Be Better than Chips and Guac: 5 Appetizers Sure to Impress

Dallas Malone / Thursday February 28, 2019

We’ve all been there. You sat for an hour in your towel post-shower scrolling through insta, and suddenly you have 15 mins to get ready for a party. (“On my way lol!”) Then you remember that you promised to bring an appetizer. Oops.  So you grab old standard, chips and salsa/guac. And so do 10 other people at the party. Which is fine, and delish, but with a litttttle bit more preparation, you can go from pretty basic to seriously impressive. The five appetizers below are all ones I’ve personally made and will pretty much guarantee you an invite to every party moving forward. Plus they’re all very insta worthy, so double points. Break out the aprons babes, it’s time to step it up.


1.) Mini Polenta Pizzas with Oven Roasted Tomatoes via A Beautiful Mess

What to buy: 

  • 18 oz. package of polenta, usually found in the refrigerated section (see above)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (or other cooking oil you prefer)
  • 1 heaping cup cherry or mini tomatoes (sometimes called sangria tomatoes)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce (homemade or store bought)
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Let’s do this:

Peel off the polenta packaging and pat dry. Slice into thin rounds, about 1/4 inch each (or slightly thinner is OK too). Gently brush each with oil, you’ll use about 1 tablespoon total. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a baking mat. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Toss in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Place on a baking sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment. Season with a little salt.

Now place both baking sheets in an oven that has been preheated to 450° for 25 minutes. After the initial 25 minutes, remove the polenta from the oven and flip each round. Rotate the pans and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. The polenta should just begin to look very brown and crispy on the edges. The tomatoes will look very juicy (see below).

Remove both pans from the oven. Top the polenta with tomato sauce (or pesto) and the cheese. Pop those back in the oven for 3-4 minutes until the cheese melts. Now top each with the oven roasted tomatoes.

2.) Antipasto Skewers via The Sweet Occasion

True story – this is my go to appetizer to bring to parties. It’s always a hit, delicious, no grabby hands sharing chips. One for everyone! Plus it has tortellini. Need I say more?

What to buy:

  • 24 mini fresh mozzarella balls
  • 24 olives
  • 12 slices of salami, cut in half
  • 24 small basil leaves
  • 2 roasted peppers (or 1 jar)
  • 1 jar artichoke hearts
  • ½ pound fresh tortellini, cooked
  • Bamboo skewers

Let’s do this:

Assemble that ish! Using 3″ bamboo skewers or similar, layer your ingredients starting with the mozzarella balls, then the roasted peppers (I used a mix of red, yellow and orange), tortellini, basil, artichoke heart, salami and olives.

3.) Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Pull Apart Bread via Damn Delicious

You are leaving this party with some new friends, guaranteed. What to buy:

  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 (8-ounce) tubes crescent rolls
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Let’s do this:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a pie plate or coat with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic powder and onion powder; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in mozzarella and Parmesan.

Unroll crescent rolls, pressing perforations to seal into approximately a 13×18-inch rectangle. Top with artichoke mixture.

Starting at the shortest side, roll up, pressing the edges to seal. Cut in eighths. Place, cut side down, onto the prepared pie plate. Brush with egg.

Place into oven and bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.


4.)  Soft M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies via Averie Cooks

Okay I know this is more of a dessert, but they are 100% a crowd pleaser, so carry on.

What to buy:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not ‘cook & serve’), OR use 2 teaspoons cornstarch in place of pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate M&M’s mixed into the dough + about 1/2 cup for placing on top of dough mounds

Let’s do this:

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl and electric mixer) combine the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, pudding mix (or cornstarch), baking soda, optional salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the chocolate chips, 3/4 cup M&Ms, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Using a large cookie scoop, 1/4-cup measure, or your hands, form 15 equal-sized mounds of dough, roll into balls, and flatten slightly.

Add about 1 tablespoon M&Ms to the top of each dough mound.

Place mounds on a large plate or tray, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days. Do not bake with unchilled dough because cookies will bake thinner, flatter, and be more prone to spreading.

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray. Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet) and bake for 11 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set, even if slightly undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center. Cookies firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving. I let them cool on the baking sheet and don’t use a rack.


5.) Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Figs via Taming of the Spoon

What to buy:

  • 12 thin pancetta slices
  • 12 generous teaspoons soft fresh goat cheese
  • Fig jam, to taste, store-bought or homemade
  • 12 small baby arugula leaves
  • 6 small fresh figs, sliced
  • Fresh thyme leaves

Let’s do this:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pancetta in a single layer on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake pancetta until crisp and nicely browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain pancetta crisps on paper towels and let cool for 15 minutes.

Transfer pancetta crisps to a serving dish. Top each crisp with 1 teaspoon goat cheese, some fig jam to taste, 1 arugula leaf, and fig slices. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.