No More Boring Bar Snacks

If you love entertaining but feel challenged by creating the menu, keep it uncomplicated and recreate the foods you love nibbling when you sit down with friends at your favorite bar. Forget the same old peanuts or chips -- get creative! Here are some tips and recipes that give boring bar snacks a fun, gourmet update.

edamame

new gourmet flair for bar food

A simple way to update the typical bar snacks is to add a little something special to them.

Hot and spicy peanuts. Mix peanuts with a spicy sprinkling of chili powder to give this basic (boring) bar snack an impressive boost.

Gourmet popcorn. Freshly popped popcorn mixed with truffle oil or a flavored salt give this low-cal snack a surprising and creative kick.

Stuffed olives. Olives are lovely finger food no matter the occasion. Purchase large plain olives from your grocery store and stuff them with a bit of meat or cheese. Blue cheese, feta and prosciutto are particularly tasty choices.

Marinated olives. Marinate pitted green or black olives in a simple garlic-, lemon- or herb-infused olive oil.

Spiced edamame. A popular bar snack at trendy bars is edamame (fresh soybeans still in the shell and steamed). Tossed with flavored salt, spicy chili powder or star anise, they are healthful and delicious little bites that your guests will love.

Homemade potato chips. Make over the typical chips and dip by baking or frying paper-thin slices of different types of potatoes. Serve with a homemade dip (a blue cheese dipping sauce will garner tasty accolades).

When choosing bar snacks for your spirited occasions, simply serve a few yummy options to satisfy all your guests.

Recipes for bar snacks

Homemade BBQ Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
Ice water
Oil, for frying
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Soak potato slices in a bowl of ice water for 20 to 30 minutes. Heat about 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees F in a deep skillet or electric fryer.

2. Combine paprika, sugar, onion powder, chili powder and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

3. Remove potato slices from water with a slotted spoon and dry well on paper towels.

4. When oil is hot, fry potato slices until golden, about 2 minutes, flipping if needed. Remove chips with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

5. Toss chips with spice mixture while chips are still hot. Serve with Blue Cheese Dip (recipe below) or another gourmet sauce.

Blue Cheese Dip

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
10 ounces blue cheese crumbles

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl, mixing well. Chill until ready to use. Serve with chips, crackers and crudites.

Cinnamon Spiced Nuts

Makes 16 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup peanuts
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss nuts with melted butter. Mix Worcestershire sauce, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, garlic powder and onion powder in bowl with nuts.

2. Spread nuts on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, tossing every 3 to 4 minutes, until nuts are crispy. Serve warm.

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