I hope this post finds you in the spirit of the holidays despite COVID. I am so hoping that you will have the opportunity to get together with at least some of your tribe in the weeks ahead. To lighten the load, I am sharing 5 incredibly simple make and/or prep ahead appetizers to create an incredible spread of apps even if it’s only for a few members of your family. If you spend a bit of time each day for 4 days, you can create an incredible spread for your holiday gathering. Here’s the plan:
4 days before my gathering I put together the Union Square Café Nuts and store in my refrigerator until the big day. This is a simple recipe, but these nuts have a kick of flavor that you will never find on a shelf in a grocery store aisle. This recipe couldn’t be easier – roast the nuts for 8 to 10 minutes and cover with a butter, sugar and spice blend. You can also freeze these nuts giving you the opportunity to make them well in advance of your special get together.
3 Days ahead, you can throw together a Crispix Mix (my version of Chex Mix). Combining all the ingredients takes roughly 10 minutes. You bake this low and slow for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes (great thing to start while you are prepping before or cleaning up after dinner). After 1 hour, turn off the oven and let sit overnight. In the morning it is cool and flavors are melded. Place in zip lock bags ready to pull out the day of your gathering.
This Cheese Filled Bread Bowl is one of those special appetizers that I have served and shared the recipe more times than I can remember. I have mixed the cheese blend and kept it in the refrigerator 2 days before my family get together and have never been disappointed. On the day of – hollow out a sourdough round, fill it with cheese blend, wrap the whole thing in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hours. I always buy an extra loaf and cut it in to bite size pieces for more dipping. This is one of those appetizers that is completely gone, bread bowl and all, by the end of the night.
The Asian Lettuce Wraps remind me a lot of those served at PF Changs. I typically make these the day before and warm them up the day of (they are good both warm and at room temperature). If you like crunchy wraps I would wait and add the water chestnuts on the day of serving. Butter lettuce goes best with this tasty appetizer but in a pinch a regular head of lettuce works just as well (but is not quite as pretty).
The Carmel Apple Dip is something you can also make the day before hosting and pull out the morning of your event (as it is best at room temperature). Cut your apples (sprinkled with some lemon juice to reduce browning) in the morning and you will be good to go. This recipe appeals to all ages and is ready in a matter of minutes.
Charcuitterie – I can’t even count the many ways I LOVE THIS APPETIZER. It’s made ahead, fresh, healthy, flavor filled and can be customized to whatever your family likes. We typically offer our favorite jams (fig – the favorite- mango, apricot) along with cheeses. We like a smoked cheddar, a spicy option, Manchego (which goes well with jam) and during the holiday season, a cranberry cheese, which my daughter Grace highly recommends). Romano or parmesan are good additions as well. Add some nuts and dried fruit and you have an amazing appetizer even if this is the one and only thing you decide to serve.
Planning ahead and spending a bit of time each day, up to the day of your gathering can produce amazing results. These are taste tested, proven recipes that my family loves – so happy to share them with you. Happy Holidays.