Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

I think salads are absolutely beautiful.  They are often full of a mix of vibrant colors, incorporating colors like pops of fuschia on a rich green background.  They are the food-lover’s version of a fresh bouquet of flowers.  Because I find them so beautiful, salads are one of my favorite parts of the meal to plate.  A good presentation can really help make other less leaf-loving people excited to try a salad out.


I bookmarked this salad recipe simply because of the presentation.  The salad itself looked like nothing special but I sure wanted to try the crispy parmesan baskets out.  And I was not disappointed.  The baskets were easy to put together, fun to play with and made for a unique looking plate.  The parmesan was perfectly toasted crunchy, making it full of flavor.  But as suspected the salad itself was just average.  I’ll keep making these baskets and filling them full of whatever beautiful fruits and vegetables I have on hand.


Parmesan, Walnut and Arugula Baskets
Originally from Taste of Home magazine, April/May 2009
Servings: 6

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts


4 cups fresh arugula or spring mix salad greens
1/2 cup green grapes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts over the bottom of the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 seconds.
Using a spatula, carefully remove cheese mixture and immediately drape over an inverted glass with a 2-in.-diameter bottom; cool completely. Repeat with remaining cheese and walnuts, forming five more baskets.
For salad, in a large bowl, combine the arugula, grapes and walnuts. Whisk the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over arugula mixture; toss to coat. Place 1/2 cup salad in each basket.


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Three days. Just Canaan and I. Nate in Montana. Of course this meant meals were whatever I felt like. I find when I’m on my own I can easily survive with a piece of crusty bread, a little chunk of some good cheese, and a tasty, tasty salad – oh and a movie for night time. Luckily this lovely nectarine that had been sitting in my windowsill a number of days turned ripe just in time to be included in the goodness.


And goodness it was. Just another reason to wish peaches and nectarines weren’t so touch and go in terms of quality and didn’t have such a short season. Possibly incentive enough to move to Georgia or South Carolina where all summer long we used to stop on long road trips to buy peaches from roadside stands. Peaches and Dairy Queen were frequent lunches, a perfect fix for the summer heat and a way to avoid fast-food burgers. Of course, back then all I cared about was the cookie dough blizzard but now I’d die for a roadside peach stand!


Peaches and Prosciutto with Greens

Salad greens
Peach or nectarine, sliced
A few ounces of prosciutto, torn into pieces
Brie cheese, sliced
Walnuts, toasted

Apple cider vinegar (about 3 Tbs. for a salad for two)
Honey and dijon mustard(about 1 tsp. each)
Olive oil (about 1 T.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk dressing together in bottom of serving bowl. Add greens and toss to coat. Arrange remaining ingredients over top and serve. Die happy.

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Part of the cooking frenzy from a few weeks ago was due to the fact that my very first sister-in-law, Laura, is getting married!  I was happy to help her celebrate bachelorette style by making some appetizers for everyone to enjoy.  Laura has been a great sister and I wouldn’t miss being able to support her in this way.  And now in just about a week we’ll have a new marriage and a new addition to the family in Garenne.



Some of the fun! Gorgonzola, pear, and apricot tarts, brie and raspberry cups with chives, salami and gorgonzola biscuits with raspberry preserves, thai chicken lettuce wraps, and a blue cheese and strawberry salad. Later Loretta brought out dozens of mini cupcakes from Sugar Bliss in flavors like fuzzy navel and red velvet.

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Cute looking pizza, right?  I thought so when I saw it in a magazine.  I also thought it might be kind of genius to have a runny egg yolk act as the “sauce” for the pizza.  After having tried it though, I’m feeling very lukewarm about this topping concoction,  Maybe if it did have some crushed tomatoes underneath that cheese it could have worked.

What did work, though, was the crust.  I took that from another recipe, thinking the polenta texture would work well against the eggs.  We both loved this crust and since, through an unfortunate (read: fortunate for Nate) misreading of the term 5/8 c. I ended up almost doubling the dough, we’ve been able to use it with other pizza toppings as well.  It’s delightfully crispy and full of crunch.  And I’ve never had an easier time time rolling a dough out super thinly without having it stick to the counter, shrink back to much smaller, or fall apart transferring it to the pizza stone.

