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Easy Holiday Parties with Michigan Apples

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN

We all love a good holiday party but sometimes being the host can be stressful. These tips, recipes and easy decorating ideas that include Michigan Apples, will help you keep things simple, so you can enjoy your guests during this special time of year. 

Prepare a menu and make it easy on yourself. Everything does not have to be made from scratch. Look for convenient items like precut veggies to reduce time in the kitchen. Also look for recipes that are quick and easy to prepare like our Michigan “Apple-tizers” below.

Create a schedule and work ahead. The week before your event, create a list of to-dos and complete tasks you can do prior to your event. Set out serving trays, dishes and utensils. Purchase napkins, make your centerpiece, etc. This will help keep you from rushing at the last minute.

Batch out drinks. Make a punch (they’re festive!), or set up a bar and let people mix their own beverages. Make sure you have appropriate glassware, mixers, tools, garnishes, and beverage napkins conveniently located. Make sure to include mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages. 

Stations are key. Set up appetizer and dessert stations and let guests help themselves. 

Engage the senses. Light a holiday candle, play soft seasonal music and enjoy natural decorations like evergreens.

Do the math. Plan on two drinks per person the first hour, and one drink per person for each additional hour. For appetizers, one-and-a-half to two appetizers per person should be fine.

These Michigan “Apple-tizer” recipes add a seasonal flavor and healthy twist to your holiday party while keeping preparation easy.


Slow Cooker Apple BBQ Meatballs

1 cup applesauce

1 cup barbecue sauce

1 egg

1 Michigan Apple, finely chopped

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch red pepper flakes 

Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)


1. In bowl of 3-quart slow cooker, stir together applesauce and barbecue sauce.

2. Place egg in large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add apple, beef, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes. Mix with hands until just combined. Do not overmix. Using hands, gently form mixture into meatballs just smaller than golf balls. 

3. Place meatballs in bowl of slow cooker and gently stir to cover meatballs with sauce. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until meatballs are cooked through. Stir mixture well, then transfer to platter and serve garnished with parsley, if desired.


Creamy Blue Cheese and Honey Apple Topped Crostini

1 cup (8 ounces) part skim ricotta cheese

1/2 cup (4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves, plus 18 small fresh basil leaves for garnish

2 teaspoons honey

Pinch ground black pepper

¾ of a French baguette, sliced diagonally into 1/3-inch thick pieces (you should have 18 pieces)

Olive oil

2 Michigan McIntosh or Northern Spy apples, cored and thinly sliced (18 slices


1. In small bowl, stir together ricotta, blue cheese, chopped basil, honey and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place baguette slices on rimmed baking pan and lightly brush one side with oil. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven; let cool.

3. To serve, top each baguette slice with a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture, 1 apple slice and 1 basil leaf.


Apple Chutney Spread – Makes 2 cups – approximately 10-15 servings

1 package (8 oz.) Neufchatel cheese, softened

1 cup shredded red Michigan Apple*

1/3 cup shredded carrot

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1/3 cup mango chutney


  1. Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill thoroughly, about 2 hours. Serve with crackers or celery.

*Suggested Michigan Apple varieties to use: Empire, Gala, Ida Red, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious or Rome.  

Recipes: michiganapples.com


Holiday Wreath Apple-tizers

Michigan Apples, cored and sliced

Almond butter or another type of nut/seed butter


  • Pomegranate arils

  • Slivered almonds

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Dried cranberries

  • Chocolate chips

  • Coconut shreds

  • Crushed nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios)

  • Raisins

  • Cinnamon


  1. Spread nut or seed butter on top of the apples (or add the nut butter to a zip top bag and snip a corner to make spreading easier).

  2. Decorate with toppings of choice!

*If you don’t plan on decorating the apple slices right away, then first soak them in a bowl of lemon water (ratio of 1 cup water to 1 tablespoon lemon) for 3-4 minutes to keep them from browning.

Source: myheartbeets.com


Holiday Decorating with Michigan Apples

You can’t call it a true holiday party without decorations. Red, green and white are of course great colors to coordinate when picking out tablecloths, napkins, plates, cups and utensils. Consider lining the windows with bright red poinsettia, or decorating your mantle with twinkling lights and greens. Including shiny Michigan Apples in your décor is also a simple, colorful and inexpensive way to add a natural beauty and interest to your holiday décor. 

  • On the counter – add holiday greens to a large bowl and fill with Michigan apples.

  • On the table – make place cards for guests – add a green sprig with a leaf name tag

  • On the door – include Michigan apples in your wreath


Meet the Author

Shari Steinbach

Shari Steinbach, MS RDN
Shari Steinbach & Associates, LLC

For the past 26 years, Shari has worked as a dietitian in the grocery industry for two major retailers in the Midwest. In her retail roles, Shari has managed consumer health communication, health influencer partnerships, nutrition programs, and solution-selling strategies.

Shari has served as a nutrition expert and corporate spokesperson, providing food and nutrition advice through monthly television spots on ABC, NBC and FOX affiliates and local radio segments. She has also conducted numerous educational presentations to community groups and professional organizations throughout the country. Her timely nutrition and food product information and strategic social media messages have reached millions of consumers.