Category Archives: Appetizers

Goat Cheese, Pesto & Caramelized Onion Triangles

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to call this.  If Awesome Puffs was a bit more descriptive, I would have said that.  

I recently went to a party that served no food.  A birthday party.  Not even cake.  Just bottled water – and a shortage at that.  Booze would be a distant dream.  I was stupefied.  In all fairness, I do have a tendency to go overboard with the food.  Feeding people is my passion.

With that said, if you come to my house for anything, I will do everything in my power to feed you.  Whether I cook or order in, you will not leave without eating.  If this rouses images from Misery, I wouldn’t blame you.  I even gave my FedEx guy muffins!

Why you ask?  Could it be that my mom will absolutely take offense and give you the stink eye if you don’t eat at her house?  Or could it be that I myself would want to eat if I went to someone’s house?  Whatever the reason, we all benefit with food.  And these triangles.

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What started out as a random experiment turned out to be a family and guest favorite.  These pastries are easy to assemble and easy to store in the freezer for lunch, guests or a great filling snack.

Goat Cheese, Pesto & Caramelized Onion Triangles

yields 8 pastries

Ingredients:

Directions:

 

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. Unfold your puff pastry sheets (working one at a time) onto a lightly floured surface.
  3. Most puffed pastry sheets I worked with already come divided in four.  If so, just separate at the perforations.  If not, roll out to about 16 inches and cut into four squares.
  4. On each puff pastry squares (you should have 8), spread with a tablespoon of pesto on one half of the triangle, leaving about 1/2 inch border on the puff pastry.
  5. Top with approximately a tablespoon of goat cheese, tomatoes, and onions.  Just put enough that you can close the triangle without tearing.
  6. Fold the clean part of the triangle over and crimp around the edges with a fork.
  7. Repeat with all remaining squares until you have 8 triangles.
  8. You can freeze at this point in a airtight container or bag.
  9. Bake in a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Allow the pastries to cool on a cookie rack so they maintain their crisp crust.
  11. If you have extra ingredients, make a sandwich! 🙂
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Filed under Appetizers, baking, Favorites, Lunch, Vegetarian

Isaiah’s Curious George Themed First Birthday Party

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Let’s get some cliché things out of the way:

  1. I can’t believe he’s already 1!
  2. It seems like yesterday I just gave birth to him.
  3. This year has flown by with him.

*He is actually 15 months right now, but this post took a long time.  🙂

Cliché and so so true.  When he turned one I got really sad thinking of how much he’s grown.  From a tiny 7 pound baby to a 20+ pound tubby.  With his big hair, eight teeth and personality, he’s really not at all baby and has become a real boy.  And, it’s been quite an adventure with him.  Just when I think I have something figured out or a semblance of a routine, he changes and then we start again.  There is no relaxing with this kid.

As a crazy obsessed mother, I have been planning his first birthday much earlier than I want to admit.  I wanted it to be cozy and filled with family, close friends and things he loves.  What does this one year old love?  Curious George.  Balloons.  Without being too attached to everything Curious George, we kept the essence through the balloons, colors and some Curious George/monkey-themed items strewn about.  

First, for the invitations, we got a Curious George invitation and door sign, which helped kick off the monkey-themed party.  

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Similar to the one at my surprise birthday, I wanted to have a photo booth for kids to take pictures.  The photo booth was a hit.  Kids, families and parents really got into it.  The only person that didn’t?  The birthday boy.  He couldn’t sit or stand still to take a picture in front of anything.

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My sister, the Pinterest fiend, made a multi-colored balloon garland and decorated corners of the house with bunches of balloons.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

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One of the main reasons I wanted to post this party is because of all the fun I had planning and putting everything into action.  And, with the menu I had, I had little to no work during the actual party.  I really despise having to be running around finalizing anything after guests arrive.  My house was prepped and ready to go on time.

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As the party was held from 2-5, I didn’t plan a big meal but offered heavy appetizers and desserts.

Menu

We had more than enough variety and just the perfect amount of food but still have a little left over for later grazers – mostly me and my sister.

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Almost everything I made (except the grilled cheese) was make ahead. So, the day of, I was really just warming or baking, which is a much better project than cooking.  The grilled cheese came together in the last 10 minutes.  I will definitely make it again and I’ll show you the method to make grilled cheese for a party.  It’s a game changer.

