Tag Archives: appetizer

Quinoa-Stuffed Collard Wraps

Are you ready for this? Quinoa-Stuffed Collard Wraps—a bit time consuming but so worth the effort!

A while back, some of my former coworkers and I were swapping quinoa recipes. It was the type of  bourgeoisie, “I only shop at Whole Foods” kind of conversation that you’d expect to see parodied on a sitcom. {For the record, you can usually find me roaming the aisles of Safeway or Wegmans, depending on if it’s raining or not—because Wegmans has a parking garage and there’s nothing worse than trying to load a car with two kids and tons of groceries in the rain. But I digress …}

This recipe was, by far, the most unique and interesting one shared. It comes from my former colleague, James, who grew up in Southern California (for some reason, that fact seems relevant to me with this recipe). I love collard greens but, growing up in the south, I’ve pretty much only ever had them boiled in fat back—delicious, but not exactly the healthiest way to enjoy collards.

I was intrigued by this completely different use of the green, and the filling just sounded delicious. They were every bit as good as I was hoping. I did adapt the original recipe a bit by adding garlic (because why not?!) and sauteing the veggies instead of boiling them. One word of caution: while you don’t want to blanch the collards too long, you also want to make sure to blanch them long enough. If the collard isn’t cooked enough, it a) won’t be flexible enough to roll and b) will be chewy as all get out, which makes this nearly impossible to eat. Enjoy!

Quinoa Collard Wraps

Quinoa-Stuffed Collard Wraps

1 bunch collard greens
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1 package Italian Turkey Sausage (Sweet or Hot, depending on your preference)
1 yellow squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

 

1. Remove the sausage from its casing and brown separately over medium-high heat. Once browned, finely chop it up and set it aside.

2. In the same pan that you used for the sausage, heat a little bit of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the squash, zucchini, and cauliflower and cook until all is tender and slightly browned, approximately 15 minutes.

3. Prepare the quinoa in a separate pot according to the directions on the package, using the vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavor.

4. Once the quinoa is done, stir in the vegetables and sausage. Mix well.

5. Wash each collard leaf thoroughly. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a large bowl of ice water near the stove top. Working with one or two collard leaves at a time, boil them for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove each leaf from the boiling water and place in the ice water for a few seconds. Transfer from the ice water to a paper towel and pat dry. Be careful not to overcook the collards, as they will fall apart when you add the filling. Also, try not to stack the collards, since they may stick and tear.

6. Take a couple spoonfuls of the quinoa mixture, place it in the collard leaf, and roll it up like a burrito. You can serve these as is or with a balsamic vinaigrette for dipping.


Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush is a Middle Eastern spread made of roasted eggplant and tiny bits of Heaven. It is also really fun to say. I have no more words—just make it, eat it, love it.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

1 large eggplant
¼ cup tahini, plus more as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 pinch ground cumin
salt, to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

 

  1. Heat your grill to medium-high heat, and preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Prick the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on the grill 4 to 5 inches from the fire. Grill, turning frequently, until the skin blackens and blisters and the flesh just begins to feel soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake until very soft, another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin.
  4. Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl. Using a fork, mash the eggplant to a paste. Add the 1/4 cup tahini, the garlic, the 1/4 cup lemon juice and the cumin and mix well. Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the parsley.
Baba Ghanoush

Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are an easy and refreshing appetizer that are fun to make, so this is a great recipe to get your little ones involved in the kitchen. This recipe uses lots of “leaves” as my three year old would say, so feel free to modify your filling to suit your family’s tastes. You can fill these with mango, crispy rice vermicelli noodles, julienned carrots, cucumber … get creative!

Summer Rolls

You can find the rice paper rounds at most international supermarkets if you don’t have any luck at your local grocery store. Keep in mind that you’ll get a bunch in the package, so you won’t use them all in one go (unless you are making these for a party or something along those lines).

A huge THANK YOU to my brother, Josh, for this recipe and for teaching me how to make these—definitely easier than I ever imagined!

