Category Archives: Appetizers

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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Halloween Party Ideas: Sundried Tomato Spider Web Pesto Dip

As far as I’m concerned, pre-Halloween planning kicks off the holiday season in our house. Truth be told, this is my Christmas season, too.

I simply relish every day between now and Dec. 26, when I slip into immediate post-holiday depression. But until then, it’s fun, fun, fun

Halloween falls on Saturday this year so celebrations are bound to be big! Spending is expected to top $6.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Adult spending on costumes now outpaces spending on children’s costumes proving I’m not alone in loving this spooky day.

And I am never short of ideas when it comes to Halloween. I plan to post a new recipe or party idea every day this week for Halloween. I am stoked.

This dip isn’t just fun, it is absolutely delicious! Try it. You won’t be sorry.

Sundried Tomato Spider Web Pesto Dip

1 (8-ounce) block of cream cheese, softened

2 ounces feta cheese crumbles

½ cup jarred pesto sauce

Half an (8.5 ounce) jar julienned sundried tomatoes

1 fake spider for the center

French bread to serve

Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature on the counter for an hour or so. Then stir it with feta cheese until well combined.

Spread the mixture on a medium-sized round plate. Smooth pesto over the top.

Use a toothpick to draw a spider web into the cream cheese. Slice sundried tomato pieces as uniform as possible to make a web. Then use those slices to craft the web on the pesto.

When done, place a fake spider in the middle of the dip. Serve with French bread to spread this dip.

Rotisserie Chicken and Bacon Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes and Feta

Friday nights call for pizza.

After a long week, a quick, satisfying pizza with a glass of wine is the perfect end to the week. And this pizza is fantastic. I use Naan, which is my favorite pizza dough, and then top it with tomato sauce, chicken, sundried tomatoes, cheese, bacon, and feta.

After it bakes, I sprinkle basil on top.

It’s quick, convenient and delicious. What more could you ask for as you end the work week? I hope you enjoy it.

Chicken, Bacon 2

Chicken, Bacon Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 4 as appetizer; 2 as main course

The sundried tomatoes and fresh basil really lift the flavor of this pizza; and of course, the bacon adds a lot, too. This pizza is easy, great for a quick dinner or a party.

1 ready-made Naan crust or pizza dough (Stonefire is my favorite brand)

Pizza sauce, desired amount

1 cup chopped, skinless rotisserie chicken

1/3 cup real bacon pieces (store bought is what I used)

1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes

1 1/3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or desired amount)

1/4 cup feta cheese

Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread pizza sauce over dough. Top with chicken, bacon, sundried tomatoes and cheeses.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove and garnish with slices of fresh basil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Preserving and using your herbs – and a great pesto recipe

The end of summer means the end of an herb garden is near.

Depending on the weather, you may have several weeks to harvest fresh herbs, but I like to start cutting my plants back now and preserving as many as possible for winter.

If you have a sunny spot in the house, you can bring in oregano, rosemary, and lavender which will usually survive for several months inside. I’ve had mixed luck with basil but it’s worth a try.

Some herbs like rosemary and thyme are easy to dry, while others like cilantro and basil, do not dry well. This week, I have a lot of suggestions on which herbs to dry, freeze or use now (and a great pesto recipe to use up that basil).

First, let’s talk about basil, which is the most commonly grown herb. There’s nothing like fresh basil, but that flavor is hard to capture.  The best way to preserve basil is to make pesto and freeze it.

I recommend buying mini plastic storage containers to freeze basil in smaller portions (about ½ to 1 cup at a time). My husband is a teacher and one of his co-workers, Janice Queen, makes amazing pesto. I asked her to share her recipe. Something I really like about this recipe is it calls for almonds, as well as pine nuts (pine nuts are very expensive, so this is a more economical recipe).  The recipe also calls for a good dose of parsley, which is nice if you’re growing that, too.

Pesto is versatile: use it as a salad dressing, toss it with pasta and fresh tomatoes, or pour it over a block of cream cheese for a quick dip (serve with crackers and French bread).

Herb butters are another wonderful way to use up herbs, particularly rosemary and basil.  All you have to do is soften 1 stick of unsalted butter, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped basil or 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary. Then spread it on a slice of French bread.  It’s marvelous and an easy and inexpensive addition to a party. You can also add 1 tablespoon finely minced sundried tomatoes to the butter.

If I am serving it at a party, I serve it at room temperature, but if you want herb butter for your family, mold the butter back into a log, place it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for several days (rosemary butter will last longer than basil).

