Making Lists and Make-Ahead Holiday Appetizers

I came down with a horrific cold Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so I’ve been resting and medicating myself with Zicam, chicken soup, and nibbling on cranberry pecan pie crust leaves, (perfectly tasty all by themselves if you’re too lethargic to make turkey pot pie :)

Not up to Decking the Halls, I spent some time looking through back issues of Christmas magazines and cookbooks to get myself in the Christmas spirit, Making Lists and mentally making holiday plans and menus. I’m always on the lookout for make-ahead and easy appetizers for the holidays, even if my taste buds are numb from zinc lozenges. . .

I realized I was so consumed by my cookie haul from our cookie exchange last year, inspiring my Milk & Cookies for Santa table, that I hadn’t posted or shared recipes.

For a centerpiece for our cookie exchange, we filled my friend Annie’s beautiful Fitz & Floyd cookie jars with a mixture of cut greenery~ cedar, pine, Leyland cypress, magnolia, and holly and added some apples, artichokes and tucked in a few ornaments and pine cones.

My friend Annie has a beautiful home

that is always decked out for the holidays!

One of my favorite appetizers to serve straight from the oven is Ina Garten’s Savory Palmiers.

Puff Pastry filled with a mixture of pesto, goat cheese, sundried tomato and pine nuts~  while they’re best served warm from the oven, they can be made ahead in a roll and frozen, then sliced and baked later, a few at a time or by the roll!

I pull them out of the freezer 30 minutes before baking, slice them still slightly frozen (they’re easy to cut), and bake at 400 degrees for about 12 – 15 minutes. I make mine in a pin wheel shape for easier freezing and slicing but you can fold in the palmier shape, with printable directions from Food Network, here.

I always like to have Athens Mini Fillo Shells in the freezer for the holidays to fill with anything sweet or savory.

We served them filled with goat cheese, fig preserves and nuts. We used silvered almonds, but chopped pecans or walnuts are good too.

 Marinated Shrimp and Artichokes was one of the 2011 Best Recipes in Southern Living~ and it can double as a side dish or appetizer, made 8 to 24 hours in advance.

Shrimp, artichoke hearts, black olives, feta cheese, and grape tomatoes are marinated in olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and garlic-and-herb dressing mix.

Serve in beautiful glass bowl or individual martini glasses!

You can find a printable recipe courtesy of Southern Living, here.

The season for greenery and wreaths, Spinach Cheese Tortellini and Marinara, from the grocery store is ready in minutes~ arrange in the shape of a wreath and add a bow!

And last but not least, Cha-Cha Chicken Salad~

A creamy chicken salad that’s pressed into a mold and inverted onto a plate or cake stand, made 8 – 24 hours in advance.


1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened (I used lite)

1 cup mayonnaise (I used 3/4 cup)

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon salt

6 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple

2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 cup chopped roasted, salted almonds


Whisk together cream cheese and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in chicken, pineapple, and cranberries just until blended.

 If desired, spoon mixture into a plastic wrap-lined 8-inch round cake pan; cover and chill at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Invert chicken salad onto a cake stand, and remove plastic wrap. Gently press chopped almonds onto sides of chicken salad. Garnish, if desired.

You can find a printable recipe, here.

Christmas Party Table Details:

Plates/ Spode Christmas Tree

Sleigh & Santa List Cookie Jars/ Fitz & Floyd, many years ago

Martini glasses (shrimp)/ Pier 1, many years ago

Red lacquer tray (shrimp)/ Target, several years ago

Glass platter (tortellini)/ T.J. Maxx, last year

Platter (palmiers), retail days

Bow platter (chicken salad)/ Fitz & Floyd, many years ago

Plate  (chicken salad)/ Savinio Designs, HomeGoods, several years ago

‘Spread the Joy’ spreader (chickens salad)/ Williams-Sonoma, last year

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and Decking the Halls?

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50 responses to “Making Lists and Make-Ahead Holiday Appetizers

  1. Hi Mary, I’m so sorry to hear that you were sick and I hope you are feeling much better now. That shrimp recipe sounds and looks delicious!! I did not even know that there is “white” balsamic vinegar. And the palmiers are one of my favorites from Ina. I never thought of doing a round version but that’s a great idea. All the decorations are just beautiful! Linda

  2. I love do ahead everything, these are some great ones with pretty presentations! Love the artichokes, they are so photogenic! Hope you feel better soon :)

  3. Sorry you got sick- no fun! The recipes look so yummy!
    The cookie jar centerpiece is awesome!
    Get better quickly!

