Category Archives: Appetizers

You Win Some and Some You Just Don’t Even Show Up For

Here it is, April 5th and I am writing my first blog post in forever.

If that fact is not lost on you or you have noticed my absence, thank you friend for noticing.

Truthfully, you probably weren’t surprised and just though I decided to leave the country, go into hiding or simply never show my face on cyberspace again after that … Super Bowl game.

I can’t believe I just mentioned it. Out loud. Well, kind of.

Really, I just whispered it in that sort of painful rasp that barely escapes clinched teeth. You know the one. That particular method of communication reserved especially for a disrespectful child who has inundated you with repeated arguments over why he should be allowed to take his skateboard down the slide and how you are so mean and just don’t understand his needs, conversation before coffee or the profession of great shame like … oh, I don’t know the acknowledgement of an epically disastrous, horribly embarrassing, absolutely unfathomable, Super Bowl.

You’ve missed my crazy tangent laced run-on sentences, haven’t you?

Yes, you might think after going on and on about the Broncos, declaring my allegiance, professing my love, turning my back on my Seahawk heritage, that it was all just too much.

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And yes, while that game was ugly and painful and seemed as if it would never end (kind of like the last few paragraphs I would imagine), thankfully, when all is said and done, it is after all – just a game.

So, I am okay. My husband is getting there; I asked him this morning if he would like to say anything for the post – “no comment” was all I got in a clenched tooth rasp. Really, he’s getting there. We are still Broncos Fans. All is well.

On the bright side, we got to have a party and spend the afternoon with friends and eat great food. And regardless of the outcome, I would still like to share the party with you – even if it is April and I should really be talking about spring and gardening and Easter. I must finish what I started. So, a Super Bowl wrap up it is!

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The day started with a happy optimism and a lot of team spirit!

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And team effort, including some last minute sprucing up and decorating. This is how a 6 year old who is watching the outdoor patio TV helps wash peanut butter fingerprints and doggie nose smears off of the door. That would be by barely moving the cleaning rag while staring hunched over, mouth agape at said TV. Fitting really as we were getting ready to watch football. Ugg, caveman child clean window.

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I’m not really an artificial turf table cloth kind of gal so my Super Bowl decorating was more of a “nod” to team spirit. Okay, so the flag was a little “in your face” but the blue and orange edible foodie centerpiece was subtle. While peppermint patty candies and tangerine Jelly Bellies do not really taste great together, the colors were perfect so they were forced to get along.

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Orange sparkling soda and blue solo cups kept the team spirit going at the drink station.

I shared my party menu with you in my last post but since that was a really, really long time ago, here it is again …

  • Crockpot Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Slaw
  • Crispy Hot Wings with Blue Cheese
  • Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
  • Pigs in a Blanket Bites (for the kids) with ketchup and mustard for dipping
  • Veggie Tray with Hummus
  • Relish Tray
  • Chips and Dips
  • Broncos Cupcakes
  • Beer, Iced Tea, Lemonade and an “Orange Crush” Cocktail

That was my plan and it did come together, mostly. The cupcakes didn’t happen but thankfully friends brought a huge tray of cookies and a cheesecake so all was not lost. The “Orange Crush” cocktail became beer in a cooler and a last minute add of Disaronno and diet coke – which tastes just like Dr. Pepper if you didn’t know. I guess you could just drink a Dr. Pepper, but what fun is that?Superbowl-Food-Relish-Tray

Relish trays are one of my favorite things to do for a party. Yes, they are an old school appetizer but they don’t have to be. There are so many ways to jazz them up and limitless fun options. For this particular tray, I chose items that could pull double duty as toppings or were a good accompaniment for the pulled-pork sandwiches that were my main dish.

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Browse the pickle/olive and condiment aisle and be adventurous. Then just arrange your selections on a tray and you have a fun, easy and versatile appetizer. As “Tessa” would say (that’s what Nathan calls Ina) “now that’s a relish tray with the volume turned up!”

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I found this adorable tray at Tar-jey in the home decorating section. Not safe for food use. Whatever. That’s what parchment paper is for. Sadly, a large portion of “pigs in a blanket” were wiped out by grabby little fingers before I could get a decent photo but this was a really fun way to serve them along with the accompanying condiments.

Could I have just a moment please and ask you to take notice of my phone in the background. Top left corner. Yes, there it is.

