Add a little fanfare to your football party

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Here's some fan fare that's easy to make and tastes hearty without being a diet disaster

All-pro appetizers combine mashed potatoes with pepper Jack cheese and spinach.

Halftime skins are lightly seasoned and baked crisp. Serve with an assortment of toppings for a nutritious treat.

If you wish, simply bake a batch of whole, scrubbed potatoes and offer them to party guests, with a similar smorgasbord of savory toppings.

All-Pro Appetizers

4 potatoes peeled, boiled and mashed

10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained

2 whole eggs

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup grated pepper Jack cheese

1/2 cup flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F. Lightly brush a baking tray with vegetable oil or spray with vegetable spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes, spinach and eggs. Beat with mixer until well-blended. Season with nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Add the cheese and 4 tablespoons of the flour. Stir until flour is well-blended.

Spread the remaining flour onto a glass plate and season with salt and pepper.

Using two teaspoons, form the spinach mixture into 1-inch balls. Drop the spinach balls onto the flour-covered plate. Roll the spinach balls in the flour to coat and place on the prepared baking sheet. Place the tray in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before baking. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve plain or sprinkle with lemon juice.

Makes 2 dozen.

Halftime Skins

6 small potatoes

1/2 cup of vegetable or olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika or Cajun seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush each potato lightly with oil and bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and scoop out the centers, leaving 1/4 inch of potato attached to the skin. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper and paprika. Lightly brush the interior of the potatoes with oil and sprinkle with the seasoning. Re-bake skins at 375 F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with toppings and accompaniments.

Makes 1 dozen.

Easy-to-tackle toppings

Healthful and tasty toppings for potato skins and baked potatoes are quickly and easily assembled. Here are some suggestions.

Ready-to-go: Low-fat sour cream; sliced scallions; salsa; guacamole; grated Jack or Cheddar cheese; low-fat chili; caramelized onions; stewed tomatoes; peas or corn; low-fat ricotta cheese; hot pepper sauce.

New Orleans-style: Fry finely chopped okra in 2 tablespoons of oil and combine with chopped onions and bell peppers; simmer for 5 minutes; season with cayenne pepper, black pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Sauté chopped onions, bell peppers and garlic. Add 3 cups ketchup and 1 pound chopped andouille or smoked sausage and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour.

Make your own dipping Cajun mustard by combining 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon mustard powder, 1 teaspoon grated horseradish, and salt and pepper to taste.

Curry Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup prepared creamy garlic salad dressing

Blend all ingredients. If desired, add 1/2 cup canned or fresh cooked tiny shrimp.

Broccoli and Feta Cheese Topping

1 cup cooked broccoli florets, finely diced

1 cup herbed feta cheese diced into 1/2-inch cubes

1/3 cup prepared Italian dressing

Sliced black olives

Boil broccoli for 1 minute, drain and let cool. Combine the broccoli and feta cheese and toss with Italian dressing. Top with sliced black olives.

Low-fat topping tips:

As a substitute for sour cream, combine 3 parts low-fat cottage cheese and 1 part nonfat yogurt in a small food processor or blender; blend until smooth and season to taste with lemon juice.

Alternatively, slim down sour cream by adding 2 parts low-fat plain yogurt to 1 part dairy sour cream.

Make pico de gallo by mixing green salsa with sliced jalapenos.

Combine finely chopped roasted red peppers with 1 teaspoon chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

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