Holiday entertaining doesn’t have to be a blockbuster affair. In fact, some of the best holiday gatherings are small, impromptu get togethers and relaxed gatherings with easy cocktail party foods, festive snacks and, of course, seasonal drinks. During the holidays especially, I stock my pantry with these snack foods so that I can invite people over whenever the whim strikes. With these goodies on hand, I know my guests will be well fed—without any hard work.
Lesley Stowe Crisps
Crackers are a must at any gathering, and I’m not talking about everyday butter crackers. Don’t get me wrong, those are delicious, but during the holidays you want something special. My favorite choice are Lesley Stowe Crisps. They make a beautiful presentation right out of the box, pair well with a huge variety of cheese, and even taste great plain. Cranberry Hazelnut and Salty Date Almond are my favorites during the holidays, but all of the flavors are ridiculously good. Like ridiculously.
You can purchase Lesley Stowe Crisps in the U.S. through Taylor’s Market.
Onesto Gluten-Free Crackers
I wouldn’t normally suggest keeping gluten-free crackers on hand unless, of course, you’re a gluten-free family or close with one, but I have found the perfect gluten-free cracker made by Onesto Foods. These crispy crackers are made entirely with non-GMO ingredients and are so delicious that the fact they are gluten-free is nothing more than a convenience. You can serve them to everyone and nobody will know the difference. You can’t go wrong choosing between Sea Salt, Rosemary, or a Hint of Cinnamon which, by the way, is the perfect cracker for jam and brie.
You can purchase these gluten-free crackers through the Onesto website.
Simple & Crisp Fruit Crisps
These thin slices of crisp, dried fruit are a nice alternative—or addition—to crackers. More than tasty, these crisps are also elegant. The pear and apple are my favorite, but the orange crisps are stunning. You can serve these plain alongside cheese (as pictured top) or do as Cara from Big Girls Small Kitchen does and top Simple Crisps with creme fraiche (or sour cream) and pomegranate seeds to make a gorgeous appetizer.
Linda’s Gourmet Latkes
We featured these frozen—yes, frozen—latkes as a fab edible Hanukkah gift because they are so delectable, but you don’t have to celebrate the Festival of Lights to dig into a potato pancake. These handmade, vegetarian bites store in the freezer and make killer cocktail food. Just heat and top with apple sauce, a little sour cream or a bite of smoked salmon. Enough of these will make dinner—and believe us that it’s easy to eat a lot of these!
You can find a large variety of latkes—from curry to gluten-free, bite-sized to extra large—on the Linda’s Gourmet Latkes website.
Fortuna Artisanal Italian Salami
Meat and cheese plates are the easiest way to make people happy and—trust me—they don’t have to be fussy. I often forego fancy cured meats for hard salami that can last in the fridge for a while. One of my favorite brands is Fortuna Artisanal Italian Salamis. Buy a single sausage to have on hand for drop in guests (or an easy dinner!) or stock up with a pack of these nitrate-free sausages from Vermont, which also make an awesome gift, by the way. They even have a line of gluten-free salamis. Slice and serve the salami alongside cheese and small potato rolls. If you like mustard, add that on the side, too. These Green Mountain Mustards will knock you off of your feet.
You can find these artisanal salamis through the Fortuna website.
Appetizers by Jose Andres Foods
Famed Spanish Chef Jose Andres is bringing his delectable Spanish tapas stateside through a new line of packaged foods. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll especially love his high quality white tuna in olive oil, razor clams, Mussels in ‘Escabeche’ (a tasty tomato-based sauce), and more. These high-end ingredients make putting together seafood tapas as easy as opening a package. You can also choose from a big variety of other products including roasted vegetables, olives and more. These eats are award-winning and the price reflects that, but just 1 or 2 products will instantly class up your spread.
You can find a full selection of these cocktail party-ready foods at the Jose Andres Foods website.
Shrimp Cocktail with Stonewall Kitchen Cocktail Sauce
If you prefer an all-American take on seafood, go for a classic shrimp cocktail. It’s easy to do given how readily available frozen cooked shrimp is. Just thaw, rinse, plate and serve alongside lemon wedges and cocktail sauce. Making your own sauce is easy, like with this cocktail sauce recipe from Ina Garten, or keep a jar of Stonewall Kitchen New England Cocktail Sauce in your pantry. Stonewall Kitchen has amazing products and this sauce is no exception.
No party is complete without a little sweet treat like bobbysue’s nuts. This killer combination of almonds, cashews, pecans and spices with a dash of sweet is holiday flavor in a jar. It’s also addictive. Like, crazy, you’ll-never-be-able-to-live-without-them addictive. You don’t have to feel bad about it, though, since bobbysue’s nuts is on an ongoing mission to raise money for the SPCA of Westchester, NY. They’ve already donated almost $40,000 and won’t stop, so buy lots. It’s easy given how stellar all three flavors are.
Owl’s Brew Teas Crafted for Cocktails
Food and drink go hand in hand, and it’s always nice to offer a tasty sip that feels festive whether spiked or not. I love Owl’s Brew, a ready-to-pour tea blended specifically for cocktails, because it’s just as easy to turn into a boozy drink as it is to serve as a mocktail. Just mix 2 parts brew with 1 part booze, seltzer or sparkling cider. Either way, you’ll end up with a perfect holiday libation.