It’s that time of year when our opportunities to O.D. on cheese and crackers are heavily abundant. We love a baked Brie just as much as the next person, but if you’re hosting a holiday get-together, the cocktail hour should consist of light, refreshing bites that anticipate the meal ahead without completely spoiling it. If there’s a creamy, bubbling-hot dip on the table, it should come as no surprise when your meticulously arranged crudite platter goes untouched and, worst of all, your guests are too stuffed to enjoy the main event. Small bites that are not only light but also quick and easy to make are best for everyone in attendance — especially the host — so choose recipes that require no more than 20 minutes of prep work (the less time, the better). Here are five finger foods you can count on to hit the mark at your upcoming soiree.
Eggplant Ricotta Bites (pictured at top)
Think of these lightly breaded eggplant bites as a slimmed-down, miniaturized version of eggplant Parmesan. Sauteing the eggplant gives it a desirable crunch, without the excess oil you get with deep-frying. When it comes time to plate, channel the classic presentation by topping the eggplant rounds with fresh ricotta, diced tomatoes and shredded basil.
Feta cheese turns this otherwise ordinary guacamole into a festive tangle of flavors: savory, spicy and sharp, all at once. Serve the fresh green dip alongside the tomato and ricotta-topped eggplant bites and you’ll have a festive, edible display of red and green.
Baked Coconut Shrimp
Plump shrimp with a crisp breading — what could be better when mingling over hors d’oeuvres? Order them off the appetizer menu at your favorite restaurant, however, and you could be downing upward of 500 calories before you even glance at the entrees. These homemade coconut shrimp tossed in panko breadcrumbs are baked — not fried — for a crunchy bite with just 167 calories per serving.
Mushroom Wellington with Creamy Carrot Sauce
The chefs at Food Network Kitchen took their inspiration from the most-important part of traditional beef Wellington: the duxelles, a paste of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs cooked in butter, minus the beef. Serve this impressive main course with the bright carrot sauce, which gets its creaminess from just a touch of cream cheese.
Vegan Potato Pepper and Olive Phyllo Cups
If you’re hosting vegans, they’ll be extremely grateful if you include these meat- and dairy-free phyllo cups on your menu. Each cup is filled with mashed potatoes blended with olive oil and nutritional yeast, which helps create a creamy, “cheesy” base. Make the filling the day before your get-together, then fill, heat and serve when ready.
For more festive small bites, check out these recipes from our friends:
The Lemon Bowl: 5-Ingredient Pizza Skewers
Feed Me Phoebe: Brussels Sprout Latkes with Anchovy Aioli
Creative Culinary: Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Port Wine Pâté
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Avocado Crostini with Oaxacan Sesame Sauce
Red or Green: Chipotle Ranch Dip
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Baked Falafel and Hummus
The Mom 100: Creamy Avocado Dip
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Jalapeño Poppers Gougere
Daily*Dishin: Peppadews Stuffed with Mozzarella Fresca
Taste with the Eyes: You Don’t Have To Be Jewish To Love Latkes
FN Dish: 5 One-Bite Wonders You Need at Your Holiday Party