The occasion demands that there be things around to munch, be it a bowl of peanuts (spiced, in this case) or popcorn (dressed up here with maple syrup and pecans), or more elaborate hors d'oeuvres, such as phyllo pizzas and a cheddar and cream cheese spread.


(Makes 3 cups)

This offering of jazzed-up peanuts from Lisa Yockelson is easy to make, and can be doubled or tripled successfully.

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

3 cups roasted, skinless lightly salted peanuts

Place the chili powder in a small skillet, set over low heat and cook until warm and aromatic, about 1 minute; remove from the heat and cool. Combine the chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika and white pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the peanuts and toss well. Scatter the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until aromatic. Cool completely.

For gift-giving, parcel out the peanuts into glass jars, cover tightly, label and store in the pantry until needed.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 212 calories, 10 gm protein, 7 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 161 mg sodium.


(Makes 6 cups of casual finger food to randomly munch, 1/2 cup per serving)

This addictive snack from Judith Benn Hurley is a good one to have on hand (stored in a tightly covered tin). For an interesting touch, serve it with orange-spiced tea.

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

1/2 cup pecan pieces

6 cups air-popped popcorn

To prepare the caramel syrup, combine the maple syrup, oil and cinnamon in a 9-inch glass pie dish and microwave, uncovered, on full power until evenly bubbly and just beginning to turn to a darker color, about 4 1/2 to 5 minutes. Stop and stir every minute or so, and don't be alarmed if the oil looks like it's separating -- it will emulsify toward the end. Timing will depend on the temperature of the ingredients; if the syrup and oil are cold, the caramel will take longer to bubble. When the caramel syrup is ready, stir in the salt.

Meanwhile, have the pecan pieces and popcorn ready in a large bowl. Pour on the caramel syrup and be careful, since it will be hot. With a large rubber or wooden spatula, toss quickly and well to coat and let stand for about 20 minutes before serving.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 99 calories, .9 gm protein, 10 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, .7 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 28 mg sodium.


(Makes 40 hors d'oeuvres)

Ellen Brown has adapted crunchy phyllo dough to be the base for small "pizzettes." Once you've learned to deal with the fragile dough -- made much easier if you allow it to defrost completely -- there are an infinite number of innovative toppings.


20 sheets frozen phyllo dough, totally defrosted

1/2 pound butter, melted

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1 pound wild mushrooms (some combination of fresh shiitake, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, etc.)

4 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary

Pinch of thyme

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 pound che`vre, crumbled

To prepare the base, use a large baking sheet with 1/2-inch sides and brush it with some of the melted butter. Gently lift a sheet of phyllo and spread it out on the baking sheet. Brush it with butter, and repeat with 3 more sheets. Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Sprinkle lightly over the buttered phyllo, a few tablespons at a time, then top with another phyllo sheet. Brush with butter, and top with the next sheet. Brush with butter, sprinkle with a bit more of the crumb mixture, and repeat until 10 sheets of phyllo have been used. Repeat on second baking sheet.

For the mushroom topping, clean the mushrooms and slice. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and thyme and saute', stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are brown and wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside.

To assemble, sprinkle the mozzarella over the prepared phyllo. Sprinkle the mushrooms on top, and then dot with the che`vre.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the top is brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and then cut with a serrated knife into bite-sized pieces (about 2 inches square). Serve immediately.

Note: The pizzas can be prepared up to two days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered with plastic wrap. Bake just prior to serving.

Per hors d'oeuvre: 118 calories, 4 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 6 gm saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 162 mg sodium.


(Makes about 3 cups)

This is one of Lisa Yockelson's favorite cheese spreads; it's simple to put together and stores well in the refrigerator for at least five days.

3/4 pound cream cheese, softened

1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated

1 teaspoon anchovy paste

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, lightly toasted and crushed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1/4 cup scallions, minced

Place the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and anchovy paste in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 3 minutes on moderately high speed. Beat in the paprika, ground and crushed cumin, black pepper, salt and sherry. By hand, stir in the scallions. Pack the cheese mixture into a crock, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Remove the spread about 15 minutes before serving to take the chill off and serve with toasted pita triangles or sourdough bread.

Per tablespoon serving: 36 calories, 1 gm protein, .3 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 42 mg sodium.