A. It is hard to stage good photos while feeding people at the same time. My friends already think I am a weirdo for always photographing food before they can eat it. Imagine if I fussed over stuff in the background too.

B. Now, could we just observe a few seconds of silence as that phone has since taken a swim in the toilet and is no longer with us. When you pee and try to play Angry Birds at the same time, your mom’s phone can fall into the toilet. Let this be a lesson.

I’ll bet this is the only blog you have read today that hopes to share appetizing food and party ideas and then talks about pee in he same post. Welcome new readers.

Perfect-Football-Crock-Pot

Allow me to redeem myself. I could not let this post hit the internet without sharing my friend Lindsey’s awesome football crockpots with you.

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Yes, she filled them with a really yummy dips but the important thing for you to know that she is also a crafty, party planning, down to the last detail weirdo too. She is also our Kindergarten’s Classroom mom so she is actually even worse than I am. Ha! And that is why I love her. Well, one of the many reasons.

Pulled Pork Teaser …

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I promise, I will tell you all about it sometime soon (remember, in my world “soon” is relative). Yes, those are all of “Tessa’s” cookbooks in the background. Every. Single. One. She’s my girl.

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So that was it, our Super Bowl Party. Great friends, great food, really bad game.

Oh, I almost forgot …

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The Jalapeno Poppers and Hot Wings (no picture – too busy with hot oil and everything) I told you all about, they were both a big hit.

Thankfully, there were actually a few poppers left over so we were able console ourselves with a really amazing breakfast the next morning.

Leftover-Jalapeno-Poppers

Bacon always makes things better.

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As always, thank you so much for reading and for continuing to stop by – especially these days when even I don’t stop by as often as I should.

Thankfully, I think that season is behind me and I’ll be back to regular posts!

I’ll explain a bit more next time. For now, let’s just say my absence is due to the fact that I am “That Mom”, or so I’ve recently been told.

Next week will be all about Easter so come back and visit.

You are always Welcome Company!

 

 

 

 

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Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers – a Key Player on a Winning Superbowl Menu

Broncos vs. Seahawks; just a few days left now to kick-off! But don’t worry, there is still time to throw together a fun and delicious party. Today, I am going to share my own Superbowl Party Menu with you along with some tips for feeding a crowd with ease.

But first things first; an easy, messy and oh so delicious twist (literally) on a classic.

A few days ago, I shared with you my love for the Broncos and the Perfect Hot Wing. Today I am focusing on a game day appetizer that features something near and dear to my heart; bacon.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

While they aren’t the prettiest dish at the part, I’ll bet there won’t be a one left on the platter! How can you go wrong with a delicious pepper generously filled with a rich cheese mixture all lovingly swaddled in a piece of smoky bacon.

Just give me a moment. Sorry, I thought I smelled bacon.

The perfect bite. Well, two bites really. But hey, if you just need one, well that’s okay too.

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Ingredients

  • 8 Jalapeno Peppers, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Monterey jack, pepper Jack or cheddar work great)
  • 1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 18 slices of bacon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Using a sharp paring knife, halve the jalapenos lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs, making a “boat” for your cheese filling. I do my best to keep the stem in tact because, well it looks pretty.

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Mix the cream cheese, grated cheese mayo and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. You have some fun options when it comes to the cheeses so don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Fill the peppers with the cheese mixture, evenly distributing it.

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Wrap each pepper in a slice of bacon, being careful to overlap, leaving no seams if possible. The cheese is going to melt out a bit but we want to keep as much in as possible. Secure with a toothpick if necessary.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and then crisp the bacon under the broiler for a few minutes if necessary.

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See, I told you. Messy.

The good news is, they clean up nice and there is still plenty of ooey gooey goodness waiting under all that bacon! Besides, you have a baking sheet dotted with crispy melty cheese just waiting for you to grab a spoon!

My Superbowl Party Menu

Game day, we will have a houseful of hungry football fans (hopefully all rooting for the Broncos).

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Here is what I will be serving …

  • Crockpot Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Slaw
  • Crispy Hot Wings with Blue Cheese
  • Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
  • Pigs in a Blanket Bites (for the kids) with ketchup and mustard for dipping
  • Veggie Tray with Hummus
  • Relish Tray
  • Chips and Dips
  • Broncos Cupcakes
  • Beer, Iced Tea, Lemonade and an “Orange Crush” Cocktail

Now, how to pull it all together and still enjoy the game …

1. Delegate, in other words let your guests help you. They will offer. Say yes. This is not easy for me. But over the years, I have learned my lesson. Plan your menu and then decide what you want to make and what you want  to answer with when a friend asks “what can I bring?” Or if a friend says “can I bring  __________________”, say yes and modify your menu a bit.

