Holiday Appetizers and Drinks
Holiday Appetizers and Drinks
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
When you need an elegant starter but you have little time to devote to one, Endive Spears with Spicy Goat Cheese is the recipe for you. Pungent goat cheese gets combined with tangy Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, garlic, and sweet paprika, and the mixture is mashed together with a fork—you don't even need to pull out the food processor! Belgian endive leaves are the perfect vessel for the cheese combo, with their pleasantly bitter flavor and superior crunch. They're also way less caloric than crackers; each serving of six filled endive leaves sets you back only 105 calories. One other selling point: You can make the cheese mixture a day or two ahead.
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.