Baked Brie -

I love entertaining, whether it’s a holiday party or simply watching a game with family or friends (or sitting on the couch with my husband). A quick appetizer can elevate any gathering. Now, I know what you’re thinking — who has time to “meal plan” for appetizers and snacks when you’re busy packing lunches and prepping for dinners? Not me! But as a former Girl Scout, “be prepared” rings in a lot of what I do, so I make sure to always have some staple items in my fridge and pantry for those impromptu snack moments.

Chili dip

EVERYONE in my family eats chili dip, and it is a year-round feature at every event. The best part? It’s two ingredients: 1 part softened cream cheese and 1 part chili (something you can keep in your pantry until you open it). My husband’s aunt mixes it by hand and I seriously don’t know how she does it — I use a food processor. Serve this with your favorite kettle chips.

Taco dip

This dip can be made hot or cold. I’ve always eaten it cold, but my family prefers it hot. Spread cream cheese as a base in a pie plate or curved dinner plate, then add a layer each of chopped green onions (green and white parts), salsa, and shredded cheese on top. You can bake it at 350 degrees or microwave it until bubbly. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips!

Baked gouda or brie

No, I don’t always keep a wheel of cheese on hand, but I usually have the other ingredients for this quick and impressive app. If I’m using brie or camembert I usually cut the top rind off. Lay out crescent dough in a sheet and wrap the cheese. Drizzle with honey or add dried cranberries, nuts, or rosemary if you like, or spread on a honey mustard before you wrap. But if you don’t have any of these bonus ingredients, simply bake it at 375 degrees until the dough is golden. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices. To take it a step farther, check out this brie in a bread bowl from Food Network.

Goat cheese dip

My family recently had this appetizer in a restaurant, and it was so super simple I’ve made it at home multiple times since. In an oven safe dish, cover a 4 oz. goat cheese log with your jarred marinara sauce of choice. You don’t want it to be soupy, but you want to be able to have the goat cheese get melty and bubbly in the sauce so every bite has both flavors. I drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and crack black pepper on top before putting it in the oven. Bake until bubbly and serve with sliced baguette. If you want to get fancy, you could garnish with fresh basil.

Cocktail meatballs

You can make these in a crock pot, on the stove, or in the microwave. I always have some sort of meatballs in the freezer, and these take no time to make. Combine 1/3 cup chili, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup BBQ sauce, 1/2 cup grape jelly, and (optional) Sriracha. Give these ingredients a quick stir if you’re not cooking in the crock pot and add a dozen meatballs. Adjust the amounts if you’re making more, but you really want enough sauce to coat the meatballs. Heat and serve. The crock pot creates a richer flavor, but you can certainly make them on the fly.

Next time you’re having a gathering with friends or just hanging out for a movie with your family, try one of these easy and yummy apps!

Courtney Medlin
Courtney was raised a Navy brat, growing up in Washington, South Carolina, and Virginia before her family put their roots down in Florida. She studied at Loyola University New Orleans earning her degree in communications PR with a minor in English, and she earned her master's in marketing from SNHU. She moved to the Boston area in 2008, where she met and married her partner-in-crime, John. Mother of Jackson, 5, and stepmom to two 16-year-olds (boy and girl) and dog mom to Riley. Courtney is raising her family with a love of the outdoors, scary movies, and lots of laughs. Courtney works corporate communications/marketing/pr and lives on the South Shore. She has a passion for cooking and traveling. She volunteers her time as a Gold Award advisor for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts and serves on the planning gala committee for South Shore Health. She loves days that start with a latte and end with champagne.