2. Decorate and have your house ready the day before. You think you will have time the day of. You won’t. Trust me.

3. On that note, set out and label all of your serving platters ahead of time so you know what you need and you have them ready. Arrange them on your “party table” so your layout is set. Frantically searching for a serving platter and a spot to squeeze it in on the table is not what you want to be doing game day.

Right now, the friends and family who know me well are rolling their eyes and chuckling softly to themselves. Oh yes, they have seen me frantic. More than once. Don’t let it happen to you. A bit of early preparation will save you from the last minute crazies!

Which brings me to number 4. When your guests ask if there is something they can do, say yes. Have some tasks already predetermined to delegate. They want to help. You need their help. Let them help. Yes, I am talking to myself. Hopefully you’re listening too.

5. Be flexible. Did you hear that collective gasp? That went with the eye roll and soft chuckle of those who know and yet still love me. If you run out of time or find you were a little overzealous with your plan … let stuff go. I know, I can hardly believe I just said it either. Focus on having fun and being with the people you love – or at least like to hang out with.

I know I am certainly going to need a little help, it is also the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby this weekend. Heck, I may even have to let some stuff go. I promise you, it won’t be the Jalapeno Poppers.

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His car is almost finished. Are you sensing a theme here?

I’ll share the party and the Pinewood Derby with you in upcoming posts.

Have a great party!

And Go Broncos!!

How to become a Broncos fan and make the best hot wings; just in time for the big game!

This coming Sunday is no ordinary Sunday. If you haven’t heard, there is a scheduled sporting event that consumes a large percentage of the American population.

The “Big Game”.

The championship of a sport that consumes a large percentage of the American population for roughly five months out of the year.

Football. The Superbowl.

In this house, we are among the football obsessed masses. Broncos Fans. We bleed orange.

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Photo Credit

And this year, we are going to the Superbowl!

And of course, that means a Superbowl party.

I am going to share with you a great Superbowl party menu and my thoughts on how to make the best hot wings, which are a must on game day, but first just a little background on how I came to be a Broncos fan.

Oh come on, Indulge me.

It is a bit Ironic that I am a Broncos fan as the Seahawks are also going to the Superbowl this year. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest by Seahawks fans, immersed in Seahawks culture. Some of my fondest memories of my dad center around the many Sundays we spent watching football together; the foam brick shaped “Hawk Block” being hurled at the TV over and over and over again – the Seahawks weren’t very good for a really, really long time.

And then the day came when I sought my independence, my freedom and I boldly confronted my father and informed him that from that day forward, I was officially going to be a Broncos fan. I offered the small concession that I would still root for the Seahawks too, unless of course, they were playing the Broncos.

Rebellion. Mutiny. Treason.

“A Broncos fan?! You can’t be a Broncos fan, you’ve never even been to Denver. And … they are in the same division as the Seahawks!”

“Yes, I can. I am a Broncos fan.” 

“But why? Why the Broncos?”

And then I said this, “because they have a horse on their helmet and I like horses”  and his face contorted into the strangest gaze as he slowly exhaled the breath from his body.

olddenverbroncoslogohelmet

Photo Credit

And so it was. On that day, I broke away, turned my back on all I had know and became a Broncos fan.

I’m sure my dad thought it was just one of about a million passing fancies but it was not. It stuck. To his credit, my dad made the most of it and a friendly rivalry developed, which, as it turned out, was even more fun than rooting for the same team. Especially since the Broncos were a whole lot better than the Seahawks.

Yes, I chose my team because they had a horse on their helmet. For what other reason would a young girl choose a team of her very own? Still, there is a bit more to it than that.

Truly, it was destiny.

The Big Guy knew that someday, I would meet and fall in love with the most fanatical most devoted Broncos fan ever to walk the earth. It would not be my charm, quick wit or perfect apple pie that would win his heart; no, in the end it would be my Elway jersey.

Just yesterday, we celebrated 18 years of marriage. Love, commitment, hard work and a united front on the field of play (well, at least on the couch watching the field of play). Friends, that is the secret to making a marriage work. It is okay, even expected, to have a rivalry with your dad but with your husband it is best to root for the same team. And it is ALWAYS best to root for the Broncos.

