Holiday Appetizers and Drinks

Begin the festivities with these elegant and delicious recipes.

Barcelona Hot Chocolate

Photography: Randy Mayor

Barcelona Hot Chocolate

Indulgent as it may seem, a cup of rich hot cocoa can offer enough health benefits to dissolve any guilt. One cup has twice the level of antioxidant activity of a five-ounce glass of red wine and two to three times more than a cup of green tea. This version combines bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened cocoa with espresso, brown sugar, and orange rind for a pick-me-up that's enjoyed in Spain and Europe.

View Recipe: Barcelona Hot Chocolate

Creamy Mushroom Phyllo Triangles

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Creamy Mushroom Phyllo Triangles

If you're lucky enough to be both clever AND organized, this is just the app for you. Assemble and freeze these up to two weeks in advance (a good weekend project), then pop them into the oven and add seven minutes to the cook time (no need to thaw). The savory mushroom filling and the feathery phyllo will impress all your holiday guests.

View Recipe: Creamy Mushroom Phyllo Triangles

Eggnog

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Eggnog

Enjoy all the spice and creaminess of this traditional drink with none of the guilt. Our trimmed-down version contains just 152 calories per serving and 2.7 grams of saturated fat. This recipe calls for brandy, but you could substitute rum or whiskey if you prefer.

View Recipe: Eggnog

Clams Casino with Pancetta

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Clams Casino with Pancetta

Get black-tie elegance in about 20 minutes with these finger-food appetizers. The meaty pancetta and salty Parmesan flavors match the sweet and briny clams just perfectly. A great recipe for a cocktail party or a menu of heavy hors d'oeuvres.

View Recipe: Clams Casino with Pancetta

Oyster Bisque Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Oyster Bisque

Thickened with vegetables and finished with a touch of light cream, this silky soup makes an elegant first course. Small oysters, such as Kumamoto or Prince Edward Island, are preferable, but you can use your favorite fresh raw oysters.

View Recipe: Oyster Bisque

Candied Walnut, Pear, and Leafy Green Salad Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Candied Walnut, Pear, and Leafy Green Salad

The sweet, crunchy nuts are great on their own—make a double batch and give some as a gift. Served in this salad, they give just the right amount of sweet crunch.

View Recipe: Candied Walnut, Pear, and Leafy Green Salad

Orange Salad with Arugual and Oil-Cured Olives Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Orange Salad with Arugula and Oil-Cured Olives

This minty salad makes a refreshing first course for a holiday feast. Every component of the salad can be prepared and ready to serve well in advance. Make the dressing several hours or even a day ahead; just bring to room temperature before tossing with arugula. Buy washed and ready-to-use arugula. It takes time to peel and slice the oranges, so do that ahead, arranging the oranges on a plate and covering with plastic wrap. If you can find fresh blood oranges, they make a stunning presentation.

View Recipe: Orange Salad with Arugula and Oil-Cured Olives

 

 

Pomegranate Gin Sling Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Pomegranate Gin Sling

A classic gin sling is dressed for festive parties when made with seasonal pomegranate juice and decorated with crimson pomegranate fruit. Both simple syrup and agave syrup are widely available at liquor stores. To make your own simple syrup, boil 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, stirring just until sugar dissolves; reduce until thickened. Cool before using.

View Recipe: Pomegranate Gin Sling

Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball

Prepare this retro-chic snack up to two days ahead, and serve with crackers, bread, or veggies. Rolled in minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, this cheese ball is festive enough for the most discerning of holiday crowds.

View Recipe: Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball

Eggnog Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Eggnog

No need to forgo one of the holidays' favorite indulgences—creamy, rich eggnog. This version gives you all the satisfaction of the full-fat version without the guilt, and it can be made up to a week in advance.

View Recipe: Eggnog

Quick Liver Pâté Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Quick Liver Pâté

This pared-down pâté is based on liverwurst. Use Usinger's or Schaller & Weber brand liverwurst for best results.

