BBQ Jalapeno Poppers

It’s September, football has started and that means GAME DAY APPETIZERS! That’s my favorite part of football season anyway. There are lots of ways to make poppers, they can be a bit more refined, with goat cheese and balsamic, like Honey Balsamic Jalapeno Poppers or more traditional. This recipe screams Texas to me, with the combo of bacon, cream cheese and cheddar cheese and topped with BBQ sauce. Who’s hungry?

 

Ingredients:
12 jalapenos, sliced in half
8 oz. cream cheese
6 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
12 slices of bacon, cut in half
¼ cup BBQ sauce

Let cream cheese sit on the counter for about 30 minutes to soften. While preheating oven to 425 degrees, cut stems from jalapenos and slice in half lengthwise, removing ribs and seeds.  Mix together softened cream cheese and shredded cheddar. Spread an equal amount of cheese mixture in each halved pepper and wrap with a half slice of bacon. If the slices aren’t big enough to wrap around completely, they can be secured with a toothpick, but I usually do without. Place jalapenos on cookie sheet in 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until bacon is cooked. Make sure the pan has a raised lip so the oils from the bacon do not spill while cooking. Brush with BBQ sauce, then return to the oven for 5 minutes more. Enjoy!

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini with Prosciutto and Arugula

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to happy hour at Mattie’s, a new restaurant in my neighborhood.  One of the appetizers we tried was toasted bread, with creamy goat cheese and figs, topped with prosciutto, honey and arugula with a sprinkle of sea salt.  It was delicious, and certainly something that would be easy to make at home.  So here it is, my recipe for Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini with Prosciutto and Arugula, a sweet and savory appetizer to enjoy with a glass of wine.

 

Ingredients:
4 slices Ciabatta bread
2 oz. goat cheese
1 tbsp. fig preserves
4 slices prosciutto
1 cup baby arugula
1 tsp. honey simple syrup
2 tsp. olive oil
Coarse sea salt

In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese and fig preserves.  Put broiler on LOW and spread an equal amount of the goat cheese mixture on each slice of bread.  Place bread on a cookie sheet and broil until just starting to turn brown, 2-3 minutes.

Toss arugula with honey simple syrup and olive oil.  Top each slice of bread with arugula, prosciutto and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Enjoy!

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball

I love make-ahead appetizers. The more I can have done before the day of a party, the better. And if a make-ahead appetizer has cheese and bacon in it… that’s even better! You know, because there is cheese and bacon in it. And then rolled in more bacon and toasted pecans. This Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball is the perfect make-ahead appetizer to make for Super Bowl or to bring over to a friend’s house. It can also be served at room temperature – so it’s easy, cheesy, and delicious!

 

Ingredients:
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 slices thick cut bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
¼ cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
6 oz. cheddar, finely shredded
2 tbsp. green onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp. garlic powder
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to season

Take cream cheese out of refrigerator and remove from foil wrappers to allow it to come to room temperature (it will be easier to fold in other ingredients). In a small bowl, combine toasted pecans and 2 slices crumbled bacon for outer coating. In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, 4 slices crumbled bacon, green onions, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper until fully incorporated. Using your hands, form into a ball and roll in bacon and pecan mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in refrigerator. When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving and arrange on platter with crackers. Enjoy!

Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks

cheesy-garlic-breadsticksThere is something about freshly baked bread that makes every meal better. It makes a light salad more substantial, and every soup, stew and gravy needs a fresh piece of bread for sweeping off the plate. Add garlic + cheese and we’ve covered all my favorite groups. Who doesn’t love cheesy breadsticks?

 

 

cheesy-garlic-breadsticks-2

 

Ingredients (makes 8 breadsticks):
8 oz. pizza dough (see recipe)
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

cheesy-garlic-breadsticks-3Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll pizza dough into an approx. 8×8 inch square. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl for 15 second increments until fully melted. Stir in garlic, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. Brush melted butter mixture on dough and top with shredded cheese. Bake on a pizza stone or cookie sheet for 12 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Brush with any remaining butter, sprinkle with sea salt and cut into 8 breadsticks. Enjoy!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade Ricotta Cheese 2Ricotta cheese is a staple in a lot of Italian cooking. I use it in lasagna, stuff shells, on pizzas, or even desserts. I always knew that making ricotta from scratch was pretty easy – there are only 4 ingredients, all of which were on hand and it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. I had a hankering for Ricotta Cheese with Peaches and Spicy Chili Honey, where the cheese is the star of the show, and wanted a high quality, fresh cheese. The selection at the grocery store in Austin is a bit, well, lacking for Ricotta, so now was the time to make my own. The results were fantastic, and luckily there was quite a bit left for more dishes throughout the week.

