I’m a fan of enhancing party themes with cute hors d'oeuvres and artful appetizer arrangements. Not only do guests love them, but they go a long way in making your events engaging and memorable. 

So, I've put together some of my favorite fall food and autumn appetizers for your Thanksgiving holiday.

“Pumpkin” Cheeseballs 

These pumpkin-shaped cheeseballs feature a little spice to warm the palate in contrast to the cool autumn weather, and are adorable additions to the appetizer menu. 

Yield: 2 ½ cups; about 30 servings 

What you'll need: 
  • Mixing bowl & mixer
  • Wax paper
  • Serving tray
  • Toothpick
  • Small bowl
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz. spreadable chive & onion cream cheese
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped nuts, such as peanuts, pecans, or almonds
  • Pretzel sticks, broken in half
  • Pieces of fresh parsley leaves
  1. Line serving tray with waxed paper.
  2. Mix soft cheeses together in a small bowl until well-beaten. Stir in the cheddar cheese and spices and mix well.
  3. Using 1½-tablespoon increments, roll cheese mixture into balls, then place in refrigerator until firm (about 4 hours).
  4. Place chopped nuts into a small bowl.
  5. Remove cheese balls and trace segments onto them with a toothpick, then dip the bottom portion into the bowl of chopped nuts. Return to refrigerator until ready to serve.
  6. Just before serving, add pretzel sticks broken in half to the tops of the pumpkins to form the “stem.” Adorn with parsley leaves for a fresh green zing, if desired.
Inspiration & photo: www.bettycrocker.com

Veggie Turkey 

This artful arrangement of multicolored veggies is just as fun as they are apropos to autumn entertainment. Conceal a glass or plastic bowl inside a hollowed-out pumpkin or fall gourd to hold dipping sauce for an extra dash of delight. 

What you'll need:
  • Large platter
  • Paring knife
  • Cutting board
  • Toothpicks (optional)
  • Yellow squash
  • Green, yellow, and red bell peppers
  • Baby carrots
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Black olives
  • Asparagus (steamed)
  • Leaf lettuce—we prefer red butter or romaine
  • Small amount of royal icing or peanut butter
  1. Cut the peppers in half, and remove the seeds and core. Slice into then cross-sectional strips to end up with delightfully squiggly strips.
  2. Peel and thinly slice cucumbers.
  3. Place 1 celery stalk aside. Cut the rest in half length-wise, then slice into 4-inch strips.
  4. Steam the asparagus for 5 minutes so that they still have a crunch but are slightly soft and bright green in color. Snap bean varieties prepared in a similar manner also work well in place of asparagus.
  5. Rinse and separate lettuce leaves, then dry completely. Place whole leaves around the perimeter of the platter, leaving a gap of several inches on one side which is where the “feet” will go.
  6. Lay the celery sticks down on top of the lettuce leaves in the same radiating pattern. Then layer carrots on top, and intersperse asparagus.
  7. To make the "feet": Cut one celery stalk in half cross-ways, then make two cuts into one end of each half to look like toes. Lay the celery “feet” in place in the gap between lettuce leaves.
  8. Mound the sliced cucumbers on top of the celery feet to create the “body.”
  9. Add a layer of whole cherry tomatoes above the cucumbers.
  10. Then arrange the colored peppers to fill up the rest of the space on the platter.
  11. To make the “head”: 
    1. Place the stem of a whole, unpeeled yellow squash into the pile of cucumbers in the middle of the platter. 
    2. If desired, stick two toothpicks into the back of the squash and rest them against the bottom of the platter so the head will be slightly raised. 
    3. Then, using a triangular piece of yellow bell pepper that has been completely dried, add a small dot of icing to the underside and stick to the middle of the squash. 
    4. Add olives as “eyes” in a similar manner, 
    5. And, a red bell pepper slice for the turkey “wattle.”
Source: inventorspot.com 

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites 

Cranberries add a lovely fruity tartness that complements the savory selections of fall celebrations extraordinarily well, and in my opinion, defines the taste of the holiday season. This delicious option takes advantage of the cranberry’s flavor and color to give traditional cheese and crackers a sweet and zippy twist. 

