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5 easy, last-minute holiday dishes to feed (and impress) a crowd

Impress guests with beautiful vegetables, appetizers and homemade mulled wine.
/ Source: TODAY

Scrambling to throw a holiday feast with time running short? Fear not, friends!

Understandably, the holidays can get a little crazy. Whether an unexpected change of plans landed Christmas eve dinner in your lap or life just got a bit too busy to spend hours slow-roasting the main dish, it's important to have a menu lined up that is equally as delicious as it easy.

With a quick trip to the store for some ingredients and a bit of time in the kitchen, these wonderful appetizers, plus an entrée and spicy, warm wine will make for an unforgettable spread.

This tart is so easy to make and is a total crowd-pleaser with French and Italian flavors. Buying store-bought puff pastry is perfect when you're in a pinch and need to whip up some beautiful hors d'oeuvres for guests.

When you need a last-minute dessert, you turn to a tart. Why not do the same for appetizers? This savory apple tart (with plenty of Gruyere!) will get everyone’s appetite going.

This is the mulled wine recipe to end all mulled wine recipes. With all the wintry spices and notes of citrus, it’ll warm you right up from the inside!

Spiced Spiral-Cut Ham


Ham it up! A spiral-cut pre-cooked ham is the ideal hearty dish to serve a crowd. Because it is pre-cooked, all you need to do is warm it in the oven, glaze it and serve. I like to buy a spiral-cut ham that still has a bone because they tend to be more flavorful and pre-sliced, which means less work for you and your guests. This dish serves 18 to 20.


  • 1 spiral-cut ham, bone-in, fully cooked, approx. 8 to 10 pounds
  • Whole cloves
  • 1 small can ginger ale, 8.45 ounces
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar


  1. Remove ham from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature (approximately 2 hours).

  2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove ham from the packaging and discard; don't forget to remove the round disk that covers the bone too!

  3. Stud the ham with whole cloves, just resting the cloves between cuts in the ham. Place ham, cut-side-down in a shallow roasting pan or baking dish. Pour ginger ale over top and cover with heavy duty aluminum foil.

  4. Bake ham covered for 1½ hours or until warmed through.

  5. While ham is cooking, combine the mustard and the brown sugar in a bowl. Stir until all clumps of brown sugar are dissolved. Set aside until ham is warmed.

  6. Remove ham from oven and pour glaze over top using the back of a spoon to guide the glaze evenly.

  7. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees and return ham to oven uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove ham from oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Transfer ham to platter and serve.

Crudites with Pesto Dip


Veg out! Crudites makes for the perfect healthy and vegetarian option to serve at any party. Stick to one or two vegetable types to keep preparation to a minimum. I prefer blanching vegetables (exceptions are carrots, cucumber and celery). It brings out their color and makes it is easier to digest veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and string beans. For a festive presentation, I like to hollow out a red cabbage, fill it with the dip, then set it in the middle of a platter and surround it with the vegetables. This recipe makes approximately 3 cups of dip.


  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) log goat cheese
  • ¾ cup store-bought or homemade pesto
  • 8 sun-dried tomato halves
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium red cabbage, bottom trimmed and top cut out
  • 2 pounds string beans, lightly steamed, trimmed and cooled or any other cut up vegetables


  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine cream cheese and goat cheese. Pulse to combine.
  2. Add pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and pulse to combine.
  3. With motor running pour in cream and pulse until combined.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.