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Tag Archives: appetizer

Balancing Out the Cookies

Raise your hand if your calendar is often crammed with activities. I don’t know about you, but our social calendar seems to revolve around food. In December, for example, I had three separate events centered around cookies. From cookie exchanges to cookie Fridays at the office, I was slightly overloaded on the sugar. Earlier this month, we hosted the dessert portion of a progressive dinner, and then, I decided to bake some cupcakes for our small group just because it had been a while since I’d made some.

I firmly believe that life (as far as food goes, anyway) is all about balance, so when our social life became all about dessert, I started looking for something to offset all the sweetness.

I wanted something that would be easy to put together. Bonus points if I can make it with whatever was in my pantry / fridge. I remembered Annie’s white bean dip, and I thought it’d be perfect for the occasion. Plus, it’s healthy, and it takes all of 5 minutes to make. Cutting the veggies for serving takes longer than making the dip!

And, even better, it’s a dip that Andy truly enjoyed, which is saying something.

garlicwhitebeandip

Garlic Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 15 oz. cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely minced. Add the beans, salt and water to the bowl and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the food processor running, pour the olive oil into the bean mixture and process until it is fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then process another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Taste the dip and season with pepper and salt if needed.

Serve with sliced vegetables and crackers. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From Annie’s Eats, originally from A Couple Cooks

Click here for a printable version.

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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Toast: Not Just for Breakfast

I first tried this recipe in an attempt to use up some ricotta cheese before it went south. I had all of the ingredients on hand, and it seemed better than letting the cheese mold in the back of the fridge. I didn’t know how Andy would feel about them, but I went ahead and served them for dinner anyway. (Yep, my kitchen is a dictatorship. I like to think of it as a benevolent dictatorship though…) Turns out, we both loved them.

I can’t decide what takes these things over the top. Maybe it’s the caramelized onions. Or the cheese. Or the bread. Maybe it’s everything put together. Either way, this is our new favorite appetizer. I may never make soup again. (Just kidding, Andy. Mostly.) 

I like to tell myself that, as far as appetizers go, this one is relatively healthy. Yes, there’s cheese and bread, but it’s buried underneath a hearty serving of squash and onions. Which meant that cramming several of these in my face on New Year’s Eve was perfectly acceptable.

It’s best on fresh, homemade bread, but it’s not bad on crusty Italian bread from the grocery store bakery. I’ve garnished it with mint (per the recipe) and with parsley (after my mint was done for the year), and we’ve liked it with both. And, as you can see from the picture, it’s just as good if you forget to buy something green.

I’m not sure how Deb figures that four slices of bread is enough for all of the squash. Maybe her bread is bigger than mine, or she heaps the squash more heavily. I’ve also given up measuring the ricotta for the toasts. Instead, I just take a spoon and smear a generous scoop of cheese on the warm toast before piling the delicious squash-onion mixture on top. (Of course, this means my “instructions” will be more like guidelines. Oh well.)

squashtoasts

Squash Toasts with Caramelized Onions and Ricotta Cheese

olive oil
1 loaf of Italian bread
1 2-1/2 to 3 lb. butternut squash
pinch red pepper flakes
coarse salt
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 – 1 cup ricotta cheese
finely chopped parsley or mint, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and the cut each half into slices that are about 1″ thick. Toss the squash with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes. Spread the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender (usually 25-40 minutes, depending on how thick your squash slices were). Remove from the oven and let the squash cool until you can handle it (about 20 minutes).

Scrape the squash from its skin and put the roasted squash into a large mixing bowl. Discard the skin.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. (I use my 12″ Lodge.) Add three tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and then add the onion slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften and turn brown. Reduce the heat and let the onions cook until they are golden brown and delicious. Add the vinegar and maple syrup to the pan and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is jam-like.

Remove the onions from the heat and add them to cooked squash. Use a fork to mix the squash and onions together. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Slice the bread into 1″ thick pieces. Heat a large skillet (again, I use the cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Toast the slices of bread in the skillet until they are golden brown on each side. Depending on how many slices of bread you have, you may need to add more olive oil to the pan. Place the bread on paper towels to drain while you finish cooking the bread.

Spread a generous spoonful of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread, and then top with a scoop of the onion-squash mixture. Garnish with the chopped mint or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers (if you’re lucky enough to have them) in the refrigerator.

Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, via NYTimes Cooking

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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Summer Snacking

Guess what day week it is!

EAA 2014 038

Yes, this is one of last year’s pictures. I haven’t made it down to the brown arch for my 2015 picture yet.

