Blistered Shishito Peppers

It’s always good to have easy appetizers in your back pocket. This recipe can be thrown together in 10 minutes and will please any crowd. Pair it with a creamy dip:  it’s healthy and not too spicy–just full of flavor. 

Ingredients 

  • Shishito peppers
  • Kosher or Sea Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika
  • Olive oil 
  • Mayo and/or sour cream
  • Half of a lemon, juiced
  • Dash hot sauce to taste 

Put your clean and dry peppers in a bowl. Toss with the seasonings and oil. Go a little heavy on the salt. 


To make the dip put equal parts sour cream and mayo with lemon juice and hot sauce to taste. Mix and let sit. 

Put your cast iron skillet on the stove and get it piping hot. Then turn to medium/high heat. 


Place your peppers in the pan and let cook for a minute or two then toss to blister the other sides. Cook for a total of 5-6 minutes. 

Serve immediately with dipping sauce. Sprinkle peppers with more salt on top and a dash of paprika in the sauce for a touch of color.  

To eat – pick up peppers by the stem, dip in sauce and chow down on everything but the stem. 

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Homemade Salsa

Homemade salsa is one of the easiest appetizers to make. You can do it in advance and pull it out in seconds. I recommend making it the day before you want to eat it for best results. It also will stay in your fridge for a while in an air tight jar. So many people ask me for this recipe. Your friends will too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes (pictured below)
  • Half of a white onion, quartered (has to be white, can’t substitute here)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper for extra heat

Note: the type of tomatoes you use will affect the outcome of this salsa. I recently tried a different brand and the taste was way off. You can get the ones in the picture below a lot of places including Whole Foods. I use them for my Italian sauces too. This is KEY to good salsa.

Instructions


Pour the ingredients into a blender. Pulse until desired texture. I like mine a little chunky so you can see all the ingredients in it.

 



Put it in a jar and refrigerate for 2 hours. It won’t taste good until the flavors have a chance to merry for at least an hour. Serve with chips and you’re done!

Prosciutto Wrapped Arugula with Pear and Blue Cheese

It’s nice to have easy go-to recipes in your back pocket that taste delicious. This particular recipe also happens to be pretty healthy for you as far as summertime BBQ dishes go. It can be used as an appetizer or side dish, it’s easy to serve and eat with your fingers. The one downside to this recipe is that it’s not one of those make ahead dishes that can sit…otherwise you will have soggy lettuce. But you can whip it up in 10 minutes right when guests arrive or right before you leave the house.

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Ingredients:

  • Argulua, washed and dried
  • Balsamic glaze (like this one or make your own)
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Fresh cracked pepper (you really don’t need salt b/c the prosciutto takes care of that)
  • 1 pear, sliced into thin pieces
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • 15 thinly sliced imported prosciutto

Instructions:

  • Put the arugula in a bowl, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze and olive oil. Then add fresh cracked black pepper and combine.
  • Lay your prosciutto out flat and place a small handful of arugula on the end of the slice. Add 1-2 pieces of apple and some blue cheese crumbles.
  • Roll all the ingredients inside the prosciutto.
  • Serve on a platter. Option to drizzle more balsamic glaze on top.


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If you have any vegetarians, skip the prosciutto and they have a delicious salad! image

July 2016 Update: I put a spin on this recipe so that it would stand up better to being left outdoors in the summer time. Form the prosciutto slices in small muffin tins and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Add the same ingredients as above and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Amaze!

Baked Chicken Egg Rolls

I love coming up with game time food during football season. Something about the fall and watching sports on Sunday that really makes me want some delicious homemade food. I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t like an egg roll and I figured it was worth trying some out to see if you can make them with out putting them in a deep fryer. Were they as good? No. But they were still crunchy on the outside and full of flavor in the middle. Plus you can use any ingredients you want–an Italian twist, an Asian twist, a Mexican twist… sky is the limit. I had limited ingredients on hand and certainly wish I had some fresh ginger to add but these were good nonetheless. Try ’em out using your favorite flavors!

