Appetizer Ideas From Our Holiday Dessert Party

For our annual holiday dessert party, guests bring the sweets and I provide the appetizer finger food for the evening.  Since I like to make my entertaining strategy simple, I am usually a crock pot one main entree kind of girl to keep my sanity.  So this is the one time of year where I cook multiple hot dishes at once and keep an eye on replenishing throughout the night.  The last few years have been test runs to this year's success.  Last year I perfected my menu while this year I actually got it all cooked ahead of time.  This is what we ate.

Veggies are easy to prep ahead of time and I like to add at least one healthy element to my food spread.  Fruit could be another option but I find the veggies easier to grab and eat.  I serve it alongside homemade ranch dressing that is now a regular kitchen staple at our house. 

Another easy item is cheese, crackers, and salami.  For my dairy free, gluten free, and vegetarian friends, I keep each item on a separate dish so they can pick and choose what to have.  This is also usually a kid friendly food.

A new addition to our menu was cut up sausages.  Sausages in a variety of flavors were cooked and then cut up in advance and kept warm in a slow cooker.  So easy yet so tasty.  A hit with the men and the variety of flavors makes things fun.

Fried Cheese Ravioli Recipe -- So delicious and a crowd pleaser at parties!

Fried cheese raviolis have become a quick favorite.  Dipped in marinara for perfection.  These are actually fried so these are done last, about an hour before the party starts, and then kept warm in the oven.

Fried Cheese Ravioli -- Adapted from the Food Network

1 pound fresh cheese or meat ravioli
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
Marina sauce, for dipping

Freeze raviolis for 20-30 minutes.  

Whisk the eggs and milk in a shallow dish or pie plate.  Place bread crumbs in another dish.

Dip the ravioli in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. 
Place on baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 15 minutes.

Heat about 1 inch vegetable oil in a deep skillet until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F. 
Fry the ravioli in 2 or 3 batches, turning as needed, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. 
Serve with the marinara sauce.

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza Recipe -- the best pizza I have ever tasted!

Pizza is always an easy side dish and pepperoni is usually always safe.  The show stopper here is the pear and gorgonzola.  It is quite possibly one of the tastiest pizzas ever.  And I like meat on my pizza.  This still wins hands down.  A friend of mine had pizza ordered in pizza for her birthday one year and we have both remade it at home because it is that good.  People freak out at how good this is.  Okay, if you don't believe me yet, you won't until you taste it.  But it's good.  Okay, I'm done.

Pizzas were made a few hours ahead and were kept warm in the oven (170 degrees is the lowest mine goes and worked well).  I layered them on top of each other on a baking pan with foil in between. 

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza -- Makes One Pizza

Homemade pizza dough (1 or 1/2 recipe depending on thickness desired)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Mozzarella cheese
1 ripe brown (as in color not ripeness) pear (not green) sliced
Gorgonzola cheese

Roll out pizza dough.  Cover dough with olive oil so that dough is covered with a light layer on the entire thing.  Salt and pepper and then top with chopped garlic.  Top with mozzarella cheese to cover pizza.  Add sliced pear and cover with a little more mozzarella.  Top with gorgonzola cheese.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

And then we ate dessert.  Any other tips on serving appetizer type food to a crowd?