Appetizers Archives | Stephanie Dreyer

Appetizers

December 9, 2019
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I’m a huge Trader Joe’s fan. It’s my main store for my weekly shopping because of the abundance of plant-based products it offers, but this time of year, it’s also my go-to for all of its delicious holiday hacks. Their huge selection of meal helpers for making homemade-ish meals is a time saver with all of the holiday cooking and entertaining in my house.

(Homemade-ish a term I coined that means preparing a homemade meal in less than 30 minutes using prepared products from the store, such as sauces, frozen foods, or prepped produce.) During the holidays when we have so much to juggle and cook, I love a little help from the store…and Trader Joe’s is my go-to helper.

While Trader Joe’s offers lots of dinner hacks and meal solutions featuring their spreads, dips and bagged salads, today I’m focusing on the holidays—and specifically, appetizers and desserts! I go big on the meal so that’s where I can use the most help. Check your Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer because they’re always adding new seasonal products that may surprise you and become the inspiration for your next family favorite dish. Below are a few holiday hacks to inspire you!

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks for Appetizers

Appetizers

Small bites are easy to throw together with everything that TJ’s has to offer. These appetizer ideas are fun and easy.

Holiday Antipasto Wreath or Tree

This was a huge hit with my family last year! Choose from the assortment of marinated vegetables and olives that Trader Joe’s offers and also include raw vegetables, such as sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Secure each bite with a toothpick, arranged in a pattern.

Crispy Vegetable Pouches

Find these in the frozen section and serve with their Carrot Miso Ginger Dressing (found by the salads). I think a bag of Tempura Cauliflower would be a delicious addition to a serving platter with these pouches on them.

Meatless Meatballs with Cranberry Orange Relish

Find the meatballs in the frozen section. Serve with toothpicks for a very simple, yet elegant small bite.

Hold the Corn! Appetizers

These savory cones are the perfect handheld for a cocktail party. Serve with Trader Joe’s Gyoza Dipping Sauce or Soyaki. 

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks for Cocktails

Beverages

Everyone loves a festive drink for the season. I’m looking forward to one of these!

Winter Wassail

This “punch” blends nicely with red wine and mulled on the stove or mix it with Prosecco for a lively party libation.

Coconut Milk Nog

This nog is the perfect mixer with Kahlua and vodka…for sipping by the fire. 

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks

Desserts

I’m not a baker so I love to take help from the store when it comes to dessert. These are just a few ideas.

Holiday Cookie Plate

Trader Joe’s offers a variety of vegan cookies (chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip, Peppermint Joe Joes, Speculoos cookies, Soft Baked Snickerdoodles and Brownie Crisps are a few of my favorite plant-based options. For the holidays, TJ’s also has Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies and Scandinavian Tidings candies that would add a festive touch to the cookie plate.

Peppermint Marshmallow Brownies

Add flax eggs and vegan butter to TJ’s Brownie box mix and stir in peppermint marshmallows for a chocolate mint treat.

Peppermint Rice Crispy Treats

Swap the peppermint marshmallows for regular in your favorite rice crispy treat recipe. Cut into squares and dip in melted chocolate (use Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips).

Do you have a Trader Joe’s holiday hack to share? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Want more plant-based meal planning tips? Check out my new Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning. 

Trader Joe's Holiday Hacks

 


December 2, 2019
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Hooray for the holidays! Tis the season of eating and drinking. Who else has a few holiday potlucks on the calendar this month? If you need help figuring out what to bring, you’re in the right place! I’ve got a round up of delicious plant-based dishes that everyone will love (omnivores included!).

First things, first: If this is your first season of holiday potlucks as a plant-powered eater, you may have some questions about how to navigate attending a potluck when you’re the only vegan. I’ve been there (and am still there!). These are a few tips that I follow any time I’m going to a potluck:

Eat something before the party.

Give yourself a small bite to tide you over through the party so that if there isn’t much to eat, you won’t be starving until you get home.

Bring a dish you love that you know will satiate you. 

This is your fail safe: you know that if there’s nothing else to eat at the party, you’ll have this one dish! You might even bring two items instead of one. I like to bring an appetizer (something I can graze on throughout the party – like vegetable sticks and a great dip) and a hearty salad.

Stick to “safe” entrees 

Instead of searching down the host or whoever brought each item to check the ingredient list, focus on dishes that are easy to identify (although more power to you if you want to track down and drill the host and guests!).

Holiday potlucks are a great opportunity to share the deliciousness of plant-based food. This is the time to bring your favorite vegan dish and share your love of it with everyone else. Go for it but keep the following guidelines in mind.

