3 Easy, Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Appetizers

Shrimp RillettesShrimp Rillettes

When you're concentrating on a big family dinner like Thanksgiving, appetizers tend to take the back seat. This year, instead of stressing over hors d'oeuvres at the last minute, pick one or two easy nibbles that you can prep days (or weeks!) in advance. Then, on the big day, just unwrap and set the out -- no cooking, no fuss.

Here are a few ideas straight from the Good Housekeeping test kitchen…

Related: 10 Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

1. SHRIMP RILLETTES
Make: up to 3 weeks in advance
Store: Freezer

Instead of shrimp cocktail, try our simple Shrimp Rillettes (just a fancy way of saying buttery, shrimp spread) -- you can freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. Serve with crackers or toast for spreading. Bonus: The recipe only calls for 5 ingredients!

Ingredients:
- 6 tablespoons butter (no substitutions), softened
- 1 pound shelled and deveined shrimp
- 2 tablespoons brandy or dry sherry
- 1/4 teaspoons ground red pepper (cayenne)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Salt

In 10-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter on medium-high until melted. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque throughout, stirring frequently. Add brandy and cook 30 seconds. Transfer shrimp mixture to food processor with knife blade attached; pulse until finely chopped.

To shrimp mixture in processor, add ground red pepper, lemon juice, remaining 4 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse until evenly blended. Transfer shrimp mixture to 3 small jars and cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic wrap directly onto surface of shrimp mixture.

Refrigerate at least 8 hours to blend flavors or up to 3 days. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Related: Chic (and Cheap!) Thanksgiving Centerpieces

2. MARINATED OLIVES
Make: up to 2 weeks in advance
Store: Refrigerator

A mixture of briny olives is always a great way to tide guests over until dinner. And soaking the olives in olive oil, rosemary, and fennel seeds just makes them that much better!

Ingredients:
- 1 1/4 cups green olives, rinsed and drained
- 1 1/4 cups Kalamata olives, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Place olives in medium bowl. In 1 1/2-quart saucepan, combine oil, garlic, rosemary, and fennel seeds. Heat on medium 3 minutes or until fragrant and hot but not smoking; pour over olives.

Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, up to 2 hours. Or, cover and refrigerate up to 2 weeks; bring to room temperature before serving.

Related: 5 Quick Ways to Clean Up Before Guests Arrive

3. FIG AND WALNUT CHEESE BALL
Make: up to 1 week in advance
Store: Refrigerate

This is an excellent homemade hostess gift if you're enjoying Thanksgiving at someone else's place! To make the dish up to one week ahead, wrap the un-coated cheese ball in plastic wrap, refrigerate, and then roll in the nuts just before serving. You also can customize this with your own favorite grated cheese and/or chopped nut coating.

Ingredients:
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel)
- 1 cup dried Calimyrna figs (5 ounces), finely chopped, with stems removed
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Pepper
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

In medium bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese 1 minute or until fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in figs, Parmesan, honey, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

On sheet of plastic wrap, shape one-third of cheese mixture into ball; wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining cheese mixture, making a total of 3 balls. Refrigerate until cheese balls are chilled and firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Roll chilled balls in chopped walnuts.

To serve, if cheese balls have been refrigerated overnight, let stand 30 minutes at room temperature or until soft enough to spread.

More from Good Housekeeping: