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Please help -- need tasty appetizer to bring to holiday party

I'm a decent cook but drawing a blank on what to bring to my holiday book club party. I need to bring an appetizer that does not require any cooking and minimal assembly upon arriving. Ideally it's pre-plated before we leave for the event. I live in Northern California and have Trader Joe's and Whole Foods at my disposal. The appetizer can be of any ethnicity -- just looking for something that isn't too difficult and will impress.

Thanks in advance!!


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  1. For my '60's cocktails party: celery sticks w/pb, cheeseball, stuffed mushrooms (julia child recipe), stuffed eggs, jumbo shrimp w/cocktail sauce, meatballs (TJ's) w/teri dip, among other things...

    1. Crostini and a selection of spreads: black olive tapenade; green olive tapenade; sundried tomato spread, chevre, etc.

      1. Trader Joe's has Mini Meatballs in the freezer section, and a "Chinese Five Spice Chef's Sauce" (8 oz jar) in the jarred sauce section. 1 bag of Mini Meatballs + 1 jar of sauce + 1 microwavable covered casserole dish and you can microwave it right before you walk out the door. Then you can either serve it warm or zap it again when you get there. Remember to bring toothpicks!

        1. how about stuffed dried figs?


          mascarpone & chopped hazelnuts or almonds
          bleu cheese or gorgonzola with chopped walnuts or pecans

          mix in a bit of maple syrup before stuffing for a hint of sweetness.

          3 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            A really simple but elegant appetizer - devilled eggs with a tiny slice of ginger and some black or red roe sprinkled on top. Looks great and tastes even better! P.s. Love your handle, thats my hubby 's nickname :)

            1. re: millygirl

              Deviled Eggs with Caviar are fabulous -- no cooking, ready-to-go. I've never had deviled eggs with ginger, however. I'm assuming pickled "sushi" ginger?

              What a small world, millygirl. My wife's pet name for me is "little dog" in Mandarin: xiao gou.

            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I do a variation of this- a mix of halved fig and dried apricots, each filled with a mix of neufchatel and blue cheese (usually gorgonzola dolce), and a toasted pecan half pressed into the middle of each piece.

            3. Pecan and Parsley Cheese Balls

              Yield: 2 balls, 3 inches in diameter


              • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
              • 1 clove garlic
              • 8 ounces cream cheese
              • 4 ounces blue cheese
              • ¼ cup butter or margarine
              • ¾ cup pecans or
              • ¾ cup parsley


              1. Use shredding disc on food processor to shred cheddar cheese. Set cheese aside.
              2. Use metal blade to chop garlic.
              3. Cut cream cheese, blue cheese and butter into chunks.
              4. With processor running, drop chunks down feed tube and process until smooth.
              5. Add shredded cheddar and process until mixture is creamy.
              6. Cover and chill cheese mixture for about 3 hours or until firm enough to shape.
              7. Divide mixture in half and shape each half into a smooth ball.
              8. Wrap airtight in clear plastic and refrigerate or freeze.
              9. To serve, let cold cheese balls stand at room temperature, unwrapped, for 3 or 4 hours.
              10. For pecan ball: Using the metal blade process the nuts until coarsely chopped. Roll ball in nuts, pressing lightly.
              11. For parsley ball: Using the metal blade process the parsley until coarsely chopped. Roll ball in parsley, pressing lightly.
              12. Serve with assorted crackers or wafers.

              1. Simple and easy to make ahead:

                Proscuitto wraps.

                Buy 1/2 Lb. Parma proscuitto - thinly sliced
                Mix 8 ozs. goat cheese with 2 cloves minced garlic and parsley (to taste).
                Place cheese mixture on slice of proscuitto and roll.
                Plate and drizzle with a little olive oil.

                Always a big hit at my parties and always surprises me as it couldn't be simpler.


                1. We're having a 60's Woodstock party in Dec. Some of the foods we are planning from the 60's are things like ruffled potato chips and oinion dip. Little smoked sausages swimming in barbecue sauce with toothpicks, fritos, tuna-stuffed cherry tomatoes, deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, cheese ball and crackers....and, we are still wanting to come up with more...also, celery stuffed with peanut butter.

