Monday, June 29, 2009

Uncle-Niece Cooking Day!

It has finally arrived! My Uncle Tom and I have been talking for MONTHS about cooking together. We both love food and trying new recipes, so we thought this would be a great way to share ideas and have the family over to taste-test the recipes.

I had such a great time cooking with my uncle! I learned a few really clever tricks (like actually using the olive oil that the sun-dried tomatoes are packed in) and was so happy to share this time with him. He's a great man and a great cook that makes me proud to call him Uncle. I hope he had as much fun sharing recipes and stories as I did.

Below you will find the list of dishes and recipes that we decided to cook. There really wasn't any rhyme or reason, just dishes that we enjoy and wanted to share.

Uncle Tom's Dishes:
Blue Cheese and Carmelized Onion Galette
Fajita Enchiladas
BBQ Chicken Pizza with Carmelized Onion
Pasta with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

My Dishes:
Sweet 'N Spicy Asian Pulled Pork
Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Almonds
Honey Balsamic Chicken Satay

Blue Cheese and Carmelized Onion Galette

This was by far my favorite dish we made at our Uncle-Niece cooking day! I first had this dish at a family holiday party a few years ago. Ever since, I have been hounding my Uncle Tom to make it again. It is a great dish to make for a party because it's simple, yet makes a delicious and beautiful statement. Not only does this dish look fancy, it tastes amazing!

Blue Cheese and Onion Galette

1 pie crust (we used Pilsbury refrigerated crust to make
it easy on ourselves, but you can always make a homemade crust!)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 medium sweet Vidalia onions halved and thinly sliced
2 t. sugar
2 T. balsamic vinegar
3/4 C. blue cheese crumbled (here we used Gorganzola, and slightly less than 3/4 C.)
2 tsp. fresh rosemary finely chopped
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter together in a large skillet. Add onions and sugar, cook over medium heat until caramelized, stirring often, for about 25 minutes. Stir in vinegar and stir until it evaporates, about 2 minutes.

Heat oven to 350°F. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 12 inch circle. Place on a ungreased cookie sheet. Roll the edges in about 1 inch and flute to create a border. Sprinkle cheese over dough. Spread onions over cheese. Sprinkle with rosemary and pepper.

Bake until crust is golden brown, about 25 - 30 minutes. Slice into wedges.

Sweet 'N Spicy Asian Pulled Pork

I first tasted this recipe at a work party this spring. I changed it slightly to make it a little spicier. This dish is an interesting and delicious twist on pulled pork. The flavors come together to create something that at first is sweet but with a nice bite at the end. When using the sweet chili sauce, use as little or as much as you like. With this dish, you really can't go wrong! It may take some patience, but everything goes into a crockpot and cooks together until you have a deliciously tender meat for pulled pork sandwiches. This recipe makes a lot, so be sure and invite some people over for a casual and tastey get-together! It was a hit at our Uncle-Niece cooking day!

Sweet 'N Spicy Asian Pulled Pork

7 lb. Pork loin, shoulder or butt (here I used pork loin, it's what was on sale that day)
1 head of garlic, peeled
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
2 C. Lemon-lime soda
2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice (a little goes a long way!)
1 large can pineapple juice
1 can coconut milk
1 large bottle of Sweet Chili Sauce (located in the Asian aisle of any supermarket)
2 bags French rolls, sliced

Remove as much fat as you can from the pork and place it in the crockpot. Add the garlic, onions, and Chinese Five Spice powder. Add the soda. Fill the rest of the crockpot with water until the pork is covered. Cook on low a long time, at least 8 hours. (I cooked mine overnight) The pork should pull apart very easily.

Once the pork can be easily pulled apart with a fork, strain through a colander. Throw away the garlic pieces and onion. Pull the pork apart with forks, discarding any remaining fat. Put shredded pork back into the crockpot.

Add the coconut milk, about 1 1/2 cups of pineapple juice, and half a bottle of Sweet Chili Sauce. Stir and continue to cook on low another 3-4 hours. Taste to see if you want to add more chili sauce. If it begins to look dry, add more pineapple juice.

Once hot and the flavors have married, serve on sliced French rolls.

