Appetizers, Snacks, Other Goodies

Stuffed Mushrooms
For parties, prepare, stuff, and refrigerate ahead of time. But don’t bake until you’re ready to serve. I bake a batch, serve them, and put another tray in the oven.

1 pound fresh mushrooms
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or Panko
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Wash mushrooms. Remove stems and chop. Heat half the butter in a small skillet and sauté chopped stems and chives. With a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl. Add egg, crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt and pepper and mix. In the skillet in which you sautéed the stems, heat the remaining butter and sauté the mushroom caps. Place caps stem-side up in a baking pan and stuff each cap with crumb mixture. Bake at 375°F until golden (6-8 minutes). Serve hot.

Herbed Cheese in a Pot
I have a favorite red pottery crock that I use for this. Festive with a tray of crackers.

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz. feta cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter, softened
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme

For garnish: fresh rosemary, parsley

Combine cheeses, butter, garlic, and herbs. Mix well. Spoon mixture into a crock and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for at least a day to blend flavors. Serve with crackers.

Broiled Shrimp on Rye Rounds
Nice for parties or a TV-time snack.

6 oz. cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ripe olives, chopped fine
2 teaspoons minced green onion tops
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6-8 drops Tabasco sauce
rye rounds

Chop shrimp finely. Mix with all other ingredients in a small bowl. Spoon onto rye rounds and broil until brown. Makes about 2 dozen.

Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s Nutty Cheeseball
This recipe comes from the Cottage Tales series. You may remember that Mrs. Tiggywinkle was Miss Potter’s hedgehog and for  many years a much-loved animal companion. I imagined that this would be a favorite dish of hers, but I don’t think Miss Potter would allow her to eat more than a nibble or two.

1/2 lb. extra sharp Cheddar
1/2 lb. sharp Cheddar
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried sage
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/2 cup sweet port
whole sage leaves for garnish

Grate the cheese and process, blend, or mix well with the butter, sage, nuts, nutmeg, mace, and port. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 24 hours. To serve, shape into a ball or log and dust with nutmeg, or place in a crock. Garnish with a few fresh parsley leaves. Delicious spread on crisp slices of autumn apple or pear. Or crackers, of course.

Cucumber-Chives Rounds
A large English cucumber (nearly seedless and thin-skinned so you don’t have to peel) will make about 18-20 rounds. This recipe makes 36-40 rounds.

2 English cucumbers, sliced into 1/2” rounds
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For garnish: curly parsley sprigs, strips or squares of red bell pepper

Lay out cucumber slices close together on a flat surface. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, chives, parsley, basil, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Blend until all the herbs are incorporated and cream cheese is smooth and spreadable.

Spoon into a small piping bag or a bag made from a sandwich-sized Ziplock bag with one bottom corner snipped out. Top each cucumber slice with dollop of the cream cheese mixture. Garnish with parsley snip and a bit of red pepper. Arrange on serving tray with additional garnish.

Pumpkin Seed Halloween Nibbles

At Halloween, when the pumpkin’s been carved, show the kids how to roast pumpkin seeds for a snack. In a colander, wash the seeds you’ve taken out of your pumpkin and spread on paper toweling to dry.

Mix 2 cups seeds with 1 tablespoon brown sugar, one-half teaspoon onion powder, one-half teaspoon garlic powder, and 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce. Spread seeds on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick oil. Bake in a 300-degree oven for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. If you like, mix with sunflower seeds, pretzel pieces, raisins, and peanuts.

Slow-cooked Tex-Mex Spiced Pecans

Cooking spray
2 large egg whites, beaten until frothy
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust this: hot as you please)
6 cups raw pecans (or mixed almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans)

Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray. In the cooker, mix egg whites, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and spices into a thick syrup. Add nuts and mix to evenly coat. Cover with paper towels (to catch any condensation) and the lid, then cook on low for 3 hours or high for 1 hour. Stir every 20 minutes. Place a double layer of paper towels over the top of the slow cooker to catch condensation. Cover with the lid and cook, stirring every 20 minutes. Nuts should be fragrant, lightly browned, with a matte (not shiny) coating. Spread on silicone mat or baking sheet to cool completely. Break apart and transfer to serving, storage, or gifting containers.

Fannie’s Prickly Pear Jelly

University of Nevada, Reno

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) fruits are among the most nutrient-packed fruits on the planet–plus, they’re tasty. You may be lucky enough to find them growing in your area, but they can also be purchased (usually in late summer-early fall) in some large supermarkets or Latin American specialty shops, where they may have their thorns removed. The more common red fruits contain ascorbic acid and have a citrusy taste; yellow fruits contain more antioxidant carotenoids. Both can be equally thorny, so please, please be careful! The fruits are often called tunas, a Taino word borrowed by the Spanish around 1500.

Pick. If you’re collecting in the wild, be careful. The big thorns are outrageous but the tiny ones are just as fierce. To collect safely, wear impermeable gloves and use tongs to detach the fruit from the plant, twisting and bending as necessary. No tongs? Slice off the top half of a 16-ounce/500-mL plastic drink bottle. Use the bottle to grip each fruit tightly. Drop into a bucket or similar container. To make 3 cups of juice, you’ll need 15-20 ripe fruit.

Prepare. You need to burn off the glochids (tufts of tiny barbed spines) with an open flame from a gas stove, blow torch, lighter, or candle. Use tongs or a long-handled grill fork to remove each prickly pear from your collection container, hold it over the flame, and continue to rotate until you don’t see any more glowing embers. Be sure to include the ends.

Peel and puree. Slice off each end of the pear and make one long cut, skin-deep, down the center of each. Peel off the skin and discard it. Puree in a blender or food mill. Press the puree through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Discard the pulp and seeds (not in the compost, unless you want pop-up prickly pears).

University of Nevada, Reno






Make the jelly. Simmer 2 pint jars in a large pan until ready to use. Into another large pan, measure three cups of prickly pear juice, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and one package fruit pectin. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Add 4 1/2 cups of sugar and return to a boil. Cook over moderate heat for three minutes, stirring. Remove from heat, pour into prepared jars, and cap. Cool, then refrigerate.

If you have some cactus juice left over, you can make a citrusy drink.

Prickly Pear Lemonade

1/4 cup cactus juice
juice of 2 lemons
3 cups sugar
4 1/2 cups water

Blend the juices in a quart pitcher, add sugar, and stir to dissolve. Add water, pour over ice, and enjoy!