These quick and simple recipes make party prep a piece of cake!
In an ideal world, we’d channel our inner Martha Stewart before every party, spending the day cooking up a storm and wowing everyone with our culinary skills. In the real world, life gets in the way, and there’s almost always a major time crunch. But here’s the thing: Quick and simple doesn’t have to mean lazy, unhealthy, or cliché.
Here, nutrition experts and food bloggers share some of their favorite fresh ideas for making party prep way easier, whether you’re hosting your own gathering or dropping in on a friend’s shindig. All are packed with flavor and only require three (or fewer) ingredients, not including salt, pepper, and olive oil.
1. Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers
“Mini sweet peppers can be stuffed with just about anything and are tasty served hot or cold,” says Tina Gowin Carlucci, R.D.N., a Virginia-based dietitian and certified personal trainer. “Plus, they’re colorful, which means they not only look pretty on an appetizer platter, but they’re also rich in antioxidants called carotenoids that help immune function.”
- 10 mini sweet peppers
- 1 cup of your favorite hummus
- ½ cup chopped Kalamata olives
- Optional: Sriracha and paprika
What to do: Slice each mini pepper in half, and carefully remove the ribs and seeds. Stuff ½ to 1 tablespoon of hummus into each pepper half, and sprinkle with chopped olives. If you like heat, stir a dollop of sriracha into the hummus, and sprinkle with paprika on top.
2. Cucumber Rounds
We eat with our eyes, and turning cucumber slices into cups immediately makes them look more appealing without much extra effort. “They have the crunch and size of crackers but provide added anti-inflammatory benefits and fiber,” Gowin Carlucci says.
- 2 cucumbers, cut into 1½-inch slices
- 1 cup feta cheese
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
What to do: Scoop out the inner seeds of the cucumber slices to create “cups.” Mix the feta and chopped tomato together, and put a spoonful of the mixture into each cucumber round.
3. Stuffed Dates
These bites may be small, but they pack a pretty impressive nutritional punch. Calcium-rich dates serve as the vehicle for heart-healthy nuts. Walnuts and pistachios are suggested here for the filling, but Gowin-Carlucci says almonds work just as well.
- 20 pitted dates
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup chopped pistachios
What to do: Carefully cut a slit in the side of each date without splitting it completely in half to create an “envelope.” Mix the walnuts and pistachios together, and stuff the mixture into each date.
4. Smashed Red Potatoes with Chives
Potatoes are low in fat and high in potassium and vitamin B6, but their nutritional value often gets compromised when they’re served up as greasy French fries. Caroline Caron-Phelps, food writer for the Huffington Post and author of the food blog Pickled Plum, offers a healthier potato recipe that also looks more presentable as an appetizer. Topping potatoes with a peppery element, such as chives, adds texture and a refreshing taste, she says.
- 10 to 12 baby red potatoes
- 1 bunch chives
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
What to do: Boil the potatoes for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked. While they’re cooking, chop the chives. Drain potatoes, and smash them gently with your palms or a spatula. Place potatoes in a pan that’s been heated with olive oil, and cook until crisp. Transfer potatoes to a plate, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chopped chives.
5. Popcorn with Za’atar Seasoning
Popcorn isn’t just for the movies. Set it out in pretty bowls for elegant presentation and a crunchy prelude to the main meal. This recipe kicks the flavor profile up a notch with za’atar seasoning. “An aromatic blend of sumac, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sesame seeds, and salt, za’atar is smoky, citrusy, and high in antioxidants that protect against cell damage,” Caron-Phelps says. It’s also easily found in most grocery stores.
- ½ cup unpopped popcorn or 1 bag unbuttered popcorn
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons za’atar seasoning
What to do: If your popcorn isn’t popped, follow the instructions on the bag to do so. Toss the popcorn with olive oil and za’atar seasoning until coated well. If desired, season with pepper.
6. Radishes with Cucumber Raita
Get your meal started on a refreshing note with this Indian-inspired raita. Caron-Phelps recommends serving the yogurt-based dip with radish halves, which offers satisfying crunch for far fewer calories than chips. Bonus: Radishes are high in water and contain vitamin C, which can help hydrate and protect skin naturally.
- 20 baby radishes, stems on
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 1 or 2 small cucumbers, finely chopped or grated
What to do: Slice radishes in half. Mix yogurt with cucumber, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a dipping bowl, and serve with radishes.
7. Avocado and White Bean Crostini
“Canned beans are a great ingredient for quick and easy appetizers,” says Stephanie McKercher, R.D.N., author and recipe developer of The Grateful Grazer blog. “They only need to be rinsed and drained right before you use them,” she says. This simple crostini is not only delicious, but it also delivers “a healthy balance of fiber, fats, and protein.”
- 1 can white beans
- 1 avocado
- 1 whole wheat baguette
What to do: Rinse and drain white beans, and add to a large bowl. Scoop the flesh of the avocado into the bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and mash until the mix is as smooth as you prefer. Slice the baguette, and toast until slightly brown and crispy. Spread white bean and avocado mixture onto each slice.
8. Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms
“I always like to have appetizers that include some sort of vegetable for a little extra fiber and nutrition,” says Kaleigh McMordie, R.D.N., author and recipe developer of the blog Lively Table. Stuffed mushrooms are a classic veggie-based appetizer, but this one simplifies the prep by using only a handful of ingredients. Nobody will know that these elegant and tasty appetizers were so simple to make, McMordie says.
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- 2 pints baby bella or cremini mushrooms (about 2 dozen)
- 1 package (5.2 ounces) garlic and herb cream cheese
- Olive oil for drizzling
What to do: Place the bread in a blender or food processor, and pulse to make breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Wash the mushrooms, remove the stems, and place them hole-side up on the cookie sheet. Spoon about one teaspoon of the cream cheese into each mushroom. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top, pressing down gently to make them stick. Drizzle the mushrooms lightly with olive oil, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.
9. Easy Tomato Toasts
“This easy appetizer is full of flavor without a lot of work involved,” says Lindsey Joe, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Tennessee Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Even better, the tomatoes are a good source of potassium, a powerful mineral that can help control blood pressure.”
- 1 pound roma tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons truffle oil
- 1 whole grain baguette
- Optional: Garlic and herb seasoning
What to do: Mix the tomatoes and truffle oil together. Add a dash of salt and pepper—or garlic and herb seasoning, if you prefer. Slice the baguette into ½-inch slices, and toast. Add a spoonful of the tomato mixture on top of each toasted slice.
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