Fajita Enchiladas

These enchiladas were a recipe of my Uncle Tom's that were a huge hit at our gathering! They are very simple and come together quickly, but are packed with fajita flavor. This recipe would be great for a larger gathering because it's very filling and is hearty enough to serve a crowd. It can, however, be easily divided and made as a delicious weekday dinner meal.

Fajita Enchiladas

1 Tb. olive oil
1 Lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and cooked (we used most of a whole chicken roaster for added flavor and tenderness)
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chiles
3 C. shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese (we used both)
2 (10.5 oz) cans red enchilada sauce (or just use one large can)
1 package flour tortillas (12 tortillas, 6-inch round)
1/4 C. fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add peppers and onion. Cook until veggies are tender but still crisp, about 4 minutes. Stir in chiles, cooked chicken, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and 1/4 C. enchilada sauce.

In the bottom of a lightly greased 13X9 glass baking dish, evenly spread about 1/2 C. of the enchilada sauce.

Spoon about 1/2 C. of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas. Place each seam side down on the enchilada sauce, arranging them in 2 rows. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and back, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving.

Honey Balsamic Chicken Satay

This dish is a quick way to have appetizers ready for a sudden dinner guest. The marinade is quick but packed with flavor. This can also be adapted using whole chicken breasts to serve as a main dish.
Honey Balsamic Chicken Satay

1 Lb. Chicken tenderloins, cut in half
1 Tb. olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided
4 Tbsp honey
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
10-15 bamboo skewers (one for each piece of chicken)
Heat grill to medium heat. In a ziplock bag, combine the chicken, oil, 1 Tb. vinegar, salt, and pepper. Marinate for at least 15 minutes, but up to overnight. Once marinated, skewer each piece of chicken onto a bamboo skewer. Grill until chicken is golden, and cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar and the honey. Cook, stirring often, until very thick. Coat the cooked chicken with the glaze. Serve the glaze alongside the chicken satay.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

This pizza was an afterthought during our Uncle-Niece cooking day. We used some of the ingredients from other dishes and made an amazing pizza. It comes together quickly but tastes like it took all day.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
(from my Uncle Tom)

1 pizza crust (we used Boboli)
1/2 C. (or so) BBQ sauce
1 C. chicken, shredded (we used chicken from a store-bought roaster)
1/2 C. Carmelized onions
Garlic salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 C. shredded cheese

Assemble the pizza crust with the BBQ sauce, chicken, onions, salt and pepper. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in a 500 degree oven until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Pasta with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This recipe was given to me by my Uncle Tom. It is a delicious and hearty pasta dish that could be a side dish or stand alone as a main course meal. I thought the technique of using the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes was genius! It really adds great flavor to the sausage and ties the rest of the dish together.

Pasta with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
(Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)

3/4 C. Sun-Dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced
2 Tb. oil from sun-dried tomatoes
1 Lb. Italian sausage (hot or mild), casings removed
2 (8 oz.) packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 Lg. garlic cloves, chopped
1 3/4 C. Chicken broth
1/2 C. Dry white wine
1/4 C. tomato paste
Sugar, to taste
12 Oz. pasta, such as penne, farfalle, or rigatoni
1/2 C. freshly shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/3 C. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 C. flat leaf parsley, chopped
8 Oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed (optional)
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil from the tomatoes in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces. Transfer sausage to a bowl.

Add the artichokes and garlic to the skillet and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, tomato paste, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces slightly. Add a small amount of sugar to the sauce only if the tomatoes are too tart.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, do not rinse. Add the pasta, sausage, and 1/2 C. of parmesan cheese, basil, and parsley to the atrichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella, if using. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan cheese on top.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Berry Yogurt Smoothie & Berry Banana Smoothie

I just got a new food processor that had a blender attachment and I have been dying to try it out. With the summer heat, I thought a berry smoothie would be the perfect treat. I have it as a snack or even sometimes as a breakfast on the go. It's a healthy alternative to a milkshake and it's so simple to put together!! Here are two similar smoothie recipes - one with and one without banana. :D

Berry Yogurt Smoothie
makes 2 generous servings

1 C. plain non-fat yogurt
1 C. frozen mixed berries (mine had blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
5-6 fresh strawberries, quartered
1/2 C. skim milk
1 -2 Tbs. sugar or Splenda, optional

Add all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until no lumps of ice remain and the drink is smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Pour into glasses and serve cold.

