3 Make-Ahead Holiday Appetizer Recipes

Avoid the last-minute rush with these healthy holiday appetizer recipes.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Don't you think you make more appetizers from Thanksgiving to New Year's than you do all the rest of the year? There's just more partying and get-togethers with family, friends, and co-workers during this fast and festive time of year. Whether you're hosting or attending these parties, having an arsenal of favorite holiday appetizer recipes that you can make ahead of time can be a lifesaver.

Think about it. Working hard in the kitchen and getting your hands (and possibly your new holiday outfit) dirty is probably the last thing you want to be doing right before a party. If you have your appetizers made ahead of time, there will be no last-minute chopping, mixing, baking, or broiling. Even better, you can choose to make your appetizers the night before the party.

Certain appetizers lend themselves to being made ahead of time, like dips, spreads, cheese logs, and breads. You can keep the dips and spreads covered and chilled in the refrigerator, and breads can be kept moist in a sealed plastic container or bag. If you need some sliced baguette for one of your appetizers, you can slice it the night before and keep the slices ready to go in a sealed gallon-size plastic bag.

Meatballs and many other meat-based appetizers can also be cooked the day before. You'll just need to heat them up, and possibly add the sauce, when it's party time. As for hot dips and spreads, you can mix them up ahead of time and keep them refrigerated until you're ready to bake them for the party.

Here are three healthy recipes for make-ahead holiday appetizers you can try: a cold cheese appetizer, a savory bread appetizer, and homemade cheddar cheese mini biscuits.

Smoked Almond Goat Cheese Olive Appetizers

How can just three ingredients taste so good?

2/3 cup chopped smoked almonds
8 ounces goat cheese
32 Spanish green olives, stuffed with pimiento

  • Add almonds to a small food processor or a nut chopper and pulse briefly to chop. Pour into a small bowl.
  • Cut the goat cheese into 8 equal pieces, then cut each of these pieces into 4 equal pieces (each piece will be about 1/4 ounce).
  • Wrap each olive with a 1/4-ounce piece of goat cheese and shape into a small ball. Roll into the chopped almonds and place in a container. Repeat with remaining cheese, olives, and almonds. Once the container is filled, cover and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Just place them on a serving tray and insert toothpicks.

Yield: 16 servings (if 2 olive appetizers per person)

Per serving (using low-fat milk): 80 calories, 4 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 263 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 67%.

Pesto Parmesan Cheese Bites

1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons water, warm or room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 ounce (1 packet) rapid rise or bread machine yeast
6 tablespoons store-bought or homemade pesto
6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

  • Add water, molasses, olive oil, garlic, basil, and oregano to bread machine pan (unless a different order is recommended by manufacturer). Add both types of flour to pan, and add the salt in one of the corners. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast.
  • Select the DOUGH cycle and press start. After a minute or so of mixing, look into the bread machine pan. If it looks like the dough needs a teaspoon or two of water, add that now.
  • When the dough cycle is complete, about 1 hour and 40 minutes, divide dough into 8 pieces. Cut each of these pieces into 6 small pieces.
  • Coat mini muffins cups with canola or olive oil cooking spray and press each small piece of dough into the muffin cup to make a bit of a shell. Spoon a slightly heaping 1/4 teaspoon of pesto into the center and sprinkle a slightly heaping 1/4 teaspoon of shredded Parmesan over the top of each.
  • Bake the bread bites in a 400-degree oven until crust is golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Yield: 24 servings (2 bites per serving)

Per serving (2 bites): 62 calories, 2 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 1.5 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 118 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 36%.

Cheddar Cheese Bite-Size Biscuits


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