Showing posts with label appealing appetizers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label appealing appetizers. Show all posts

Saturday, September 8, 2012

too much of a good thing

Remember Shirley McClain in Steel Magnolias? You know the scene where she dumps a bushel of tomatoes in her friend's lap. It goes like this:

Ouiser - Tomatoes. (put's em in Clairie's lap)
Clairee - Don't give these all to me!

Ouiser - Somebody's gotta take em. I hate em. I try not to eat healthy food if I can possibly help it. The sooner my body gives out the better off I'll be... I can't get enough grease into my diet.
Anelle - Then why do you grow them?
Ouiser - Because I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why, I don't make the rules! *burps loudly*

This about sums up my house and tomatoes. Of course, in this scenario my hubby does the digging in the dirt. My last couple of posts have given you ideas for how to use up those final amazing tomatoes of the season, and here is one more. If you are lucky enough to live with a carnivore who will eat them, I'm jealous. If not - more tomatoes for you!

For this basic bruschetta gather the following ingredients:
4-6 heirloom tomatoes, diced
8-10 basil leaves, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil, for drizzling
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Once you have the tomatoes, basil and garlic prepped as mentioned above, toss them together in a large bowl. Drizzle the oil over the the mixture and add the salt and pepper to taste. Let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

I served mine on a tray with some bread from our CSA and another dipping sauce of oil and fresh herbs from my garden. Even my little omnivore got in on this tomato action. We gobbled up these goodies while we waited on daddy to get home for dinner. Good thing. I don't think I can eat all of these tomatoes myself!

P.S. A quick note of thanks to my friend Katie for sending me some version of this recipe several times!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Remember when Sean Combs became Puff Daddy and then he was Puffy. Or maybe it was the other way around. And then he was P.Diddy or some craziness. It devolved from there I'm sure. I guess we have Prince to thank for all of this. I bring this up for two reasons - (1) I just heard Snoop Dogg is trying to change his name to Snoop Lion after a life changing trip to Jamaica. Not happening. He can clean up his songs and his image all he wants, but he still resembles a dobberman pincher. (2) This recipe has puff pastry and it also made me think of Puffy, or whatever his name is now.

Sorry for the the digression, but now to the food. This gorgeous dish is thanks to the over abundance of tomatoes in my house this time of year. My carnivore won't eat them unless they are in ketchup or marinara form, but he will grown them - lots of them. That combined with the numerous heirloom varieties I get in my CSA mean I have to come up with lots of ways to use tomatoes. And this dish couldn't be easier.

To make your own tomato puff you will need the following:
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
flour for dusting
several small tomatoes
fresh goat cheese, about half a small log
5-6 fresh basil leaves
a drizzle of olive oil
fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the pasty to form a long rectangle. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and place the the dough on. Slice the tomatoes and layer them on the pastry. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry puff and gets golden brown. Once ready, chiffonade the basil leaves and put on top. Slice and serve warm.

This dish is sinfully good and simply stunning. It is my favorite puffy of any kind, whatever you call it.

menu ideas:
This would make a beautiful starter at a dinner party. I had this as my main course along side sauteed green beans and buttered brown rice. The carnivore had grilled chicken with the same sides.

Monday, June 18, 2012

substitute teacher

Remember when you were in school and you came to class only to find a substitute teacher. This meant generally one of two things, depending on the substitute. Either the push over substitute showed up and you were going to get away with playing poker til the bell rang or the strict one was there and you were going to be filling out several worksheets your teacher left behind. I recall one substitute to this day who fell into the later category. He was an impeccably dressed African-American man with a shaved head. He looked like he spent his time outside of the classroom in the gym bench pressing freshmen boys. We called him Mr. Q and did anything he said. We were better behaved when he was in the class than when our regular teacher was there. 

I say all this to point out that no matter what the circumstances, the substitute is never the same as the real thing. This is also true for meat substitutes. A veggie burger can be amazing, but it doesn't taste like a real one. They will never make fake bacon that is just like real pork. However, this isn't always a bad thing. For example, when I am making my carnivore a steak dinner I have to find something to substitute in its place on my plate (even if we share the same sides). Recently, I found a replacement that was outstanding - just like Mr. Q. 

