Loaded Nachos

Loaded Nachos

Loaded Nachos

Around here we take our nachos very seriously.  Very, very seriously.

What this means is that we really do love nachos, and both Mr. D. and I agree we like them loaded with as much stuff as I can get my hands on.

When making nachos, it’s a little like building a house.  First you start with a good foundation (tortilla chips), then you build up the structure, a tower of multi layers of  seasoned beef, beans, crisp waffle fries, and cheeses.  Then you top it all off with some pico de gallo, that you made yourself; savory, colorful, and so delish.

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When you look at the ingredient list for these nachos, it looks like a lot, but really it isn’t.  It all comes together when you experience that first perfect bite that contains a little bit of everything.  Yes, indeed!

I made these for New Year’s Eve.  They served as our supper, but you can serve them as an appetizer, or a snack.  (Think Super Bowl coming up.)  Once you start on them it’s hard to stop so take my advice and make a lot.

LOADED NACHOS

Yield:  Servings:  4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 lb.  ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) pinto beans, chili beans, or ranch style beans
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • tortilla chips
  • frozen waffle potato fries
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup Mexican Blend, Taco blend or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 – 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 whole jalapeño, finely diced (optional)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (or use parsley)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 avocado, pitted and diced
  • sour cream, (optional)

Directions:

Start by cooking the waffle fries.  Follow package directions for oven temperature and length of time needed to get them  crispy on the edges.  Once cooked, remove from oven and set aside. If you prefer you may omit the waffle fries and use all tortilla chips throughout.  I prefer the fries because I like the texture contrasts in the finished nachos.

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Next, dice up half the onion….

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Heat up a non-stick skillet with a little olive oil….

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and add in the chopped onion.

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Cook the onions for a minute or two, then add in the ground beef.

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Break it up and let it cook until the meat is browned.  Drain off any fat that has accumulated in the bottom of the pan.

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Open the beans and add them to the pan along with the seasonings.    Stir it around to mix in the spices and blend the flavors.

Pour in the hot water to make it a little more saucy.  Reduce the heat to Low and let it simmer while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.

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Next, chop up the rest of the onion, making a fine dice.

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Next up,   chop up those tomatoes.  This is how I do it:  cut off the tops, then cut them into slices, then cut the slices into strips.  Now cross-cut the strips to dice them.  If you are using a jalapeño, use the same technique to dice it.

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Peel and seed the avocado, cut into strips, then crosscut into cubes.

Now, throw the onions, tomatoes, avocado and jalapeño into a bowl.  Tell them to get acquainted, you’ll be right back.

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Tear the leaves off half a bunch of cilantro (or parsley) and chop roughly.   Throw that into the bowl.

Cut a lime in half, and squeeze in the juice.  Add a little salt and pepper.

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And  stir it all together.  That’s your Pico de Gallo!!

We like it a little chunky, but if your family likes it more finely chopped, that’s great.  It will all taste the same.

Finely, the cheese 🙂  I grated a yellow cheddar and used a package of Taco Blend.  I did not mix them together.  You’ll see why in a minute.

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To assemble the nachos, make a single layer of chips on a platter or large plate.

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Scoop up a big ole spoonful of the beef/bean mixture and sprinkle it all over the chips.  Messy is good, so let it be!

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Sprinkle on a layer of cheddar,

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This is where the goodness-level jumps up a notch:  Put on a layer of waffle fries….

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And another layer of beef and beans…

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Then a nice layer of Taco blend, and another layer of waffle fries.

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Now use up the remainder of the beef/bean mixture to top it all,  and a final layer of Taco blend or cheddar (your choice).

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I put mine back into the still warm oven (turned off), and let the cheese melt.  Alternately, you could nuke the whole shebang for about 45  seconds until the cheese is perfectly melted.

AND THEN….

Spoon the Pico de Gallo on top of it all.   Why?   Because this is the roof on the house, or the flowers in the garden.   It’s the finishing touch that keeps you going back for more.   And it looks so pretty!

