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Appetizers for dinner? Why not?

By Kara Kimbrough

Appetizers for dinner? Why not?
Who wouldn’t want Pulled Pork Nachos for dinner? I can’t think of anyone, including myself!

It's the small things for me that trigger new ideas. Seeing “steak bites” on the appetizers’ menu of a restaurant I visited last week caused me to order the entrée-sized version for lunch. As expected, it cost more due to being accompanied by a salad and side dish. I wasn’t overly hungry and later realized I would have been happy with the appetizer version. And a few dollars richer. As a result, I compiled a list of favorite appetizers that, in slightly larger servings and in combination with 2-3 favorites, could suffice as a real meal.

My thoughts were bolstered by a video posted on a food site of a home cook creating what she called “Appetizers for Dinner.” And the main dish? A casserole dish filled with tasty-looking, savory rollups. She didn’t call them “pinwheels,” (a silly name anyway), which elevated the dish from party food to dinner table fare. The power of suggestion is strong. Simply giving appetizers dinner-sounding names may be all that’s needed to convince your family that having “Your favorite fun foods for dinner!” is the best idea you’ve ever had.

Since we’re in the midst of appetizer season courtesy of football tailgate gatherings – and the holidays with endless reason to serve bite-sized foods is just around the corner - I encourage you to try at least one of these “appetizers for dinner” recipes. Just serve portions that are a “little” bigger than normal, label them something fun and you’ll always have a backup plan for dinner when the thought of cooking another regular meal threatens to send you over the edge.

Bon Appetit!

Main Dish Rollups Bake (double ingredients if using booth sheets of puff pastry) 1 sheet of puff pastry (can use crescent roll dough; make sure to seal perforations; I prefer pastry) Chopped thinly-sliced roast beef, ham or turkey 8-ounce cream cheese, softened to room temperature ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese 2 tablespoons ranch dressing mix 1 egg, separated

Let puff pastry thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then unroll one sheet at a time on a flat work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll into a long rectangle. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Separate egg and reserve yolk for future use. Whip egg white with a whisk until foamy; set aside.

Spread cream cheese lightly over pastry, they sprinkle ranch dressing mix over entire surface. Top with chopped meat and cheese. Roll the puff pastry dough into a log and trim edges so that they’re uniform. Wrap roll with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Repeat the same process with the second sheet of puff pastry if making a large amount.

Remove the log(s) and cut it into slices 1-1/2 inch slices. Place slices in a greased glass casserole dish similar to cinnamon roll placement. Brush tops with egg white. Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes.

Big Bread Bowl of Beef Dip 8-ounce cream cheese, softened to room temperature 8-ounce sour cream 4-ounce can chopped green chilies 1-1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese ½ pound of ground chuck, cooked and drained (can use jar or package of dried beef if you prefer) 1 loaf sourdough or Hawaiian bread (round version)

Combine all ingredients except for bread. Hollow out inside of bread; reserve pieces for dipping. Spoon filling into hollow. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes on baking sheet. Cover with foil if bread gets too brown. Serve with reserved bread pieces, pita chips or crackers.

Pulled Pork Nachos for Dinner 2 cups (or more) of pulled pork, cooked according to package directions (I use 15-ounce Jack Daniels Old No. 7 brand found in the fresh meat department of most supermarkets) 8 ounces tortilla chips (thick and sturdy variety) 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese or a mix of Jack and cheddar Salsa, to taste Guacamole, to taste Sour cream, to taste Chopped vegetables: tomatoes, lettuce and sliced japelenos

Spread chips onto a large sheet pan in a single layer with chips overlapping, but not stacked. Line sheet with parchment paper with extra paper over the sides if you plan to transfer to another dish. Bake 3-5 minutes (depending on chip thickness) until lightly crisp. Top hot chips evenly in 3 layers: ½ of cheese, followed by pulled pork pieces, finishing with remaining cheese. Bake 5 to 7 minutes until cheese has melted. Top with favorite chopped vegetables and toppings.

Loaded Smashed Potato Skins Bake (I love loaded potato skins, but this is so much easier than having to scoop out potato filling - just leave it in!) 1 – ½ pounds baby potatoes (red or yellow), washed and scrubbed really well until clean 4-5 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup Mexican blend cheese 4 slices of bacon (more to taste) Chopped chives Sour cream ½ teaspoon each: salt and ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika ½ teaspoon chopped chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook bacon and crumble, set aside for later. Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until fork tender. Drain the potatoes, blot dry and add to a bowl. To the bowl, add olive oil and seasonings. Toss and make sure each potato is evenly coated. Add potatoes to a greased glass casserole dish or parchment-paper lined baking sheet.

Using a glass, lightly smash skins, but don't break them completely. Roast potatoes for approximately 15-20 minutes, flip and roast the other side for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until crisp. Watch carefully to make sure they don't get too crispy.

When they are done to your desired crispiness, remove from oven, flip again so that most of the potato "filling" is showing and cover with cheese. Return to the oven for an additional 1-2 minutes or until cheese melts. Top with sour cream, crumbled bacon and chives and any other favorite toppings.

Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.



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