GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

February 13, 2013

Oscar entertaining made easy? It's formulaic!

Canapes may sound stuffy, but they actually are the ultimate in ease when it comes to party food. Plus, they look great and can be combined in endless ways to suit any taste.

So we created a simple formula for making canapes, dividing them into four components — bases, spreads, toppings and garnishes. For each canape, all you do is select one item from each category, then assemble. And the easiest way to assemble enough for a party is to set out all of your ingredients (clustered by category), then just start selecting and building.

If you're planning on an Oscars viewing party, you might even consider turning the making of the canapes into a pre-party. Set out everything on the counter, pour some wine and invite a few guests to come early and help assemble (and sample, of course).

And obviously don't feel locked into the ingredients we've included in these categories. Head to the grocer and see what inspires you. For example, we include recipes for mixing your own spreads, but to simplify you could grab prepared tzatziki, hummus, flavored cream cheese or cheese spreads.

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PARTY CANAPES

Each spread recipe makes enough to top 24 canapes. If you opt to use 24 of each canape base (for a total of 96 canapes), supplement the three spreads below with a purchased choice, such as hummus, tzatziki or flavored cream cheese.

Start to finish: 30 minutes

BASES:

24 multigrain crackers

24 thin slices of seedless cucumber

24 toasted baguette slices

24 purchased phyllo cups (found in the grocer's freezer section)

SPREADS:

— Garlic-herb cream cheese

4 ounces softened cream cheese

2 tablespoons milk

Pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and milk until smooth. Stir in the salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and garlic.

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