We’re smack in the middle of winter, and it’s very likely the weather is miserable where you are. On top of that, the days are still short, and the dark is long.

If you’re dreaming of backyard barbecues and pool parties, go ahead and plan one — a party, that is. And plan it for NOW! Who says you can’t have a party in February?

There’s about one month between now and the first day of spring. There’s still time to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, Leap Day, St. Patrick’s Day or the beginning of daylight saving time. Whatever your reason for celebrating, we’ve got some fun and different recipes to help you get the party started.

Even your menu can be part of the celebration, as these recipes pay homage to National Snack Food Month and Chocolate Lover’s Month, both in February, and National Nutrition Month and National Sauce Month, which both fall in March. Enjoy!

SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried

Preheat oven to 275 F. Combine butter, salt, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce and pumpkin seeds. Mix thoroughly, and place in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. This makes a delicious snack right out of the oven or cooled.

SPICY PRETZELS

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt

1 1-ounce package dry Ranch-style dressing mix

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 15-ounce package mini pretzels

In a small bowl, mix together cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, garlic salt, dressing mix and vegetable oil. Place pretzels in a large, sealable plastic bag. Pour in mixture and shake well. Allow pretzels to marinate in the mixture approximately two hours before serving. Shake occasionally to maintain coating.

CHICAGO DIP

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

3/4 cup green onions, chopped

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt

1/4 teaspoon salt

1-pound loaf of round, crusty Italian bread

Squeeze spinach to remove all of the liquid. In a large mixing bowl, combine spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, green onions, parsley, lemon juice and salts. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, cut a circle out of the top of the bread and scoop out the inside. Tear the bread into pieces for dipping. Spoon the dip into the center of the bread bowl, and serve accompanied by the pieces of bread for dipping.

CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup water

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, cocoa and flour. Stir in water, a little at a time, to make a smooth paste. Stir in milk and butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and let boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Let cool completely at room temperature, stirring often to prevent a skin from forming. Store in refrigerator after cooling. Serve with sliced fruit or pieces of cake for dipping.

CELEBRATION PUNCH

1 32-fluid ounce bottle apple juice, chilled

1 12-fluid ounce can frozen cranberry juice concentrate

1 cup orange juice

1 1/2 liters ginger ale

1 apple (optional)

In a large punch bowl, combine apple juice, cranberry juice and orange juice. Stir until dissolved and then slowly pour in the ginger ale. Thinly slice the apple vertically, forming whole apple slices. Float apple slices on top of punch. Servings: 12.

Note: Champagne can be used instead of ginger ale for an adult punch.

To easily print out these party-starting recipes, go to https://everydaycheapskate.com/partystarters.

Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at Everyday Cheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”

© 2020 CREATORS.COM

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