Sometimes, the beginning of a meal is the best part. We’re talking about appetizers! If you’re like most people, you could probably fill up on those delicious, little, one-bite portions, leaving no room for the main course or dessert.
The truth is, appetizers are meant to whet your appetite ahead of the rest of the meal. But there’s no reason why they can’t be a highlight. In addition to giving everyone a taste of what’s yet to come, a wide array of appetizers is a great way to make sure everyone at large holiday gatherings is happy and fed.
You’ve probably been the victim of a “hangry” relative. You know, someone who gets a little angry when they’re hungry? They’ll keep coming into the kitchen wondering when dinner is going to be ready. And the longer it takes, the “hangrier” they get. Appetizers can nip this in the bud. By providing small bites of food ahead of time, your guests will remain satiated and calm.
Wondering what to serve? Blue Rhino has you covered. Read on for some delicious, family-friendly, easy to grill appetizers you can serve at your next holiday gathering.
The Importance of Appetizers
Appetizers aren’t just the opening act. They can truly be a shining star in your meal. Serving the right appetizers helps set the tone. Is your meal fancy or informal? Playful or serious? A true culinary journey, or a family-friendly potluck? No matter what type of meal you plan to serve, choosing the right appetizers can help set the scene.
As we discussed, appetizers can keep “hangry” family members or friends at bay. If you know Great Aunt Ruth never eats lunch before Christmas dinner, then you know she’s going to be starving by 4:00 pm. Having appetizers ready as soon as she arrives will keep her happy and out of your kitchen.
Appetizers also act as an insurance policy of sorts. Preparing a big meal is no easy task. It’s almost like a symphony. All the instruments must work together to create a masterpiece. But as in life, and in cooking, things can go wrong. Maybe the turkey is taking a little longer to cook than you planned. Or maybe you ran out of a certain ingredient and had to run to the store. Or maybe you burned the rolls and had to start from scratch. Mistakes happen, but unfortunately, they create delays. By having appetizers ready when your guests arrive, you’ll be able to serve them something right away, rather than rushing to get the main course on the table.
Appetizers also create an opportunity for you to add a little variety to your meal. If you know your family usually expects ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and cranberry sauce, serving appetizers will allow you to switch things up. And that includes giving your oven a break so you can serve grilled appetizers instead.
Remember, just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean grilling season has to end! You can absolutely use your propane-powered grill during the winter months. In fact, Blue Rhino is celebrating the holidays with a special, limited edition holiday tank sleeve! It contains a QR code that links to special winter grilling tips, which were provided to us by grilling sensation James Brown from @grillnation and AmazingRibs.com. See if you can find one the next time you pick up a fresh Blue Rhino!
Choosing the Right Appetizers
Okay. You know appetizers are important. But where do you start? First, consider your audience. Who is coming to your holiday gathering? Is it a bunch of friends? Close family members? Families with small children? You want to make food that your guests will eat.
It’s also important to reach out to any guests you haven’t dined with in a while. Ask about any food allergies or preferences. If your cousin recently decided she is vegan, you’ll want to know about it so you have food she can fill up on. Making your guests feel welcome and comfortable is key.
If you will be having kids at your gathering, remember, you don’t have to make two sets of appetizers, two sets of main dishes, and two types of desserts. Kid-friendly food can be grown-up friendly, too, with some minor adjustments. For example, comfort foods like cheeseburgers or macaroni and cheese are usually a big hit with kids. But most adults love those foods too. Consider setting out spices, toppings, sauces, and seasonings with your kid-friendly dishes so the adults can customize them to their liking. A few slices of red onion, a bottle of sriracha, or some homemade guacamole can go a long way. Flavorful toppings can make a big difference!
Next, repeat after us: I will not spend hours washing dishes after everyone has gone home. Again. I will not spend hours washing dishes after everyone has gone home! Dishes are an inevitable, and often dreaded part of every big meal. Take steps ahead of time to minimize the damage. Consider assigning one family member to dish washing duty. Have them with you in the kitchen as you prepare your meal. As you dirty a dish, pot, or pan, have them wash it, dry it, and put it away. Not only will this save time later, but you’ll have someone to talk to while you’re waiting for the gravy to thicken.