So there you have it. A Broncos fan not by birth but by choice.

I am proud to say that we have been able to properly influence at least part of the next generation.

Connor-BroncosConnor, my first born nephew, my first baby love.

He’s had my heart from the moment I laid eyes on his pink wrinkly self and he just keeps charming his way into my heart. Like at the age of three when he told his mom he wanted to wear makeup so he could be “pretty like Aunt Dani”. Sweet, smart boy. I can share that story with you because I guarantee without doubt that not one of his friends reads my blog. And because his mom said I could so if it scars him, it’s her fault.

And then, a few summers ago when he came down for a visit and asked me to teach him how to make a soufflé. We made two, blue cheese and chocolate.

Come to think of it though, it was on that same visit the he ditched me at the mall, giving me the first indication that I was no longer completely “cool”. Apparently a 14 year old boy shopping with his aunt is style cramping and just not done. What is even more sad is that I actually did not expect it.

I still thought I was cool.

Imagine my shock; “seriously, you don’t want to shop with me? Or be seen with me?” Luckily, he left me feeling old and uncool right in front of the Forever 21 store so I could pop in there and feel better about myself. [sarcasm]

Not to worry though, all has been forgiven because with no undue influence, bribery or coercion, my sweet, smart, awesome nephew has chosen to be a Broncos fan. All on his own. All by himself. No undue influence. None.

Alex-Broncos

And low and behold, my niece Alex, Connor’s little sister (she’s on the right), has also chosen the to walk in the light. In fact, she and the friend pictured here with her wore their full Broncos gear to school on “Seahawk Day”. From what I hear, the school administration frowned on this anti-Seahawk treachery. Whatever. That’s my girl! I’m just so proud. Upon further examination of this photo, I believe that is actually just one pair of Broncos socks and they are sharing. Sharing socks. Still, I’m proud.

She likes horses too. In fact, I chased her escapee pony through razor sharp wheat field stubble more than once. In shorts. But she’s cute and I love her and she’s a Broncos fan so I hardly notice the scars on my shins. [complete exaggeration] Or the sock sharing.

Colin, Brenton and Grace I love you too and will mail Broncos jerseys to you when you come to your senses and realize you are really Broncos fans.

So, readers, if you actually read all of that and didn’t skip ahead, bless you. I am pretty sure that you are ready for me to get to the food. I know Connor is, if for no other reason than to be certain I don’t pull out anymore embarrassing cute stories. Oh, I’ve got plenty but for now, we’ll just move on to talking wings.

How to Make the Best Hot Wings

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Hot wings are pretty much a game day must but not all wings are created equal.

Personally, I am extremely picky about wings. Mostly because I don’t like to eat chicken off the bone. It truly gives me the heebies. In fact, the thought of eating a drumstick makes me break out into a cold sweat. Really, it does; you know I am not at all prone to exaggeration.

Wings are smaller so I can eat them if they are crispy. And I mean CRISPY. C.R.I.S.P.Y. As in not one teeny tiny, itty bitty little bit of fatty smooshyness. Yes, I am using a made up word. It is the only way I can accurately depict the absolute grossness (that might be made up too) of biting into a soggy wing. Cold sweat shudder.

So, now that you are hungry for wings, lets get to it.

This isn’t really a recipe as much as it is a preference of technique. I hate to be the one to tell you this but the best way – by far – to make hot wings is to fry them. Deep fry them in HOT oil.

Why do I hate to tell you this? Because it is messy. And a bit tedious. And somewhat perilous. But in the end, oh so worth it.

While it is far easier to just throw a bag of pre-sauced, pre-cooked frozen wings into the oven and heat them up and it may seem healthier to bake homemade wings, there is NO WAY to ensure an acceptable level of crispiness in the oven. And I for one, just cannot risk the horror of biting into a mushy wing. Really, I’ve got to stop talking about it.

Also, they just don’t taste as good.

So, let the frying begin.

Start with fresh chicken wings from the meat counter. You can buy raw frozen wings that have already been prepped but I really prefer the fresh whole wings as they have less moisture and fry up better.

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Crazy enough, I can’t stomach the though of eating (let’s just call them gross as to avoid anymore unfortunate made up words) a gross wing but I have no problem dispatching a whole wing into “hot wing” parts. Not grossed out a bit.

I like to use a very sharp, heavy chef’s knife. First, remove the tip of the wing. I put the tips in a baggie and then freeze them so I can add them to the pot the next time I make chicken stock. Next, pull the wing gently open and carefully run your knife between the two parts, cutting through the soft spot at the edge of the joint, separating the two pieces.

Once they are all separated, pat the wings dry.

If you are using frozen wings, be sure they are completely thawed and all of the excess moisture is patted off. If they are too wet, you are going to have just a bit of excitement when you put them in the hot oil. Dangerous excitement.

Speaking of oil, this is by far the number one tip I can offer. Do NOT fill your pot too full with oil. If you do, it will bubble over which is messy and dangerous. I fill a enameled cast iron pot about 2/3 full with canola or vegetable oil and then heat the oil on med-high heat to 380 degrees.

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Use a candy thermometer for an accurate temperature and adjust your heat up or down as needed.

Kitchen-Spider

If you don’t have a kitchen spider, I highly recommend getting one as it is the perfect tool for removing the wings and draining the oil off of them quickly. I use mine for all sorts of things.

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I gently place the wings into the hot oil with a long pair of metal tongs that keep me a safe distance from the pot. DO NOT drop, plop or toss the wings in, think careful and gentle. On that note, it is also a good idea to use a back burner if possible and to keep the kids and pets out of the kitchen just to be extra safe. You can never be too safe or cautious with hot oil.

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Fry the wings in small batches, about five at a time, for 6-7 minutes. I have seen recommended cooking times anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes but 6-7 seems to work best for crispy, juicy wings. Carefully remove the wings with your spider.

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Place the wings on paper towels to absorb any residual oil. If you are doing a lot of wings, you can keep the cooked ones warm on a sheet tray in a 250 degree oven while you finish up the remaining batches.

Hot-Wings-1When you are done frying, it is time to get those wings dressed for the party. Traditional wing sauce is a cayenne pepper based sauce. We like Frank’s RedHot and follow the recipe right on the back of the bottle, with just a couple of tweaks.

For 2 1/2 pounds of wing pieces you will want to mix 1/2 cup of hot sauce with 1/3 cup of melted butter. I just put both the butter and the sauce in a small saucepan and heat them up together on the stove over medium heat. Once the butter is melted I add a pinch of salt and several twists of the pepper grinder. I don’t know if it really matters that much but I add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper to everything. Even my bath water. Not really but I’m thinking maybe I should try it. You can also add cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste for extra heat.

Whisk everything together (except the bath water) and incorporate well. Pour the wing sauce over the wings and toss well to coat.

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Serve them with celery and carrot sticks, any extra wing sauce and blue cheese or ranch dressing.

After you’ve enjoyed the game and the most amazing wings, you’ll wander back into the kitchen happy (because the Broncos won) and full only to face the pot of used chicken oil mocking you from the stove.

Not to worry, click here for tips  on re-using or disposing of the oil.

That’s it! I hope you will give these wings a try for your game day festivities and of course, I hope you’ll be rooting for the Broncos.

I will share another game day appetizer and the rest of my Superbowl Party Menu and plans with you in the next few days.

Oh, and for all you 49ers fans out there, we welcome you brothers and sisters.

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 Photo Credit

 Even if for only one game.

Go Broncos!!

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

A post or two ago, I shared with you a recent event I did for our Women’s Ministry in which I brought a little bit of the beach to the desert.

Seaside-Beach-Themed-Buffet

In planning the food for the event, I kept imagining a picnic on the beach. Blanket spread out on the sand, a shady umbrella and a gentle salty breeze.

But what would I want to eat?

Something delicious and satisfying but not too heavy and easy to pack and transport.

Something perfect for a picnic. In this case, I also needed something that would easily feed a crowd with little effort.

As I thumbed through my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (which is one of my favorite event/party planning rituals) I came across a recipe for “Herbed Goat Cheese Sandwiches” from Ina Garten, Parties!

Hmmmmm.

At first read they seemed more like a tea sandwich, with cucumbers and the crusts cut off, but as it is with so many things, it is all in how you see it. And I saw these little sandwiches in a picnic basket nestled next to chilled grapes, freshly baked cookies and iced tea; all ready for a day at the beach. Or an evening as it were.

