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Appetizer Christmas: An Alternative to Formal Holiday Meals

Posted on December 20, 2011 at 8:01 am
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(Note: This is a republication of an article originally published on December 22, 2009)

What’s on the holiday menu? If you’re anything like us, you’re too A. overwhelmed B. tired and/or C. lazy to plan a big holiday meal on top  of all the holiday baking, gift exchanges and present opening on Christmas morning. But all of your holiday guests are going to be hungry, and you can’t keep them all happy on candy canes and spiked coffee all day long. Find out how we’ve solved the problem of what to do for Christmas dinner after the jump!

Appetizer Christmas

A few years ago, one of our esteemed Community Moderators, Design Diva, mentioned that rather than doing an entire elaborate holiday meal, she and her family have what they call ‘Appetizer Christmas’. They either make or buy various finger foods that can be eaten cold or reheated with ease on Christmas Day, and everyone stays in their pajamas for the duration. Says she,

It really is a wonderful tradition, and everyone loves it…the kids because they don’t have to stop playing, the moms because it’s easy peasy and not a lot of work (especially with Costco and Sams stuff) and the guys because they can eat all day long without guilt, and not feel stuffed and uncomfortable!

Appetizer Christmas has become somewhat of a tradition with IKEAFANS’ members. We’ve adopted Appetizer Christmas in our own home, and for the last 3 years, we’ve enjoyed a much more relaxed holiday because of it! Because the Grandmas can’t seem to wrap their heads around not setting a formal table and sitting down to eat, we’ve taken to dressing up the table as a buffet of sorts, and just rotating the various hors orderves in and out throughout the day.

Buffet Ideas

The easiest way to get a large variety of interesting appetizers is to let someone else do the cooking – seriously. Many grocery stores as well as big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Warehouse have frozen hors orderves that can be simply popped into the oven as well as many pre-made platters of salads, finger sandwiches, wraps and other easy to prepare and serve appetizers.

Pre-packaged platters

Pick up an entire tray of sliced cheeses and meats and bring home a couple loaves of fresh baked bread and you’re in business! Pre-washed salad greens, a clamshell package of cherry tomatoes and some high-quality bottled dressing make for an easy and casual buffet meal. Pre-packaged crudités are broadly available, but do yourself a favor and skip the included dip and pick up a tub of fresh salsa, hummus or a nice veggie dip. Need more munchies? Bring home a bulk tub of mixed nuts and some healthy chips, like the nommy Multigrain Chips from FoodShouldTasteGood.

For dessert, check out the freezer section for a packaged mix of cheesecakes or cream puffs and eclairs. Just thaw and chow down!


An Italian Antipasto Platter

On a nice wide, flat serving plate (check out TRIVSAM in green!), assemble a variety of cured meats, such as Genoa salame, pepperoni, Capacola sausage, proscuitto, and soprasetta (roll into cylinders or fold into quarters for a nice presentation) as well as deli meats like thinly sliced roast beef and ham alongside thin slices of various cheeses such as provolone. Skewer some small marinated fresh mozzarella balls on toothpicks with a basil leaf and a small cherry or grape tomato. Use a potato peeler to peel off curls of parmagiano reggiano to sprinkle over all. Add a selection of olives – cured, stuffed, black and marinated along with some button mushrooms marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar – YUM!

You can also include grilled vegetables, or to make it simple use some jarred roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and pepperoncini or cherry peppers. Place a small plate of salt-cured anchovies (they’re NOTHING like the nasties you get on cheap pizza, I swear!) nearby, and offer a good quality balsamic vinegarnice bottle of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top and a selection of nice finishing salts. Finish off with some bread sticks or thick slices of Italian bread – this is a meal in and of itself!

An International Cheese and Fruit Tray

Even if you don’t have a traditional cheese plate with a cover, you can still make a beautiful cheesy display with basics. If you have time to shop for special serving dishes, consider using a tiered serving platter, like the IKEA 365+ 3-tiered serving platter, or a multi-functional cake stand with lid, such as the ARV BROLLOP.

In any case, for a fully satisfying cheese platter, you’ll want to select a variety of cheeses including a soft or semi-soft cheese like Brie (Brie de Meaux is worth being good all year long for!), a semi-hard cheese like Emmental and a hard cheese, like Parmagianno-Reggiano. Consider the taste as well as the texture – do you have something mild? Something salty? Smooth and creamy? Play around with combinations to get a full complement of tastes. A good cheese monger should be able to recommend a nice complement of  Round out the platter with fresh and dried fruits as well as some nuts.

wegmans-saga-blue-caramel-torteOur cheese tray this year is going to include:

  • Saga blue caramel torte (pictured right)
  • Vermont Sharp Cheddar
  • Double Creme Brie
  • Cream cheese with homemade chutney on top
  • Dates stuffed with brie & crushed pistachios on top
  • Parmagiano-Reggiano
  • Dried apricots
  • Dried cherries
  • Dried peaches
  • Fresh baby pineapple
  • Fresh baby bananas
  • Clementines
  • Harry & David’s Royal Riviera pears
  • Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios

Homemade Appetizers

Of course, you could always make some of the wondrous goodies in the Williams-Sonoma catalog, or pick up one of their cookbooks. I’ve never had anything bad made from a Williams-Sonoma recipe!

Here’s one of my favorite easy recipes that even a child could make, though caution with the knife…

Quick and Easy Brie Stuffed Dates
  • 4 Medjool Dates
  • 4 TB Medium Brie
  • 4 TB Crushed Pistachios, Macadamia Nuts or Cashews

Slice open the top of each date and remove the pit – do not cut all the way in half. Roll each tablespoon of Brie into roughly an egg shape, and roll in the crushed nuts. Insert Brie into dates. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4.

We’d love to hear about what you have had or are planning to serve during this holiday season – anyone going to be doing an Appetizer Christmas? Tell us about it! Also, watch out tomorrow for part two of Appetizer Christmas: What to Eat for Breakfast.


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