March Madness munching

We are smack dab in the middle of March Madness, with the Sweet 16 starting tomorrow, and trying to watch the games while fiddling with food can be a hassle.

We have to stay focused on the games and not worry about using utensils to cut up our steaks and pick up our vegetables.

Where are our priorities? Those of us closely following college hoops understand that inaccurately predicting a game can mess with the whole bracket.

We must watch the games and the results, and fill up later.

Whence the phrase “March Madness.” Chicken wings are always good, utensil-free food to munch on. Tacos are not just for Mexican night anymore, and sandwiches will fill a stomach for at least one whole match.

Here are some slam-dunk snacks that will help feed my fellow tournament-following friends:

Mexican Steak Tacos

1 (31/2-ounce) bag boil-in-bag, long-grain rice

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Ortega Taco Sauce

1 tablespoon Ortega Salsa, any variety

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound sirloin steak

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (4-ounce) can Ortega Diced Green Chiles

4 Ortega Taco Shells

4 lime wedges Sour cream (optional) Cook rice.

Meanwhile, combine cumin, garlic powder, taco sauce, salsa and salt, and rub over both sides of steak.

Spray broiler pan with cooking spray. Place steak on pan. Broil four minutes on each side, or until desired degree of doneness. Cut steak into thin slices.

Combine rice, tomatoes and chiles. Place mixture in shells. Top rice mixture with beef slices. Squeeze juice from limes over beef. Top with sour cream, if desired.

Makes 2 servings • Recipe from Family Features at familyfeatures.com.

Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Sandwich

8 ounces cream cheese (light or regular), softened

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coarse black pepper or to taste

24 large asparagus spears, trimmed

6 oblong sandwich rolls, lightly toasted

12 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced, separated in to rings

Thoroughly mix cream cheese, lemon zest and black pepper; reserve. Put asparagus into a large skillet of boiling, salted water. Return to a boil; boil until tender-crisp, about three minutes. Drain well; spread on paper towel to cool. To assemble sandwiches, spread 1 generous tablespoon of reserved cream cheese mixture on sliced rolls. Divide salmon in 6 portions. Layer onion rings on bottom of roll, then 1 portion salmon and 4 asparagus spears, interspersing asparagus between slices of salmon.

Cover sandwiches with tops; cut in half at a diagonal.

Makes 6 servings.

• Recipe from the California Asparagus Commission.

Chinese Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

3 pounds chicken wings

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons ketchup

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ginger root, minced

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

2 tablespoons cooking sherry

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Rinse chicken wings and pat dry; set aside.

In large bowl, combine soy sauce, honey, lemon juice, water, ketchup, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, five-spice powder, cooking sherry, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Stir to mix. Add chicken wings to bowl. Cover and allow to marinate in refrigerator two hours, or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove wings from marinade and place in single layer on roasting pan or cookie sheet. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes. Turn wings; spoon some additional marinade over wings. Discard remaining marinade. Return wings to oven and cook additional 20 minutes.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped basil leaves.

Note: wings could also be grilled, about seven to eight minutes per side, brushing with marinade after turning.

Makes four appetizer servings.

• Recipe from the National Chicken Council.

• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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