Category Archives: Appetizer

Monday Menu: Go Nuts

Almonds, a favorite nut of mine, are rich in plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. But the health benefits are lessened, when if like me, you call peanut m&m’s  protein and eat candied almond by the handful.

Over the holidays, I decided to swap out the store bought for an equally delicious and healthier version of cocoa dusted almonds – sans butter or oil – that still satisfies a salty sweet tooth.


Cinnamon Cocoa Almonds
3 cups of raw almonds
1.5 tbsp of agave syrup
3 tsp of Dutch-processed cocoa
1.5 tsp of cinnamon
.5 tsp of nutmeg
sprinkle of salt

This couldn’t be easier to make or more delicious!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size bowl, combine almonds and all ingredients.  Stir so that almonds are fully coated.  Taste and adjust for a more chocolatey or cinnamon-y flavor.  
Scatter on a parchment paper covered pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven; almonds will have a glossy sheen and feel slightly sticky.  Sprinkle with salt and allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes.

Kale is the New Snack

I am a kale enthusiast.  I throw it into pasta, and add to rice dishes, but my favorite way to eat it is as a chip. When baked to a crisp this leafy green takes on a rich and nutty flavor – and no, you won’t be able to eat just one.

This is the simplest recipe ever posted on the blog and very possibly one of the most delicious.

1. Buy a big bunch of leafy green tale – I like Scots Kale, but any type would work just fine.

2. Strip the leaf away from the rib.  Kale has a similar structure to romaine lettuce, you just to rip the leaf down the center and discard the ribs at the end.  Yes, you can use the ribs for other recipes, but right now this is all about the leaf.

3. Put the strips of leaves in a colander and rinse thoroughly and then shake to dry thoroughly.  LIGHTLY drizzle olive oil over the colander and use a soft hand and a spatula or wooden spoon to mix the kale in the bowl giving each piece a hint of the olive oil.

4. Set the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour the olive oil kissed leaves onto an unprepared cookie sheet, be careful to not overlap the leaves too much so they get the direct heat and crisp.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper – or rosemary and thyme – or parmigiana – or truffle salt – or cayenne pepper – whatever your taste buds fancy.

5. Bake for 17 – 20 minutes.

6. Snack away.  Munch.  Crunch.  Enjoy!

Why Kale Chips? According to WebMD, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet.  It belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.  Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.  Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds and the fiber rich vegetable also binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when cooked.

Fig Season

Figs are funny kind of thing, well, not in the ha ha sense, but funny in the way that I never really knew what they were or what they tasted like.  I was definitely not a Fig Newton kind of kid, not fun enough.  But, now, my, oh, my – figs are such lovely delectable bites.

They’re delicious, not too sweet, full of flavor and pretty rich for a fruit, and right now they are in season… So, hello, don’t wait around too long, go and find some or make a delightful little snack – after finishing the blog 🙂

Some fig inspiration:

How amazing would homemade jam be?  Then you could make your own homemade Fig Newtons!

Fig Jam from Delicious Shots

Fig and Pig, Pig and Fig!  Open faced fig and prosciutto sandwich?  Molto bene!

Italian Fig Sandwich from Spoon Fork Bacon

Ooey, gooey cheese and drippy, sweet figs.  Seriously, this is the kind of “snack” I’d eat by the spoonful.  Is that bad?

Brie with Figs and Almonds the Enchanted Cook

This recipe is happening!  Gluten free and figgy!

Fig and Quinoa Cupcakes from The Cupcake Blog

The piece de resistance!  How stunning is this cake?  What a beautiful finale this would be for a dinner party.

Fig, Mascarpone and Pistachio Tart from Desserts for Breakfast

Have you tried figs, would you?  Are you intimidated by this “strange fruit”?

Some figgy history, from Serious Eats: The fig tree was a common theme in the Bible, and the Egyptians considered figs to be sacred, often burying the dead with baskets of figs. In ancient Greece, Plato wrote that athletes were fed figs to make them stronger. Fig culture spread to the northern Mediterranean and Adriatic shores until it reached southern Italy, and then the rest of Europe. When the Spanish planted figs in Mexico, and the Franciscan monks moved northward with pockets full of figs–that’s when they came to the States.

Salsa is Sassy

Last night Jaci tweeted the following:

I responded to her in kind,

She was out with our great friends in the great city of New York (yay SSM!) and I was grabbing a quick bite with Mark at a Baja Fresh (also good, and shockingly fresh) on K Street in DC.  If you are in neither of those places and want your own Sassy Salsa, check out this recipe.

Homemade Salsa = good

Homemade Salsa shared with awesome people = AWESOME, and sassy!