Yield: 16 bites

What you'll need:
  • Measuring utensils
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Sauce pan
  • Colander
  • Baking dish
  • Baking sheet
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup good maple syrup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Crackers (~16)
  • 8 oz Brie cheese cranberry chutney or cranberry relish
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  1. Rinse cranberries and place in a medium bowl.
  2. Heat syrup in a small sauce pan just until warm.
  3. Pour over cranberries when syrup is warm, not hot, or cranberries may pop. Cool, cover, and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Place sugar in a large bowl or baking dish.
  5. Drain cranberries in a colander, then add to the sugar in 2 batches and roll around until lightly coated in sugar.
  6. Place on a baking sheet until dry, about 1 hour.
  7. Assemble crackers with one slice of brie, a light layer of cranberry chutney, and 4 or 5 sugared cranberries.
  8. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
Source: www.yummymummykitchen.com

Fruit Skewer Turkey 

What you'll need:
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Toothpicks
  • Paring knife
  • Cutting board
  • Aluminum foil
  • Serving platter
  • Cantaloupe, diced
  • Black/red grapes
  • Yellow & red bell peppers
  • Whole Bosc pear
  • Whole melon, such as honeydew or cantaloupe
  • Whole kale leaves
  • Other fruits, as desired
  1. Using the paring knife, score the outside of a whole melon lengthwise to add texture. This step is optional, and may be skipped with perfectly lovely results.
  2. Stick two toothpicks into one side of the melon; these will be where you attach the “feet.” Place the melon “body” on the serving platter, using aluminum foil to help make it steady and secure. It doesn’t matter if the foil is visible here, because it will ultimately be obscured by decorative kale.
  3. Prepare fruit by cutting into bite-size chunks; the example shows cantaloupe chunks, but other possibilities include watermelon, strawberries, cheese cubes, and blackberries.
  4. Cut one small triangle out of cheese or cantaloupe to create a “beak,” and cut one grape in half to set aside.
  5. Add the diced fruit onto 12-15 bamboo skewers and set aside. Similarly, prepare the bell peppers by coring and cutting pieces into thick tapering strips lengthwise, vaguely “feather-shaped.” Don’t forget to reserve ½ of a red pepper for the feet!
  6. To create “feet:” Using two quarters of a red pepper, make two triangular cuts to create toes. Place on the toothpicks attached to the melon “body.” Set triangular cut outs aside.
  7. Place head on the body after creating the feet.
  8. To create the turkey’s “head”: Stick a toothpick into the 1-inch into melon where the “head” will rest, at the highest point of the melon in the front center. Place another toothpick two inches below the first, then attach the Bosc pear, stem pointing downward. To make a secure hold, attempt this only once and use additional toothpicks if desired. Using a one of the red bell pepper triangles left over from creating the feet, shape it into a teardrop-shaped “wattle.” Attach grape half “eyes,” melon/cheese “beak,” and red pepper “wattle” with toothpicks—you may wish to break toothpicks in half for ease of use.
  9. Once the head has been attached, place toothpicks in the melon where “feathers” will be attached, fanned out over the “back” of the melon “turkey body.” Slide slices of peppers onto the toothpicks so that they are oriented points upward.
  10. Add bamboo skewers carefully behind them, spreading them evenly to maintain balance. You may wish to create holes where the fruit skewers will be placed with an empty skewer to avoid breaking them. Then simply insert the skewers and press until they are firmly secured.
Note: If your turkey gets back-heavy, just use additional bamboo skewers inserted at the base of the melon and/or more aluminum foil to prop it up. Once the turkey sits securely, arrange kale around the back and base to cover up the skewers and foil.

If you’re hungry for more turkey-inspired crudité platters, check out this link! More “Turkey” Platters: pinlavie.com

Acorn Candy 

Acorns are a ubiquitous symbol of the fall season, and these delightful candy versions make them into a sweet autumn treat! They are perfect to serve alongside tastier nut varieties.  

What you'll need:
  • Piping (pastry) bag
  • Serving bowl
  • Royal icing (recipe follows) or peanut butter
  • HERSHEY’S candy kisses, in desired flavor(s)
  • Mini vanilla wafer cookies
  • Butterscotch or chocolate chips
  1. Prepare and place royal icing in pastry bag with small tip.
  2. Remove wrappers from candies.
  3. Place mini vanilla wafer cookies on tray or plate with flat side of cookie toward the top.
  4. Squeeze small amount of icing/peanut butter onto bottom of candy piece.
  5. Immediately press candy bottom onto vanilla wafer cookie and allow icing to set.
  6. Place small dab of icing on bottom of peanut butter chip or butterscotch chip; immediately attach to top of cookie to finish acorn.
Recipe for ROYAL ICING
  1. Stir together 
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
    • 1 tablespoon warm water 
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons pasteurized dried egg whites (meringue powder). 
  2. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until spreadable. 
  3. Add additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to get desired consistency. 
  4. Transfer icing to pastry bag with desired tip. 
  5. Cover icing and tip of pastry bag with damp paper towel to keep icing from drying out.
Source: www.hersheys.com

Turkey Spinach-Artichoke Dip in a Gourd 

Among guests and family alike, some variety of spinach dip is an expected party staple and is a tasty way of getting in a serving of green leafy vegetables. This recipe has a distinctive turkey twist that celebrates the festive fall season. Dress up the presentation by serving it up in a decorative gourd for good measure. 

What you'll need:
  • Mixing bowl
  • Stirring spoon
  • Baking dish (optional)
  • Gourd (optional)
  • Kitchen knife (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups turkey, diced
  • 14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed & drained
  • ½ a white onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon season salt
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. sour cream
  • 8 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes in a glass baking dish and serve.
  4. To serve in a gourd:
  5. Level the gourd or pumpkin to sit flat by cutting off small sections from the bottom with a kitchen knife until it is sturdy.
  6. Slice it in half, then scoop out the seeds and interior until enough space remains for the dip.
  7. Add dip to the gourd, then place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake according to above instructions.
Source: www.forrent.com

Gourmet Popcorn-Stuffed “Turkey” 

Although this last one is more of a craft than a recipe, it is sure to delight holiday guests of all ages. Choose your favorite flavor or recipe for gourmet popcorn, and show your creative side with this unique “roast turkey” serving idea! 

What you'll need:
  • Large brown grocery bag
  • 2 small brown lunch bags
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • White paper
  • Parchment/wax paper (optional)
  • 8 oz. (20 cups) gourmet popped corn, in desired flavor
  1. If you are using buttered popcorn to fill the turkey, tape parchment or wax paper to the inside of the bag in order to line it and prevent grease marks from appearing.
  2. To make the frill: Cut a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11″ in half lengthwise. Fold the cut sections in half lengthwise and cut fringes into one side.
  3. To make drumsticks: Make a fist with one of your hands, and stick it into the lunch bag. With your other hand, mold it into a round shape and fill 2/3 full with popcorn. Twist the remaining length of the bag and mold until tight. Hot glue the frill around the twisted end.
  4. To make body: Again using your fist, mold the large grocery bag into a rounded shape that looks like one end of a roast turkey. Fill 2/3 full with popcorn. Fold the sides of the bag inside along the creases, then fold corners over under like you are wrapping a present; then hot glue it shut.
  5. Add the drumsticks to each side with hot glue with the body laying on a flat surface, and position as desired.
Source: onecharmingparty.com

Share with me some of your favorite cute fall food and autumn appetizers.