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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Emi Boscamp

Appetizers are arguably the most important part of the meal — especially at big holiday feasts like Christmas. Not only do they set the tone for the entire night, they must also strike the delicate balance between satiating your guests while you prepare the rest of the meal and whetting their appetites so they're ready to chow down when you give them the green light.

So, we've hand-selected some of our favorite Christmas appetizer recipes and ideas for you — from hors d'oeuvres to dips and salads to soups — that will accomplish just that. Remember: "A delicious holiday is a happy holiday." — Us, just now.

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Potato pancakes are Ina's husband Jeffrey's favorite holiday dish. Her secret for the crispiest and creamiest ones is to combine both grated and mashed potatoes.

These crab-stuffed mushrooms may look and taste decadent, but they're light and airy, which means they won't fill your guests up — no matter how many they eat — before the main event.

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Kale Salad with Crispy Bread Crumbs

Full of unique flavors and textures, this salad would be a perfect addition to your holiday table.

Root Vegetable and Feta Bruschetta

The layers of flavor from the caponata are simple but great, while the salty bacon and capers and sweet raisins provide a variety of textures.

These mini meatballs might just become the star of your party. They're bite-sized and perfect for serving with drinks.

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This is Bobby Flay's go-to make-ahead holiday appetizer. Everything can be made in advance; all you have to do is assemble.

Star chef Daniel Boulud's creamy fall soup combines nutty chestnuts with sweet celery root and apples. It can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen so it's ready when you are.

Martha Stewart's Kale-Ricotta Dip

Other greens work well here, too: spinach, mustard greens, Swiss chard, collards, beet greens, and turnip greens each contribute their distinctive flavor, all with slightly different results.

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Crunchy, salty and cheesy — this easy-to-make appetizer will definitely be a hit at any holiday bash.

Here's what Ina says about this recipe: "OMG. It may be the best thing I've ever made! Whenever I serve it on a cheese board, my guests always insist on taking the leftovers home!"

The flavors for this dish come from traditional Roman saltimbocca: veal cutlets with sage and prosciutto. The tender prawns balance the meatiness and crispiness of the bacon, and the sage, tempered by the lemon, makes it all very fresh-tasting.

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Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Who knew that the humble new potato could be turned into shell casing for a bullet of flavor? In this powder keg, the surly nature of the cheddar cheese (plus some butter and sour cream) roughhouses the creamy new potatoes. These little bombs of sharp versus subtle are a perfect snack or party treat.

Sunny Anderson's brussels sprouts salad has the big flavors of the holidays — cranberries, pecans, rosemary, nutmeg — while still being fresh and light. It's a refreshing reprieve from all the heavy eating of the rest of the meal.

Marinated Herbed Feta

Serve this clean and bright marinated feta with toasted pita triangles or on a Greek mezze platter with hummus, olives and stuffed grape leaves.

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Cranberry or borlotti beans are kidney shaped with red streaks. Used in all kinds of Italian soups and stews, they're worth seeking out. This soup is pure comfort.