Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Need a last-minute appetizer? Make slow-cooked Mexican Smokies.

Nothing fascinates me more than a quick and easy appetizer. How many times do we get caught with the need for a last-minute something?

Maybe you get an invitation on short notice to tailgate, or decide to have people over to watch the game.

Chips and dips are often the go-to items, but with just a bit more effort, something easy can turn into something eye-catching and tasty.

Sausage appetizers, such as Little Smokies, have long been popular quick bites for parties and office get-togethers. Sometimes, just a small change can make for a whole new ballgame. Mix up the flavors a bit and experiment. While I often use barbecue sauce to complement the sausage flavor, why not try taco sauce and green chilies?

Get out a few Mexican accessory serving pieces, surround smokies with multigrain chips, cheese squares or crackers, and you have a pretty good-looking platter in a matter of minutes.

Julie Kay is a columnist for The Advocate. She can be reached at