Even though it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever made, it felt pretty fancy to make my own cheese.

Ingredients:
½ gallon whole milk (8 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (juice from approximately 1 lemon)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese 3Line a colander with 2 layers of dampened cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.
On medium heat, combine milk, heavy cream and salt, stirring occasionally until starting to boil. Reduce heat to low and add lemon juice. Mixture will start to curdle in about 2 minutes. Continue to simmer for approximately 2 minutes more. Pour mixture into lined colander and let sit about 20 minutes so the excess liquids (whey) drain from the cheese. Empty bowl occasionally to ensure proper draining. Store unused ricotta in the refrigerator for about a week (like it would last that long!) Enjoy!

Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites

Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada BitesIt’s not difficult to tell what season it is by looking at the dinner table in my house. If winter can be characterized by sauces, soups and stews, summer is represented by fresh herbs, salads and anything topped with vegetable slaws. Maybe it has something to do with not having a bulky sweater to hide behind, or a lighter appetite in the 100 degree Texas heat.

If you’ve ever been to Z’Tejas, a restaurant in downtown Austin, you’ve probably tried their Grilled Shrimp & Guacamole Tostada Bites appetizer. Crunchy tostadas, topped with a big dollop of guacamole and perfectly seasoned grilled shrimp, served with a tangy vegetable slaw. They are what an appetizer should be – a bite or two to help entice your appetite – which makes them a great anytime appetizer, but even better summertime appetizer!

Since I’m making a big batch of these for a get-together, I used store bought guacamole to save time, but you can certainly make your own. Speaking of saving time, have you tried out a stove top grill pan? I bought a fire engine red Le Creuset Double Burner Grill Pan from the William Sonoma outlet a few weeks ago and I am in love with my new toy. I probably buy one piece of Le Creuset cookware a year to add to my collection, and I’m like a little-kid-on-Christmas kind of excited whenever I get a new piece. It’s large enough to use over 2 burners, so it heats evenly and I even did all 30 shrimp in one batch!

Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites 2Ingredients (makes 30 bite sized tostadas):

Vegetable Slaw:
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 red pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, diced
¼ cup shredded carrots
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

Garlic Lime Shrimp:
30 peeled and deveined shrimp small/medium shrimp (approx. 30 per lb.)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
Pinch crushed red pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. canola oil

30 tostada or pita rounds
1 pint store bought guacamole or see recipe for Restaurant Style Guacamole

Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites 3To make the slaw:
In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, sugar and lime juice until sugar is dissolved. Add in canola oil and set aside. Mix together diced red pepper, red onion, jalapeno, shredded carrots and cucumber. Pour dressing mixture over the top and stir to combine. Set in refrigerator for 20 minutes while preparing the shrimp to let the vegetables marinate in the dressing.

To prepare the shrimp:
Combine shrimp with pressed or minced garlic, lime juice, crushed red pepper and canola oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spray grill pan with non-stick cooking spray and heat on medium. Grill shrimp 2-3 minutes per side until cooked throughout.

Line tostadas on a serving tray. Top each tostada with a heaping teaspoon of guacamole and a grilled shrimp. Spoon vegetable slaw over shrimp, serving the rest on the side in a small bowl. Enjoy!

Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Orange Chicken Lettuce WrapsLettuce wraps are some of my favorite appetizers at Asian restaurants and these delicious bites are so easy to make at home. Packed with citrus flavor, these Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps are diet friendly, full of fresh veggies, and perfect for a family style get together. Set all the filling out in a large bowl, stack up the lettuce cups, and everyone can build their own wrap (or two!)

