Christmas Cooking For Dummies
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Appetizers are a must for holiday parties and meals. Many Christmas appetizers are time- and labor-intensive to prepare, but the following list of Christmas appetizer ideas offers timesaving selections. You can attend your own Christmas party if you serve up these budget-smart finger foods:

  • Some supermarkets have olive bars where you can mix and match different types of olives for a reasonable per-pound price; check in the deli section. Even if you have to go to a specialty store to find them, it can be worth the trip. All you have to do when you get home is pop them in a bowl to serve. Place them in a pretty bowl — glass is nice — along with a small empty bowl for pits. Try some unusual varieties to pique everyone’s interest and palate at your next Christmas party.

  • In the same part of the supermarket where you find the olives or in the cheese department, look for bite-sized fresh mozzarella balls, called bocconcini. Bring them home, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and extra-virgin olive oil, and present them in a bowl along with toothpicks. You might have to go to a specialty shop for these, but if you have a few other things to buy, picking some up to have around during the holiday is worth the time.

  • Nuts are the perfect Christmas appetizer, because they're easy to find, with no preparation involved. Buy a large amount of one kind of nut to present in an opulent display. Try a huge bowl of natural pistachios (as opposed to the ones that are colored with red dye) offered with a small bowl for the shells, or a bowl of beautiful, large, whole cashews, either salted or unsalted. Whole pecans make a statement, too.

    Red pistachios may suit the colors of the season, but they stain your fingertips and lips and you don’t need to ingest any extra food coloring.

  • Buy a good-quality chicken salad from the deli (look for chunks of fresh chicken, not just mush). Season to taste at home with herbs such as tarragon or fresh parsley. Take firm white or whole wheat bread and cut out rounds with a small cookie cutter. Place the bread rounds on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven until lightly brown. Place a tiny scoop of chicken salad on each bread round and maybe an herb sprig on top.

  • Buy one smooth and one rough country-style pâté. Buy a small container of cornichon pickles; these are tiny, very tart pickles that are usually found wherever pâté is sold. Arrange the pâté on a platter with fresh, sliced French bread along with a small bowl of cornichon.

  • Buy sliced smoked salmon, some pumpernickel bread, unsalted butter, and fresh dill. Cut the bread into small rectangles — no crust. Spread with softened butter and top with a slice of salmon and a sprig of dill. Serve immediately.

About This Article

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Dede Wilson, CCP, contributes to Bon Appétit and Pastry and Design magazine and to NBC's Todayshow. She is also the Food and Entertaining expert for

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