Five APPetizers to Make You hAPPier…

When Pat read my article about APPS to make you hAPPier, it made her hungry for a different kind of APP!  Read on for some yummy thoughts . . . and some more hAPPiness!

When I saw the headline for Hoopie’s article about APPs to make you happier, I hoped she was talking about appETIZERS, which always make me happy. But her discussion of electronic APPS got me thinking about my favorite food course anyway.

Who doesn’t like appetizers – those tiny tempting food bits purportedly to tempt your palate before the main entrée? I like appetizers so much that sometimes I often order them as a meal when eating out. I think the popularity of tapas, those trendy small plate offerings originating with the Spanish, shows I’m not alone.

But I had to think long and hard about what kind of appetizers make me happier, if I intended to follow the same theme as Hoopie. I decided the ones that do make me happier are those that are fairly healthy but taste delectable, require no cooking, and are quick and easy to prepare -- or people like them so much I don’t mind investing the time.

So here are my five choices for warm weather:

Cream cheese covered with pepper jelly, unusual jam or relishes, and crackers:  This is by far my favorite appetizer due to its simplicity, great taste and the speed in which it can be prepared. I always have a block of low-calorie cream cheese, sometimes known as Neufchatel, in my refrigerator just in case. Place the cream cheese on a serving plate, spread something tasty over it, arrange fun crackers nearby, add a cute spreader knife and you’re set! I like to use pepper jellies, such as those made by Lollipop Tree or Stonewall Kitchen (two companies that originated in my area), or Stonewall Kitchen’s  Fig & Ginger Jam, but any unusual jam, jelly or relish will do.

Fruit and cheese platter: Go to the market and buy a variety of cheeses more exotic than the American version you use for your sandwiches. Try for a nice combination of soft and hard cheeses. Buy some interesting crackers. Slice the cheese. Put on a pretty platter, arrange the crackers around the cheeses and add some washed seedless grapes or fresh strawberries to make the presentation more colorful. Almost as simple as the appetizer above.  Or you can use some of the same ingredients and go for….

Fruit kabobs: This takes a bit more work than the above two appetizers, but not much. Just assemble some of your favorite fruits, cut them into 1-inch pieces or use a melon baller if they’re not already that size such as strawberries and seedless grapes, thread them onto wooden skewers and offer an accompanying low-fat yogurt dip if you want.  Cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, blueberries and pineapple are good fruit choices, too. This appetizer also can double as a dessert. Or you can intersperse the fruit with chunks of your favorite cheese – cheddar works well. You can be as exotic as you want with the yogurt dip but here’s a simple option: Combine 1 8-ounce carton of vanilla fat-free or low-fat yogurt with 2 tablespoons of thawed orange juice concentrate, cover and chill.

Strawberries, sour cream and brown sugar: Buy two quarts of strawberries, a container of sour cream (low-fat works) and brown sugar. Wash the unhulled strawberries, arrange them on an attractive serving plate, fill a small but pretty bowl with sour cream and another with a cup of brown sugar. Take a strawberry by the stem, dip it into the sour cream and then the brown sugar – and enjoy! (Have another small bowl available for the strawberry stem debris.)

Pam’s Tex-Mex Dip: This one takes more preparation but I have yet to see leftovers and it feeds a large crowd. I’ve tried a number of variations, but this is by far my favorite. And it keeps up to three days in the refrigerator so you can make it ahead.

 (Use a 9 by 13 dish or two smaller dishes)                                                   


2  16-ounce cans refried beans with chiles

1 large avocado – mashed (I think it’s easier to use store-bought guacamole)

4 TB salsa (hot if you like it, but I use mild)

1 cup sour cream (low-fat works)

1/2 cup mayonnaise  (low-fat works)

1 pkg. taco seasoning mix

2 cups shredded Mexican-style grated cheese (8 oz.)

1 small can sliced ripe black olives

bunch of green onions (also known as scallions) with tops, sliced

2 medium tomatoes, seeded/chopped

1 large bag of tortilla chips


  1. Mix avocado and salsa and set aside.
  2. Mix sour cream, mayo and taco seasoning mix, and set aside.
  3.  Layer ingredients in a 9 x 13-inch dish in this order:
    1. Refried beans
    2. Avocado mixture
    3. Sour cream mixture
    4. Onions
    5. Tomatoes
    6. Olives
    7. Sprinkle with cheese

Serve with tortilla chips.



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