As much as we love baked Brie wrapped in phyllo dough, the best-executed holiday cocktail hours consist of light, refreshing bites that anticipate the meal ahead — without spoiling it completely. 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.
Vegetarian Spinach-Walnut Pate (pictured at top)
This creamy, spinach-packed appetizer spreads like pate, and the tart bursts of pomegranate seeds remind us of caviar. Set it out with an array of fresh vegetables and crackers, for dipping.
Baked Coconut Shrimp
Plump shrimp with a crisp breading — what could be better when mingling over hors d’oeuvres? These homemade coconut shrimp tossed in panko breadcrumbs are baked — not fried — for a crunchy bite with just 167 calories per serving.
Polenta Squares with Mushroom Ragu
If your guests will need a relatively empty belly in order to tackle the main dish, keep the appetizers bite-sized. Giada De Laurentiis tops tiny polenta squares with a savory mushroom sauce for an easy, elegant appetizer.
Pungent porcini mushrooms plus garlic and Parmesan give great kick to Giada’s pesto that’s balanced with crunchy crostini slices. They’re a great crowd-pleaser for a party or just to eat as a snack.
Eggplant Ricotta Bites
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. Channel the classic presentation by topping each round with a dollop of ricotta, diced tomatoes and shredded basil.
Spinach and Goat Cheese Tarlets
Food Network Magazine knows that store-bought phyllo dough is the secret to any time- and sanity-saving appetizer. Here, a flaky phyllo crust cradles a light spinach and goat cheese filling for an elegant cocktail party canapé.
Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip
Racing desperately against the clock? Ellie Krieger’s red pepper and walnut dip is quick and easy to make (it’s done in 15 minutes!); set it out alongside a vegetable platter for an elegant appetizer spread.