Pretzel sticks don't get much respect. They're neither burly like rods nor twisted like knots.
They deserve more than a toss into the snack bowl. Make them a key player at your gathering: Employ them as edible pickup sticks, replacing toothpicks.
Think of the time you'll save not fishing errant toothpicks out of the sofa or shag carpeting.
Here are some ideas to get you started. (When dealing with firmer foods - cheese, peanut butter cups - use a wooden skewer to poke a hole for the pretzel.)
•Meatballs: Mix 1 pound ground beef with 2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon beaten egg, 1 tablespoon minced onion (or use a favorite recipe). Using a scant 1 tablespoon of meat mixture, roll into a ball and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape remaining mixture into balls. Bake at 400 degrees, about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Drain meatballs on paper towels. Cool slightly. Spear each with a pretzel stick.
•Cheese: Let cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, Muenster) come to room temperature; cut into 1-inch cubes. Spear with pretzel stick. Small, fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini) also work.
•Sausage: Cook or grill Italian, bratwurst or Polish according to package directions. Allow them to cool enough to handle, then cut crosswise into 1-inch chunks. Spear cut surface with pretzel stick.
•Cheese-stuffed olives: Choose larger blue- or feta-stuffed olives. Anchor pretzel in the cheese.
•Sweet: Truffles are chic, but miniature peanut butter cups are much simpler. Remove foil wrapper, add pretzel, remove paper cup.
•Tip: With savory foods such as meatballs and sausage chunks, serve with dipping sauces (mustards, barbecue sauce, chutney, etc.).
Distributed by MCT Information Services
PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): PRETZEL-STICKS