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'Tis the Season--To Go To a Party

I just looked at my calender and I have 8 events in the next two weeks. Everything from a formal dinner for 150 at my boss's house to a Christmas carols and dessert party. I have to bring something to at least half of them (Not my boss's house), but because I will either be at work, or at another party, I will have almost no time to make anything. Plus, I am supposed to be a "good cook" and people kind of expect something a little fancy and fussy when I show up.

So, what are some FAST, no-last-minute-fuss treats, either sweet or savoy, that I can whip out to impress people? Ideally these can be prepared at midnight, while slightly tipsy, for serving the next day.

Festive, healthy and not overly processed are all pluses!



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  1. Spiced nuts are about the quickest to do, pretty healthy...topics and ideas abound here on CH...personally, I love Epi's Sweet and Spicy Pecans...there's a cashew with rosemary recipe somewhere on the 'net ... many interesting recipes for nuts! Perhaps mini-quick breads? Also, would wine or dark chocolate not be a consideration? Both are somewhat healthy if not over-consumed unless you're trying to keep to something homemade.

    1. smoked salmon and cream cheese spread would be my vote.

      my latest brushetta love is: hummus and roasted eggplant diced(salt, pepper, oil, cumin)

      I'm in big favor of seasoned nuts too - chowhound has a great one on here for rosemary walnuts but there might also be a thread dedicated to them as well

      5 Replies
      1. re: lexpatti

        Do you do anything fancy for the salmon spread or are the two obvious ingredients it? That sounds like a perfect gift for my office mates.

        1. re: tcamp

          a great salmon spread for me is: smoked salmon, cream cheese, great sourdough bread rounds or good cracker, capers, slivered red onions, lemon wedges to squirt on the finished assembly. :-) Heaven in a mouthfull!!!!

          1. re: lexpatti

            Smoked salmon spread is one of my go-to recipes and will certainly make an appearance in the next two weeks. My recipe calls for a big brick of cream cheese, about 4 oz of lox, plus one of the tinfoil packets of smoked salmon that are sold in the canned fish section (it's thicker and moister than regular smoked salmon). lemon juice, red onion, a dollop of horse radish (the creamy style) mix it all the night before, (I like to blend the foil packet of salmon in completely, and then roughly chop the lox for a little texture. Sprinkle with capers or more red onions and serve with fancy crackers.

          2. re: tcamp

            Here is the recipe I use:
            8 oz softened cream cheese
            1/2 C. sour cream
            4 oz salmon flaked
            1 tsp lemon zest
            1 tsp lemon juice
            2 tsp chopped chives
            S & P to taste
            make the day ahead by mixing everything together
            serve with crackers, crostini's, celery or endive

            1. re: JEN10

              the nice thing about the salmon spread is you really don't have to mix up anything - let people fix their own, I'm a purest when it comes to my salmon and just like to do my own bread or cracker with plain cr cheese, then salmon slice, then the rest on it. I think it's a nicer presentation than what might look like a dip or spread - but might be less messy with a crowd to mix ahead of time. Great Taste is still there.

        2. is baking ahead and freezing an option?

          how about making chocolate bark or toffee ahead of time so you don't have to cook at midnight? i'd do the bark w/exotic add-ins

          1. If you're considering the nuts, Ina Garten's rosemary cashews are really good.

            This fall I had dried apricots to use up, scouted around here on chowhound, and made a bastardized version of an appetizer that pikawicca made. I chopped the apricots in the food processor, then added the other ingredients and spread it on crackers or baguette, i can't remember which. Her version has you split the apricot and pipe the cheese mixture on, no cracker required. It was delicious, and could not have been any easier. Read down a few posts as she and Candy discuss it.
            This led me to using up the rest by mixing them with blue cheese and walnuts. Delicious.

            You certainly will be busy these days! Have fun and remember to get your water. I think it helps alot during party season.

            2 Replies
            1. re: fern

              fern...Ina's recipe says to serve the cashews warm from the oven. Is there any harm in baking them a day or two (maybe even more) ahead, and serving? If so, can they just be stored at room temp?