The best potluck dishes are ones that:

Taste great at room temperature

Don’t require reheating or keeping hot

Are easy to eat while talking and walking around (while holding a drink in another hand!)

Don’t use obscure ingredients 

Are familiar (Stick to whole plant-based foods and avoid the faux meats and cheeses.)

Travels well (and requires minimal assembly when you arrive at your holiday potluck)

Are visually appealing (Show stoppers are always a win and great conversation starters…”Why yes, I did bring that. Thank you so much…!!”)

Recipes

The following round up of holiday potluck recipes are just a few ideas to inspire you. These are some of my go-to’s.

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
Photo by Cookie & Kate

Salads

This is a healthy but flavorful choice, and depending on the recipe, can be very filling. It’s a great pick because people are eating so much junk this time of year and appreciate something healthy that is delicious. Let the colors of the season inspire the ingredients you use. Some of my top picks are:

Herbed Chickpea and Quinoa Salad by Cookie & Kate 

Brussels & Pomegranate Salad by Blissful Basil  

Pasta Salad by Well and Full 

Crowd-Pleasing Caesar Salad by Oh She Glows 

Vegan Doughnuts
Photo by Healthy Happy Life

Sweets and Treats

If you’re a sweet person, chances are that the desserts will NOT be vegan so bringing your own is a great choice for you contribution to the holiday potluck. You can’t go wrong with any of these:

Cookies: This chocolate chip cookie gets rave reviews all the time.

Donuts by Healthy Happy Life 

Holiday Bark by Sweet Simple Vegan 

Chicken Shwarma Dip
Photo by Minimalist Baker

Dips

An amazing dip, spread or hummus is a great conversation starter. Serve with tasty dippers for an easy win win. These spreads will get everyone talking:

Mushroom Pate with Crackers by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

Chickpea Shawarma Dip by Minimalist Baker 

Artichoke Dip by Healthy Happy Life

Tomato and Basil Pinwheels
Photo by Minimalist Baker

Handhelds 

These are great options for that little something you can hold and walk around with as you mingle at your holiday potluck (with cocktail in hand):

Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Pinwheels by Minimalist Baker 

My Vegan Deviled Potatoes 

Garlic Stuffed Olives by The Baking Fairy 

Want more plant-based meal planning tips? Check out my new Ultimate Guide to Plant-based Meal Planning. 

Plant-based meal ideas

 


December 9, 2018

It’s not a party without a cheese platter so I’m showing you my favorites in this vegan holiday cheese guide!

I was a huge cheese eater before going vegan.  As a former vegetarian for five years, I swore I could never go vegan because I could not give up cheese.

Soon thereafter, I learned about the atrocities of dairy farming (organic does not mean humane either, folks) and the realities of forced impregnation and lactation on mommy cows while their babies are stolen from them.  After that, saying goodbye to dairy was easy peasy.  I don’t ever want to be a part of that – no matter how good the cheese tastes.

I made the sacrifice, acknowledging that my snack platters would no longer include cheese. That was until recently, when an abundance of dairy-free artisan cheese options have become widely available at mainstream grocery retailers such as Ralph’s, Vons, Whole Foods, and Lazy Acres.  The demand for delectable, natural vegan cheeses is on the rise and artisan cheesemakers are responding with delicious products.  With this emergence of plant-based cheese options, my only struggle is which one to choose!

Of course, I have my favorites and go-to’s (I love you Miyoko’s Kitchen!) but when it comes to the holidays, I like to mix it up and splurge. In my opinion, the best cheese platters offer variety not only in flavor, but also in texture. You want a balanced combination of soft and hard cheeses with a mix of pungent and mild tastes.

It's not a party in my book without a cheese platter so check out this Vegan Holiday Cheese Guide for some of my favorites for celebrating the season.

A winning spread also needs colors and textures. That’s where crudite and crackers come in. What’s cheese without something to spread it on! I’m partial to veggies over crackers for spreading because it means I can eat more cheese!!

When it comes to selecting which cheese brands and varieties to add to your platter, good luck! With so many to choose from, it’s no easy task. Read on for some of my favorites.

My Vegan Holiday Cheese Guide

Miyoko’s Kitchen 

Hands down, this is the best cheese I have ever had – dairy or not.  Miyoko is constantly evolving it’s offerings, including its latest Roadhouse cheeses.  My favorite varieties include Herbs de Provence Smoked Farmhouse, Sun-dried Tomato, Double Cream Chive, and French Style Winter Truffle. There is literally something for every occasion.

My vegan holiday cheese guide picks:

Smoked Mozzarella: This ball of smoky goodness tastes amazing sliced and layered on mini toasts or vegetables, but for even more holiday fun, melt it like fondue and serve with bread cubes for dipping.

