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Food & Drink

Five idiot-proof Thanksgiving starters

For gatherings where you can't get away with just bringing a bottle of wine

Photo: Photo by Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Sweet Potato Soup Shots: a savory take on the omnipresent Thanksgiving root vegetable

Photo: , License: N/A

Welsh rarebit-inspired muffins

If you're taking to a party: Use a funnel to pour the soup into washed, individual 4-ounce Mason jars. Loosely screw on the lids (not all the way) and pack the jars back into the box. When you get to your destination, open the jars, sprinkle some feta crumbles over each jar, and drizzle with za'atar-infused oil.

* Za'atar is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme and salt; it's available at Winter Park's Penzeys Spices, or you can blend it yourself. If you can't find sumac, lemon zest is an acceptable substitute.

Welsh Rarebites

(adapted from Nigella Bites, by Nigella Lawson)
These sharp, smoky mini-muffins are great with dark beer (like Negro Modelo). Best eaten warm on the same day they're baked.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Colman's mustard powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch of turmeric
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated sharp cheddar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain 2 percent milkfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease two mini-muffin pans and set aside in a cool place (or line with paper cups and set aside).

Use a fork to mix the dry stuff (flour through turmeric) and 3/4 cup of the cheese in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup with pouring spout, beat together the wet stuff (oil through Worcestershire sauce), then pour in batches into the dry ingredients. Mix lightly with the fork. Some lumps are OK, but overmixing will give you tough muffins.

Pour batter into muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes, then take them out and sprinkle a little cheese on top each muffin. Put them back into the oven for another five minutes, test with a toothpick, then put the muffin tins on a rack to cool. Serve warm.

Spicy-Sweet Holiday Nuts

This is probably the easiest recipe of the bunch; a jar makes a good hostess gift. Feel free to tweak the spice blend to your taste.

5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons light agave or honey
4 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups whole walnuts
1 1/2 cups whole pecans
Fine-grain salt

Line a sheet pan with lightly oiled aluminum foil and set aside.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick pan. Add spices and stir. Then add sugar and agave or honey to the pan and combine with spice-oil mixture. Add the nuts and toss gently to coat, stirring occasionally for five minutes or until nuts are toasted.

Transfer the coated nuts to the foil-lined pan. Working quickly, use a fork or spoon to spread into a single layer, separate from each other. Sprinkle with the salt and let cool completely. Keeps up to a week in a tightly sealed container.

Cowgirl Caviar

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