Sweet, savory and salty holiday-themed appetizers

Media Credit: Camille DeSanto | Assistant Photo Editor

Spice up your charcuterie board with homemade crackers and cranberry chili jam.

Snacks are an irresistible part of any holiday gathering – and conveniently the easiest to whip up. 

You may be celebrating the holidays with fewer people than usual this year, but that’s not an excuse to slack on the appetizers. Whether you’re eating with friends at a socially-distanced outdoor party or chatting with family over Zoom, here are a few dishes that are guaranteed to please.

Cranberry & sweet chilli jam from BBC Good Food

This tangy, spicy jam is a festive take on cranberry sauce. Pair with cheddar crackers or appetizer meatballs, or just enjoy some crostini. Reduce the number of chiles if you prefer less spice.

What you’ll need:

  • 500 g fresh or frozen cranberries
  • finger-sized piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 red chiles, roughly chopped (deseeded if you don’t like it too hot)
  • 200 g golden caster sugar
  • 100 ml red wine vinegar

In a food processor, finely chop half the cranberries, the ginger and the chiles. Pour into a pan and add the remaining cranberries, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until thick and bubbling. Pour into jars and let cool. 

Slow cooker candied nuts from Taste of Home 

These nuts will provide a sweet counterpart to the savory dishes in your spread. They are quick to assemble, and the slow cooker does most of the work, leaving you plenty of time to plan the rest of your holiday feast. 

What you’ll need:

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 ½ cups pecan halves
  • 1 ½ cups walnut halves
  • 1 cup un-blanched almonds

In a slow cooker, combine butter, sugar and spices. Mix in the nuts and cook on low for two to three hours until the nuts are crisp, stirring halfway through. Cool on wax paper. 

Figs with bacon and chile from Bon Appetit

This one-bite, gluten-free appetizer combines classic holiday flavors like figs and bacon and adds a chile kick. 

What you’ll need:

  • 5 ounces slab bacon, sliced ½ inch thick, then sliced crosswise into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 8 ripe fresh figs, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, finely chopped

Cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Then, pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat, add maple syrup and heat. Place the figs’ cut side down in the skillet and cook until figs are softened and caramelized, about five minutes. Arrange the cooked figs on a platter and top with bacon. Then, add vinegar to juices remaining in the pan and cook down into a syrup. Add red pepper flakes and pour over figs. 

Cheesy garlic, herb and ham bites from Southern Living

These mini pastries will upgrade the classic holiday ham by combining prosciutto with cheese and parsley. 

What you’ll need:

  • 1 (17.3-oz.) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1 (5.2-oz) package garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese
  • Prosciutto, cut into strips
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Roll out puff pastry and cut into two inch rounds. Brush rounds with butter and top with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until golden, then top with prosciutto and parsley.

Cheddar holly crackers from Country Living

What would the holidays be without cheese? These crackers are delicious on their own or served with a dip, like the cranberry chili jam above. To be extra festive, use a cookie cutter to shape them or just cut into squares or triangles.

What you’ll need:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoons fresh black pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for working

In a mixer, combine the butter and cheddar. Then, mix in the rosemary, salt and pepper, followed by the flour and one tablespoon of cold water. Roll the dough into a sheet one-fourth inch thick and chill. Use cookie cutters to cut out crackers or slice into shapes, then bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for eight to 10 minutes until golden and cool on a rack.

Appetizer meatballs from The Spruce Eats

These jelly-glazed meatballs are an American holiday party classic. If you use pre-made frozen meatballs, this dish only takes a few minutes to prepare, and your slow cooker bears the brunt of the labor.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 dozen frozen meatballs
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 cup currant jelly
  • 1 ½  cups barbecue sauce
  • Optional: ½  cup green onion (sliced, or chopped fresh cilantro)

Place the meatballs in the slow cooker. Then, mix the minced onion, jelly and barbecue sauce and pour onto the meatballs. Cook on low for three to four hours or high for one and a half to two hours, then top with green onion and serve. 

Antipasto picks from Delish

Because they’re so customizable, these picks are a great option if you or your guests have dietary restrictions like a gluten or nut allergy. 

To make these picks, select an assortment of antipasti, like marinated artichokes, peperoncini or artichokes. Then, add some cheese, like mozzarella or fontina, or some cured meat like salami. Finish with fresh vegetables, like broccoli or cherry tomatoes. Assemble onto cocktail sticks, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and herbs like Italian parsley or basil before serving.

Crispy golden smashed potatoes from Good Housekeeping

Any good holiday table has at least one potato dish. These red potatoes are a combination of crispy outside and soft inside.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 ½ pounds small red potatoes (about 2 inches)
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Finely chopped parsley, for garnish

Combine potatoes, salt and water to cover in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes until tender, then drain. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Pour potatoes onto tray and smash each with a large, flat spatula and spray with cooking spray again. Bake for 25 minutes, then broil two to five minutes until crisp. Toss with butter, parsley and salt. 

Sesame roasted kale from Jamie Oliver

Roasted kale chips, like these flavored with sesame, are vegan and will add a delicious crunch to your holiday spread.

What you’ll need:

  • 500g kale
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and dry the kale leaves, cut out the center stalk and slice into two inch pieces. Place the chips on a baking sheet and toss with oils, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes until edges are crisp, tossing halfway through.

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