View Recipe: Quick Liver Pâté

Roasted Chestnut Soup with Thyme Cream Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Roasted Chestnut Soup with Thyme Cream

Roasting bottled chestnuts brings back fresh-toasted flavor. The vibrant color of this soup is sure to be a treat to the eyes as well!

View Recipe: Roasted Chestnut Soup with Thyme Cream

Celery and Parsley Salad with Golden Raisins Recipes

Photo: Jonny Valiant

Celery and Parsley Salad with Golden Raisins

What a light, crunchy, and refreshing palate cleanser to accompany a holiday meal!

View Recipe: Celery and Parsley Salad with Golden Raisins  

Creamy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Creamy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

To get your holiday-preparations underway before the frenzies begin, make the soup several days in advance. Reheat this sweet and creamy soup over medium-low heat just before serving.

View Recipe: Creamy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Pomegranate-Rosemary Royale Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Pomegranate-Rosemary Royale

This simple twist on the traditional kir royale blends tart-sweet pomegranate juice with subtle herbal notes from a rosemary-infused syrup. Float rosemary leaves on the drinks for a pretty garnish.

View Recipe: Pomegranate-Rosemary Royale

Wild Rice and Celery Root Soup Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Wild Rice and Celery Root Soup

The knobby bulb called celeriac or celery root has a celery-like flavor, but one that is more robust and creamy at the same time. Add leftover turkey to make this an entrée.

View Recipe: Wild Rice and Celery Root Soup

Winter Sangria Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Winter Sangria

For the best flavor, let the sangria chill overnight so all the ingredients can meld together. If you can’t find satsumas, tangerines will also do the trick. 

View Recipe: Winter Sangria

Creamy Garlic-Herb Dip Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Creamy Garlic-Herb Dip

You can prepare this all-purpose dip up to a day ahead. Serve it with cauliflower and broccoli florets, carrot and celery sticks, and bell pepper strips.

View Recipe: Creamy Garlic-Herb Dip

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Whether hosting a casual gathering with snacks or a sit-down dinner, don’t forget to include at least one dish that’s fresh and crunchy—especially during the holidays. Crunchy Brussels sprouts with sweet and salty applewood-smoked bacon will surely do the trick.

View Recipe: Brussels Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Traditional Hummus Recipes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Traditional Hummus

This Middle Eastern dip is traditionally made with chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil; it lends itself to several variations. Prepare and refrigerate it a day ahead; let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with a lemon wedge and fresh parsley sprig, and serve with Spicy Baked Pita Chips. Feeling adventurous? Try these variations on Traditional Hummus: White Bean and Roasted Garlic Hummus, Spicy Red Pepper Hummus, Feta-Baked Hummus 

View Recipe: Traditional Hummus

 

 

Orange Chipotle-Spiced Pecan Mix Recipes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Orange Chipotle-Spiced Pecan Mix

Prepare a batch of this smoky-sweet mix to have on hand when visitors drop by. Or pack them into jars to give as gifts.

View Recipe: Orange Chipotle-Spiced Pecan Mix

 

Pink Grapefruit and Lychee Cocktail Recipes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Pink Grapefruit and Lychee Cocktail

Pink grapefruit, a popular winter fruit, stars in this pretty beverage. Look for canned lychee fruit, which has a delicately sweet flavor, in the ethnic food aisle at the supermarket or at Asian groceries. Use the leftover lychees in a fruit salad.

View Recipe: Pink Grapefruit and Lychee Cocktail

 

Gingered Pear and Brandy Cocktail Recipes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Gingered Pear and Brandy Cocktail

This is a timely concoction for a party. Simply prepare the gingered sugar syrup, and refrigerate it until you're ready to shake and serve the cocktails.

View Recipe: Gingered Pear and Brandy Cocktail

 

Mini Smoked Salmon Pizzas

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

 Mini Smoked Salmon Pizzas

Smoked salmon is an easy way to add visual appeal to any appetizer. This dish couldn't be simpler or more delicious, matching a crispy gyoza-skin "crust" with a creamy-tangy cheese mixture and a salty, chewy salmon topper.

