Category Archives: Appetizers

How to reuse olive brine, oil from sundried tomatoes and more (and transform it into fabulous fare)

The next time you eat the last olive out of the jar and go to wash the brine down the sink, stop! You are about to pour flavor down the drain.

My kitchen motto is “think before I toss.” I can’t stand wasting food so I am constantly looking for ways to reuse ingredients and save items people normally throw away- like brine or the oil in sundried tomatoes. Those ingredients are incredibly flavorful.

Olive brine is great in marinades (just use it instead of vinegar in your recipe); mix a tablespoon into mayonnaise when making potato salad; mix brine, olive oil and Italian seasoning and use it to marinate vegetables; add a dash to a dirty martini or Bloody Mary; or make my Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes.

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I don’t eat potatoes very often because once you add all the flavorings like butter or cream, they are so fattening. This is a fat free recipe that uses olive brine, rosemary and chives to flavor the potatoes. I came up with it this week and considering it is fat free, I think it’s great.

As for the oil in a jar of sundried tomatoes- that’s my favorite leftover ingredient. You can mix it with balsamic vinegar for an instant salad dressing; use it to dress orzo or other pasta; use it as the oil when you make goat cheese omelets;  use it instead of olive oil when you make croutons or crostini; or make my Warm Bruschetta. This is my favorite recipe and it’s ready in less than 5 minutes. I simply slice grape or cherry tomatoes, warm some of the oil in a pan, toss the tomatoes in with basil and cook for 1 minute. Salt to taste and serve.

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You can also save the oil from artichokes and use that in marinades or salad dressings.

Pickle brine is another item you can reuse. It’s good in marinades, but I often refill the jar with other items like cucumbers or carrots and reuse the brine. I have a recipe below for Spicy Dill Carrots which is simply carrots, onions and jalapenos in dill pickle brine.

Brine from hot peppers is good in marinades, barbecue sauces, or add a touch to deviled eggs (but use sparingly).

Beer is another item I can’t stand to waste. A couple of days ago, I tried a new beer and I hated it. There was no way I could drink it, so I put it in the fridge to use in the future. The next day I made Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken.  You can also make beer bread, beer cheese dip, or use leftover beer to boil brats (add onions to the beer and finish the brats on the grill).

There are so many items we throw away every day that we can reuse. I hope this inspires you to think before you toss. Enjoy.

Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes

1 pound microwave in a bag red potatoes

¼ cup olive brine

¼ cup chopped chives

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes according to package directions. While the potatoes cook, chop the chives and rosemary.

When the potatoes are ready, empty the bag into a serving bowl and smash them down.

Pour the brine over potatoes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Then top with chives and rosemary. Toss and serve.

You can also substitute basil in this recipe if you don’t like rosemary.

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Warm Bruschetta

2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, assorted colors

1 ½ tablespoons oil left from the sundried tomato jar

10 basil leaves

Salt to taste

Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half. Set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

This dish is delicious over couscous or with French bread, but I also like it alone as a side dish.

 

Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken

6 chicken thighs, legs, or breasts

1 tablespoon barbecue rub

1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning

1 teaspoon jerk seasoning

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Half an onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 almost full bottle of beer

1 bottle of KC style barbecue sauce

White rice for serving

Lay chicken in a 13 by 11 inch pan. Sprinkle with all the seasoning. Slice the onion and garlic and sprinkle both over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Pour beer in the side of the pan being careful not to wash off the seasonings. Pour half the bottle of barbecue sauce over the chicken and then stir about a fourth of the bottle into the beer. You will use about ¾ a bottle.

Bake for 1 hour (check it after 50 minutes because cooking times vary depending on the size of the piece of meat and what you cook. Breasts cook faster than thighs).

Serve over rice and spoon the sauce over rice before serving.

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Spicy Dill Carrots

2 cups leftover juice from dill pickles

1 ¼ cups carrot slices (I buy the precut carrot chips)

2 jalapenos (or to taste), sliced in half

Half a red onion, thinly sliced.

When the jar of dill pickles is gone, simply fill it with carrots, jalapeno and onion. Refrigerate for 2 days before eating. Consume within 10 days.

If you add the jalapeno seeds, it will be significantly spicier.

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Watermelon Caprese Salad

It’s going to be a sweltering week. If slaving over a hot stove doesn’t appeal to you, then whip up  this cool and delicious  Watermelon Caprese Salad.

Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad made of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and it represents the colors of the Italian flag. I decided to replace the tomato with watermelon and I actually prefer it over the traditional version.

Caprese is often drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar but I had pesto so I scraped the oil off the top of the pesto and dressed the salad with that and it was spectacular. The salty pesto was a great balance to the sweetness of the fruit.

It’s a gorgeous, delicious, healthy, refreshing salad that takes 5 minutes to assemble.

 

Watermelon Caprese Salad

Serves 1

3 (2 1/2-inch) slices of watermelon

2 (2-inch) slices of fresh mozzarella cheese

3 large basil leaves

1 teaspoon pesto (or to taste)

Slice watermelon and mozzarella. Drizzle half of the pesto on the mozzarella. Place one slice of melon on a plate, top with cheese, a basil leaf and repeat. Drizzle the remaining ½ teaspoon of pesto (using mostly the oil on top) around the plate. Serve.

Optional: you can also drizzle this with good quality balsamic vinegar.

Lighter Artichoke Dip- 1,000 calories and 100 grams of fat lighter! But still delicious!

I adore bubbly, gooey delicious artichoke dip slathered on French bread.

It’s my weakness at any party. And  I make an incredible version but it is so unhealthy- it contains 1 cup of mayonnaise and 3 cups of cheese.

artichoke dip up close

I knew my recipe was unhealthy but had no idea how bad it was until recently when I wrote a food column about it ran the ingredients through a database and my jaw dropped: it contains 2,092 calories and 203 grams of fat.

Ouch. I calculated for the entire dish instead of per serving because you never know how much people will eat.

I’m determined not to gain weight this holiday season and that means that dip is out. I am at an age where weight doesn’t come off like it used to so I am going to be more careful which means revamping some of my favorite recipes.

So I lightened up the dip and the results were AMAZING. AMAZING. I am so proud of it. I can’t believe it saves that many calories and that much fat and still tastes this fantastic. Look how gooey it still is

artichoke cheese

.   Just by switching from artichokes packed in oil to canned ones packed in water, I saved 36 grams of fat. Then, I used light mayonnaise which slashed 39 grams of fat and 460 calories. I cut out 1 ¼ cups of cheese, too. Whenever you remove fat, you have to add extra flavor so I sprinkled it with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and garlic salt. Also, I used Parmesan because that’s a flavorful cheese.  The new dip has 1,130 calories for the entire dish which is made in a pie pan and 84 grams of fat (that’s 119 grams less of fat).

 

 

I hope you enjoy it.

Light Artichoke Dip

1 (14.5-ounce) can artichoke hearts in water, thoroughly drained and patted dry

2/3 cup Duke’s light mayonnaise (or your favorite brand)

1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese

¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the first five ingredients until combined. Place in a shallow pie pan. Top with Italian seasoning and garlic salt. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve warm with French bread or crackers.

artichoke dip on crackers

 

Rosemary Almonds- savory gift from the kitchen

A savory gift from the kitchen is a welcome change this time of year.

I adore homemade gifts particularly edible ones, but I get tired of sweets. After a half a dozen cookies, I long for something salty which is why I predominantly dish out savory gifts.

Savory gifts are unique, practical and often healthier.

These almonds are addictive and so easy to make. I gobbled up the leftovers from this photo shoot in 24 hours. A nibble here. A snack there. And they were all gone.

I first tasted Rosemary Almonds at a tapas restaurant and fell in love! They are incredible warm but excellent later, too. I serve them at parties all the time.

This is way better for you than a cookie or plate of divinity.

I found these cute containers at Michael’s. They are adorable but don’t hold much. I will likely use them for spice mixes that I give as gifts. Enjoy!

 

almonds

Rosemary Almonds

Makes 1 gift

1 cup raw almonds (or at least unsalted)

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons dried rosemary

Garlic salt to taste (can substitute sea salt)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toss almonds in olive oil and use your hands to make sure the almonds are coated and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with rosemary and garlic salt and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before packaging and store in an airtight container for best results. These nuts will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container.

 

Easy Entertaining Ideas this holiday season

I love entertaining. I don’t like stress.

So when I throw a soiree, I try supplement with what I call “cheater” products.

I am talking about store bought items or super easy recipes. I always have a couple of dishes that are the star of the meal (homemade and decadent), but I also serve five or six items that take no time at all.

