Appetizers to Make Quick as a Wink

So the Holiday season is upon us and since it’s 2021 instead of 2020, you may actually have guests that just drop in to wish you Seasons Greetings. In this case, you will want to have some Easy Appetizers on hand to serve them, along with wine, sparkling water or a Christmas Cocktail. I went to Trader Joe’s this week and picked up some items that will come in handy for exactly this purpose.

Cheese and Crackers

It’s a classic for a reason and the reason is simplicity. Trader Joe’s has lovely cheese at great prices. My favorite is the Toscano soaked in Syrah, but I also picked up a Brie and a Blue. The rule for cheese boards is: a Hard, a Soft and a Blue. If you want to add some cured meats (like prosciutto), feel free, or some dried or fresh fruit, nuts or olives. It’s easy to make an impressive Charcuterie Plate with items you have on hand. I love these fig and olive crackers from Trader Joe’s to serve with the cheese.

A Block of Cream Cheese and Hot Pepper Jelly

Always a crowd-pleaser, this appetizer is as easy as opening up the cream cheese package and dumping the jelly (also sold at Trader Joe’s) on top. A Southern Delight, serve with Triscuit-style crackers.

Stuffed Mushrooms

This is one of my favorite Holiday treats and if you have some leftover Sausage Stuffing (recipe shown on previous post) it’s super easy. Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Stuff with Sausage Stuffing, place on a foil-lined baking tray sprayed with cooking oil and bake in a 350 degree oven until inside is heated. Yum!

Smoked Salmon on Brown Bread

As easy as it sounds, slice smoked salmon (this one bought at Trader Joe’s) and put it on a bread smeared with mustard. Extra Credit if you top it with a Dill Sprig!

Grilled Sausage with Mustard

This is about as easy as you can get and delicious. Grill your choice of sausage- it could be Italian, Bratwurst, Knockwurst or those funky Chicken Flavors. This one- Truffle– is from Wild Fork, slice and serve with Dijon Mustard and toothpicks. This was the appetizer my Father-in-Law Mort Guilford always served at Family Gatherings at his house, along with lots of vino to drink. A family favorite!

Now we get into the Freezer Section of Trader Joe’s!

Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons with Dipping Sauce

These were from Trader Joe’s, but they have other kinds of dumplings available that would work as well, like Pork and Shrimp. Heat up according to package directions and serve, in a white serving spoon, with a splash of Dipping Sauce. Dipping Sauce is simply: 1 Tsp sugar, 1 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar, 2 Tbls Soys Sauce and 1/2 teaspoon toasted Sesame oil. Delicious and easy!

Scallops Wrapped in Bacon

These are a seasonal item at Trader Joe’s so get ’em while they’re available. Bake according to package directions and serve with Bar-B-Q or Hoisin Sauce. One of my favs!

Parmesan Pasty Puffs

Who can resist Pigs in a Blanket? And these, in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s, are a bit upscale with Puff Pastry and Parmesan Cheese. Bake according to directions and serve with mustard of your choosing. This Dill Pickle Mustard is from- you guessed it- Trader Joe’s.

Other easy ideas are: Cherry tomatoes on a wood skewer with Mozzarella Balls. Line a round tray with Basil Leaves and put skewers inside, for a festive, wreath-like, presentation.

Heat up some soup (I like TJ’s Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger or Tomato Basil) and serve in a shot glass, topped with a dollop of sour cream.

Pre-made Onion Dip topped with caviar and served with potato chips is also an easy appetizer that sure to tantalize the Grinchiest palates.

You know how when you go to a parties, the Caterer serve appetizers on such creative trays? Impress your guests by copying their ideas. The easiest, for me, is to cut a Banana Leaf into the appropriate size to fit in a Wooden Tray. Wash the leaf first and make sure any leaf you use is edible, not poisionous!

Herbs Lining a Tray

This oregano edging the silver tray looks like a pretty wreath to me. You could also use Rosemary, Dill or Thyme, according to the herbs you have on hand. I would put an appetizer with a tomato inside the border, for the Holiday green and Red contrast.

Dried Beans

Make a good base to served appetizers. Try to make them pop, with white spoons on Black Beans, something colorful on White Beans, a green appetizer (cucumbers with fish spread?) on Red Beans.


If you have a starfruit tree (I do!) the fruits turn into a beautiful decoration when sliced, especially approriate at the Holidays. I would serve grilled sausage or stuffed mushrooms in the middle of this tray.

I hope I’ve given you some easy ideas for appetizers for unexpected (or expected) guests. The Holidays are hard. Feeding friends and family shouldn’t be!

Up Next: Italian Hot Chocolate

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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