New Year’s appetizers – hold the cream

Stuffed twice-baked potatoes, cheese balls, onion dip, dried beef dip, stuffed wontons – whatever your appetizer of choice has been over the past month of get-togethers and holiday dinners or buffets – they all have something in common.

The cream twins – sour cream and cream cheese and their cousins, butter and cheddar cheese. During the holidays, it’s as hard to duck this rich dairy family as it is your Aunt Martha’s whiskery kisses – and honestly who would want to?

But if you inwardly groan at the thought of another dairy laden appetizer buffet to ring in 2011, let’s shake things up a bit. Think savory and kicked-up flavor instead of heavy. Use some vegetables. Keep it simple, and don’t forget the nuts. Here are a few  ideas that will brighten laden palates and may provide a kick start to all those New Year’s resolutions about eating better. If you don’t have an affair to attend, they will serve just as well as Super Bowl appetizers or winter pick-me-ups.

Rosemary nuts

nonstick cooking spray

1 egg white

1 Tbsp.  finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

3 cups nuts – walnuts, almonds and/or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and coat foil with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white until frothy. Add rosemary, pepper and salt, beating until combined. Toss nuts in mixture.

Spread coated nuts on pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until golden brown. Remove immediately from foil to a large platter and cool. Break up any large pieces.

Not a Nog Coffee

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

1/2 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

dash of vanilla

Put all ingredients in a blender and whip until frothy.

If using flavored coffee, substitute appropriate spice for lemon zest.


Pepper Straws

A much lighter version of the classic cheese straw.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper.

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

2/3 cup marinated roasted red pepper, chopped

1 1/3 cups grated good quality parmesan cheese

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

Heat the oil in a saute pan and cook onion and peppers 4 to 5 minutes. Place in a medium bowl and let cool five minutes. Stir in parmesan.

Roll out one of the sheets of puff pastry until thin enough to make a 16×8-inch rectangle. Spread pepper mixture over surface.  Roll other pastry sheet to same size and place over first sheet. Lightly seal edges.

With a pizza cutter, cut dough into 24 eight-inch long strips. Twist strips and place on lined cookie sheets.

Chill for 20 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes.









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