For example, I always serve good quality olive oil and vinegar as a dipping sauce with French bread. That takes one minute to assemble, but is another offering on the table.

What impresses people at a party is delicious food, but also variety. Variety is key.  As a host when you offer an array of dips, you ensure everyone will find something they love.

One thing about store bought food is I don’t present it as store bought (of course, I am honest when people ask). But if you open a veggie tray and leave in the container, it’s not as enticing as if you put the vegetables on a platter, place the Ranch dip in a little bowl, and then buy a horseradish dip, maybe some hummus, or even split the Ranch dip in half and add 1 teaspoon of dried dill to the second batch to make it different.

Again, it’s all about variety (and taste and presentation).

Another perk to not serving something in its original container is you can keep the leftovers. If you serve mustard in its jar, then every time someone dips into it they are introducing new bacteria to the mustard which will make leftovers spoil faster if you try to keep them. Also, leaving a dip on the counter for the duration of the party and then refrigerating it for later is not the most sanitary idea.

I only put out half of what I have and then keep the rest in the refrigerator as needed.

I also like to use smaller dishes for serving which enables me to fit more on the table. A Dollar Tree or thrift store is a great place to find inexpensive dishes for a holiday party.

I have some “staples” in terms of entertaining, but I am always trying new products, too. So if you are looking from some excellent products that will impress your guests and keep the stress off you, then here are a few of my recommendations:

Wind & Willow is a company based in Mt. Vernon that sells in 6,000 retail locations nationwide. The products are awesome. The company makes easy dips, cheeseballs, dessert balls, soup mixes etc. The Roasted Red Pepper Dip is one of my absolute favorites.  I serve it with vegetables and crackers. If you are watching your carbs, the dip has less than 1 carb (even after it is assembled). All you have to do is mix it with mayonnaise and sour cream and chill it for a few hours before serving. I make it a day in advance because I think it brings out the flavors and is one less thing I have to do on party day. Another wonderful product from this company is the Tiramisu dessert ball. You can visit www.windandwillow.com/ to see where the products are sold near you.

 

Harry & David Charred Pineapple Relish is incredible mixed with a log of chevre. I mix one-third of the jar with a 4 ounce log of chevre and serve with tortilla chips. People always ask for this recipe. The goat cheese just gives it this zing. The relish is slightly spicy.  Another excellent product from Harry & David is the Onion and Pepper Relish, which is served over a block of cream cheese. Find the closest outlet to you or order online: www.harryanddavid.com

 

I discovered Robert Rothschild Raspberry Honey Mustard about 10 years ago and it remains my favorite honey mustard.

Rothschild mustard credit Robert Rothschild company

 

The mustard is on the pricey side ($6-$8), but I serve it with a $1 bag of pretzels, so it’s not too expensive overall. If you have leftovers of the mustard, spread it on a chicken sandwich with arugula and sharp cheddar cheese (you can also made mini sliders for your party using that same recipe). Another idea for leftovers is to use it as a salad dressing on a salad of spinach, chicken, goat cheese, candied pecans, and strawberries and raspberries. It’s fantastic.

This Christmas tree has four ingredients and takes minutes to assemble.

 

Green salsa and goat cheese Credit Juliana Goodwin (2)

First, I cut a block of cold cream cheese on a diagonal so it makes two right angle triangles. Then flip one of the triangles over to put the two together to make a tree shape. Generously cover the block of cream cheese with pesto sauce. Add a piece of a pretzel rod to make the base of the tree (just break off a piece). And thinly slice a desired amount of sundried tomatoes to make garland and string those across the tree. This step is optional; you can simply serve the pesto tree.  I use this recipe for different holidays –  a spider web at Halloween or a football field for the super bowl. No matter when I serve it, people love both the flavor and presentation. My favorite store bought pesto sauce Giovanni Rana because of its flavor and vibrant green color. It’s refrigerated so it’s fresher than a jarred variety. Serve this dip with French bread and crackers.

World Table Roasted Salsa Verde is one of the best commercially made green salsas I’ve ever tried.

Green salsa and goat cheese Credit Juliana Goodwin (1)

 

So many green salsas are too salty, too limey or too thin. This one is perfect. It’s slightly spicy so I mix it with a block of chevre and serve it as a dip (about ½ cup to 2/3 cup of green salsa). An alternative if you don’t like goat cheese is to pour the salsa over a block of cream cheese. I’ve served it both ways and it has been popular. It’s available at Walmart stores.

