Tag Archives: appetizer

Crostini Delights

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Not too long ago I was watching an episode of the Sandwich King on the Food Network channel and he gave me an idea for a recipe. Granted, his version of a steak crostini was much more high end than mine but I would put my Crostini Delights up against his any day. No Jeff Mauro, that is not a challenge.

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My family is not big on eating beef so making a light dish with a little beef was right up my alley. Crostini Delights can easily be adapted to whatever you like on slices of french bread. Before I made my Crostini Delights for my hubby he only raved about having bruschetta which I layered on thin slices of french bread. Now, he raves about the “Delights”.

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On the Sandwich King, the host flashed fried thin slices of filet mignon and built layers of meat, pesto, rosemary, gorgonzola cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes. Like I said, his version is high end. My version uses deli slices of London broil instead of filet mignon which still has great flavor and is very tender. To make the crostinis my own I paired different ingredients to create a melt in your mouth treat. Put this recipe on the list for your next dinner party as an appetizer and I am sure your guests will be raving about the great taste of the Crostini Delights.

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Crostini Delights

 Ingredients:

1 thin crusty french bread loaf

½ lb deli sliced London broil

¼ lb sliced provolone cheese

2 Roma tomatoes sliced then cut in half

½ cup gorgonzola cheese

¼ cup BBQ sauce

basil leaves

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice entire french bread loaf at an angle to create bite sized pieces of sliced. Drizzle olive oil over each slice of bread. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes until bread is lightly browned. Remove from oven.

While bread is baking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Pour BBQ sauce around the bottom of the pan then add the slices of London broil. Quickly toss the meat in the warm pan until well coated with sauce. Turn off heat.

Once the bread is lightly browned layer each slice with gorgonzola cheese, London broil, a basil leaf, two pieces of tomato then top with a little provolone cheese. Place back in the oven for a few minutes until the provolone cheese melts. Serve immediately.

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White Bean Chicken Soup

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OMGoodness! It is COLD today so what better time to make a big pot of soup. That is exactly what I said to myself on the way to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few items for dinner. I might not have felt so chilled if I had cranked up the heat in the car but that still would not have warmed me on the inside. To make that happen I needed a nice bowl of homemade soup.

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My choice was either chicken noodle soup or a White Bean Chicken soup. I planned to have spaghetti the next day for dinner so chicken noodle soup was out and White Bean Chicken soup was in. Keep in mind I did not have a recipe for White Bean Chicken soup but not having an actual recipe has never stopped me from cooking. So, while strolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s I made up the recipe that would become “the soup”.

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Most soups are pretty easy to make. They are a one pot dish that only needs a little tender love and care and lots of seasoning. Because it was freezing outside I was in the mood for a healthy, hearty soup. I figured the white beans and chicken would make it hearty plus filling with lots of protein while the mirepoix and cabbage would make it healthy. Did I just hear someone say what the heck is mirepoix? Yes, I did. It was my hubby. He asked me this question while I was writing down the recipe when I got home. I was talking out loud to myself trying to remember how to spell mirepoix and hubby asked “What the heck is that?” When I told him it was diced carrots, onions and celery he said “Why don’t you just say that?” My response was I wanted to sound fancy like the chefs on TV. I know. It is always better to keep it simple.

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Simply put, White Bean Chicken Soup is comfort food. Whether it is freezing cold outside or you want a flavorful homemade meal in a bowl, this soup will do the trick.

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White Bean Chicken Soup

 Ingredients:

3 cans cannellini beans rinsed

1pkg sliced pepper chicken

1 container mirepoix (diced onions, celery and carrots)

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 cups chopped cabbage

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tbsp Adobo

1 tsp thyme

½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp parsley

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp lemon pepper

Shred chicken and set aside. Mash ½ cup of white beans (this will help soup to thicken) and set aside with remaining beans.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add mirepoix and seasonings to the pot and stir. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 3 – 5 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and add white beans then stir. Reduce heat to medium. Mix a spoonful of broth into the measured heavy cream. Add the mixture to the pot. Stir and let simmer 3 minutes.

