Dining In

Let's Party
By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist

If you haven’t had a party in a good while, get busy and give one real fast.    

I used to think it was impossible when my mother, in her later years, would say she was cooking so little that she was about to forget how. This from a woman who ran a boarding house in World War II to help feed the thousands of munitions plant workers who swarmed into our community for the war effort. She was a good cook and, heaven knows, she did her bit and more for the war with her cooking.

How could she forget?

When I gave a party recently, nothing fancy, but the first one in a good while, I was reminded of my mother’s remark. Use it or lose it is true. When you entertain fairly often, your practice makes your party easier AND more fun! Likely, the silver is polished. You won’t have to go on a search, as I did, for the silver bowls (that I never did find!). You’ll remember more about how much food to prepare. And a menu will more easily come to mind. Consequently, you’re less likely to get frazzled and tired.

When our last guests left, they said, “Don’t bother to get up and see us out.” I replied, “Good.” Fortunately, they are good friends and I let them see themselves out while I was collapsed in a comfortable chair.

Fortunately, some items such as salad-dressing mixes and frozen puff pastry can make your party preparation easier. That leaves more time to look for the misplaced silver that will probably need polishing if, and when, you find it!

Party Perfect Pinwheels are similar to a recipe published here some years ago, but they are a party favorite for me — easy, can be made ahead, and are gobbled up. The new version was equally successful.

Another “roll-up,” Spinach Cheese Swirls, uses puff pastry. Again, these are made ahead, refrigerated and popped in the oven and served warm or at room temperature.

Because our party was in the nature of a buffet supper where knives wouldn’t work, a knifeless menu was important. Easy-to-Eat Twice-Baked Potatoes were perfect — a potato finger food that went well with our casual supper.

PERFECT PARTY PINWHEELS

Ingredients:

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1 (1-oz.) packet original ranch salad dressing and recipe mix

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2 (8-oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened

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2 green onions, minced

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4 (12-inch) flour tortillas

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1 (2.25-oz.) can sliced ripe olives

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1 (4-oz.) jar diced pimento

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2 (4-oz.) cans diced green chilies

Directions: Mix first three ingredients. Spread on tortillas. Drain olives and dice. Drain pimentos and chilies. Place on paper towel to blot. Spread equal amounts of vegetables on tortillas. Roll tortillas tightly. Chill at least two hours. Slice. Discard ends. Serve with spirals facing up. Makes about 3 dozen pinwheels.

SPINACH CHEESE SWIRLS

Ingredients:

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1⁄2 package frozen puff pastry sheets (1 sheet)

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1 egg

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1 T water

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1⁄2 cup shredded Muenster or Monterey Jack cheese

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1⁄4 c grated Parmesan cheese

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1 green onion, chopped

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1⁄8 t garlic powder

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1(10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

Directions: Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 30 minutes. Mix egg and water. Mix Muenster or Monterey cheese, Parmesan cheese, onion and garlic. Unfold pastry on lightly floured surface. Brush with egg mixture. Spread pastry with cheese mixture and spinach. Starting at one side, roll up like a jelly roll. Cut into 15 to 20 1⁄2-inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Brush tops with egg mixture. Bake at 400˚ for 15 minutes. Serve warm. Or, remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 15-20 appetizers.

EASY-TO-EAT TWICE-BAKED POTATOES

Ingredients:

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4 baked potatoes, quartered

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1 (1-oz.) packet original ranch salad dressing and recipe mix

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1⁄4 c sour cream (or more)

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1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Optional, green onions and/or bacon bits

Directions: Scoop out potatoes while warm, mash well and combine with sour cream and dressing mix. Fill skins with mixture. (Cover and refrigerate, if desired, to bake later.) Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 375˚. Garnish with green onion and/or bacon bits. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

 

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