Berry Banana Yogurt Smoothie
makes 2 generous servings

1 C. plain non-fat yogurt
1 C. frozen mixed berries (mine had blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
5-6 fresh strawberries, quartered
1 banana, slightly frozen
1/2 C. skim milk
1 -2 Tbs. sugar or Splenda, optional

Add all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until no lumps of ice remain and the drink is smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Pour into glasses and serve cold.

Spice Rubs and Homemade BBQ Sauces

For Father's Day, I really wanted to do something special for my dad. He's a great guy who's always helping other people. He's also a great cook and I learned a lot of my recipes and cooking techniques (or lack-thereof!) from him. Whenever I am out of dinner ideas or want to test out a new pie recipe, I know I can always count on Dad. Plus, I love that he likes to experiment with food! So for Father's Day, I decided to make him some spice rubs and homemade bbq sauces that he can try. Spice Rubs

All-Purpose Spice Rub
makes 1 1/4 cups
(Adapted from Everyday Food)

1/3 C. coarse sea salt
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
1/4 C. paprika
2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. dried oregano
2 Tbs. dried thyme
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Use a fork or your fingers to break up any brown sugar lumps. Store in an air-tight container up to 6 months.

Lisa's Creole Seasoning
makes 2/3 cup
2 1/2 Tbs. smoked paprika
2 1/2 Tbs. coarse sea salt
2 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. onion powder
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 Tbs. dried thyme

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an air-tight container up to 6 months

Sweet 'N Spicy Paprika Rub
(Adapted from Everyday Food)
4 tsp. paprika
3 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. packed brown sugar
3 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an air-tight container up to 6 months

Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce
1 C. ketchup
1/4 C. real maple syrup
1/4 C. packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
1 to 3 chipotles in adobo, chopped
3 Tbs. adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers)

In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients. Summer, whisking occasionally until sauce is reduced and thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Down Home BBQ Sauce
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
3/4 C. onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs. garlic, pressed or minced
4 C. ketchup
1/2 C. plus 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. cider vinegar
1/4 C. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs. hot sauce
2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
2 Tbs. Creole Seasoning
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Rib Sauce
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 C. ketchup
1 C. beef broth
3/4 C. cider vinegar
1/4 C. plus 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 40 minutes.

BBQ Sauces

Stuffed Artichokes

This is a dish that I remember my grandma making as a kid. There's a little work required when eating them, but it's worth it! These artichokes are full of a delicious bread filling that fills your whole kitchen with beautiful smelling garlic and spices.

before cooking

after cooking

Stuffed Artichokes

4 fresh artichokes
3/4 C. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 C. Romano cheese, grated or shredded (can subsitute parmesan)
garlic salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Cut the stem off the bottom of the artichokes and peel off the very bottom leaves. Cut the very top off the artichokes to create a flat top. Using kitchen shears, trim away the sharp points on the remaining leaves. Whack artichokes on the counter a few times to help them open up. Go on, get that agression out - whack 'em!

In a small bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together. Carefully separate/ spread the leaves of the artichokes. Fill with bread crumb mixture. Drizzle each artichoke with a little olive oil. In a large pan, place artichokes. Add enough water to the pan to just barely rise up the side of the artichoke, about 1/4 inch. Cover pot and simmer until the leaves in the middle pull out easily - about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Grilled Mahi Mahi

Now that summer has FINALLY decided to make an appearance, I was excited to make something lighter. My husband and I try to eat fish on days when it's hot and we want something delicious, but not too heavy. Mahi Mahi is a great fish to make because it's light, but also hearty without having that gross "fishy" taste. This recipe is so simple and perfect for a hot summer evening.

Grilled Mahi Mahi

4 Mahi Mahi fillets
(all measurements are approximate - just throw everything in a Ziplock bag with the fish, you can't go wrong!)

