Take your kick-off time crowd pleasers up a notch with these spiced-up versions for snacking and sharing

Photos by Dave Uhrin

Whether your Sundays are all about football this fall or you’re just looking to score a touchdown with some kicked-up shareables your family and friends will love, we’ve got you covered all the way to the end zone. These appetizer recipes from cooking instructor Jacqui Renager of Fun in the Kitchen with Jacqui are as easy to make as they are flavor-packed and fun to eat.

Renager’s hummus recipe is the stuff of legend, blended to a delightfully creamy consistency with the addition of water and signature sumac and topped with the all-important final flourish of good olive oil and spices for a beautiful presentation. Her smoked chicken tacos are over-the-top with a pineapple jalapeño salsa and chipotle aioli, both whipped up in minutes, giving them that sweet-spicy, one-two punch. And don’t forget the spinach artichoke dip in sourdough boule and homemade jalapeño poppers. We are feeding a crowd, after all.

Can’t find what you’re looking for in the grocery store in these days of supply chain issues? Does that certain ingredient you want cost about as much as a home mortgage because of inflation? Don’t sweat it, Renager says. Get creative and work with what you can find at a reasonable price. Cooking is supposed to be fun. And we promise your guests won’t complain. Unless their team is losing. Happy cooking and snacking.

All Recipes by Jacqui Renager. Fun in the Kitchen with Jacqui. CookingwithJacqui.com

Cooks Corner

Smoked Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa

Mini tortillas
Finely shredded red and/or green cabbage
Panela or queso fresco cheese for crumbling
Smoked chicken (notes below)
Pineapple jalapeño salsa (recipe below)
Chipotle aioli (recipe below)

Smoked Chicken
If you have a smoker and the time, you can smoke your own bird, whole or just the breast. If not, support some local restaurants! Mission BBQ in Virginia Beach sells half smoked yardbirds. Pierce’s BBQ in Williamsburg sells half smoked chicken, pit cooked as well. As a last resort, use a rotisserie chicken (after you cut your chicken into pieces for the tacos, sprinkle with ½ tsp of smoked paprika and mix it up…you’ll get that nice smoked flavor).

Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
½ cup diced jalapeño pepper
(seeds in to make it spicy, remove them
for milder version)
½ cup finely diced red onion
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp lime juice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Refrigerate for at lease an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld.

Chipotle Aioli
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3 tbsp water
1 tsp lime juice
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp coarse ground black pepper
In a small food processor (such as a Magic Bullet), puree chipotle peppers with adobo sauce and water for 1 minute. It should be paste like when done. If you are having trouble getting it to puree, add another tablespoon of water. Transfer to a separate bowl. In small mixing bowl, add the mayo, lime juice, finely chopped cilantro, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add the chipotle puree a little at a time until the desired taste is reached. The more you add, the spicier it will be. Make sure to refrigerate for at least an hour before serving to allow it to firm up a bit.

Assembling Mini Smoked Chicken Tacos
For each mini tortilla, layer your ingredients: tortilla, smoked chicken cut into ½-inch pieces, red and/or green cabbage, pineapple jalapeño salsa, drizzle of chipotle aioli and panela cheese. Serve on a large platter with each taco nesting up against each other. These will be the hit of the party. They have everything: smokiness, sweetness, a little bit of spice and amazing combination of textures.

Jacqui’s Famous Hummus

1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
Juice of 1½ lemons
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup water (more for thinning out in after processing)
⅔ cup tahini
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cumin
⅛ tsp all spice

Run a spoon over your hummus to create indentations and sprinkle with:
Fresh parsley, chopped
Crushed red pepper
A few chickpeas
Olive oil for drizzling when ready to serve

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process for 2 minutes. The consistency should be close to pourable. It will seem too runny, but after refrigerating for 2 hours, the consistency will be perfect. If your hummus is too thick and not almost pourable, continue to process and add one tablespoon of water at a time until desired consistency is reached. Mixture should be smooth without any visible lumps. Pour into serving dish and add toppings (don’t add the olive oil until you are ready to serve). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with pita chips or vegetables. Use as a spread on sandwiches.

Notes: Using less olive oil and more water enables this hummus to be very smooth and very light. This is different than most hummus products that can tend to be a bit gluey. The olive oil on top is a must as it brings out the flavors of the spices added to the top. If you do not like spice in your hummus, omit the crushed red pepper topping.

Spinach Artichoke Dip in Sourdough Boule

8 oz cream cheese, well softened
½ cup mayonnaise (Dukes, of course)
1 ½ tsp minced garlic
⅔ cup (76g) finely shredded gruyere, gouda or any other melting cheese
½ cup (56g) finely shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp course ground black pepper
½ tsp kosher salt
1 (14-oz) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts chopped, drain only half of the liquid. Pour in the other half with the artichokes
12 oz frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained (placing thawed spinach in a kitchen towel and repeatedly wringing it out over a sink works great)
Sourdough boule or other crusty round bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep bread bowl: Using a bread knife slice the top of the bread off. Scoop out the inside of the bread, but do not throw this bread out. Cut the leftover bread into small “dippable” pieces for service. In a mixing bowl stir together cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, gruyere, mozzarella, salt and pepper.

Stir in artichokes and spinach. Spread mixture evenly into your bread boule. Bake in preheated oven until thoroughly heated and melty, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with bread pieces, tortilla chips, crackers, sliced bread…eat on anything!

Notes: The addition of marinated artichoke hearts with some of their marinating liquid makes this dip different from others you may see. That tangy depth of flavor from the marinade adds just the right tang to this wonderful game day appetizer.

Jacqui’s Jalapeño Poppers

10 fresh large jalapeños
1 8-oz block cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp course black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut stems off jalapeños and then cut them in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and the pith. Set aside. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and 1 tsp salt. Using a hand mixer, blend the ingredients until combined. Place a cooling rack in a full sheet pan. One at a time, fill each jalapeño half with some cream cheese mixture and place on cooling rack inside the sheet pan. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, 1 tsp salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add olive oil and mix well. Dip each filled pepper into the bread crumb mixture and place back on the cooling rack. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are a nice golden brown.

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