re on the bench for this one.

(Posts that are simmering in their pots: Simple Breakfast for a Crowd, Lunch for the Masses – includes my great-grandmother’s Mac & Cheese recipe, and Dinner en Famille: The Chicken Slop Post.   Also because this is the Internet and I can do what I want, look for a review of Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 1 as well as a book review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest novel “The Lowland”)

Please leave a comment!  What do you like to do to prepare for guests’ arrival?

Author: katycov

Katy teaches private voice lessons through Covington Music Studio and authored the inaugural blog for the Atlanta Master Chorale from 2016-2017. Additionally, Katy floats the high notes in the soprano section of the University Musical Society Choral Union. She has been a choral and general music teacher for Farmington Public Schools in Farmington Hills, MI, served as Director of Children's Music at the First United Methodist Church in Ypsilanti, MI, performed at Magnolia in the Baldwin Theater production of "Show Boat" and is a proud recipient of a Bachelors of Music in Voice Performance and Music Education from the University of Michigan. When she's not singing, she's caring for her two young kiddos, hard-working husband, and crazy dog (let's be honest - she's usually singing then too...) She's been singing since before she could talk, and is thrilled to continue to her music career in the Detroit area.

6 thoughts on “Appetizers – The Opening Handshake

  1. Hahaha – I love this one! Don’t forget to stuff the extra laundry in the biggest closet (I own 5 laundry baskets just for this purpose), lock the cats out, and buy twice as much booze as you think you need. It’s all good… And my favorite appetizer is “burning car clam-dip”

  2. Well now that you gave the title of “burning car clam-dip,” you have to post the recipe or at the very least, the story!

  3. We were on our way to a party on New Year’s Eve when the car caught on fire (my beautiful Mustang 5.0) and it burned to a crisp. Before the wrecker and the firemen left we rescued the clam dip from the very back of the trunk, got a ride to the party and ate it! Two packs of cream cheese and two cans of minced clams baked in a hollowed out round sour dough bread. Use some of the clam juice but not all of it.

  4. Pingback: Leftovers – Scraping Together the Scraps of Your Party | Catching The Torch

  5. Pingback: Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Leftover Chicken | Catching The Torch

  6. Pingback: Lovely Tarragon Pasta | Catching The Torch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s