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Fun finger food ideas for family night

Karen Leland is the bestselling author of Time Management in an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is featured columnist for The Huffington Post Living section. Read her blog and contact her at

New twists on old classics

If you're tired of tossing the same old corn tortilla chips onto the table with a bowl of store-bought salsa, read on. Finger food has come a long way since the days of bacon-wrapped cocktail wieners and dishes of pimento-stuffed olives.

New twists on old classics 

Ribs: Baked, not barbecued

Bruce Aidell, author of The Complete Meat Cookbook, advocates ribs as the number-one finger food for family night. "Most people think of ribs as a barbecue item," says Aidell, "but in all my cookbooks, the ribs are roasted in the oven, and it's the variety in seasoning that gives them their flavor."

Franco's Rosticiana Ribs

Serves 6

This recipe is from Aidell's cookbook, The Complete Book of Pork. His friend, Franco Dunn, who serves them at his Restaurant Santi in Geyserville, California, originally gave him this recipe.

1–1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1-1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water
2 slabs (about 3 pounds each) regular spareribs, or 3 slabs back ribs (about 1-1/2 pounds per slab)

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients except the water and ribs. Generously pat the mixture onto both sides of the ribs. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, or wrap the ribs in plastic and refrigerate overnight. When you're ready to cook the ribs, preheat the oven to 300 F. Put each slab of ribs fat-side up in a large (10x15-inch) baking dish. Add 1 cup water to each dish and cover with foil. Cook for 1-1/2 hours and remove the foil. Increase the heat to 375 F and continue to cook uncovered for another 30 minutes or until the rib meat pulls away from the bone. Remove the ribs from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut between the ribs and serve immediately.

Nuevo nachos

Barbara Seelig-Brown is a New York City chef, cooking-show host and spokesperson for Honeysuckle White® Turkey. She takes nachos to the next level by adding turkey to the traditional nacho dish, which makes them a more substantial and filling finger food.

Turkey Nachos

Serves 6

Adapted with permission from a recipe by Barbara Seeling-Brown, these babies can be prepared in 10 minutes and ready to eat in just 15.

1/2 pound ground turkey meat, shredded
1 medium white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 bag (12 ounces) corn tortilla chips
1 can (15 ounces) refried beans
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup guacamole
1/2 cup black olives
1 jar (8 ounces) jalapenos
1 cup salsa
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a skillet, combine ground turkey, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until turkey is no longer pink, approximately 4 minutes. Set aside. Place tortillas on baking sheet. Warm beans on stovetop and place on top of chips. Top with turkey mixture and grated cheese. Bake until cheese melts, approximately 5 minutes. Add as many toppings as you like, including diced tomatoes, guacamole, black olives and jalapenos. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Chicken wings gone native

A long-time favorite in the finger food category, chicken wings are both economical and convenient. But why settle for the typical teriaki or standard spicy when you can whip up more interesting combinations?

Pineapple-Habanero Chicken Wings

Serves 6

Created by Chef Robert McGrath in Phoenix, Arizona, these chicken wings hit the perfect note, marrying the tang of Tabasco with the cool sweetness of pineapple.

1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Tabasco® brand habanero sauce
1 pinch salt
Vegetable oil
2 dozen chicken wings
1/4 cup Wondra flour or rice flour

Combine crushed pineapple, mayonnaise, Tabasco habanero sauce and salt; whisk until smooth. Preheat vegetable oil in fryer to 350 F. Remove and discard wing tips from wings. Separate each wing into two pieces at the joint; trim excess fat and skin. Toss chicken wings in a bowl with flour. Fry wings for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy. Toss wings with desired amount of pineapple-habanero wing sauce.

More fingerlicious food ideas

Make your own Easter Sunday brunch
Short ribs recipes
Craft your own condiments

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