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.
Mini Crab Cakes with Pickled Celery
Save 104 calories, 12.6g fat, and 156mg sodium over traditional mini crab cakes. You can bake these cakes up to 2 hours ahead of party time and rewarm in a 300° oven for 5 to 6 minutes.
Hasseltots with Crème Fraîche and Caviar
This two-bite, no-fork-required appetizer is perfect for parties where guests will be juggling drinks and nibbles. Choose a sustainable, budget-friendly roe. Depending on what kind you choose, it can be affordable or break the bank. Make note of the origin to be sure you aren't buying caviar or roe from endangered fishing areas or species. We suggest Classic American White Sturgeon Caviar ($85/oz.), Paddlefish Caviar ($44/oz.), Salmon Roe ($8/oz.), and Masago ($5/oz.). Store opened caviar on ice, and use within one to two days. In a pinch, sour cream can stand in for the crème fraîche.
Port of Call Punch
The muddling technique draws complex flavors from the lemon, making the beverage floral, bracing, and irresistible. A sprinkling of grated nutmeg on top adds a warm, soothing, fragrant layer to the punch, which is remarkably complex-flavored despite having only 6 ingredients. Ruby port has spent less time cask-aging than tawny port, and so is a little sweeter and fruitier, perfect in this recipe. This drink has a lower alcohol content than standard cocktails, a great quality in a punch that's meant to refresh as much as relax.
Glazed Cocktail Meatballs
These mini meatballs are perfect for holiday parties and tailgating. We made them healthier by forgoing sodium-heavy ingredients like the usual ketchup and chili sauce and including whole-grain bulgur in place of breadcrumbs. You can also serve a larger portion of these meatballs for weeknight dinner. To up the kid-friendly factor, omit the ground red pepper in the glaze and serve with mashed potatoes (à la Swedish meatballs). For a tangier glaze, substitute cranberry sauce for the grape jelly.
Sherry-Cava Citrus Fizz
Simplify the liquor shopping list: Skip setting up a full bar and instead offer a signature cocktail featuring just one or two types of spirits or wine. Make this punch up to 4 hours ahead, but wait to add the cava until just before serving.
Goat Cheese Queso Dip with Vegetable Chips
This warm, tangy twist on fundido is perfect with sparkling wine; the bubbles help cut through the richness. We pair with veggie chips, but you can also serve with crudités for a fresher take. The dip is very easy to put together. One note on mixing: Blend the beans until they are completely smooth and puréed for the silkiest, creamiest results. You can’t overblend it, but if you stop too soon, the dip might have a few lumps. The great thing about this dip is that it can be made ahead and rewarmed when you’re ready to serve it. To reheat, stir gently over low heat until hot. For an herby version, add a generous 1⁄4 cup of a mix of chopped herbs, such as parsley, chives, and a little basil.
Unlike classic pesto, there's no oil in this filling. Once everything is minced in the food processor, though, it develops a paste-like consistency. Thaw the pastry in the fridge overnight, or leave out at room temperature for an hour or two.
Peppermint Mocha Latte
This month, put your workday fuel to more relaxing use. A tiny drop of essential oil gives these chocolaty sippers a peppermint punch, while a cool microwave trick foams the milk, no frother needed. Like to spike? A splash of Kahlua or bourbon makes them all the merrier. Look for peppermint oil at Whole Foods or natural foods stores in the essential oils section. While we love very dark chocolates (80% percent or more), bittersweet works best here, making for rounder, smoother flavor.
Chicken Phyllo Turnovers
This appetizer is based on bisteeya, a traditional Moroccan pastry that pairs savory, spiced meat and flaky phyllo with a dusting of cinnamon and powdered sugar. Make ahead: Freeze unbaked pastries for up to 1 month; bake frozen, unthawed pastries 5 additional minutes or until browned.
Gingery Shrimp Salad Bites
Pick up inexpensive Chinese soup spoons at Asian markets, or serve on rice crackers or in hollowed-out pieces of cucumber. The chives, an optional sixth ingredient, perk up the look but aren’t crucial to the flavor.
Warm Spiced (and Spiked) Cabernet
Garnish this punch with a cinnamon stick or orange slices.
Mini Cheese Balls
Save 108 calories, 7g sat fat, and 69mg sodium per serving over a traditional cheese ball. Almond milk cream cheese is delicately nutty, with a buttery-rich texture and zero grams of sat fat. Find it at Whole Foods stores nationwide. You can substitute 1⁄3-less-fat cream cheese, which adds 1.6g sat fat to each serving.
Marinated Feta Skewers
If you can find a container of multicolored tomatoes, use those for the prettiest presentation.
