When it comes to Thanksgiving food, you have to know when to go all out and when to give in.
Stars of the meal – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie – are worth fussing over. They’re best made from scratch, which means they’ll take up most of your time and brain space ahead of the holiday meal.
Appetizers are a different story. Their main purpose (at least at our houses) is to hold people off until dinner and – most importantly – keep them out of the kitchen until the food is done. They should be pretty, tasty and easy.
With that in mind, we offer a buffet of simple appetizer recipes that call for five or fewer ingredients:
Pinwheels are fun, easy baked apps made of prepackaged crescent rolls and any filling you like.
Yield: 1 package of crescent rolls yields 20 pinwheels
1 package crescent rolls
3 tablespoons pesto
3 tablespoons tapenade
Parmesan to taste
Open up the crescent rolls and lay the two rectangles on an oiled pastry board or clean countertop. Oil the surface with a little cooking spray so the dough doesn’t stick while you’re working with it.
Next, use your fingers to work out the perforations in the dough. Do this on both sides so that the pinwheels don’t come apart as they bake.
Next, distribute the spread across the entire surface of the dough, and then sprinkle some Parmesan over it. We went with pesto and olive tapenade, but some other ideas for filling are spicy harissa, queso or marinara and shredded mozzarella.
Roll the rectangles the short way to create short cylinders. Pat in the sides so the rolls don’t come to a point on either end. Cut them into 10 equal slices, and lay them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or grease the baking sheet). Sprinkle a little more Parmesan over the top, and place them in a 400 F oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Want to make it sweet? Try adding filling such as fruit jams or a mixture of butter, sugar and cinnamon. Instead of topping with Parmesan, add a sprinkle of sugar before you throw them in the oven.
Yield: 8-10 mushrooms
Stuffed mushrooms might look fancy, but they are so easy to make.
Remove the mushroom stems. Then, mix ½ a cup of your favorite cream cheese with ½ cup bread crumbs and ¼ cup pesto. We recommend using flavored cream cheese, like Miyoko’s chive double-cream cashew cheese, to add depth.
Mix everything thoroughly, and then stuff the mushrooms with the mixture. Bake at 400 F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: Varies, (1 hothouse cucumber makes 8-10 cucumber cups; 1 sweet pepper makes 1 sweet pepper cup)
Garlic spread dip
Serving a platter of veggies and dip is tried and true, but they can get messy. Plus, you have to worry about the party-goers double-dipping. Yuck. These stuffed crudités are a quick and easy way to take the pain out of sharing communal dips.
Peel and cut a cucumber into 1 ½- inch rounds. Use a spoon or melon baller to hollow out a little hole, taking care not to poke all the way through to the other end. Use a small spoon to fill the cucumbers with hummus.
For the peppers, remove the tops and seeds. Because they are a little bigger, we stuffed these heirloom sweet peppers with half hummus and half garlic spread. Top with a dollop of olive tapenade and a little parsley leaf for garnish.
Caprese: Tomato, mozzarella and basil, drizzled with balsamic glaze
Greek: Olive, feta, grilled artichoke hearts and tomato
Sweet and savory: Basil, mint, strawberry and feta, drizzled with balsamic glaze
Of all the apps on this list, these have to be the easiest.
Finger food on fancy sticks is a cocktail party essential. For whatever reason, everything looks prettier impaled by an elegant bamboo pick. Make sure you get the fancy skewers ahead of time; they aren’t a common kitchen staple, so you might need to shop a food specialty store or order them online ahead of time.
To assemble, simply skewer the ingredients onto a pick. That’s it. What you put on the pick is entirely up to you, but we’ve given you a few options above.
And there you have it: At least eight ways to impress at your next holiday party with very little effort in the kitchen. Get creative! Go for your favorite sauces or vegetables, sweet instead of savory … There are no limits.
Check out these recipes to up your kitchen game:
This article originally appeared on Grateful: Easy Thanksgiving recipes: These appetizers need 5 or less ingredients