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For the Know Event, I doubled the recipe and made the sandwiches on a whole grain bread and a soft potato bread. While I couldn’t enjoy the sandwiches (no bread for me), the herbed goat cheese spread was another story! I made a batch for home and couldn’t get enough of it. I ate it on everything I could think of. Daddy and the big kids loved it too but Mr. Picky wouldn’t go near it; which is in fact a good sign that it is absolutely delicious – unless of course you too currently only eat  grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate pudding.

Mr.-Picky

“Ewww! I CAN’T like that! It is eesgusging!”

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

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The recipe is not “eesgusging” and is very simple to throw together and holds up well in the fridge for at least a week; if it lasts that long. Click the link above (the one under the picture of the picky 5 year old) and it will take you right to it.

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It whips up easily in a stand mixer but be sure to finely mince or even smash the garlic into a paste as it is pretty potent and no one wants to bite into a big chunk of raw garlic. My husband thought the spread was a little heavy on the garlic so you may want to start with just one clove and see how it tastes to you.

The recipe calls for parsley and thyme, which is fantastic, but I am going to get a little creative with the herb combinations next time. Basil, tarragon, chives, maybe even olives or tapenade and sundried tomatoes; endless possibilities! I also think a bit of lemon zest would be delicious.

Barefoot-Contessa's-Herbed-

Recently, I made this spread as an appetizer for dinner with friends and served it with baguette slices that I drizzled with a little olive oil and toasted in a 425 degree oven for about 5 minutes. They didn’t last long and the tantalizing crunch of those baguettes slathered in that rich goat cheese spread was almost more than this girl could take.

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So I toasted up some low-carb Joseph’s pita wedges and shared in the joy. Admittedly, it was not the same as a crunchy French baguette but it was still pretty darn good.

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For all of you Trim Healthy Mamas out there, this spread is fantastic rolled up in a Joseph’s lavash for a snack or just  add a little turkey and veggies for a satisfying lunch wrap.

One word … omelet.

My husband is the resident omelet maker around here and he’s pretty darn good at it. He makes one for me just about every weekend and I was most delighted to find rich and creamy herbed goat cheese pooling from every nook and cranny of this perfect Saturday morning treat (another good THM/low-carb breakfast).

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He also brought me a good strong cup of black coffee. I am a blessed woman indeed.

There are so many ways to enjoy this versatile spread, I’m thinking about piping it into cherry tomatoes or on top of cucumber slices the next time I need an appetizer.

I hope you will give it a try and play around with your own herb and ingredient combinations. Be sure to let me know what you come up with and as always …

Enjoy!

Baby Portabella Sliders

I have had my eye on these babies for a while. Baby portabellas that is. As the name would suggest, they are smaller than a full grown portabella but a bit bigger than a cremini. So technically, they are really more of an adolescent portabella.

Baby-Portabellas

So, while that very important distinction has been made, the question what to do with them? remains.

Hmmmm. Slice and sauté or stuff like a cremini? No.

Marinate and grill like a big portabella? No.

More creative. Must be more creative.

They are the perfect size to replace the burger in a slider.

No, that’s not it either. Think. Think. Think.

Does anyone else out there have similar conversations with yourself?

Okay, yes, but do you have them about mushrooms?

Marinate and grill. Burger. Slider. I like it but not the burger. The bun? Oh, now that is intriguing.

The bun. Hmmmm. Sliders with baby portabella mushroom buns.

No bread, low carb, sounds delicious. I like it. I like it very much.

Baby Portabella Sliders it is!

Now, who else should we invite to the party?

Blue-Cheese

Ahhhhh, blue cheese. My favorite party guest.

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And applewood smoked bacon. Come on in!

Let’s get this party started!

Baby Portabella Sliders

Frying-Sliders

Prepare slider sized burgers.

You can grill or pan fry them. Right now, it is about 482 degrees outside so I opted for the cast iron on my stovetop in my air-conditioned kitchen. If you are using ground beef at an 80/20 ratio, you don’t really need to do more to it than add a little salt and pepper. I had a leaner blend on hand so to one pound of ground beef, I added one egg as a binder and a dash of cream for moisture (about a tablespoon) along with a bit of freeze-dried parsley just for fun. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. As always, be sure your pan is good and hot before you put the meat in! I am a medium-rare kind of gal so I cooked the burgers on medium-high 4-5 minutes per side.

