Shrimp Lafayette (instead of chilled shrimp cocktail)
Fill a frying pan with about 1/3 C. of olive oil, add 4 or 5 bay leaves and heat on medium. Add about 2 lb. of raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined, raise the heat a notch and cook until they start turning opaque. Then add a can of beer, a tsp. of corn starch and hot pepper flakes. Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, then transfer shrimp and the juice to a serving bowl and enjoy.
Mediterranean platter (instead of celery, carrot sticks and dip)
On a large serving tray, arrange several slices of pita bread cut into triangles, a pile of broken-up feta cheese, a couple handfuls of shelled, halved walnuts, a few scoops of flavored hummus, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Park a ramekin of olive oil in the middle of it all, and viola.
Baked green olives with bacon (instead of a relish tray)
Wrap each pimento or garlic-stuffed green olive in a thin thread of bacon and fasten with toothpicks. Bake on a cookie sheet in preheated 325-degree oven until bacon is cooked (about 10-12 minutes). Arrange on a platter with canned black olives and jarred pepperoncinis.
Chicken-stuffed endive leaves (instead of green salad)
Start with two C. of either homemade or store-purchased chicken. Add fresh tarragon, walnuts and finely diced apples to the mixture. Then fill the bottom tip of a dozen or more baby endive leaves with the salad. Arrange the leaves in a star formation on a large platter and sprinkle with dried chives.
Pierogis (instead of pasta or potato salad)
Boil one or two dozen of frozen potato-cheese-stuffed pierogis (purchased from freezer sections of major grocery stores) for 5-10 minutes. Drain and transfer into shallow baking pan filled with two sticks of cut-up butter and 2-3 chopped brown onions. Salt and sprinkle generously with black pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes in 225-degree oven, occasionally turning the pierogis with an oven spoon. Serve in a wide, shallow bowl with a ramekin of sour cream on the side.
Asian pork tenderloin (instead of meat skewers)
Marinate a two-or-three-lb. pork tenderloin overnight in a half-C. each of orange juice and Hoisin sauce, one-quarter C. each of dark molasses and soy sauce, four cloves of minced garlic and dash of salt and pepper. Bake in a roasting pan according to package instructions. Let cool 20 minutes and then roll the meat in toasted sesame seeds before slicing. Serve on a cutting board with sliced baguette or Kaiser rolls.
Turkey-cranberry rolls (instead of cold-cut platter)
Spread thin layer of cream cheese over three to five sheets of Lavash bread (from Trader Joeâ€™s), then top with another layer of cranberry sauce, covering only about half of each sheet. Add over the cranberry sauce a thin layer of shaved turkey. Roll each rectangular sheet beginning at one of the shorter edges. Refrigerate one hour. Cut into one-inch-thick pieces and transfer to large plate garnished with parsley sprigs.
Smoked turkey asparagus (another alternative to plain cold cuts)
Remove the hard bottoms of a dozen or so asparagus spears and discard. Then blanch the spears in boiling water for about four minutes and let cool. Roll each spear in a slice of medium-thick smoked turkey, arrange onto a platter and serve with aioli, hollandaise or plain.