That’s right, we are smack-dab in the middle of EAA Airventure. It’s arguably the world’s largest aviation celebration/event/convention/party, and we are lucky enough to live just up the highway from the excitement. Andy and I share a love for all things aviation, and we spend as much time as we possibly can down in Oshkosh this week. (Side note – and shameless plug – for the event: Even though the airplanes are cool, the people are the real reason for going. Yesterday, we got to hear three WWII vets talk about their experiences in a B-17. Priceless.) 

Several days at an airshow means several days of packed lunches and dinners. (Yes, we could buy food there, but this is cheaper, healthier AND tastier.) Our typical airshow snacks include fresh veggies (cucumbers and green beans from our garden), cheese and crackers, fruit and whatever else sounds good when I’m packing the cooler. This year, I decided to make something new for airshow snacking.

Several years ago, I saved a recipe for a maple nut snack mix from the now-defunct Cooking for Two magazine. I don’t know why it took me so long to make this, but I’m glad I finally did. It was easy to make, and I had nearly all of the ingredients on hand. I substituted pecans for the walnuts, since that’s what was in my pantry, and I added some dried cranberries to the mix after it came out of the oven. The result was a super-addicting, sweet-salty snack that’s perfect for enjoying on the flight line (or wherever your summer adventures take you).

Maple Snack Mix

Maple Pecan Snack Mix

6 cups of rice chex cereal
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup real maple syrup
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the cereal, pretzels, pecans and sesame seeds. In a glass measuring cup (yet another use for the 2-cup Pyrex cup!), whisk together the maple syrup and butter. Pour the butter-syrup mixture over the cereal mixture and gently stir until it is completely coated.

Spread the mixture on the prepared pan and bake until crisp, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before adding the cranberries to the mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Spring 2007

Click here for printable version.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2015 in Appetizer

 

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Onions & Bacon – What Could Be Better?

Let’s get something out of the way, right off the bat: I don’t make a lot of dips. It’s not that I don’t like them; it’s that I like them too much. You see, I can make dinner out of a pile of chips/bread/pretzels and whatever dip happens to be nearby (salsa, guac, hummus, spinach artichoke dip… you get the idea). So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, Andy doesn’t like dip. (Not even queso! It’s melty cheese! What’s not to love?) And while I am perfectly capable of eating an entire batch of dip, I’m also trying to be a responsible adult here and exercise some self-control.

However, a few weeks ago, I decided that I WANTED DIP. I was going to make this caramelized onion dip that had been teasing me for months. And since we had friends coming over for a movie night, I knew that I wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl myself. Andy was pretty disappointed when he discovered that the caramelized onions and the bacon were destined for dip, rather than dinner. He mourned the “waste” of such perfectly good ingredients and tried to “save” some of the onions from being smothered in sour cream. (So noble, right?)

I halved the original recipe (out of necessity – somehow, I only had a scant cup of sour cream in the fridge), which gave me a manageable amount of dip for three dip lovers and one dip hater (who did try a few bites and deem it “not terrible”). One of the best things about this dip (besides how good it tastes, both on chips and on a spoon…) is the way it makes your house smell while you’re prepping the ingredients. Onions caramelizing and bacon cooking are up there with fresh bread on my “favorite smells” list. And, like most dips, it’s easy to make, which is a good thing. Especially when the resident dip hater decides that caramelized onions and bacon make dip acceptable, which means you’ll need to make it more often. 🙂

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion & Bacon Dip 

1/2 cup caramelized onions
3 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled into pieces
2 scallions, thinly sliced, some greens reserved for garnish
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, stir the onions, bacon, sour cream, vinegar, cayenne and scallions together. Taste the dip, then season with salt and pepper as necessary. Top with reserved onion greens and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Chill the dip in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite chips (I used pita chips).

From Smells Like Home, who adapted it from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.

Click here for a printable version.

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Appetizer

 

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Why Didn’t I Think of This Before?

I didn’t plan on writing about these. In fact, they weren’t even on my mind when I put the potatoes in the oven. Potato skins (tasty as they are) are one of those things that I don’t make at home. In my mind, they’re one of those things that you order with wings when you’re out at your favorite sports bar. But then, as I was preparing my favorite potato soup, I noticed that I had a giant pile of potato skins. Lightly salted, cooked potato skins. Perfect for topping with cheese and bacon.

Why hadn’t I noticed this before? (Think of all of the missed opportunities!) 

Since I made this up on the fly, these aren’t exact measurements. Call it a guideline, rather than a recipe. I’m including my baking directions, but if you have a baking method that you prefer, by all means, use that. The goal is to have baked potatoes that are cool enough to handle so you can de-skin them. Once the potatoes are baked and skinned, it comes together very quickly. Perfect for Sunday afternoon snacking, if you ask me.

