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Posts tagged ‘appetizer’

Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Dip

Dips can be mega-easy to make and can usually be prepared a day or so ahead of when they are served…and be all the better for being prepared ahead since it gives time for the flavors to meld and develop.   I am all for not going completely crazy on the day of an event. (even though despite all my prep work ahead of time I do still tend to veer towards the loony bin in the hour leading up to a party…someday I will learn to calm down, really!)

I found the original version of this recipe on but altered it since at the time I didn’t have whole cumin or caraway seeds on hand.  This Roasted Pepper and Garlic dip takes a little more work than some other dips, that are basically one step of throwing everything in a bowl and mixing it. For this dip you first oven roast a red pepper and garlic cloves.  These roasted veggies are then blended with the remaining dip ingredient to create a lovely orange dip with a ton of flavor.

Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Dip

(serves 6)

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 small head garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne/red pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 F
  2. Quarter bell pepper lengthwise and discard stem, seeds, and ribs. In a shallow baking pan arrange quarters skin sides up.
  3. Separate garlic cloves, leaving skins intact. Wrap together in foil. Add garlic package to pan with bell pepper and bake in upper third of oven 20 minutes.
  4. When cool enough to handle, peel pepper and transfer to a blender. Remove garlic from foil and squeeze pulp into blender.
  5. Add remaining ingredients to blender and puree until smooth.
  6. Serve with veggies such as carrot sticks, zucchini spears, fennel crudites, or celery sticks.

Dip can be made 5 days ahead and chilled, covered.

Mexican Layered Dip

I was looking for a starter that was super easy, festive looking and didn’t take up excessive amounts of space in the fridge (fridge space is precious during the holidays!!).   I found it in this Mexican layered dip. We’ve all have layered dips and they come in varying degrees of difficulty. This one was pretty simple using some prepped items but letting you feel like you were kind of making it from scratch. (I love to prepare things from scratch but occasionally like tho be able to take a few shortcuts.)

I altered a recipe from Bon Apetit’s Outdoor Entertaining cookbook by subbing veggie refried beans for the kind with bacon, upping the spices, and tweaking other ingredient amounts.  The assembled dip looked bright and festive on the buffet table and received lots of comments from guests.

Mexican Layered Dip

(altered from recipe in Bon Appetit Outdoor Entertaining)

  • 2 cans of vegetarian refried beans
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 1/2 cups guacamole
  • 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 8 oz)
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes with jalapenos, well-drained
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
  • 2/3 cups chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 small can sliced black olives, drained
  • Tortilla chips


  1. Mix beans and chili powder in a medium bowl to blend.  
  2. Mix guacamole, tomatillo salsa, and garlic in another medium bowl.
  3. Spread half of bean mixture in bottom of 8 – 10 cup glass bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese.
  4. Spread guacamole mixture over. Spoon half of drained tomatoes over the guacamole.
  5. Sprinkle with green onions.
  6. Spread remaining bean mixture over.
  7. Stir sour cream in container to loosen. Spread over bean mixture, covering completely.
  8. Arrange cilantro, remaining cheese, olives, and remaining drained tomatoes in concentric circles on top of the sour cream. 
  9. Cover; Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  10. Serve dip with chips.

NOTE: Dip can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.

Garlic-Jalapeno Shrimp

Anytime we go to a Spanish restaurant, we always order the garlic shrimp tapas.  These succulent little bites come in olive oil that has become infused with the flavor of the garlic and herbs the shrimp was sautéed in.

When I saw this recipe from Martha Stewart for garlic-jalapeno shrimp it seemed to be just our thing. While these shrimp aren’t Spanish cuisine, they are similar in many ways to the shrimp tapas we enjoy so much.

The garlic shrimp turned out to be an ideal weeknight dinner — quick & easy…allowing us to spend more of that precious limited evening time together as a family.  I served it with a simple, colorful salad and a crusty loaf of bread I had baked the day before. Perfection!  Okay, it would have been more perfect with a glass of wine, but unfortunately, our wine rack isn’t very well stocked these days.

These would also make a great appetizer course.

Garlic-Jalapeno Shrimp

(From Martha Stewart Living May 2010)

  • 20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno (stem, ribs, and seeds removed), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  1. Toss together shrimp, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Marinate in refrigerator for 45 minutes.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove shrimp from marinade, and add to skillet; cook through, about 2 minutes per side.

