Today’s the day! My fourth book, The Easy Appetizer Cookbook, is now on sale. Look for it at all your favorite bookstores (and if you don’t see it, ask them to order you a copy!)
This book is all about easy appetizers — the kind you need when you have friends or host a holiday or start a book clubs. These are flavorful, easy dishes perfect for making on even the busiest of evenings.
If that sounds like something you need, then I hope you’ll buy a copy and that it will inspire you to invite people over more often.
In celebration of The Easy Appetizer Cookbook’s publication, I wanted to share a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this book. Enjoy!
Behind the Scenes
Recipe testing always begins with ideas. Lists of ideas, to be specific. The first thing I do is sit down and make a list of recipes for each chapter. In the case of this book, I focused heavily on what dishes could be made in miniature for a good appetizer. Among those ideas was Greek Salad Bites (lower right), which was every bit as delightful as I hoped they would be.
The first draft of a book’s recipe list is always subject to change once I’ve written, made and tried the recipes. I actually keep the marked-up versions of my recipe lists for posterity. I love seeing how I go from the first draft to the final one.
Recipe testing might sound like a lot of fun (okay, it is) but it’s also a lot of work. I try to group like recipes together so I can conserve on the ingredients I need for any given recipe session. For instance, in the above photo, I was testing many of the tips from the dip chapter so I also tested the Chicken Caesar Salad Bites at the same time, since they used the same tortillas I was dipping with.
There’s a lot of trial and error in recipe testing too. Some recipes will be made three or four times before I decide they just aren’t working and scratch them all together. Others take a few tries to get just right.
In addition to testing the recipes, for this book I had to keep an eye on how foods could be served. What would work for party guests? I didn’t originally plan to serve these Buffalo Chicken Wraps like this but when I made them, I realized how easy they were to serve when you cut them in half and stood them on one end.
The book includes suggested menus for a variety of parties as well. So in creating the recipe list, I was constantly asking myself: What kinds of parties might the recipes be good for? This pizza was originally something I thought would be good for game day, but when my kids had friends over, I realized how easy it was to serve to a crowd of hungry teens and tweens. After baking it, I cut it into strips.
Some recipes I also create knowing I’d want to serve them with something else. These mini biscuits were made with a jam recipe in mind (that’s also in the book), but they also were great with marinated cheeses, chicken dishes and more.
Foods on sticks are fun, right? That’s why I made these chicken skewers. I find them to be a perfect, easy dish to serve as an appetizer — a true grab and go recipe.
In making them, I also had to consider how they’d be made. I didn’t want to assume folks had grills, so I ended up cooking them in a grill pan on the stovetop.
It took a couple tries to get these stuffed mushrooms just right.
In both The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and The Easy Appetizer Cookbook, there are dessert chapters. And in both cases, I tested almost all of the recipes at the same time. The sign of a truly easy dessert recipe? When you aren’t stressed making it at the same time as a half dozen others.
In all recipe testing, there’s a lot of sampling involved. I’ve learned to take very small portions when recipe testing so that I can try many dishes at once.
Also: Dessert testing is always fun.
I never rely on my own tastebuds as the sole authority though, at least not to declare a recipe a success. I am fortunate to have a few good recipe testers around to help eat — and sometimes make — the recipes I am testing.
That photo above? It’s a typical recipe-testing-dinner scene. Lots of different dishes ready for sampling. I really love the process of creating recipes — from ideation to final testing.
Fun Facts about The Easy Appetizer Cookbook
- I chose to write this cookbook because I loved the concept. Many fun childhood memories for me begin with a spread of appetizers like dinners at my Uncle Hugo’s and Aunt Deb’s house, New Years’ Eve celebrations with my parents and Super Bowl parties with their friends.
- The book dedication is a little off-beat and reveals a little secret: it helped pay for orthodontia for both my kids.
- Every book I write has a soundtrack. It’s what I listened to while writing it. In this book, I thanked the folks responsible for the music I listened to in the acknowledgments.
- There were several recipes that didn’t make the cut for this cookbook because I realized they would simply be too much work for a book about easy appetizers. I plan to still make them some time though — I was really excited for them otherwise.
- I try to keep my recipes accessible — without fancy or expensive ingredients usually. So a couple of recipes were chopped because of that as well. Ideally, anyone can pick up my cookbooks and find something to eat with ingredients they already have.
- The recipes in this book are all delightful, but my favorite is Shrimp Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce.
- One of the recipes in the book was inspired by something I had at a cookbook club meeting earlier this year.
You can find my newest cookbook, The Easy Appetizer Cookbook wherever books are sold.
I’d love it if you’d buy it from an indie bookstore (my preferred one is The Briar Patch in Bangor, Maine, which will have signed copies). You can also find an indie near you or order from your preferred online bookstore (more order links can be found here).
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.