The day before, I made a smash cake and didn’t focus too much on making it perfect as I fully expected my rambunctious kid to destroy it.  Well, turns out he had no interest in smashing it and preferred to eat it a bite at a time with a spoon!  If he would only do that with soup or any other meal.

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So, because he was so careful with the smash cake, we served it up with the cupcakes.  All of it – gone.  Made me so happy.

Finally, for favors, I wanted a food gift that was quick and easy to make.  Look no further than caramel corn, friends.  I don’t know why I was intimidated at all about trying it.  It was so easy, and a little effort makes a whole bunch of popcorn that really disappear quite fast.  (Recipe coming soon!)  Favors were stacked in Curious George containers to keep the theme of the party even as guests departed.

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If you’ve made it this far in the post, I appreciate you and wanted to share this special day with you.  All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better day with family, friends, and a little boy who eats his smash cake with a spoon.  My outfit was eternally grateful for that, kid.

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Filed under Appetizers, Birthdays, Cake, Cupcake, Favorites, Life, Side Dish, Snacks, Soup

Roasted Chickpeas

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Combining a dedication to eating well while having game-watching get-togethers can be challenging.  Game-day snacks don’t necessarily have to be a diet-wrecker.  For instance, this snack has been an instant favorite in my house.  Not only have I been eating it by itself, I throw it in salads for added nutrition with a wonderful crunch.

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I have experimented with this recipe for a while and for crunchier chickpeas, it’s important to roast the chickpeas without coating in oil.  Call me crazy, but the oil seals in the moisture.  As such, first roast and then coat.  The spices really can vary based on what you want – savory or sweet.  I can’t wait to try a cinnamon sugar twist on this snack favorite.

Roasted Chickpeas

adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (not the same as cayenne pepper)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Dry in between paper towels.  Using a paper towel, to press on and soak up the water and loosen the skin from the chickpeas.  Discard the skins.
  3. Roast the chickpeas for 30 minutes, until crispy.  Stir every 10 minutes.
  4. While baking, whisk together the olive oil, paprika, salt, cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder until fully incorporated.  Remove from the oven and pour into the bowl and stir to coat.

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Filed under Appetizers, baking, Snacks, Vegan

Guacamole

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True to toddler form, my child’s eating habits are variable at best.  Foods that he loves one day becomes old news the next.  One constant in his life (and mine) has been guacamole.  I attribute it to the fact that I probably consumed guacamole more than I care to admit while I was pregnant and nursing.  Chipotle should have just been on my speed dial.  This has to be one of my favorite dishes – ever.  Similar to other dips, I can and have (on numerous occasions) made a meal of chips, guacamole and salsa.  What can I say?  I’m a Texan through and through.

I’m quite particular about what constitutes great guacamole.  Unlike most places that use tomatoes in their guacamole, I am harshly opposed to that ingredient anywhere near this dish.  Tomatoes add too my liquid and a distracting element to the dish.  Also, I’ve tried almost every onion type (shallots, green onions, white, etc.) and nothing seems more compatible with avocados quite like red onion.  Also, I prefer the taste of serrano as opposed to jalapeno in guacamole but serrano is spicier.  So, pick your pepper accordingly.

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Most telling is that my husband, who really hates most things avocado, ate this happily.  Happily.  Not out of any obligation to consume this nutrient-rich food with wonderful healthy fats.  Happily.  And, nowadays when there is a dish that all three people in the family love – mission accomplished.

Guacamole

yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large (or three small) ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 jalapeno or 1/2 serrano pepper, minced (seeded if you want less spicy)
  • juice from 1 lime (about 3 tbsp)

Directions:

  1. Cut the avocado in half and scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Using a fork, mash or stir around until you reach a consistency slightly thicker than what you ultimately want.  (I prefer a whipped texture that only has a few chunks of avocado in it.)
  2. Stir in onion, cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice.  Start with one half the lime and then add in more as  you want.  Stir until fully incorporated.
  3. Taste for salt and lime and add as necessary.

 

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Filed under Appetizers, Favorites

Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)

Often, I think about how much my life has changed. From living alone, to being married and living with a Binks, and now with a baby, who needs a full meal in between nursing sessions.

