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In the Kitchen: Try appetizers for your holiday party

The Christmas season is upon us and that means parties and gatherings with friends and family. 

My favorite type of party to host, and attend, is one where the food is all appetizers. I love having little bites of lots of different things, instead of a sit down dinner. 

If you are planning on having friends and/or family over this holiday season, why not serve an all-appetizer menu? Check out these never-fail recipes as well as some of my top tips when it comes to entertaining this way.

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Cheese balls are great because you can make them ahead and everybody loves them.


Bacon, Cheddar and Swiss cheese ball

1 package (8-ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted, divided

1/3 cup finely minced onion

1 small jar (2-ounces) pimentos, drained and dried on a paper towel

2 tablespoons sweet relish

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely minced


In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. 

Stir in shredded cheeses, ½ of the bacon, ¼ cup of the pecans, onion, pimientos, pickle relish, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. 

In a small bowl, mix together parsley, and remaining bacon and pecans. Spread half of the parsley mixture on a large piece of plastic wrap. 

Shape half of the cheese mixture into a ball and roll it in the parsley mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with the other half.

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Cucumbers make the perfect vessel for a myriad of toppings. Do buy the European kind since they have no or very tiny seeds.


Goat cheese cucumbers

1/2 cup goat cheese, softened

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons chives, minced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Zest from half a lemon

Juice from half a lemon

Pinch of salt and pepper

1/3 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, minced

1 European cucumber, peeled and cut into rounds


Combine goat cheese, cream cheese, chives, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spread on cucumber rounds and top with sun dried tomatoes.

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 Smoked salmon cucumbers

1 package smoked salmon

1/2 cup whipped cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup fresh dill, removed from stems

1/3 cup red onion, finely minced

1/4 cup capers, drained

1 European cucumber, peeled and cut into rounds


Cut smoked salmon into small pieces that will fit on a cucumber round. On each cucumber round, spread a little cream cheese, and then top with salmon, dill, red onion and a few capers.

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Cocktail shrimp are welcome on pretty much any menu and are especially perfect for a holiday appetizer menu. While you can buy them already cooked, the ones you cook yourself are so much better. Choose wild caught shrimp when possible and whatever you do, don’t overcook them. This cocktail sauce is simple to make and is much better than plain store-bought cocktail sauce.


Cocktail shrimp and cocktail sauce

1 pound shrimp with shells on and deveined, preferably wild caught

1/4 cup salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 lemons

Cocktail Sauce:

1 cup chili sauce

3/4 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons horseradish

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon hot sauce (more to taste)


In a large pot, combine salt, sugar, juice and halves from two lemons, and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and boil one minute. Cover and remove from heat for 2 ½ minutes. Drain and immerse hot shrimp in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

 For cocktail sauce, combine chili sauce, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons horseradish, pepper and hot sauce. Cover and refrigerate sauce for at least an hour. Drain shrimp and then cover and refrigerate until very cold.

Tips for hosting the best holiday party ever

 • When planning your holiday party appetizer menu, depending on how many people will there, plan on serving three or four hot appetizers and three or four cold ones. Most people tend to eat two or three bites of each appetizer offering, so plan accordingly. 

• All of the cold appetizers should be made ahead of time, freeing you up to deal with the hot ones. Even though you may have to pop the hot appetizers into the oven or warm them on the stovetop, try to have them well prepped up to that point before guests arrive.

 • I like to set out a cheese board for starters so guests can immediately begin helping themselves. When preparing a cheese board, just think variety. Several hard cheeses and several soft cheeses, accompanied by some grapes, fresh figs, a few types of nuts, hummus, dried fruit, a few types of salamis, prosciutto, and a few small bowls of mustard and jams to round things out. Nestle some fresh herbs around the board to complete the look. Set out a variety of crackers, crostini and breadsticks and plenty of cocktail napkins.

 • Create a beverage center where you have plenty of glasses, ice, and whatever beverages you plan on serving. It is nice to have a special cocktail to greet your guests with — some white or red sangria, or perhaps some warm cider are festive at this time of year.

 • Lighting is important. Lamps are better than overhead lights and of course light plenty of candles. Music is also of paramount importance. Thankfully nowadays you can easily stream music without commercials.

• Paper plates and napkins are fine to use and make cleanup so much easier. There are so many attractive patterns out there and you can find them even at your local grocery store.

 • Relax! Don’t stress out about entertaining. These are your friends and family and this is not a contest. Even if things aren’t “perfect” you can still have an awesome time enjoying your favorite people. 

Forsyth County resident and author Adlen Robinson presents the best of her recipes each Friday for “In the Kitchen.” Please email her at