1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1 Dash crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped (plus some reserved for garnish)
1 tsp. garlic salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed/minced

Marinate fillets at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better. Heat grill to medium-high. Cook the fish about 6 minutes per side until it is fully cooked, white, and flakey.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Recently, my husband and I have been searching for a home and it really got me thinking about what it means for a house to become a home. For me, it was always great family and great food coming together. Whether it was dinner, a party, or a random Sunday BBQ, I was always surrounded by comfort food growing up. One of my favorite recipes comes from my mom who made stuffed green peppers. I don't care to eat the green peppers but when I adapted her recipe to include sweet red peppers and ground turkey (to make it a little lighter), I created a dinner recipe that suites my tastes but still brings back loving memories of home.

I always think of my mom when I make this dish and it makes me realize that what truly makes a house a home is the love and laughter that fills it.

Hard to photograph but oh, so good!

Cut in half to show meatball filling

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
(adapted from Mom's Stuffed Green Peppers)
Makes 4 large portions

2 Peppers (green, red, orange, etc. - whatever you like and have on hand!), cut in half, seeded
1 lb. meatball mixture (recipe below)
2 cans (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
water, if needed
2 Tbs. vegetable oil

Heat oil over medium heat. Generously fill pepper halves with meatball mixture. Any unused mixture can be rolled into extra meatballs. Place the peppers meat-side down in the oil and fry until meat has browned. Drain grease. Add tomato sauce and water (if needed) until the peppers are almost covered. Salt and pepper to taste (typically just a dash or two will do). Cover and simmer over low heat about 45 minutes or until meat is cooked through.

Serve over rice or egg noodles.

1 lb. ground turkey (use beef for traditional meatballs, but the turkey is a great substitute!)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 C. seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 C. Romano cheese (can substitute Parmesan if that's what you have)
1/2 tsp. basil
1 lg. clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
garlic salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs

My sister-in-law brought this amazing dish to our summer party last weekend. It was a huge hit! Couscous is something that I don't often cook with, but this is so easy and full of flavor. It's great for summer. The apples and cranberries blend with the herbs and light vinaigrette so well - you should definitely give this a try!

Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs
(by Giada De Laurentiis)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 medium green apple, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, see Cook's Note

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.
For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

Cook's Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

Peanut Butter Blondies

Tonight while I was in baking mode, I also decided to make Peanut Butter Blondies. My husband loves peanut butter so I figured it'd be a perfect treat for him. This dessert comes together quickly, so it's perfect for a last minute get-together, as a simple gift, or a night in. These blondies are great with a tall glass of cold milk and a good book!

Peanut Butter Blondies
(adapted slightly from Good Things Catered)

4 Tbsp butter, almost melted
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/8 c. milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. honey roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8 pan with foil and lightly grease. In a small microwave safe mixing bowl melt the butter for 20-30 seconds until melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

In bowl of stand mixer, add oil, peanut butter and butter and mix until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar to the peanut butter mixture and stir until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg and stir to combine thoroughly. Add milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the peanut butter mixture and stir just to combine (will be quite thick). Gently fold in chocolate chips and peanuts.

Place into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool completely and cut.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

I found this recipe over at Good Things Catered and thought they were adorable! I have an end of the year staff party tomorrow and thought they'd be the perfect festive treat after a hard year's work!

Pina Colada Cupcakes
(from Good Things Catered)

2 1/4 c. sifted cake flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 C. sugar
1/3 c. oil
2 large eggs
1/2 c. canned pineapple, diced and patted dry
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
Splash (or two!) of dark rum
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whipped vanilla frosting
1/2 bag of shredded coconut
Maraschino cherries, drained and dried

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pan with baking cups. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine rum and coconut milk in small bowl, mix to combine and set aside.

Place sugar and oil in mixer and mix until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and coconut milk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla and fold in pineapple. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap the pans once on counter top to remove air bubbles.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks. When cupcakes are completely cool, frost with whipped vanilla frosting and roll tops in shredded coconut. Top each with a cherry and a cut straw.

BBQ Shrimp Skewers

I was looking for something quick and light to round out the appetizers for my party. This were very last minute, but so simple. The recipe calls for any BBQ dry rub that you like. I highly recommend visiting to look for rubs, marinates, and spices. I visited their store when seeing my niece in Galena this spring. They have a ton of unique blends. Here I used the Coffee BBQ Blend. It's slightly spicey and the coffee adds a really different flavor that people don't expect. These were the first appetizer gone!

BBQ Shrimp Skewers
50 Large shrimp, peeled and deveined
10 kabob skewers
4-6 Tbs. BBQ dry rub of your choice (I used Coffee BBQ Blend from Galena Garlic Co.)
2 Tbs. Lime juice, plus some for garnish
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped, plus some for garnish
1 tsp. olive oil

Soak the wooden kabob skewers in water for about 20 minutes to make sure they do not burn on the grill. Skewer 5 shrimp on each kabob. (To make the appitizer go a little further, you can always cut each kabob in half and skewer 3 shrimp) Place all skewered shrimp in a 13X9 pan. In a small bowl whisk together the rub, lime juice, cilantro, and olive oil. Pour over the shrimp and let marinate 30 minutes or up to overnight.

Heat grill to medium high. Cook shrimp on one side until there are grill marks, about 3 minutes. Flip and finish cooking, about 4 minutes more. Remove from grill, sprinkle with fresh cilantro and lime juice.

Brie and Almond Tartlets with Fruit Preserves

I have always loved the combination of brie and fruit preserves in puff pastry. For our party, I wanted something easy to grab and take outside so I made a small, bite-sized version. These are really simple, but make a very classy impression. You can use any kind of preserves/jam that you like and it's sure to be a hit!

Brie and Almond Tartlets with Fruit Preserves

1 puff pastry sheet
3/4 lb. Brie cheese
1/3 C. sliced almonds
Fruit preserves/jam: I used blackberry, apricot, and raspberry

Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the sheet into a 14-inch square (doesn't have to be exact). Cut into 36 (2 1/4-inch) squares. Gently place each square into mini muffin tins.

Cut the Brie cheese into 36 pieces. Spoon about 1/4 tsp. of preserves into the bottom of each pastry square. Sprinkle with almonds, saving some for the tops of the appetizer. Top the preserves and almonds with one piece of cheese. Top with any remaining almonds.

Bake the tartlets for 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool on a wire rack, but serve warm.

Bacon Pastries

This recipe came from my uncle who served them over Memorial Day. They are really easy and remind me of BLT dip. Using the flaky biscuits as a little cup is a great idea and I am really excited to try this trick out with my Spiced Chicken Wonton filling - I'll let you know how that one turns out! In the meantime, I hope you try and enjoy this recipe!

Bacon Pastries
(adapted from Uncle Tom)

4.3 oz. package of REAL crumbled bacon (I suggest Hormel Real Crumbled Bacon)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium tomato, chopped
3/4 C. grated Gruyere cheese (you can substitute regular swiss, but the gruyere really makes it tasty!)
1/2 C. Miracle Whip (or mayo if you're not a Miracle Whip person like me!)
1 Tb. fresh basil, chopped
1 large can of refrigerated biscuits, flaky style

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine bacon, onion, tomato, cheese, mayo, and basil. Separate each biscuit into 2-3 layers. Flatten slightly with your hands and press each layer into one well of a mini muffin pan. Spoon the filling mixture into each muffin.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until hot and biscuits are lightly browned.

These are great hot but are also just as good at room temperature. :)

Green Olive Dip

For the party, I wanted to have a different spin on olive antipasto. I really like the salty bite of green olives and thought this dip would be great. It's so easy, everything goes into your food processor and it's done! This dip was great on chips but would also work nicely with crackers or melba toast.

Green Olive Dip
1 1/2 cups green olives (I used Spanish Manzinilla with pimento)
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In your food processor, combine the olives, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and pepper. Pulse to combine roughly. Add the olive oil and pulse, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The dip will be chunky, not smooth.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Last school year I was working just outside of St. Louis. As a wedding present from the other teachers, they put together a book of their favorite recipes. In it, there was this recipe that I’d had at many luncheons and absolutely loved. I really does taste like buffalo chicken and has just the right amount of spice for people who like their food spicy (like me!). This recipe is so easy and is always a crowd pleaser!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
(from Amy Haar and Abby Litteken)

3 chicken breasts (you can also use canned chicken here)
8 oz. cream cheese
2 C. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ small bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce
¾ small bottle Ranch dressing

*You can adjust the hot sauce and ranch to taste.

Mix all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. You can also put all ingredients into a small Crockpot and heat until warm.