Place chicken in the pot and stir. Cook for 20 minutes then add chopped cabbage. Stir to mix in the cabbage. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes until cabbage is softened and cooked through. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.

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Roasted Tomato Salad

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Fruits and vegetables all have a “season”.  Meaning, there are certain times of the year when fruits and vegetables are at their best and taste fantastic. Living on the east coast, I find tomatoes are at their best during the summer and early fall months. I grow a lot of different types of tomatoes in the summer and miss them when they are gone.

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Of course, just because the seasons change it does not mean you cannot get good tasting vegetables. However, you have to be careful because “out of season” vegetables like tomatoes can lack flavor and may not have a nice texture inside. Even tomatoes imported from warmer climates may not live up to east coast summer tomatoes. For that reason, I sometimes like to roast tomatoes to bring out their natural sweetness. Roasted Tomato Salad is wonderful because the roasted tomatoes add a nice kick of flavor to the salad.

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My Roasted Tomato Salad is nutritious and full of savory and slightly sweet flavors. Salads are a very personal dish because you can combine all of your favorite vegetables, fruits, nuts and meats. Or, you can keep it simple with only lettuce and roasted tomatoes.

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Roasted Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches romaine lettuce chopped

6 -8 plum tomatoes cut into wedges

3 slices prosciutto chopped (optional)

½ red onion sliced thinly

¼ cup black olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

¼ cup Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp oregano

1 tsp salt

1 black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss tomatoes with red onion slices and season with olive oil, salt, black pepper and oregano. Spray a rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray and then spread tomatoes and onions on the cookie sheet. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes until browned and/or slightly charred (based on your preference). Let cool for 10 minutes.

Toss cooled roasted tomatoes with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Serve as a main dish or nice appetizer.

 

 

 

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Tomato Soup

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My Tomato Soup is not like your popular brand of canned tomato soup. It is much better. At least that is what my hubby thinks. After eating two bowls of my Tomato Soup he proclaimed it was the best soup I had made to date and he enjoys all of my homemade soups.

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Using a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes makes this soup tasty and gives it texture. I like smooth soups but I also enjoy soups with a little texture which lets you know what kind of soup you are eating.

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A good test of whether or not a soup is blog worthy for me is if I want to dip a sandwich into it. At the very least, a good test is if I want to take that last piece of bread and run it around the bowl to get every last bit of soup. By those standards this soup was fantastic! Not only did I dip my sandwich into it, I licked my fingers to get the few drops that landed there after dipping. Yum! Yum!

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Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

6 large vine ripened or plum tomatoes peeled

1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes

1 14 oz can spicy red tomatoes

2 scallions sliced

½ red onion sliced

½ white onion sliced

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese

½ cup ½ and ½

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp seasoned salt

1 tbsp dried basil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried parsley

½ tsp lemon pepper

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp thyme

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp dried dill weed

pinch of sugar.

Boil about 4 cups of water. Place fresh tomatoes in a large pot and pour boiling water over tomatoes for easy peeling.  Rough chop the tomatoes.

Place peeled tomatoes and all other ingredients except the Parmesan cheese, heavy cream and ½ and ½ into a large pot. Simmer over medium heat for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until it is smooth but still has some texture. You can also place the tomato mixture into a blender to smooth out the veggies then place back into the pot.

Stir in heavy cream and ½ and ½. Place pot back on the heat and reduce heat to medium low. Add parmesan cheese to the pot and stir for 1 – 2 minutes until the cheese melts and is incorporated into the soup. Simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with a nice crusty piece of bread to sop up all the tomato soup goodness!

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Hot Pepper Relish

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I have said in my blog posts on many occasions that my family loves spicy foods. Actually, that is an understatement at least for my hubby and kids. I like some spice but not as hot as they do.

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Every year I grow a variety of peppers and each year they seem to be more plentiful. This year was no different and as the farmers say “We had a bumper crop” of peppers. The sunlight on our porch is just right for my pots of peppers and cherry tomatoes. Whenever I try to grow veggies in the backyard, the veggies shrivel up and died no matter how much tender love and care I give them. I guess there are too many trees casting shade so not enough sunlight reaches the plants. This year I bought several types of hot peppers along with bell peppers for my hubby because he likes to cut them up on his eggs and uses them in salsa.

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Because we had so many peppers I had to come up with a new recipe since I did not want all of those peppers to go to waste. I already had enough pepper sauce courtesy of my mom but I did not have a something spicy to use as a topping for chicken, beef, vegetables and hubby’s eggs. The only thing I could come up with was a Hot Pepper Relish. At least that is what I call it. Hubby wanted me to call the recipe Ed’s Pepper Hots but that just did not roll off of my tongue. Relish is a better description and to make sure I was not totally off base I checked out the local grocery store to see if they had pepper relishes. They did.

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This recipe is not for the faint of heart. The peppers I used were so hot I could still smell the pepper juice on my fingers after washing them in really hot water several times. Yes, I would suggest wearing gloves when you cut up the peppers and no, I did not. Big mistake and I will not make it again. The next time I make Hot Pepper Relish I will add a few milder peppers to balance out the heat so that I can enjoy it too. For now, hubby is thoroughly enjoying the Hot Pepper Relish and is adding it to everything.

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Hot Pepper Relish

Ingredients:

8 – 12 fresh hot peppers seeded and diced small (hot cow horn, jalapeno, hot banana)

6 cherry tomatoes quartered

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp red onion diced small

1 tsp cilantro

½ tsp dill weed

sprinkle of salt and pepper

juice from ½ a lime

Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Spoon into an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to marinate. Serve with your favorite chips or use as a condiment with your favorite foods.

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Lentil Stew

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Don’t ask me why but I have had lentils on my mind for the past week. I think it was because I wanted to make some red lentil soup and discovered I didn’t have any lentils. Since I usually find them at Trader Joe’s I had to wait until my weekend ritual of running errands to be on that side of town. Once I got to the store and spotted the red lentils I also spotted green lentils which made me think of a Lentil Stew. Again, I don’t know why.

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Sometimes my imagination kicks in and I just come up with ideas for combinations of food. For the Lentil Stew I thought of carrots, potatoes and tomatoes as the right combination of vegetables to add to the lentils to make a stew. Yes, a stew not a soup. To me, stews are a little heartier than a soup even more than those soups that are thick and packed with vegetables. Stews have a slightly different consistency than soups and are surrounded by a kind of gravy. In the case of Lentil Stew it makes its own gravy.

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Lentil Stew is the type of dish I would make during the winter or on chilly fall days. Granted, the day I first made this stew it was not really chilly but there was a nice gentle breeze. Now that I have tested out the recipe, I know what I will be preparing it quite often when the gentle breezes turn into strong cold winds.

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Lentil Stew

Ingredients:

1 pkg green lentils (soak overnight in cold water then drain)

½ cup red lentils (optional)

½ cup shredded carrots (slightly chop)

2 cans roasted diced tomatoes

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

2 small potatoes diced

2 scallions diced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp minced garlic

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp basil

¼ tsp ground ginger

Add lentils and water to a large pot. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer while preparing vegetables.