These overstuffed mushroom caps were filling and spicy. I ran across the Pioneer Woman's recipe on pinterest and you can find it here. They were creamy and meaty all at once. Who needs a steak? Okay, some people do...and if you are one of them (like my carnivore) that's fine. I realize these are only a substitute for you meat eaters, but sometimes, that's a good thing.

P.S. These would make an amazing appetizer at you next party.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

mississippi muse

When I was a teenager I had my first (and last) taste of real caviar. My mother and I were staying at a beautiful bed and breakfast that was in a historic home in Natchez, Mississippi. The stay came complete with an afternoon wine and cheese hour. I was allowed to indulge in a small flute of champagne and all the cheese and crackers I could stuff into my mouth. Sitting on a peach satin couch amongst beautiful antiques and strangers, I decided to be adventurous and grown up, sophisticated even. I was going to eat caviar. After the first bite, I almost vomited in my mouth. To my surprise caviar tasted like fish eggs. It was all I could do to swallow the speckle covered cracker and then chug my champagne to rinse out my mouth. Never again I vowed!

And, then upon the birth of my son caviar came calling again. My oldest friend - who also happens to live in Mississippi - saved my by bringing me tons of food. Soup, sandwiches, chips, and something called "Mississippi Caviar." As you might imagine, my inner teen immediately had a visceral reaction to the idea. However, I was starving. Taking care of a kid was just days old to me and I needed calories to keep up with the little milk sucker. And since I hadn't learned how to get dressed and deal with all the diapers, much less cook, I was delighted to see anything - even something called caviar. As it turns out this version had no fish eggs at all - or gag inducing taste. Just a wonderful protein packed mix of black eyed peas and peppers. Ever since then I have sworn I would figure out how to make my own version. Well, here it i:

Mix together two drained cans of black eyed peas, half of a green bell pepper diced, one roasted and marinated red bell pepper diced, one quarter of a red onion finely chopped, half a cup of sweet and spicy peppers (find these in the pickle aisle), and one mince garlic clove. Next mix in a splash of olive oil and a quarter cup of red wine vinegar, and a tablespoon of dijon mustard. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste. Stir together and let chill for at least thirty minutes in the fridge. You can serve this awesome dip alone with tortilla chips or add in some avocado chunks and you have a full lunch.

Mississippi you have redeemed yourself...and caviar...sort of.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

bitty bella bruschetta

Maybe it is because I have a baby and another on the way, but I find everything tiny super cute these days. You know you aren't immune to it either. How many times have you seen a new puppy or a little pair of shoes and just melted? It even happens to my carnivore every now and again. Don't let his big frame fool you, he's a sucker for small stuff.

I personally love itty-bitty food too. That's why this baby bella bruschetta is a big hit with this vegetarian. To make your own you will need the following:

a large loaf of ciabatta
one quart of baby bella mushrooms
two-three garlic cloves
one pad of butter
one small shallot
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh parsley

Start by slicing a good loaf of ciabatta into your desired sized - bigger for a main dish, smaller for appetizers. Peel and halve a garlic clove. Rub each slice with the garlic. Then brush the bread with olive oil. Place the bread in the oven on a low broil until golden. In the meantime, saute the cleaned and sliced mushrooms in a bit more oil and another garlic clove that is finely diced and one small chopped shallot. Add in one tblsp butter and let it melt. When the mushrooms soften, add a touch of salt and pepper. Take the toasted bread from the oven and top with the mushroom mixture. Add finely chopped fresh parsley over the top. Then bite into the creamy mushrooms and crunchy bread!

menu ideas:
This is a fantastic finger food sized appetizer, but can make a meaty (pun intended) vegetarian main dish. When I made it recently, the carnivore grilled himself an organic fillet from our new meat CSA. We shared buttered peas and baked potatoes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

grilled cheese

Who doesn't love a good grilled cheese? No one, that's who. But, the recipe I am going to share with you today is not your ordinary bright orange slices of cheese between buttered bread. No, this is grilled feta infused with fresh thyme. Sound intimidating? Well, don't let the fancy words scare you off. This couldn't be more simple. In fact, it came from a suggestion in a recent issue of Real Simple magazine.