Crab Cake Appetizers

“Crab cakes and football, that’s what Maryland does!” – Wedding Crashers

To live near Maryland is to know (and love) crabs: steamed, dipped in butter, made into cakes.  When I was home for the weekend I made a crab cake appetizers for my parents and grandparents.  It was so fun to cook for people who have cooked for me my whole life, and to make something that doesn’t show up too often in South Florida.  Florida is all about stone crabs, not Maryland crabs.

Crab Cake Appetizer, makes 14
2 containers of 8oz crab meat (I used lump and claw)
1 egg, gently beaten
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/8 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay (this is not exact*)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
3 cracks of fresh black pepper
sprinkle of salt
2 tablespoons of mayonaisse
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay
1/4 lemon juice
chopped chives

In a medium sized bowl empty the crab and with a gentle hand and wooden spoon mix the different kinds of meat together.  You can use all the same kind of meat, but generally one is considerably more expensive than the other, and they have a different flavor, so I combine for more depth.

In the empty crab cup, beat the egg and then add it to the crab.  Add the mustard, and a couple of squirts of the Worcestershire sauce, the lemon juice and the Panko.  

You’re probably noticing that the measurements for these ingredients are not overly specific, that’s because we’re cooking and not baking, and because flavor and spice is personal.  Mark loves Old Bay so I tend to go stronger with that, and I don’t care for salt so I tend to go lighter.  If you want spicy crab cakes, add more red pepper – it’s that simple!

Again with the wooden spoon, very gently incorporate all of the ingredients, being careful to not pulverize the crab.  A great crab cake is full of big, pump pieces of meat.  I usually take a sniff of the crab mixture to see if it seems balanced, and then maybe add more spices if necessary.

Now, form small balls of the crab mixture is the well of the palm of your hand.  These just need to be gently formed, not packing them too tightly.  Place all of the uncooked cakes on a plate and cover with plastic to refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  Refrigeration lets the crab cakes firm up before they are cooked.

In a large pan over low/medium heat add a touch of butter and get to cooking.  Each side takes 3-4 minutes.

When the crab cakes are out of the pan, give them a few moments to cool and mix up the sauce (mayonnaise, lemon juice and Old Bay) and chop up some chives.  For an extra kick you can add a dash of Tabasco to the sauce.

Place all of the crab cakes on a platter and give some (or all) a small dollop of sauce and a sprinkle of chives, serve with fresh lemon, oh and Enjoy!

Grilled Eggplant Pesto Parmigiana

Sometimes I realize that the recipe featured here require a mixer, or an immersion blender, and for as much as I try to simplify recipes by using simple tools, it can become intimidating if your kitchen equipment is pieced together with hand-me-downs and college left overs.

This recipe requires not much more than George Foreman grill, the staple of every college “registry”, and it looks and tastes a bit more sophisticated than college.

Grilled Eggplant Pesto Parmigiana
1 large Italian eggplant
Pesto Sauce (either premade, or homemade – do it!  It is soo easy)
Grated Parmigiana cheese
Marinara sauce
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a cutting board slice the eggplant into 1/2″ coins.  Sprinkle generously with Kosher salt.  Salting the eggplant adds flavor and it also helps the eggplant to “sweat” out some of it’s moisture.

In a small bowl prepare the pesto sauce, come on, I know you went homemade.  Another even lower calorie option that is strong on flavor is crushed basil, garlic and olive oil – I recommend the frozen basil and garlic cubes at Trader Joe’s.
Lay the eggplant coins out on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown grill marks appear and then rotate for a beautiful cross pattern.   
Lay all of the grilled eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and spread each slice with a 1/2 teaspoon of your spread.  (If you’re  not into pesto, or garlic, or basil, or whatever, a tapenade would be amazing, or just your basic marinara sauce).  Sprinkle with the grated parmigiana cheese and bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese is a little bit melted.
If you can help it, arrange the grilled eggplant slices on a plate and serve with fresh sauce.  If you can’t help it, try not to burn your fingers as you eat them right from the pan.  We ate them both ways in my house, and they taste just as good with or without the fancy presentation!

This makes for a healthy, affordable, and really satisfying dinner or appetizer for a crowd.  Buon Appetito!

Pre-Game Snacks

I really do love football, but this weekend’s “big game” is not really luring me in.  I am not into the teams, and I’m not into the location being a snowy Dallas…

In any case, I am into making food for the “big game”.  Did you know that only NFL and the network broadcasting the game are allowed to use the term Super Bowl in a marketing context… little known fact!