Baked Caprese Salad

I was looking for a quick & easy appetizer for a casual summer dinner and found this one for Baked Caprese Salad while browsing through one of my Giada cookbooks.  I love fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil. It is one of my favorite flavor combos for summertime. 

These little bites were very easy to make and came together in minutes. They were also gone in minutes. I will definitely make these again!

Baked Caprese Salad

(from Everyday Pasta by  Giada De Laurentiis)

4-6 servings

  • 1 baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thick (30-36 slices)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 roma (plum) tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh basil (sliced if large leaf)

1) Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

2) Arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet, brush with some of the oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

3) Top each slice of bread with a slice of tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with salt.

4) Return the baking sheet to the oven until the cheese and tomato are just warm, about 5 minutes.

5) Arrange the toasts on a serving platter. Top each toast with a basil leaf. Using the brush, drizzle remaining olive oil over the basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Deviled Eggs with Capers and Tarragon

Deviled eggs are one of my husband’s favorite small bites. I enjoy them myself as well, but I really like making them to have him call me “best wife ever”. 😉  If making deviled eggs is all its takes maybe I will stop doing other things like cleaning the bathroom. heh. I wish.

So anyhow, I recently tried out a deviled egg recipe that appearred in Bon Appetit a few years ago. The recipe was super easy to execute and the result was impressive and flavorful. Thedeviled eggs with capers and tarragon were a perfect way to start a recent spring dinner.  I knew they were a hit since there weren’t any leftovers!


Deviled Eggs with Capers and Tarragon (from Bon Appetit March 2006)


  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced celery
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon minced drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • Sliced celery


  1. Shell eggs, then cut in half lengthwise. Transfer yolks to small bowl and mash with fork.
  2. Mix in oil, mayonnaise, and mustard. Stir in minced celery, tarragon, capers, and shallot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Spoon yolk mixture into whites. Garnish each with celery slice. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover loosely and refrigerate.)

Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts

Goat cheese is one of those things (and okay, I have a lot of them *pats belly*) that I just can’t resist. If I am reading through a menu and come across the words “goat cheese” in the description of a menu item I just have to order it, unless it is followed by the word bacon, in which case I immediately skip to the next item on the menu. (such a good little supportive wife I am)

So, of course I was mega-psyched when I saw Anne of Anne Strawberry’s Barefoot Blogger pick of Ina Garten’s Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts as one of the March recipe selections. This recipe can also be found in Ina’s cookbook Back to Basics. goatcheesetomatotart

The recipe got two thumbs up in my house with the request “next time, make it with meat” (I hear that so often when I make veggie dishes…sigh). Maybe I will be nice and the next time I make these little tarts I will add some chicken.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves


  1. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
  4. Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.
  5. Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.


Buffalo Chicken Cheese Balls

fried chicken cheese balls– sounds healthy, right??? 😉

I cooked up these puppies recently after seeing them on the Food Network. My husband loves buffalo chicken wings so I just had to make these. They were really easy since they start with store bought rotisserie chicken.

These were perfect little comfort food bites but they were on the heavy side and quickly made you feel full after just 2 or 3.  Even so, they were quite good and I will be making them again sometime for a game night or other casual entertaining.


(recipe from Food Network)


  • 1 store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups sharp Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup freshly sliced scallions
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Blue Cheese Dip:

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup packed blue cheese, broken up
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic


  1. Have oil heated to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pick the meat from the chicken and discard the skin. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the hot sauce, pepper, cheese, and scallions, and toss to combine. Roll the chicken into 2-ounce balls, about the size of a golf ball.
  3. Place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Roll each ball in the flour, then the egg and then the bread crumbs. Set aside.
  4. When the oil is hot fry the chicken balls in batches. Cook for about 2 minutes per batch. Remove the chicken to paper towel lined plate to drain the excess oil.
  5. To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the chicken alongside the dipping sauce.

A Very Cheesy (and Tasty) New Year!

These past few days I just may have single-handedly kept the dairy/cheese counter at my supermarket in business.  Between making the Tall & Creamy Cheesecake, and the two following appetizers I’ve purchased my fair share of cheese.

 For this month’s Recipes to Rival we were charged to make 2 out of 3 appetizers. I selected to make the Gruyere Cheese Gougeres and the Bleu Cheese Walnut & Pear Crostinis.

