Creating an appetizer spread that takes little time away from being a fabulous hostess but has your guests clamoring around the kitchen island is the goal. We all love when our guests enjoy what we serve. It’s even better when they ask for the recipe and you let them know how simple it all was to create.
So that you can enjoy your party without exhausting yourself I’ve put together a few delicious, simple yet beautiful ideas. Before you get started, make sure to check out my holiday entertaining shopping list.
It’s easy to buy pre-made appetizers. There are plenty of them out there, and this year. I’ve seen many of the same ones at several parties. If you would like the ease of store bought but want to add your own personal touch, try these stuffed mushrooms. Stuff baby portobello mushrooms with your favorite brand of spinach or artichoke dip. Simply bake and serve.
If you want to make it easy and portable so you can move your feast to a coffee table or bar, why not pack everything into one cohesive spread? Here are two examples of boards I have served to guests. There is no recipe or even rhyme or reason to building a board like this. I like to start with taller dishes at the center. I add large bunches of grapes on opposite ends. Anything in a dish gets added next then full wedges or rounds of cheese. Then I fill in around those anchor items with crackers and other nibbles until the entire board is covered. Fill in the gaps with berries or nuts.
The tray below is about 3 inches deep so I used upside-dowm ramekins to lift some of the dishes. Because the tray is metal I added a larger bowl and even a cutting board for wedges of cheese so they could be easily cut. For this one I filled in the gaps with blanched broccoli rabe and red radicchio. The blackberry and blueberry skewers are just F-U-N and the skewers make it easy to spread them around the tray.
Crab Cakes with delicious aioli is probably my favorite holiday treat. I make crab cakes on Christmas Eve every year. You can find my recipe HERE.
The best thing about Crab Cakes is that you can make them far in advance and freeze them. For appetizer portions simply make them bite-sized. You can also purchase ready-made frozen crab cakes that you can warm and serve. The aioli sauce is delicious. It’s simply a combination of mayo, lemon juice and garlic whisked together then a slow drizzle of olive oil is whisked in to emulsify the sauce. The reason the oil is added very slowly is that the oil (fat) and lemon juice (acid) in the mayo do not mix easily, so adding it slowly while whisking will allow it to blend to a silky smooth consistency. I have not found a single store bought aioli that comes close to the flavor of homemade.
These mini cheese balls or, as some would call them, goat cheese truffles are always a crowd pleaser. One of my favorites for sure. The goat cheese is mixed with a bit of cream cheese, cinnamon and honey then rolled in chopped candied pecans, dried cranberries and parsley then drizzled with honey. I like to use pretzels instead of toothpicks so that I can eat it all.
Mini Cranberry Goat Cheese Balls
- 10 oz. goat cheese
- 6 oz. cream cheese
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons honey, plus extra for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups candied pecans, chopped and divided
- 1 cup diced dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
- In a large bowl, beat goat cheese, cream cheese, cinnamon and honey until light and fluffy.
- Add 1/2 cup pecan chips, folding to combine. Set aside.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss together remaining pecan chips, dried cranberries and chopped parsley in the center of the parchment paper.
- Using a large cookie scoop, scoop out one round of cheese filling and toss in pecan mixture. Continue until all truffles have been rolled in coating. Refrigerate cheese balls until ready to serve. You can make these up to three days before, just make sure and store them in an airtight container.
- To Serve: Drizzle with honey, if desired. Serve with crackers, warm crostini or as is with a pretzel stick in place of a toothpick.