 

 

Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps 2Ingredients:
Butter lettuce
8 oz. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp. canola oil
½ red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup shredded carrots
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
Juice and zest from ½ orange
½ cup chicken broth
Sliced green onions and chopped peanuts, for garnish

Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps 3Cut chicken into bite sized pieces, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté chicken in a skillet about 5 minutes until cooked over medium heat. Remove chicken from pan and add diced onion, bell pepper, minced garlic, shredded carrot and crushed red pepper until vegetables start to soften, around 3 minutes. Add zest and juice from ½ orange, hoisin sauce and chicken broth. Return chicken to skillet and let cook for 3 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and starts to thicken. Place chicken mixture in large bowl for sharing, garnish with sliced green onions and chopped peanuts, and serve with lettuce cups.
Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Guacamole

Restaurant Style GuacamoleGuacamole is a summer mainstay here in Austin, and you can get it at nearly every restaurant in town. Back in my native New York, it is seldom found outside of a Mexican restaurant. This Restaurant Style Guacamole is easy to make, uses lots of fresh veggies and herbs, and everyone should have access to good Guac! It’s perfect to make for a BBQ, when making Corn and Black Bean Salad as a summery side, so you can put the leftover red onion, cilantro and lime from that dish to good use. Making them at the same time cuts down on prep time, and there is less to buy at the grocery store!

Restaurant Style Guacamole 2Ingredients:
1 large or 2 small avocados
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 tbsp. red onion, minced
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves, stems removed
Juice of ½ lime
Salt and pepper

Restaurant Style Guacamole 3In a medium bowl, scoop out avocado and mash with a fork. Mix in diced tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice until creamy. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Corn and Black Bean Salad

Corn and Black Bean SaladSummer means grilling, and if the cooking is being done outside, it’s time to whip up some easy sides that are packed with veggies and don’t require turning on the oven. I love making dishes that use a bunch of fresh ingredients, but sometimes if I’m using a piece of an onion or half a bunch of cilantro, as much as I plan to make something with the other half, a few days later I wind up throwing a wilted bunch of cilantro in the trash. Making this Corn and Black Bean Salad on a night when I also make Guacamole for an appetizer, uses several of the same ingredients, so less waste and the flavors complement each other nicely. Besides, everyone loves to snack on Guacamole while waiting for dinner!

Corn and Black Bean Salad 2Ingredients:
16 oz. bag frozen corn, thawed and drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 tbsp. red onion, minced
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, stems removed and chopped

For the dressing:
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice of ½ lime
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. canola oil
¼ tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper

Corn and Black Bean Salad 3In a medium bowl, mix together corn, black beans, diced bell pepper, diced jalapeno, minced red onion and chopped cilantro. In a separate bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, lime juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in canola oil, cumin, salt and pepper and pour dressing over vegetable mixture. Stir and refrigerate for one hour before serving to let flavors fully incorporate.

Enjoy!

 

Note: this makes a great summer side, but I’ve also been known to make this as an appetizer and scoop it up with some chips!

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage PinwheelsIf you’ve ever walked into a pizza place in New York, you’ve seen the counter lined with pizza you can order by the slice, calzones and pinwheels.  My first stop when visiting New York is always my favorite pizza place, but I still need to get my fix between visits. These pinwheels are hearty, grab-able, appetizers for game day or just having some friends over. My all-time favorite is the classic pepperoni pinwheel, but you can put just about anything in them. Got a meat lover? Make this pepperoni and sausage variety. Feeling vegetarian? Broccoli and roasted garlic makes a divine pinwheel. Just don’t forget the cheese! Take some store bought pizza dough (or make your own) and roll away. One pound of dough makes 2 rolls, and each roll makes about 10 pinwheel slices, so this recipe is great for a group. If you’re making appetizers for just a few friends, cut the recipe in half, and make the leftover dough into garlic knots to have with dinner, or a thin crust pizza for tomorrow.

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels 2Ingredients (makes approximately 20 pinwheels):
1 lb. pizza dough
¼ lb. sliced pepperoni
¼ lb. crumbled Italian sausage, browned in skillet
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. melted butter
Marinara sauce for dipping

 

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels 3Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pizza dough in half and roll each half into an approximately 9×9 square on a floured surface. Top each square with half of the pepperoni, crumbled sausage, mozzarella and Italian seasonings. Carefully roll into a log, pressing ends together so the cheese doesn’t melt out when baking. Cook for approximately 25 minutes until deep golden brown on outside and dough is cooked throughout.

 

Pepperoni and Italian Sausage Pinwheels 4 Let cool for 5 minutes, brush with melted butter, slice each roll into 10 pinwheels and enjoy!