If I was having a party for the Big Game I would serve up some of these healthy favorites!
Candied Pecans!
Stuffed Mushrooms!
Sweet Potato Chips and Spicy Arugula Pesto
For more inspiration and to honor the teams playing, The Greenbay Packers and The Pittsburgh Steelers, how about these recipes:

A New Twist on a Traditional Favorite

We cook at home just about every night, and we do so for a lot of reasons: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s easier and often it’s just as good.  The trick however, become making home cooked meals interesting and fun.

This weekend I took a seasonal favorite, sweet potato and upped the ante.  
Sweet Potato Coins with Arugula Pesto
2 Sweet Potatoes (I used 1 yam – that’s the lighter color)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, Pepper, Paprika to taste (just a light sprinkle)
We do homemade fries a lot, so this was a nice change.  Cut the potatoes into 1/4″ coins.  I put all of them in a colander and drizzle with olive oil so that all of the coins get an even coating.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper and paprika over the coins on a tin foil covered cookie sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  You could go longer, but 30 minutes gives the coins enough time to be crispy and golden brown.
You could stop now, and eat.  You’ll be happy, I promise.  Or… you can take it up a notch.

Arugula Pesto
2 handfuls of arugula
1.5 tbsp of pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh grated parmesean cheese
1/2 tbsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a food processor blend all of ingredients, using a spatula to scrape down the sides.  This is a dish that you can’t really screw up, because you can continue to taste to check your flavors. I like it garlicky, maybe you want a bit less, so it is very easy to adjust.

A traditional pesto features basil, I went with arugula because we had a lot on hand and it no longer had the crisp bite that I would want for a salad.  No wasting in our house, and this new use for salad greens was a huge success, and a delicious dip for the sweet potato “chips”.

The Best Winter Salad – Seriously

In the winter I am pretty much a salad hater.  I just can’t get behind the arugula and mixed greens that I love in the spring and summer, they all just seem so blech…  Until this weekend.

In full disclosure I did not create this recipe, in fact besides finding the recipe and eating it, I have done nothing constructive.  Mark has made this salad two times in four days and I have enjoyed it everytime.  
Spiced Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad Ingredients
3/4 cup lentils
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and “cubed”
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

When we first made this it was for an impromptu New Year’s Eve dinner, happily lentils are lucky on New Years Eve.  Also lucky is that all of these ingredients were available prepared.  I am no “Semi-homemade” but, if you want to save time you can find butternut squash already peeled and cut into chunks (Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s) and lentils that have already been cooked (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Wegman’s).  Major, major time savers.

Otherwise, you can peel the squash and then cut it into 1″ thick rounds until you reach the base of the squash, and then cut the base in half and continue to cube.  I’d recommend keeping the pieces on the larger side, and forgo the urge for perfectly small squares.  The larger pieces stay firmer and provide a great texture.  I promise, it’s really very simple, and nearly impossible to screw up.

Toss the cubed squash with cumin, paprika and salt and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, and then flip the pieces and cook for another 15 minutes.  
Look at those delicious pieces of squash — ahh, Heaven!
Let the squash cool and then layer it with the lentils, which I had at room temperature, but they could also be warm, and the crumbled goat cheese and argula… Or, you could skip the arugula, it’s still pretty healthy.

To dress the “best winter salad ever” combine the left over oil/juice from the pan the squash baked on, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

I realize this doesn’t seem too salad-y, but it is a great way to play with new ingredients (lentils or goat cheese), and it is beautiful to see and eat and really affordable to prepare and it keeps well for leftovers.

Share with friends, I am sure this is lucky after New Years, too!

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites

This originally was featured on the DC Ladies Blog but the recipe was too easy and too good to not share!
Earlier I posted savory bleu cheese and pecan cookies, which were awesome and easy and fun to eat for breakfast, if that’s your thing (which, evidently it is mine). Anyway, those cookies were the round 2 to this even easier, and also quite charming, appetizer.  Because the whole thing takes about 8 minutes to prepare and assemble this might be perfect for when you have surprise company or perhaps need reinforcements at a cocktail party.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites
French baguette
Candied Pecans, recipe here
Bleu Cheese crumbles
Your freshly made, or store bought pecans get a good chop and are set aside.
Cut a French baguette into thin slices and toast lightly.  (This isn’t really necessary, but generally speaking there are few things better than warm bread).  With the back of a spoon “spread” the crumbled bleu cheese on top of the baguette slices. 
Sprinkle on top of the bleu cheese and the chopped candied pecans and a light drizzle of honey.

Each bite is like a divine sampling of a cheese platter at the most divine wine bar, and easy to do and made with ingredients that are probably in your pantry!

Happy Holidays – wishing you delicious entertaining!