Stock Up: Three fancy appetizers for instant noshing

Warm spiced nuts from Blum. Courtesy of Zack Taiji
Warm spiced nuts from Blum. Courtesy of Zack Taiji

Credit: Zach Taiji

Credit: Zach Taiji

We aren’t entertaining the way we once did, but there still are occasions when we need a little nibble before dinner, with a cocktail, or a glass of iced tea, or just because.

Warm spiced nuts from Blum

There’s a reason carts selling warm spiced nuts draw a crowd at malls and events. The combination of warm crunchy nuts with the aromas of cinnamon or chili or garlic is pretty much irresistible. Now, you can re-create those same enticing flavors and smells at home. Blum, based in Chico, California, takes almonds grown in that state and packages them with five different spice mixtures, so you can serve them at a moment’s notice. The nuts come in a microwave-safe container, with a small packet of almond oil and a large packet of the spice mixture. Toss the nuts in the oil, then add the spices. Choose from honey vanilla and sea salt, cinnamon spice, garlic Parmesan, cocoa espresso or, our favorite, spicy chili lime. Warm them in the microwave — done. A warm bowl of spiced nuts ready in 3 minutes? We say “yes.”

$23.97 for a three-pack of 6.2-ounce containers. Choose from savory, sweet, vegan/keto-friendly and a mix of all. Available at Amazon and eatblum.com.

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Baked cheese olives from Southern Olive Bites. Courtesy of Allston McCrady
Baked cheese olives from Southern Olive Bites. Courtesy of Allston McCrady

Credit: Allston McCrady

Credit: Allston McCrady

Baked cheese olives from Southern Olive Bites

We think olives plus cheese equal the perfect small bite. And, as much as we love what we grew up calling “hot cheese olives” — luscious green olives wrapped in a cheesy dough and baked — they are way too fiddly to make on a regular basis. Brent and Lizzie Hamilton of Southern Olive Bites to the rescue! At their Charleston, South Carolina, bakery, they whip up hundreds of baked cheese olives, then freeze and package them so we can store them in our freezers and pull them out when we need a cheesy, salty bite. Check out the backstory about the origin of the recipe, but know that you can pull these right from the freezer, put them into a hot oven and be nibbling in about 20 minutes — almost instant gratification. Don’t tell the Hamiltons, but they’re so good, you might want to pass them off as your own.

$15 per bag of 36 bites. Available at southernolivebites.com.

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Pickled okra from Charleston Favorites. Courtesy of Food for the Southern Soul
Pickled okra from Charleston Favorites. Courtesy of Food for the Southern Soul

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Pickled okra from Charleston Favorites

Do people in other parts of the U.S. make pickled okra? It feels like a totally Southern thing, pickling this vegetable that thrives in our hot, humid summers. We think the best versions are tangy, with vinegar; bracing, with a bit of hot pepper; and spiced, with garlic and mustard seed. The pickled okra from Charleston Favorites hits the mark. The easiest appetizer is just to pull the okra from the jar and put it on a pretty plate. (Save that brine, though, since it makes a great addition to a vinaigrette or marinade.) But, why not go fancy? Slit the okra pods, and stuff them with cream cheese. Now, you’ve got sweet dairy to complement the tang and bite. And, if you need a garnish for a bloody mary? That’s another great way to enjoy these pickles.

$8.95 per 16-ounce jar. Available at foodforthesouthernsoul.com.

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