appetizers

Chicken Salad Canapes

I often have a hard timing figuring out what sort of canapés I can serve at parties that are filling.  Most meat based appetizers require them to be warm or are really expensive (think lamb lollipops) but if you are going to be drinking all night I want my guests to have more in them than just cheese!  Here little mini phyllo cups really come into handy.  You buy them in the frozen section of your grocery store and they are already cooked so all you have to do is fill them.  I decided for a recent party to go with chicken salad, most specifically chicken salad veronique, which is a French version with grapes.  It is really delicious as a regular chicken salad served alone or in a sandwich but for this application I cut the chicken and the grapes really small so they would fit neatly in the cups and be easy to eat.  These things went like hot cakes and I am sure your friends will appreciate the “heavy ap” at your next party.

Chicken Salad Canapes (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  phyllo cups
Special Equipment: none

  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts (or roast your own)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 20 green grapes, quartered
  • 60 phyllo cups – I used the Athens brand

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and place in a large bowl.

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In a medium bowl wish together the mayo, sour cream, white wine, tarragon and salt and pepper.

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Add 3/4 of the mixture to the chicken along with the grapes.  Stir to combine and then add as much of the remaining dressing as necessary.  The salad can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge.  When you are ready to serve, use a teaspoon to fill the cups with the salad.

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Chicken Salad Canapés

  • Servings: 60
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment: none

  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts (or roast your own)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 20 green grapes, quartered
  • 60 phyllo cups – I used the Athens brand

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and place in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl wish together the mayo, sour cream, white wine, tarragon and salt and pepper.  Add 3/4 of the mixture to the chicken along with the grapes.  Stir to combine and then add as much of the remaining dressing as necessary.  The salad can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge.  When you are ready to serve, use a teaspoon to fill the cups with the salad.

Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini

Quick and easy snacks are essential this time of the year but that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice taste or presentation!  These crostini are beautiful with their snowy white ricotta and shiny pomegranate jewels dusted on top.  If you want to make life even easier go ahead and buy the seeds.  However, seeding a pomegranate is really fun and its much cheaper.  Make sure to use a really good baguette and high quality ricotta, otherwise this will taste flat since it uses so few ingredients.  I bought some local stuff or you can make your own ricotta.  These are great for holidays drinks with friends after work or even a little snack for Santa when he comes down the chimney!

Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  those lovely little holiday jewels, pomegranate seeds
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 baguettes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • XX ounces of ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pomegranate or 1 package of pomegranate seeds

Preheat your oven to 340 degrees.  Slice the baguettes on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices – you should get about 20-25 slices per baguette.  Line them up on baking sheets and then drizzle with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper.

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Bake until toasty, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool (these can be made earlier in the day and stored in a container, just make sure they have cooled before putting them into a baggie or they will steam.  In a medium bowl combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Spread about a tablespoon and a half of the ricotta on each crostini.  Seed the pomegranate (instructions here) and sprinkle the seeds over the crostini.  Pull off leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle those on top as well.  These are great served at room temperature and can be left out for several hours.

 

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Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini

  • Servings: 50 pieces
  • Time: 20 minutes
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 baguettes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • XX ounces of ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pomegranate

Preheat your oven to 340 degrees.  Slice the baguettes on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices – you should get about 20-25 slices per baguette.  Line them up on baking sheets and then drizzle with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper.

Bake until toasty, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool (these can be made earlier in the day and stored in a container, just make sure they have cooled before putting them into a baggie or they will steam.  In a medium bowl combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Spread about a tablespoon and a half of the ricotta on each crostini.  Seed the pomegranate and sprinkle the seeds over the crostini.  Pull off leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle those on top as well.  These are great served at room temperature and can be left out for several hours.

Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

 

If you read my post last week about my favorite items from Trader Joe’s, then you know I am a sucker for everything they make with pumpkin in it.  Last time I was there I saw these Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps (a seasonal cousin to their awesome Raisin Rosemary Crisps).  I grabbed a container of their mascarpone cheese knowing that the rich buttery flavor would make for a great base for a dip.  Once I got home I realized I just so happened to have a small piece of blue cheese that I got as a remnant at Righteous Cheese.  Whip them together with some cream and you have a super rich, unbelievably easy dip.  This is a great one to make if you happen to have a small piece of blue cheese left over – also any other pungent cheese would work, I was thinking Humboldt Fog would be even better.  Add as much or as little of the secondary cheese as you would like.  Since this isn’t a super flavorful dip you want to pair it with these crisps or something else like an everything bagel cracker, that has a lot of flavor.  This would be a great one to set out at Thanksgiving as you can make it several days ahead and will only take about 1 minute of your time to pull together.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip(printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  a cheesy pairing for my pumpkin crisps
Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

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Season with salt and pepper.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days – take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.  Pairs nicely with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin and Cranberry Crisps.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Time: 1 minute
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins

Now that order has been restored to the world with Tom Brady back at the helm of the Patriots I figured I would share a great football dish for this Sunday.  These potato skins are admittedly not as good as the deep fried ones (is anything baked as good as fried???) but they do the trick and even manage to sneak in a little broccoli as well.  I made these last week when we hosted some friends for football and they were all gone by halftime.  It’s usually tough to find a vegetarian bar snack but this is super easy to leave the bacon off and with all the other toppings you won’t be missing much.  Let’s go Pats!

Image result for free tom brady

Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  are you ready for some football??

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 Russell potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut down into small bite size florets
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure to scrub your potatoes clean then rub with a about a teaspoon of olive oil, prick several times over with the tines of a fork, and then put them directly into the oven onto the grate.

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Bake the potatoes for 1 hour, hour and 15 minutes if they are very large.  In the meantime toss the broccoli with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet.  In the last 15 minutes of baking the potatoes toss in the broccoli to roast.  Turn off your oven and turn on your broiler.  While the potatoes cool, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy (about 5 minutes) and then crumble and set to the side.  Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato still in the skins.

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Be sure not to cut through the skin, the easiest way is with a teaspoon.  Using the remaining olive oil drizzle both sides of the skins and salt and pepper them.  Put them skin side up on a baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes.  Flip them and broil 3 minutes more.

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Pull out the baking sheet and fill the skins with as much cheddar and broccoli as you want/can fit.  Broil again for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese melts.  Top with sour cream and scallions.

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Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins

  • Servings: 4 skins
  • Time: 1 1/2 hour
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 Russell potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut down into small bite size florets
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure to scrub your potatoes clean then rub with a about a teaspoon of olive oil, prick several times over with the tines of a fork, and then put them directly into the oven onto the grate.  Bake the potatoes for 1 hour, hour and 15 minutes if they are very large.  In the meantime toss the broccoli with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet.  In the last 15 minutes of baking the potatoes toss in the broccoli to roast.  Turn off your oven and turn on your broiler.  While the potatoes cool, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy (about 5 minutes) and then crumble and set to the side.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato still in the skins.  Be sure not to cut through the skin, the easiest way is with a teaspoon.  Using the remaining olive oil drizzle both sides of the skins and salt and pepper them.  Put them skin side up on a baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes.  Flip them and broil 3 minutes more.  Pull out the baking sheet and fill the skins with as much cheddar and broccoli as you want/can fit.  Broil again for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese melts.  Top with sour cream and scallions.

 

 

 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

In honor of the University of Maryland Terrapins starting their football season 4-0 (Fear the Turtle!!!) I am posting one of my favorite snacks from college.  I have already spoken about my love for the wings at Cornerstone in College Park but another important component of those happy hours was the spinach and artichoke dip.  Just another “healthy” college snack (oh how I miss my 19 year old metabolism) to knock back with some cheap beer and good friends.  Cornerstone’s was fantastic, though I am sorry to say since graduation it seems like they have changed their recipe and not for the better.  Anyway it is way easier just to make it at home and that way I can class it up a bit with nutty grueye cheese.  I can assure you the College Park version didn’t include creme fraiche either.

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Because this version uses frozen spinach and canned artichokes it is extremely easy to pull together – just make sure to squeeze out as much water from the frozen spinach as you can otherwise it will end up soupy.  I like to make this ahead and then just pop it into the oven when folks get hungry.  LET’S GO MARYLAND!!!!!

