Any excuse for a party

Cynthia Stone
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You Halloween party animals who have been planning ghoulish fare for months can move along. Today is for those of us who outgrew this particular celebration but can’t resist the excuse to throw an impromptu get-together.

I have three recipes for you today that you can make up to two days ahead, are easy to serve, stretch to feed a crowd, and satisfy absolutely everyone on your guest list.


Baked white bean and cheese party dip

Nobody doesn’t like warm dip with crispy garlic toasts or crackers. This one is simple, with no exotic ingredients, but comes together in the most comforting way.

1/4 cup olive oil

1 whole bulb garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 19-oz. can white beans (or other light-coloured beans you like)

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper

3/4 cup firmly packed grated Swiss cheese

1/2 cup firmly packed grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low. Add garlic and cook until soft and starting to take on a little colour — don’t fully brown or the taste will be bitter.

Rinse and drain the beans and add to garlic along with lemon juice, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer together 10 minutes.

Cool 10 minutes then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Mixture can be refrigerated up to three days at this stage.

Combine bean puree with Swiss and cheddar and spoon into a shallow greased casserole dish or individual ramekins. Place on a baking sheet and top with Parmesan.

Bake at 425 F for 20 to 25 minutes (less for ramekins) or until bubbling hot and cheese on top is crispy and golden brown. Serve with crispy toasted baguette slices or sturdy crackers.


Marinated vegetable salad

A salad is always a party hit, but anything with lettuce limps out long before your guests get tired of eating.

This dish is fresh and tangy, holds up the whole night for nibbling, and tastes better for the waiting. It’s also a great way to showcase our spectacular fall carrots.

This amount is good for 12 smallish servings, but doubles easily.

3 cups peeled carrots cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 cups cauliflower florets, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups trimmed fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

2 cups fresh mushrooms (any variety), quartered or halved, depending on size, to get bite-sized pieces

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. Dijon or hot and grainy mustard

1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, minced

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook carrots, cauliflower and green beans for 3 minutes.

Rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly.

Combine with mushrooms, red pepper, garlic and shallots in a large bowl. Combine lemon juice, honey, mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Whisk oil slowly into mixture until thickened and smooth — use a small blender or food processor if you wish.

Pour over vegetables and toss gently to coat thoroughly.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to two days. Remove from fridge an hour before serving.


Slow cooker pulled pork taco filling

Tacos are my go-to party salvation. Pork shoulder is the cheapest cut of meat but gives you the absolute best result.

The slow cooker takes the stove out of play and works away all day on your behalf so you can do other things.

Have chopped onion, tomato and fresh cilantro on hand, and maybe some sour cream or salsa — whatever you normally put on a taco.

If you can find corn tortillas they are the best, but flour tortillas are terrific and probably more familiar to most people.

You don’t really need any cheese, but consider crumbled feta or grated Monterey Jack if you like.

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tbsp. hot chili powder, ancho if you can find it

1 tbsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. each dried thyme and ground cumin

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 4-lb. pork shoulder roast, trimmed of most outside fat

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped

4 chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce, coarsely chopped

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

4 fresh or 6 dry bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tbsp. white vinegar

Combine brown sugar, chili powder, oregano, thyme, cumin, salt, pepper, and oil to make a paste.

Rub briskly all over pork roast and place in a slow cooker. Add garlic, chipotles, onion, bay leaves and cinnamon stick.

Combine chicken broth, orange juice and vinegar and pour over top. Cook on low heat about 6 hours or until meat is fall-apart tender.

Remove meat and shred with two forks or with your fingers. Strain sauce and allow to settle for a few minutes. Skim off as much of the fat as you can and return the liquid to the slow cooker.

Add back the pork, stir to combine and serve.

Refrigerate up to three days but bring to a simmer for 5 minutes or so before serving.


Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in

St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her

c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

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