It happens every single year, someone, somewhere invites us to a holiday event and when you ask “what can I bring?” you hope they’ll say “nothing” so when you show up with a bottle of wine and some homemade treats they think you’re a superstar. Instead, they casually say, “just bring an appetizer.”
Appetizers are both easy and complicated at the same time. The complicated factor for me is always, what do I bring and is it fast and easy enough that I’ll have time to make it in my already crazy busy day? Of course, I have tricks for making a cheese plate look Instagram worthy and a veggie platter look anything but store bought, but when I recently showed up to a friend’s Christmas party and placed the fourth cheese platter on their dining room table, I thought enough – I need something new!
But new, doesn’t need to be complicated and store bought ingredients can turn into something wonderfully homemade but still super easy. And when I say easy, here’s my easy holiday appetizer checklist:
All three of the recipes below check every one of the must-haves above, and all three of them also involve a tube of store-bought pizza dough – because what could be easier than starting with that?
If you’re looking to please both kids and adults, these Muffin Tin Panzerottis are perfect. Stuff them with your favourite pizza toppings or mix up the toppings to please the kids and the adults.
If you want to bring something that I guarantee guests haven’t seen before (unless they read my blog or follow me on Pinterest – which they should), this Baked Spinach Dip with Flatbread Volcano Bowl is made with store bought spinach dip and store bought dough and comes together in a way that is definitely going to surprise your fellow party-goers!
Finally, if you’re need something a bit fancier and heartier as an appetizer, these Chicken Pesto and Goat Cheese Pinwheels look complicated, but the most complicated part of the entire recipe is making sure you have a pre-cooked chicken breast on hand. But not to worry, I’ve thrown in some tips for how to make that part super easy too.
I wish you all the merriest of holidays and if you need me, I will be yelling upstairs for the hundredth time that "yes, you do need to wear tights with your Christmas dress" (it’s DECEMBER in Canada!) and "no you can’t bring your Nerf gun to great-grandma’s house" followed by "I have no idea where your one missing reindeer fuzzy sock is." Among many other things I never ever thought I’d have to say until being a mom proved me wrong (on everything!).
PS: Want to know how I make Christmas morning breakfast super easy? Here's my Completely Make Ahead Christmas Morning Breakfast Menu.
This summer the kids and I went on a road trip to Sudbury, Ontario to follow in the footsteps of the 2015 Amazing Race contestants by going underground in a former working mine that has been converted into an amazing experiential learning exhibit called Dynamic Earth.
After spending the day exploring three different periods of time in mining history then heading back above ground to pan for gold, play in the play place, explore artifacts and learn all about geology – we were hungry!
So we headed to a local Italian restaurant that promised pizza baked in a real wood oven and a wine bar. One of the items on the menu was spinach dip, which I would have completely skipped over except the waitress described how it was baked in the wood oven with the pizza dough on top. My girls and I decided we needed to see this to believe it, while my son stuck to his favourites – minestrone soup and meatballs.
The waitress wasn’t wrong, the spinach dip was amazing and the pizza dough made the perfect flatbread for dipping. I knew I had to try recreating it at home, but of course without investing thousands of dollars in my own wood oven or spending hours making homemade pizza dough and spinach dip.
Here’s what I came up with….
Scoop your dip into a small oven-safe dish (Yup! That's store-bought).
Place in the middle of your pizza stone.
Roll out your dough into a shape as close to a circle as possible.
Place on top of dip and pizza stone then shape and fold corners under to fit (it doesn't have to be perfect!).
Brush with olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt.
Using a fork, poke holes into the dough.
Again, don't worry if it doesn't look perfect - it will be yummy!
Slice pizza dough into strips.
Gently break-open centre to reveal the warm bubbly dip.
1 tube, store-bought pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
1 container of your favourite store-bought spinach dip (or homemade if you have time)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp coarse sea salt
Scoop your spinach dip into a small oven proof dish and place in the middle of your round pizza stone.
On flat, clean surface and using a rolling pin, roll store-bought pizza dough into a shape as close to a circle as possible.
Gently place pizza dough over top of spinach dip and shape to fit the pizza stone, tucking edges under as required.
Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (also feel free to sprinkle with fresh parsley or rosemary too!).
Using a fork, poke holes all over dough.
Bake in pre-heated 425F oven for 12-15 minutes until crust is golden and crispy.
Carefully remove from oven (it's hot!), using a sharp knife (again, carefully...) slice open the top of the spinach dip to allow steam to escape.
Let cool slightly, then using a pizza cutter, slice pizza dough into strips.
Serve warm and enjoy!
A couple of quick answers to your questions...
Yes, Sudbury WAS a truly surprisingly great family road trip destination. Until my kids saw Dynamic Earth on the Amazing Race, we had never really considered Sudbury as a family getaway destination. But even after spending three days exploring, we were already planning what we would do the next time we came to visit. Not to be missed highlights include Dynamic Earth, Science North and the kid-friendly outdoor excursions put on by the Art Gallery of Sudbury where we hiked at Onaping Falls, learned all about the Group of Seven and painted while sitting on the rocks at the water's edge. My girls also say their Glama Gal spa experience in Sudbury was their favourite so far!
Yes, you can use your favourite dip that is best when served warm - like artichoke dip or crab dip.
No, you won't find any judgment here if you want to stick to store-bought pizza dough and dip.
First things first – the reason why the main image for this post is not the best is because I left the room for less than 20 minutes and my family inhaled these Muffin Tin Panzerottis before I could get a good photograph. And by family, I mean my brothers, my dad, my sister in law, and my husband. The only one who should know better (because he lives in a house with a food blogger where nothing gets eaten before double checking that it’s been photographed) is my husband, but that’s a topic for another day.
I also would have taken the time to re-make these panzerottis, except my editor *cough* Jeni Marinucci *cough* tells me that people are desperate at this time of year for easy, tasty, and hearty appetizers and these check all of those boxes – so no time to re-make and re-shoot today. (All true, Ed.) Though I promise you, these are so delicious my family has volunteered me to bring them to every single family function this holiday season so I expect new photos will be up soon!
Simply roll out your store bought pizza dough.
Cut into circles.
Press into muffin tin.
Top with pizza sauce.
Then your favourite pizza toppings.
Shape and press to seal.
Brush with olive oil.
Some will seal better than others... don't stress because they'll all taste delicious!
1 tube, store bought pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
3/4 - 1 cup pizza sauce (again, I used store bought)
3/4 - 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
10-20 slices pepperoni, sliced into strips
10-15 fresh basil leaves, sliced into strips
2 tbsp olive oil
Non-stick cooking spray
Extra pizza sauce for dipping
On a flat, clean surface, roll out pizza dough using a rolling pin until dough is about ¼ inch thick.
Using a biscuit cutter or a glass, cut out circles of dough.
Spray each muffin cup with non-stick cooking spray and line with a circle of dough. Press down gently so dough comes up the sides (note: you want the dough to cover the majority of the muffin cup so that you will have enough dough to cover your toppings and seal closed).
Top each circle of dough with pizza sauce, cheese, pepperoni and fresh basil.
Using your hands, gently bring all sides of the dough together and press together sealing the panzerotti.
Brush each panzerotti lightly with olive oil.
Bake in pre-heated 400F oven for 15-18 minutes, until crust is golden and crispy.
Let cool slightly, then serve warm with more pizza sauce for dipping.
Looking for more easy crowd pleasing appetizers? Try my yummy Cheesy Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms, my One Pan Whiskey Scallops, my Fresh Chicken Spring Rolls, my Freezable Chicken Taquitos and this easy-peasy Easiest Snowman Cheese Ball You'll Ever Make.