Circa 2009 introducing my future husband to his mandated college football team!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  college happy hour
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 10 ounces canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 6 ounces cream cheese – room temperature
  • 4 ounces creme fraiche – room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • tortilla chips and crudites to serve with

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the spinach (make sure to really squeeze out all the water you can) as well as the nutmeg and red pepper flakes.  Cook for another 2 minutes or so until all the water is gone.

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Remove from heat.  In a large bowl combine the spinach mixture, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, creme fraiche, mayo and gruyere cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and pour into a baking dish (I used a 7 by 10 dish but 8 by 8 or really any medium to large size will do).  Top evenly with the grated Parmesan.

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If you are making this in advance let the dip cool then cover with saran wrap and store in the fridge for a couple of days until you are ready to bake.  Once ready to cook it, remove any covering and bake in the 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes (the length will depend on the size of pan you use and how brown you want it to get, just make sure its bubbling before you take it out).  Let cool for several minutes and serve.

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 40 minutes
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 10 ounces canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 6 ounces cream cheese – room temperature
  • 4 ounces creme fraiche – room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • tortilla chips and crudites to serve with

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the spinach (make sure to really squeeze out all the water you can) as well as the nutmeg and red pepper flakes.  Cook for another 2 minutes or so until all the water is gone.  Remove from heat.  In a large bowl combine the spinach mixture, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, creme fraiche, mayo and gruyere cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and pour into a baking dish (I used a 7 by 10 dish but 8 by 8 or really any medium to large size will do).  Top evenly with the grated Parmesan.  If you are making this in advance let the dip cool then cover with saran wrap and store in the fridge for a couple of days until you are ready to bake.  Once ready to cook it, remove any covering and bake in the 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes (the length will depend on the size of pan you use and how brown you want it to get, just make sure its bubbling before you take it out).  Let cool for several minutes and serve.

Jalapeno Chips

Years ago I made my first visit to Texas to celebrate the wedding of two dear friends.  The wedding was held in rural Texas where the bride was from – a totally different kind of place than I have ever known.  A real “one horse town,” Cleburne, TX didn’t have a ton of dining options but one dish stands out, now almost 5 years since that trip.  Deep fried jalapeno chips – we ordered them with lunch, we went back and ordered more for a snack before the ceremony, and then we got them late night after the reception.  Super spicy and served with a ranch type dressing I could seriously have eaten these all day long.  When we got back from the wedding I set out to make these part of our lives.

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Cause you should definitely drink habanero beer alongside jalapeno chips!

Now if these were going to become part of our regular diet, then deep frying and dipping it into a fatty sauce wasnt going to do.  So I baked them and used my standard go to yogurt sauce (also seen here and here).  These are pretty spicy, even with the seeds taken out.  I find its best if you get the biggest jalapenos you can find as its easier to get most of the membrane and seeds out.  Look at these big boys!

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I serve these all the time as a healthy side with tacos or as an appetizer – they would be perfect for watching football this weekend and are totally guiltless.

Jalapeno Chips (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  A Texas Trip
Special Equipment:  plastic gloves (optional)

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 8-10 large jalapenos
  • 6 ounces non fat Greek plain yogurt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (I like chives, parsley, thyme, mint – anything works)
  • 1 garlic glove, minced or grated
  • salt and pepper

Put one cup of the buttermilk and the breadcrumbs in two separate bowls.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  If you have plastic gloves don those now!  With a knife cut off both ends of the jalapenos and discard.  Then cut each pepper into 1/2 inch thick rings, I like to do it on a bit of a diagonal.

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Put the jalapeno rings into the buttermilk.  (I keep the gloves on for this part to keep my hands clean)

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Shake off the excess buttermilk and coat each ring in the breadcrumbs.  Once they are coated place on the cookie sheet.  Once they are all coated you can pop them in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking them off or if you are ready to go, place them in the oven.  DSC03983

Bake for 8 minutes, then shake the cookie sheet or flip the chips over and bake for another 8 minutes.  While the chips are baking combine the yogurt, herbs, garlic and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the rest of the buttermilk until it is a good dipping consistency (the dip can be made days in advance and is great with pretty much anything).  When the chips are done sprinkle them with salt and serve with the yogurt sauce.

