"Friendsgiving" has become an established tradition within my friend circle (as it has within many 20-somethings' friend circles); the only TBD factor each year is the date and time. The idea of intentionally gathering around the table with your day-to-day community of friends before being sucked fully into holiday chaos is a brilliant one. What better way to celebrate the season of thanks than with your closest companions surrounded by an abundance of food (that you actually want to eat), booze, and laughter?

And perhaps the most brilliant thing about Friendsgiving is that it doesn't need to be one of those labor intensive feasts that you spend days prepping and hours cooking for. I mean, you already have one of those for this month... it's called Thanksgiving. When it comes to Friendsgiving menu planning, I think the cardinal rule is: This is not a time to do the whole turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce thing again (because who really wants to eat that meal more than once a year?). Friendsgiving is a moment to prepare and eat the foods you and your friends are going to enjoy the most.

There are a number of feasible routes to take when planning your Friendsgiving fare, but the strategy I've found works best for me when hosting the big event is to put out a creative spread, keep it simple, and focus most on enjoying my friends. And by that, I mean, I go all out with the apps and hor d'oeuvres. Going with a tableful of tasty, finger-friendly snacks allows me to do most of the prep well enough in advance so that I am not stressing out an hour before Friendsgiving, makes it easy for my notoriously early friends to help me finish up with the "cooking" as they arrive and mingle, makes for a fun and interactive buffet of bites, and is so much easier to clean up than scrubbing pots and pans for hours into the night. Have your guests contribute to the spread by bringing their favorite hor d'oeuvre and/or a beverage.

Here are some of my go-to's to include on the Friendsgiving table. Oh, and added bonus--all of the ideas below likewise make for great starters to your Thanksgiving meal with family.

A Charcuterie Board + a Bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon

By far one of the easiest and most satisfying plates you'll serve all night. People simply love cheese, meat, and wine. Serve with some whole-grain crackers, or toasted French bread slices. Grab a few (or all) of these items and you'll be set. Oh, and you totally don't have to break the bank on this either. Trader Joe's can be your best friend when it comes to building the perfect charcuterie board.

Pictured below: Salami, Prosciutto, Olives, Almonds, Brie, Goat Cheese, Aged Gouda, Extra Sharp White Cheddar, Strawberry Mostarda, and Honey.


Bacon-Wrapped DatesAre you ready for the easiest appetizer ever? Two ingredients, folks. Two ingredients. Just wrap sweet Medjool dates with bacon, fry them up in a pan, and they're done. And you can definitely make them ahead of time. Win. Major win. Like I said above, anything you can make ahead of time earns bonus points. Be warned though, these little bites will literally disappear in the first five minutes, so you might want to make a few extra batches.

Pumpkin Dip If you want to include that pumpkin spice kick, but don't want to make a pie or some other baked good, this incredibly satisfying pumpkin dip is the way to go. It's creamy, full of pumpkin spice goodness, yet takes half the effort and has fewer calories, too. You can't really get a much easier dessert.


Baked BrieThis is just a good idea all around for the holiday season. You can stuff and wrap in filo dough, bake it with cranberries and walnuts, or just bake it and drizzle a little honey on top. Any way you make it, you just can't go wrong with Brie. Ever.

Brown Sugar-Spiced Nut MixIf you're free of allergies, nut mixes are a wonderful addition to the spread. Parties like Friendsgiving give you a wonderful opportunity to step it up a notch by adding a little fun into your mix. This recipe gives you a little sugar and spice in every single bite.


Quick Liver PâtéIf you want to make a dish that's sure to impress, turn to this Quick Liver Pâté. It's a huge hit at parties, and also easy to perfect. Your friends will love the creamy texture and rich savory flavor paired with sliced baguette or crackers. It also freezes well, so you can make it ahead for your party or go ahead and make an extra batch to use on Thanksgiving.

Now, stock your bar with gin, rosemary, olives, a couple bottles of wine, tonic, and sparkling water--and you're ready to roll. No fuss, just a simple Friendsgiving spread that's a cinch to prepare and even easier to enjoy.

By Rebecca Longshore and Rebecca Longshore