Sliders, a smaller version of hamburgers, continue to be popular. That's a good thing because these mini hamburgers (or any kind of ground meat, chicken, turkey, vegetable or seafood that can be formed into a patty) are good for portion control.

If you want to make your own perfectly shaped sliders, you can use a slider making set. At www.surlatable.com, there is a set (the current sale price is $14.99) that includes a press to make the sliders, a cutter and a slider basket with a wooden handle that holds nine sliders. The sliders fit in the basket in individual rings and you can flip them all at once.

When making your own sliders, start out with about 2 1/2 ounces of raw-weight ground meat for each. They're small, but it doesn't mean they can't be hearty.

You can beef them up by adding chopped peppers or onions to the ground meat. And you can gussy them up with tons of toppings just like you would a regular burger.

Once you dress them up, one or two sliders each will satisfy many folks if the sliders are paired with a side. Or, you can serve them as hors d'oeuvres at your next party.

For today's Southwest Sliders, I used two of my favorite ingredients, avocados and cilantro, as a topping.

The ground beef is seasoned with a mix of hot New Mexico-style chili powder and ancho chili powder along with fresh minced jalapeno pepper for an added bite.

Instead of melting a slice of cheese on top of these, it was just easier to mix shredded cheese into the meat. About 3/4 cup of shredded Mexican-style cheese worked out to be enough for 1 pound of ground beef.

Serve these on slider-specific buns -- many stores carry them or make their own. Or use any kind of mini bun or small dinner roll.

Makes: 8 sliders

Ingredients

1 large avocado

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound ground beef chuck or round

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced

1 small onion, peeled, chopped

1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

1 tablespoon hot New Mexican style chili powder

3/4 cup low-fat Mexican-style shredded cheese

1 tablespoon canola oil

Small butter lettuce leaves

8 whole wheat slider buns, toasted

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Condiments of choice, optional

Directions

Cut the avocado in half horizontally and remove the pit. Cut each half into thin slices lengthwise. Cut those slices in half again so they will fit nicely on the slider. Set aside. Sprinkle the slices with a little salt and pepper if desired.

In a large bowl, mix together the beef, minced jalapeno, onion, chili powders, salt, pepper and cheese. Evenly divide mixture and shape into 8 patties about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Make a slight indentation in the center of each. In a grill pan or nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. (You can grill these, too.) Working in batches, add the sliders to the pan and cook about 4 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness. Remove from the pan and repeat with remaining sliders.

Place some lettuce on the bottom half of the bun. Top with the slider. Arrange a few avocado slices on the slider and sprinkle with cilantro. Add condiments of choice if desired. Top with the top half of bun and serve.

Per 1 slider: 309 calories (43 percent from fat), 19 grams fat (6 grams sat. fat), 22 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 403 mg sodium, 46 mg cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.