You're all ready for trivia night. You know who won the Battle of Waterloo (the Duke of Wellington). You know the tallest building in the United States (One World Trade Center). You know how many sentences there are in the Gettysburg Address (10).
But you don't know what food to bring.
Trivia is only part of the fun of trivia night. The other part is eating.
Anyone can stop at their local grocery store and pick up a plastic box of cookies to bring, and many people do. But that is merely perfunctory, a no-thought solution to an immediate need. Surely, your trivia teammates would be happier if you brought in some nice, homemade snack, particularly if you don't know how many teaspoons there are in a gallon (768).
To be a winner in your trivia snack-making, you only have to remember a few guidelines: It should be something you can eat with your fingers, it should be relatively quick to make and it should not be particularly good for you. Crudites can wait for another occasion.
For my trivia night extravaganza, I made five snacks, five also being the number of U.S. states' names that have a direction in them (North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia).
I started off sweet and ridiculously easy. Baked Cinnamon Tortilla Chips are exactly what they sound like, but they taste much better than you would think possible.
You simply cut flour tortillas into wedges, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon. It helps to remember what part of the tree cinnamon comes from (the bark).
Bake them for 10 minutes, and they come out surprisingly light and crispy, a delightful little nosh to enliven any trivia table.
A savory treat came next, Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts. I'd first had the thought of trying to re-create the addictive goodness of Beer Nuts, but then I stumbled upon this recipe by Ina Garten, and it sounded so good I simply had to try it.
It is even better than it sounds, though I should point out that it is also not inexpensive. The recipe mixes together cashews, walnuts, pecans and almonds, none of which is cheap. The nuts are glazed with brown sugar, orange juice and maple syrup, and then dusted with chipotle powder and minced fresh rosemary leaves (Rosemary Clooney's first million-selling No. 1 hit was "Come On-a My House").
"You do too many recipes for spiced nuts," said my editor. But then she tasted them and said, "Oh my gosh these are the best things ever I can't stop eating them." So there's that.
I went sweet again with my next snack, Chocolate-Peanut Butter Chex Mix. Once again, you can probably figure out what these are from the title alone.
I began with an off-brand version of Chex Mix, and I'm not entirely certain the 50 or 60 cents I saved was worth it. I emptied a full bag onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and covered the pieces with melted chocolate and melted peanut-butter chips. I mixed the goo all together, spread it back out into a single layer, more or less, and placed it in the refrigerator to set before breaking it up into bite-sized chunks.
It's sweet and salty, chocolaty and crunchy. Eating it made me very happy (Snow White's seven dwarfs are: Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful and Doc).
The next dish I made, Cheese Crisps, was perhaps the easiest snack of all. Simply shred some cheese, place it in a small circle and bake until it is all bubbly.
They are incredibly good, but also incredibly simple to make. Just don't tell that to the other members of your trivia team (the most common category in Final Jeopardy! is U.S. Presidents).
I wasn't ready to stop yet. I wanted to make one more sweet snack, especially when I saw a recipe for Nutella Popcorn.
Nutella, of course, is the hazelnut spread that is hugely popular in Europe but has never gained quite the same foothold here. It is easy to imagine how it would taste on popcorn; the only question is how to put it on.
As it turns out, it's not hard. All you have to do is melt together some butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir in the Nutella and add a dash of baking soda and a splash of vanilla. Mix that all together with some popped popcorn and bake it until the sauce dries onto the kernels.
(Nebraska produces more popcorn than any other state, about 250 million pounds per year. In case you ever have to know).
BAKED CINNAMON-SUGAR TORTILLA CHIPS
Yield: 8 servings
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tortillas into wedges. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together sugar and cinnamon.
2. Brush tortilla wedges with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar. Bake 10 minutes until light brown and crispy. Remove to a platter to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Per serving: 208 calories; 8 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 11 mg cholesterol; 4 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; 1g fiber; 351 mg sodium; 58 mg calcium
CHIPOTLE AND ROSEMARY ROASTED NUTS
Yield: 8 servings
3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
2 cups whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 cups whole pecan halves (7 ounces)
1/2 cup whole almonds (3 ounces)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder, or less, according to taste
4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
Note: This recipe can easily be halved.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat generously with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, vegetable oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice and chipotle powder. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt, and toss again.
3. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring twice, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons of salt (use 1 teaspoon if the cashews were salted) and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary. Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in airtight containers at room temperature.
Per serving: 672 calories; 60 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 14 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 967 mg sodium; 110 mg calcium
Recipe by Ina Garten
CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER CHEX MIX
Yield: 8 servings
1 (3.75-ounce) bag traditional Chex Mix or similar snack mix
8 ounces dark or milk chocolate, chopped
6 ounces (a heaping 3/4 cup) peanut-butter chips
1 tablespoon shortening or coconut oil, as needed
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out snack mix. Gently melt chocolate in a double boiler, stirring frequently, or in a microwave on the lowest setting, stirring frequently.
2. Meanwhile, melt the peanut-butter chips in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds. If the peanut butter mixture is too thick to drizzle, stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons of shortening or coconut oil.
3. Pour melted chocolate and peanut butter mixture over the snack mix, and stir to thoroughly combine. Spread out in a single layer and let sit at room temperature until set, 1 to 2 hours. If it is still soft, it may be refrigerated. Break into bite-sized pieces before serving. If soft, store in refrigerator.
Per serving: 375 calories; 19 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 7 mg cholesterol; 9 g protein; 43 g carbohydrate; 24 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 250 mg sodium; 116 mg calcium
Yield: 16 servings
1 cup shredded parmesan, cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Place 1 tablespoon of the shredded cheese in a circle on the prepared baking sheet (you will get more attractive results if you use a 2 or 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter as a template). Repeat, spacing the piles about 1 1/2 inches apart.
3. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and starts to become golden, about 8 to 10 minutes for cheddar or Monterey Jack cheeses and about 10 to 12 minutes for parmesan. Remove parchment paper to a counter or platter and sprinkle cheese with pepper while it is still hot. When they are room temperature, remove and store in airtight container.
Per serving: 28 calories; 2.2 g fat; 1.3 g saturated fat; 6 mg cholesterol; 1.5 g protein; no carbohydrate; no sugar; no fiber; 42 mg sodium; 50 mg calcium
Adapted from "My Beverly Hills Kitchen," by Alex Hitz
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
18 cups popped, unflavored popcorn (from two 31/2-ounce microwave bags or a heaping 1/2 cup unpopped kernels)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup Nutella (one 13-ounce container)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with foil. Place the popped corn in a very large bowl and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, salt and butter over medium heat. Cook until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Nutella until incorporated, then quickly stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Remove from the heat and pour over the popcorn, tossing to evenly coat the kernels.
3. Divide the coated popcorn between the 2 baking sheets, spreading evenly. Place in the oven and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until the coating dries onto the popcorn, 30 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.
Per serving (based on 6): 435 calories; 13 g fat; 12 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 5 g protein; 75 g carbohydrate; 53 g sugar; 6 g fiber; 139 mg sodium; 64 mg calcium
Recipe from tastingtable.com