Sunday, January 18, 2015

Great Party Appetizer Recipes: cheese and wheat crackers, Furikake chex mix, meatballs in tangy sauce, sweet potato pancakes, copy-cat Kirby Queso

We threw a New Year's Eve party this year and it was lots of fun with some good friends.  I love trying out new recipes when I've got plenty of people to give me opinions, so I tried a few that I'd been saving up.  I worked New Year's Eve, so I did want to make sure I could either semi-home-make some or prepare them ahead of time.  None of these recipes are season specific, so they would be great for any party.
My menu fore New Year's.  Click on link for recipes
  • Cheese from Antonelli's Cheese Shop (brie, gruyere, gouda, and blue cheese) with homemade wheat crackers: why let crackers be an after-thought?
  • Meatballs in tangy sauce: Reid's grandma introduced me to this easy and delish meatball appetizer
  • Furikake Chex Mix: sweet, salty, umami, addicting! Pop over to my friend's blog for the recipe
  • Meyer's Elgin Pork Sausage on pretzel sticks with mustard: no link, you can figure this one out!
  • Sweet Potato Pancakes: bite-sized sweet potato latkes
  • crudités platter: courtesy of HEB and my friend Elizabeth
  • Copy cat Kirby Queso, guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips
  • French 76 cocktails, beer, wine, and champagne

Copy Cat Kerbey Queso

You cannot be a proper Tex-Mex lover without eating at least 1 quart of queso per year.  I'm pretty sure I started the year off in the right direction by making this copy-cat Kerbey Queso for NYE.   Kerbey Lane Queso is my favorite in Austin.  So creamy, so cheesy, and so good.  White queso with pico and a scoop of guacemole in it that you kind-of have to dig around in, which makes it soooo good.  Have I said how good it is?

That being said, I've tried so many queso recipes.  I've made beschemels, I've used expensive, good cheeses.  No queso seems to hold that creamy consistency very well.  So when one of my friends, Rachel, was back home in Austin from her now home-town in Seattle she asked one of the servers what's in it.  She just had to know.  The server leaned in close to her and whispered, "it's white processed cheese."  OMG, my mind was blown.  No wonder it's so flippin' good.  I think the HEB brand white queso is better than Velveeta, so that's what I use.  I've made this queso so many times.  We used to have to bring in food on my 4th year vet school rotations for 'fun food Friday' (an excuse for the Interns and Clinicians to bed fed by 4th year students), and I brought this all the time.

I like to serve this with homemade oven-baked tortilla chips.  Take 10 flour tortillas, cut into 6 pie pieces and spray with olive oil.  Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 5-10 minutes at 325* or until crispy and lightly brown.


  • 1 block of HEB Easy Melt Queso Blanco
  • 1 c. pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, Serrano, lime juice, and salt) 
  • 1 c. guacamole, my favorite is Alton Brown's recipe, but I have used store-bought in a bind!
  1. Melt the queso and keep warm in a Crock pot/slow cooker.  Add in pico and guacemole.  Serve with tortilla chips!

Meatballs in Tangy Sauce

This is so good and soooo simple!  I watched Reid's grandma, Mimi, make it for Christmas and it is so good.  I probably ate way too many meatballs because of this sweet, sour, salty sauce.  And, it has 3 ingredients!  Little old Southern ladies know where it's at!  Thanks, Mimi!


  • frozen, store-bought meatballs
  • 1/2 jar of any tart jam (IE: cherry, strawberry, blackberry), I used blackberry
  • 1/2 c. ketchup

  1. Defrost/cook meatballs according to directions.  Combine jam, ketchup and sauce in a small Crock pot.  Stir and serve!

Homemade Wheat Crackers

I have a Martha Stewart magazine subscription and it always inspires me to try new things.  Like baking my own wheat crackers! The recipe sounded easy enough, so I thought I'd try to make them for our NYE party.  And the description really won me over, something along the lines of, "don't let your crackers be an after-thought."  I definitely changed the original recipe quite a bit, as the original recipe did not have enough wet ingredients for me to keep the dough together.  I ended up using about twice the amount of cream that the recipe called for.  It did end up really tasty, though! And, you can make extra to store in the freezer for up to 3 months!

A great accompaniment to delicious cheeses from Antonelli's Cheese Shop, our neighborhood cheese shop.  Their cheese mongers are the best and helped Reid pick out a good Gouda, Brie, Gruyere and blue cheese.


  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbs. sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 tbs. sugar
  • 4 tbs. cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • flaky sea salt for sprinkling

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sesame seeds, and sugar until combined.
  2. Add in butter and work until crumbly.  Mix in cream with fork until dough forms.
  3. Form into 2 inch wide logs, cover in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour up to 3 months.
  4. Cut log into 1/8" thick rounds.  Arrange on parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt.
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 375* for 14-16 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking time. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet potato pancakes, or latkes, would also be great for a Hanukkah party.  We served them at our New Year's Eve party and they were definitely a hit.  They were especially good right after I fried them, but were decent room temperature, too.  The original recipe from Food52 also had the option of topping with caviar, but I thought that was a bit decadent.


  • 4 c. coarsely grated sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sized sweet potatoes)
  • 1/2 c. grated onion (1/2 medium sized onion)
  • 3-4 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • canola oil for frying
  • Greek yogurt or apple sauce, for serving
  • fresh chives, minced, for sprinkling

  1. Use a food processor or box grater to grate sweet potatoes and onion.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, onion, lemon juice, eggs, flour, and pepper.  Can be made ahead of time and stored up to 2 days covered in refrigerator.
  3. Heat a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat.  Test a small dollop of mixture and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Fry about 1 tbs. of mixture in oil until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before topping with Greek yogurt and fresh chives.