Kick off your party with tasty appetizers

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and for a lot of us the annual hors d'oeuvre fest wouldn't be complete without a big batch of chicken wings. Instead of pulling out the deep-fat fryer, this year I'm baking my wings to crisp perfection and tossing them with a twist on Buffalo wing sauce that I call "sweet heat sauce."


The first step in the recipe is sprinkling the wings with a flavorful seasoning blend that includes garlic and onion powder, paprika, salt, black pepper, sugar and cayenne. Then the wings are tossed in a bowl with some olive oil. The oil helps the wings get crispy in the oven. The other component that assures crisp oven-baked wings is a very hot oven, and these wings bake at 500 degrees.

I like a wing sauce that combines the heat with some sweet, so I take traditional hot sauce, such as Texas Pete, and combine it with honey, butter and a little garlic, which adds a kick. Feel free to use your favorite wing sauce in place of my "sweet heat" sauce or skip the sauce altogether; the seasoning blend flavors the wings nicely.

Serve with some prepared ranch or blue cheese dressing on the side for dipping.

Along with the wings, we like to serve a variety of dips and spreads, and I'm including a few of my favorites (which have appeared in a previous column) after the wing recipe.


For the wings:

2 pounds chicken wings, cut in into two pieces, tips removed

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the sauce:

1 cup hot sauce

2 tablespoons butter, or more to taste

1/4 cup honey, or more to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

For serving:

Ranch or blue cheese dressing

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack atop the foil. Spray baking sheet and rack with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place chicken wings in a large bowl. Combine the spices in a small bowl and sprinkle over the wings, tossing to coat evenly. Drizzle the olive oil over the wings and toss to coat. Place the wings on the cooling rack. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the wings and then return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes more, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes, until done.

Prepare the sauce while the wings cook. Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until warm.

Place the baked wings in a clean bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing and plenty of napkins.

Makes about 16 half-wings.


2 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chiles, lime juice and cilantro*, drained slightly

1 11-ounce can shoepeg corn, drained

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 green onions, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Tortilla chips

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 4 cups of salsa.

*Rotel Mexican Festival diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro were used for testing purposes.

Feta Cheese Balls

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup coarsely chopped oil-packed drained sun-dried tomatoes

2 large cloves garlic, sliced

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

8 ounces crumbled feta cheese

2 teaspoons Greek seasoning

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste

1 cup toasted pine nuts

Crostini or crackers

Combine the green onions, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until tomatoes are very finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients except pine nuts. Pulse until smooth.

Spread into a bowl and chill for 1 hour. Shape the mixture into 2 balls and roll in the toasted pine nuts. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 small cheese balls.

*Cavander's Greek seasoning was used for testing purposes.


2 teaspoons butter or olive oil

6 to 8 fresh jalapeño peppers, cored, seeded and chopped

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature

1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise or reduced-fat sour cream

Jalapeño pepper sauce, to taste, about 10 drops*

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 4.3-ounce package real bacon bits or 6 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

Round buttery crackers or corn chips, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter or heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the jalapeños and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese and jalapeños in a bowl. Spread in a baking dish. Sprinkle the bacon over the top. Bake for 25 minutes, until bubbly. Serve with the crackers or corn chips.

Makes 10-12 appetizer servings.

*Tabasco jalapeño pepper sauce was used for testing purposes.


8-ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream or mayonnaise

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large tomato, diced

1 2.5-ounce package bacon tidbits or 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 bag dip-style corn chips

Stir together cream cheese, sour cream or mayonnaise, horseradish, salt and pepper until well blended. Fold in diced tomatoes and bacon, reserving a bit of each for garnish, if desired. Place mixture in a serving bowl and garnish with reserved tomatoes and bacon. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 2 1/2 cups dip, about 8 servings.

*Two containers of bacon horseradish dip can be substituted for the cream cheese, sour cream, prepared horseradish, salt and black pepper.

What's cooking?

We're looking for your best kitchen creation, whether it's a simple chili or an elaborate continental concoction. Our food writer, Karin Calloway, will re-create your dish, and we'll feature it on the Wednesday food page of The Augusta Chronicle. Send your recipe and contact information to, or write to Recipe Favorites, Newsroom, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928.


Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Where are some of your favorite local places for a romantic meal? Or do you and your sweetheart prefer a home-cooked meal instead?

Share your thoughts and stories on hits and misses of Valentine's Day dining by e-mailing Be sure to include your full name, where you're from and a phone number.