Little bites — homemade and store-bought — welcome in new year

Mini-QUICHES (ALSO store-bought)

Mini-QUICHES (ALSO store-bought)

Whether you are kissing 2008 goodbye or shoving it out the door, you'll need sustenance for the occasion.

If you're like me, your party shopping list will say things like "something cheesy, something crunchy, something meaty, something sweet." Then add "something homemade" and "something store-bought." Who needs to do all the work themselves when there are convenient and delicious alternatives at the grocery store?

The photos that accompany this story, on the cover and on this page, illustrate my theory. Start with these little bites for your New Year's celebrations — the countdown to midnight or game day parties — and fill in the blanks with dip recipes that are included here. My easy Onion Dip rivals the Lipton soup mix standard, plus everybody loves Hot Artichoke Dip, especially this three-cheese version from Butter Queen Paula Deen. Dippers for both can include all manner of chips (potato, pita, bagel, veggie, tortilla), crackers, crostini or fresh vegetable crudite.

Fennel Marinated Feta and Olive Skewers could be the party's head-turning offering. Cubes of tangy feta cheese go earthy with fennel and bright with orange zest. Mint leaves and olives bring more flavor. If you don't have long wooden skewers, thread it all on sturdy toothpicks.

Other recommendations for easy New Year's nibbles:

Cheese-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Scoop out a bit of the cherry tomato innards and stuff them with a soft cheese. We used the sun-dried tomato variety from Alouette. Garnish with something green, scallions or chives.

Cheesy Toasts

This mini-bite idea comes from St. Petersburg Times photo editor Patty Yablonski. They are stupid-easy to prepare — and do make a lot of them. They'll go fast. Mix equal parts mayonnaise and grated Parmesan cheese (Patty uses the powder in the green shaker!) with chopped chives or scallions. Spread the mixture on cocktail toasts and broil until bubbly.

Baked Fingerling Potatoes With Sour Cream and Bacon

Roast fingerlings (or other small potatoes) until soft (about 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven). Split and dollop with sour cream and cooked bacon. We used the precooked bacon for our test.

Mini-Bagels With Cream Cheese and Salmon

Split the bagels, smear with whipped cream cheese, then add a layer of salmon, a ring of red onion and sprig of fresh dill. (Or use up those chives.)

Mini-Cheesecakes

Peruse your store's freezer case for small desserts. We found cheesecake bites at Target, but a lot of stores have tiny eclairs and tarts.

Mini-Quiches

You could make your own but honestly, why bother? Sam's, Costco and GFS Marketplace have party-size boxes of bite-sized quiches with as many as 60 pieces. Nancy's brand packages mini-appetizers in more reasonable sizes for smaller gatherings. But even a few people can down a lot of these. They definitely satisfy the "something cheesy" category.

Oh, I almost forgot "something sparkling." Raise a glass of bubbly and a plate of appetizers to the new year.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>easy

Onion Dip

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

2 medium garlic gloves, minced

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Sliced scallions for garnish

Combine sour cream, mayonnaise and cream cheese until smooth. Add onion flakes, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate.

Refrigerate for at least one hour; overnight is better. Before serving, stir thoroughly. Sprinkle with sliced scallions.

Source: Janet K. Keeler, St. Petersburg Times food editor

>>easy

Three Cheese Hot Artichoke Dip

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened

1 cup mayonnaise

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

2 green onions, sliced thin

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 cup shredded mozzarella

Dash hot sauce

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until smooth. Then beat in the mayonnaise until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir together until combined. Transfer the dip to a pie plate or shallow gratin dish. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the dip is bubbling. Serve hot with crackers, tortilla chips, crostini or veggies.



Source: Paula Deen, Food Network

>>moderate

Marinated Feta and Olive Skewers

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons orange zest

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 (4-ounce) chunk of feta cheese, cut into 24 (1/2-inch) cubes

24 mint leaves

12 pitted green olives, halved

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

24 (6-inch) skewers

In a medium bowl combine the fennel seeds, orange zest, orange juice and pepper. Gently stir in the feta and marinate for 1 hour or more.

To make the skewers, place a mint leaf about 3/4 inch up the skewer, then add an olive half, then a chunk of cucumber. Gently place a cube of the marinated feta on the end.

Makes 24.



Source: Ellie Krieger, Food Network

Little bites — homemade and store-bought — welcome in new year 12/27/08 [Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 3:30am]

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