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Tag Archives: appetizer

Fresh ‘n Chunky Guacamole

29 Jan

Any game day gathering means plenty of chips and dips.  Whenever possible, this chunky guacamole makes an ever-popular appearance in our lineup of chips and dips.  The guacamole is always good to the last drop.  Or scoop.  After the party, there’s nothing left over where the guacamole once sat.

Chunky Guacamole

Last year, someone in our home (Hubby) found himself frequently hunting down a nighttime snack to help keep him awake for those late-night work deadlines.  Nights like that can feel like college all over again, except it feels a little worse when you’re no longer 19.

Snacks.  Our pantry is stocked with a variety of snacks….but alas, let’s not steal from the kids’ lunch box stash.

Super Guacamole for Game Day 2

Hello, Guacamole.  It’s the perfect fresh and healthy snack that curbs anytime munch attacks.  Fresh, ripe Hass avocados.  Freshly diced tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro.  Loads of garlic.  This is not for the faint of heart (aka those who worry about garlic breath.)  If you’re noshing on homemade guacamole, there’s gonna be some onion and garlic breath.  When everyone’s got it, nobody notices it 🙂

Super Guacamole for Game Day 3

We love homemade guacamole for its fresh, bold, and addictive flavor.  But what I secretly relish are the abundant antioxidants in this yummy dip…it’s a total win-win snack.

Serve up the guacamole with flaxseed corn chips, and you’ve got some Super Food…just in time for Super Bowl 😉

Munch on, feel great, and enjoy!

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RECIPE (makes about 2.5 cups, give or take)

INGREDIENTS

3 large, ripe Hass avocados
1 small-medium red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ripe tomatoes on the vine, seeded and chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 TB kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Peel and mash avocados with fork.  Combine with juice of 1 lime and chopped red onion, mixing to combine well.  Add rest of ingredients and mix to thoroughly incorporate.  Serve immediately with corn chips, for best color/appearance.

If serving later, keep guacamole in airtight container, with cling wrap set directly on top of the guacamole, to seal out air.  Place in fridge until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud

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Brie en Croute

7 Dec

Ready or not, here it comes!  December has arrived and holiday season is absolutely in full swing.  The ongoing festivities beckon a cheerfulness that warms the chilly air, even for self-proclaimed cold wimps as myself.  Each weekend, we’re observing cars galore parked in driveways of homes, signaling a jolly party within.  Our own family created some merry memories hosting a couple of recent dinner parties.  If all goes as planned, we’re hoping to host and attend a few more precious celebrations this season.

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In honor of this magical season, I’m showing off the delectable little Brie en Croute that’s popular on my dinner party menu.  Cute, isn’t it?  Some of the best things come in little packages.  This adorable appetizer is gigantic on flavor, and will take the edge off those ravenous tummies while your family/friends wait for dinner to be served.  Beware of this phenomenal appetizer’s capacity to steal the show.  Definitely be forewarned that the recipe will be highly requested.  Either that, or you’ll be asked to make it every year thereafter.  It could easily become your annual contribution.

Brie En Croute 4

Brie en Croute.  It’s pronounced on-kroot, with gutteral and nasal-ish french accent.  Don’t forget to roll the “r.”  Keep repeating just for fun, oui?  In French, “en croute” refers to anything delish baked in a pastry crust.  That is indeed the sweet secret of this appetizer.  On the outside, it appears to be some kind of rotund pastry thingy flanked by crackers.  Oh, but once it is sliced into… that is the big reveal.

Brie En Croute 6

The first slice into the buttery, flaky pastry exterior reveals the warm silky Brie lying just beneath the surface.  Resting on top of the soft Brie cheese is a gorgeous layer of toasted pecans and sweet raspberry preserves.  We love how flexible this Brie en Croute is; select your favorite nut and fruit mixture, if pecans and raspberries aren’t your cup of tea.   Almost any combination will result in a fabulous treat.

Brie en Croute 7

My favorite part about Brie en Croute?  It is unbelievably easy to pull off.  It’s quickly assembled ahead of time, to be baked up right before you need it.  Just try to let it cool off a bit after baking before digging in, if you can wait.  It’s awesome to have on the holiday menu, whether you’re the host or the guest.  Or present it as a hostess gift and the recipient can bake it up when she needs a mouth-watering treat.  Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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RECIPE (10 servings)

INGREDIENTS

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 whole wheel Brie, 8 oz
1/4 cup raspberry preserves (or other fruit)
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 beaten egg
turbinado (or coarse) sugar for garnish
assorted crackers for serving alongside

DIRECTIONS

Defrost puff pastry about 15 minutes and unfold.  Preheat oven to 375F and set rack in middle.

Slice off a thin layer of top rind only (we leave the rest of rind on, but feel free to remove it if desired.)  Lay puff pastry sheet out on flat surface and roll out just a little bit if needed to cover entire Brie.  Place Brie in center of the pastry.  Top brie with nuts and preserves.  Gently pull up edges of pastry, wrapping the Brie completely, and gather pastry edges at the top.  Secure the gathered dough at top with kitchen twine.  Double check that none of the Brie is exposed, carefully sealing the dough on all sides.  Brush the beaten egg all over top and sides of pastry.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Place Brie on parchment paper on cookie sheet.  Bake 20 minutes or until pastry is a nice golden brown.  Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with assorted crackers.

By chewoutloud

Note:  Baked brie should cool a bit before serving, to allow it to regain a bit of shape.  Otherwise, it will be too melted and spill out.  Also, you can use extra puff pastry to make cut-outs for exterior design, if you’re going for an ultra special presentation.

*I’m excited that this recipe will be entered in this month’s Shine Supper Club contest, so check that out!

Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

30 Nov

Despite the fact that fall leaves are long gone and bare branches lay in their stead, it’s technically still fall.  That’s hard to remember in these zones.  It’s been a rough year for apples, and apple pickings were sadly slim,  but our favorite Honeycrisp  variety remains plentiful at the stores.  Our fridge is happily stocked with those crisp apples with honey-like sweetness.

Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

After the Thanksgiving holiday, where some of us (me) indulged in more rich desserts than we (I) care to reveal, it’s time to gift you with a healthier treat.

Honey Yogurt Fruit Dip

This fabulous honey yogurt fruit dip is bursting with fall flavors.  It’s a no-guilt cure for the sweet toothed – real honey, vanilla greek yogurt, and cinnamon makes up this lively fruit dip.

We love adding generous sprinkles of crunchy granola to give it that extra crisp texture.  Dip your favorite varieties of apples or other fruits into this dreamy dip, and you’re set.  My little ones lapped it up, begging for more apples so they could scrape up every last bit of their dip.  They enjoy plain old apple slices, but the honey yogurt dip brings any slice of fruit to a dessert-worthy level.

Greek Yogurt Spice Dip 4

Greek yogurt tends to be higher in protein, and is thicker than many other yogurts.  If you use a thinner variety of yogurt, it won’t set up as thickly, but it will probably still taste fab.  I use honey or vanilla yogurt so the honey and cinnamon can take center stage, but feel free to experiment with flavors.    This will make about 1 1/2 cups worth of yogurt goodness.  It keeps very nicely in an airtight container in your fridge.

Grab some fruit, granola, and get your yogurt on!  Enjoy 🙂

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RECIPE (1 1/2 cups)

INGREDIENTS
1 cup honey or vanilla Greek yogurt
3 tsp honey (more or less, depending on sweetness of yogurt brand)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
*1/2 cup whipped cream
apple slices or other fruit slices
granola

DIRECTIONS
Gently mix together all ingredients except whipped cream.  Fold in whipped cream and chill.  Serve with slices of fruit and granola.

* To make awesome whipped cream:
Place beaters and medium bowl in freezer or fridge to chill.  Measure out 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup powder sugar.  Put cold ingredients into cold bowl and beat on medium/high until still peaks form.
(If you want a firmer, stabilized whipped cream, see recipe.)

By:  Chewoutloud

Panko Mozzarella Sticks

6 Nov Panko Mozzarella Sticks

If you are a cheese fan and enjoy a good crunch, you’ll really appreciate these Panko Mozzarella Sticks.  They are absolutely the perfect finger food.  These cheesy snacks will be snatched up in a wink if you serve them up for Game Day… or any day, really.

Panko Mozzarella Sticks

Gooey warm Mozzarella is encased by a beautifully crisp exterior – thanks to Panko breadcrumbs, in lieu of traditional bread crumbs.  Panko is definitely in.  Thankfully, a bag of Panko can easily be found in Asian aisles of most large grocery stores these days.

Panko Mozzarella Sticks

If you’ve never worked with Panko before, it’s only fair to warn you that you just might become addicted to the stuff.  It is extremely versatile.  Panko can be used to coat anything from these cheese sticks to seafood to chicken.  Just use them in place of your standard bread crumbs, and be prepared for an extraordinary crunch that surpasses the old stand by.

Panko Mozzarella Sticks

The hubby and kids were all over this crispy, tasty finger food.  It’s so much fun to be treated to one of our favorite appetizers without setting foot in a diner.  Not to mention these mozzarella sticks are tastier, crunchier, and meltier when you do them at home!  But, do serve them up while still hot, so the yummy cheese is savored while it’s still very melty and delish.

Panko Mozzarella Sticks

Most of us won’t have a problem devouring these while still fresh and warm.  Chances are, they won’t be sitting around very long at your party.  Enjoy!

RECIPE (makes 32 pieces)

INGREDIENTS

16 sticks of mozzarella string cheese
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
2 cups Japanese Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 TB dried oregano flakes
oil for frying (peanut oil is great for frying)
Marinara sauce for dipping

DIRECTIONS

Place flour in a small dish.  In another bowl, mix together the eggs and milk.  In a third bowl, combine panko bread crumbs with garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and oregano.   Cut mozzarella sticks into halves.

Roll a piece of mozzarella in flour, dip into egg mixture, and roll well in Panko mixture.  Press crumbs in place so mozzarella stick is fully coated.  Continue until all pieces are well coated.  Place coated mozzarella sticks on a wax-lined baking sheet and put in freezer for at least 30 minutes.  (The flash-freezing is important in keeping cheese from falling apart in hot oil.)

Pour oil to fill a third way up to halfway up in a heavy sauce pan.  Using a thermometer, keep oil steady at 365F.   Remove frozen mozzarella sticks and fry a few pieces (don’t crowd) at a time, keeping oil temp at 365F throughout frying process (you’ll have to play with turning heat up or down as needed.)  Fry about 25-30 seconds, turning sticks until they are an even golden brown, and drain on paper towels.  Try not to let cheese leak, but a few tiny bubbles are fine.  Continue until entire batch is made.  Serve with your favorite marinara sauce and do eat these while hot!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook

Grilled Peach Caprese – a Sweet Twist!

14 Aug grilled peach caprese

It goes without saying that tomato & mozzarella caprese has an abundance of adoring fans during the summer months.  We’ve had our share of caprese made with luscious heirloom tomatoes around here.  But last week, I just wanted something a little different.  If you’re like me, you’re driven to switch things up often just for the fun of it.  I can’t say I enjoy drastic changes when it comes to  really big things, but when dealing with the likes of fashion or food, I love to change it up once in a while.  Hmm, I wonder if that is why I can’t seem to wear the same hairstyle longer than a season or two.  A year at the most.  Back to food.  Grilled Peach Caprese – oh, my goodness… you really, seriously have to try this.  This is so easy that it begs to be made at least once before summer’s end.

Grilled Peach Caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – choose large, fresh, juicy peaches

Not only is it absolutely gorgeous as an appetizer or salad (or in my case, the meal itself), but it is both healthy  and delicious!  How can it get better than that?!

Grilled Peach Caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – the freshest mozzarella ball and fresh basil

This is reminding me of that lovely Mango Caprese, which was also crazy delicious.   Caprese has such diversity, I love it.  This grilled peach number is fantastic with the simple basil white vinaigrette.  Slice into this refreshingly sweet and savory caprese, while sipping a cool, crisp wine.   These are the little pleasures of summer.

grilled peach caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – use high heat to quickly grill up the peaches – easy!

The sweetest, juiciest fresh peaches will obviously turn out the best results.  Use the best fresh mozzarella you can get, and of course fresh basil.  Y-U-M.

grilled peach caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – beautiful and tasty

I stacked my peach caprese for presentation, but it’s just as lovely layered whichever way you want.  And it stays just as delicious no matter how you’d like to present it 🙂  Enjoy it while fresh peaches abound!

RECIPE (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

2 large ripe (but not overly ripe) peaches, sliced with skin on, almost 1/2 in. thick
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 bunch fresh basil

For Vinaigrette:
4 T white balsamic vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 TB minced fresh basil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
pinch coarse kosher or sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Mix together all ingredients for the vinaigrette.  Can be made ahead and set aside in fridge.

Heat grill to high.  When grill is very hot, set peach slices on top and cook just until grill marks appear.  Don’t over cook.  Set aside to cool off a bit at room temp.

Layer slices of grilled peaches, slices of mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves.  Drizzle generously with vinaigrette.
Enjoy!

Wine Pairing Note:  Excellent with a crisp (non-0aked) Chardonnay, Viognier, or Riesling.

Double Chocolate Covered Strawberries

11 Jul Choclate Covered Strawberries

It’s wonderfully warm this summer, and that means one delicious thing for sure:  fresh summer fruits!  I’ve been diligently taking every opportunity to enjoy all the fresh fruits of the season.  The kids know what’s for dessert every night:  fruit!  We’ve been on a strawberry binge.  Farm fresh strawberries just can’t be beat.

Unless they are paired with chocolate.  Or double chocolate.

Choclate Covered Strawberries

Semi sweet chocolate and white chocolate over ripe strawberries

I take the pure, basic route with these goodies.  This is actually an adaption of Hubby’s perfectly cute tuxedo chocolate strawberries, which was the first treat he made for me when we started dating.  Why didn’t I take a photo of those way back then? 😉

So good and so simple – it takes just three ingredients you might already have in your kitchen.  The biggest challenge?  Trying not to keep “tasting” the chocolate, as if I don’t remember what chocolate tastes like.

RECIPE (serves many or only a few)

INGREDIENTS
1 lb fresh, ripe strawberries
10 oz chopped semi-sweet chocolate
3-4 oz chopped white chocolate

DIRECTIONS
Wash and very gently dry the strawberries, keeping stems on.  Set aside to finish air drying.

Set dark chocolate in a glass or metal bowl, over saucepan of simmering water (bowl not touching water.)  Stir frequently until chocolate is smooth and just melted.  Don’t over cook, so the chocolate doesn’t seize up and thicken.  Remove from heat once melted.

Carefully dip each strawberry in dark chocolate, twisting to cover completely with chocolate.  Set on parchment or wax paper on platter and put berries in fridge to set (about 30 min.)

Repeat melting process for white chocolate.  Using fork or toothpick, drizzle white chocolate over cooled chocolate strawberries.  Return to fridge for at least an hour.

Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Summer Shrimp Ceviche

6 Jul

We’re in the midst of summer, and it is hot!  Shrimp Ceviche is, hands down, one of my favorite summer recipes.  It is one of those appetizers that is both refreshingly light and full of flavor.  Bonus:  It’s full of antioxidants and good for you!   Around here, we can eat so much shrimp ceviche that we’re nearly sated by the time we’re supposed to be digging into the main dish.  This ceviche is fabulous either as an appetizer or a salad by itself.

Shrimp Ceviche, cool and refreshing for summer

The best part about Shrimp Ceviche is that there is little to no cooking involved, depending on how you prefer to prepare it.  You can avoid the stove and let the lime juice do all your cooking.  However, I usually get the shrimp to just barely-cooked before throwing the ceviche together.  The reason I don’t let the lime juice do all the “cooking” is that the shrimp tends to become rubbery and tough when done that way.  If you cook the shrimp a little bit before assembling the ceviche, your seafood will reward you and stay tender.

Tender shrimp, lime, tomatoes, and all the fixings: Shrimp Ceviche

The glorious part of this dish is that it’s extremely flexible.  In fact, I can implement my Dad’s scientific cooking technique with this one:  just a dash of this and a pinch of that.  Configure this shrimp ceviche to your taste buds, and it will come out delicious every time.

Because I eyeball it whenever prepping Shrimp Ceviche, the recipe below is one of approximates.  Go ahead – toss in as much or little of the ingredients as you like and enjoy!

RECIPE (serves about 6, give or take)

INGREDIENTS
1 lb raw shrimp
1 red onion, diced
1-2 limes
chopped cilantro (1/3 – 1/2 cup)
2-3 large, vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped (or a bunch of cherry tomatoes sliced in halves)
1 ripe avocado
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
2-3 T butter or oil

DIRECTIONS
De-vein and remove shells from shrimp.  If shrimp is large, cut into thirds.  If small, cut into halves.  Heat up butter or oil in large skillet.  Cook translucent shrimp just until barely opaque.  This happens quickly, so watch carefully and do not overcook!  Once shrimp turns orange, immediately remove it from skillet to cool.  Set aside.

Generously squeeze lime juice over onions and coat.  Onions will “cook” slightly in the lime juice, giving it a softer flavor.  Dice avocado and coat with lime juice to prevent browning.

Combine shrimp, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and avocado in a bowl.  Squeeze juice of 2-3 lime wedges over entire thing and gently toss to coat.  Now the fun part – generously sprinkle kosher salt and fresh back pepper to taste.  Add more lime if needed.  When it tastes good to you, it’s ready!  Serve cold, with crispy tortilla chips.

Wine pairing note:  Shrimp ceviche goes super well with a Sauvignon Blanc or Torrontes.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Bruschetta with Roquefort Cheese and Peppers

28 Jun

We’ve been loving our Gourmet Dinner Club for the past three years.  It’s made up of several foodie-couples who adore cooking and eating.  We somehow get our acts together and pull off a four course meal with appetizers, salad, main dish, and dessert, complete with specific wine pairings to match each course.

On one of those fun nights, I made this Bruschetta.  Much of it can be prepared ahead of time, which is a huge plus that anyone who hates last-minute scrambling will appreciate!

Sauteed sweet peppers, garlic, basil, and Roquefort cheese over french baguette

We dig out our cute linens, our “good” dishware, and always the Riedel stem ware.  OK, yeah, it’s a little bit on the frou-frou side, but oh soooo much fun!  Bonus: We get to use our “good stuff” more than just once or twice a year!  If you have some food loving friends, chat about starting some kind of dinner club.  Whether you go with a casual or upscale style, it is absolutely loads of fun.  Oh, if you have young kiddos like we do… totally get a sitter.

Smoked salmon is also a deliciously savory accompaniment to have.

Add whatever other toppings you like to those crispy baguettes.  Have fun with it!

RECIPE (serves 6-8)

INGREDIENTS
1-2 French baguettes
extra virgin olive oil
2 bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
1/2 tsp sugar
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup sliced basil leaves
1/4 lb Roquefort cheese (can also use Gorgonzola)
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
kosher salt to taste

DIRECTIONS
Seed and thinly slice the peppers.  Heat 2-3 TB olive oil over medium-high.  Saute garlic until aromatic and soft.  Add peppers and saute until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add sugar and saute for a couple more minutes.  Last, stir in basil for a minute.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  This pepper mixture can be made an hour or two ahead of time and set aside to warm later.

Heat oven to 375F.  Slice baguette evenly into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Brush each slice with olive oil on top.  Place in a large pan lined with parchment paper (important for even toasting and to avoid burnt bottoms).  Toast just until lightly browned, about 8-9 minutes.

Spoon pepper mixture on each baguette slice.  Top with crumbled cheese.  Return to oven for another minute just to warm up.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!
Source:  Chew Out Loud,  adapted from Ina Garten

Mango Caprese With Basil

19 Jun Mango Caprese with Basil

I lived most of my life in Los Angeles, where fresh tomatoes can be found year round.  Here in Minneapolis?  Not so much.  When my Gourmet Dinner Club met up in April (think rain/snow), I wanted to make a fresh caprese for the salad course.  With farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes still far in the distant future, I went for a substitute… mangoes!  Bon Appetit showed off an idea of mangoes paired with mozzarella, and I gave it a whirl.  The result was outstandingly delicious!  The best part is you can prepare most of it ahead of time and assemble when you need it.

Mango Caprese with Basil

Mango Caprese with Basil – mangoes are delicious year-round

Super ripe, sweet mangoes.  Little radiccio leaves for that slightly bitter crunch.  Fresh, savory mozzarella.  And tons of freshly picked basil over homemade basil dressing.  Oh my, the basil vinaigrette is unbelievable.  This is soo good, soo refreshing, and a crowd pleaser!

mango caprese

Mango Caprese with Basil – use the ripest, sweetest mangoes you can find

Needless to say, the Gourmet Dinner Club loved this one.  The best part is that most of it can be prepared ahead of time, and assembled right when you need it.  I love that.  Being able to prepare most of a dish ahead of time is awesome.  I plan to make this again soon.  I still love you, tomatoes, but sweet mangoes are giving you a run for your money.

RECIPE (4 servings)

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus some whole leaves
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T white balsamic vinegar
radiccio leaves, thinly sliced (I used round Chioggia radiccio)
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and thinly sliced
8-oz fresh mozzarella cheese ball, sliced into 1/4 in. thick slices
salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the vinaigrette:  Blend chopped basil, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar until it is well blended and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  This can be done ahead of time, even the day before.

To assemble:  Overlap mozzarella, mangoes, radicchio, and basil leaves on plates (all except basil can be pre-sliced ahead of time).  Drizzle with the basil vinaigrette.  Pass around leftover dressing.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Bon Appetit

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