  4. Even down-and-out w/a cold, you have not disappointed- the photos, recipes and ideas are wonderful and I hope you’re beginning to feel better!

  5. Oh my goodness, you’re way ahead of me. The only thing I know I’ll do for sure over the holidays is make the Tennessee jam cake that was in Southern Living last month. Hope you’re feeling better.

  6. I agree with Bonbongirl’s comment, you would never guess you were feeling under the weather with this post! Lucky guests who get invites to your home. xo

  7. What a great post, just what I needed to get started with my Christmas planning. Visiting your wonderful blog is like picking up a favourite magazine, full of ideas, recipes and stunning photographs.
    Hope you feel better soon.

  8. Mary, I didn’t think it was possible to feel hungry again, but these photos have me wishing for some of these delicious dishes. They are a visual delight! You may not feel up to decking the halls this week, but you certainly have pulled together a gorgeous post to share. Ditto what Maggie has to say……….the posts on your blog are better than any magazine.
    Get well soon. Hugs ~ Sarah

  9. Oh, my goodness! I love your sweet decorations and your food looks so good.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  10. I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well, Mary and sending loads of get well wishes and thoughts to Lake Norman from East Hawai’i Island…We’ve been thinking about throwing a small get-together party on the 21st and you have inspired me with some of these recipes…

    Get well soon!

  11. Mary, it is awful that you are sick. I have a cold too, woke with it today in fact. Chicken salad is my favorite food. I love it and try different recipes all the time. I use curry in my favorite recipe. I hope you feel better soon. xo, olive

  12. Happier Than A Pig in Mud

    Sorry to hear you caught a cold Mary, that sure takes some of the fun out of Thanksgiving! Your appy choices all sound good, would love to find that Cha-Cha-Cha Chicken salad in front of me now! Hope you feel better:@)

  13. I’m sorry you have been sick! That’s the pits around any holiday, but this one especially. Your post, however, has made me hungry both for food and beautiful decorations. I’m pinning more than one thing on here! You always provide so much inspiration for me.

  14. Yum! Everything looks so pretty and delicious. I think I’ll tag some of these recipes! I hope you are feeling better. I’ve been fighting some virus too.. and I’m making chicken noodle soup as I type! It always smells so good and they say the steam and broth (I make mine from scratch) is has medicinal values :)


  15. I am “saving” this wonderful post to refer back to…I have a Christmas Bunco party to plan soon and I see many wonderful ideas here…Love all of the beautiful decor of your friend…just gorgeous!!

  16. P.S…..Hope you feel better Mary…

  17. I had to smile when you mentioned your horrible cold. Not that it’s a smiling matter but I just had a bad one myself 2 weeks prior to Thanksgiving and did the exact same kind of medicating that you did. Hope you’re feeling better!! I think the Zicam helped but it still took a week to get over.

    I’m saving the palmiers and chicken salad recipes to try! What a wonderful array of appies!

  18. Oh so stunning! The cookies look delicious and your decorations are amazing…Christine

  19. Mary, hope you’re feeling 100% really soon! These photos are gorgeous; and the food looks delicious. You have truly given me some motivation to get up and get moving! The decor is stunning!

  20. First of all I hope you are feeling btter! This is a fabulous post. That F and F cookie jar is GORGEOUS!!!! I have several F and F pieces that I treasure. The chicken salad sounds perfect, I LOOOOVE any chicken salad so this will be on MY menu this season. Thanks so much for sharing so much. From the small glimpses, your friends house looks lovely. XO, Pinky

  21. Mary, so sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather! Hope you’re feeling better by now. This is such a timely post because I’m hosting my mother’s 90th birthday party in Dec. and I need recipes that I can do ahead of time. Glad they’ve all been tested by you!

  22. Another gorgeous, informative post! Thank you for sharing. Just sent your link to my non blogging sis with a note…”see what you’re missing!”

  23. PS Hope you feel better.

  24. I’m so sorry you are under the weather. However, THIS post is just fabulous! I need to bookmark or print the whole thing out. Get well, and thanks for posting!

  25. ABsolutely beautiful and inspiring. My favorite holiday parties are “Bring Your FAvorite Appetizer” parties. I am definitely going to pin some of these. On Christmas day we often just have a meal of fabulous appetizers too. Well, let’s just be honest – right after dessert – appetizers are one of my favorite foods. I love all of your beautiful decor too. So sorry you were sick. Hope you are feeling better!

  26. So sorry to hear you are sick. Your appetizer table and dishes all look fabulous. I’ll be using some of your ideas for sure!!