In a large frying pan add olive oil and potatoes over medium high heat. Season potatoes with a little salt and pepper. Saute potatoes until slightly browned. Reduce heat to medium then add onions, carrots, tomatoes and remaining seasonings to the potatoes. Stir and allow veggies to soften. Add veggies and chicken broth to lentils and stir. Allow stew to simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until lentils are tender. Taste to determine if you need more salt. Add additional broth if stew is too thick.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

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There are two foods I love to eat but until recently I never thought of putting them together into one recipe. I love eating apples and I really like butternut squash. Once I thought of combining them into a recipe I was on a roll. The first recipe I came up with was a Butternut Squash and Apple Soup. Soup seemed the most logical recipe to try since the day was crisp, cold and little windy. Days like that call out for soup and I just happen to have both butternut squash and granny smith apples on hand.

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Years ago squash was classified as either a winter squash or a summer squash. Butternut Squash is known as a winter squash because they are generally picked in the winter and have a thick skin. Summer squash is picked in the summer and has a delicate thin skin that is edible. During the summer months I love to make sauteed yellow squash with onions. I also like to make Zucchini and Tomatoes with onions. Both squashes have a thin skin and are wonderful when mixed with onions and/or tomatoes.

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Soup is very versatile which means you can toss almost any combination of vegetables together with a little broth and call it soup. This time around I tossed  veggies and fruit together and the result was delicious if I do say so myself. I have roasted butternut squash with apples in the oven to create a tasty side dish with turkey or pork so I imagined the combination might taste pretty good in soup. My imagination turned into reality which is always a thrill!

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Whether you decide to make this soup during the crisp days of fall or in the middle of summer I think you will be pleased. Soups fans enjoy soup no matter the season. Me? I am truly a fan of soup.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Ingredients:

1 granny smith apple – peeled and sliced

1 lb butternut squash – peeled and cubed

1 small onion sliced

1 small red pepper sliced

1 scallion thinly sliced

3 slices bacon crumbled

2 cups chicken stock

½ cup half and half

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place squash, apples, onions and red pepper in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toss gently to coat. Spread out on a rimmed cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

Place in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until squash and apples softened. Remove from oven and place in a large pot. Add chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes until is heated up. Remove from heat. Blend using an immusion blender or place in a blender until smooth. Stir in half and half along with heavy cream. Place back on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until soup thickens. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle crumbed bacon and scalllions on top.

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Deviled Eggs

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Who knew? Who knew I could actually make delicious Deviled Eggs? I sure didn’t. I have been trying for years to make perfect Deviled Eggs and over and over again I failed. I kept trying because I love eating Deviled Eggs. Whenever I attend a party I seek out the Deviled Eggs first. Of course on a few occasions I discovered my host or hostess could not make good Deviled Eggs either.

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Finally, I figured out that instead of trying to add a bunch of special seasonings or unique ingredients I needed to keep it simple. In most cases, it is best to stick to a basic recipe then gradually build on your success (that philosophy could be applied to life in general). Now, my Deviled Eggs are definitely lip smacking good. Sticking to a simple recipe made it easy to adjust my recipe after my initial success. My stepped up version of Deviled Eggs adds a little bit of bacon. Remember, bacon makes everything better or a least it can’t hurt. I am sure my fellow carnivores would agree. My vegetarian friends will still find the basic recipe to be delicious. Try topping with minced red onion or a little cilantro. Whatever you decide to do I am sure you will enjoy these Deviled Eggs.

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Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:
6 – 12 large eggs
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp relish
¼ tsp mustard
¼ tsp chopped parsley
water

Optional:
minced red onion
minced cilantro
3 slices crispy bacon crumbled

Place eggs in a medium sized pot with enough water to cover the eggs. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt. Bring eggs to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and let eggs sit for 5 minutes. Remove from stove and run under cool water for 60 seconds or let eggs cool for 10 – 15 minutes.

Peel eggs and then slice in half. Gently squeeze yolk from the eggs into a bowl. Add seasonings, mayonnaise and mustard. Mash the yolks with a fork and mix the ingredients. Spoon mixture into a small plastic bag. Clip one corner of the plastic bag. Squeeze mixture into each egg shell and top with crumbled bacon, minced red onion or cilantro. Chill before serving (unless you cannot wait!).

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Guacamole

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My hubby has been trying to get me to make Guacamole for years. He has even brought home recipes from co-workers who he said made “the best” guacamole for office parties. To say I was intimidated by his “the best” statement would be an understatement. My past attempts at making Guacamole never quite hit the mark. It was either too lemony, too salty, too garlicky or too yuck!

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Yep, I don’t mind saying I made some terrible Guacamole in my earlier days of cooking. Now? Now, I can say I have finally pulled together a recipe that is simple and full of flavor. Keeping it simple is the key to making Guacamole. Having only a few ingredients and seasonings helps to keep the avocado the star of the recipe. After all, it is not really Guacamole without the avocado.

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Speaking of avocado, did you know that avocados are rich in fiber with about 10 grams in a medium-sized avocado. One of the things I love about avocados is that they are versatile. I use them in salads, toppings for my tacos and tostadas or in spreads or dips. I think some folks even use avocados as a hair conditioner and as a facial mask to improve their complexion. I would rather eat avocados than wear them.

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So, for anyone out there that has been intimidated by the idea of making good Guacamole try my version. I no longer feel like a wimp and neither will you.

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Guacamole

Ingredients:

1 small container of fresh salsa drained

4 ripe avocados cubed

1 4oz can of jalapenos drained

½ tsp cilantro

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt

¼ cup olive oil

Dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, salt, black pepper, cilantro and garlic powder.

Place drained salsa in a medium-sized bowl. Pour lime juice over salsa and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Add avocado and jalapenos to the salsa. Pour dressing mixture over avocado. Gently toss salsa and avocado together. Let chill at least 15 to 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla chips or thin slices of french bread.

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Queso Fundido

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Tortillas are a staple in my kitchen.  Between making chicken burritos, breakfast burritos , tortilla chips and soft tacos as a quick meal I make sure I always have tortillas on hand.  I was searching for a new way to use tortillas when I just happen to come across a delicious looking Mexican dish that included tortillas.  I had never heard of Queso Fundido which means “melted cheese”.  I discovered that Queso Fundido is actually a very popular dish even in the states.

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In most areas Queso Fundido is made as an appetizer but my research showed some folks like to turn it into a sandwich.  Since I was new to making the recipe I thought I had better stick to making it an appetizer.  There were so many different recipes out in the cooking sphere I decided to find a basic recipe then add my own little twist.  The standard ingredients for any Queso Fundido is spicy sausage, tomatoes and cheese.  After that you can add whatever seasonings you like.  Chorizo is the sausage of choice in most recipes because of the level of heat and spice.  If you are not into spicy sausage, you can still make this dish but use a milder Italian sausage.  Nobody will care.  Use whatever makes you happy.  But if you want the Queso Fundido to be authenic, use the chorizo.

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Be prepared for this dish to disappear quickly.  If you have cheese lovers in your house, they will definitely love Queso Fundido.  Serve it up while it is hot and bubbly along with warm tortillas.  Talk about Yummy!

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Queso Fundido

Ingredients:

1 pkg ground chorizo or spicy Italian sausage

6 flour tortillas

1 jalapeno seeded and chopped

1 clove garlic chopped

2 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped

2 cups mozzarella or Mexican cheese

¼ cup diced onion or scallions

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cilantro chopped

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp ground cumin

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat olive oil in medium sized skillet. Brown chorizo until cooked and slightly crisp. Remove sausage from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add garlic, onions, jalapeno tomatoes and seasonings to the skillet. Stir to mix well. Reduce heat and cook for 3 – 5 minutes until veggies are soft. Add sausage to the mixture and stir to combine.

Spray a pie dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle ½ of the cheese in the bottom of the dish. Layer ½ of the chorizo and vegetable mixture over cheese. Sprinkle a little more cheese over the chorizo mixture then top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cheese melts and dish is slightly browned and bubbly. Serve with warmed tortillas.

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