AND, because it’s all the veggies that makes this platter of nachos healthy.  I know for sure it’s what makes them so delicious!

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I hope you enjoy my approach to making nachos.  Try them real soon, and of course, you can add whatever extras you like:  sour cream, chopped black olives, chopped green onions–anything.  My favorite part are the chips on the bottom that start to soften under all the gooey ingredients, while the waffle fries stay crisp.  Divine!

SOURCE:   Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

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Baked Broccoli Parmesan Dip

Baked Broccoli Parmesan Dip

Baked Broccoli Parmesan Dip

Believe me, I went through some major mental arguments with myself before making this dip.   Really silly isn’t it?  Why would I need to convince myself to make something so unbelievably good?

With broccoli as its primary ingredient you’d expect it to be really healthy right?   A reason to make it.

Cream cheese, sour cream, and cheddar cheese….all healthy in their own way, but collectively, that’s a lot of  fat and calories    A reason not to make it.

Serve with toasted French bread slices;   oh, oh more calories.   Do I really want to make this?

While all this was going through my mind, a little voice kept saying, ” just go for it, you know you want to.”

Well, as you might guess, the little voice won out,  and boy am I glad.   Once tasted, never forgotten!

I did make some concessions by using low-fat cream cheese, sour cream and milk.

 

BAKED BROCCOLI PARMESAN DIP

Yield:   about 4 cups Dip

Ingredients:IMG_8382

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • 8 oz. cream cheese ( I used low-fat)
  • 2  1/2 cups broccoli florets (thaw if frozen)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar, divided
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (used low-fat)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. creole seasoning ( I used cajun spice)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • loaf of French bread, sliced 1/4-inch thick and toasted

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375*F.  Lightly spray a shallow baking dish or casserole.

2.  Heat the olive oil, add Panko and cook, stirring till browned and toasted, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

Melt butter and add Panko crumbs to toast them.

Melt butter and add Panko crumbs to toast them.

 

Remove when the crumbs are golden and crunchy.

Remove when the crumbs are golden and crunchy.

3.  In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, milk, seasonings and salt and pepper.  Mix well to blend.

 

Whip together cream cheese, sour cream, milk and seasonings.

Whip together cream cheese, sour cream, milk and seasonings.

Stir in broccoli, cheddar, and Parmesan cheeses.

Stir in cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.

Stir in cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.

4.  Spread into prepared pan, sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar.

Spread in baking dish,

Spread in baking dish,

 

Sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese.

Sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese.

Bake till bubbly, about 20 – 25 minutes.

5.  Sprinkle with Panko,  serve warm with sliced, toasted bread.

Baked Broccoli Parmesan Dip

Baked Broccoli Parmesan Dip

 

SOURCE:   Emeril Lagasse

Mr. D’s Birthday & Salsa Hot Wings

Salsa Hot Wings

Salsa Hot Wings

As birthdays come and go we, as a rule, don’t do much to celebrate them, but every once in a while there’s one that needs some special attention.  Mr. D. celebrated his most recent one, a number ending in O, this past weekend, so I thought it would be fun to surprise him with a party.  The surprise turned into a double whammy when we got the news that we had become grandparents with the baby being born just after midnight on 10/19,  so Mr. D. and the baby now have the same birthday.   This baby was born in N.C. so we have only seen pictures of her at this point.  I can’t wait to see and hold her!!

Trying to throw a surprise party for someone who lives in the same house with you is certainly tricky and sneaky.  I think I did very well right up until the end when he figured it out.  But it was fun and all went well.   Someone made the comment that they love to come to our house because the food is always so good.  I hope you think so too, as I plan to share  the recipes for the starred items below, and they will cover several posts this week and next.

