Cooks Exchange

6 appetizers for March Madness viewing

Mmm. Crab dip is tasty.
Mmm. Crab dip is tasty. KRT

The Final Four takes the floor Saturday in the NCAA March Madness tournament. Folks are sure to be gathered around the big screens rooting on their favorite teams.

Along with watching the games, viewers like to chow down on heavy-duty snacks.

The other day, a friend’s husband was decked out in his Kentucky garb. Guess who he favored in the Sweet 16.

Yes, burgers, chips and queso make for good game-watching fare, but why not try some different recipes this year. Instead of queso, make beer cheese. This goes well with pretzels and chips.

On the Coast, seafood dips are always a favorite. A hot Louisiana crab dip goes great with toasted rounds of French bread or a bit healthier with fresh mushrooms or crudités.

A favorite dip is served with a basket of tortilla chips and called a green sauce, but it really is more of a dip. Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant in Houston makes this, and I have the recipe. It is made, of course, with avocado, but this dip is thinner than guacamole.

If any host, hostess or guest watches carbohydrates, then a white bean dip fits the bill with protein and only 20 calories per tablespoon serving. This works well for diabetics, too.

For heavier fare, trade the burgers for Italian meatball sliders with melted cheese.

These snacks are sure to be slam dunks with family and friends.


A reader named Joyce from Florida wants a recipe for pasta and bean soup. Readers, can you help her? Please email or mail me the recipes as quickly as possible.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.


1 cup beer (amber or brown ale)

2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Add the shredded cheeses, cream cheese, garlic, dry mustard, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and beer to the work bowl of your food processor.

Process the mixture, pulsing a few times and stopping to scrape the sides of the work bowl, until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Transfer cheese spread to a bowl. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors develop. Serve with crackers or pretzels.

From GE Appliances


1/2 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 tablespoons minced green onions

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 10 ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well. Transfer mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve with toasted crackers.

From “My Recipes”


1 ripe (soft to the touch) avocado

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon minced onion

1 clove garlic, mashed to a pulp with 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or 1/4 teaspoon dried cilantro

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (or to taste)

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Peel avocado and mash to a smooth pulp.

Add sour cream, milk, onion, garlic, cilantro, pepper sauce and lemon juice and blend with a wire whip.

Let stand at least an hour before serving. Refrigerate any leftover sauce.

From “Dining In – Houston, Vol. II”


1 can (15 to 16 ounces) cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 to 3 cloves garlic

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients. Cover and process until smooth. Chill. Serve with toasted pita.

Nutritional data: Serving size, 1 tablespoon; calories, 29; sodium, 78 milligrams; cholesterol, trace; carbohydrate, 6 grams; protein, 2 grams; fat, trace.

Diabetic exchange: 1/2 starch

From “Down-Home Diabetic Cookbook”


12 Italian meatballs (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter) (see Tender Italian Meatballs recipe)

1 cup marinara sauce

1 package dinner rolls, sheet of 12 rolls

12 slices mozzarella cheese

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the sheet of dinner rolls in half, but leave the individual rolls connected; set aside.

Spread half of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the sliced dinner rolls. Top each roll with a meatball. Spoon a little more marinara on top of each meatball. Top with mozzarella cheese and then cover with the top half of the dinner tolls.

Place in buttered baking dish.

In small bowl, combine butter, garlic and parsley, stirring until evenly mixed. Pour garlic butter mixture of top of the slides. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

Bale for 15-20 minutes, until the tolls are golden brown and cheese is melted. Cut into individual sandwiches, and serve.

From GE Appliances


6 slices fresh white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 unpacked cups)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 medium onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving.

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, minced

1 3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces pancetta (Italian uncured bacon), finely minced

2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground fennel seed

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 27-ounce jar marinara sauce

In a medium bowl, combine bread with buttermilk, tossing to coat. Let stand, tossing occasionally, until bread is completely moist, about 10 minutes. Mash the bread with the back of a spoon to make a thick paste. If there are dry spots, add more buttermilk until bread is moistened throughout.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg until blended. Whisk in the salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, then whisk in the Parmesan, oregano and parsley. Add the grated onion, garlic, pancetta and soaked bread; mix until combined.

Add the ground beef and pork to the egg mixture. Use your hands to gently mix the egg mixture into the ground meat. Try not to overwork the meat; gently pinch the meat between your fingers to mix.

Pinch off a piece of the meat mixture and gently roll between your hands to form 2 1/2-inch meatballs (about the size of a golf ball or a bit larger). Continue shaping until all the meat is used.

Arrange the meatballs spaced slightly apart on a baking sheet. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. The meatballs are done when cooked through and the outsides are lightly browned, and when they register 155 degrees in the middle on an instant read thermometer.

Serve meatballs, with marinara sauce and additional grated cheese on top. Or use for garlic sliders.

From GE Appliances