When holiday entertaining has you scrambling for new ideas to make your guests feel jolly, think appetizers. A traditional menu like baked ham or smoked turkey, served with classic favorites, can be made into a more festive experience by easily selecting a variety of mouthwatering appetizers to complement the meal.

When deciding what appetizers to serve, consider the flow and arrangement of the party. Where will guests be eating? If there’s limited seating, reconsider appetizers that require a knife and fork. Hand-held, bite-size appetizers are usually easier for guests if they’ll be standing and mingling.

Variety is also important. Select appetizer recipes that have different flavors, textures and temperatures. A combination of hot and cold food items will please any palate. Offering different styles like bread or cracker options, toothpick or skewer bites and hand-held finger foods is a simple way to add variety.

Traditional recipes, such as rumaki, meatballs and deviled eggs, are still party favorites too. However, it’s easy to give them a new flare. Try this new Pesto Deviled Eggs recipe when you’re entertaining this holiday season.

Pesto Deviled Eggs
Serves: 12

6 hard-cooked eggs
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp. basil leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and set whites aside. Mash yolks with fork. Stir in remaining ingredients until well blended. Refill whites, using about one tablespoon yolk mixture for each egg half. Chill to blend flavors.

Nutty Chip Fruit Cake
Serves: 12

If you hate fruitcake, you’ll probably enjoy this cake. Rather than bitter citron, this cake is flavored with nuts, dried dates, candied cherries and chocolate chips. If you don’t have candied cherries on hand, you can use more dates or substitute raisins or dried apricots, figs or prunes for the cherries. No fluted tube pan? Use an angel food cake pan or a 9-inch tubed springform pan.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped pecans or almonds
1 cup (about 4 oz.) chopped dried dates
1 cup (about 8 oz.) red and/or green glace cherries, halved
2/3 cup (about 4 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Additional halved glace cherries or confectioners’ sugar, optional

In large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in nuts, fruits and chocolate morsels. Set aside.

In small mixing bowl at medium speed, beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Fold into reserved flour mixture. Pour into greased and floured 9-cup fluted tube pan.

Bake in preheated 300° F oven until lightly browned and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Garnish with additional halved cherries or dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Holiday Spinach Diamonds
Serves: 12

12 eggs
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and pressed
2 cups (8 oz.) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup skim or low-fat milk
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon oregano leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1 clove garlic
Pimiento strips, optional
Hard-cooked eggs, optional
Sliced ripe olives, optional

Place all ingredients except pimiento, hard-cooked eggs and olives in blender container. Cover and blend at high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

Pour into lightly greased 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-inch jelly roll pan. Bake in preheated 325° F oven until knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Slice diagonally into 2-inch wide strips to make diamond-shaped pieces. Garnish each with pimiento strips, sieved egg yolks and whites and/or rip olive slices, if desired. Serve warm.

For even more appetizing additions visit www.incredibleegg.org.

— courtesy of ARAcontent