Category Archives: Appetizer

Maple Cream Cheese Bacon Wrapped Dates

Maple+Cream+Cheese+Bacon+Wrapped+Date
If you are looking for a quick, easy and absolutely fabulous appetizer for your next party then you have come to the right place.  These things take no time to whip together and are sure to be snatched up faster than a toothpick after a rib eating contest.  I first had a version of these at a Cattlewoman’s horse camp out   Now I neither own a cow or own a horse I can currently ride but I was invited along with a friend who has both.  We talked, we ate, we drank, we ate, they rode, we ate, I meditated in a field of wildflowers by a babbling brook, we ate.  You get the picture. We had a load of food and these were among the best. 
 
There is something about these things that make them irresistible   Not a date fan you say?  Neither am I in their native form.  But stuff them with maple cream cheese and wrap some bacon around them and they are transformed into something beautiful.  Of course, stuff a lot of things with cream cheese and wrap bacon around them and they will be fabulous.  😉

As a side note, I brought Smore Bars.  They didn’t last very long.
 
Maple Cream Cheese Stuffed  Bacon Wrapped Dates
 
4 oz cream cheese, room temp (half a block)
1 Tbs maple syrup
1 (8 oz) package pitted dates
1 lb maple bacon
 
1. Preheat oven to 400 deg.  Prepare a 9×13 pan by wrinkling up a piece of tin foil then spreading it loosely into the bottom of the pan.  This allows for the bacon grease to sink down into the wrinkles of the foil and away from the cooking bacon.

2.  Mix cream cheese with maple syrup.
 
3.  Take the bacon out of the package and cut the entire bunch in half.
 
4.  Using your fingernail, open the date lengthwise to expose the center.  Take a small amount (approximately 1/2 tsp) of cream cheese mixture and stuff it into the date.  Wrap half a piece of bacon around the date and secure with a toothpick.  Place into the prepared pan.

5.  Bake for 40 minutes or until the bacon looks cooked through.  Serve warm.

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Shrimp Mocktail

Shrimp+Mocktail

There is one ingredient that you will very rarely find on this blog and that’s shellfish.  See, when I reached college age I discovered that I had developed a shellfish allergy.  It took me a while to figure it out what was causing the rather painful attacks as I had been eating shrimp, crab and clams since I was a little girl and never had a problem.  Some of my favorite memories are of clamming with my family at Dillon Beach.  Running around the sand bar, stomping next to little holes in the sand hoping for a thin fountain of water to shoot up and then watching my dad do all of the digging.  Magic.  The homemade clam chowder after, delicious.

After one awful visit to Bubba Gumps and one experimental nibble on a shrimp soon after, there wasn’t any doubt I was allergic.  It’s to the point that I can’t eat anything with even a hint of oyster sauce and long periods in the ocean will give me a nice set of hives.  

Lovely.

This sucks on a number of levels, not the least was giving up a few things I love like crab and cream cheese wontons and shrimp cocktail.  I rejoice whenever I find a Chinese restaurant that cheaps out and uses the fake crab meat in the wontons.  My stomach has proven that there is apparently not an ounce of real crab in the fake stuff.  

I was reading my Bon Appetite the other day and came across this recipe for a “Poor Man’s Shrimp Cocktail”.  Intrigued, I tried it out for Sunday Night Dinner with my friends and family and the general consensus was that it tastes pretty darn close.  Obviously you have to trick your mind a little (or cut up the cauliflower into shrimp shapes) but dipped in the cocktail sauce it is quite delicious.  It uses a crab boil seasoning (I found this at my local supermarket in the seafood section) as a large part of the flavoring.  The recipe is vegetarian/vegan which was a bonus when my vegetarian brother is over.

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Shrimp Mocktail

1 cup dry crab boil seasoning (such as Zatarain’s or Old Bay)
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 yellow onions, quartered
6 garlic cloves
3 lemons, halved crosswise
2 1-pound heads of cauliflower, cored, trimmed into 2″ florets

1.  Combine crab boil, salt, onions, garlic, and 6 quarts water in a large pot. Squeeze juice from lemons into pot and add lemon halves. 
 
2.  Set pot over high heat and bring liquid to a boil. Cook for 10 minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove onions, garlic, and lemons from broth; discard.
 
3.  Return liquid to a rolling boil.  Add cauliflower; turn off heat, cover pot tightly, and let stand until cauliflower is crisp-tender, 5–10 minutes.
 
4.  Drain; spread out cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool completely.
 
Cooking Notes: Cauliflower can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve with cocktail sauce for dipping.

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Homemade Yogurt

Martha Stuart I am not.  Still, I do like to try my hand at making homemade versions of various every day grocery items just because I can.  Quite a few of them, like angel food cake and lady fingers, were fun to make but not worth my time to do again.  I have fallen in love with greek yogurt ever since it because easy to buy in the store.  My only gripe is the high price compared to standard yogurt although after making it, I now understand why.
With a toddler in the house, we go through lots of yogurt.  Rose loves it with berries, with granola, or with peaches.  She even gobbles it up plain.  This means that if I can make it cheaper, it might be worth a little effort.  Luckily, it’s not that much effort at all to make homemade greek yogurt at and is about half the cost.  Most of the work is simply waiting for the tiny bacteria to do it’s magic.
Yogurt+3

Put four canning jars in to a large pot and fill the pot with water about 3/4 of the up the sides of the jars.  Pour whatever type of milk you desire (fat free, 1%, 2% or whole all work great) into the jars, leaving 1 inch space at the top.  Heat the water to boiling and boil softly until the milk is 180 degrees.  The picture shows the thermometer in the water but usually I keep in hooked on the jar in the milk the whole time.