If you have leftover herb butter, use it in pasta, on vegetables, or spread a pat on a steak.

Another idea to use either fresh or dried herbs is to sprinkle herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary or a combination are my favorites) on a mix of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for a quick bread dip. You can use that recipe to marinate vegetables that you’re going to grill, too. Be sure to add salt to both dishes though.

Ok, now we’ve used fresh herbs, let’s talk about drying herbs.

Before you dry any herb, you want to rinse it gently and pat it dry with a paper towel. Only dry herbs that are in perfect condition, and discard any that are wilted or changing colors.

Certain herbs, like thyme and rosemary, dry beautifully. To dry these herbs all you have to do is cut off the stems, lay them on a piece of parchment paper on a pan and let it rest for about 7 days. After that, pull the leaves off and place in a spice jar away from sunlight or heat.

dried rosemary

I dry my rosemary and buy pretty glass jars and give it away at Christmas. Also, you can use dried rosemary to make an herb butter which is excellent on rolls or whipped into mashed potatoes and makes a good hostess gift.

Mint and oregano have a slightly higher moisture content and are better dried after you pick the leaves off the plant. Don’t let the leaves touch each other as this may increase the chance of the herbs molding before they have a chance to dry. Place the leaves on a paper towel on a baking sheet and cover with another paper towel.  Place them in an oven for 24-48 hours (turn on the light in the oven, not the heat). Leaves are ready when they crumble in your hand.

My favorite thing to do with cilantro is let it go to seed and then collect those seeds which are coriander seeds (and those are expensive in the store). Coriander seeds have great flavor. Another option though is to chop cilantro, place nearly 1 tablespoon in an ice cube tray and fill it with water. Freeze. This retains some of the original cilantro flavor, but will still not be the same.

Hopefully this will help you enjoy the last weeks of your herb garden and stretch that flavor into winter.

Easy Pesto

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or a combination (I usually use almonds)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups fresh basil, no stems

3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine the oil, garlic, almonds and Parmesan cheese. Then, feed in the herbs and blend until combined.   It is so easy and freezes very well.

Recipe was originally adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook.

Mexican Inspired Corn and Bean Dip- easy and delicious

The inspiration for my warm, kidney bean and corn dip is corn on the cob in Mexico. In Mexico, you’ll see vendors hawking grilled corn on the cob rubbed with mayonnaise and chili powder and a dash of Parmesan. The Parmesan doesn’t seem like it would pair well, but it does.  That slight tang beefs up the flavor in the beans and complements the corn.

In this dip, I add corn, dark kidney beans (you can also substitute pinto), mayonnaise, green chilies, chili powder, cumin, lime, Parmesan and cilantro and warm it on the stovetop for about 3 minutes. Before serving, I add a handful of shredded cheddar. Serve it with tortilla chips. It’s best warm, but is still delicious when it cools.

I’ve served it twice and it’s been a huge hit!

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Mexican Inspired Corn and Bean Dip

1 (15-ounce) can of whole kernel corn

1 (15-ounce) can dark kidney beans or pinto beans

1 cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon canola oil

½ teaspoon cumin seed

1 (4-ounce) can of chopped green chilies

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Chop onion and set aside. Drain the beans and corn and set both of those aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cumin seed and cook 4 minutes. Then pour in the rest of the ingredients and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 3 more minutes until everything has melted together and is well combined. Serve with tortilla chips.

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Basil Hummus

I love just about every type of hummus. When I was 9, I never thought I’d eat it again. My family lived in Sudan for about 8 months and the first two months we lived in a hotel. The hotel had the most limited menu so we eat hummus twice a day. I hated it by the end of that stay. I swore off hummus. It was so strong, too, incredibly heavy on the tahini.

Well, I started eating it again in college and now I can’t get enough. Right now, I literally have homemade basil hummus, olive tapenade hummus, black bean hummus and a regular hummus in the fridge. I am not kidding. My husband eats it like crazy.

Anyway, I came up with this hummus earlier this summer.

This homemade hummus is always popular when I take it to a party. I don’t add fresh garlic to this hummus because I want the basil to shine. If you really love garlic, add one chopped, small clove.

I serve it with warmed garlic Naan, instead of pita bread to add a kick of garlic (but pita works fine, too). It takes minutes to whip this up in the food processor and it keeps for several days, so you can make it ahead of time (which is great when entertaining).

