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IDEA ALLEY: Crackers, dip, dessert perfect food for the season

by Kelly Brant | March 29, 2023 at 1:55 a.m.
(Illustration by Kelly Brant)

Recipes that appear in Idea Alley have not been tested by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

As we enter another season of entertaining — basketball watch parties, Easter and other spring holiday gatherings, graduation parties, bridal and baby showers — it's fitting to pull out the party food recipes.

These recipes are from Anita Rowe.

Spicy Ranch Crackers

  • 1 pound saltine crackers
  • 1 1/3 cups canola oil
  • 1 (1-ounce) envelope or 3 tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix (not dip mix)
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (use less if you don't like much spice)

Remove the crackers from the wax paper sleeves and transfer them -- don't dump them or you'll have a bunch of crumbs in your container -- to a large container.

In a bowl, whisk together the oil, dressing mix and pepper flakes. Drizzle over the crackers. Seal container and "tumble" the crackers well to evenly distribute the mixture. Every hour or two, tumble the crackers again, alternately turning the container upside down every other time so the mixture can drip back onto the crackers.

After about 4 or 5 hours, you can move the crackers to a clean container (this one will be very oily). Keep the container sealed and enjoy.

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Spicy Spinach & Artichoke Dip

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach (thawed and well drained)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, (drained and chopped)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided use
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco or red pepper sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • Corn chips or crackers, for serving

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, ¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, ¾ cup parmesan cheese, Tabasco or pepper sauce and salt. Stir until well blended and heated through. Pour mixture into a 1-quart casserole dish and top with remaining Monterey Jack and parmesan. Bake in a 350-degree oven until cheese starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Serve with corn chips or crackers.

Makes about 4 cups.

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Linda Brown included this recipe in the massive stack she sent to the Alley in response to one of my desperate pleas for submissions.

Miniature Peanut Butter Pies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
  • 8 graham cracker sheets, finely crushed
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
  • ¾ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter. Set the remaining butter aside to come to room temperature.

Combine the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs in a medium bowl and mix until well blended. Press mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the wells of 12 miniature muffin cups. Freeze for 2 hours.

Using the point of a knife, carefully remove the crusts from the pan. Place crusts on a baking sheet and return to freezer.

In a medium bowl, beat the remaining room temperature butter and confectioners' sugar on medium speed. Stir in the peanut butter. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Fill each graham cracker shell with peanut butter mixture, pipping a swirl top to resemble soft-serve ice cream. Return to freezer.

In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and oil. Microwave on 100% power for 30 to 45 seconds, stirring once, or until melted. Drizzle melted chocolate over peanut butter filling. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 12 miniature pies.

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