Having a holiday get-together in the next couple of days or next week? Don’t let your fun holiday party stress you out or keep you in the kitchen all night long. Take advantage of some of our easy recipes and Trader Joe’s products to create fast and easy appetizers and meals. Instead of slaving over the stove, join the festivities and enjoy delicious and interesting food without breaking a sweat in the process. Here’s how:

1. Plan ahead and shop early. A few days before the party, figure out your menu and pick up all the ingredients.  Trader Joe’s has great party-friendly foods from appetizers to desserts – the Trader Joe’s holiday guide has some great ideas.

2. Keep drinks simple. Fancy up plain water by adding raspberries or slices of cucumber to the pitcher.  Make sparkling spritzers by combining juice with sparkling water, Champagne, or Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine – the Zonin brand at TJ’s is $6 and terrific).  For an elegant touch, garnish the glasses with lemon slices or pomegranate seeds.  There is a great selection of bargain wines from Trader Joe’s.

3. Tasty appetizers. Have a great selection of appetizers including cheeses, crackers, olives, and breads.  Try the Apricot Baked Brie recipe from our first cookbook (which is a steal on Amazon for $10 now), or the recent Pear Baked Brie we featured on the blog. 

Have you tried TJ’s Grilled Artichoke Dip (in the refrigerated section)?  Dump two containers into a small oven-safe baking dish, top with some crushed pecans and bake until bubbly on the edges.  Yum!  Other easy appetizers include the frozen Tarte d’Alsace cut into squares or puff pastry topped with savory tapenade or bruschetta.  

4. Cook ahead of time. Think of meals that you can prepare ahead of time and serve at room temperature, so you’re not trapped in the kitchen worrying about timing and synchronizing dishes.  Even a dish like salmon can be prepared ahead of time and served at room temperature or cold.  Pair broiled salmon with peanut sesame noodles or an Asian slaw, two dishes that keep well when made ahead of time.  Dishes like lasagna or roast chicken are also great because they can be prepped ahead of time and simply stuck in the oven at the right time.

5. Use inexpensive ingredients to create sophisticated meals. Pasta is an elegant yet economical way to feed a large gathering of guests.  Stir in some arugula or basil, add vegetables, and complete the dish with fancier items such as pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, or a sprinkle of goat cheese.

6. For dessert, keep things simple and concentrate on presentation. Choose a dessert you can make ahead of time such as mousse (the South Seas Chocolate Mousse in our cookbook is my go-to make-ahead dessert!), brownies, fudge, or cake. You can also buy plenty of prepared desserts at Trader Joe’s – the Blueberry Peach Panna Cotta, Rasberry Tarte, and Chocolate Ganache are highly recommended.  They’re excellent and affordable too.  Top the dessert or individual servings with Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Stars for a festive touch. Coffee and tea are inexpensive and provide a relaxed ending to a great evening.
Here’s wishing you a very happy holiday!