Tuesday, February 1, 2011

put your game face (and snacks!) on

What's better a cure for long winters than a games night with great friends?  We had a fantastic time on Saturday night.  You know it's a great get-together when half the table bursts into "The Lonely Goat-Herd" from The Sound of Music (Never interrupt them when they're yodelling.)

A good get-together needs good snacks but for the food-obsessed hostess this can be a balancing act. More than a few over-the-top recipes have kept me in the kitchen away from the conversation or worn me out before the evening began.

Below the pics you'll find a few tasty nibbles that you can make ahead of time so you can put your focus where it should be: great friends, great games and big laughs!

Horseradish Dip
In a world of garlic, onion or herb-based dips, horseradish offers an unexpected kick.  It's a bold taste that needs a strong chip to match it so I always serve it with kettle chips.  It always perfectly complements the richness of paper-thin smoked salmon.

Beat together 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and 2-3 tablespoons of horseradish to taste.  Add a splash of heavy cream to get a smoother consistency and season with salt and  pepper. Chill.
(Original source: Real Simple)

Curried Cashews
Toasted nuts are a quick and easy change from carb-heavy snacks.  There are nearly endless possibilities just by changing the nut, oil or seasoning.  You can even throw in some seeds or raisins at the end.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium low heat and add 1 1/3 cups cashews.  Toast, tossing frequently until fragrant and golden.  Remove from heat and toss with 1/4 teaspoon curry powder and coarse sea salt or fleur de sel. Let cool and transfer to a serving dish.
(Original recipe: 500 Appetizers)

Chili Cheese Sticks
These are the most time-consuming of the snacks but not terribly so and they're so worth it.  They're flaky, spicy and delicious.  Great possibilities for switching up the cheeses and the seasonings. And I love a snack made from pantry staples!

In a food processor or using a pastry blender, blend 1 cup of flour and 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled, diced butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.   Add 3/4 cup grate cheddar, 1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and blend to make a soft dough.  Form into a ball (if the mixture is too dry, moisten just a little with a splash of cream)  This is pastry so try not to over-work.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes, until it has firmed up slightly.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Roll out dough on lightly-floured surface to a 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into strips 1/4 inch wide and 3 1/2 inches long.  Twist strips and lay on baking sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden.  Transfer to wire rack to cool before serving.
(Original recipe: 500 Appetizers)

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