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Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Thanksgiving can put a heavy burden on the host. We've assembled five appetizers that are quick and easy to prep. Some, like our risotto balls and goat-cheese figs, cater to vegetarian diets, so you can be sure to please all your guests. Even if you're not hosting the meal, bring one of these trendy appetizers to a gathering and impress your family. They don't need to know it only took you 20 minutes to make those antipasto skewers.

Emily Young, Times correspondent

Thyme Roasted Walnuts

Seasoned nuts are a healthy and sophisticated appetizer. Plus, you can make them up to 8 hours in advance. Try roasting the walnuts the morning of Thanksgiving, then store them in an airtight container at room temperature until guests arrive. When ready to make, chop 2 cups roasted walnuts. You want them to be very coarsely chopped. Chop 1 tablespoon thyme. Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. It's important that it's rimmed so the ingredients don't fall off when you mix them. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the walnuts, then add thyme and ½ teaspoon salt. Toss until nuts are coated. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until walnuts are golden brown and fragrant. Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.

Antipasto Skewers

This healthy appetizer will refresh your guests in the midst of heavier Thanksgiving dishes. If you want to make it vegetarian-friendly, simply remove the prosciutto. The best part? These skewers may look elegant, but you can assemble them in 15 minutes. Start by soaking 10 mini wooden skewers in water for an hour. Then, pat the skewers dry and slide the following ingredients onto each skewer: 1 leaf of basil; 1 rolled, 2-inch slice of prosciutto; 1 artichoke heart; 1 cherry tomato; another leaf of basil; 1 mini mozzarella cheese ball; and 1 pitted kalamata olive. If you have kids, you can assign them this easy task. It doesn't really matter in which order the ingredients go on the skewer. Alternatively, you can arrange the ingredients in bowls on your counter and allow your guests to build their own skewers. This will entertain them while you prep last-minute dishes. You can serve immediately, or place in the fridge temporarily until your guests arrive. Recipe adapted from the Mediterranean Dish.

Figs With Goat Cheese

My boyfriend made this for a Fourth of July party, and it was a huge hit. Once you pop one of these tangy, sweet treats in your mouth, you won't want to stop eating them. They're the easiest dish to make — all assembly, no cooking — but the figs make them fancy. The only downside is that you'll need to serve these within an hour, rather than making them ahead. But since they only take 15 minutes to assemble, you won't mind. Roll 2 ounces of soft, fresh goat cheese into 24 balls, each about the size of ½ teaspoon. Wash and drain 12 fresh figs. Cut them in half. With your fingers, press a ball of goat cheese into the center of each fig. Serve on a decorative plate and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar. Recipe adapted from New York Times.

Sweet Potato Wedges

Your guests will admire your trend-setting tastes when they try these sweet potato fries, dipped in soy sauce with toasted sesame oil. You could even try this recipe instead of traditional mashed sweet potatoes in the main Thanksgiving spread. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil. Set aside this dipping sauce to use for later. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Peel 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total) and cut them into ¾-inch-thick wedges. Add them to a large bowl and pour in 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, then sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon coarse salt. Toss. Roast the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Flip them once so they crisp on both sides. You will know they're done when they are slightly brown but still tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with 1 ½ teaspoons sesame seeds and serve with sauce. Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

Fried Risotto Balls

Your vegetarian friends will love you for serving these fried risotto balls. This recipe uses leftover risotto, so feel free to make the dish in advance for a meal, then save 2 cups for this appetizer and chill it in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. When ready to make, add ½ cup bread crumbs and 1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast to a dipping bowl. With your hands, form the risotto into balls and thoroughly coat them with the bread crumb mixture. If your risotto is not sticky enough, you can dip the balls into a bowl of warm water and 1 teaspoon ground flax seed before rolling in the crumbs. Once coated, place the balls on a parchment-lined tray. If the risotto balls seem too crumbly, chill them in the fridge for half an hour. Otherwise, it's time to fry. Fill a small pot with about 2 inches of sunflower oil or canola oil and heat on high for 2 minutes. Reduce to medium heat and begin adding the risotto balls to the oil. Fry each ball for 2 to 3 minutes, turning gently. Using a slotted spoon, remove balls and place them on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve immediately. Recipe adapted from Healthy Happy Life.

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