Yogurt+1
Take the jars out of the water and put lids on loosely.  Cool until the milk is 110 degrees.  I find this goes more quickly if you place the jars in the sink with cold water and ice/ice packs.  It takes about 20 minutes with that method.  Once the milk is cool enough, add 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt into each jar and stir gently.  A personal size yogurt container is enough for all four jars.  If you use vanilla, the yogurt will have a nice light vanilla flavor as well.
Yogurt+2
I have changed how I do the final step since I first started making yogurt. I used to put the jars in a cooler with hot water and let it sit, refreshing the hot water every few hours.  Then I came across an ingenious method.  Heat your oven up for 5 minutes then turn it off (it doesn’t matter the temp).  Put the sealed jars in the oven and close the door.  Turn on the oven light and it will keep the oven at a nice warm temp for as long as you would like.  This way, I can start it at night and there will be fresh yogurt in the morning.  I like it the best after about 12 hours but it can stay there up to 2.
The next step I do isn’t required as you can definitely just open the jars right away and eat but I find that putting the yogurt in the fridge for a few hours helps to firm it up a bit more.
Yogurt+21
You can eat the yogurt straight from the jar but I have found it to be a little watery.  I prefer to drain the whey out a bit to get it to be more like the greek style.  This is easily done by putting a few layers of cheese cloth or a thin bread towel in a strainer and pour in a jar of yogurt.  Let it drain over a bowl for 2-4 hours (depending on the desired thickness).
Yogurt+11
Scrape the thickened yogurt into a bowl and whisk until smooth.  The longer you let it drain, the thicker it is.  I forgot once and it drained for over a day.  You could stick a fork in it and it would stand up.  haha!

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Mini Chile Corn Muffins with Chipotle Butter

Chile+Corn+Muffins-1
I guess I should have chosen a slightly less busy plate to show off these little savory muffins of yummyness.  I feel like it’s a Where’s Waldo picture with the muffins hiding in plain sight like that sneaky Waldo character.
The muffins themselves are really great.  Easy to make (dump and mix and bake) with all sorts of morsels of deliciousness hiding inside.  But paired with the Chipotle butter…. be still my heart.  Sweet and just enough heat to tingle the tongue but not have to enough to light a fire.
Try them, you’ll love them.
Mini Chile Corn Muffins with Chipotle Butter
slightly adapted from Sandra Lee
Muffins:
1 (14.5 oz) box of honey cornbread mix
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 (11 oz) can Mexi-corn
2 tsp fajita seasoning
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Butter:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tbs honey
1 tbs Chipotle Hot Sauce (I used Tabasco brand)
2 tbs Chipotle seasoning (I used McCormick)
To make the muffins:
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray 2 (24-count) mini muffin pans.
2.  In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients until blended.
3.  Spoon batter into mini-muffin tins, filing to the rim.
4.  Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.
To make the butter:
1.  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until blended.

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Bacon Apple Jalapeño Poppers

Bacon+Apple+Jalapeno+Poppers

Having a party?  Make these.

Having the guys/gals over for the big game?  Make these.

Hosting Sunday brunch?  Make these.

Pregnant cravings?  Make these.*
*With nitrate free bacon of course  🙂

It’s Wednesday and you need something yummy to get you through the week?  Make these.

Yes, they are that good.

Bacon Apple Jalapeño Poppers
Adapted from Aarti Party

4 oz light cream cheese, at room temp
1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and minced
salt and pepper to taste
10 jalapeños
10 strips of thin sliced bacon, cut in half

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with crumpled foil (to catch the grease).
2.  In a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese until smooth.  Mix in the apples and salt and pepper to taste.
3.  Slice each jalapeño in half lengthwise and cut out the membranes and seeds.  A small measuring spoon works great for this.  You can add to the spiciness by leaving a little bit of membrane.
4.  Fill each jalapeño half with the cream cheese mixture. Wrap each pepper with a bacon half and secure with a toothpick.
5.  Put the peppers on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the bacon is browned on the bottom, about 30 minutes.  Let cool for at least 5 minutes to prevent a burnt tongue.

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Fabulous Mall Style Pretzels

Homemade+Pretzel
I made soft pretzels the other day that were good.  Not wonderful, just good soft pretzels that tasted great dipped in mustard.  Then I made these.  They are fabulous.  Every bite reminds me of the pretzels that I smell and crave whenever I walk near the store in the mall.  Slightly sweet and wonderfully salty, they made my day.  Plus I made six of them for less than the price of one at the mall.  They are best eaten the same day although may be just fine if frozen.  Now to figure out how to duplicate the cheese sauce.
Fabulous Mall Style Pretzels
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
1 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons coarse salt

Directions

1.  Warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave until it’s about 110 degrees; pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes.

2.  Stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon.

3.  Dice 2 tablespoons butter and soften; stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour and the fine salt to make a sticky dough.

4.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes.  This can also be done with a stand mixer.  Just mix on level 4 for about 5 minutes, adding flour as needed to get the right stickiness.  I ended up adding about a 1/2 cup.

5.  Shape into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease or parchment a baking sheet.

7.  Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. (If the dough seems tight, cover and let rest until it relaxes.) Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each rope into a pretzel shape.

8.  Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish (I used an 8×8 pan). Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet.

9.  Let dry for a few minutes while you melt the remaining 4 Tbs of butter.  Brush the pretzels lightly with the butter. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

10.  Place pretzels on a wire rack and brush with any remaining butter.  Sprinkle with course salt.  I didn’t have any “pretzel salt” so I used kosher and it worked just fine.

 

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