When we were first married, our dinners consisted of chips and dip or appetizers. Full meals were saved for special occasions or weekends when we had time and no work. Or really when I felt like it. Oh the luxury of “feeling like it”. Nowadays, I’m making more of an effort to put a complete meal on the table that’s also good for the baby.

On those rare Saturdays, when the baby actually goes to (and stays) sleep at the right time, Binks and I attempt to recreate those days. We pick a movie, a glass of wine, a cheese with accompaniments. My favorite type is of course, chips or veggies and dip.

It’s no secret that I love Mediterranean food. I love the flavor profile and the use of whole foods that tastes absolutely fresh and light. I also love dip. So, whenever the opportunity presents itself that I can have both at the same time, I jump on it. Baba ghanoush is a very welcome dip in our house. When we have a full on meal, we serve it with hummus, falafel, quinoa salad, tzaziki sauce, pita, rice, and on special occasions, baklava. But, more likely than not, I make a meal out of fresh toasted pita and baba ghanoush.

A glass of red wine on the side and it’s a great meal.

Baba Ghanoush

adapted from David Lebovitz

serves 2-3 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Poke eggplant all over with a fork, and place on foil lined baking sheet. Roast until very tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and place in a heat-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.
  3. After 15-20 minutes, and after the eggplants have cooled, peel the eggplant and place the flesh into a food processor.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and puree in processor until smooth.
  5. Taste for salt and lemon. Add more, if desired.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sumac, and/or parsley leaves.

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Filed under Appetizers, Vegan, Vegetarian

Tortilla Rollups

I think back and laugh at my high school self.  So immature and just plain stupid.  I remember the day I went to see the Backstreet Boys in concert, my first concert ever.  A friend of mine scored free tickets off the radio (something that would never happen to me), and after considerable begging, my dad let me go.  My sister was totally jealous.

After belting “I Want It That Way” and “Larger Than Life” with a group of girls younger than me, and attempting to get the attention of my dream man, Kevin, I was hoarse the next day.  At church, I bragged to anyone that would listen that I went to the concert.  Aside from my little sister who was interested in Nick, no one cared.  Still reeling from the experience, I went to school on Monday and told everyone.  As if I wasn’t uncool enough, I really solidified my place on the high school popularity totem pole, right above the algebra teacher.

I had these tortilla rollups for the first time in high school.  Specifically, a classmate made them for the Spanish class potluck.  While I promised myself I would make these forever and always, like my interest in Backstreet Boys, I have only had these at get-togethers.  I recently made them – just for myself and I swear on Kevin that it is wonderful.

Tortilla Rollups

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 2 tbsp parsley, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers (use either red, yellow, and orange – or a mixture of them), minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, minced
  • 1 tbsp kalamata olives, minced
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/4 tsp of Tabasco sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 large flour tortillas

Directions:

  1. Mix together cream cheese, shallots, parsley, garlic, bell peppers, celery, olives, Parmesan, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Cream until well combined.  Add more salt if necessary.
  2. Spread a thin layer on each tortilla.  Roll up the tortilla tightly and set on a plate.  Once finished spreading and rolling, place the tortillas in the fridge for an hour to set.
  3. Slice each into 1/2 inch slices, and serve.

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Filed under Appetizers, Vegetarian

Creamy Herb Dip

Whether just for snacking, or for a quick appetizer for a gathering or just because you feel like it, it’s always nice to have a herb dip in your recipe belt.  While I usually pair veggies with hummus, this dip is a great alternative to my usual.  In addition, I’m more likely to have these ingredients on hand at all times.  And, for my veggie-hating friends, this also pairs nicely with water crackers and my favorite kettle sea salt potato chips.  But, this creamy – dare I say zippy – dip is just magnificent with fresh-cut vegetables.

I actually served this to a veggie and mayo-hating friend of mine.  As he ate the dip with chips, he gave it rave reviews.  The ingredients mesh to be greater than the sum of themselves.  What that means is that he didn’t taste any mayo or the shallots, which is an ultimate no-no.  Without masking each other, every ingredient plays a role and shines through in this cohesive dip.

Herb Dip

adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 dashes of hot sauce (i.e. Tabasco) – adjust to taste

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, shallots, green onion, garlic, parsley, dill, salt, pepper and hot sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix on medium-high with the paddle attachment until all the ingredients are incorporated and smooth.
  2. Serve at room temperature.

 

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Filed under Appetizers