Because folks were invited for early afternoon on Sunday, I wanted to provide foods that were substantial, but I didn’t have the luxury of time to cook a big meal, so this is how the menu evolved:

Appetizers

Salsa Hot Wings*

Baked Broccoli Parmesan Dip*

Apple Wedges with Caramel Dip*, Grapes and Cheeses

Entreé

A variety of Pizzas that were ordered from a local pizzeria

Spinach salad with roast peppers, and black olives

Desserts

Spice Cake with Chocolate Ganache*

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies*

Vanilla and Pumpkin Spice Ice Creams

Beverages

Apple Cider

Assorted Soft Drinks

Coffee

With the menu as an overview of what’s to come, today the recipe is for the Salsa Hot Wings.  These are not the usual Buffalo Hot Wings that many of you know and love.  I think these are easier to make and very tasty with the heat level open to your preference.  Everyone seemed to enjoy them.  I know they disappeared quickly and I had only one small piece to vouch for how good they are.  Luckily I took the photos as I was making them and the one shot of them in the serving dish just prior to serving them, else you’d be looking at an empty bowl.

Salsa Hot Wings

Salsa Hot Wings

What I like about this recipe is that the sauce is largely based on a jar of ready made salsa, so you can use your favorite kind,  mild to hot, whatever you like.  This gets mixed with some honey and some grated fresh ginger for a little “kick”, pureed in a blender till smooth, then cooked down for a while to thicken it.  Lastly a tad of fresh lime juice finishes it off.    Pour this sauce over the cooked chicken wing portions and toss to coat.  Serve with lime wedges.

Sectioning chicken wings can be a time consuming task, but I was fortunate in finding Perdue frozen wings, already sectioned, in 5-pound bags, ready to cook.  I cooked 2 bags of them and made a double recipe of the sauce.

Easy–Peasy–Delish!

SALSA HOT WINGS

Yield:  Serves 6 – 8

Salsa pureed with honey and ginger.

Salsa pureed with honey and ginger.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ( 16-oz.jar) salsa
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
  • 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3 lbs. chicken wings, split at the joint
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lime wedges for serving

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 475*F.  Line a large baking sheet with foil.

2.  Combine the salsa, honey and ginger in a blender container and puree until smooth.

3.  Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 15 – 20 minutes till reduced by about half.  Stir in the lime juice.

4.  Meanwhile, lay wings in a single water on baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake till golden and crisp, and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Lay wing pieces on foil-lined pan and cook till golden and crisp.

Lay wing pieces on foil-lined pan and cook till golden and crisp.

5.  Transfer to a big bowl, toss with the sauce to coat well.  Serve with lime wedges.   Smile and absorb the compliments:)

These have a very high "YUM" factor.

These have a very high “YUM” factor.

 

SOURCE:   Martha Stewart’s Everyday Foods

 

Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Back in the spring our church had a goods and services auction as a fund raiser.  A friend and I got together and offered a catered dinner for up to 6 people.   Two couples teamed up and bid on it, winning the bid.  The date chosen for the dinner was this past weekend.   We had a lot of fun planning the menu, shopping, cooking and then serving the meal.   This was so rewarding, and a great way to help out our church.

The menu we served consisted of several dishes that I have already featured here on the blog with the exception of this shrimp appetizer.  The recipe for it follows below.  The full menu was as follows:

Appetizers

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Garlic- Herb  Cucumber Bites

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Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Salad

Baby Greens with fresh pears, grapes and pistachios

and honey-balsamic dressing

warm rolls and herb dipping oil

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Entree

Greek Style Chicken Breasts with Herb Rice Pilaf

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Desserts

Jamocha Silk Pie

with whipped cream topping

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Fresh Pear Galette

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SPICED SHRIMP WITH PEACH SALSA

Yield:  Serves 8

Ingredients:

     Peach salsa:

  • 3  1/2 cups coarsely chopped peeled peaches   (nectarines may be used, but don’t bother peeling them)IMG_8033
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

 

Shrimp:IMG_8037

  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1  1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

1.  To prepare salsa,  place all the salsa ingredients in a food processor, pulse 8 times.  Set aside.   If the bowl of your processor does not hold all the ingredients, divide in half and process in two batches,  adding the lime juice and salt to the combined batches at the end.