It’s even better the next day. Look how quick and easy this recipe is.

Basil Hummus

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons tahini

¾ teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)

1 ½ teaspoons basil paste (in a tube in the produce section)

½ teaspoon garlic salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Serve with warm pita or garlic Naan, and sliced vegetables.

Green Tomato Salsa

My  Green Tomato Salsa which uses both tomatoes and tomatillos. It’s delicious with chips and wonderful on fish tacos. It pairs well with sour cream and cream cheese, so you can use it in a layer dip or pour it over a block of cream cheese for a dip and serve with tortilla chips.

When you’re salting it, be sure to taste it with a chip because that will add salt and you may over salt the salsa if you just taste it plain

Green Tomato Salsa

2 cups green tomatoes (cut into quarters)

6 tomatillos

Garlic salt

½ cup chopped red onion

1/3 to ½ bunch of cilantro

1 teaspoon lime juice

½ teaspoon cumin seed

1 jalapeno (or more to taste)

Preheat oven to 425

Place sliced green tomatoes and tomatillos on a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

In the meantime, chop red onion, cilantro and deseed and chop your jalapeno. I am a wimp when it comes to spice, so I only use 1 jalapeno, but you can use several.

Add onion and jalapeno to a large bowl.

Place tomatoes and tomatillos in a food processor and chop. Then add the chopped cilantro to the tomatoes and process (you may have to do this in two batches). Pour into the bowl.  Add lime juice and cumin seed and stir. Add garlic salt to taste. The salsa is after 2 hours and even better the next day.

Options: If you want more contrast in flavor, only cook 1 cup of tomatoes and use 1 cup of fresh, finely chopped green tomatoes. It makes it slightly more bitter, but I adore the flavor and texture and it tastes really fresh.

If you want to add some sweetness, add ½ of cooked corn (about 1 ear of fresh corn or you can use canned).

Unfried Green Tomatoes with Horseradish VS Fried Green Tomatoes

I love fried green tomatoes. I only allow myself to eat one every couple years because it seems so wrong. But this summer, I came up with an unfried version that I actually like better than the fried. I am pretty much in LOVE with these unfried tomatoes.

Why?

First, I coat the tomato in horseradish sauce. Talk about delicious. Then, I encrust the tomato in Panko and French Fried Onions and bake at 450. Talk about delicious. You have to eat them right away to prevent them from getting soggy.

unfried tomato

Unfried Green Tomatoes with Horseradish

2 medium green tomatoes

1/3 cup Woeber’s horseradish sauce (or your favorite)

3 tablespoons light mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

½ cup regular panko breadcrumbs

¾ cup French Fried Onions

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450. Place a metal baking dish, covered in aluminum foil, in the oven when you turn it on.

Slice tomatoes, pat dry, and salt and pepper each piece. Set aside.

Stir together horseradish sauce and mayonnaise and set aside.

On a plate, combine breadcrumbs and onions and toss with your hands. Your fingers will get dirty making this dish, so keep a towel handy.

Dip tomatoes in mayonnaise mixture being sure to coat the tomato as much as possible. Then dip it into the panko breadcrumbs and onions and press the mixture into the tomato. You want it coated as well as possible. Do this with each tomato slice.

When oven is preheated, carefully remove the hot pan with oven mitts and spray the foil with cooking spray. Place the tomatoes on the pan and spray the tops of the tomatoes.

Bake for 12 minutes and serve warm. Note: I don’t flip them in the cooking process because too much coating is lost. You will have a soft tomato and crunchy tops.

Now, there’s no comparison in terms of the photography. Fried green tomatoes look a lot better on camera. But in the mouth, I’ll take the unfried.

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Panko Encrusted Fried Green Tomatoes with Dill Sauce

2 large green tomatoes

Salt

½ cup flour

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon pepper

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons half and half

1 ½ cups Italian panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce: stir together sour cream and dill. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve.

For this recipe, you want to work close to the stove. Get your station set up before you heat the oil.

Slice tomatoes into 1/3 to ½ inch slices.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

On a medium plate, stir together flour, garlic salt and pepper.

Whisk together eggs and half and half and set in a shallow bowl.

Pour the breadcrumbs into another bowl and set aside. You want the lineup to be tomatoes, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs.

Pour enough oil into a frying pan to cover at least ½ an inch. Turn the heat on to medium.

When the oil is hot, dip a tomato into flour, then into the egg and be sure to thoroughly coat it and then press it into the breadcrumbs. You may need to press the crumbs onto the tomato.