Summer Rolls

1 package of 8-inch rice paper rounds
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch scallions
1 head of romaine lettuce
½ lb small shrimp
Peanut sauce for dipping

 

1. Steam shrimp and set aside.

2. Slice scallions into 3-inch pieces. Clean and separate lettuce leaves. Pull mint leaves and discard the stems.

3. Fill a large pie plate with water. Submerge one rice paper round in the water for 5-10 seconds. Place on a clean surface and place a lettuce leaf, 2-4 scallions, a few mint leaves, and 4-6 shrimp.

4. Carefully lift the edge of the rice paper and fold over, pulling back gently towards you to tuck in the fillings. Fold in the edges and continue rolling, burrito-style.

5. Allow the roll to sit for a minute before slicing in half. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping.

Summer Rolls


Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I tend to find Asian food intimidating. My lo mein never tastes as good as our local delivery place—it is clearly a white girl’s lame attempt at “authentic” Chinese food. So when I saw this recipe for Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps in Cooking Light, I initially just flipped the page, looking for a different recipe to try. But then I decided to go back and read through it, and I figured it seemed easy enough to give it a shot. Turns out, it was one of the tastiest things I have made in a while!

Mu Shu Chicken

Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 (14-oz) package coleslaw (about 4 cups)
6 oz shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup sliced green onions, divided
12 Bibb lettuce leaves
¼ cup chopped cashews

 

1. Combine first 4 ingredients (through rice vinegar) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic and ginger to pan; sauté 30 seconds.

3. Add soy sauce mixture and coleslaw; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.

4. Add chicken and ¼ cup onions to pan; cook 1 minute or until coleslaw just begins to wilt.

5. Divide chicken mixture evenly among lettuce leaves; sprinkle evenly with remaining ¼ cup onions and cashews.


Finger Foods for Your Next Fête

I can’t get enough of all the adorable mini foods I am seeing on Pinterest these days. Not only are they cute as a button, but two-bite finger foods are less mess at parties.

I’m starting to think about Olivia’s 3rd birthday party, and I’m kind of bummed that I will be ordering food this year instead of making it all (I will be 8 months pregnant, and I am not a glutton for punishment!). So maybe I’ll have to keep some of these in mind for next year … or maybe for the holidays. Here are a few of my favs:

Mini Tomato and Mozzarella Tarts from Life as a Lofthouse

Mini Chicken and Waffles from Southern Living

Lemon Meringue Pie Shooters from HonestCooking.com

Mini Pancake Bites Four Ways from Prudentbaby.com

Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls from Picky-Palate.com

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Coffee Cake Bites from SpoonForkBacon.com

Mac and Cheese Bites by Yours Truly


Jalapeño Pimento Cheese

I grew up eating pimento cheese sandwiches (on white bread, no crust, cut into quarter triangles … naturally). They were a staple at every wedding my grandmother catered, and because I loved being her sous chef, I got to sample them—a lot.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that pimento cheese is a distinctly Southern snack and that I’ve never actually made it. I don’t have my grandmother’s recipe (which I intend to get from my dad ASAP), so I looked up a half dozen recipes before trying out this concoction. The recipe I followed most closely was this one, which is based on my fav store-bought pimento cheese, Palmetto.

While I think it turned out delicious, I would probably cut back on the cream cheese just a bit next time because I thought it was just a tad overpowering, so that’s how I have written the recipe below. Also, the jalapeño can be increased or decreased depending on how much heat you like.

Jalapeño Pimento Cheese

6 oz low-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 tbsp diced pimentos
1 roasted jalapeño, seeded and diced
1½ tbsp grated vidalia onion
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.


Mac and Cheese Bites

I made these for the Super Bowl yesterday and they were both delicious and a huge hit with my two year old! I adapted this recipe from Annie’s Eats (LOVE her blog, by the way—you must visit). I made several changes to make these babies a little healthier, so go ahead—pop a few more. Hope you enjoy!

Mac and Cheese Bites
Yield: 48 mini bites

12 oz vegetable macaroni (like Safeway’s Eating Right Veggie Pasta)
1 ½ cups Reduced Fat Ritz Cracker crumbs
2 ½ cups shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
6 tbsp butter, melted
7 wedges Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb cheese
2 tbsp butter
2 large eggs
¾ cup skim milk
¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray mini muffin pans lightly with cooking spray. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to the directions on the box.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, ½ cup of the cheddar cheese, and the 6 tbsp of melted butter. Spoon a bit of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, and press down with your fingers to form the bottom crust.

3. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to a large mixing bowl along with the rest of the cheddar cheese, butter, and Laughing Cow wedges.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and yogurt, and then stir it into the pasta.

5. Add salt and pepper to the pasta mixture and stir well to combine all of the ingredients.

6. Spoon the pasta mixture evenly into the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow the mac and cheese bites to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan.


Eat Your Veggies: Buffalo Cauliflower

I love buffalo wings, but I do not love how bad they are for you. What I really crave is the buffalo sauce, so I figured I would try to kill two birds with one stone: get my buffalo fix and up my veggie servings (which, by the way, are a recommended nine servings a day). I adapted this recipe from the one for Bang Bang Shrimp from That’s So Michelle. My friend Nicole made that recipe and raved about it, so I thought it would be a good place to start.

I’m not a huge fan of pan frying, but these were totally worth the mess! My husband and I LOVED them. I will absolutely be making this dish again!

Buffalo Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, with florets cut off and separated
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper
¼ cup canola oil
Frank’s Red Hot Original Pepper Sauce or other buffalo sauce
Celery (optional)
Bleu Cheese or Ranch dressing (optional)

Place Panko crumbs in a shallow dish and mix in salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Put your eggs and your cornstarch into two separate bowls.

One at a time, dip your cauliflower into the cornstarch, turning to coat, and shake off any excess. Next, dip it in the egg and then coat with the bread crumbs. As you finish each one, set it aside on a plate.

After you have coated all of your cauliflower, heat your canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (you can check it by flicking a drop of water in and seeing if it sizzles), add your cauliflower florets. Be sure to turn them frequently until all sides are browned. Remove them from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to remove any excess oil.

Let the cauliflower cool for just a few minutes. Working in small batches, put your cauliflower in a bowl and drizzle with sauce; toss gently to coat.

Serve immediately with celery and bleu cheese or ranch dressing.


Cranberry Bruschetta … Yum!

Go figure that the easiest dish I made for Christmas this year was also everyone’s favorite! It was a bit of a risk—I combined bits and pieces from several different recipes and adapted them to make my own, and I didn’t do a test run on this little experiment before Christmas. Luckily, the risk paid off! I think nearly everyone who tried it asked if I was going to post the recipe.

This is a fantastic appetizer to make ahead of time; in fact, I recommend making it the day before you plan to serve it so that the flavors can develop and the cranberries aren’t too tart.

Oh and special thanks to my brother, Josh, for being my oh-so-talented hand model. {Thanks for washing your hands!}

Cranberry Bruschetta

12 oz fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
Loaf of French baguette bread

Pick through your cranberries, discarding any that are soft. Place the cranberries in a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop. Spoon the cranberries into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Serve on slices of toasted baguette.


Figs in a Blanket

I made this recipe from Cooking Light as an appetizer for our Christmas dinner and it was a huge hit. The original recipe called for apricots and blue cheese, but I’m a big fan of fig and goat cheese together, so I decided to change it up a bit. The original recipe also called for them to look like cute, neat little “angels”—mine turned out looking more like pigs in a blanket. But they still tasted delicious, and that’s what really matters!

Figs in a Blanket
Adapted from Cooking Light’s Apricot-Blue Cheese Angels

1 cup boiling water
1 6 oz package figs, chopped (I used Calimyrna, but Mission would work as well)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 oz crumbled goat cheese
2 sheets frozen pastry dough, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Combine 1 cup boiling water and figs in a medium bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes. Reserve 2 tbsp of the soaking liquid, and then drain the figs in a colander. Place figs, reserved 2 tbsp soaking liquid, walnuts, honey, juice, and cinnamon in a food processor; pulse until coarsely ground. Add cheese to processor; pulse 3 times or until blended.
  3. Place 1 sheet pastry dough on a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Gently roll into a 12 ½-inch square. Cut dough into 25 (2 ½-inch) squares. Top each dough piece with about 1 tsp fig mixture. Working with one dough piece at a time, bring corners up to the center and pinch closed. Place the pastries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat steps with remaining dough and fig mixture, placing formed pastries on a second baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush pastries evenly with egg. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until golden.