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2.  To prepare shrimp, combine salt, sugar, cumin, chili powder, pepper, and shrimp in a large bowl or zip-lock bag.  Toss gently to coat.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp mixture; sauté  4 minutes or until shrimp are done.  Serve with peach salsa.

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SOURCE:    A Carolyn Original

Lemony Ricotta Galette with Summer Squash

Lemony Ricotta Galette with Summer Squash

Lemony Ricotta Galette with Summer Squash

I know that being swamped with zucchini is a continuing problem for some of you with gardens, so I’m here to help with that.  Even if you don’t have a garden (like me), you may be looking for some different ways to use zucchini or yellow summer squash.

Summer squashes are about as versatile a vegetable as they come.  Delicious in so many ways–grilled, sautéed, baked or paired with other vegetables, you name it, they’re great.  They can become the main entree in a meatless meal, a savory side dish, or baked into a dessert.  Today I am making a galette that can be the centerpiece of your meal, or served as a side dish, or appetizer.

A side salad is all that's needed for this meal.

A side salad is all that’s needed for this meal.

Galettes are known for their flaky flat crust and irresistible fillings, and this zucchini/summer squash-stuffed pastry is no exception.  The tender veggies are paired with three kinds of cheeses, lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil, then baked until brown and crisp.

Here’s a tip that will make the squash less moist and save your crust from becoming soggy:  Salt the squash well and allow to drain in a colander for about 15 minutes.  Pat dry with a paper towel before putting them into the pastry.

LEMONY RICOTTA SUMMER SQUASH GALETTE

Yield:   Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:IMG_7875

  • 2 medium zucchini and/or yellow squash, thinly sliced (2  1/2 cups)
  • salt
  • 1/2  (15-oz.) package rolled refrigerated piecrust (A time saver,  but make your own if you must.)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1.4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk  ( or small amount egg beater/egg substitute)
  • Italian seasoning blend or dill weed for garnish

Directions:

1.  Sprinkle sliced zucchini lightly with salt.  Transfer to a colander; drain for 15 minutes.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Preheat oven to 400*F.

Pat squash dry before using.

Pat squash dry before using.

2.  Meanwhile, on a large piece of lightly floured parchment paper, roll pie dough to a 12-inch circle.  Transfer parchment and dough to a large baking sheet and set aside.

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3.  Make ricotta filling:  In a medium bowl whisk together ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, garlic, 1 tsp. olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Using a spatula, spread over dough, leaving a 1  1/2-inch border at edge.

Spread ricotta filling on dough leaving a border.

Spread ricotta filling on dough leaving a border.

Top with squash slices.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil.  Sprinkle seasoning blend over squash.

Top with squash slices and seasonings.

Top with squash slices and seasonings.

Gently fold up pastry edges over filling, pleating as necessary.

Fold up edges, and brush with egg mixture.

Fold up edges, and brush with egg mixture.

4.  In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp. water.  (Or use egg substitute)  Lightly brush pastry edges with egg mixture.  Transfer galette to oven.  Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  If using dill weed as a seasoning, some dill fronds make a colorful garnish.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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So delicious!

So delicious!

 

 

 

SOURCE:   Better Homes and Gardens

 

 

Roast Tomato Bruschetta

Roast Tomato Bruschetta

Roast Tomato Bruschetta

It’s a fact that the majority of foods that we love and that I prepare here at home make their way to the pages of this blog.  However, there are some recipes that I make over and over again and somehow never think to share them with you.  Usually that’s because they are so simple, I don’t view them as a “recipe’, but they are non-the-less-good in spite of it.

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A few weeks ago I shared a picture on Facebook of an appetizer that I was making to bring to a family picnic,  and almost instantly I was getting questions about what it was, and requests for the recipe.   All it consisted of was roast tomatoes, coarsely chopped then mixed with some diced shallots, olive oil, and chopped basil.   Spread this mixture on some  toasted whole-wheat baguette slices, and you have yourself  one delicious appetizer, an accompaniment to a salad, or a little extra something to round out a meal.

I make this using whatever kind of tomatoes I have in abundance, but my favorite is to use small heirloom varieties.  I like the mixture of colors.  The tomatoes can be roasted in the oven on a cookie sheet, or on the grill if you already have it heated up.  One quick way to do this on the grill is to thread the tomatoes on skewers (6-8/skewer) and lay them on the grill, turning every 2 – 3 minutes until the tomatoes start to crack and begin to look charred.  Then bring them into the kitchen, chop them up, add the remaining ingredients, and its done!

ROAST TOMATO BRUSCHETTA

Yield:   Make about 2 cups

I get the dressing ready before roasting the tomatoes.

I get the dressing ready before roasting the tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, or any variety of tomatoes you desire
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 small shallot, chopped  (or finely minced red onion)
  • 1 whole wheat French bread baguette, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, halved

Directions:

1.   Preheat oven to 375*F.   or heat grill to medium-high heat.

2.  Thread tomatoes evenly on 4 skewers;  lay on a cookie sheet and brush all over with 2 teaspoon olive oil.  If using grill, brush tomatoes with oil and lay on grill .   Turn the skewers several times for even roasting, and when the tomatoes start to crack and look charred ( about 5 minutes on the grill) remove from heat.

Roasting the tomatoes on skewers.

Roasting the tomatoes on skewers.

3.  Remove tomatoes from skewers; chop coarsely.  Place tomatoes, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, basil, and shallot in a small bowl, stirring to combine.

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4.  Brush bread slices evenly with some olive oil,  Grill for about 30 seconds on each side or until toasted.

Toasting the bread.

Toasting the bread.

Rub cut sides of garlic over one side of bread slices, top evenly with tomato mixture.

Once you try this, you will want it with every meal. 🙂

 

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SOURCE:  Carolyn’s Creations

Garlic-Herb Cucumber Bites

Garlic Herb Cucumber Bites

Garlic Herb Cucumber Bites

This is the time of year when many springtime events take place.  It might be a bridal shower or baby shower, or even a Mother’s Day gathering taking place at mid-day when brunch would be served.  Light refreshments are welcome at these events especially if you’re “waist-watching”.

I made these little cucumber appetizers recently and they were so well received that it’s only fair that I share them with you.  I think they would be great on a buffet table to nibble on while waiting for the rest of the refreshments.  They are light -in content and in calories- so they are not too filling for what’s to follow.

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I made these without a recipe, because they are so simple, but I made an attempt to write something here for you to follow if you care to make them, too. I used Boursin cheese  because  I love it, and because it’s already perfectly seasoned.  Why put yourself through the task of starting with cream cheese and trying to achieve the perfect blend of herbs and seasonings, when this one is already done for you.  I thinned it a little with some heavy cream to get a thinner consistency that would be well suited to piping onto the cucumbers if you wanted to make them extra fancy, but all I did was put a small spoonful onto the cucumbers.

These are ridiculously easy, pretty cute and impressive too.  Nice for a party!

GARLIC HERB CUCUMBER BITES

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A two-step appetizer. Nothing could be easier.

Yield:    About 18 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1  (5.2 oz.) package garlic herb Boursin cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 long English cucumber, peeled partially or totally, as desired

Directions:

1.  Make the filling:  Place Boursin in a small bowl.  Add in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir with a fork until lightened and smooth.  If needed, sir in an additional tablespoon of cream until the mixture is a good consistency for piping.  Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip; set aside.

2.  Slice the cucumber into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Gently scoop out most of the seeds from the center of each slice, leaving a small portion to keep the filling from falling out.  I found a 1/4-teaspoon measuring spoon did the job very well, using it as you would a melon baller.  Arrange the slices on a serving platter.  Pipe or spoon a dollop of the filling onto each cucumber slice.  Serve chilled.

Kind of cute, yes?

Note:  These can be assembled and refrigerated up to 6 hours in advance of serving.

Spinach Artichoke Bread

Spinach Artichoke Bread

Spinach Artichoke Bread

In my experience one of the most popular appetizers around is hot spinach dip, or a combination of spinach and artichoke dip.  Hot, cheesy, gooey spinach dip.  Oh yes,  addictively delicious with crackers or chips.

