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Hosts: Finalize your Thanksgiving plan

As you finalize your Thanksgiving dinner menu, don't forget to include some simple appetizers for your family and friends to enjoy before the big meal.

It's easy to overlook appetizers on a day that's focused on eating turkey and multiple pieces of pie. But a few easy appetizers can really save the day if the turkey takes longer to cook than you anticipated or a guest is late.

Believe me, you don't need hungry guests asking "how much longer?" every two minutes.

Pre-meal snacks should be light and not need much attention.

I like to set out a veggie platter with carrots, celery, bell peppers and grape or cherry tomatoes with a pesto sauce or hummus for dipping.

Add a cracker and cheese platter and small bowls of spiced nuts, olives and pickles and you're set.

For sipping, I like to serve a warm, nonalcoholic beverage in my sunroom. Weather permitting, I encourage guests to step outside on the deck to chat and relax before dinner.

The temperatures are usually so lovely in the Chattahoochee Valley at Thanksgiving that it's nice to celebrate a beautiful fall afternoon that's not being spent at the office.

Capture the flavor of fall by serving store-bought apple cider in a slow cooker. Simply pour the cider into the slow cooker and set it to the warm setting. Place a bottle of butterscotch schnapps nearby for guests who want to add a subtle alcoholic kick. The apple cider-butterscotch schnapps combination tastes like a grown up version of a caramel apple! Garnish with cinnamon sticks or sliced apples. (Dip apple slices in lemon juice to prevent browning.)

Here are a couple of easy, make-ahead appetizer recipes to make your Thanksgiving extra special.

Spiced peanuts and pecans

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¾ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon celery salt

1 ½ cups dry roasted peanuts

1 ½ cups pecans

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well. Add peanuts and pecans, stirring well to coat. Spread mixture evenly on a foil-covered rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Spiced crackers

1 box saltine crackers

1 cup canola oil

1 pouch dry ranch dressing mix

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Place crackers in a gallon size zip-top bag. Whisk other ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over crackers. Turn the bag a few times to make sure all the crackers get well covered. Let the mixture marinate overnight.

Dawn Minty can be reached at 706-571-8512 and For more recipes and holiday ideas, visit