How To Build An Awesome Appetizer Board (With Minimal Dirty Dishes)

Last Friday I spent the day at the BJ’s in Waltham. I will admit that to date, I haven’t been so much into the bulk grocery scene, mostly because the idea of adding another stop to our current grocery routine seemed hard. However, I know we spend way too much money on groceries and I was interested to: 1) see exactly what the discounts were all about, and 2) learn about quality and options. And I have to say, you guys, I was totally impressed on both counts! The prices at BJ’s were crazy good, and I found plenty of things to suit my somewhat picky standards when it comes to groceries and other items.

During the visit, we engaged in two challenges that were akin to when you watch the contestants on Project Runway race around Mood to get materials for the design challenge du jour. I’ll share about these two challenges in separate posts and today I want to talk about easy holiday entertaining because the first challenge was to create an easy no-bake appetizer and as I was doing aforementioned racing around the store, I realized I could prepare my appetizer with basically one utensil (a spoon). YAY FOR LESS DISHES!

I’m known for my stuffed appetizer plates -- it’s one of my favorite things to share with guests because it’s easy to assemble, looks impressive, is always a crowd pleasure, and personally, I love the ability to nibble and pick and choose so I like to give my guests that option. I’ve gotten questions in the past about creating loaded appetizer boards (and apparently inspired some people on site) so I thought I’d share my how-to.

1. Start with a white canvas

Food pops best plated on white and I also recommend using white serve ware that has a little texture. I usually use one huge platter but I didn’t see any big platters at BJ's so I used a bunch of smaller ones. I was thrilled to find some crazy affordable marble/wood cheese boards, long oval dishes with braiding detail along the edges, and curved bowls -- these little details add dimension to your appetizer spread.

2. Assemble a variety of materials

To build a great stuffed appetizer platter, variety is key. Pick up fruit, vegetables, salami, cheese, crackers, and some dips or antipasto items. At BJ's I found pre-sliced cheese, salami, and veggies so NO KNIVES REQUIRED. YAY. While you’re gathering your items, keep in mind you want a variety of volume, texture, and color on your board. So for fruit I selected grapes, raspberries, and figs, and for veggies I just picked up a prepackaged veggie tray including broccoli, celery, carrots, and tomatoes. Again, NO CUTTING REQUIRED!

3. Anchor the platter

I start by anchoring my platters with items that won’t roll away and items that add immediate volume. For example, I typically place grapes in one corner and layers of salami and cheese in other corners.

4. Add dimension

I like interspersing my boards with antipasto or dip options. At home I typically use small bowls interspersed within my big board but I only had large bowls on hand so I ended up anchoring one of my marble boards with a large bowl including two types of antipasto. It looked so pretty!

5. Fill in the gaps and intersperse color

Color is key to making your board look pretty, so after the anchoring step I start filling in the gaps. It’s always good to add green items (e.g., broccoli, celery, cucumbers) and also red items (e.g., raspberries, tomatoes).

6. Heap it up

Once your board is framed out, I like to heap it up so it has a really stuffed appearance.

7. Final optional (but super tasty) step: Freezer apps!

We had the option of choosing a few prepared apps to accompany our holiday table and I ended up selecting bacon wrapped scallops, bacon mac n’ cheese bites, and mini quiches. I originally was just going to set them on a separate platter but ended up interspersing them within the boards and they looked so pretty! Also, I sampled all of them and they were delicious!

So great right? If you need further inspiration for how to make your next party easy, check out the BJ’s deli/bakery brochure and this great party by the numbers guide. I am totally relying on both of these things as I prepare for our holiday open house! Oh, and also, if you’re not a BJ’s member, don't fret -- you can score a free 3-month membership if you sign up by 12/31/2016!

Disclosure: This post reflects a creative partnership with BJ’s. All ideas for insanely good holiday appetizer platters are, of course, my own. All images are by the talented Eddie Berman.