Cheers to Cheddah: This cheese spread makes a great holiday cheese ball. Just scoop it out of the container, mold into a ball and cover it with sliced almonds. Chill until ready to serve.

It's not a party in my book without a cheese platter so check out this Vegan Holiday Cheese Guide for some of my favorites for celebrating the season.

Kite Hill

The almond based creations and spreads from this company can stand alone on any cheese plate, but they also are perfect for sprinkling on salads, pizzas and pastas.

My vegan holiday cheese guide picks:

Chive Cream Cheese Style Spread: This schmear looks and taste decadent in an endive leaf or on a mini toast.

Ricotta: This is SO good. It’s salty and crumbly, pairing perfectly with pomegranates and cranberries in sprinkled in salads or spread on crostini.

Yvonne’s Kitchen

Yvonne is local in the Los Angeles. MilkandEggs.com recently starting selling several of her products (which also include cookies, cheesecake and crackers) but you can also be ordered directly through her website. She offers local delivery to Orange County and Los Angeles

My vegan holiday cheese guide pick:

Goatless Cheese: This cashew-based log is the best dairy-free substitute I’ve tasted for goat cheese. It’s super festive, topped with dried cranberry and dill. Pair with her Superfood Crackers for a delicious addition to your holiday platter.

It's not a party in my book without a cheese platter so check out this Vegan Holiday Cheese Guide for some of my favorites for celebrating the season.

Treeline Cheese

I love each of these soft, French-style nut cheeses. They are creamy and spreadable and make a beautiful display with vegetables and crackers. They also have two aged nut cheeses that are firm and tangy (great for slicing on a cheese board).

My vegan holiday cheese guide picks:

Herb-Garlic French-Style Soft Nut Cheese: This is my favorite of their spreadables. So tangy and scrumptious!

Cracked Pepper Aged Nut Cheese: This is one of their hard cheeses. It makes for a beautiful presentation with herb crackers.

 

Do you have a favorite dairy-free cheese not on this list? I’d love to hear what you’re serving on your holiday platters! Tell me in the comments below.


April 15, 2018
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If you’ve been following my Instagram lately, you’ve noticed that I am obsessed with snack platters! They are my favorite way to feed the kids after school or entertain guests before dinner is served. I have even brought them to theater rehearsals and school when it’s my turn to bring snack. Whether I need an appetizer to accompany cocktails, snacks for book club, or eats for a party, snack platters are a beautiful way to feed people.

They offer variety so there is something for everyone, and it allows you to pull lots of snacks together in one place for easy serving and eating. They wow guests with their presentation and can be thrown together with whatever you have in the fridge or pantry. Below are some simple tips that I follow when putting together my snack platters.

1. Incorporate lots of crunch.

People love crunch! Crackers and crunchy eats must be part of the platter. Beyond crackers, think pretzels, popcorn, vegetable chips, nuts, and whatever else you and your family likes crunch on!

2. Add color and variety with vegetables.

Balance out the crunchies with fresh vegetables that also offer the crunch factor, but also color and variety. Serve them plain or drizzle them with fresh lemon or lime juice and your favorite seasoning for something a little fancier. Don’t forget marinated or pickled vegetables and yummies like olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and cornichons.

3. Give people something to dip into.

With all of the crackers and veggies, every snack platter needs spreads and dips. My favorites are hummus, salsa, and dairy-free cheeses from Kite Hill and Miyoko’s kitchen. Olive tapenades and pestos are also a tasty option on snack platters.

4. Add something sweet with fruit.

Whether you go with fresh or dried, fruit is a sweet addition to any snack platter.

I have two snack platters that I purchased at Target. One is a large, oval wood rimmed platter that I stack with ramekins and small bowls for dips. I have another white ceramic rectangular platter that I also purchased at Target. This one is a bit more elegant and also works well for placing bowls on top of it for spreads.

I find my snack platters to be a creative way for me to have fun in the kitchen. I truly see it as an outlet for my creativity. Have fun and get inspired with one of these snack platters below.

Welcome the kids home from school with this fun platter full of popcorn, Beanfields chips and some other faves like olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Feed hungry kids and impress guests with these tips and ideas for snack platters. From after school snacks and pre-party appetizers, to cocktail bites and even dessert, get inspired with this fun and delicious way to feed a crowd.

Go beyond cheese and crackers for happy hour with this snack platter that pairs nicely with wine. I also added Crunchsters protein snack, root vegetable chips, and seasoned nuts.

Feed hungry kids and impress guests with these tips and ideas for snack platters. From after school snacks and pre-party appetizers, to cocktail bites and even dessert, get inspired with this fun and delicious way to feed a crowd.

