Thanksgiving is a day full of opportunity. It gives many of us the chance to express gratitude for good fortune, family and friends. It also provides the opportunity to break out the stretchy pants and ingest more calories in one sitting than we do in most normal days. Almost as important as the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, soufflés, yams, pies and stuffing are the appetizers. As the prelude to the feast, Thanksgiving appetizers are designed to be flavorful warm-ups for the stomach. Hundreds of appetizer options exist, making it a cinch for the chef to whip up something to please even the pickiest eaters.
We've compiled a list of delicious Thanksgiving appetizer ideas that are sure to stave off the hunger pangs just long enough for the turkey to finish roasting.
Do the Dip
Dips are extremely versatile appetizers that can be made to satisfy a range of culinary desires, from sweet to spicy and everything in between. Cold fruit dips, which can be made in low-fat or more decadent versions, can be served with any variety of vitamin-packed fruit, particularly strawberries, pineapples and apples. Try the Dreamy Orange Cheesecake Dip, and serve it with melon and berries.
Warmer dips, such as Creamy Artichoke Parmesan Dip and Creamy Cheesy Spinach Dip are easy-to-make selections that can be served atop warm bread or pita chips. Layered dips are another classic option. If you're in the mood for a slightly off-the-wall, but equally delicious alternative, consider auditioning chunky pecan and beef dip or hot pepper cranberry jelly dip for guests interested in broadening their dip horizons.
Stuffing Isn't Just for Turkeys
Thanksgiving is an equal-opportunity holiday when it comes to stuffed foods. While the actual stuffing may be the star side dish of the dinner table, stuffed appetizers will win plenty of approval when they're passed around during the cocktail hour. Stuffed mushrooms, featuring fillings such as sausage or cheeses, are a delicious appetizer option that won't ruin guests' appetites (provided they only consume a few).
The classic tray of deviled eggs, which can be made in a variety of ways, from very basic to practically gourmet, is a welcome addition to any pre-celebration, particularly during the holiday season.
A slightly fancier and prettier stuffed appetizer option is cherry tomatoes stuffed with herbs and cottage cheese. For a sweeter take on the stuffed appetizer, try nectarines stuffed with butter, sugar, lemon juice and gingersnaps
Roasted or Toasted
Thanks in large part to the classic holiday song "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," roasted and toasted items are considered a holiday staple. For Thanksgiving, in particular, roasted or baked pumpkin seeds are a delicious and simple pre-dinner snack. If you saved the seeds you scooped out of your Halloween jack-o'-lantern, you've probably got all the ingredients you need to make this appetizer on hand already. Besides being convenient, a handful of pumpkin seeds yields more than just flavor -- they're packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, skin afflictions and even Alzheimer's disease.
Roasting chestnuts can be a somewhat arduous task. And it's pretty tedious peeling each chestnut post-roasting before you eat it! Despite the effort, the process often proves to be well worth it, and you'll fill your kitchen with a delicious aroma. If you pass on chestnuts, other tree nuts, such as walnuts and pecans, can also be roasted or toasted into tasty snack full of vitamins and nutrients.
Whether melted, sliced or grated, cheese is one of the most versatile, delicious and nutritious appetizer options out there. Not only is cheese an excellent source of protein and calcium, it also packs nutrients like folate, magnesium and vitamins A, D and E, to name a few. This always-popular Party Cheese Spread is an easy and classic option to serve with celery sticks, bread or crackers. Other favorites include the Celebration Cheese Ball and Three-cheese Fondue.
Another extremely easy, but impressive-looking, option is Baked Brie with Nut Crust, which is exactly as rich and delicious as it sounds. For an even simpler cheesy appetizer, you can buy your baked brie premade at the market -- look for it in the refrigerated goods section. Pop it in the oven, slide it onto a platter, and garnish with cranberry chutney for a Thanksgiving accent.
Wrap 'n' Roll
Wrapped or rolled appetizers have always been a hit at parties, ever since "pigs in blankets" hit the scene many years ago. Although the frozen variety is none too shabby, chefs with a taste for a fresh and inventive version of this classic can opt to serve breakfast pigs in a blanket, which feature pancakes, jam and ham. For those daredevils who wish to try their hand at fancier wrapped treats, there are many delicious options. For example, smoked salmon roses are a classy pre-dinner snack. Pinwheels, tiny rolled sandwiches wrapped in flour tortillas, are a budget and kid-friendly appetizer option. Rolled and wrapped apps also tend to stay fresh when refrigerated, making them the perfect late night treat.
If you're planning on deep-frying your turkey for Thanksgiving, HowStuffWorks Now recommends reading this first.
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- Bouchez, Collette. "Good Fat, Bad Fat: The Facts About Omega-3." WebMD. (Sept. 10, 2009). http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/good-fat-bad-fat-facts-about-omega-3
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- Ray, Rachael. "Artichoke and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms." Food Network.com. (Sept. 10, 2009). http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/artichoke-and-cheese-stuffed-mushrooms-recipe/index.html
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