Great parties begin with great tasting appetizers.

Basically, an appetizer is a little something to set the mood for the party, to perk up the appetite and tingle the palate. Appetizers can be fun or formal but should always be fabulous. I personally feel that appetizers are just a way to show your creative side to your guests.

If you want to give a very stylish touch to your party, never say appetizers, just say hors d'ouevers , it just appears to be very elegant!

Generally Appetizers are served with drinks and at the beginning of a meal. For practical reasons an appetizer entry should be just one or two bites and should not need major cutlery or plates.
In India, typically, appetizers do not have a role as a first course of the meal. But we do have snacks and savories, called Namkeen, that are enjoyed with tea. Lately with the westernization of India , appetizers have gained a more prominent place.

The recipes that I have created are the Namkeen recipes, using the ingredients available at regular grocery stores. These stay true to my popular food mantra -- "High in flavor, low in fat".

Massala Popcorn

Every immigrant has some culture shock when first arriving in the US. The first time I had popcorn in US, I honestly thought that the vendor had forgotten to add chili powder ! How can you have popcorn without chilli powder, I thought.

1 package microwave popcorn
1 tablespoon oil
½ cup peanuts
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)

Microwave popcorn per directions and set aside. Heat a big pot. Add oil and peanuts. Stir it for a minute and add chili powder. Add lime juice, salt and sugar. Mix it well and throw in popcorn. Stir the mix for 3-4 minutes and serve immediately

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Colorful Chutney rolls

The snacks I enjoyed as a child were a world in themselves. Cookies were a rare snack in our house. My mother would instead make a roll of chapati with a sweet or a spicy chutney - burrito style.

4 tortillas
4 teaspoons cream cheese
½ cup peanuts
1 garlic pod
1 teaspoon red chili powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar

In a spice grinder, add peanuts, garlic, red chili powder, salt and sugar.
Make a coarse mix and set aside

Heat tortillas in a microwave for 30 seconds. Smear 1 teaspoon cream cheese. Sprinkle peanut chutney and roll the tortillas burrito style. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Cut into one inch slices.

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Elegant filo shells

Filo shells are available in the freezer section of most grocery stores. These shells are perfect for adding filling and creating this unique appetizer

15 filo shells
2 potatoes, baked and grated
1 teaspoon oil
3 garlic pods, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated cheese

In a small pan heat oil and add garlic and cumin seeds. Stir for a minute and pour it over grated potatoes. Add salt, sugar and cheese. Mix well. Make walnut-size small balls and fill them in filo shells

Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve hot with a dollop of ketchup.

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