Spiked Hot Chocolate
This warming treat is the perfect accompaniment for a walk through the snow: A hint of peppermint schnapps will give everyone a little pep in their step. Think of it as more of a dessert than a beverage, as this hot chocolate is a bit of a splurge. Canned coconut milk gives it full-bodied richness and makes it an indulgence. Blogger and cookbook author Molly Yeh explains that "coconut goes well with chocolate and mint, so it really brings this hot chocolate together nicely."
Sockeye Salmon Crostini
This quick and easy dish highlights gently oil-poached salmon paired with creamy mascarpone, tangy pickled shallots, and briny fried capers in a delicious twist on bagels and lox.
Gram's Clam Dip
While you're putting the final touches on your dishes, your guests can snack on this dip. Precut crudités will hold up well if you'd like to prep them the day before. Wrap trimmed and cut veggies in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a zip-top plastic bag for the crispiest texture.
Brown Sugar-Spiced Nut Mix
Achieve a bronze-like patina on these candied nuts by keeping a close watch near the end of their roasting time. Too long and they'll overdarken and take on a bitter flavor.
Chai Tea Mix
Give an instant boost to a cup of hot black tea on a gray day with this easy mix. Make more for holiday gifts and package in Mason jars, or spoon some into a clear cello bag and stuff into an oversized mug.
You can use this recipe as a base to play around with spices to find other combinations you enjoy. If you have vanilla sugar on hand, substitute it for regular sugar. If you like heat, ground white pepper adds a slightly different kick than red. For an intense scent, try adding ground dried orange peel.
Endive Spears with Spicy Goat Cheese
Save 167 calories, 3.6g sat fat, and 393mg sodium per serving over traditional spinach-artichoke dip. Frozen artichoke hearts contain no added salt, unlike the canned variety, which may contain more than 300mg per half cup.
Smoked Salmon Salad in Cucumber Cups
Substitute gravlax or even flaked canned salmon if you prefer salmon that has not been smoked. Wasabi mayonnaise is available in the condiment section of most supermarkets. Or make your own by blending 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon wasabi paste, or more wasabi to taste.
Lemony Herbed Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
This bite-size bruschetta recipe is dressed in flavorful herbs and makes a perfect appetizer to pair with a classic Italian entrée.
Corn Fritters with Jalapeño Jelly
Avoid overmixing the batter to keep fritters from becoming too heavy and dense. You can make them earlier in the day and quickly reheat; arrange fritters on a wire rack set over a baking sheet in a 425° oven until thoroughly heated and crisp.
"Spring Roll" Pot Stickers
The classic filling in Vietnamese spring rolls goes into wonton skins that are browned in a skillet. The shape allows more surface area to make contact with the pan—so more crispy goodness.
Wilga Hill Boomerang II
We streamlined and lightened the original recipe but kept true to the gin, apple, and vermouth at its heart. Premix big batches (except the ice) in a pitcher up to a day ahead. Shake servings for 1 or 2 at a time with ice.
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.
Pear, Brie, and Balsamic Bruschetta
This bruschetta is both sweet, with pear slices and honey, and savory because of the Brie cheese and balsamic drizzle. Perfect for entertaining, these adorable bruschetta bites are a light way to kick off a dinner, plus they come together quickly and easily.
Spiced Mocha Mix
For those nights when a cup of something chocolaty is exactly what you need, here’s a healthier cocoa mix with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg to warm you.
Bacon Phyllo Cups
Perfect for a night of entertaining friends, these phyllo cups are overflowing with delicious melted Brie, crumbled bacon, and sweet apricot jam.
We put a whole-grain spin on this appetizer. Freeze unbaked olivettes for a month; bake from frozen for an extra few minutes.
Clams Casino with Pancetta
Get black-tie elegance in about 20 minutes with this appetizer. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quick Liver Pâté
This pared-down pâté is based on liverwurst. Use Usinger's or Schaller & Weber brand liverwurst for best results.
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!
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.
Celery and Parsley Salad with Golden Raisins
This salad makes a light, crunchy, and refreshing palate cleanser to accompany a holiday meal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
<p>Mini Smoked Salmon Pizzas</p>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No need to forgo one of the holiday's 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mushroom Polenta Canapés
Nutty Gruyère cheese complements earthy mushrooms in these canapés. Make these a day ahead by preparing and chilling the polenta and mushroom mixture. When ready to serve, broil the polenta for a quick time saver.
Oysters with Pink Peppercorn Mignonette
Raw oysters are delicious enough on their own, but this light dressing elevates them into the stratosphere. For an extra Hollywood-glam presentation, use a small plate and spread a layer of rock salt on the bottom. The salt evokes the sea and stabilizes the shells.