  27. Debbie@Mountain Breaths

    I love all of your beautiful decor for Christmas. The Savory Palmiers sound wonderful! So sorry you were sick during Thanksgiving, and hope you are feeling better.

  28. Ooh Mary, would I ever love to be a guest at this party! Your setting is so pretty and festive and the food ideas are fabulous. You tried the cha cha chicken salad, too. It’s good, isn’t it? You garnished yours perfectly. Thanks for the inspiration. Hope you’re feeling better now.

  29. Hoping that you are feeling better. What a darling set up for a cookie exchange. Love the fitz and floyd pieces. The food looks wonderful. xo marlis

  30. Mary! You gave me your cold!!!!!!!!! :-( (So THAT’S what they mean by a “computer virus”!!!!) I am sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and….as much as I hate to admit it….so congested that I’m snoring and waking myself up!!!! :-) I just sucked back a little cup of Nyquil, and I’m hoping for a MUCH better night’s sleep. I really hope your cold is nearing an end. It’s never fun to be sick. You just gave me a great deal of inspiration!!! Our annual cul-de-sac progressive dinner is coming up, and I have been assigned hors d’oeuvres this year since my shoulders are bad. I have only done the hors d’oeuvres section once before (I like doing the entree so I can set a great table!), so I’m kinda panicking about what to serve and how to serve it. Problem solved after your post, sister!!! Thank you! Feel better, my sweet!!!

  31. Beautiful photos, gorgeous looking food and the recipes sound delicious..will have to make these when we get to Florida for the holidays…seems our family tends to graze on appetizers and these look so good! Thanks for sharing!!
    Miss Bloomers

  32. What a beautiful spread! Everything is presented so beautifully, and the food looks delicious. I bookmarked this so I can come back for some ideas for appy’s!
    Feel better, Mary! I know you were sick before Tgiving, hope you are fully recovered!
    Fabulous post, as always!

  33. I am saving this most fabulous post for some recipes as we get into Christmas. This was most definitely a feast for the eyes! Love the idea for serving the shrimp salad in a martini glass!

  34. Wow, I wish I was coming over for this fabulous food and fest. You know how much I love Fitz and Floyd so the centerpiece and platters are the best. You always have the bests posts and the food looks delish. Hope you are feeling better, take care.

  35. thecapeonthecorner

    creamy chicken salad? yes, please, i’ll try some of that! how interesing molded like that! stopping in from BNOTP.

  36. Your centerpiece is fab! Love all the fresh greens. I want to make your wonderful looking Cha Cha Chicken. You are an inspiration! I too cake down with a dreaded cold/flu and spent all day Sunday in bed :). Hope you are feeling better. Joni

  37. Rattlebridge Farm

    I enjoyed this post so much, and your Cha Cha Chicken appetizer looks fabulous. I’m sorry you’ve been ill. I caught a similar cold at a Thanksgiving gathering, and I am getting ready to start a second Z-pak and Medrol. Take care and drink fluids! My husband says it helps! XXOO

  38. This is a wonderful spread! I had seen the palmiers recipe in Ina’s cookbook, but I haven’t tried it yet. After seeing your post, I’m truly inspired to make them! This spread is truly a treat to the eyes!

  39. Pingback: To the Table! | Lulu's Musings

  40. All those appetizers look delicious!

  41. Pingback: Merry Cranberry Salsa | Home is Where the Boat Is

  42. Oooo! I’m making this! sounds fabulous. Doesn’t Southern Living have the best recipes?

  43. This is so helpful, Mary–I love make-ahead appetizers, and really appreciate some that are not loaded down with sugar at this time of year–thank you, and I will be trying some of these out for some parties we’re having soon! I wish you a wonderful weekend!

  44. Big hit at the family holiday dinner – Marinated Shrimp & Artichokes.

  45. Hi Mary, stumbled onto your blog this morning (perhaps from vignette design?) and feel quite lucky! Was just wondering what to serve on New Year’s Eve for husband and two sons to make it special, and as I’m an appetizer junkie, believe I will follow your holiday appetizer menu to a “t:! And I can start working on them this weekend, perfect! Thanks for the inspiration. Happy New Year.

  46. Pingback: ‘Tis the Season and Decking the Halls | Home is Where the Boat Is

  47. Those appetizers are wonderful! I also think the way you make everything look delicious is the key :-)

  48. You’re appetizers look tasty and I love all the make ahead appetizers~! Pinned. Thanks for sharing at Marvelous Mondays

  49. Pingback: The Life of the Party: Marinated Shrimp and Artichokes | Home is Where the Boat Is

  50. What gorgeous deliciousness, Mary!

Thanks for your comments~ they make my day :)

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