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Finger food for New Year's celebration

I remember watching my grandma cover the large table in her farmhouse kitchen with a clean white sheet. She had made a dough that she would use to create her delicious apple strudel.

I remember watching my grandma cover the large table in her farmhouse kitchen with a clean white sheet. She had made a dough that she would use to create her delicious apple strudel.

She would place a clump of this dough in the middle of the sheet and after rolling it out with her long wooden rolling pin, my grandma would make her way around that table, the knuckles on her fists moving under the dough, stretching it ever so gently until it was paper thin and hanging over the edges of the table. Then she'd fill it with sliced apples that had been tossed with sugar and spices, some raisins and a sprinkling of bread crumbs. Later that same day, we would be eating the flakiest, most delicious apple strudel I've had in my whole life.

If my grandma was living today, I'm not so sure that she would want to use dough from the freezer case at the grocery store for creating her apple strudel. But, lucky for me, tissue paper-thin dough called phyllo (FEE-low or FI-low) is the perfect stand-in for the labor-intensive dough my grandma used to make. Available in the freezer case in most grocery stores, the tissue paper-thin dough can be shaped, shredded or cut and can hold all kinds of sweet and savory fillings.

Italian-style Phyllo Triangles are fun to make. Layers of dough are brushed with butter, filled with sausage and cheese and then folded like a flag to form triangles. The baked dough becomes a flakey, delicate, golden brown envelope for the meat and cheese. They can be filled and folded, brushed with melted butter and then stored in a covered container until you want to serve them. I made Phyllo Triangles earlier this week. We baked some right away to have as a snack. The rest are in the freezer.

During football games on New Year's Day, they'll go straight from the freezer into the oven (no need to thaw them first) and within minutes, we'll be dipping hot, flakey, meat-and-cheese-filled pastries into warm Italian tomato sauce.

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Phyllo Triangles can be a great addition to your New Year celebration. Make them ahead, bake some to eat and freeze the rest to enjoy later.

Phyllo Triangles
½ pound bulk hot Italian Sausage or pork sausage
¼ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup meatless Italian tomato sauce (optional)

For filling, cook sausage and onion in a skillet until sausage is no longer pink. Drain fat. Pat dry with paper towels. Combine sausage-onion mixture, cheeses and oregano. Set aside.

Lightly brush a sheet of phyllo dough with melted butter. Place another sheet of phyllo on top and brush with butter. Keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle.

Starting at a short end, cut the 2 layered sheets crosswise into 3 equal strips, with each strip 3 inches wide and 14 inches long. Spoon 1 well-rounded teaspoon of filling about 1 inch from an end of each dough strip. To fold into a triangle, bring a corner over filling so it lines up with the other side of the strip. Continue folding strip in a triangular shape. Repeat with remaining sheets of phyllo, butter and filling.

Place triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with butter. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden. Encourage guests to dip triangles into warm spaghetti sauce.

To make ahead: Place unbaked, butter-coated triangles in a covered freezer container. Freeze up to 2 months. Bake as directed. Do not thaw triangles before baking.

Tips from the cook

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--The brand of phyllo dough I purchased was cut in sheets that measure 9-by 14-inches. Other brands may be different sizes, so when cutting the dough for this recipe, make adjustments as needed.

--Allow the dough to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Don't try to thaw it in the microwave. It will result in a gooey, sticky mess.

--Let the package sit at room temperature, unopened, for an hour before use. This helps the sheets loosen up.

--I find the filling is easiest to work with when it is mixed up ahead of time so that it can chill in the refrigerator before using.

--Keep the box because unused phyllo dough can be refrigerated or refrozen. You can wrap any leftover phyllo tightly with plastic wrap, place in its original box and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. For longer storage of up to 2 - 4 months, refreeze phyllo. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Place the plastic-wrapped dough in a zip-top freezer bag and place in original box.

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