              1. re: critter101

                No, they don't have to be served warm. As a matter of fact, the last time I made them I used the foodsaver to seal them up and kept a bag in the fridge for months. When I finally opened and served them they were delicious, just fine. Room temp might be fine, I don't know why not, but the fridge certainly worked well for me. I hope you try them, they're really good. I just bought cashews so that I can make some next week. I'll seal some up to have on New Year's Eve, too.

            2. one of my never fail fall backs that everyone devours.

              All-Purpose Cheese Spread

              1 (6-ounce) jar cheese spread
              1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
              1/2 cup mayonnaise
              1/2 cup butter, softened
              1 teaspoon garlic powder
              Place all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Mix well with a handheld electric mixer for about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until completely combined. Store in a plastic container with a snap-on lid in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
              Cook's Note: Try serving spread with celery sticks, crackers, crusty French bread or baked potatoes.

              5 Replies
              1. re: laliz

                I saw this done recently on tv and loved the idea - it's called italian spring rolls.
                You take a slice of proscutto and lay some arugula, a sliver of parmesan cheese and green onion on top, roll it up like a cigar and serve with a balsamic vinegar for dipping. It looked so fresh, healthy and good, can't wait to try it myself.

                    1. re: wekick

                      Most welcome! What makes it so special, besides being dead easy, is that it's healthy and light. Something you don't see a lot of around this time of year.

                  1. I would have to second Ina Garten's rosemary cashews, they are truly amazing.

                    I have also been bringing a nice wedge of brie with some good jam and crackers to a lot of parties recently. People seem to really love it and it can basically be assembled once you get there. Of course with only two ingredients, the quality of the cheese and jam is important!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: newfoodie

                      I agree, and also will add that a nice block of cream cheese and a nice pepper jelly is excellent on crackers.

                    2. Bacon wrapped dates are probably ok make ahead, festive and delicious. At least you could probably prep them the day or 2 before, then throw them in a hot oven to roast just before you head out.

                      A long time ago, I did a recipe for shrimp marinated overnight in a chili pesto (swap out the basil for roasted mild chilies - anaheim or so), then roasted or grilled, served cold. That was a fan favorite too.

                      1. This is so good.

                        1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
                        1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
                        1/2 cup chopped green onion
                        1/4 cup mayonnaise
                        Mix together and chill. I form it into a log and pour Bronco bob's raspberry chipotle sauce over it and serve with crackers.

                          1. i forgot another great one with shrimp - just marinate in olive oil, garlic (bunch) and rosemary - put out a bowl with picks and your a winner, or take it up one notch by wrapping a small slice of prochutto around it!!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: lexpatti

                              Are these grilled at some point??

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  No kidding, but are they grilled, steamed or sauteed, and at what point? In other words, the instructions are vague.

                                  1. re: millygirl

                                    ok, sorry, I play with recipes and hardly follow somethign to a T but either works with great results:
                                    1) take cooked shrimp, mix with olive oil, lots of garlic chopped fine and some fresh rosemary chopped fine and let this marinate for several hours or overnight
                                    2) take raw shrimp and saute just until done in olive oil, garlic and rosemary

                                    either method, you can wrap a piece of prochutto around it before toothpicking it.

                                    Hope that helps, and if you like a little heat - a dash of sirachi or pepper flakes works great too.

                                2. re: millygirl

                                  no, sorry! you can buy precooked or just steam/boil them yourself - then marinate! suppose you could saute them real quick too - but I've always had them cold or room temp.

                              1. Oh, speaking of shrimp... One of my fool-proof recipes this time of year is something I call Christmas Shrimp. You saute garlic and shallots in butter, then toss in some red pepper flakes. Then add the fresh shrimp and cook til they turn pink. Turn off the heat and add fresh lemon juice and fresh dill. Stir it all together until the shrimp are well-coated and add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour it all into a ziploc bag and refrigerate. The next day, at the party, just turn it all on to a plate and serve with toothpicks.

                                The bits of red and green are why I call it Christmas Shrimp. And I love that you can make it ahead - and serve either cold/room temperature.