EXPRESS LANE: Throw an Appetizer Party!

One way to entertain without spending a lot of money is to throw an Appetizer Party. Everyone can nibble and nosh the night away. Ask each of your friends to bring their favorite beverage and you’ve got a party! On this episode of EXPRESS LANE I’ll share a few recipes to get the party started. Enjoy!

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Marinated Olives with Lemon, Thyme & Rosemary

Makes 16 servings, about 1/4 cup each

Ingredients
4 cups mixed olives of your choice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
6 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 tablespoons dried
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of ½ lemon, cut into thin slivers
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine olives, thyme, rosemary, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, oil and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, stirring several times. Serve with pita or other flatbread or French or Italian bread. Cover and refrigerate for several weeks.

Crab Quesadillas

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
4 scallions, chopped
½ medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos (optional)
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
8 ounces pasteurized crabmeat, drained if necessary
4 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas
2 teaspoons canola oil, divided

1. Combine Cheddar, cream cheese, scallions, bell pepper, cilantro, jalapenos (if using), orange zest and juice in a medium bowl. Gently stir in crab. Lay tortillas out on a work surface. Spread one-fourth of the filling on half of each tortilla. Fold tortillas in half, pressing gently to flatten.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 quesadillas in the pan and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges.

Five-Spice Turkey & Lettuce Wraps

Makes 4 servings, 1 1/4 cups filling each

Ingredients

½ cup water
½ cup instant brown rice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound 93%-lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (see Note)
1 teaspoon five-spice powder (see Note)
½ teaspoon salt
2 heads Boston lettuce, leaves separated
½ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, mint and/or chives
1 large carrot, shredded

1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice; reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey and ginger; cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until the turkey is cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice, bell pepper, water chestnuts, broth, hoisin sauce, five-spice powder and salt; cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

3. To serve, spoon portions of the turkey mixture into lettuce leaves, top with herbs and carrot and roll into wraps.

Spiced Spanish Almonds

Makes 12 servings, 1/4 cup each

ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 1 1/2 hours

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 pound (about 3 cups) Marcona or raw whole almonds (see Tip)

1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Whisk brown sugar, cumin, paprika, thyme, salt and cayenne in a large bowl. Whisk egg white and water in a medium bowl until foamy. Add almonds and stir to coat; pour through a sieve to drain off excess egg white. Transfer the almonds to the bowl of spices; stir well to coat. Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet.

3. Bake the almonds for 30 minutes. Stir, reduce the oven temperature to 200° and bake until the almonds are dry and golden, about 30 minutes more. Let cool before serving, about 20 minutes.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Smoked Salmon Bites

Makes 2 dozen appetizers

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons wasabi paste or 2 teaspoons wasabi powder mixed with 1 tablespoon water (see Tip)
24 mini rice crackers
4-6 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 24 1-inch pieces
24 small pieces pickled ginger (see Tip)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1. Mix mayonnaise and wasabi paste (or reconstituted wasabi powder) in a small bowl.

2. Top each cracker with 1 piece salmon, 1/2 teaspoon wasabi mayonnaise, 1 piece pickled ginger and a sprinkling of lemon zest.

Mini Greek Pizza Muffins

Makes 2 dozen mini muffins

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.

3. Whisk whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, oregano, sugar, garlic powder and salt in a medium bowl.

4. Stir milk, feta, egg, tomato paste and olives into the onion mixture. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Fill the prepared muffin cups two-thirds full.

5. Bake the muffins until lightly browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Five-Spice Scallops

Makes 8 servings

1 pound large dry sea scallops, quartered (see Note)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon five-spice powder (see Note)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Toss scallops with oil, five-spice powder and salt. Broil on a baking sheet until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with toothpicks.

Five-spice power: Often a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns, five-spice powder was originally considered a cure-all miracle blend encompassing the five elements (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, salty). Look for it in the supermarket spice section.

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