Party-perfect appetizers

Holiday season is in full swing, which means lots of fun, festivities and food. When serving a crowd of friends and family, make sure to prepare plenty of hors d’oeuvres for all to munch on while mingling. Here are a few of my all-time favorite appetizers that can easily be made to feed many.

I make the Mediterranean Layered Spread for every party I host at my house. It’s simple to prepare, colorful and flavor packed. I love that I can put it together ahead of time, leaving no last-minute scrambling right before the guests arrive. And this appetizer doubles—even triples—well. Look for varying containers of flavored hummus (I love roasted red pepper) to give this recipe extra punch. Pick up Kalamata olives from the grocery olive bar instead of using canned varieties, as it truly makes a difference.

My Crabmeat Dip is creamy and delicious, a welcome addition to your appetizer options. It’s so easy, my husband even likes to throw it together! Although crabmeat may be pricey, it is definitely worth the cost. In Louisiana there’s no worthy substitute for fresh lump crabmeat. You can also add small shrimp to stretch it out. If entertaining a smaller crowd, the recipe may be cut in half. Serve the dip with your favorite crackers or crisp veggies. Another great serving option is to use it as a dressing over mixed greens with sliced tomatoes and avocados—yum!

If you are looking for an elegant starter, then look no further than the Candied Pecan Brie. Literally ready in minutes, this quickie dip uses a few basic ingredients melted in a skillet and poured over Brie for a sweet and satisfying appetizer. During the holidays, you can even find the extra-large round Brie to feed a crowd. I love to serve Brie with ginger snaps and garnish with strawberries for a festive look. 

For delicious bites in a flash, keep the ingredients for these crowd-pleasing recipes in your pantry. Hopefully, these simple favorites will save you cooking time during this busy holiday season. It has been my pleasure cooking and sharing with you this year—here’s to a trim and terrific new year!

This stupendous Greek dish is a make-ahead, guaranteed hit.

1 8-oz. package reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups roasted red pepper hummus
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
3 Tbsp. sliced Kalamata or black olives

In mixing bowl, blend together cream cheese, yogurt, oregano, garlic and lemon juice; season to taste. Spread on large round serving plate. Carefully spread hummus over cream cheese. Sprinkle evenly with remaining ingredients, then refrigerate until serving time. Makes 14 servings.

Holly’s hint: Serve with pita chips or sliced vegetables. You can easily make your own pita chips: cut pita rounds into 6 triangles and bake 5-7 minutes at 375 degrees.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories 100 | Calories from fat 59% | Fat 7g | Saturated fat 3g Cholesterol 13mg | Sodium 260mg | Carbohydrates 6g | Dietary fiber 1g | Total sugars 2g | Protein 4g | Dietary exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1/2 lean meat, 1 fat

“Sensational and simple” describes my signature entertaining recipe.

4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt or nonfat sour cream
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Hearty dash of hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. lump crabmeat, picked for shells

In mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and yogurt with fork until blended. Stir in green onion, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Carefully fold in crabmeat. Refrigerate until serving. Makes 64 2-tablespoon servings.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories 24 | Calories from fat 31% Fat 1g | Saturated fat 0g | Cholesterol 12mg | Sodium 72mg | Carbohydrate 1g Dietary fiber 0g | Sugars 0g | Protein 3g Dietary exchanges: 1/2 very lean meat

This showpiece appetizer is a dressy, delicious way to serve the popular soft cheese.

1 8-oz. round Brie cheese
1/4 cup pecans halves
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove top rind of Brie. Place Brie in shallow baking dish. In small skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook pecans, stirring about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup and vanilla, stirring until brown sugar is melted and combined. Watch carefully, as it cooks quickly. Top Brie with pecan mixture. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until Brie is soft. Let sit 5 minutes before serving (may reheat in microwave). Makes 8 1-ounce servings.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories 139 | Calories from fat 66% Fat 10g | Saturated fat 5g | Cholesterol 28mg | Sodium 180mg | Carbohydrates 6g | Dietary fiber 0g | Total sugars 5g Protein 6g | Dietary exchanges: 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat