Finger foods make great holiday treats

Published 5:32 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Season’s greetings to all you folks out there throwing parties and hosting events during the most wonderful time of the year. I plan to arm you with all the tools you will need to host a fun event of any magnitude sprinkled with tasty treats. The best part is that it will be easy on your stress level, pocket and waist line with these helpful tips.

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First up, let’s talk appetizers. Whether you’re throwing a dinner party or making a meal of these, appetizers are great for any occasion. Quick little bites bursting with flavor can satisfy any appetite. Appetizers are the perfect party food because they require few ingredients and little effort. At least, the ones I like to prepare fit that description. I always go for things that can be made in advance, made in a slow cooker or thrown together in a matter of minutes. Here are some suggestions for no-fail finger foods that will leave your guests feeling satisfied.

Meatballs. Need I say more? These are a great option in any situation. Visit your grocer’s freezer section for some premade meatballs that you can add your own sauce recipe. If you want to get fancy, feel free to make them from scratch, but frozen works perfectly fine. Put the fresh or frozen meatballs in your slow cooker and then prepare the sauce. I know it sounds like work when you think of making sauce, but it’s actually really simple. Mix a jar of grape jelly and a bottle of your favorite original BBQ sauce together and pour over the meatballs for a classic flavored sauce. Substitute a spicy BBQ sauce for some added heat. Or mix a bottle of original BBQ sauce with a bottle of chili sauce for a tangy flavor. You can always get creative with alternative flavors such as Asian chili or marinara for a whole new twist.

Speaking of a twist, pop open a can of crescent or biscuit dough to make all sorts of easy apps. I’m sorry in advance for any anxiety these suggestions may have caused since opening tubes of pre-made biscuit dough can be quite startling.

The best part about pre-made dough is the options of ways you can stuff it. The worst part is opening the can. Beware of the pop, it comes without warning and gets me every time. It’s worse when you have to use a spoon to pop it open after unwrapping the label as directed. Don’t be scared; you’re not alone.

Take some crescent dough and wrap it around little mini sausages and bake until golden brown. Piggy blankets are always a crowd favorite. Add a piece of cheese to the mini sausage before rolling the dough and you instantly take piggy blankets to the next level.

Got leftover ham? Roll that up with some cheese, make your leftovers work for you. Roll up some chocolate chips in the crescent dough and sprinkle with powdered sugar for a sweet treat. Spread some store bought pesto on the dough and lay diced roasted red peppers on it, roll it up in a log, slice and bake for pesto pinwheels. I could go on for days with ways to stuff premade dough but that should be enough to get you started.

If you have time or crescent dough is on sale, you can make these apps in advance and freeze them before or after you bake them. That can save you time and headaches when it comes time to party.

Last but not least on our list of easy appetizers are dips. Seriously, they can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make them. I promise you, simple doesn’t mean you’re skimping on flavor. Some of the best dips in the whole wide world have less than 5 ingredients. Buffalo chicken dip has shredded chicken, ranch dressing, sour cream, cream cheese and hot sauce. Serve on crackers or toast points. Salsa has tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Serve with tortilla chips. Guacamole has avocados and — here’s the best secret ever — pico de gallo. Serve with tortilla chips, triscuits, or fresh veggies.

Side note: Pico de gallo is just diced onions, tomatoes and cilantro that you can buy already prepared. It goes well with … well, anything really. It helps make really delicious and quick guac if you’re in a hurry. Don’t forget to squeeze a little lime juice on that avocado to keep it from turning brown.

If you want a quick fruit dip, just mix a cup of low-fat vanilla yogurts and cinnamon to taste and serve.

My favorite veggie dip consists of one cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt and a dry ranch seasoning packet. The tip to a great cold dip is to make it ahead and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors get better acquainted. The tip to great hot dips is to use a slow cooker liner in the crock pot when you make it so clean up is a breeze. The other tip to a great hot dip is cheese. Just cheese.

Now that we have covered the essentials, let’s explore two topics I can’t get enough of: food safety and healthy snacks. I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. But you will have a happier holiday if you don’t have food poisoning.

Just remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Get those leftovers into the fridge in a timely fashion — within two hours, to be specific. Bacteria love holiday appetizers just as much as your guests, so don’t invite them to the party. My favorite thing to have on a buffet line isn’t even something you can eat. Have a bottle of hand sanitizer by the plates and napkins so people remember to “wash their hands” before digging in. Of course washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to kill and remove germs, but hand sanitizer is great for convenience.

Holiday parties can have many delicious foods that are full of flavor as well as calories. Here are some tips to cut calories but not flavor. Serve dips with whole wheat crackers, fruit, or veggies. Don’t be afraid to serve apps that are fruit- and vegetable-based. Caprese salad kabobs are simple, light and elegant. Dazzle your guests by serving fruit infused sparkling water to drink instead of sugary punch.

These easy appetizers will satisfy your guests without making them too full. Though the holidays are often filled with rich, heavy foods, it doesn’t have to be that way! Check out these recipes; they’re good examples of light finger food that are just as delicious and better for you than other more traditional appetizers.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information, feel free to contact me by email at

Caprese salad kabobs

This light, delicious, and colorful appetizer will brighten up your holiday spread and impress your guests. Prep time: 15 minutes; makes 12 kabobs.


24 grape tomatoes

12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls

24 fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

12 wooden skewers


• On each wooden skewer, thread a tomato, basil leaf, cheese ball, basil leaf and finish with another tomato.

• Place skewers on a serving plate.

• In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the vinegar.

• Drizzle over kabobs just before serving.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 45 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 12 milligrams sodium, 2 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein

Brie bites


1 8-oz. tube crescent dough

Cooking spray, for pan

Flour, for surface

1 8-oz. wheel brie

1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce

1/4 cup chopped pecans

6 sprigs of rosemary, cut into 1″ pieces


• Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

• On a lightly floured surface, roll out crescent dough and pinch together seams.

• Cut into 24 squares.

• Place squares into muffin tin slots.

• Cut brie into small pieces and place inside the crescent dough.

• Top with a spoonful of cranberry sauce, some chopped pecans, and one little sprig of rosemary.

• Bake until the crescent pastry is golden, about 15 minutes.