Since we would be sitting at a table with a plate onto which we could place our appetizers, I thought that in place of crackers or chips I would use bread to do two things;  add more substance, and provide a larger surface to carry all that lucious dip.  So this recipe seemed like the perfect solution.

This is great for parties, or could be used as a snack or light lunch, which is what we did with the leftovers.  Wrapped in foil and reheated in a warm oven, they were as good as new.

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 SPINACH ARTICHOKE BREAD

Yield:   12  servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened ( low-fat is OK)

    Only low-fat ingredients allowed!  :D

    Only low-fat ingredients allowed! 😀

  • 3/4 cup (6oz.) plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach,  defrosted and well drained
  • 12 oz. can artichoke quarters, in water, drained
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 French rolls, or 2 French baguettes

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F

2.  With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add yogurt, continue mixing until smooth.

3.  Chop artichokes, and squeeze out spinach to remove excess liquid.  Add to cheese-yogurt mixture.  Add onion powder, garlic powder, salt, 1/4 cup mozzarella and Parmesan.  Fold well to incorporate into a uniform mixture.

4.  Cut the French bread in half.  Slightly hollow each half by removing some of the bread from the middle.  Fill with the spinach-artichoke mixture and level the filling.  Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

Breads filled and ready for the oven.

Breads filled and ready for the oven.

5.  Place the loaves on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until filling is bubbly and the cheese on top is browned slightly.  Allow to cool for several minutes before slicing and serving.

The bread gets toasty, and the filling gets melty and warm.

The bread gets toasty, and the filling gets melty and warm.

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SOURCE:   Happier Holidays Recipe Book

Baked Brie Bites

Baked Brie Bites

Baked Brie Bites

Christmas Day was fast approaching and we (my family, who we were visiting, and I) were planning a big meal, so for Christmas Eve. we decided to make a meal out of just appetizers.   We each made a couple, and there was a nice variety.

Awesome !!

Awesome !!

Since appetizers are useful at any time, but especially now with New Year’s Eve coming up, I thought you might be interested in what we had.  The major requirement was that they be pretty simple to prepare and, of course, delicious to eat.

Steamed shrimp with cocktail sauce

Cocktail meatballs in barbecue sauce

Spinach Artichoke Bread*

Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Baked Brie Bites*

Hot cider with Honey Liqueur

The starred items were my contributions, so you will find recipes for them here today and tomorrow.

Brie cheese pairs so well with fruit, and this particular mixture of apples, walnuts, bacon and orange is an outstanding combination.  Each one is topped with a cranberry, making them festive and cute.  They can be eaten with your hands and each one is just a bite or two.  These are the perfect option for a snack or to take along to a party.  They will definitely be a crowd pleaser.  Once you taste them, you will be making them time and time again.  Socks optional because they will be blown off!

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BAKED BRIE BITES WITH CRANBERRIES

Yield:   Makes 24 bites

Ingredients:

Get all the ingredients ready.

Get all the ingredients ready.

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 orange, zested and juice reserved
  • 2.5 oz. pkg. real bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped apple
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3  Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2  8-oz. pkgs. Crescent Rolls
  • cooking spray
  • 8 0z. Brie cheese round
  • dried cranberries

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Coat 2 mini muffin pans with cooking spray.  (or use 1 large pan with 24 cups)

2.  In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Add orange juice, bacon bits, walnuts, apple, cinnamon and 3 tablespoons broan sugar.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved and apples begin to brown, 3 – 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in orange zest.  Allow this mixture to cool a bit while you prepare the dough and cheese.

Cooking up the apple mixture.

Cooking up the apple mixture.

3.  Unroll crescent rolls and pinch together seams to create 1 large sheet with each package of dough.

Pinch the seams together to make one square of dough.

Pinch the seams together to make one rectangle of dough.

Cut each rectangle into 12 squares.  Place a square of dough in each muffin cup.

Put a square of dough in each cup and add a piece of brie.

Put a square of dough in each cup and add a piece of brie.

