Time-Saving Holiday Party Appetizers

This weekend is prime holiday party time. Everyone we know, Bryan and I included, are heading out at least one night this weekend to a holiday party. Being a guest at a holiday party is a great time; just bring a bottle of wine and get ready to enjoy yourself. Being a host of a holiday party is another thing altogether; you've got hours and hours of cleaning, organizing and last but certainly not least, food prep and cooking.

Fun and interesting company aside, I believe the difference between a good holiday party and a great holiday party revolves around three simple things:
  1. Food (Especially great appetizers)
  2. Music (A good mix of classic and contemporary holiday favorites)
  3. Lighting (Low lit, lots of candles, twinkling holiday lights, etc.
The food at a holiday party can really make or break it. As a host, the last thing you want is for your guests to make a midnight Burger King run because you: a) didn't provide enough food, or; b) provided food that was unappetizing and/or unpalatable. That's a guaranteed way to get "No" RSVPs to your 2010 holiday party. And no one wants that.

So here's my proposed solution to holiday party host(esses) without the time to prep and cook a ton of homemade appetizers. I always have a bunch of Trader Joe's appetizers in my freezer and have brought them out on many occasions: football watching parties, holiday parties, dinner parties, etc. They're a universal hit with guys, girls, kids, etc. Best of all, they're cheap, easy to make, fun to plate and require minimal, if any, prep time.

Feta Cheese & Caramelized Puff Pastry Bites
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes in oven
A great sweet & salty appetizer option.
The puff pastry is hot and buttery and
the salty feta cheese provides a perfect companion
to the sweetness of the caramelized onions.

Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry Bites
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes in oven
A great savory appetizer option with gooey cheesy and salty bits of ham. Yum!

Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Cook Time: 3 minutes in microwave
This is a sensation no matter when or where you serve it.
It's great presented in a bread bowl with water crackers
or toasted baguette slices. Five minutes and you're ready to go!

Ratatouille Bites
Cook Time: 5-7 minutes in oven
A great vegetarian option, puff pastry with Provencale-style vegetables. Savory blend of eggplant, red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, etc.

Mini Meatballs, Soyaki Sauce & Pineapple Chunks
Cook Time: 20 minutes on stove top
Directions: Cook meatballs in nonstick pan until hot, add Soyaki sauce, pineapple chunks and let heat through. Serve with toothpicks.
*Alternative: Mini Meatball Sliders
Cook Time: 15 minutes on stovetop, 10 minutes assembly.
Directions: Heat meatballs in marinara sauce.
Toast or grill mini burger buns until they have a slight crisp.
Top individual meatballs with a tiny slice of mozzarella cheese and place on buns. You've got yourself mini meatball sandwiches!

Lemongrass Chicken Stix
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes in oven
Serve with Trader Joe's Sweet & Sour or Asian Peanut Sauce.

Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons
Cook Time: 3-5 minutes in microwave
Great when presented with Soy, Ponzu or Soyaki dipping sauces.
Want something cool to serve along with these hot little apps? Buy a variety of cheeses – my go-to's are Goat Cheese, Parmesan, Manchego and Smoked Gouda – set them up on a platter, throw some crackers or sliced baguette in a basket and you've got another delicious appetizer option. Want to get really creative? Make tiny signs designating which cheese is which, attach them to toothpicks and stick them in the appropriate cheese.

So load up your iPod with some wonderful holiday music, dim the lights, fire up the candles and set up a great bar with cocktail mixers, beer and wine. Add in these appetizers and you've got yourself a party!


  1. Had the Caramelized Onion Feta things at a holiday party last year. Got up the next morning (didn't even brush my hair) and went straight to TJ's to buy a box. Returned home immediately and proceeded to eat the entire box before 11:00 AM.

    I actually avoid going down their freezer aisle at TJ's so I won't be tempted to buy those things again; I just don't trust myself. They are DE-LISH!

  2. RIGHT?? I first had them at a dinner part at my in-laws house. I literally had to use every ounce of my will power not to take the tray and just eat them ALL myself.

  3. Oh how I miss Trader Joes for picking up healthy "quickables." Thank you so much for this post. Although I don't have access to a TJ it awakened my inner entertainer and chef. Bon Appetite.

    Qiana Markham

  4. Hi Q! Thanks for the comment. You should host a couture shoe show with adorable shoe-themed shaped apps...use a high heel cookie cutter and add some smoked salmon, red onion, capers, etc. Or make some high heel cookies, ice them with fun designs and serve with champagne. Good times!

  5. I love it! I was just thinking about what to serve for NYE and thought I'd hit up Trader Joe's. Then, I recalled you posted ideas and wanted to check out your suggestions only to happily find that you had the same game plan! :)

  6. Your ideas for these time-saving holiday party appetizers are truly amazing and will definitely keep them in mind while planning my next party. Going to attend a get-together at one of iconic Los Angeles event venues and will give these inputs to host too.


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