Easy Apps

The holidays are hectic for everyone, but entertaining doesn’t really have to be hard. Here are some quick and tasty appetizers that are truly super-easy—–especially when you start with already-prepared ingredients.

I made all these recipes for a Portico Mountain Brook story. It’s in the Winter issue, which is out now, and you can access it here.

Meanwhile, these delicious dishes—delighting your guests in under 30 minutes—range from subtly sophisticated to unbelievably easy. Most have five or fewer ingredients, and every one of these things can be found in local shops and grocery stores. The secret is to incorporate ingredients that are already made for you. Then you combine them in ways that make the dishes your own.

Romesco and Bucheron Dip with Almonds


2 containers romesco from The Continental Bakery’s cold case

6 ounces bucheron (also from that cold case), rind removed and discarded, sliced into ¼ inch-thick strips (you can substitute a goat cheese log)

¼ cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Smooth romesco in the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish or small cast-iron skillet. Top with cheese, and bake until bubbly (about 10 minutes). Top with almonds, and serve immediately with crackers or French bread.

(This dip can be assembled up to eight hours ahead of time and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook it, remove the plastic wrap and add five minutes to the baking time. )

Serves 6

Prep time:  5 minutes

Total time:  15-20 minutes

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta


1 baguette from The Continental Bakery

6 ounces blue cheese

4 Tbsp local honey


Preheat oven to broil.

Thinly slice the baguette (the folks at the bakery can do this for you), place rounds on baking sheet and broil them until they are toasted (about 1 ½ minutes per side).

Place pieces of blue cheese on the toasted bread slices, and drizzle honey evenly over them.

Serves 8-12

Prep time:  10 minutes

Total time:  10 minutes

Ham and Cheese Skewers


½ pound smoked deli ham from The Pig or Western, sliced ¾ inch thick

1 5-ounce blue cheese wedge (or a block of cheddar)

1-2 large gala apples (or not-too-ripe pears), sliced

1 bunch fresh watercress (or arugula)

60 skewers


Cut ham into ¾-inch cubes. Break or cut cheese into 60 small pieces. Cut apple slices into bite-size pieces.

Thread cheese, apple, watercress leaves and ham onto skewers (with ham at the bottom). Stand skewers upright, ham ends down, on a serving plate.

Makes about 60 skewers

Prep time:  20 minutes

Total time:  20 minutes

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip


2 cups chicken from a plain rotisserie chicken, shredded or roughly chopped (again, this is available at The Piggly Wiggly or Western).

8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, cubed and softened

1/3 to 2/3 cups hot sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot)

¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 packet ranch dressing

1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt

Optional: sliced green onions and blue cheese crumbles


Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, hot sauce, cheddar, ranch dressing and Greek yogurt until well combined. (If the cream cheese is hard to mix, microwave it for a few seconds.)

Fold in the chicken, and combine well.

Pour mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish or a small cast-iron skillet, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until dip is hot throughout. If desired, top with sliced green onions or crumbled blue cheese.

Serve hot with celery and carrot sticks.

Serves 8 to 10

Prep time:  5 minutes

Total time:  20 to 25 minutes

Goat Cheese Log Rolled in Nuts, Herbs & Cranberries 


½ cup pistachio nuts, finely chopped (or pecans or walnuts)

2 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

¼ cup cranberries (fresh or dried), finely chopped

1 large goat cheese log (keep it cold so it’s easier to work with)


Mix nuts, thyme, rosemary and cranberries together in a small bowl.

Spread the nut, herb and cranberry mixture onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment and roll the goat cheese log across the mixture, making sure it is well coated. Press down gently as you roll, to pack the mixture onto the log of cheese.

Just before serving, drizzle generously with honey.

Serve at room temperature with crackers and more honey and any leftover nut, herb and cranberry mixture.

(Note:  This recipe can be easily changed to incorporate things you like. Roll the goat cheese in freshly cracked black pepper and chives, edible lavender flowers, or chopped bacon and pecans. Really, the choice is yours.)

Serves 10-12

Prep time:  7 minutes

Total time:  7 minutes

Party Crackers


1 package The Original Savory Party Cracker Seasoning (available at Smith’s Variety)

1 2/3 cups canola oil

4 sleeves saltine crackers

1 2-gallon zip-top plastic bag


Follow the directions on the spice packet. Combine canola oil and one package of Savory Seasoning mix in a large plastic bag, and mix well.

Add all four sleeves of saltine crackers. Seal bag full of air. Tumble crackers in the bag every five minutes until all of the Savory Seasoning is absorbed.

Let crackers rest in the bag at least overnight for best results. Store in an airtight container. Refrigeration or freezing extends the flavor, but they probably won’t last that long

Serves 10-12

Prep time:  5 minutes

Total time:  25 minutes, but they get better overnight

Finally, Brie topped with things you like is one of the easiest appetizers ever, and it always looks (and tastes) amazing.  The Cook’s Store of Mountain Brook offers Brie recipes with every Brie bowl they sell. I love my piece from Tena Payne‘s Earthborn Pottery available at The Cook’s Store and Alabama Goods in downtown Homewood! The basic instructions go like this: Place a small round of Brie into your lovely Brie baking bowl, and top it with what you want. Bake it at 350 for about eight minutes.

Seriously. That’s it.

Some topping suggestions: Pesto from a jar. Jam from a jar. Chutney from a jar. (Consider Holmsted Fines balsamic red onion. Rebecca Williams, the owner of Holmsted Fines, discovered the versatility and joy of gourmet chutneys when she trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Alabama Goods has a nice selection of these chutneys.)  Add chopped nuts for some texture. If you want to get a little fancier, top the cheese with cranberry sauce, triple sec and brown sugar, or cover the cheese with some bourbon, almonds and brown sugar and bake.

Serve with crackers or French bread and sliced apples or pears.

Happy Holidays to you all!



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