Potato Skins

 

Baked Potato Skins

5 large white potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt
shredded cheddar cheese
green onions, sliced
fresh parsley, finely chopped
bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and lightly prick them with a fork. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool until you can handle them. (I used my oven’s “time bake” feature for this. I popped the potatoes in the oven before church, set the timer, and came home to perfectly done spuds. It’s almost as good as the crockpot for hands-off effectiveness!) 

When the potatoes are cool, slice them in half and gently peel the skins away from the cooked potato. Reserve the potato for another use. (May I suggest soup?)

Arrange the potato skins in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, green onions, parsley and bacon. Broil until skins are crispy and cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

A Beth’s Blue Plate Original

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Appetizer

 

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Cooking Club Win!

The theme for our most recent “cooking club” evening was appetizers, which meant that I had lots of possible recipes to chose from. There’s the avocado feta hummus. Or the avocado lemon feta dip. Or the sweet potato discs with pecans and cranberries (and since I’m not crazy about goat cheese, I’d swap it out for, you guessed it, feta). And those are just the recent additions to the list.

Thanks to some crazy schedules (and some last-minute planning), I knew I didn’t have time to fit in a stop to buy avocado, feta, or sweet potatoes. So I decided that bread could be an appetizer. I mean, you eat it while you wait for your meal to come at a fancy restaurant, right? (OK, so maybe that’s fancy bread that you dip in balsamic and olive oil, but just go with me on this, mmmk?)

What we have here is a cheesy, bacony loaf of deliciousness. It smelled fantastic while it was baking, and it tasted good too. (It had cheese and bacon. How could it not??) Its’a quick bread, which meant no monkeying around yeast and letting the dough rise. It was good on its own, and it wasn’t bad with apple butter either.

I have to admit, the directions for this one weirded me out just a bit. Pour the melted butter in the bottom of the loaf pan? Add the dough and pour the bacon grease on top? I was convinced that I was going to end up with a greasy, soggy mess. But amazing things must have happened inside my oven, because the finished product wasn’t greasy OR soggy.

Amazing things indeed. After all, we’re talking about bacon, cheese and beer. In bread. The finished product didn’t last long at all.
Bacon Beer Cheese BreadBacon Beer Cheese Bread

6-7 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled, drippings reserved (The original recipe called for 6 thick slices, but my bacon was on the thin side, so I went with 7.) 
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 12-ounce bottle of beer
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons reserved bacon grease

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese and crumbled bacon and stir to combine. When the cheese and bacon are evenly mixed into the flour, pour the beer into the bowl. Stir the mixture with a large spoon until it comes together.

Spoon/pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Spread it evenly in the pan and drizzle the melted butter and bacon grease over the top of the loaf.

Bake until a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack. After 10-15 minutes, you can flip the loaf out of the pan.

Slice and serve. Cover leftovers (what?) with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

From Brown Eyed Baker, who adapted it from the Novice Chef

Click here for a printable version.

 

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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Cooking Club Dish, Round One

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I have excellent friends. I mean, without them, there wouldn’t be trips to the Wilton tent sale, taco nights, puppy chow parties, or wine coolers. OK, maybe those things would still exist, but I wouldn’t want to experience them by myself. The world would be a much sadder place.

Here’s the latest idea, courtesy of my friend Emily: Cooking Club Nights!

Once a month, several of us girls are getting together for an evening of food and fun. The host provides the main dish and sets the theme, and everyone else brings side dishes, appetizers, desserts, drinks, etc. It gives us a chance to catch up on each other’s lives and try recipes that our husbands aren’t always interested in eating. Which is why I made bruschetta.

This wasn’t a new recipe, but it is one that I hardly ever make, simply because I’d be the only one eating it. (Wait… is this a bad thing?) It’s easy, and it uses lots of tomatoes (always a bonus). Plus, who doesn’t love toasted, garlicky bread? No one I hang out with, anyway. 😀

Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta

1 loaf of French bread, sliced into 1″ thick pieces
3 garlic cloves, two sliced in half and one minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups diced tomatoes (The original recipe calls for Romas; I used a mix of Roma and cherry tomatoes.) 
3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I broke out the good stuff for this recipe – Andy’s brother went to Italy and brought us back a bottle of olive oil!) 
1/3 cup thinly sliced basil leaves, plus more for garnish, if desired
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the sliced bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake until just golden. Flip the slices over and toast the other side. Remove from oven and rub both sides of each piece of bread with the halved garlic cloves. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and then sprinkle with grated cheese. Return the bread to the oven and cook just until the cheese has melted.

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the minced garlic, basil, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow tomato mixture to sit for five to 10 minutes for the flavors to meld before serving.

Top bread with tomato mixture and enjoy!

From the Food Network

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Appetizer

 

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