A guide to creating the most beautiful and festive cheese board and appetizer display for the holiday season! Recipes and fun gift exchange game included!
It's the holiday season!! Which gives me an excuse to make extravagant cheese boards, appetizer spreads, and festive drinks without anyone questioning my sanity and general overboard-ness when it comes to the food portion of entertaining guests.
Since I love setting up food for parties, I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks for a perfect holiday appetizer spread in case you may be finding yourself responsible for the pre-food-food this holiday season!
The Cheese Board
Let's start with the heart of the spread. The cheese board. This is actually the first one I've made this elaborate and it was WAY too much fun. I have this great wooden platter that I love serving appetizers on and it worked perfect for the main board. I started by adding the cheeses:
- Blue Cheese: Every good cheese board needs a hearty, tangy, semi-soft option such as blue cheese. I started my board with a wedge of blue cheese in the center and paired it with a fig orange spread on a crostini and it was so decadent!
- Cheddar: This is a classic addition to any cheese board. I used extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced it up, and added it to the board in a fun curved pattern that I could then tuck some meats or garnishes into.
There are tons of cheese options you could add to your cheese board, but as a recommendation, it is good to have a soft cheese (such as brie or goat cheese), a semi-firm cheese (such as cheddar or gouda), an aged cheese (such as asiago or Parmigiano), and a blue cheese (such as gorgonzola or Roquefort).
I included some additional soft cheese in this spread, which we will cover later on!
Next, I started adding in the meats. You can use any of your favorites, just be sure to slice them into single serve pieces for easy serving. I used 4 different types of meats on the main board:
- Salami: This one is a no-brainer. Salami is a staple of any good charcuterie spread and pairs well with a lot of cheeses, fruits, and nuts. I used a pre-sliced package and lined them up along the edge of my board.
- Summer sausage: When I think of the holidays I think of summer sausage and cheese because this is what my family always snacks on during NYE festivities! Its hickory-smoked flavors are always a safe option for your guests! I freshly sliced this and placed it opposite to the salami.
- Prosciutto or Coppa: My heart. This is my favorite of all the meats and can always be found on my cheese boards. This thinly sliced Italian ham has a salty-sweet flavor and meshes perfectly with the fruits. Just roll up a few pieces (or half pieces) and place on the board!
- Homemade pepperoni: Andrew's grandfather makes INCREDIBLE homemade pepperoni so it's only natural it would find its way onto our cheese boards! 🙂 We sliced it up then placed it in the center of the board, tucked into the cheddar cheese.
Additional Cheese Board Accouterments
We were going to need a vessel for all of these delicious meats and cheeses so I added in some small breadsticks, buttercrisp crackers and crostini.
How to make Crostini:
- To make the crostini just slice a baguette into thin slices, place onto a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and pepper (you can use some garlic too, if you wish!), and bake at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes.
- Flip then bake for another 5 minutes, or until crispy and slightly browned.
Finally, I filled in the holes with some grapes, red and green apple slices and garnished the platter with some fresh rosemary and some cherry tomatoes for extra holiday color!
Around the cheese board I placed bowls of mini kosher pickles, fig and orange spread, sundried tomatoes, a Moscow mule mug of hazelnut Pirouettes, and homemade olives and roasted peppers (again from Andrew's grandfather!)
Next, I used a marble domed platter which was perfect for my cream cheese dip! Simply place a block of cream cheese on the platter then cover it with red pepper jelly (I actually used a mix of red pepper jelly and raspberry peach champagne jam for some added depth. Feel free to get creative with this!)
How to make Stuffing Bites:
- On the other side of the center cheese board is a platter of stuffing bites. I had some leftover stuffing so I simply wrapped small bites of it in ½ slice of bacon, using a toothpick to hold them together, and baked them on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees. It was nice to have a warm appetizer amongst all the cold cheese and fruits!
How to make Apricot Bacon Basil Baked Brie:
- In the back you'll see another glass dome platter with apricot bacon basil baked brie. You can just include brie on its own as your soft cheese addition, but I wanted to have another warm appetizer option.
- Simply place a wheel of brie (rine included) on a baking sheet with parchment paper, top with some apricot jam, cooked bacon crumbles, and minced basil. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes and serve with a cheese knife.
How to make Zucchini Wraps:
- In the back you'll see another wooden platter with goat cheese pepper zucchini wraps which were made by our BBQ Brother, Matthew. He simply cooked some sliced zucchini in olive oil in a pan until slightly softened, spread with goat cheese and rolled around 2 pepper slices (jalapeño and red pepper), then wrapped it all closed with a chive.
The Main Course
So after eating way too many appetizers, we had dinner which was a whiskey glazed smoked ham from the BBQ brothers with delicious sides from our friends such as rosemary blue cheese mashed potatoes and chive bread pudding! We then finished it all off with some peanut butter cup cookies for dessert!
I think I may always volunteer as the appetizer "chef" for our get-togethers! It's so fun to put together beautiful cheese boards and come up with other appetizers to accompany the boards! Plus, the leftovers aren't so bad either 🙂
The Holiday Sangria
Finally, don't forget to have a fun and festive holiday drink for your guests to sip while they munch on your appetizer spread! I made a holiday sangria with white cranberry peach juice, a bottle of moscato, vodka, triple sec, and champagne, topped with fresh cranberries and lime slices. We garnished our drinks with sugared cranberries 🙂
How to make Sugared Cranberries:
- Simply boil 1 C water and 1 C sugar for 10 minutes and cool for 15. Coat 12 oz of cranberries in the syrup then place onto a cooling rack over a foil lined baking sheet.
- Cool for 30-45 minutes then toss in 1 C of sugar.
Holiday Gift Exchange Game
After our stomachs were full, we played a white elephant gift exchange that I created a few years ago. You simply take turns rolling a dice and follow the guide above to exchange gifts and can go as many rounds as you want!
This is the perfect addition to any adult Christmas party and is always so much fun! (I think the most coveted gift this year was a redneck plunger shaped like a shotgun...sound effects included! :D)
I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season and that this holiday cheese board and appetizer spread guide can make your next gathering a little prettier, tastier, and festive!
PS: If you love to entertain and you get sad when the holidays end you should totally try out this Girl Scout Cookie and Wine Pairing! It makes for a perfect girl's night! Or since it's probably winter while you're reading this, try out these 58 Recipes You NEED When You’re Hunkered Down at Home!