MAKE-AHEAD (holiday appetizers)
Better Nutrition|December 2021
When a meal is too much, but chips and salsa aren’t enough food (or festiveness), give these delicious starters a try.
LISA TURNER

You’re looking forward to showing off your mad kitchen skills at a festive, friend-filled holiday soirée. But the day of the event finds you frazzled and frantic, too stressed to enjoy your own celebration and with a kitchen that looks like a disaster zone. And then there’s the end-of-meal clean-up disaster—plus enough leftovers to feed a small country, and no room in the fridge.

Sound familiar? We’ve got your fix. Instead of a full dinner, try this curated selection of both hot and cold appetizers, hearty enough for a full meal and festive enough for a proper party—all of them designed to make ahead of time, with minimal last-minute prep. So you can greet guests with a clean kitchen and relaxed attitude, ready to ring in the holidays. (Bonus: they’re all clean and nutritious, with gluten-free and vegan options to satisfy all your guests.)

Photography | Pornchai Mittongtare

Prop Styling | Kim Wong

Food Styling | Claire Stancer

Cranberry-Walnut Stuffed Dates

Serves 12 (makes 36 dates)

This meat-free twist on bacon-wrapped dates features holiday-centric cranberries and walnuts for a fast, festive, no-cook app. Mascarpone is an Italian triple-cream cheese with a rich, luxurious texture and mild, sweet flavor. If it’s hard to find, a blend of cream cheese and heavy whipping cream is a decent substitute. For a vegan version, swap agave for honey and use vegan cream cheese or raw cashew butter instead of Mascarpone.

³/4 cup Mascarpone cheese

¹/4 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped

¹/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1 Tbs. honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

36 pitted Medjool dates

Finely minced chives for garnish, optional

1. In small bowl, combine Mascarpone cheese, walnuts, cranberries, honey, and vanilla extract. Stir with spatula until well-blended.

2. Split one date lengthwise with small, sharp knife. Stuff with about 1 Tbs. cheese mixture, and transfer to platter. Repeat with remaining dates.

3. Cover platter with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 24 hours. Just before serving, garnish with finely minced chives, if desired. Serve chilled.

Per serving: 260 cal; 4g prot; 14g total fat (5g sat fat); 29g carb; 25mg chol; 5mg sod; 3g fiber; 25g sugar

Winter Greens and White Bean Hummus in Endive

Serves 12 (makes 24 endive leaves) This festive spin on hummus—loaded with fiber-rich, nutrient-dense greens— is a healthier (and hipper) alternative to the standard spinach and artichoke dip. Plus, it's naturally vegan and dairy-free. Pre-separate the endive leaves and store in a zippered plastic bag for day-of-party ease. For even faster prep, skip the endive and serve in bowl with crackers or creative crudités; try sliced daikon radish, sugar snap peas, asparagus spears, artichoke hearts, heirloom carrots, or purple string beans.

1 15-oz. can white beans

¼ cup olive oil

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