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Ingredients:

-1 link of organic chicken sausage with casing removed or ground chicken

-1/2 red onion

-Fresh cilantro

-4 Won Ton wrappers

-Chinese cabbage, sliced thin

-1 Red pepper, julienned

For the Sauce:
-Sriracha sauce to taste

-Corn starch (optional)

-Soy sauce

– 1/2 TBSP honey

-Salt & pepper

Instructions:

For the Sauce:
-Combine a few tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of honey and sriracha (to taste) in a bowl. Mix well. Heat up in sauce pan or in the microwave. Add corn starch to thicken. Set aside for dipping later.

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

-Saute chicken and onions until the chicken is browned and onions are softened.

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Cut your cabbage and red pepper in thin strips.

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Place the chicken, cabbage and peppers towards the edge of your won ton. Dip your finger in water and wet the edges of all sides of the won ton. Roll the wrapper and fold in the sides as you continue rolling. Pinch the edges and wet again if necessary to be sure they stick together.

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On a baking sheet, drizzle some olive or vegetable oil (I used both). Roll your egg rolls in the oil so they are covered.

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Place in the oven to bake for roughly 15 minutes or until the egg rolls are golden brown. Dip in sauce and enjoy some football! Pretty simple, no?

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Grilled Jalapeño Poppers

Finding delicious new appetizers to bring to a summer BBQ is always a fun challenge for me. It’s a risk trying something new, especially when bringing it to a large group of people but if you just have confidence in your ingredients it will turn out great! I’ve seen a lot of Jalapeno Popper recipes on Pinterest lately but they are typically stuffed with some mixture of cream cheese and jack cheese and wrapped with bacon and sometimes fried. Not exactly healthy and not that exciting (to me) in terms of ingredients. I love jalapenos so I started thinking how I could put my twist on this recipe. I substituted using all that cheese with avocado and I bought an all natural chorizo made by Whole Foods meat department. I used fresh herbs, quality cheese and cooked them on the grill; great flavor with out all the fat.

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Ingredients:

-2 Fresh Chorizo sausage links from Whole Foods (you could substitute with other kinds of ground beef or pork but make sure you season it well with things like chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper cumin, etc.)

-2 garlic cloves

-12 to 15 jalapeno peppers (Make sure you pick out larger and fatter jalapenos so you can fit a lot of stuffing in them)

-1/2 of a ripe avocado

-1-2 tbsp whipped cream cheese with chives (of course you can use any kind but I had this in my fridge)

-Manchego cheese, freshly grated

-Fresh chopped cilantro

-Fresh chopped chives

-Juice from half of one lime

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Instructions:

-Cut your jalapenos in half and take out the seeds and membranes. If you have some jalapenos on the skinny side, cut off 1/3 of it so you have a big enough pepper to stuff.

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-Cut the casings off the chorizo and place in a medium hot pan with fresh chopped garlic.

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-Combine the cream cheese, avocado, fresh herbs and lime juice in a bowl. Add salt & pepper. When the chorizo cools, add it to the bowl and mix well.

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-Using a spoon, stuff each pepper and top with a sprinkle of manchego cheese. Press down the cheese into the stuffing so it sticks to the mixture and doesn’t fall off. I stuffed them in advance and covered with tinfoil for a few hours until they were ready for the grill.

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-Get the grill nice and hot and put the flames on a medium level. Place the jalapenos directly on the grill and cook until the cheese melts. It’s a good idea to warn your guests that sometimes jalapenos are mild and sometimes they are spicy–it’s hard to know which one you will get.

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-Pop one in your mouth! Enjoy!

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Italian Antipasto Crostini

In search of a new fun appetizer, I spent some time on Pinterest and Food Gawker this week. I was going to a coworker’s house for a BBQ after a 9 hole golf tournament so I needed something I could make in advance and pack in a cooler. I came up with a combination of ingredients that go together seamlessly after seeing many different inspirational dishes online. The key here is your ingredients must be fresh!! You can opt for a store-bought pesto but I don’t think it’s quite the same.

This is a multi-step recipe and a little time consuming (but you can multi-task) so I recommend you make extra of these ingredients. Keep them in the fridge to integrate in other meals throughout the week–especially the caramelized onions and pesto!

Serve to your guests with toasted slices of bread and let them assemble their own crostini masterpiece!

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Ingredients:

  • Fresh Basil
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 log of goat cheese
  • 1 container of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 large sweet onions (more if you want extras)
  • 1/4 cup or so of pine nuts
  • Few tablespoons of parmesan cheese
  • Fresh arugula (1/2 cup)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 baguette cut into slices
  • Kosher sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • Balsamic glaze (highly recommend purchasing this even if it is pricey, it’s a great finishing sauce for many dishes)

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Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half and cut your peppers into small strips. Place on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil (less cleanup) and add olive oil until the vegetables glisten. Add salt & pepper and mix well. Place in the oven for 2 hours. (If you don’t have as much time you can turn your oven to a higher degree like 350 for an hour.) Taste your pepper to make sure it’s soft and sweet. If you bite into a pepper and there is a crunch, they are not ready.

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Caramelized Onions:

Caramelized onions can be made at any time and kept in the fridge for sweet and savory additions to meals throughout the week. Cut your onions into thin strips (for guidance click here). Place in a hot pan with olive oil and season with salt. Cook on medium to high so they brown (be careful not to burn!). You can’t over cook them on low heat-they only get sweeter. About 20-30 minutes is a good time frame for a delicious final product.

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Pesto:

Fill the food processor to the top with fresh basil and then add oil, salt, pepper, pine nuts and a bit of arugula (optional). Turn it on for a few seconds to get most of the mixture combined. Then add cheese and combine again.

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Plating:

Make sure all your ingredients are cooled. Add the roasted tomatoes and peppers to the outside of your dish. If you place a bowl in the center it will help guide you. Then add onions still leaving a place in the middle for your pesto. After you spoon in your pesto mixture (don’t be shy to pile it in there – people looove pesto) then top with your log of goat cheese. I recommend cutting your goat cheese into pieces to make it easier. Serve with toasted bread.

Give your guests a spoon and let them make their own crostini!

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Spicy Italian Baked Zucchini Chips

I often am looking for a salty and crunchy snack in the afternoon or after dinner late night. Sweets don’t do it for me: I need the salt. Given that zucchini is a vegetable and you are baking them (rather than frying) this recipe is a smart alternative to the typical fried potato chip or goldfish (my personal favorite). You can modify these any way you’d like but I opted for a thicker slice so it would be crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside and I added lots of red pepper flakes for a real kick.  This recipe is a hefty snack for 2 people, double it if you are making for a group. It’s also great to make as an appetizer.  As per usual, I didn’t measure when I created this recipe so go with your gut when proportioning out the various ingredients in the bread crumb mixture. Enjoy!

Zucchini Chips

Zucchini Chips

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini, washed and sliced roughly 1/4 thick
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 or so tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat panko break crumbs (or whatever kind you have/prefer)
  • hefty sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp non fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg white
  • salt & pepper
  • Olive oil

breadcrumbs

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
  • Brush a layer of olive oil or vegetable oil to a cookie sheet
  • Combine egg white and yogurt in a shallow bowl and combine well
  • Combine bread crumbs, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes, cheese, garlic, parsley in a shallow bowl
  • Coat your zucchini slices in the yogurt mixture and then transfer to bread crumbs

yogurt

  • Place the slices on your cookie sheet. Using your misto, spray the slices with olive oil to dampen the bread crumbs.

Ready for oven

  • Bake at 400 until golden brown (about 20 minutes)
  • Serve with your favorite sauce

Italian Baked Zucchini Chips

Texas Caviar

This is a recipe I cannot take credit for.  My friend Alexandra made it for me on my birthday two years ago and we fell in love with it.  Because it’s so healthy and versatile I started making it for family parties.  Turns out they love it too.  It is somewhat of a bizarre recipe. In fact, every time I make it, I turn my nose a little bit at the ingredients.  It doesn’t make sense, it’s not particularly appetizing and I always doubt it coming together.   But then, I dip my chip to taste it and all that goes away.  I hope I didn’t lose you… you just have to try it to love it.

