Make Ahead Holiday Recipes | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog



5 Holiday Appetizers, Entrees, and Desserts You Can Make Before a Party

Getting creative and planning a holiday menu that the whole family will love is fun, but can also be  stressful. Make sure you never spend another holiday morning frantically cooking with these ultimate make-ahead holiday recipes. 

These 5 dishes are festive, impressive, and can be made hours to days ahead of time.

1. Mini Turkey Meatballs with Easy Cranberry Dip

Turkey Meatballs
Let’s kick this list off with a simple appetizer that’s super easy to throw together. You could make these juicy turkey meatballs weeks before your next holiday event, because they’ll stay nice and fresh in the freezer. The cranberry dip is just as addictive, with hints of orange and maple syrup.


Mini Meatballs:

  • 1.5 lbs (681 gr) ground turkey meat thigh preferred
  • 14 gr (approx. 8 large leaves) sage leaves finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove garlic minced or finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Cranberry Dip:

  • 12 oz cranberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 zest and juice medium navel orange
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 pinch kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl crack egg and lightly beat. Mix with sage, garlic, pepper, and salt until well combined. Add turkey and mix until combined. Using a tablespoon-measuring spoon, scoop a level amount of turkey mixture and roll into a small ball. Place on baking tray, spaced about 1/2 inch to 1 inch apart from other meatballs. Repeat until all turkey mixture is gone (makes 30-40 mini meatballs depending upon how you large roll them). Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until turkey is cooked through (needs to hit an internal temperature of 165° F) and meatballs are starting to brown. 

Cranberry Dip:

Meanwhile, please cranberries, orange zest and juice, maple syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low. Cook at a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until cranberries start to breakup. Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher (or blend in a blender for a smoother texture). Place in a bowl and serve alongside mini meatballs. 

Photo and recipe courtesy of My Kitchen Love. 

2. Cheesy Spinach Balls

Spinach Balls
Here’s another easy appetizer that you can freeze ahead of time. The best part? There’s no way to mess up these spinach balls.


  • 6 cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and trimmed
  • 3 cup boiling water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 cup panko crumbs (the recipe calls for the gluten-free version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 


Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In the meantime, place your spinach in a large mixing bowl, then cover with boiling water and set aside for 3 minutes. Next, rinse the spinach with cold water. Drain the spinach and use your hands to squeeze out any remaining water, which should yield approximately 2/3 cup of cooked spinach. 

Finely chop the cooked spinach, transfer to a mixing bowl, and add the eggs, cheese, cilantro, and panko crumbs. Mix everything together until a batter forms, and then use your hands to form balls. Place the balls on a non-stick baking sheet covered with baking paper, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. 

Photo and recipe courtesy of Sweet As Honey. 

3. Slow-Cooked Hoisin and Ginger Pork Wraps with Peanut Slaw

Hoisin and Ginger Pork Wraps
This tasty meal is ideal for those times when you need to feed a crowd, and it can be prepared in under an hour. The pork will keep its flavor even if you need to freeze or refrigerate it, so feel free to make it several days before your next holiday events.


For the pork:

  • 4 pounds bone-in or boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of thick surface fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from a 5-inch piece)
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 to 15 ounces hoisin sauce

For the slaw:

  • 1 small head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), outer leaves removed
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts, plus more for garnish
  • 1 medium bunch scallions, green and white parts finely chopped
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup light vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce, plus more as needed


Make the pork: Season the pork shoulder all over with the salt and pepper. Place it in a 5-quart or larger slow cooker, cutting it into pieces to fit if needed. Sprinkle with the ginger and garlic, then pour the hoisin sauce over everything. Cover and cook on the LOW setting until the pork is fork tender, 8 to 10 hours. Use 2 large forks to shred the meat and mix it with the sauce.

Make the slaw: When ready to serve, core and then cut the cabbage into very fine shreds. The fineness of the shredded cabbage is really, what makes this salad; you want it in in threads, almost, and with the threads chopped into bite-sized lengths. Place in a large bowl. Add the peanuts, scallions, and cilantro; season very lightly with salt and pepper; and toss to combine.

Place the oil, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and tamari or soy sauce in a medium bowl and whisk until emulsified. Taste and adjust to your own preferences of sweetness and saltiness with more sugar or soy sauce as needed. Add to the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Garnish with a few more peanuts if desired. Stack a few tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a damp towel, and microwave in 30-second bursts until warmed through, repeating until all the tortillas are warmed through (keep covered with the towel). To assemble, fill the tortillas with the shredded pork, top with the slaw and chili-garlic sauce, and eat like tacos or wrap up like a burrito.

Recipe and photo courtesy of kitchn. 

4. Overnight Layered Lettuce Salad

Layered Salad
Most holiday menus could use some more veggies, and this salad is couldn’t be easier to throw together the night before. Layer the ingredients in a large glass dish, mix the two-ingredient dressing, and let everything sit overnight. The flavors need some time to shine, which makes this a perfect make-ahead salad.


  • 1 medium head iceberg lettuce torn
  • 1 medium green pepper chopped
  • 1 small sweet red pepper chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 cups frozen peas (10 ounces)
  • 1 cup of reduced-fat or Avocado-oil mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 turkey bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries 


In a 4-qt. or 13x9-in. glass dish, layer the first five ingredients. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and sugar; spoon over salad, spreading to cover. Sprinkle top with cheese, bacon and cranberries. Refrigerate, covered, overnight. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Taste of Home.

5. Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes Cooking Light
This year, opt for a rich desert that is not only delicious, but has your family noshing on extra vegetables. With a main ingredient of beet and the use of nonfat buttermilk as well as whole-wheat flour, you’ll feel better about this healthier yet scrumptious holiday desert.



  • Baking spray with flour
  • 1 (10-oz) beet, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar or use ¾ to 1 cup to Stevia for baking depending on sweetness preferences
  • ¼ canola or coconut oil
  • ½ cup butter softened or use olive oil margarine substitute
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white 


  • 1/3 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons butter softened or use olive oil margarine substitute
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • 8 ounces of 1/3 less fat cream cheese (softened)
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar 


To prepare cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°F. Line 18 muffin cups with liners; coat with baking spray. Place beet in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high; boil until beet is tender when pierced, about 15 minutes. Drain; cool 10 minutes. Process beet in a food processor until very finely chopped. Remove 1-cup beet from processor; reserve remaining beet for another use. Return 1 cup reserved beet to food processor; add buttermilk and vanilla. Process until very smooth.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Beat granulated sugar, oil, and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and egg white, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and beet mixture alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on wire rack, about 30 minutes.

To prepare frosting, beat yogurt, 2 tablespoons butter, dash of salt, and cream cheese in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat on low speed 1 minute or just until combined. (Do not overbeat.) Spread frosting evenly onto cupcakes.

Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light and photo courtesy of Jennifer Causey.