I served this appetizer platter last weekend before a Latin themed dinner that I made. In addition to tortilla chips and salsa, I also added homemade pico de gallo and guacamole, along with store bought dips like avocado hummus. Jicama, cucumbers and radishes round out the platter.

Feed hungry kids and impress guests with these tips and ideas for snack platters. From after school snacks and pre-party appetizers, to cocktail bites and even dessert, get inspired with this fun and delicious way to feed a crowd.

This dessert platter from Fork & Beans gets me so excited! A chocolate log, bark, fruit and cookies are such an inspired way to serve dessert to a crowd.

Short on time, but need to feed the fam? Heat up a panini press and set out sandwich fixings. Everyone can make their own as they like it with minimal prep and clean up for mom!Short on time, but need to feed the fam? Heat up a panini press and set out sandwich fixings. Everyone can make their own as they like it with minimal prep and clean up for mom!

What are some of your favorite snack platters to serve your family and friends?


December 4, 2017
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I believe the holidays should be delicious, but not stressful. I enjoy entertaining this time of year, but I keep things simple, especially when it comes to holiday appetizers. With shopping to do, presents to wrap, and parties to host (and attend!), I don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen (or the desire!).

Appetizer buffets are a festive, fuss-free way to celebrate with friends and family. With a few tricks and a little help from the store, you can offer a beautiful spread for your guests and enjoy yourself too! As a Jewish convert, our December calendar is full of Hanukkah and Christmas parties. I host and/or bring dishes to most of them, and it’s usually a holiday appetizer. Even the simplest recipe can look magical and mouthwatering with a few tips, and with all of the eating this time of year, people appreciate small bites that they can graze on instead of a heavy meal. These holiday appetizers are extra special. Dairy-free and vegan, they are healthier options for this time of year.

Entertain with ease with these recipes for beautiful and delicious holiday appetizers. #vegan #dairyfree #holiday #appetizers

Before I show you the recipes, below are three of my biggest tips for creating beautiful holiday appetizers.

Tips for Easy & Elegant Holiday Appetizers

1. Take some help from the store and use pre-prepared ingredients for spreads and doughs
2. Use herbs and fruit for colorful garnishes in the colors of the season
3. Presentation is key! Display on a pretty platter in an eye-pleasing arrangement

Entertain with ease with these recipes for beautiful and delicious holiday appetizers. #vegan #dairyfree #holiday #appetizers

Now, on to the recipes:

Pomegranate Hummus Crostinis

Vegan Brie and Pear Stars of David

Pesto Cream Cheese Crostinis

These are my kind of holiday appetizers.  I want to wow my guests, but as I said above, I really don’t want to slave away this time of year when I entertain.  I want to be enjoying the festivities as much as they are – preferably with a glass of champagne in my hand!  The ingredients for these holiday appetizers are simple and can take some help from the store with store-bought staples, like hummus and cream cheese, but are also easily personalized with your own homemade recipes for spreads. The garnishes, colors, and shapes are all inspired by the holidays so that they mirror the season.

Entertain with ease with these recipes for beautiful and delicious holiday appetizers. #vegan #dairyfree #holiday #appetizers

Easy & Elegant Holiday Appetizers

Ingredients

Pomegranate Hummus Crostinis

  • 1 French baguette thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup hummus
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Mint leaves optional

Vegan Brie and Pear Stars of David

  • 1 package dairy-free puff pastry such as Aussie's Brand
  • 2 slices Field Roast Chao Original cut into 12 strips
  • 1 pear sliced
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free butter such as Earth Balance (melted)
  • 1/4 cup agave

Pesto Cream Cheese Crostinis

  • 1 French baguette thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free cream cheese such as Kite Hill
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free pesto
  • Arugula leaves

Instructions

Pomegranate Hummus Crostinis

  1. Brush the baguette slices with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes.
  2. When crostinis are toasted, spread them with hummus and place a few pomegrante seeds on top.
  3. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

Vegan Brie and Pear Stars of David

  1. Thaw the puff pastry and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Use a small Star of David cookie cutter, (or other favorite holiday shape), to cut shapes into the pastry dough sheet.
  3. Top with a thin slice of pear and a Chao Creamy Original cheese slice.
  4. Brush with agave and top with another pastry dough star.
  5. Place on a cookie sheet, brush with dairy-free butter, and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

Pesto Cream Cheese Crostinis

  1. Brush the baguette slices with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes.
  2. When crostinis are toasted, spread them with the cream cheese first, and then the pesto.
  3. Garnish with the arugula.

Entertain with ease with these recipes for beautiful and delicious holiday appetizers. #vegan #dairyfree #holiday #appetizers

What is your favorite easy holiday appetizer?  Please share in the comments below.


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