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!

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!

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!

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!

Tzatziki

TzatzikiTzatziki is a wonderfully creamy yogurt sauce made primarily from Greek yogurt, cucumber and fresh dill. Normally white, creamy foods are full of empty calories (think ranch dressing, sour cream, etc.) but since the main ingredient in tzatziki is Greek yogurt, it is lower calorie, lower fat and packs in protein. Coupled with the fact that tzatziki is a great sauce for roasted chicken, dip for veggies and pita, and even makes a great dressing for a Greek salad, it’s guilt free and completely delicious!

 

I use an English cucumber in this recipe because they aren’t very seedy. The seedy part of a cucumber has a lot of water in it, which can make tzatziki runny. If you use a seeded variety, hollow out the core before grating.

Ingredients:
1 cup Greek yogurt
½ English cucumber, grated
Zest of and juice of ½ lemon
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. olive oil, optional

Tzatziki 2Using the small side of a cheese grater, grate cucumber into a bowl. Gently press to release liquids, discarding any residual liquid. Zest ½ lemon and 1 clove garlic into the cucumber. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, chopped dill, sea salt and pepper into the cucumber mixture. The tzatziki can be served immediately, but will be even better if you pop it in the refrigerator for an hour to let all the flavors meld together. Drizzle a little olive oil on top before serving as a dip for veggies to give a little richness and depth to the flavors.

Enjoy!

Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Bites

Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Bites 1These make a tasty appetizer for the holidays and they are also great for a snack or light lunch if you are looking to use up some leftover ham or turkey. I made these with ham, but turkey can easily be substituted. Buttery, flaky crescent rolls are filled with ham, cheese and broccoli and baked to golden perfection. Who knows, you might even trick someone into eating broccoli!

 

 

 

Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Bites 2
Ingredients:
1 tube crescent rolls
4 oz. ham, diced
8 oz. steamed broccoli, chopped
3 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. onion, minced
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

 

Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Bites 3Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine ham, broccoli, cheese, onion, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Lay out crescent rolls and spoon an even portion of the ham mixture into the center of each roll. Carefully fold edges to center so you have what resembles a knot. It’s OK if some of the filling is poking out. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with mustard for dipping.

Enjoy!

Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Flatbread

Goat Cheese Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Flatbread

This is one of my favorite appetizers. Inspired by the flavors of the “Roasted Garlic Bulbs” starter at Moonshine, one of my favorite restaurants in Austin, this version is made a little heartier, prepared on a flatbread (instead of a crostini) and with the addition of Italian sausage. The cool, tangy goat cheese is perfect with the rich roasted garlic. Easy and delicious!

 

 

For a substantial appetizer for 4 people, use:
2 flatbreads
2 oz. goat cheese
Head of garlic, roasted
4 oz. crumbled Italian sausage, browned
6 peppadew peppers, sliced
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 basil leaves, chopped into ribbons (optional garnish)

If you haven’t used roasted garlic before, you must try it. The normally strong, sharp flavor of garlic becomes softer and nutty from roasting. I love roasted garlic in pasta dishes or just slathered onto a slice of bread. It’s easy to make, see how to make Roasted Garlic here.

Goat Cheese Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Flatbread 2

Put pizza stone in over and preheat to 425 degrees. Toast flatbreads on hot pizza stone for 2-3 minutes per side to give them a good crunch. Remove from oven and let rest on the hot stone for 2 minutes. Meanwhile combine sliced peppers in a small bowl with balsamic vinegar to coat. Spread goat cheese on flatbreads, and top with roasted garlic, Italian sausage, and marinated red peppers. Garnish with chopped basil, slice and serve.

Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic

There are fewer foods that flavors change as dramatically as garlic by introducing heat to it for about 45 minutes.  Raw garlic goes into the oven sharp and pungent and emerges soft, a little sweet and nutty.  Roasted garlic is great in pasta dishes, mashed potatoes, or just spread on a cracker.  It’s just so delicious!

roasted garlicroasted garlic 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasting garlic is really easy, all you need is garlic, a little olive oil and some aluminum foil.  Remove some of the outer paper from the head of garlic and trim about ¼ inch from the top of garlic to expose the cloves.  Put into foil, drizzle about 1 tsp. olive oil onto the exposed cloves and close the foil into a ball.  Roast in 400 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until cloves are golden colored and bulbs can be squeezed out of the paper.

Enjoy!