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For the “buns”, I pulled the stems out of the mushrooms and then brushed both sides of the caps with Drew’s Rosemary Balsamic Dressing (I absolutely love the stuff) and seasoned both sides with salt and pepper. Use whatever dressing you like or even just a bit of olive oil or coconut oil.

Frying-Portabellas

I adore my cast iron grill pan and it worked perfectly for “grilling” up the mushrooms. Make sure your pan is hot before you put the mushrooms in. I cooked them on medium-high for 2-3 minutes a side. Don’t move the mushrooms after you’ve turned them and you will end up with perfect grill marks.

Now, to build the sliders.

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I selected the least attractive mushroom caps to use as the bottom “bun” and set each on a leaf of butter lettuce. The sizes varied but still worked out just fine.

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Next, the burger patty.

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Blue cheese crumbles.

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Applewood smoked bacon.

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Just a bit of thinly sliced red onion.

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And finally, the second mushroom cap. See those grill marks?

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Buns? What buns? Who needs buns? Not when you’ve got baby portabellas!

These were delicious! The mushrooms were flavorful and juicy and perfect. Messy but perfect.

I can hardly wait to make them again. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about them.

Oh, the possibilities …

Ground lamb with feta crumbles and tzatziki. Maybe a little olive tapenade?

Smoked Cheddar. BBQ sauce. Jalapenos. Caramelized shallots. Garlic aioli. Brie. Pesto. Mozzarella. Roasted red peppers. Goat cheese. Avocados. Serrano ham. Monterey Jack. Pickles.

Infinite possibilities that beg the question … what are your favorite burger toppings?

I would loved to know!

Enjoy!

This Trim Healthy Mama approved “S” recipe is happily linked with other Trim Healthy Tuesday recipes at Stacy Makes Cents and Gwen’s Nest.

I Take Thee Banana Bread

Finally, the Banana Bread Post.

This another of my grandmother Ibby’s wonderful recipes and I absolutely love it. It feels very old fashioned to me and it always comes out perfect.

My grandmother did a lot of catering in the 1960’s and 70’s for the women’s circle at her Presbyterian church, the Whitworth College Music Department (Spokane, WA) and numerous weddings and showers and dinner parties for regular clients. She used this banana bread recipe often, making lovely little tea sandwiches with an orange cream cheese spread.

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This is my grandma Ibby with my mom and my stepdad at their wedding, which my grandma catered.

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There are the banana bread tea sandwiches with the dark crusts on the platter upper right. They made an appearance at a lot of weddings and bridal showers. This picture is from my mom and stepdad’s wedding reception. I take thee banana bread. Get it? Remember, I have a cold. My intellectual capacity is diminished.

Incidentally, my mom and stepdad were brought together by me. I found him. My sister owes her existence to me. She’ll read this so I just wanted to remind her.

He was the Mountain Manager at the ski area my mom worked at and would always say hi and stop to chat a moment with me when I was outside playing at the condominiums we all lived in. I took a shine to him; he was quite a catch. He was a widower 18 years older than my mom and I got three pretty great step-brothers in the deal. And my little sister of course but she came later. My dad passed away in 1995 and I miss him so much but I am so very thankful for all the years I got to spend with him.

My parents would have celebrated their 40th Anniversary this June.

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Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.

Recently, I made my grandma’s banana bread tea sandwiches, just as she always did.

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The china, linens and pink depression glass came from my other incredible grandmother, Eileen. The one who let me eat Froot Loops before bed. Remember? Grandmas are the best!

Grandma Ibby’s Banana Bread

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Ingredients

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  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add and incorporate the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.

Mix in the dry ingredients and then the bananas and chopped nuts.

Note: I don’t mix the nuts in but instead, sprinkle them over the top before baking. They look nice and are easy to pick off for anyone who doesn’t like them. Skip the nuts entirely if you are going to make the tea sandwiches as the bread slices up more cleanly.

Pour into a 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

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Orange Cream Cheese Filling for Tea Sandwiches

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  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • And just a little freshly grated nutmeg

Blend all ingredients together in a mixer and spread between banana bread slices.

Banana-Bread-Tea-SandwichesCut the crust off of both ends and then slice into four finger sandwiches by slicing in half and then slicing each half in half.

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And then, it’s time for tea!

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This recipe also makes wonderful muffins.

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I sprinkle the nuts on top just like I do with the loaf option.

It will make 12 muffins and bakes for 20-25 minutes.

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This is a treasured recipe and is something I will always associate with my grandma Ibby. Especially the tea sandwiches which were just so her.