Or, if no one wants to do the dishes, consider buying some high-quality plastic or paper utensils and plates. There are plenty of eco-friendly options out there now, including bamboo cutlery and cardboard straws. Be sure to choose something that’s going to hold up to the weighty, saucy goodness of your holiday meal. And add extra trash cans and recycle bins near the table, so your guests have plenty of options to throw away their plates, cups, and silverware. You won’t have to wash as many dishes, but you will have to take out the trash at the end of the night.
Remember, you’ll want to look for ways to really show off your holiday spirit during your meal. Those paper plates we mentioned? Look for ones with a holiday theme. Or break out your great-grandmother’s treasured holiday tablecloth. It’ll evoke some warm memories about what a great person she was, how much she loved the holiday season, and how much that tablecloth meant to her. You can also make sure your home has fun holiday touches throughout. Don’t forget a festive-scented bottle of soap in the bathroom or some lights along the windows!
Let’s Talk Food!
You’re probably getting a good idea of what you want your holiday meal to look like, especially the appetizers. So, let’s talk about the food! This spicy, savory Jalapeño Popper Skillet Dip is a crowd pleaser. Three types of cheese, sweet onion, and thick-cut bacon really give this dish some punch. And who doesn’t love a good, ooey, gooey cheese dip! Be sure to serve it with some extra crackers because your guests are going to love it!
You can also try these Fig-Balsamic Glazed Beef Kabobs. Hearty top sirloin steak will fill up your guests, and the sweet glaze made of fig preserves and balsamic vinegar will help set your dish apart. Minced garlic and red onion round out the flavors. And don’t forget, kabobs are portable, making them the perfect thing to eat while socializing with family and friends.
Grilled Zucchini Rollups will sneak some vegetables into your guests’ diet before they fill up on all that pie. Grill marks add a perfectly charred flavor to this dish. Ricotta cheese adds some tangy creaminess, and crushed red pepper flakes add some zest.
Who wants Mini Merry Meatballs? We do, we do, especially since the main ingredients include beef brisket and ribeye steaks. Talk about high end! These bite-sized meatballs are amazing on their own, but when you add the cranberry barbecue sauce, it really takes things up a notch.
Finally, consider making this Barbecue Spiced Shrimp recipe from our partners at Operation BBQ Relief. These shrimp have a delicious, Middle Eastern-inspired flavor. Fresh ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric create a robust flavor profile, and cilantro adds some brightness. By serving the shrimp on a bed of white rice, you’ll help fill up your guests’ bellies without stuffing them.
Focus On Family and Friends
Finally, don’t forget to do some prep work so you can focus on what’s really important during the holidays: spending time with friends and family. Be sure to test out your grill the day before you start cooking so you can pinpoint any issues and fix them ahead of time. Check out this link for trusted Blue Rhino grilling tips and techniques. Remember to clean and season your grill, too, because a clean grill is a happy grill!
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your party has to be indoors. You can still spend time with family and friends outside with the right tools. A propane-powered patio heater of fire pit can take the chill out of the air. Plus, you’ll have some company outside while you’re preparing those grilled appetizers. Set out a few baskets of warm blankets, too, to really help your guests feel cozy.
Make sure you have enough propane! Grills take a little longer to heat up in the winter months, so you may go through more fuel than you usually do. Have a fresh Blue Rhino grilling tank on hand so you can swap the old one out when it gets low. Use our handy propane finder to find a store near you that sells Blue Rhino.
Or save a trip to the store by using our home delivery service, now available in select markets! Just like ordering your groceries online, you’ll be able to place an order for a fresh Blue Rhino and have it delivered to your front door.
From all of us at Blue Rhino, we hope your holidays are merry and bright! Thanks for including us in your warm, happy, backyard memories all year round. Happy holidays!