                  1. I had these two appetizers recently at a friend's 50th Birthday celebration at his home which were made by his wife and kids and passed on silver trays.....you could easily serve them just as well on a table.

                    Mini Arancini Stuffed with meat and a single pea

                    Crimini Mushroom Caps, pan roasted then assembled with roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf.

                    Both were hits of the party.

                    1. Salmon Spread
                      1/2 C sour cream
                      8 oz cream cheese
                      1 tsp lemon zest
                      1 tsp lemon juice
                      2 tsp chopped chives
                      S. & P.
                      mix together serve with crackers, crostini, celery, endive, what ever floats your boat.
                      Make the day ahead it really marries the flavors.

                      I also do a brie round layered with the TJ sliced sundried tomatoes, toasted pinenuts, and basil, wrapped in Phyllo dough and baked. If interested let me know.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JEN10

                        Do you use smoked salmon -- and how much? Always looking to improve mine.

                        1. re: Sarah

                          Yes, smoked, but I am sure you could use the cured as well. I like the flavor a lightly smoked salmon gives it. I forgot the amount of salmon above 4oz. crumbled.

                      2. Mini pumpernickel rounds topped with a dollop of cream cheese, lox, capers, and lemon juice

                        Bread rounds or crackers topped with crab meat mixed with tarragon, shallots,

                        Skewer mozzarella balls with a grape tomato and some basil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and drizzle with olive oil

                        Deviled Eggs but mash the yolks with shrimp, chopped olives, parsley, salt, pepper, mayo...

                        1. This is different, but not so 'out there' that people are shy about trying them. Get some nice Medjool dates from Costco and pull the pits out. Mix some cream cheese with lemon zest (lots) and stuff a half spoonful in each date. You can enlarge the center of the date with your finger to receive the cheese. Then put a whole seedless grape inside that. It will push enough cream cheese out on the edge to nicely pick up the finely chopped pistachios that garnish the whole affair. These can be made a day ahead and they hold up very well at room temp. Nothing to turn color, bleed or do anything else untoward as they sit.

                          1. The Silver Palate salmon mousse is a perenial hit at parties. I use poached fresh salmon as called for, plus about 4 oz finely minced smoked salmon. I also add some finely grated lemon zest. The fresh dill is essential. Any mildly flavored cracker works well with this, as do endive leaves. (Keep a little bowl for yourself for the next day.) http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/coo...

                            1. I got a recipe on here in the recipes thread that is my new go-to. It is blue cheese mixed with cream cheese, dried cranberries & toasted pecans. That's it! I put it in a bowl & surround with crostini for people to spread. I also like homeade tapenade over goat cheese to spread on crackers. How about proscuitto wrapped asparagus?

                              1. Trader Joe's has an awesome cream cheese, pesto, and sun-dried tomato dip. You can just plop it out upside down on a plate and serve with crackers. It's delish.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bcakes

                                  I make my own version of this using goat cheese and it looks real pretty for Xmas because of the red sun dried tomatoes and green pesto.

                                2. I do a different riff on this old recipe almost every year. This year I plan to mix in some green peppercorns, drained of their brine. You can make this up a week in advance. Get good country ham, not that watery stuff from the deli.

                                  Country Ham Pate
                                  1 lb. Broadbent cured country ham
                                  1/2 C. bourbon, Evan William's Single Barrel or Buffalo Trace are good choices
                                  1/2 C. water
                                  2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, room temperature
                                  Additional 3 Tbs. bourbon

                                  Trim the ham of any visible fat and place in a casserole. Add bourbon and water, cover and place in a 350 F. oven for 20-25 minutes. Drain and cool.

                                  Place ham in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, and the butter and process until smooth. Add the remaining 3 Tbs. bourbon and process briefly.

                                  Pack into crocks and cover. Allow to age 24 hours before serving. Serve with a neutrally flavored cracker or thinly sliced baguette.