Thinking of simple, elegant appetizers for parties and last minute get-togethers during the holidays can be a challenge. Especially when you have a meal to prepare. I wanted to share some of my favorite apps and ideas for holiday entertaining to make your life easier. My favorite way to eat is actually just eating a bunch of different apps and small plates. I would seriously eat like this all day every day if I could!
I LOVE to add special nuts to my cheese trays. For these, I made spiced pecans and rosemary roasted almonds.
I also added dried apricots, but you can add whatever you like. Grapes are always a great go-to, but dried fruit I usually always have on hand.
Chutneys and jams also pair nicely with cheese. I made a cranberry pear chutney to which I added some apple cider, orange zest, and sugar. I also sometimes use Trader Joe’s Quince Paste, or fig preserves.
Then, I made little flags with paper and toothpicks to label the cheeses. People love to know what they’re eating. Plus it’s so cute!
I always try to pair soft cheeses with a hard and a semi-soft, so there is some variety. I do what I can with color too.
This is my most typical assortment of veggies, but you can use whatever looks good in the store. Always try to do a variety of color and texture, and I like to garnish the tray with some leafy greens or parsley. My go-to dip is from Ina Garten’s cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa at Home”. It is THE BEST. I LOVE it and never want any other dip with my veggies. SO simple too. 8 oz. cream cheese at room temp, 1/2 c. sour cream, 1/2 c. mayo, 3/4 c. chopped scallions, 1/4 c. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, 1 T. fresh dill, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Put it all in the food processor and pulse 10-12 times until just blended. It is AMAZING.
These are an easy app that is healthy, fun, and different. It doesn’t require a ton of prep either. These I made with ground chicken, fresh ginger, garlic, hoisin, soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, water chesnuts, and scallions. Very simple and served in crisp Bibb lettuce cups. I’ve also made them before with wild mushrooms and those are great for a vegetarian option.
These whipped feta stuffed peppadews are SOO good too. I get marinated peppadew peppers, and drain them. I make my whipped feta by combining 1 container of feta crumbles, pinch of salt and pepper, zest of 1 lemon, juice of half a lemon, 2 T. olive oil, 1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley, and 2 cloves garlic in a food processor. I pulse it 15-20 times, then leave it running for 10-15 seconds to whirl everything together until smooth. Then I use my hand or a baby spoon to stuff the peppers. You can make these ahead a couple of days too.
These are an old favorite from my childhood. My mom made them at almost every party. They are always a HUGE hit. It sounds like a weird combination, but they are too too good. They are from a cookbook called “Appetizers and Hors d’Oeuvres” from the California Culinary Academy. They’re called Indonesian Chicken Skewers, and the marinade is as follows: 1 c. peanut butter, 1/3 c. chopped cilantro, 1/2 c. chili sauce, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 c. lemon juice, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/2 c. soy sauce, 8 green onions, thinly sliced, and 3 T. minced garlic. You basically just whisk everything together and marinade your chicken chunks in it overnight, or up to 2 days. It is a phenomenal recipe. So nostalgic for me.
Punch! This was a non-alcoholic version, but sometimes people want something refreshing when they come in the door. You could certainly spike it though. I used a couple bottles of Trader Joe’s sparkling lemonade, and added a healthy splash of pomegranate juice. I then put some pomegranate seeds and sliced oranges into the mix, and served it over ice. SO easy and refreshing. You can switch it up with different sparkling sodas, juices, and fresh fruits.
I hope this gave you some ideas for the holidays! It should be about spending time with loved ones, and not slaving in the kitchen..I can always count on these recipes and techniques.
Let me know if you try anything!
P.S. I can’t believe it’s December.