Food & Drink

New Year’s Eve equation: 1+1+1 = party nibbles

Bright green frozen peas are the base of this winter pesto on garlic crostini.
Bright green frozen peas are the base of this winter pesto on garlic crostini. Food Network

It’s down to the wire for making party food for Thursday night.

Time to make a last run and pick up supplies for fast food. No, not that kind — the kind that basically requires just three ingredients to make some really great appetizers in minutes.

The first four “recipes” here are from Better Homes & Garden. Really, they’re culinary simple math equations: 1 base plus 1 filling plus 1 topping equals a tasty appetizer.

Plus, I’ve included easy recipes for crostini, shrimp an edible wreath and a cereal party mix. Yes, they take a little more time, but still qualify as simple and dress up the table with amazing natural color and texture.

To add some vivid red to the buffet, try the ice and cranberries trick to keep the bubbly cold. See the photo and fact box here.

So, Happy New Year and head to the kitchen.

▪  Crackers + goat cheese + honey: Store-bought rosemary crackers get a party-time facelift with the sweet and tangy topping of honey and goat cheese. Try different cracker flavors to spice up this easy appetizer.

▪  Cucumber slices + Potato chips + hummus: Instead of serving a bowl of chips and dip, try this quick party hit. Place salt-and-pepper kettle potato chips between cucumber and hummus to add creamy flavor and a cooler crunch.

▪  Sweet biscuit crackers + White Cheddar cheese + apricot jam: Combine the delectable duo of sweet and savory with this simple snack. Top sweet biscuit crackers with extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese, then add a dollop of apricot jam. For spicy, try jalapeno pepper jelly.

▪  Goat Cheese + Pistachios + Cranberries: Cover soft goat cheese with sweet dried cranberries and salty pistachio pieces for a great party log. To make, mix the nuts and berries together first, then spread them out on a flat surface. Roll the cheese over them, gently pressing down until the whole surface is covered.

Freeze cranberries with your ice

Your wine bucket just gained the spotlight on your buffet table. Lay cranberries on a shallow tray and run just enough water to cover them. Freeze, then break into pieces. Add to your ice bucket with a collection of fir cuttings, and pop some bubbly.

Pea Pesto Crostini


1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, defrosted

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

1/3 cup olive oil


8 (1/2-inch thick) slices whole-grain baguette or ciabatta bread, preferably day-old*

1/3 cup olive oil

8 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 small tomato, diced

For the pea pesto: Pulse together the peas, garlic, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

For the crostini: Preheat a stovetop griddle or grill pan on medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the sliced bread with olive oil and grill until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bread to a clean surface and spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of the prepared pesto on each slice.

Top with tomato halves and serve.

*Cook’s note: If you don't have day-old bread on hand, you can dry out fresh bread by putting the slices in a preheated 300-degree oven until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

Giada De Laurentiis

Cheesy Snack Mix

4 cups crispy corn and rice cereal

1 1 3/4 ounce can shoestring potatoes

2 cups crisp breadsticks, broken into 2-inch pieces

2 cups bite-size cheese crackers

1 6 ounce can (about 1 cup) smoke-flavored whole almonds (optional)

1/4 cup butter or margarine

3 tablespoons bottled clear Italian salad dressing

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a shallow roasting pan combine cereal, shoestring potatoes, breadsticks, cheese crackers and, if desired, almonds.

In a small saucepan combine butter and salad dressing. Cook over low heat until butter is melted. Stir in cheese and garlic powder. Drizzle butter mixture over cereal mixture; toss gently to coat.

Bake 30 minutes, stirring twice. Spread mixture on a large sheet of foil; cool. Transfer to a bowl, storage containers, or resealable plastic bags; cover tightly or seal. Let stand at room temperature overnight.

For longer storage, store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 9 cups or 18 servings, each 1/2-cup serving with 128 calories, 6 grams fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 238 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram sugar, 3 grams protein.

Holiday Appetizer Wreath

6 slices bacon

1/2 cup chive-and-onion cream cheese spread (from 8-ounce container)

2 cans (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

2 cups frozen broccoli florets (from 14-ounce bag), thawed, finely chopped and patted dry with paper towel

1/3 cup diced red bell pepper

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon sesame seed, optional

Fresh rosemary, if desired

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook bacon as desired until crisp. Drain on paper towel; crumble bacon and set aside.

2. Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On ungreased large cookie sheet, arrange triangles with shortest sides toward center, overlapping in wreath shape and leaving 4-inch round circle open in center. Crescent dough points may overlap edge of cookie sheet. Press overlapping dough to flatten.

3. Spread cream cheese spread on dough to within 1 inch of points. In small bowl, mix crumbled bacon, broccoli and bell pepper; spoon onto widest part of dough. Pull end points of triangles over broccoli mixture and tuck under dough to form ring (filling will be visible). Carefully brush dough with beaten egg; sprinkle with sesame seed.

4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. With broad spatula, carefully loosen wreath from cookie sheet; slide onto serving platter. Garnish with fresh rosemary. Serve warm. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 16, each with 100 calories, 7 grams fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 7 mg carbohydrates, 210 mg sodium, 2 grams sugar. Exchanges:1/2 starch, 1 1/2 fat. Carbohydrate choice: 1/2.

Tip: Keep the crescent dough refrigerated until you are ready to work with it. Chilled dough is much easier to work with than dough warmed to room temperature.

Betty Crocker

Party Shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper

30, or 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first eight ingredients. Add shrimp; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Drain shrimp, discarding marinade. Place shrimp on an ungreased baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat 3-4 minutes on each side or until shrimp turn pink.

Yield: 30, with 1 shrimp equals 14 calories, trace fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 18 mg sodium, 0 carbohydrate, 2 grams protein. Diabetic exchange: Free food.

Healthy Cooking December/January 2011