Holiday entertaining? Start with a box of crackers

Planning for a crowd this holiday season? Grab of box of woven wheats.

That's the generic name for Triscuits, those kind-of-weirdly-woven-esque wheat crackers that are delightfully salty-crunchy-savory. This year, I've decided they are the perfect on-demand base on which to build any number of crowd-pleasing holiday appetizers at the last minute. Because none of us has time for elaborate apps.

It works kind of like this. Line a baking sheet with foil. Coat the foil with cooking spray. Cover the tray with woven wheat crackers. Top the crackers with delicious stuff. Bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes. Serve. Done.

It really is that easy. I've topped the crackers with slices of cheddar and an anchovy. I've topped them with Parmesan and strawberry jam. I've topped them with fresh goat cheese, a dried apricot and fresh chives. I've topped them with slices of salami, sun-dried tomato and manchego cheese. I've topped them with brie and fig jam and a hunk of ham. You get the idea.

The lesson is simply that so long as you keep a box or two of crackers on hand during the holidays, it's easy to scramble a platter of appetizers in minutes, pretty much no matter what else you have on hand. To help get you rolling, here is a simple recipe for my favorite variant of this holiday entertaining appetizer. But you really should take it in any direction that inspires you.




Start to finish: 15 minutes

Makes 16 appetizers

16 dates, pitted

3 ounces manchego cheese, cut into wedges (each about the size of half a date)

16 Triscuit crackers

8 slices bacon, each cut in half crosswise


Ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Use a paring knife to cut open the dates, remove the pit (if necessary), then wedge a chunk of cheese into each. Set each date on a cracker, then wrap half a slice of bacon around the entire thing, overlapping the ends of the bacon on the underside of the cracker.

Arrange the assembled crackers on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with pepper, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bacon is starting to crisp. Cool slightly before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories; 80 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 4 g protein; 170 mg sodium.


J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at and tweets at . Email him at

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