By Curtis Stone
I've always believed that having people over to eat is one of life's greatest pleasures-which might explain why I love the holidays so much. What better reason to call up friends and neighbors and invite them to enjoy good company and a few bites?
But here's what I don't love: a fussy party requiring so much last-minute scrambling that you don't get to enjoy it. If you're stressing out in the kitchen while your guests mingle, it's time to reexamine your strategy. I like to make a few fantastic, simple, eat-with-your-hands hors d'oeuvres-all of which can be prepared in advance-and lay them out in one big spread so guests can help themselves. I mix up a festive cocktail to serve as people arrive, and that's it; my work done, I'm free to socialize. My guests don't wonder where I've disappeared to, and I actually have fun at my own gathering.
The key to party fare is this: A little variety goes a long way. You don't need a ton of dishes-just a few guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
Cannellini Bean Dip with Piquillo Peppers
My cannellini bean dip, which gets a boost from smoky Spanish piquillo peppers, is as creamy and tangy as it is simple to make. (Do you have a food processor? You're 99 percent there.)
Get the recipe: Cannellini Bean Dip with Piquillo Peppers
Spiced Candied Nuts
I have a soft spot for spice, so I mix up a bowl of candied nuts tossed with paprika, cayenne, rosemary, and orange zest. (They disappear quickly, believe me.)
Get the recipe: Spiced Candied Nuts
Caramelized Shallot Tartes Tatin
For a dose of visual drama, I dip slices of shallot in butter and sugar, lay them on a lined baking sheet, top each with a disk of puff pastry, and bake. The pastry fuses to the shallot, so when you pull it out of the oven and flip it over, you've got a mini tarte tatin.
Get the recipe: Caramelized Shallot Tartes Tatin
Smoked Salmon Tartines with Red Onion Relish
My smoked salmon tartines with red onion relish come together in no time: Spread pumpernickel toasts with herbed cream cheese, top with the salmon and a mixture of red onion, dill, and capers, and you're good to go.
Get the recipe: Smoked Salmon Tartines with Red Onion Relish
Related: Our Best 10- Minute Appetizers
As I greet my guests, I shake up a rummy eggnog martini for each of them, which always gets the party rolling. Because when it comes to the holidays, I'm not interested in fuss. I'm all about fun.
Get the recipe: Eggnog Martinis
More from Oprah.com: