Oscar entertaining is so easy that it's formulaic!

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Canapes may sound stuffy, but they actually are the ultimate in ease when it comes to party food. Plus, they look great and can be combined in endless ways to suit any taste.

So we created a simple formula for making canapes, dividing them into four components -- bases, spreads, toppings and garnishes. For each canape, all you do is select one item from each category, then assemble. And the easiest way to assemble enough for a party is to set out all of your ingredients (clustered by category), then just start selecting and building.

If you're planning on an Oscars viewing party, you might even consider turning the making of the canapes into a pre-party. Set everything out on the counter, pour some wine and invite a few guests to come early and help assemble (and sample, of course).And obviously don't feel locked in to the ingredients we've included in these categories. Head to the grocer and see what inspires you. For example, we include recipes for mixing your own spreads, but to simplify you could grab prepared tzatziki, hummus, flavored cream cheese or cheese spreads.

Party Canapes

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Each spread recipe makes enough to top 24 canapes. If you opt to use 24 of each canape base (for a total of 96 canapes), supplement the three spreads below with a purchased choice, such as hummus, tzatziki or flavored cream cheese.

BASES:

24 multigrain crackers

24 thin slices of seedless cucumber

24 toasted baguette slices

24 purchased phyllo cups (found in the grocer’s freezer section)

SPREADS:

• Garlic-Herb Cream Cheese:

4 ounces softened cream cheese

2 tablespoons milk

Pinch of salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

• Zesty Barbecue Spread:

3 tablespoons barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons spicy red pepper jelly

¼ cup sour cream

Splash of hot sauce

• Orange Sweet Potato Spread

1 medium sweet potato, microwaved until fork-tender

2 tablespoons orange marmalade

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

TOPPERS:

Small cooked and peeled shrimp

Shredded cooked chicken

Halved cherry tomatoes

Crab meat

Small wedges of manchego cheese

GARNISHES:

Shaved Parmesan cheese

Sliced green and black olives

Sliced hot peppers (such as piri piri or Peppadew)

Sliced scallions

• For the garlic-herb cream cheese: In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and milk until smooth. Stir in the salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and garlic.

• For the zesty barbecue spread: In a small bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce, red pepper jelly, sour cream and hot sauce.

• For the orange sweet potato spread: Peel the sweet potato, then place it in a medium bowl and mash it. Stir in the orange marmalade and vinegar, then season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the canapes, arrange the bases on a large serving tray. Top each with a small dollop of one of the spreads. Press a topping into the spread, then finish with a garnish.