4.  Cut brie into 24 pieces and place in the center of the dough squares.  Top with apple walnut mixture.

Top with some apple mixture.

Top with some apple mixture.

Bring edges of the dough to the center and pinch to create a seal.  Place one dried cranberry in the center of each bite.

Fold each one closed and center a cranberry on top.

Fold each one closed and center a cranberry on top.

5.  Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.   Serve warm.

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SOURCE:    Happier Holidays Recipe Book

Grapes, You Need Them!

Grapes,  juicy and sweet.

Grapes, juicy and sweet.

Grapes are ancient.  So ancient that some vines have been growing on this planet long before people arrived.  In certain areas of Italy there is still evidence of late Bronze Age vineyard posts used to train grapevines.  Over the years we’ve been trying to find  ways to make them bigger and sweeter.  Some of the grapes I see at the market are so plump and ripe, I just want to reach out and grab one or two for a juicy bite.  Don’t you?

Red, purple or green, plump or petite, grapes are a healthy pop-in-your-mouth snack.  I love grapes when they are cold as a refreshing way to cool off.  And when we travel, I like to bring along a big bunch of grapes to snack on.  One 3/4 cup serving of grapes is a good source of vitamin K, providing 25% of your daily needs.  Recent studies suggest that Vitamin K reduces the risk of bone fractures, particularly in older women.  Other studies have shown the benefits of having a glass of red wine to reduce the risk of heart and artery problems.  Grapes, particularly red  and black ones, are also rich in antioxidants.  So we know about their benefits, and we eat grapes fresh as a fruit/snack, or drink their juice fermented as wine,  but how many of you cook with grapes?  I’m not taking about making grape jam or jelly, but really incorporating them into a main dish, side dish or salad.

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I’m guessing not many people would even think of cooking with grapes.  Small and juicy with a hint of acid and sweet, they make perfect partners with some foods.  In the weeks ahead, I would like to introduce you to some recipes that utilize grapes in ways you may not have  considered.

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

The first one is this recipe for Grape-Rosemary Focaccia.  Scattered over the top of the focaccia, the grapes subtly sweeten each bite.  The sweet/salty combination of grapes, Parmesan cheese and rosemary is surprising, and delicious.  It can be served with a soup, or salad, as a dinner accompaniment in place of dinner rolls, or as an appetizer.  To make it quickly, use prepared whole wheat pizza dough from your supermarket, fresh or frozen.  If frozen, defrost thoroughly in the refrigerator or at room temperature.  Open the bag to give the dough room to expand, i.e. “rise”, prior to stretching and shaping.   Once the focaccia is prepared, allow it to sit at room temperature for about half an hour for another small “rise” before baking.

GRAPE-ROSEMARY FOCACCIA

Yield:    Makes 12 servings

Whole wheat pizza dough, grapes, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese.

Whole wheat pizza dough, grapes, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough, preferably whole wheat
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tsp. dried
  • 2 cups seedless grapes.  ( If large ones, cut in half.)

1.  Position rack in upper third of oven;  preheat to 425 *F.  Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2.  Working on a lightly floured surface, pat and stretch dough with damp hands into a 10 by 12-inch oval.  If the dough will not stretch easily, let it rest for 10 minutes, then stretch it again.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Stretch dough out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese.

Stretch dough out on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with cheese.

3.  Drizzle the oil over the dough;  sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and rosemary.  Arrange grapes on top and press lightly into the dough.   At this point I let mine sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to give the dough a chance to rest and rise again a little bit.

Add chopped rosemary and grapes.

Add chopped rosemary and grapes.

4.  Bake until golden around the edges and some of the grapes have burst,  18 – 25 minutes.   (Note:  Mine was done at 15 minutes, so watch carefully,)   Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.  (The grapes will be very hot inside.)

Golden brown with a heavenly aroma after baking.

Golden brown with a heavenly aroma after baking.

Serve warm with additional olive oil for dipping.

Serve warm with additional olive oil for dipping.

SOURCE:    Eating Well