7 Thanksgiving Appetizers You Can Make in Less than 20 Minutes

You were given a simple task: bring a delicious appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner, but you forgot.  It’s now 10 am on Thanksgiving Day, and you just remembered. 

What Can You Make on Short Notice?

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You can’t just pick up a store-bought concoction because you did that the last three years and were given a stern warning from Aunt Millie that you will be cut from her WILL if you don’t make something with your own two hands.  Good Gads! What to do?  

Here are seven quick appetizer ideas you can whip up in 10-20 minutes. You may even have the ingredients lurking in your refrigerator.  

Stuffed Celery

Celery stuffed with cream cheese.
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The stuffed celery is one of the tastiest appetizers you can bring to a festive occasion. It’s so simple, yet so good.  All you need is two stalks of celery, two bricks of Philadelphia brand cream cheese (don’t use whipped), four tablespoons of Hellman’s mayonnaise (or to taste), and a dash of paprika.  

Let the Philadelphia brand cream cheese sit at room temperature for a few minutes before mixing it with the mayonnaise. Leave it a little lumpy, and stuff it into 3-inch pieces of chopped celery. Sprinkle a dash of paprika on the top. Done!  

Salami Pin Wheels

An appetizer toast with salami, cream cheese, and microgreens.
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These little devils used to be a staple of every holiday event I ever attended and can be made in a jiffy.  Stack salami 4 or 5 deep with a layer of cream cheese spread between each piece, then cut into triangles. You probably want to use soft cream cheese for this emergency preparation.

Meat & Cheese Tray

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Okay, you’re probably thinking, “Wait a second, this is complicated and expensive, and who wants a meat tray on Turkey Day?”  Okay, listen up. We all know Turkey is the main Thanksgiving dish all over the country, but nobody really loves turkey. Rarely does Aunt Millie or anyone make it right, and after a piece or two, we start looking for the dog to clear our plates.  The beauty of the meat tray is that it gives people a choice, seems as if you really worked hard on it, and can make you look like a hero for about 25 bucks.  

Prepping Your Meat Tray

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Run to the store and buy a half pound of the following: imported boiled ham, rare roast beef, and corned beef, all sliced thin. Then buy a quarter pound of Swiss cheese, Muenster, and Cheddar, all sliced thin. Don’t forget a jar of Dijon mustard and the tiny rye bread slices.  Run home, get a nice plate, and roll all the lunch meat and cheese, alternating them in a circular design around the plate with the mustard placed in the middle. DONE!

Olive Tray

A bowl of green olives, a blowl of black olives, and, and a bowl of olive oil on a wooden cutting board.
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Okay, we don’t want to bring a prepared store-bought dish, but in a pinch, we can confuse Aunt Millie with a beautifully prepared appetizer tray that looks as if you put tons of time and thought into preparing.  Most supermarkets now have the “Olive Bar” with an assortment of excellent olives and peppers that look like they were imported from a Mediterranean seaside restaurant. Scoop up an assortment of 4- 6 of these delicious olives and serve them in a fancy plastic Lazy-Susan-type tray, and you have a masterpiece.  Add radishes cut at the ends and green onions with the ends cut off for that homemade look. 

Kidney Bean Salad

A bowl of red kidney beans.
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Okay, this probably won’t win you an award, but it should keep you in the will. You can make a tasty kidney bean salad in ten minutes. 2 cans of kidney beans drained and rinsed. 

Mix two stalks of celery finely chopped, a quarter cup of red onions chopped fine, a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and a half cup of sweet pickle relish with two cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed. Feel free to add a little sugar to sweeten it up or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a sprinkle of pepper flakes to give it a kick.  Done.

Sauerkraut and Sausage

A frying pan with sauerkraut and sausage.
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Oh yes, an ethnic delicacy that has nothing to do with Thanksgiving yet will be devoured by all and make you look like a genius.  Simple to make in about 15 minutes, just empty sauerkraut into a pot and simmer. Fry up just about any sausage you can find except hotdogs.  Combine it all into a dish that can be warmed up at Aunt Millie’s, and you are gold!

Creamed Cauliflower

A dish of creamed cauliflower.
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This dish may take a few moments longer if you’re unfamiliar with making gravies, but it’s super easy and so good. You will need two heads of cauliflower, half a pound of American cheese, half a stick of butter, three nice-sized tablespoons of cornstarch, a teaspoon of salt and pepper, and two cups of milk. 

Making Creamed Cauliflower

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Break off the flowers from the cauliflower stem, then add to boiling water until slightly tender but not soft (about 5 minutes).  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Then, reduce the heat slightly while adding the corn starch, constantly mixing till it forms a rue ( paste). Slowly add the milk, mixing the entire time.  I like to add the milk slowly and let the mixture thicken before adding more. Add salt and pepper once all the milk is in the pot, and keep stirring until the mixture gets nice and thick. ( If it seems too thin, add a piece or two of American cheese to the mixture and keep stirring till it thickens.) 

Drain and pat dry the cauliflower before adding it to a baking dish, then salt and pepper the top before arranging all the American cheese over it.  Pour the thickened cream sauce over the dish and cover with tin foil. Take to Aunt Millie’s, pop in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, and enjoy.  Aunt Millie will love you for this one.

It’s the Thought That Counts!

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Of course, you can fall back on the standbys such as green bean casseroles, chips and dip, veggies and dip, and a combination of pretzels, nuts, and snacks most people ignore on Turkey Day. But these generic offerings won’t make Aunt Millie happy. Bringing something that looks like you took time and love to prepare will make all the difference, and if it turns out awful, Aunt Millie will believe you tried your best and keep you in the Will without asking you to make anything again. This is a Win-Win. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Caprese salad with Mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil.
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