Trays of colorful vegetables served with rich, creamy dips. Canapes with savory delights or sweets.

Plates of palate-pleasing, bite-size morsels.

Get the shrimp ready.

Holiday parties are in full swing now and through the biggest party night of the year: New Year's Eve.

Nothing pleases party-goers more than an array of bite-size morsels .

These appetizers are guaranteed to be hassle-free for the host and answer the "What can I bring?" question.

When planning a spread of appetizers, have as much food already done as possible when people arrive, says James Woodward, 37, executive chef at Ritz-Carlton, Dearborn, Mich.

A big no-no, he says, is making "too many things that you need to keep warm. You need things that are refrigeration temperature or that can be served at room temperature."

If serving appetizers before a meal, plan on a minimum of five per person. For bigger eaters or an all-appetizer party, plan on at least double or triple the minimum amount.

These scrumptious offerings will let you relax a bit because they can be made ahead .

Ham and Roasted Pear Crostini

Makes: 2 dozen


1/2 baguette, cut into 24 slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 ripe but firm Bosc pears, halved, cored and cut into 24 thin wedges

1 cup lightly packed parsley leaves

3/4 pound leftover spiral-sliced ham (or another flavorful ham), cut into bite-size pieces and warmed


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Brush baguette slices all over with oil, season with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake, turning the slices over halfway through, cooking until just crisp, 5 to 7 minutes; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper to make a dressing. Toss pears in half the dressing and arrange in a single layer on a large, parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast the pear wedges, turning halfway through cooking, until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Toss parsley with remaining dressing. Top each crostini with a piece of ham and then a wedge of pear and a few leaves of parsley.

Smoked Salmon With Red Onion and Caper Cream

Makes: 30 rounds


15 mini pita bread rounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed, chopped

1 package (2 to 3 ounces) thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut each mini pita bread in half horizontally so you have 2 rounds. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and Italian seasoning. Place the pita rounds in the bowl and toss to coat. Place the rounds on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, red onion and capers. Put a small dollop of the cream on each pita round. Top with a piece or several small pieces of salmon. Top with another small dollop of the cream. Sprinkle with fresh dill and serve.