Gently place it in the frying pan and cook it about 1 minute per side (as the oil gets hotter, you may cut cooking time down to 45 seconds a side).

When done, drain on paper towels and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Note: if you don’t like dill, you can use 1 -2 teaspoons of basil paste instead.

Hawaiian Chicken Salad

Let me start by saying, don’t let this unattractive photo fool you, this dish is delicious. I’d have a better photo if I wasn’t allergic to cashews and getting just this close on my iPhone triggered a big reaction!

I’ve been playing around with this concept of a Hawaiian chicken salad for quite some time and I have not been happy with the results … until now.

I initially made this with macadamia nuts, but they didn’t offer enough crunch. So I decided on cashews, the one problem is I am allergic to cashews. It’s the only food I am allergic to.

No worries, I thought, I will be sure not to touch the nut and I’ll be fine. Wrong. As I stirred this salad (I was taking it to a ladies gathering that night), I started to run bright red! I got hives down my neck and throat and started to consider a trip to urgent care. Luckily, it only last about 30 minutes.

But now I know not only am I allergic to cashews, I am highly allergic, so this will be the last recipe I likely post with the nut. And that is why these pictures are so pitiful. I shot it quickly on my iPhone instead of taking time with my big camera.

I just needed to get away from this nut.

So, try it out. The ladies loved it! I tasted it before I added the nut and liked it, but I knew the cashew would add a lot of depth to this dish.

The combination of basil, pineapple, chicken and cashews explodes with flavor. It’s fantastic! I really wish I could have done some food styling.

I hope you like it.

Hawaiian Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken

½ cup chopped red onion

1 cup minced fresh pineapple

1/3 cup chopped celery

12-15 basil leaves

¾ cup cashews

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove all the skin from the rotisserie chicken and  discard. Then pull the meat off the bones and chop the entire chicken into pieces. Place it in a large container with a lid.

Chop onion, pineapple, celery and thinly slice basil leaves. Add to the bowl. Top with cashews.

Stir together mayonnaise and red wine vinegar. Add to the dish and stir to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. For best results, cover and refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

You can eat this salad as a sandwich or wrap, with cracker or tortilla chips (I served tortilla chips and it was popular) or on a bed of lettuce as a real salad.

Mango, Pineapple Salsa (serve it as an appetizer first and leftovers on pork, chicken or fish)

I love salsa. Fruit salsa. Smokey salsa. Charred salsa. Jarred salsa. Green salsa. You name it, I love it.

But I particularly love this Mango, Pineapple Salsa. One of my best friends makes a similar salsa and this is my version. My salsa won “Best Overall Salsa” at a friendly competition and it was up against an array of excellent salsas.

Aside from being delicious served on its own, this salsa is great on grilled fish or pork. I recently marinated pork chops for 24 hours in Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce (online) http://www.soyvay.com/flavors/veri-veri-teriyaki) and then pan fried the pork and topped it with the leftover salsa. It was fantastic!

 Pork with Mango, Pineapple Salsa

If you don’t have that sauce, use soy sauce, ginger, 1 teaspoon canola oil, 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar  and 1/2 a garlic clove for 3-4 pork chops. That makes a nice marinade. A pork loin marinated in Asian sauce, grilled and then served with this salsa would be spectacular.

This would also be great on chicken or fish tacos.

The key to this salsa is ripe, sweet fruit. Mangoes are hardly ever ripe when you buy them, so I buy them 3-4 days before I need to make this salsa. I also buy extras in case some are not sweet. Whenever I have to use avocados or mangoes I buy extra because you’ll often get a disappointing one in the batch. I bought 5 mangoes to be safe. There were all sweet, so I ate the others for breakfast.

Let this marinate for 2 hours or more before serving. You can adapt this recipe and add 2/3 cup drained black beans to this and it’s delicious, too. In that case, I also add 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

If you can’t find ripe mangoes, you can use the jarred refrigerated type, but fresh is always best!

I like to serve it in a margarita or martini glass for nice presentation. It’s such a refreshing salsa for summer. I adore it!

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Mango, Pineapple Salsa

2 1/2 very ripe mangoes, chopped fine

2 ½ cups finely chopped fresh pineapple

¾ of a medium red onion, chopped

2/3 of a bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 large jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine

1 teaspoon cumin seed

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Sea salt to taste

.Directions:

Chop all the ingredients and place in a medium bowl. Add salt to taste. Toss and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.