The XX Factor

Eight Recipes For A Last-Minute Party

We’re heading into the last weekend of August. Time to throw a party. And just in the nick of time, Rachael Cordella of The City Girl Cooks has rejoined us with some great, quick, and easy recipes. Mix your own cocktails, and if you want to share the ingredients, post them in the comments section.

When I graduated from college, I had grand visions of life as an adult. These visions included dinner parties hosted with a husband. At age 25. As we all know, life doesn’t always work out the way we imagine. The husband didn’t appear until I was 26 (and didn’t actually become the husband until I was 31), and New York apartments aren’t conducive to dinner parties with more than 4 people. Instead of a formal meal, heavy appetizers are a great way to go when you don’t have a big dining room-or any dining room. Spreading platters around the apartment utilizes smaller spaces (a plate on the windowsill, a bowl on an end table), and encourages people to move around. Someday I’ll have dinner parties. But until then, I’ll happily entertain with what I’ve got. Here are some ideas to get you started:

- Take cherry or grape tomatoes, bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), and basil. Thread onto bamboo skewers, alternating among the three.

- Blanch asparagus. Beginning about a half-inch from the tip, wrap a slice of proscuitto around each stalk.

- Take hard, store-bought breadsticks and wrap each with a few arugula leaves and a slice of pastrami. Serve with Russian dressing for dipping.

- Mash several avocados and a cup of green peas. Add a bit of garlic, lemon juice, and cilantro. Low-fat guacamole! Serve with pita chips and sliced vegetables.

- Buy prepared whole-wheat pizza dough. Roll it out and cut circles using a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Top with sauce, cheese, and veggies for mini-pizzas. Or get as fancy as you want-sautéed mushroom pizza with goat cheese and a drop of truffle oil is delicious. Bake until golden.

- Combine one packet of powdered ranch dressing mix, 1/8 cup vegetable oil, and ? tsp dill. Mix in 5 cups (one box) of oyster crackers. Bake 15 min at 250 degrees, stirring once. Sounds strange, but I promise it’s delicious.

- Combine 4 ounces of softened low-fat cream cheese (not whipped) with 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream. Add 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, ? teaspoon almond extract and 1 tablespoon milk. Mix well (a hand mixer or mini food processor will make this go quickly). Serve dip with fresh strawberries-leave the stems on-and a separate bowl of crushed graham crackers. My mom made this over the weekend and it really tastes like strawberry cheesecake-amazing!

- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Marinate for about a half hour in low-fat greek yogurt, lemon zest, curry powder, and a pinch of salt. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve with prepared chutney and wedges of pita bread.

Rachael Simon Cordella is a professional social worker and amateur cook. Her blog,
The City Girl Cooks , features easy and (mostly) healthy recipes using everyday ingredients. She and her husband live in New York City and cook together in their tiny kitchen.

Photograph of woman holding cocktail by Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images.