Because the Thanksgiving menu is fairly set in stone, particularly in traditional, meat-lovin’ families, there’s not a lot of room for deviation or culinary creativity. But whether you’re hosting a big Thanksgiving this year, traveling to a get-together, or just planning to meet up with a friend or two, appetizers are a chance to do something interesting.
My husband and I decided to have “appetizers for dinner” and try out a few holiday-ish recipes! Caveat: We are not the best photographers, but we wanted to show the process. The results, below:
1. Bacon Wrapped Lil’ Smokies
These bites of pork-on-pork are something I’ve been wanting to try forever. They are extremely simple to make: just cut a piece of bacon in half, widthwise, and wrap it around a lil’ smokie. (The recipe we were following said to use a whole piece of bacon, but we felt like that was a bit much). We cut some of the larger pieces of fat off the ends of the bacon, but didn’t get rid of it all.
We had no problem getting the bacon to stick to the smokie and stay wrapped up, but you can always use toothpicks to hold them together too. Arrange the smokies on a baking sheet, doesn’t matter if they’re touching, and sprinkle them with brown sugar.
These tasted amazing. My husband thought they were salty but I didn’t care because they were mind-blowingly delicious. Don’t be shy with the brown sugar–the bit of baked sweetness on top really makes them special. These are definitely something we’ll be contributing to Thanksgiving this year.
2. Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider
This is a non-alcoholic, poor man’s version of wassail. I was initially a little concerned, because the recipe calls for whole cloves which you remove after the cider simmers, and I only had ground cloves. I just added the tiniest pinch (<1/8th teaspoon) of the ground cloves and crossed my fingers that it would still impart some kind of taste.
There are only six ingredients and the prep entails nothing but slicing a lemon, so this is a simple recipe that takes all of five minutes to dump together. Making it in the crockpot renders it somewhat portable, plus if you take it to a friend or family member’s house, you can plug it in and keep it warm.
We wound up leaving this in the crockpot on high for two hours, tasting along the way to see if we thought the flavors were blended enough. Based on our experience, it might be easier to boil it on the stove (which the recipe says to do), then transfer it to the crockpot if you are short on time or want to take it somewhere.
Neither one of us is a big cider fan, but we both loved this. Heck, I loved it enough to put it in my Brady Bunch mug, and that’s saying something. I really liked that the cranberry and lemon made the cider tangy, as opposed to overwhelmingly sweet. And cranberries, cinnamon and that hint of cloves made it taste like fall. If I made this again, I might try throwing in a bit of nutmeg and allspice to deepen the flavor, but even without those additions, it is very, very tasty.
3. Feta/Cheddar Cheese Crescent Rolls
We took a lot of liberties with the original recipe, first using Pillsbury crescent rolls when we couldn’t find puff pastry, then adding crushed walnuts and golden raisins. We made three rolls filled with cheddar, raisins, and walnuts, and three more with feta, raisins, and walnuts. We used a can of the “Big Dinner Rolls,” so there were only six rolls and they made pretty large pockets. As an appetizer, I wouldn’t advise making more than one per person, because they are pretty rich.
My husband thought these were really amazing, and I thought they were good, but not, you know, the best thing ever”. The raisins and walnuts definitely work better with the cheddar, especially the raisins, which I would highly recommend adding (the walnuts were just sort of meh). The feta pockets were by far my favorite though, and they would have been delicious with or without the other ingredients. I liked that the feta didn’t melt as entirely, so it left more of a creamy rather than gooey filling.
I included a picture of how we wrapped them up, so you can see just how to center the filling and tuck in the sides, almost like a burrito. I’m glad that we used the crescent rolls, because they were very buttery and soft. Also, brushing egg yolk on top seems like an extraneous step, but it left them looking beautifully browned. All in all, these looked prettier than I thought they would but didn’t taste as great as I thought they would, so I might keep them on the back burner this Thanksgiving.