What kinds of appetizers should you serve on Thanksgiving or before other holiday dinners? What kinds of appetizers you serve depends on how much you want to spend and what type of event you’re cooking for. Don’t think, however, that appetizers have to be fancy and unusual. It’s best to lean toward the practical side and serve appetizers that most people like.
For a formal or semi-formal party: Serve such items as chilled shrimp with a dipping sauce, oysters on the half shell, mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, finger sandwiches, tartlets, baked brie with crackers and cocktail meatballs.
For home-style parties: Serve various chips and dips, meat and cheese trays, cracker trays, cocktail sausages, cheese balls, chicken nuggets and veggies.
Generally, serving appetizers is a good idea. Appetizers give guests something to do, while waiting for dinner.
This time of year, however, can turn into an eating frenzy. Cocktails, dips laden with fat, fried food and lots of sweet desserts can be the usual fare. Not exactly healthy. While you don’t necessarily have to eat like you are dieting, remember that you may be eating a lot more calories at these holiday parties than you really want or need. Thanksgiving dinner alone can be over indulgent. You, also, want appetizers that won’t ruin your guests appetites for the main event.
Appetizers are just that – a little something in anticipation of the main meal. They should not be the main meal, unless this is a cocktail party where dinner will not be served.
Some tips on creating healthy but good tasting appetizers:
Don’t overlook the power of a good vegetable tray, especially served alongside a low-fat dip with great flavor. Here is a tip for giving the vegetables good taste – boil the vegetables for one minute in abundant salted water, drain, chill in ice water, drain and dry the vegetables. Chill in the refrigerator.until serving time.
It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to pre-dinner cheeses. Serve lower fat cheeses like Swiss, fresh mozzarella or well aged Italian hard cheeses that can be eaten without crackers.
Wrap small pieces of cheese or fruit in pieces of prosciutto for a delicious appetizer.
Healthier fresh salsas and bean purées or hummus make for smart dips. Serve baked snacks instead of fried.
Popcorn is a healthy whole grain and can be dressed up with flavorful herbs and spices for a special-occasion treat.
For recipes that call for a cup of regular mayonnaise, blend 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt. You’ll cut more than 1,000 calories and more than 130 grams of fat for every 1 cup.
Nuts are an excellent party snack, especially almonds or walnuts because they offer the best health benefits. They are a great protein source and the fat in them will help keep you fuller and not as tempted to binge.
Be mindful of what drinks you choose and be careful not to go overboard—especially during the appetizer course. Remember, too, that the size of the glass and serving makes a big difference. A serving of wine is 5 oz.
Here are some easy appetizers you may like to prepare for your future holiday gatherings.
Good on a vegetable tray.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 10 large pitted green olives
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
- 16 small cremini mushrooms, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Prepare the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic powder and season with salt. Arrange the mushrooms snugly in a baking dish and bake until tender, about 15 minutes.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and crab meat; cook until the shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and push the crab mixture to one side of the skillet; let any excess juices collect on the opposite side.
Remove the mushrooms from the oven and preheat the broiler. Stuff the mushrooms with the crab mixture. Toss the panko with the juices in the skillet; sprinkle over the mushrooms. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon wedges on top.
Chicken Salad Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
- 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Chicken broth
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 2 Granny Smith apples
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, to keep apples from turning brown
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 16 very small leaves rosemary, for garnish
Poach chicken in enough chicken broth to just cover the breasts for about 8 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Set aside to cool.
Carefully cut off a thin slice of the top of the tomatoes (be careful not to remove too much) and scoop out seeds. (A 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works well for this procedure.)
Peel apples, remove core and chop fine and coat in lemon juice.
Finely chop cooled chicken, season with salt and pepper and cinnamon, stir in mayonnaise and chopped parsley, mixing well.
Spoon chicken salad into tomatoes and garnish with the rosemary leaves. Chill until serving time.
Broiled Shrimp with Caper Sauce
This recipe is easily doubled.
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup large capers, drained and finely chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely minced
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 12 extra-large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled, deveined, tail left on
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the broiler.
To make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, capers, shallots and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand to allow flavors to mingle.
To make the shrimp: Mix shrimp with oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and season well with salt and pepper. Place shrimp on a broiler pan.
Broil the shrimp, turning once, until bright pink and just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve with the sauce.
- One 15- to 16-ounce can low salt chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 small onion or 2 scallions (white and light green parts), roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided (3 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Hummus, tzatziki or tahini sauce as a condiment
Preheat oven to 450°F and set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.
Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, spices, flour, baking powder, half of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse until well combined but mixture is still relatively coarse. You do not want a puree.
Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape the mixture into about 24 balls (roughly 1½ inches in diameter) and arrange on the the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each slightly and brush the tops with the remaining olive oil.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn patties (rotating the trays when you take them out) and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until brown. Serve with hummus or yogurt sauce..
November 17, 2014 at 9:23 am
The artichoke tapenade looks and sounds lovely.
On a different note, wondered whether you’d be prepared to put a temp/weight converter in your right-hand bar? Us non-US followers get into a bit of a mix with cups etc 😉
November 17, 2014 at 10:08 am
Thank you Annie. I’ll see if I can find one that is compatible with Word Press
November 17, 2014 at 10:15 am
Perfect timing for this posting. I was just invited to a holiday party and requested to bring the appetizer. Those crab-stuffed mushrooms look fabulous.
November 17, 2014 at 10:26 am
That is good one to bring. Have fun Heidi.
November 17, 2014 at 11:15 am
The artichoke tapenade looks delicious and so do the shrimp.
November 17, 2014 at 11:40 am
Thanks Pam. Give them a try.
November 17, 2014 at 11:27 am
All of your appetizers look wonderful! Our family loves the Italian style antipasti. They love the meats and cheeses. I haven’t tried the mushroom ones — they are on my list for the holidays. Thank you.
November 17, 2014 at 11:44 am
Hi Marisa – yes antipasto is a favorite. However, when we are trying to keep things healthy, some of the cold cuts can be high in fat and sodium. I like to serve antipasto trays when I have a party without a dinner to follow. Not everyone has to feel that way, though. Thanks so much for taking time to comment. Much appreciated.
November 17, 2014 at 11:36 am
Wonderful! Thank you for the great ideas.
November 17, 2014 at 11:45 am
Thanks so much for visiting and taking time to comment. Come back soon.
November 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm
My favorite way to entertain is to serve just a variety of appetizers. I love to nibble and pick at lots of different tapas. I think its more fun and casual. I’d include all of your recipes above!
November 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm
Thanks Linda. I agree appetizer parties are great fun. I especially like to have that tupe of party for New Year’s Eve.
November 19, 2014 at 9:34 am
Delish! Question, what veggies do you include in your veggie tray this time of year? And you wrote, “Here is a tip for giving the vegetables good taste – boil the vegetables for one minute in abundant salted water, drain, chill in ice water, drain and dry the vegetables.” Which vegetables do you prepare in this manner? I would LOVE to master a delicious veggie tray! Thanks, Jovina <3
November 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm
Veggies that are available in my market now that I quickly blanch are baby carrots, green beans, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets and sugar snap peas. Hopefully it is the same in your area.
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