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Jalapeno Chips

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  plastic gloves (optional)

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 8-10 large jalapenos
  • 6 ounces non fat Greek plain yogurt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (I like chives, parsley, thyme, mint – anything works)
  • 1 garlic glove, minced or grated
  • salt and pepper

Put one cup of the buttermilk and the breadcrumbs in two separate bowls.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  If you have plastic gloves don those now!  With a knife cut off both ends of the jalapenos and discard.  Then cut each pepper into 1/2 inch thick rings, I like to do it on a bit of a diagonal.  Once you have all the rings use your fingers to pop out the seeds and membranes in the middle.  Put the jalapeno rings into the buttermilk.  (I keep the gloves on for this part to keep my hands clean)  Shake off the excess buttermilk and coat each ring in the breadcrumbs.  Once they are coated place on the cookie sheet.

Once they are all coated you can pop them in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking them off or if you are ready to go, place them in the oven.  Bake for 8 minutes, then shake the cookie sheet or flip the chips over and bake for another 8 minutes.  While the chips are baking combine the yogurt, herbs, garlic and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the rest of the buttermilk until it is a good dipping consistency (the dip can be made days in advance and is great with pretty much anything).  When the chips are done sprinkle them with salt and serve with the yogurt sauce.

Hot and Cold Asparagus Salad

Hard to avoid asparagus in stores and on menus right now and why would you want to??  It is one of my favorite spring vegetables and truly one of those things you should really only eat seasonally.  When I see asparagus on a menu in November I just know that place isn’t going to be good.  When they are in season I make asparagus a lot but usually get into the rut of roasting or grilling them which can get boring.  I have seen a lot of raw asparagus ribbon salads (a lot like my carrot one) and I thought bringing the hot and cold preparations together might be a nice twist.  Making the asparagus ribbons is really easy with a vegetable peeler – I like these Kuhn Rikon ones as they are cheap but yet stay sharp for a long time.

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Make sure to snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears before you peel or roast them.  If you have never done this before take one end of each spear in each hand and slowly bend the spear until it naturally breaks.  That point indicates where the tender part of the asparagus meets the tougher, less edible part at the bottom.  Just snap them off and toss or use to make asparagus soup.   This would make a great first course or a side to some roasted pork or lemon chicken.

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Hot and Cold Asparagus Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  spring veggies
Special Equipment:  vegetable peeler

  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • 8 teaspoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Preheat your broiler.  Prep the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends as described above.  Set a 1/4 of the spears aside (usually each bunch has 24 spears so set aside around 12).  Spread the rest of the spears on a baking sheet and drizzle over 4 teaspoons of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Broil the spears for 5 minutes, then shake or toss them around and broil for 5 more minutes.  While the asparagus is in the broiler, turn the rest of the spears into ribbons by holding one end and using a vegetable peeler lengthwise.  In a medium size bowl, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon and the dijon mustard – stir to combine.

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Add the asparagus ribbons and toss until all of them are coated with the vinaigrette.  Pile the hot asparagus on a plate and top with the asparagus ribbons and vinaigrette.  Serve right away.

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Hot and Cold Asparagus Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 12 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  vegetable peeler

  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • 8 teaspoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Preheat your broiler.  Prep the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends as described above.  Set a 1/4 of the spears aside (usually each bunch has 24 spears so set aside around 12).  Spread the rest of the spears on a baking sheet and drizzle over 4 teaspoons of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Broil the spears for 5 minutes, then shake or toss them around and broil for 5 more minutes.  While the asparagus is in the broiler, turn the rest of the spears into ribbons by holding one end and using a vegetable peeler lengthwise.  In a medium size bowl, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon and the dijon mustard – stir to combine.  Add the asparagus ribbons and toss until all of them are coated with the vinaigrette.  Pile the hot asparagus on a plate and top with the asparagus ribbons and vinaigrette.  Serve right away.

 

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