Polenta Pizza Crust
Adapted from the Costco Connection cookbook

2 t. active dry yeast
2 T. olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
1.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 c. fine-ground polenta

Combine yeast with 1/4 c. warm water in a mixing bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.  Stir in 5/8 cup warm water, olive oil, and salt.  Mix in flour and polenta.  Knead for 7 minutes on a floured work surface.

Place dough in a large, oiled bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1.5 hours.  Punch dough down and let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Roll dough out as thinly as possible and place on a pizza stone.  Bake for 10 minutes, brush with additional olive oil and then add desired toppings.  Place back in the oven til crust is crispy and cheese is melted.

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Shrimp and havarti quesadillas?  Um YES.

Perfectly cooked shrimp, sauteed mushrooms, my favorite cheese, and a bit of sweetness from the apricot preserves.  Um YES.  YES. YES.  YES.  Make these.  And you will be happy.

(And dinner will be on the table in 10-15 minutes.)

Havarti Shrimp Quesadillas
From Taste of Home June/July 2010, p. 22
Prep/Total Time: 25 min.
Yield: 2 dozen

1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 T. canola oil
1 T. butter
6 T. apricot preserves
6 flour tortillas (10 in.)
6 oz. Havarti cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. cooked peeled deveined shrimp, chopped
2 T. butter, melted

In a large skillet, saute mushrooms in oil and butter until tender.  Spread 1 T. preserves over half of each tortilla; top with cheese, shrimp and mushrooms.  Fold tortillas over.  Brush both sides with melted butter.

Grill quesadillas, uncovered, over medium heat for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese is melted.  Cut each quesadilla into four wedges.  Serve warm.

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Pear, bacon, and goat cheese.  All great ingredients, but how would they marry together?  Well, there was no time but this week to find out when I happened to have those three ingredients all on hand at the same time.  Never mind that this strikes me as an excellent first course for a dinner party and I was going to be serving this to two tired-out, frazzled parents, one of whom would probably be eating one-handed … as this certain baby has a real knack for waking right when plates of food are placed on the table.  I’m told this is when a swing comes in handy but sadly, we don’t have one handy!

But just because we are tired-out, frazzled parents doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate good food and good this was.  Pear, bacon, and goat cheese make a remarkably delectable combination that I’ll be glad to pair again and again.  The skimpy drizzling of honey and hint of thyme in the goat cheese just top this one off beautifully.

Roasted Baby Pears with Herbed Goat Cheese
Recipe by Tyler Florence, taken from Food Network

1/2 pound goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs such as parsley, thyme, and chives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 baby pears
12 slices bacon, about 1/2 pound, cut in 1/2
2 tablespoons honey
Arugula or dandelion greens, for garnish

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese, herbs, and 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Halve the pears and scoop out the seeds and cores. Stuff each pear half with about a tablespoon of the cheese. Wrap each stuffed pear with a slice of bacon and place it on a baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil over the pears and season them with salt and pepper. Bake them until the pears are tender and the bacon is crisp, about 25 to 30 minutes.* Place the pears onto a platter, drizzle with the honey, and garnish with the arugula.

*I’m not a big fan of overly cooked or pears that have lost their crispness.  So I ignored the direction to cook these for 25 min.  Instead, I started the bacon in a frying pan and removed it when it was still pliable, but just starting to crisp.  Then I cooked the stuffed pears with the bacon for just about 4-5 minutes, only enough time to make the goat cheese soft and hot.

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Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day didn’t feel a whole lot different than most other days this year.  We got back from Lake Geneva just in time to have our friends Jarrett and Catherine over for lunch and mentoring.  Then we headed out the door to our fifth birth class where we learned about some good comfort measures and partner work for labor, as well as all about what happens in a C-section.  After that we had the night to ourselves but had no desire to head back out for something fancy.  So I brought just a little bit of romantic cheer to our night with some fun appetizers to share together so we could have a cozy night in.

Baked Brie with Mixed Berry Preserves in Puff Pastry

St. Louis Toasted Ravioli with Marinara

And chocolate covered strawberries

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