Elaine Revelle: Putting strawberries to ultimate use

wooden spoon

Well, here we are on the cusp of a new decade. Wasn’t it only yesterday that we freaked out over the threat of Y2K? What would you call it today, W2K+20? And, now it’s about COVID-19.

Two decades later and it’s basically the same. I’m still playing the numbers game, plus all the same hopes and dreams I’ve had for the past umpteen decades.

Always something, but the best part is we manage to get through the rough times. If history labels us anything, it will be “survivors."

Don’t know about you, but after a happy family Christmas, some neighborhood goodwill and the prospect of a vaccine for the new year, my optimism is in high gear.

With that in mind, I have some appetizers that, for the most part, call for pantry staples. Whether your New Year's celebration is with a family group or an intimate duo, you gotta eat — and what’s better than finger food?

Although homebound for the holidays, food, gifts and especially, good “cheers”, are still in order. In lieu of hosting a large holiday cocktail party, spend that precious dough on yourselves – while giving back to local businesses who need our support now, more than ever, during the stay-at-home order.

Here’s my suggestions for easy, tasty and quick appetizers that will still be good when the COVID-19 curse is history.

Probably one of the quickest and easiest is covering an 8-ounce block of cream cheese with colorful jalapeño jelly. This wonderful, tongue-tingling, sweet treat comes in holiday colors. Use either red or green (or both) and serve with a basket of Triscuit.

In the same vein, smother the cream cheese with those tiny, salad-sized cooked shrimp and top with homemade or store-bought cocktail sauce.

P.S. You can perk up prepared cocktail sauce with a little horseradish, some chopped fresh parsley and a squeeze or two of lemon juice. This can be served with any type of gourmet crackers. I recommend avoiding strong-flavored ones; keep them mild and let the shrimp shine.

Another quick trick is to stir Hidden Valley dressing mix into sour cream. Use 1 packet to 8 ounces cream and add a healthy sprinkling of dried dill weed. This is great for dipping veggies and, as a bonus, leftover dip makes a perfect topping for baked potatoes or can be thinned and used as, surprise, salad dressing.

Make a quick black bean salsa. Mix drained, canned black beans with fresh deli salsa, lemon juice to taste, chopped cilantro and avocado, and serve with tortilla chips. Plus, if you are up for spice, toss in some jalapeños.

Still thinking south of the border, make a quesadilla or two, cut into wedges, and serve with guacamole or salsa.

And, since I’m on a roll, try this tasty hot bean dip: Heat a can of refried beans stir in canned salsa, top with grated cheese and serve hot with tortilla chips.

However, if you have a little time to plan ahead, try this one, which comes across as fancy and easy to fix, using mainly pantry items. The spread is good with baguette slices (toasted or not), veggies or gourmet (unflavored) canape crackers, and could even be spooned into phyllo or puff pastry cups for an extra impressive nibble.

It’s a long-time favorite of mine and never fails to get raves. The one comes with an extra use, leftovers in an omelet, which makes a good breakfast after a great party. 

So, hang in there folks, celebrate when you can and, if you can, make it easy on yourself with one or more of these suggestions.

Happy New Year, and let’s look forward to a healthy 2021.

CRAB SPREAD

1 package unflavored Knox gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

1 can cream mushroom soup

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 7-ounce can crab meat, picked through

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup celery, chopped fine

3 green onions, chopped fine

Combine gelatin, water and soup in sauce pan and heat on stove. Stir and simmer until gelatin is melted. Remove from heat, stir in softened cream cheese and set aside to cool slightly. Mix in rest of the ingredients, chill and serve with party snack-type crackers.

Longtime Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com

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