NOTE: Tostitos scoop chips are the perfect accompaniment to this salsa.

Other ingredients you can add or substitute that I didn’t put this time around: chopped tomatoes, avocado, fresh cilantro (or parsley), jalapenos.  There are so many versions of Texas caviar out there so whatever you choose, I’m sure it will be great.  I also don’t let mine sit for 24 hours and it doesn’t suffer on taste or flavor.  Also, most recipes call for about 1 cup of sugar which I feel is completely unnecessary.

This salsa would be great in lettuce wraps, on fish tacos, as a side dish or as I always make it, a perfect party appetizer.

INGREDIENTS:

Sauce:

  • Cider vinegar (little less than a cup)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sprinkle of sugar in the raw (this is my replacement for the cup of sugar)
Salsa:
  • 4 or so stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small jar of pimento peppers
  • 1-2 cans shoepeg corn
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • 1 can black eyed peas
  • 1-2 can black beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
INSTRUCTIONS:
In a small sauce pan heat the oil and vinegar with a sprinkle of sugar.  Bring it to a low boil and whisk well.  Add salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl add all your canned and diced ingredients for the salsa.  Pour the sauce on top and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.

The Best Buffalo Chicken Dip

This delicious dip tastes just like wings but with out all the mess and fatty skin! It’s so easy to make and great for a party. Since I started making it, people often ask me to bring it to their house for parties.

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
  • Ranch seasoning packet
  • Celery (5-7 stalks- I like to have the nice fresh crunch in there)
  • Scallions (3-5)
  • 3 Chicken breasts
  • Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese and/or Blue Cheese to top (some people don’t like blue cheese, so I put it on half)
  • Franks Buffalo Sauce
  • Whole wheat ritz crackers and/or cut up celery and vegetables to dip.
  • S&P

Instructions

Low boil seasoned chicken in water until cooked through and let cool. (If you prefer you can cook the chicken in a slow cooker with the hot sauce on low for 2-3 hours, or you can buy a rotisserie chicken in the store if that’s easier for you.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop up celery and scallions and place into a bowl.

Use 2 forks to pull the chicken apart into small bite sized pieces. Put in the bowl with celery and scallions and add Franks Hot Sauce. (I used about 1/2 the bottle- you can taste the chicken and test the temperature) You have the option to add a tablespoon of melted butter- it sure helps with flavor but not fat 😉

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In your baking dish, mix the cream cheese with ranch seasoning and spread along the bottom of the  dish. Add the chicken mixture over the layer of cream cheese. Top with the mozzarella and/or blue cheese. Sometimes I do half and half to please those who don’t care for blue cheese.

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Cook for 25 minutes or until the cheese is nice and bubbly. I like to add a little more hot sauce at the end on top to bake into the cheese. It looks pretty–that’s all.

Top with more fresh cut scallions for a little color and serve with whole wheat ritz crackers or scoops.

 

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Instead of a dip, use won tons!

Not that this recipe needed changing, but I’ve tried several different versions. We all know how dips can get messy to eat when you’re dressed up and you don’t want to drip gooey cheese or hot sauce on your dress or nice shirt. So, I bought won ton wrappers for the first time. I used mini cupcake pans, put a won ton in each holder, brushed with melted butter, and baked in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until browned. Then remove from the oven, take the won tons out of the cupcake holders and place on a baking sheet.

Fill the won tons layering first the cream cheese mixture, then the buffalo chicken and top with mozzarella and blue cheese. Then place them back in the oven until the cheese is melted. Serve these tasty individual bite sized snacks hot! I do recommend trying this at home!! Delicious!

I’ve also stuffed them and closed them and served with ranch dressing (yum!):

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