The Gruyere Cheese Gougeres were from a recipe from one of my cooking idols, Thomas Keller of French Laundry.  I had a few techincal issues on these. My 3/8″ plain piping tip was M.I.A. so I tried using a smaller one, but my puffs were looking a little weird, so I changed over to using the good old school, bare bones method– put the dough in a baggy and snip off one of the corners… Perfect!  So my gougeres ended up being all sorts of shapes and sizes depending upon which method I used to pipe them.


When folks at the party asked what they were I referred to them as Cheesy Poofs (a homage to Cartman from South Park I guess…although I spared them my Cartman impersonation). These little bites were cheesy AND poofy. The platter quickly became half empty. I liked these a lot, although I thought there was perhaps a bit too much salt. The 1 tablespoon of salt that the recipe called for sounded like a lot to me. I would definitely make them again, perhaps cutting down on the salt a bit.
I assembled the crostinis at the party. Yes, I was THAT person… the person that shows up and demands usage of the oven while the busy hostess tries to put the finishing touches on the meal.
For the crostini, I brushed the sliced baguette with butter instead of olive oil. I spread the toasted bread with a smear of mascarpone cheese and then topped it with pasteurized bleu cheese crumbles (went with a pasteurized variety since a few of the women at this NYE party were pregnant) and a piece of walnut.  Once the cheese had melted a bit, I took the crostinis out of the oven and added some cubed pear.  Next time, I think I will cut the pear into small, thin slices to put on top. I think this will make a better presentation and result in a more stable crostini — sometimes when picking up one of the crostinis, the pear cube would tumble off.
The crostinis were also a big hit. I loved the flavor combo of the bleu cheese, walnut, and pear. They were pretty easy to make with most of the time spent in topping the bread with the assorted toppings.


The recipes are after the jump. Definitely try out these 2 if you are a cheese lover!

Savory Palmiers

Ina Garten’s Savory Palmiers from her Back to Basics cookbook were easy to make and were a big hit at my Christmas party. Even my super fussy brother ate them and believe me, he rarely eats any of the dishes I bring to holiday parties. *cough* It’s more a comment on his finicky eating habits than it is on my cooking, really…

Palmiers (sometimes called Palm leaves) are puff pastry dough sprinkled with fillings that is then folded several times and then cut into slices before baking.  Palmiers are traditionally of the sweet variety. These savory palmiers from Ina’s recipe are filled with pesto, goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes.  With their red, white, and green fillings, these little bites were spilling over with festive Xmas colors.

Another winner to go in my permanent recipe repetoire!  Big thanks to Becky of Random Musings of a Deco Lady for selecting this as a Barefoot Bloggers bonus recipe this month!


Savory Palmiers

  • 1 package frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto, store-bought or homemade
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, such as Montrachet
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Kosher salt
  1. Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it’s 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sun-dried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.
  2. Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again toward the center until the folded edges almost touch. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover both rolls with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place them faceup 2 inches apart on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.


Red Pepper Cheesecake

I recently got Giada De Laurentiis’s new cook book Giada’s Kitchen. The cook book is full of recipes that feature fresh ingredients and a cuisine that is Italy meets California. One of the recipes that caught my eye immediately was the Red Pepper Cheesecake. This mini savory cheesecake appealed to my inner cheese lover. It has 3 types of cheese: ricotta, cream cheese, and goat cheese. The cheesecake is cooked in a 4.5 inch springform pan, which allows it to fit nicely on a dinner plate surrounded with crackers or toast points. It is great as an appetizer at a cocktail party.  In the book, the recipe includes steps for making pita chips, but I served it with assorted crackers. My husband loved the touch of the apricot jam on top of the cheesecake. The cheesecake was easy to make and so good. I will probably make it again to bring to an upcoming holiday party. 


Red Pepper Cheesecake (from Giada’s Kitchen)

4-6 servings

  • 4 ounces ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 jarred roasted red bell peppers cut in thin strips and halved (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the outside of a 4.5 inch round springform pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil.
  2. Place the ricotta, cream cheese, and goat cheese in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the sugar, egg, and a pinch of salt and pulse a few times until well mixed and thick and creamy. Fold in the red pepper strips with a rubber spatula. Pour the cheese mixture into the springform pan.
  3. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  4. Bake until the cheesecake is golden at the edges and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold).
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour. Refridgerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. TO SERVE: combine the jam and the hot water in a small bowl and stir until the jame is liquified. Remove the cheescake from the springform pan and place on a serving plate. Drizzle the jam mixture over the top of the cheesecake. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or slices of french bread.