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As the holidays approach it’s time to start menu and party planning, and with busy schedules it can be overwhelming just thinking about it! The secret to juggling it all? Make ahead as much as you can! Delicious appetizers you can assemble in advance and cocktails that are easy to pre-batch are the perfect way to keep your cheer intact.

My appetizer ideas are based on tried and true favorites but with a new twist. Take classic teriyaki wings and give them a seasonal spin with tart pomegranate in my Sticky Pomegranate Chicken Wings, with a make-ahead glaze. Is tasty Northwest crab and artichoke dip always on your holiday table? Re-dress that dish with Alaska king crab, sherry sautéed mushrooms and brie cheese. Make it the night before, then just pop in the oven right before guests arrive and serve with Sea Salt and Thyme Crostini.

Another quick and easy appetizer that always flies off the table is deviled eggs; Sriracha adds a spicy kick to my Asian twist on the classic, and a topping of shrimp, cucumber and cilantro gives it a fresh note.

The same applies to the bar: keep it simple and do as much as you can ahead. Dust off that punch bowl and serve Festive Sparkling Rum Punch, easy to pre-batch ahead of time and serve up over a fun ice ring or large ice balls. My ’Tis the Season (pictured right) is a crowd-pleasing citrus cocktail that you can pre-batch then just shake and top with a splash of bubbly.

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And one of my most favorite holiday DIY projects is Spiced Red Vermouth — so tasty in a Manhattan, or make a big batch and “bottle up” for a fun hostess gift.

So try mixing and matching some of these new ideas in with your holiday must-haves, write a timeline to map out your prep list and get cooking up some festive fun! I hope that these ideas will become some of your new favorites.

Kathy Casey is a chef and mixologist. Her latest book is “D’Lish Deviled Eggs.” Visit for more entertaining ideas and recipes.

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