Ready to Party
Work ahead by washing and cutting fruits and veggies the day before the party and storing them in covered containers in the fridge. Fruits that brown should be cut just before the party and dipped into lemon juice.
Have fun with fruit by slicing seedless grapes into 1/4-inch disks with a serrated knife. Or, take a 1-inch round cookie cutter or hors d'oeuvre cutter, and press it into 1/4-inch-thick cross sections of melon to form circles to decorate a tray or use as building blocks for other configurations.
Stack and Pick
Turn the grape and melon circles into bee-size bites by piercing a party pick through an alternating stack. Try other cookie-cutter shapes, such as flowers, for variety. No cookie cutters on hand? Then simply slice, and peel if needed, to produce triangles, squares, or wedges.
Mix and Match
Adorn a tray with kiwi slices featuring heavenly centers. To make, cut 1/4-inch melon and kiwifruit slices. Press a 1/2-inch star-shape cookie cutter into the melon slices. With the same cookie cutter, remove a star from the kiwi slices. Insert the melon stars into the kiwi cutouts and use a pick or cocktail toothpick to hold the pieces together. Like round centers? Follow the same process, only use a round cutter to create a circle in the kiwi slices large enough to hold a grape.
Set out extra party picks, such as those used to make the kabobs, to help guests dunk fruits into a tangy dip or spear other items on the tray.
If your tray looks small, stack a small tray on top of a larger one for a more sophisticated look. For parties that last hours, turn the bottom tray into a cooler by choosing a deeper version, filling it with ice, and placing a tray of appetizers on top. Make the pre-party time less hectic by preparing the dip a day or two beforehand.
For shapely finger food, wash a seedless cucumber and peel off thin slices using a vegetable peeler. Cut the slices into 2-1/2 to 3-inch strips. Roll the cucumber strips into cones and pierce each cone with a toothpick to hold the shape. Pipe in a thick dip using a pastry bag fitted with a star-shape tip. If you don't have a pastry bag, scoop the dip into a plastic sandwich bag, and cut off a corner so it's large enough to push the dip through.
Dress up clean lettuce -- including yellow or purple endive, baby romaine, or the small center leaves of your favorite variety -- and decorate the leaves with a dollop of dip. Garnish with shards of red onion, radish, or chives, or sprinkle on individual chive blossoms.
Tomatoes with Frills
Cherry tomatoes look scrumptious when adorned. First chop off stems and the top quarter of the fruit with a serrated knife. Scoop out the seeds with a small melon baller, then turn tomatoes over onto a paper towel; let drain. Fill hollow tomatoes with dip and top with chives.
Complete lettuces, carrots, or other vegetables in style with a creamy dip and tasty garnishes. For carrots, peel away a small indent to hold the piped-on filling.