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Spice of life: Good food the universal language

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Buffalo Chicken Wonton Cups are an easy-to-make appetizer or snack and perfect for Super Bowl parties.
Buffalo Chicken Wonton Cups are an easy-to-make appetizer or snack and perfect for Super Bowl parties. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The other day I was trying to keep up with a conversation with a group of middle school-aged kids I was with.

I am not good at communicating via emoticon or in clipped letter combinations such as LOL or ROFL. I am not even sure what that second one means. I tried to keep the conversation in an area that I was familiar with, such as food and books.

Apparently, I know far less about the world and life than a gaggle of 13-year-olds. My phone was so yesterday, and my boots were cool two years ago — not that I mind or even notice, but nevertheless I felt just a tad bit older after this experience.

I made the mistake of bringing up one of my favorite television shows, “Downton Abbey.” I referenced a character I love, and I was met with blank stares and the response “Yeah, that is the show my grandma likes.” Ouch!

I didn’t let it get me down, though. I headed to the kitchen and worked on a few new recipes for an upcoming local morning news segment featuring reinvented Super Bowl snacks. I puttered away chopping this and mixing that. It didn’t take the flock of kids long to migrate in my direction. I was doing something that is universally understood and mutually interesting, even to teenagers: Cooking.

Growing young adults are always hungry. I am not sure where they put it or how they burn it off. I just know that, if I ate like that, I would be as big as a house.

Suddenly I was cool and interesting. They wanted to know what I was up to, why I was doing this or that and when it would be ready. They eyed my snacks with a ravenous look akin to vultures flying over a carcass.

I ran a few of my ideas past them to see if my creations were as appealing to them as they seemed in my head. I was shocked that they, those who know it all at the tender age of 13, actually liked my ideas. Even better, they said it out loud.

I let my taste-testers try out a few things I had been thinking about, such as Cheesy Green Chili Bread and Buffalo Chicken Cups. It was nice to hold their attention. For 30 whole minutes, no one had a phone out, and they were talking to each other using real words and complete sentences. I was thrilled.

First up, I demonstrated the cheesy bread. I mixed an 8-ounce package of cream cheese with ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup shredded cheddar, 8 strips crumbled cooked bacon, 4 chopped green onions, 1 small can of diced green chilis and ½ cup Ranch dressing. I slathered this on a loaf of French bread that I had cut in half. I then sprinkled each half with cheddar cheese and baked at 350 degrees until the cheese was melted and the cream cheese mixture was bubbly.

I let each half cool for a bit and sliced them into strips. I am not even sure if the kids tasted it, but it was consumed faster than I have ever seen kids eat before. They loved it, so that recipe went on the short list for my news segments.

Their attention waned after they had been fed and it was time to go home. I would like to think they enjoyed our time together in the kitchen.

I knew the spell had lifted once those phones came back out and their topics were now music groups I had never heard of. I returned to what I was doing and made a pretty swell version of buffalo wings, without the mess. I didn’t share those; instead, I enjoyed the silence in the kitchen.

These little appetizers would be perfect for a Super Bowl party and are pretty simple to make. I used wonton wrappers, which are easy to find and inexpensive. I like to call them the “little black dress” of the kitchen. One hundred uses and everyone needs to try to make something with them. Today I am sharing just one of the many ways you can integrate them into your cooking rotation.

Buffalo Chicken WonTon Cups


1 package small wonton wrappers (found in the produce section of most grocery stores)

1 rotisserie chicken, meat picked off and shredded; or 3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce (or more if you like it saucy)

2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded

8 ounces cream cheese, softened


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mini muffin pan, place one wonton wrapper in each spot. Push down in the center to form a cup, like a paper muffin cup.

In a bowl add the shredded chicken and toss with the hot sauce.

In each wrapper cup, layer the following: a small cube of cream cheese, a spoonful of chicken, a pinch of shredded cheese. Repeat for each wrapper.

Bake at 350 degrees until the wontons just start to brown and the cheese and filling are bubbly, about 8 minutes. Check it often.

This should make 48.

Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma.

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