Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Please join me for appetizers

I'm going to participate in a theme that I see in lots of blogs lately--apologizing for leaving you high and dry, and falling away from posting regularly. I think it's the hazard of real people with real jobs, also trying to honor the need to stay in touch with the world and share in this forum. It's not that I haven't cooked--it's just that I haven't been willing to add the stress to my life which ensues when I spend an extsra hour a day blogging about it. So, sorry. There. I've said it. Wanna see some food now?

We had our annual family picnic last weekend. I like to do several appetizers for my guests to nibble on before the main meal. Since this is an appetizer kind of time-of-year, I thought you might be interested in some of the hits.

The biggest hit? Same as it always is--good old-fashioned chip and onion dip (yes, the kind from the package of onion soup mix). It seems like even the most sophisticated palates keep going back to that bowl. Crazy, huh? Forgive me, but I'm not posting the recipe. It's a family secret, you know.

I also made a change-up of an old familiar recipe--Chex mix--from the December/January issue of Cook's Country magazine. This one, called Fisherman's Friend Party Mix, packed a not-so-subtle wallop of heat from Frank's Red Hot Sauce and Old Bay Seasoning. It was good, but we like spicy. The magazine also had a couple of other versions--BBQ Party Mix and Asian Firecracker Party Mix--but I haven't tried those.

One of my favorites were Cheddar Cheese Rounds, from the same magazine. These also had a back burn which cut through the richness of ground pecans, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and creamy sweet butter. They are flakey and crumbly. One hint, though: Label them. Everyone thought they were some kind of weird cookie, and didn't try them without prompting. Live and learn.

Normally, I cringe at the thought of Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Too often, it's a gloppy, greasy, mayonnaise-tasting mess. Same magazine again--great recipe. The rich artichokes and spinach nicely balance a Parmesan cream sauce. Diagonally sliced mini-baguettes made the perfect dipper.

There was definitely a hot and spicy theme going on with the Honey-Chipotle Glazed Pecans as another appetizer offering. These go together in a snap. First, they take a bath in honey warmed with ground chipotle powder and cinnamon. They bake for about 10 minutes before showering in a mixture of sugar and salt. After a litlte drying time, they are ready to eat.

I'll come back later with some of the vegetarian/vegan foods we've been eating, as well as the results of our upcoming four-generation baking day. In the meantime, I hope you are able to live in the joy of the holiday spirit and focus on what matters. A blessed holiday to all of you.

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