To make this grilled cheese you will need:
1 block of fresh feta, drained
olive oil for drizzling
freshly cracked pepper
a generous amount of fresh thyme

Start by placing a block of fresh feta on a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Crack fresh pepper over the black and top with several sprigs of fresh thyme. (We have tons growing in our herb garden this year.) Then wrap up your package and place it on indirect heat in the grill for about 15 minutes.

At the same time I had my carnivore cooking this gift wrapped goody, I also had him grill a few skewers of cherry tomatoes and sliced zucchini that I coated in olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In the meantime, he also grilled a piece of salmon for himself. The only thing I had going in the kitchen was the rice maker which bubbled away til our brown rice was perfect.

Once everything was ready, I unwrapped the cheese and carved off a couple of melty slices. Served along side the veggies and rice, I had a meal that was satisfying, but not stuffing. The salty and strong cheese paired nicely with the sweet squishy tomatoes and charred garlicky zucchini. The rice rounded out the meal nicely. This would also make a great appetizer at your next cookout. Once the feta is done you could put it on the table next to some nutty crackers and just let people dig in.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

gift wrapped

I happen to believe that part of a present is its presentation. The carnivore disagrees with me. Every year at Christmas I carefully match ribbons and bows with pretty paper on each gift I give. If it were up the carnivore we would throw everything in a brown bag, staple it shut, and call it a day. (I seriously had to have a conversation with him the other day about why we couldn't reuse plastic grocery bags to put gifts in.) In fact, he is notorious for doing just that in his family. The first year we were together I compromised and wrapped things in brown butcher paper with colorful ribbons. But now, since I do all the wrapping, I am back to my old ways. And I feel the same way about my food. You eat with you eyes first, right? That's why I love these little packages.

To make these goodie bags you will need:
One package of frozen puff pastry, thawed
4-8oz of cubed beef
2-4 yukon potatoes
4 mini carrots
1 cup of broccoli
1/4 cup of red onion
goat cheese crumbles
italian seasonings
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet. Brown the beef in a skillet with your choice of seasonings. I usually use salt, pepper and garlic powder. Chop the veggies into bite sized pieces. Blanch the vegetables in boiling water until almost done (about 5 minutes for potatoes and carrots, about 2 minutes for onions and broccoli). Drain veggies, toss with your choice of seasonings. I like rosemary and parsley. Set the veggies aside. Roll out the dough. Cut it into 8 small squares. In the center of each place your choice of filling. The carnivore likes meat and potatoes (go figure). I like all the veggies. Sprinkle each with a few goat cheese crumbles and dot with butter. Fold up the corners to make a small purse. (They will open slightly as they cook to give a peak of the yumminess inside.) Bake in the oven for about twenty minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden.

You can serve a couple with some sauteed green beans for dinner. Or set them out before hand as a hearty appetizer. They would be get on a buffet too. In any case, these giftbags won't be around for long. They are as good as they are pretty.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ridiculously warm

We had a crazy warm summer here. People literally dropped like flies. And I live in Memphis, we are supposed to be used to heat and humidity. But even for the locals it was a bit much. It should be no surprise then that our fall has also been ridiculously warm. And while we aren't in the 100's any more, 80's in October seems a bit much. It may be the reason why I can't let go of some of my favorite summer things though - like grilling. In a recent grilling experiment the carnivore and I came up with this - grilled watermelon. I know it sounds kinda crazy. Maybe the heat had gotten to us, but I promise you won't think we are out of our minds when you try it.

Simply slice the seedless watermelon into thick pieces. Place them on a low heat grill for a minute or so on each side - just enough to warm it through and get the juices sugary. To dip the chunks in, mix together a small container of marscapone cheese and 2 tbsp of organic honey.

