CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hello February! And a fond farewell to you, January. It's fun to welcome an exciting new month with a party at home. Thank you, Super Bowl, for giving us something to drink to! Whether your glass is full of a local brew or you're sipping sparkling water with a twist, you can celebrate in lively style without breaking the calorie bank.
Gather your friends for a fabulous mix of football and fun and a festive, healthy spread. When I phoned a friend in Denver (Go, Broncos!) to ask about their traditional Super Bowl party foods, she actually said -- are you sitting down? -- "Kale chips."
Now I love a good kale chip as much as the next guy, but I have to admit my husband absolutely guffawed when I suggested it. So we'll save the kale chip homage for another occasion.
However, when fried food reigns supreme at most football parties, the kale chip nod is a good reminder to take a departure from mainstream wings and chips by the bag.
So, gather up some avocados for great guacamole, pipe it into tortilla cups to score a few extra points, and spice it up with some hot chili pepper.
Transform canned chickpeas into spicy, crunchy snacks with just a little TLC. Jazz up popular hummus with a platter full of colorful, crisp vegetables. Pretend it's summer with tasty Caprese skewers. Turn last night's leftover baked potatoes into the best-ever "stuffed potato" tots.
In other words, you have options and a full day to embrace your inner entertainer extraordinaire. No matter the score, you'll have a fun night with family and friends, and low-fuss, high-flavor food that is sure to score with all your guests.
Caprese Salad Skewers
Salad on a stick! Fun to make, fun to eat! This is a popular restaurant salad in a finger-food format -- impress your family and friends with a beautiful platter of these great party starters. Makes 2 dozen.
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, rinsed
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (see note)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whole basil leaves for assembling
Small skewers for assembling
TOSS gently in a small mixing bowl the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and garlic with the olive oil, then sprinkle in the salt. Let marinate for about 20 minutes.
THREAD onto each skewer, alternating, tomato and mozzarella with basil leaf. Arrange on a platter. Drizzle remaining marinade over skewers and serve.
Note: Tiny mozzarella balls can be substituted -- they are available in the deli section at Kroger. Drain the liquid before using.
Stuffed Potato Tots
This is a fun project -- grate some cooled baked potatoes, skin and all, and mix with your favorite potato toppings. Form the mixture into tots, bake and serve. Tasty twist on processed food -- a two-point conversion for sure. These can be made in advance; the mixture can be prepared ahead and formed and baked when desired. Keep mixture refrigerated for up to 3 days. They also reheat really well, but you aren't likely to have leftovers. Makes about 4 dozen.
3 large red potatoes (1 1/2 pounds), scrubbed
1 cup finely shredded white cheddar cheese