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Party Biffs and Party Bites

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Kate Rogers

The older I get, the more I realize it pays to have a few tricks up your party-throwing sleeves. Numero uno is the killer appetizer. You have to hit guests right away with a delicious bite and a refreshing drink. And no copping out with boring cheese and crackers.

Not to suggest I always nail it. Recently I became obsessed with serving lemony pea mash on crostini. I thought, “Pea mash! How fresh! So fun and so seasonal!” My husband gave me the crap-how-do-I-proceed-here look of disapproval. You know the one. He asked me, gently, if I'd confused our grown-up dinner guests with our 9-month-old babies. I assured him I hadn't. Pea mash is hot right now, I told him.

Turns out pea mash is not so hot right now. One taker visibly grimaced. “I thought it was going to be avocado,” he offered. “Or even green olives.” Let's just say the babies were happy with my (ample) leftovers.

So when I saw Bake-Off finalist Kathy Ferder's Kickin' Spinach Cheese Bites, I knew I'd found my party-foul-rescue dish. These little bundles are everything a green appetizer should be: cheesy, bite-size, delicious. And totally easy.

Talk about a three-cheese delight. Shredded provolone, ricotta and cream cheese give these spinach- and jalapeño-spiked bites a creamy, melty texture.

I was experimenting with this recipe during naptime, a suitable stand-in for the harried pre-hosting hours when you know you're on deadline and you do NOT have everything ready. Frozen spinach thaws quickly in the microwave and, if you remember to soften the cream cheese ahead of time (just 20 minutes or so), everything comes together with ease.

Resist the urge to continually "test" the cheese mixture at every stage of blending. If you can't, and naptime isn't working, enlist help (see below).

Cutting the crescent dough into 24 squares can be easily done with a sharp knife or a pizza wheel.

I found scooping the mixture to be simple and mess-free by using two teaspoons to dollop and slide the mixture into the dough cups.

These bites are best fresh from the oven and just cooled. If you're going to take them to another location, reheat just before serving.

Party trick homerun! Just enough jalapeño to add kick, and just enough spinach and cheese to keep things silky, creamy and flavorful. Eat your heart out pea mash.

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