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I love to cook during the holidays but, like many of you, am up to my eyeballs with work, travel, family and shopping. And then there are the parties. Whether you’re hosting your own party, or organizing a workplace event, what’s to be on this year’s menu?

Well, I’ve got you covered! Here are some tasty new do-ahead recipes that will hopefully take a bit of the stress out of your schedule.

I suggest picking two or three hot items, like the ones I’ve shared here, and complementing them with one or two cold appetizers, such as fun twists on deviled eggs, charcuterie and roasted veggies with an aioli dip. Then fill out the spread with some spiced nuts, sexy cheeses and a variety of crostini and artisanal crackers.

Meatballs are always super popular, but it’s time for some new ideas, so I’ve whipped up a recipe for Lemon Grass Chicken Meatballs With Sassy Peanut Sauce. The meatball mixture can be prepared the day before, refrigerated and baked right before serving. Made with ground chicken thigh meat, the meatballs stay juicy and delicious. And the sauce can hold, refrigerated, for up to a week.

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My mini Overnight Rosemary Ham & White Cheddar Strata Bites are sure to be a hit. Combine the strata mixture the night before so that the bread soaks up all the seasoned egg mixture, and then bake in mini-muffin tins before guests arrive. This recipe lends itself to lots of variations. For example, you could give the strata a Latin flair by switching out the rosemary with chili powder and cilantro and the cheese for pepper jack — then serve with a dollop of salsa and sour cream. You can easily replace the ham with shrimp or roasted veggies, too.

So take a little stress out of your plans for a merry seasonal table and try some of my recipes for do-ahead apps. Next week: holiday desserts!

© Kathy Casey Food Studios® –

Kathy Casey is a chef, mixologist and entertaining expert and the host of Find more recipes at or Tweet @kathycaseychef.

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