You may not think of pomegranate and guacamole as going together, but they pair beautifully. A friend of mine made a pomegranate guacamole a few years ago and I fell in love with.

Guacamole Pomegranate tree credit Juliana Goodwin

 

This is simply store-bought guacamole decorated with pomegranate seeds (also known as arils). It’s pretty and delicious.  I used an open Christmas cookie cutter to make the shape of the tree and filled it with pomegranate seeds. You could use any shapes. You can buy a pomegranate or simply purchase the POM arils which is the easiest way to go. If you decide to buy a pomegranate, leftover pomegranate arils are excellent in sparkling wine or moscato. You can also hallow out the shell of the pomegranate and serve a dip in it. In terms of guacamole, I recommend Holy Guacamole or the Aldi’s variety.

Pomegranate Guacamole Credit Juliana Goodwin

With these dips, you can throw together a party in no time. Happy holidays.

Still have turkey leftovers? Try Buffalo Turkey Dip

My Buffalo Turkey Dip is awesome and great for a party or watching the football game.

I make a Buffalo Chicken dip all the time and basically swapped out the chicken for turkey as a way to use those turkey leftovers.

The wing sauce is strong so it’s a good way to use a mix of white and dark meat if you don’t like dark meat because it helps cover up the taste.

It’s simple, easy and delicious.

Buffalo Turkey Dip

Serves 5 as an appetizer

2 cups chopped leftover turkey

1 to 1 ½ cups Buffalo wing sauce (depends on how spicy you like it and how dry the turkey is)

12 ounces of cream cheese (1 ½ blocks)

½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 1/4 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese mix

Celery sticks for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss together the turkey and wing sauce. Stir until all the turkey is coated.

In a pie plate or 8 by 8 inch dish, spread the cream cheese over the bottom. Then top with the turkey. Sprinkle both types of cheese over the turkey and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese bubbles on top.

Serve with thick slices of celery sticks for a low carb option. If you don’t care about carbs, serve with tortilla chips or toasted French bread.

Vertical wing dip

Spooky Squash Stuffed with Roasted Garlic Hummus

My Halloween fun continues! I’ve mentioned before that I love hummus. I eat it all the time. And I didn’t even know that it has a low glycemic index. I just found that out this week.

One thing I don’t love in hummus though is an overwhelming amount of garlic. This hummus is mild but has a rich flavor because I roast the garlic first.

Roasted garlic adds so much depth of flavor and you can use the remaining garlic cloves to create a second easy dip for your party (see the instructions under my recipe).

You can make this a day in advance, just be sure to cover the hummus with plastic wrap. Happy Halloween

I served it to company last night and they loved it.

You can make a little sign on a toothpick so guests know what they are eating. I love doing that at parties.

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Spooky Squash Stuffed with Roasted Garlic Hummus

1 small Kabocha Squash

1 head of garlic (you will roast it all, but only use three cloves)

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

1 1/2 tablespoons of the chickpea liquid reserved from the can

3 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 cloves of roasted garlic (see recipe below)

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon salt or to taste

To roast the garlic, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take an entire head of garlic and cut off the white tops of the garlic and drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. You are not peeling the garlic, you just want to cut off the tops to expose all the cloves.

Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the head of garlic has caramelized (your house will smell incredible). Allow to cool and then squeeze out the garlic cloves.

Before making hummus, reserve some of the liquid from the chickpeas and drain the rest of the can.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, chickpea liquid, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, roasted garlic, cumin and salt and pulse until smooth. Adjust salt, if desired.

Cut off the top of the Kabocha squash and remove the seeds and any stringy flesh. Use a knife to cut thin slits around the outside of the squash top and even the base, if desired. Stuff plastic spider rings in these crevices or any other creepy ring. Fill the center of the squash with hummus. Serve with pita chips and vegetables.

Tip: Serve the rest of the roasted garlic as a dip. Chop the cloves and add it to ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil. Warm it slightly (just slightly) on the stove top and add ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, ¼ teaspoon rosemary and 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, a dash of salt, and serve it with French bread.

I couldn’t decide which way I wanted to style my photos this week. Black background or orange? Spider web or no spider web? Which do you prefer?

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