It is moist and perfectly textured with just the right banana flavor. I have been cutting out the sugar and recently (this morning) baked the muffins with Truvia sugar substitute and they turned out great! Next, to try them with almond or coconut flour. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Enjoy!

Smoked Salmon, Dill & Horseradish Tartlets

Yesterday I shared how I deviated from my St. Patrick’s Day norm of Shepherd’s Pie to create a menu entirely from the “Irish Pub Cooking” cookbook I’ve had for sometime but hadn’t yet experimented with. I was so inspired by the gorgeous photos and recipe details that I just had to break the cardinal rule of never serving recipes that you haven’t perfected or at the very least, tried once.

Actually, I break that rule all the time. Life is too short to take food so seriously. Home cooking and entertaining should be fun.

Experiment. Yes, on your guests. Don’t be afraid.

Besides, if you fail, they will love you for being human, laughing it off and ordering pizza. And sometimes, your bravery will be rewarded with a gem of a dish that has everyone swooning over their empty, crumb licked plates.

Smoked Salmon, Dill & Horseradish Tartlets is just such a dish.

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“Irish Pub Cooking”, Parragon Books Ltd.

You will need six 3 1/2 inch loose-bottom tartlet pans.

Ingredients

Pie Dough

  • heaping 3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 Tbsp COLD butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing

Filling

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp creamed prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Spanish capers, chopped
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 7 oz smoked salmon trimmings
  • bunch of fresh dill, chopped, plus extra sprigs to garnish
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Note: I have modified the directions slightly, adding more instruction, as they were a little vague for a less experienced cook. “Add a little cold water” isn’t really going to cut it for someone who has never made a crust before. And if you are anything like me, you would totally try this recipe even if you’d never made a crust before.

Butter six 3 1/2 inch loose-bottom tartlet pans. Sift the flour and salt together and put into a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.

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Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add a little cold water (see what I mean), just enough to bring the dough together (2-3 Tbsp). Start with 1 Tbsp at a time and mix together with your hands so that you can feel when the dough is the consistency that you are looking for – soft but very workable, not sticky or dry and crumbly.

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Turn out onto a floured counter and shape into a log so that it is easy to portion out into six equal-sized pieces.

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Roll each piece to fit the tartlet pans.

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Carefully fit each piece of dough in its shell and press well to fit the pan.

My tart pans are 4 1/4 inch (I am now in the market for 3 1/2 inch pans) but I was determined still to get six tarts out of the recipe so my shells are rolled a little thinner.

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Roll the rolling-pin over the pan to neaten the edges and trim the excess dough.

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Put a piece of parchment paper in each pan, fill with dried beans or pie weights …

(learn all about Blind Baking here)

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and let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake the tartlet shells blind in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and beans/weights. If you use beans, you can save them in a mason jar to re-use again and again. Be sure to label them though because once you have used them for blind baking, you won’t want to eat them.

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Meanwhile, put the sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, and drained capers into a bowl with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Be careful with the salt as smoked salmon is pretty salty.

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Add the egg yolks, smoked salmon, and chopped dill (I put in about 2 Tbsp) and carefully mix again. Divide this mixture among the tartlet shells and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until just firm (mine took about 15  minutes).

About the salmon; I used cold smoked salmon, which is more like lox with a soft, silky texture. You could also use hot smoked salmon which is drier and flaky. Both are usually either in the deli section or by the seafood counter.

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Here’s where I lost my sixth tart, there just wasn’t enough filling.

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Thankfully, I only had two dinner guests so there was a tart for each adult and Sara and David split one; although they devoured their respective halves and would most certainly have eaten a whole one. Don’t worry about Nathan, he wouldn’t have eaten one of these tarts for anything.

Not a chance. No way.

Which is just fine because I did not want to share.

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Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with dill sprigs.

Smoked Salmon, Dill and Horseradish Tartlets Printable Recipe

I am planning on making these again for Easter (they are that good)  but I will be making them in smaller tart pans as bite sized appetizers for a bigger crowd.

I will let you know how they turn out.

In fact, I may experiment ahead of time. No, not because I’m perfecting anything, I’m just not sure I can wait until Easter to have another tart.

Enjoy!

Tomorrow, I will tell you all about my second favorite dish of the day;

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage.

I may make this again for Easter too as it had gorgeous color and was absolutely delicious!