Running out of ideas for easy, last-minute appetizers and entrees?

Running out of ideas for easy, last-minute appetizers and entrees?

What about sun-dried tomatoes as a jumping-off point? Have you forgotten how delicious they are and how much flavor they bring to a dish with very little effort on your part?

Even if you didn't dry your own this summer, they've become affordable enough that it's worth a trip to the store, considering some of the fast and fanciful ways they'll get you through the rest of the holiday season:

Sun-dried tomato-cream cheese spread Giant olives stuffed with garlic slivers and diced sun-dried tomato Popcorn, garlic butter and sun-dried tomato bits Alternate small chunks of mozzarella, a small square of sun-dried tomato and a basil leaf on toothpicks; arrange them in a star pattern on a platter lined with more basil — the flavor and color combination is great. Sun-dried tomato-topped focaccia Sun-dried tomato- spinach quiche White beans and garlic puree with sun-dried tomatoes Include sun-dried tomatoes on an antipasto platter of fresh veggies, pickled peppers, slices of mozzarella cheese and brined olives. Add slivers of sun-dried tomatoes to a pasta or tossed green salad (don't forget to use the tomato-flavored olive oil in the dressing). After chopping finely, add them to a simple white sauce (wine, cream and olive oil base) for an extra flavorful pasta topping. For a fast but tasty appetizer, coarsely chop a handful in the food processor, then combine with equal portions of shredded cheese and pesto (store-bought pesto is fine). Spread the mixture on top of focaccia bread, or the cut surfaces of a split baguette, and broil until bubbly. Cut into chunks and serve hot. Alternate sun-dried tomatoes, wedges of onion and 1/2;-inch chunks of chicken on bamboo skewers; brush a bit of pesto over all and grill over hot coals until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and golden-brown. Potatoes stuffed with sun-dried tomato, green onion and sour cream Add to couscous salad along with parsley and red onions Enhance a basic lentil soup with sun-dried tomatoes and kale Sun-dried tomatoes are marvelous tucked into rolled-up slices of salami or ham, skewered with apples and cheese chunks or speared on toothpicks with shiny, black olives and roasted cloves of garlic.

Beyond these simple concepts, perhaps the recipes on Page 2 will intrigue you for falling in the realm of "not too difficult."

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at