The warm watermelon melts in your mouth in a sugary burst that is reminiscent of cotton candy. And the creamy dip is divine. This would make a fabulous appetizer at a tailgate, or an amazing snack at your next play date, or even a knockout dessert the next time you are grilling your dinner anyway.  Trust me - watermelon is ridiculously good when warm.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

red, white, and blue nachos

It is the Fourth of July and in honor of this holiday I am bringing you a crowd pleaser that is both tasty and patriotic. I came up with this idea when called upon to bring something to my dad's house for the Fourth. Now, you should know my father's house is heaven for the carnivore. There is an unlimited amount of meat on any occasion, but especially on this day. My dad grills slab after slab of ribs. And everyone there eats it. So, when asked to bring a dish I needed something that I, the lone vegetarian, could eat but that the carnivore and my meat loving family wouldn't turn their noses up at.

So, I decided to make red, white, and blue nachos. I used blue corn chips, grated pepper jack cheese and vegetarian chili. You can make your own chili (and I do when not under a time crunch) or just use the canned version. I placed all of the chips in an aluminum container and then topped it with the pepperjack. We like things spicy, but you could use any other white cheddar or queso. Finally I poured the chili on top. I placed the whole thing in the oven under a high broil for about 3 minutes - just enough to melt the cheese. Tada - nachos!

It was fantastic (and I didn't have to tell anyone it was a vegetarian dish). So, if you are a meat eater or a vegetarian, try out this twist. It is a good idea for kids and adults alike on this special day, or any day for that matter. Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

zucchini party tarts

Zucchini is on of the very few green things the carnivore will eat. I usually just make golden zucchini, but I saw a recipe in an old Bon Appetit that I thought I would give a try. It was called mini zucchini and goat cheese tarts. Since making it, I have decided it would be perfect at a party. Of course, if you are like me, it is a great way to sneak in a green veggie as an appetizer on any night.

Here is what you will need:
1 refrigerated pie crust
1-2 zucchini, cut into rounds
1 tsp. salt
1 tbl. of olive oil
2 tsp. of fresh thyme
3 oz. of goat cheese
1.4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

To make these party tarts, start by laying out your working mat and dusting it with a little flour. Then roll out your pie crust. Using a round cookie cutter cut out several rounds. Repeat until you have used up the dough. Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Next slice your zucchini and put it in a small bowl. Add in the salt and toss. Let the zucchini sit for about 15 minutes and then pat dry. Rinse the bowl and then put the zucchini, oil, and thyme in it. Stir until coated. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the pie crust rounds from the freezer and cover each with a generous dollop of goat cheese. Place a slice of zucchini on top of each round. Sprinkle all of the tarts with Parmesan and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Before serving drizzle a bit more olive oil on top.

These little guys are delicious. The carnivore gobbled his up, noting the crust "tasted like a Ritz cracker." (I think that's a good thing.) So, if you are having a special occasion or just looking for another way to get something green on the table, give these tarts a try.

Monday, May 4, 2009

popeye says, "eat your spinach kids!"

I love spinach. I like it raw in salads. I like it sauteed as a side dish. I could eat it all the time. The carnivore doesn't feel the same. He will occasionally eat it if it is diced and placed inside cheese ravioli. But, I refuse to cut this green goddess out of my diet. It packs in great things for vegetarians like me, including iron. So, sometimes when the carnivore is have a slice of his favorite meat, I make myself spinach patties. Think crab cakes without the crab. They are super satisfying. The patties can be made as big or as small as you like. When I am having them at home I make them the size of hamburger patties. But, if I am taking them to a party, I make them much smaller so that people can pop a bite-sized version in their mouths. Oh, and did I mention they are super easy to make?

