Kitchen Focus

For me, there was a time when entertaining meant putting together a multi-course meal and extravagant food and beverages for my guests. However, you learn over the years that the time spent together is really more important than what ends up on the table. That said, this is a cooking magazine and we want to help you showcase some fantastic foods without spending all day in the kitchen. To that end, we're talking about appetizers and snacks you can put together at a moment's notice. Pick and choose a few and there's a party in your future.

Artichoke Dip

  • 2 - 14 oz. cans of artichokes (packed in water, not oil)
  • 2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper

Drain the artichokes from the can. Coarsely chop them.

Combine the chopped artichokes, Parmesan, and mayo into a microwave or oven-proof serving dish.

Microwave the mixture on high heat for 5 minutes, pausing occasionally to stir, to ensure that the dip gets heated evenly. Add fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

Serve the dip with toasted, thinly sliced French baguettes, crackers, or even leaves of endive.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Olive Crostini

  • 1/2 cup black olives
  • 1/2 cup green olives with pimientos
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 baguette

Chop the olives in a food processor. Transfer them to a medium bowl. With the machine running, drop the garlic through the feed tube of the food processor and mince. Add the Parmesan, butter, and olive oil; process into a paste. Add the butter mixture to the bowl with the olives. Fold in the jack cheese and parsley. Cut the baguette into thin slices and spread each slice generously with the olive mixture. Cook under the broiler until bubbly and lightly browned - about 2 minutes.

Serve right out of the oven. It helps to make the olive mixture in advance and spread it right before you put it in the oven.

  • Yields: 8-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Jalapeno Cheese Squares

  • 1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1/2 of a 12 ounce jar jalapeno peppers drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 can evaporated milk

Grease a 9 by 13-inch pan.

Mix together the cheeses. Spread half of the cheese in bottom of the greased pan. Top the cheese with the peppers and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, flour and milk. Pour over the cheese.

Bake at 350º for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting.

Note: You may increase or decrease the peppers, if desired.

  • Yields: 8-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes