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Posts Tagged ‘appetizer’

This is an appetizer I came across in Martha Stewart’s Entertaining book, circa 1998.   These stuffed snow peas caught my eye for an attractive spring treat.  If it wasn’t so darned hot in Texas I might try to grow my own snow peas, green beans sort of worked last year until the drought set in.

Here is how I used Martha’s snow peas to inspire this little bite.

  • cream cheese, room temperature or at least until it’s workable
  • Epicure “3 Onion Dip Mix”  (about 1 tsp per 2 oz cream cheese)
  • 1 tbsp mayo (per 2 oz cream cheese)
  • dash hot sauce

Mix the above until well blended.  Set aside.  Strip the string off the front of the snow pea pods and carefully cut it open but not all the way in half.  Pipe the cream cheese mixture into the opened pods.  Chill before serving.  2 oz of cream cheese will easily fill a dozen pods, any leftovers can be snacked on later with a few crackers.

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If you like cheese on your mouthful of joy, go forth and cheese it up…

Here’s how to make it…

  • tomato
  • Poblano or Jalapeño pepper
  • fresh basil
  • capers
  • onion
  • lime juice
  • sea salt

Dice the tomato, pepper and onion very fine.  You can drain the seeds and juice out of the tomato if you like, I happen to like a wet bruschetta to soften the hard toast.  Add about 5 large basil leaves that have been sliced into thin strips.  Add a good tablespoon of caper berries plus a bit of the brine.  Mix everything in a bowl and taste for acid and salt.  If the tomatoes are mild, add some lime juice.  Add sea salt to taste, but if you are going to top the whole thing with cheese hold back on the salt a little.

Bruschetta can be served on Melba toasts, toasted baguette, grilled flat bread or even fish as an entrée!

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This post was featured on Freshly Pressed in Jan 2011!

If you have ever travelled near the Texas-Mexico border and stopped at a repurposed snow-cone shack for a cup of shrimp cocktail and wondered what the heck was in it, keep reading.  Even if your travels have never brought you this way, read on.

Apparently, there is a difference between what Canadians consider to be a shrimp cocktail, and what my southern family thinks this should be.  An argument that could start a year-long debate was averted by accepting that a rose by any name would still smell as sweet,  and a shrimp would taste as scrumptious. 

The Canadian version, as I will refer to it, consists of big cooked shrimp and a tomato-based horseradish sauce.

To my family here in the south, shrimp cocktail looks more like ceviche.

Either way you want to prepare a spicy and fresh shrimp appetizer suits me just fine, what matters is enjoying the time spent with those sharing the food.

Here’s how to prepare the two variations of shrimp cocktail seen above.

The Canadian Version

You will need big shell-on shrimp (10-15 per pound size, ask your fish guy), depending on how much your crowd loves them, buy 3-5 per person or what you can afford.

Simply clean the shrimp by removing the shell, keeping the tails on so you have a handle for dipping.  I find the easiest way is to gently fold at the seam of the tail section, the connective shell structure will pop so that the body portion can be removed without ripping the tail apart.  I always remove the digestion tract (I won’t eat shrimp with it left in – ew).  Toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and transfer to a baking sheet in a 400ºF oven for 10 minutes.  You can flip them over after about 7 minutes but they will cook just fine on their own.

The dipping sauce for this cocktail consists of the following:

  • horseradish (from a jar, creamed is fine)
  • chili sauce (also jarred, I found it next to the Dijon mustards at my local grocery)
  • Ketchup
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Worcestershire sauce

Mix equal parts of the chili sauce and ketchup in a small bowl.  Add about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, or a light squeeze of half a lemon.  Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and stir to incorporate.  If you like a fiery shrimp dip add a good amount of the horseradish, if you are not partial to the heat you can leave it out entirely and still enjoy yourself.  I added 3 teaspoons of horseradish and everyone loved it, however we tend to like heaps of wasabi on our sushi as well.   

The Mexican Version

Under the direction of mom, I was tasked with the appetizer to our family gathering.  She called it shrimp cocktail and then went on listing the ingredients I would need to prepare the dish.  My hubby and I looked at her quizzically – do you mean ceviche?  No, it’s shrimp cocktail.  It was like trying to explain that a crepe and a pancake are in fact two different things, however they do share some of the same ingredients and look pretty similar.  Just let it go, I thought.  All I wanted to do was eat, and helping in prep means we eat all that much sooner.

This version has a few more ingredients than the road-side original.  In no particular order, you will need:

  • 4 cups of cooked baby shrimp, the frozen ones work great
  • 6 – 8 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 large avocado, cubed
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 – 2 roasted Poblano peppers, diced
  • 6 Serrano or jalapeño peppers, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup when chopped)
  • 1/2 Orange pop bottle
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • big pinch of salt

Toss everything in a large bowl.  You can make this ahead of the party but leave out the cilantro and avocado until serving time. 

Spoon into glasses and provide tortilla chips and crackers for munching.

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Little Sister has now reached her first birthday and I’m astonished at how quickly this year flew by. The whole family packed up to go to the grandparent’s house, only 5 to 6 hours away, for a special celebration. Both Little Sister and Grandpa had birthdays this weekend, so we combined the two together. I made the appetizers and sweets, Grandma made brisket and rice, Tia made her beans.  Thank you very much to those who came out for some good laughs, invincible piñatas, and great company!

(red platter) Apple Cider Brined Carrots, (yellow platter) Skinny Pigs in a Blanket

Here’s what I contributed to the birthday bash.

Skinny Pigs in a Blanket

I’ve been reading Claire Robinson’s book (5 Ingredient Fix) and there’s some great pieces of advice in there, especially how you should use the best ingredients you can afford since there are so few components to a dish. This holds true for many recipes and I applied the philosophy to my Skinny Pigs in a Blanket by using super lean smoked sausage (which I found on sale last week) and pungent sharp cheddar. When you use sharp cheeses you need less of it to get the flavor to appear, this also means less fat. All three ingredients were toned down in fat levels, but flavor was not sacrificed. There were no leftovers whatsoever.

  • Lean Smoked Turkey Sausage
  • Extra Sharp New York Style Cheddar
  • Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls

Cut 3 inch sections of sausage, then quarter them lengthwise. Slice the cheese the same length, use as thin or thick a slice as you like. Wrap the sausage and cheese in a crescent roll, I had no fancy way of doing this, just cover as much as you can with the dough. Bake at 375 degrees for about 14 minutes or the tops are golden brown.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teasp cinnamon
  • 1/8 teasp allspice
  • 1/8 teasp cloves

Follow the directions on the box, except for the amount of water.  I used about 1/4 cup of water in my batter, the remaining amount will be added by the pumpkin.  You can roast and puree your own pumpkin (I’ve also used calabaza squash) for this recipe. 

pumpkin cupcakes

Pecan Raisin Tarts

Tart Shell:
  • 1 cups cake flour
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teasp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Filling:
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • pinch of sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, that’s 175 deg C for my Canadian folks.  Cut the cold butter into the flour and salt until it feels like wet sand and will hold its shape when pinched.  Grease a muffin tin (or use silicone to skip this step, and I would have used my silicone molds because these little tarts stuck to my pan!) with butter.  Take a heaping tablespoon of the pastry and push it around the walls of the mold, then add a little more to cover the bottom.  Repeat until all 12 molds are filled.  Bake for 10  to 12 minutes, the outside edge should begin to brown. 

Whilst the shells bake, prepare the filling.  Set the raisins and pecans aside and whisk everything else in a bowl.  When the tart shells come out, they will look poofy, don’t worry, distribute the pecans and raisins to each tart, you can push them down in the middle gently.  Pour the egg mixture into each tart shell, then quickly get them back into the oven for another 20 minutes.  The result is a flaky shell with a sticky nutty caramel interior.  Let the tarts cool in the pan, this will be the hardest part but trust me, if you try to take them out while they are still warm you will lose a few chunks.  Yep, I did it.  So now you know what not to do, or use those fancy silicone molds instead.

Apple Cider Brined Carrots

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 teasp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teasp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teasp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 whole Serrano peppers, stems removed
  • baby carrots, rinsed well

Prepare a glass jar by sterilizing in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, I used an empty pasta sauce jar (Classico uses thick glass which should not break if you reuse them * however, do so at your own risk).  Pack the onion slices pulled apart into individual rings into the bottom of the jar, then the peppers and carrots.  I will also suggest adding the spices to the jar, as the mustard seeds stuck to the pot where the brine was made.  Next, make the brine.  Pour the vinegar, water, salt and sugar into a pot and bring it up to a boil while stirring to dissolve the salt.  Let it boil for a minute then carefully pour into the jar.  Cover the jar with a lid.  Tip: don’t put the glass jar on a cold countertop, the temperature difference may crack the glass when the hot brine is added.  Let the jar cool then refrigerate.  I made these carrots two days prior to the party so they would be good and pickled for my platter.

Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts and Sunflower Seeds

(adapted from Emeril’s Microwave Nutty-Caramel Corn)

  • 14 cups freshly popped popcorn
  • 1 jar roasted peanuts (no shells)
  • 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds (no shells)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 teasp vanilla
  • sea salt
  • 1 teasp baking soda
  • large paper sack

D – this is for you!

Combine the popcorn, nuts, and seeds in the paper sack.  In a microwave-safe bowl, add the butter, sugar, syrup, vanilla and pinch of sea salt.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir.  Return to the microwave for 2 minutes.  Stir again.  If the brown sugar feels grainy under the (wooden) spoon, pop it back in for another minute.  Sprinkle the baking soda into the hot gooey mess and stir carefully, the soda will bubble and foam.  Pour the caramel into the paper sack, toss the popcorn around to coat.  Stuff the paper sack into the microwave for 1 minute on high.  Then shake it, preferably with oven mitts.  Spread the sticky popcorn on two wax paper lined baking sheets (or kitchen counter) and if you like salty-sweet nibbles add a dash more sea salt while the caramel is hot.  Let it cool then store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, if it will survive that long. 

Hummus and Chorizo Spread

I know what you’re thinking, chorizo is so greasy why on Earth would you use it?  Well, this is not your typical chorizo – this is homemade lean chorizo from the Grandparent’s kitchen.  I’ve requested a weekend to learn how to make this delightfully versatile sausage.  When I learn how to make it, I’ll let y’all know!  This spread was unexpectedly tasty and incredibly easy to prepare, your friends will think you spent all afternoon putting the dish together.  Here is our little secret… buy the hummus from your deli!  I even took two flavors, regular and roasted red pepper hummus, just to have a taste of each.  Grab some low-fat multi-grain pita chips and you’re set.  Well, except for the chorizo, stay tuned for that…  Now you have everything needed to put this spread to work.  Brown the chorizo (drain on paper towel if it’s not lean), spread the hummus on a plate (half regular and half red pepper – or pick the flavors you want), top with a sprinkle of chorizo.  Done.

Now go grab an iced tea and enjoy!

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Have I said I love food?  You should see what Aarti is cooking up, I’ve been trying her recipes.  For instance, Baked Samosas, which are so yummy and have inspired some ideas (stick around to find out what I’ll be remixing them into…)  Aarti (I hope you’re reading this!) has also inspired me to start this blog.  I don’t think I’ll end up on the Food Network any time soon, but I sure admire her for doing so!    

Samosas baking away and filling the house with yumminess

 

In my first attempt of Baked Samosas, I pretty much stuck to the recipe, and added some peas to the mix.  I didn’t have chipotle sauce so I used the chipolte chili powder and chipotle tobasco sauce as a substitute.  No ajwain seeds either (another reason to “have to” go to the indian market), so I used a little dried oregano in the dough.    

Baked Samosas with Peas

 

Just look at them and you’ll be hungry.  I couldn’t wait to eat some as soon as they came out of the oven. Ouch! Okay, let’s wait a little bit for them to cool off.   

    

I wish I may.    

I wish I might.     

Let me eat samosas tonite!   

    

KUDOS Miss Aarti, keep doing what you do.  I can’t wait to try more of your delicious food!  Best of luck on FN!!!

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