View Recipe: Mini Smoked Salmon Pizzas

Chicken and Lemon Pot Stickers with Soy-Scallion Dipping Sauce

Photography: Karry Hosford

Chicken and Lemon Pot Stickers with Soy-Scallion Dipping Sauce

Take a break from creamy and cheesy with the light Asian flavor of these dumplings. A ginger-and-sesame-scented filling of chicken and crunchy veggies is balanced by the tart and salty dipping sauce, which awakens the palate with just a hint of heat.

View Recipe: Chicken and Lemon Pot Stickers with Soy-Scallion Dipping Sauce

Spicy Shrimp Cakes with Corn and Avocado Salsa

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Spicy Shrimp Cakes with Corn and Avocado Salsa

Shrimp creates a pleasing variation on crab cakes in this dish, and matches well with the chunky salsa, which brings in sour, sweet, and buttery flavors. Hot sauce in the cakes and poblano peppers in the salsa bring some heat, but not enough to overwhelm―the balance is just right.

View Recipe: Spicy Shrimp Cakes with Corn and Avocado Salsa

Spicy Rum Punch

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Spicy Rum Punch

This cocktail kicks up staid mulled wine to a whole new level. Cranberry-pineapple juice is steeped with spices and combined with complex dark rum and spicy, sparkling ginger beer for a fizzy, peppery, and altogether refreshing experience.

View Recipe: Spicy Rum Punch

Smoked Trout with Apple-Horseradish Cream on Potato Pancakes

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Smoked Trout with Apple-Horseradish Cream on Potato Pancakes

Classic Hanukkah latkes form the base for this intriguingly flavored appetizer. Seemingly incongruous tart apple and spicy horseradish flavors unite to balance the strongly flavored smoked trout, all atop a crunchy-starchy pancake foundation.

View Recipe: Smoked Trout with Apple-Horseradish Cream on Potato Pancakes

Spinach-Artichoke Dip with Bacon

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Spinach-Artichoke Dip with Bacon

We took this classic warm, creamy dip and improved it with smoky bacon, because bacon makes everything better. Make sure to serve this in a central location―it's sure to attract a crowd at any party.

View Recipe: Spinach-Artichoke Dip with Bacon

Citrus, Fennel, and Rosemary Olives Recipes

Photo: Ellen Silverman

Citrus, Fennel, and Rosemary Olives

A mix of fruity and meaty olives works well in this treatment. They are ideal for cocktail platters, antipasto, snacking, or as a gift when placed in a decorative jar.

View Recipe: Citrus, Fennel, and Rosemary Olives

Blood Orange Sangra

Photography: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Blood Orange Sangría

Savor summer in the middle of winter with this fruity concoction. Blood oranges add beautiful color, while more fruits and spices add depth of flavor. It may be sweet as candy, but this beverage is definitely for adults only, with a base of red wine and Triple Sec for an extra kick.

View Recipe: Blood Orange Sangría

Brie with Jeweled Fruit Compote

Photo: Johnny Miller

Brie with Jeweled Fruit Compote

This lovely appetizer is about as quick and easy as it gets—and tasty, too. You don't even need to let the cheese come to room temperature first; the warm fruit that goes on top will soften it up. Serve with crostini or crackers.

View Recipe: Brie with Jeweled Fruit Compote

Creamed Spinach Phyllo Cups

Photo: Johnny Miller

Creamed Spinach Phyllo Cups

Turn a beloved side dish into a cute and savory appetizer. Frozen phyllo shells speed prep time, as does bagged baby spinach (rather than frozen). Toasting the phyllo cups keeps them crisp longer after being filled.

View Recipe: Creamed Spinach Phyllo Cups

Slow-Cooker Blood Orange Fizzy Mulled Wine

Photo: Johnny Miller

Slow-Cooker Blood Orange Fizzy Mulled Wine

The slow cooker offers great convenience here, keeping the stovetop open for meal prep. Pouring the soda into the hot wine right at the time of service brings the temperature down enough to drink immediately. Change out the orange slices for fresh when serving to punch up the look.

View Recipe: Slow-Cooker Blood Orange Fizzy Mulled Wine

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