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Add pizzazz to snazz up appetizers

Not too long ago I went to a holiday gathering where the food was the typical appetizers - cold shrimp ring from a store, little hot dogs in barbecue sauce and a store-bought spinach dip.

The gathering was with friends I had not seen for awhile so it was great catching up. But I do have to admit, the food left a lot to be desired.

Little hot dogs in barbecue sauce have been a staple at company potlucks and family gatherings for as long as I can remember. Maybe they are easy to prepare, but something sure seemed to be lacking as far as flavor in the last bunch I sampled.

Maybe I just needed a more grownup version of the traditional little smokies. By combining a couple of recipes and including a little bourbon, I found a much more flavorful and a more grownup recipe.

Another recipe I came across and had to try was Frozen Cheesecake on a Stick. If you like cheesecake, you'll want to make this recipe. Simple, fast and what's better than a dessert on a stick?

One more traditional appetizer that I am finding quite bland is the typical cold shrimp ring. Usually these are platters purchased at a store and set out with a saucer of ketchup-like cocktail sauce. Once again, a tasteless recipe that needed a makeover.

With just a bit of effort and a few common ingredients, this plain appetizer can be dressed up and become an appealing hors d'oeuvre.

For those people who are still having holiday parties or for any get together, forget those old and boring appetizers and whip up something with more flavor and more pizzazz. Happy new year and Happy Eating!

Frozen Cheesecake on a Stick

Adapted from delish.com

1 store-bought plain cheesecake

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or use white chocolate chips)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup sprinkles or other cookie decorations

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Slice cheesecake into triangles. Insert a popsicle stick and place onto the cookie sheet. Place in the freezer and freeze for 20 minutes.

While the cheesecake is in the freezer, set up a double boiler: Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer. Place a glass bowl or smaller pan on top of the first saucepan. Add the chocolate and melt, stirring occasionally so chocolate does not stick. When the chocolate is completely melted, stir in coconut oil.

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Dip each cheesecake slice halfway into the melted chocolate. Remove and dust sprinkles or other decorations over the melted chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes for the chocolate shell to harden on the cheesecake slices. If the chocolate shell doesn't harden, place back into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Coconut Shrimp

6 ounces of beer (set out so it is room temperature)

5 eggs

1 cup milk

2 ½ cups flour

8 ounces flaked coconut

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 to 2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

15 -20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Canola oil for frying

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the beer, eggs, milk, flour, salt, white pepper, sugar and baking powder.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Pour the coconut onto a large, flat plate. Dredge the shrimp in the batter mixture. Shake off excess and then re-dip into the mixture a second time. Place the shrimp onto the coconut and gently press; turn the shrimp over and press again, making sure the shrimp is well-covered with coconut. Place on the cookie sheet and let the shrimp set for 8 minutes.

While the shrimp is setting, heat the oil to medium-high heat. Add the shrimp a few at a time and fry until golden brown, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb any excess grease. Note: Shrimp is done when it forms a "c" and is slightly golden brown. Do not overcook shrimp or it will get rubbery.

Serve immediately.

Bourbon Glazed Little Smokies

1 pound little smokies

1 cup apricot preserves

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup bourbon

2 tablespoons apple juice

In a small bowl, combine the apricot preserves, maple syrup, bourbon and apple juice. Make sure the ingredients are well mixed. Pour into a crockpot. Add the little smokies and stir to make sure all are covered with the sauce. Cook on low for 4 hours.

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