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Quick, delicious holiday entertaining ideas

© Sam Burbank

© Sam Burbank

StatePoint — If you’re playing host this holiday season, skip the complicated recipes that take hours of prep time and serve your guests easy, Mediterranean-inspired foods instead. Whether you’re throwing a lavish party or a casual get together, the simplest foods are often the best crowd pleasers.

Packed with bold flavors, olives are an essential part of the healthful Mediterranean diet. They also are the ideal starting point for party food. With pitted, seasoned, stuffed and jarred olives, you have the makings of a festive, ready-to-serve party plate. Here are six great ways to incorporate these good choice snacks into beautiful, no-fuss party fare:

• To make a colorful antipasto platter, pair a variety of olives — such as Greece’s famous deep purple Kalamata or giant green Spanish olives stuffed with garlic — with sliced salami and other cured meats, and two or three different kinds of cheeses. Add a jar of breadsticks for height or a pretty bowl filled with your favorite crackers.

• Blend a jar of herb infused olives in a food processor for an easy tapenade. Serve alongside fresh bread, crispy pita or toasted baguette. A new line of California-Grown Specialties olives from the Pearls and Early California brands can help you get creative: Try zesty flavors like Garlic, Lemon & Thyme, Herbs & Sweet Pepper or Spicy Escabeche to shake things up. Expert tip: The herbed, tangy brine from the olive jar can be used as a dipping sauce for bread.

• Make fun-to-eat pinwheel sandwiches using soft, thin, flatbread lavash or tortillas. First, spread cream cheese or an herbed soft cheese on the bread. Then add sliced olives, baby greens, shaved onion and sliced red peppers. Roll, refrigerate until ready to serve, then slice. Pre-sliced olives and pre-washed greens help make prep a breeze.

• Skewer whole, pitted olives, cubes of feta cheese and cherry tomatoes. If you make the skewers ahead of time, wrap them tightly in the refrigerator. When guests arrive, just drizzle the skewers with olive oil, put on a platter with some fresh herb sprigs and serve with fresh bread.

• For the ultimate martini, garnish vodka or gin with Pearls Martini with Vermouth Greek Queen olives, which are rich and buttery. For dirty martinis, use the vermouth-infused brine for extra flavor.

• Olives are delicious and satisfying all on their own. Pick a couple of olives with big, bold flavors, such as Pearls Pitted Medley and serve in a colorful serving bowl. Serving pitted olives means your guests won’t have to worry about disposing the pits.

For more great entertaining ideas, visit http://www.olives.com.

Preparing for your next party needn’t take all day. A bit of Mediterranean style is all that’s required for elegant and easy-to-prepare snacks and appetizers. Look for these, and other olives at Super Target, Walmart and grocery stores nationwide.

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