To make these guys defrost a package of chopped frozen spinach in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Let it cool and drain the excess liquid. Place the spinach in a mixing bowl with one egg, 1/2 a block of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, a tblsp of garlic powder, and at least 1 cup of italian bread crumbs. Stir together until the mixture is sticky. If needed, add more bread crumbs. Form patties in your desired size. Coat a pan with olive oil and heat up. Place patties in pan and brown both sides. Drain any excess oil on a plate with a paper towel. Depending on size this can either make two servings for dinner or one platter for a small party. Best served while hot, but fine at room temperature as well. Leftovers reheat easily too.

menu ideas:
When the carnivore has ham, I like to make these. We usually have this with cooked apples and mac and cheese. But, truthfully, they make a great meat substitute at almost any meal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

memphis-style meatballs

I may be a vegetarian, but I am from Memphis - the bar-b-que capital of the world. So that, combined with the fact that I live with a carnivore, means I am always looking for new things to bar-b-que. Last night we tried something new - meatballs. The carnivore made his from scratch using 1lb. of ground sirloin and 1 lb. of lamb (but any ground meat will do). He added the usual fixins like italian bread crumbs, an egg, worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, etc. and formed them into generous balls. I used a meatless version that I found in the freezer section of the grocery store. He grilled his meatballs outdoors on a sheet pan covered in foil at 250 degrees for about an hour, only basting them with bar-b-que sauce (we use cattleman's) near the end. I defrosted mine in the fridge all day and then heated them in a pan with olive oil, chopped squash (a veggie I love but the carnivore doesn't so much), salt and pepper. I tossed the mixture in a bowl with bar-b-que sauce at the end. We then serve them over a bed of white rice. Brown would work too though. They were delicious and I got my bar-b-que fix!

menu ideas:
Serve these magnificent meatballs over rice and with a side of green beans. You can even add a salad if you are lucky enough to have a carnivore who eats lettuce. They could even make a nice appetizer. Just stick toothpicks in them and serve on separate trays for vegetarians and carnivores.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

holy guacamole!

I will be honest, my carnivore won't touch guacamole. It is way too green for him. But, many other carnivorous friends and family members of mine love it as much as I do. This is a great recipe for a group gathering or a family game night. Plus, this dip packs in tons of nutrients - vitamin E, vitamin K, fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C - just to name a few. And did I mention it is delicious? My hubby and I got married in a small town in Mexico
that we still return to again and again. I won't say it is solely because of the guacamole at a place called Hemingway's where they grind it fresh at your table, but...So when I need a fix, I make this version at home.

Gather together:
2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1/4 of a medium red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
a handful of fresh cilantro
1 tblsp. olive oil
the juice of one lime
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor (see my amazon store for the one I use and love). Blend thoroughly. I like mine a little chunky, but you can can keep blending until it is smooth. If you have left-overs be sure to cover them with a plastic film to prevent browning.

menu ideas:

This guac is great all on its own. Serve it with tortilla chips or fresh veggies for dipping. You can also use it as a condiment to any mexican dish you serve, whether it be burritos or quesadillas. It is even a great vegetarian filling for tacos when you are serving your carnivore beef filled ones.

beans, beans, they're good for your heart

Okay, let' stop the poem there. Beans are good for you. They pack in lots of protein and fiber. If you love mexican food like I do, you will enjoy this version of refried beans - minus the lard (which is not good for your heart). Simply take two cans of organic pinto beans and drain them. Reserve 1/4 cup of the juice left in the can and rinse the beans well in a colander. Heat up 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a large sauce pan. Add in the beans and listen to them sizzle. Reduce the heat and mash them to your desire lumpiness. Add in the reserved juice from the can and 1/4 cup of veggie broth. Add in kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. I also put in 1 tsp of cumin and 1 tsp of garlic powder to spice it up a bit. Mash the beans more and keep over low heat for a few more mintues. Be sure to stir often so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Serve with a fresh slice of tomato and some guacamole.

menu ideas:
Serve these with a tacos (ground beef ones for the carnivore and guacamole ones for the vegetarian) or even fajitas (steak or chicken for the meat-eater and vegetables for the veg-head). You can also use them with tortilla chips for dipping to start your mexican fiesta.
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