Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

**So I’ve been very busy the past few months and realized I haven’t updated in a loooong time.  This is evidence of that.  I found a draft I never finished.  Instead of posting the recipes (since they’re not at all healthy) I’m just going to post it as a brag about how awesome B is.  If you’re interested in any of the specific recipes let me know and I’ll post them.**

B has always been very lucky in terms of Valentine’s Day obligations: he only has to say “Happy Valentine’s Day.”  This is because my birthday is only two days prior so we usually have a nice dinner out, etc. that day.  This is also because the first year we were dating, we decided to celebrate this holiday with a dinner out at a nice Italian restaurant in Chambersburg (a neighborhood in Trenton, NJ).  Reservations for 2 at 7:30pm, check.  We arrived and the place was wall to wall people.  It was like being in a hot bar at midnight (I am not an anchovy in a can!).  We also didn’t get seated until 8:30pm.  This was the beginning of the end of our Valentine’s Day celebrations.  Six years later, B decides that he wants to make me a feast for Valentine’s Day.  Let me tell you, he puts me to shame.  What follows are  the meals and pictures associated with said feast.   This is definitely not a diet friendly meal but worked for me since I’m in maintenance now.  Adjustments could be made for the sake of making the dish healthier (reduce butter, replace with something else) but I would be you would really lose something in terms of taste.  As the main reviewer of this meal, I can say that it made me think B needs a new career as a stay at home husband/personal chef.

Course 1: Arugula Salad with Broiled Goat Cheese and Crostini

Course 2: Seared Sea Scallops and Brown Butter Lobster Risotto

Course 3: Chocolate Souffle with Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Mascarpone Cream

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This came about from exposure to the Philly Pretzel Factory, a persistent urge to make it from scratch, and a weekend away with good friends.  B and I decided we wanted to make these pretzel bites to bring to our weekend away in the Poconos for all to snack on.  They were a real hit and were gone within the hour.  I made these two days before we ate them. I stored them in containers and briefly reheated them before serving.  Enjoy!

Soft Pretzels Bites
(Pretzels adapted from Annie’s Eats and Cinnamon Sugar topping from Sophisticated Gourmet)

For the dough:
1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl

For finishing:
Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Pretzel, Kosher, or Sea Salt

Cinnamon Sugar Topping
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter

To make the dough, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.

Divide the dough to make it easier to work with.  Take pieces of each section of the dough and roll into approximately 1 inch balls.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer and return to the baking sheet.  Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

If using the cinnamon sugar topping:  Skip the step where you sprinkle lightly with salt.  Combine sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Brush melted butter over pretzels.  Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over pretzels.

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As part of New Year’s Eve and day, B and I have a tradition to eat extremely decadent food to end and start the year on a good note.  For New Year’s Eve day, we made: Parmesan crusted goat cheese ball with basil oil (I didn’t strain the oil like she did in this recipe though); an arugula salad with cherries, gouda, and pralines with a dijon mustard dressing; and lobster ravioli (we used the fake lobster instead of steaming and cleaning them).  It started out as being a dinner I was going to make for B, but given my terrible time management, it ended up mostly a dinner made by B for me.  The goat cheese was great, nice and light and a good way to start the meal.

The arugula salad was also great.  The sweetness of the pralines and cherries with the sharpness of the gouda and dressing was great.  We actually used two types of gouda since I had gone to our local supermarket and B had gone to Whole Foods to get some herbs they didn’t have at the other supermarket.  We used smoked gouda (I got that) and a very aged gouda (B got that).  The aged gouda was different from anything I had ever seen; it was a hard cheese and was very similar to Parmesan. It was, however, absolutely delicious (but I’m a cheese girl).

The ravioli was the biggest endeavor.  We made the dough from scratch and rolled it out.  We tried to use our ravioli attachment but, alas, that was not meant to be.  For some reason we just cannot make ravioli.  They either don’t come out filled enough, get stuck in the machine, or are just off.  One of these days we’ll learn the trick.

For New Years day we planned to eat french onion soup and beer steamed mussels.  I spent most of the day curled in the fetal position on the couch due to the champagne and beer imbibed the night before so B enjoyed the soup day of (I had made it ahead of time) and made the mussels for us (I helped a bit since I had become more human by that point).  I calculated the Weight Watchers Points Plus for the soup; it made seven servings and were 3 PP per serving without the bread and gruyère cheese.

B said that this mussels recipe was the best we had made to this point.  We have previously made a fennel recipe and the standard one with white wine.  This was the first time we did it with beer.  The mussel’s recipe was built off of something online that we had found that I cannot find now (go figure).  It was very simple.  We basically did garlic, onion, chopped tomato, and beer to taste.  We also added some thyme since we had it leftover from the lobster ravioli.  We figured, its mussels, you can’t really go wrong.

All in all, a good end to 2011 and beginning to 2012, which will be very, very eventful for both B and I.

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Updated: Now with reviews!

So I currently live in Pittsburgh.  If you haven’t noticed there’s something going down this weekend.  It has the entire city of Pittsburgh abuzz and with black and gold fever.  I’m more of a football fan in general and B is actually an Eagles fan so we enjoy the atmosphere of being in the city of a Superbowl team but we won’t have a his and her’s bottle of Jack Daniels available in case Big Ben and the rest of the Steelers fail to pull their weight.

We had already decided to make a number of little appetizers to enjoy throughout the game.  This was the list we came up with and the recipes (or sources) are included:

Skinny Baked Jalapeno Poppers (Adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes)
Serves 8 (2 poppers per serving), 1 Points Plus per serving (11 total)

8 jalapeno peppers, sliced in half lengthwise
3 oz fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup Reduced Fat mild cheddar cheese
1/3 cup egg beaters
1/8 cup scallions, sliced
1/3 cup Panko crumbs
1/8 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and membrane (Wear rubber gloves to make sure you don’t get the oil on your hands). Combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and scallions in a medium bowl. Combine panko, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in another bowl.  Fill peppers with cheese filling. Dip peppers in egg beaters. Then place pepper in panko mixture, mixing the panko mixture after ever pepper is coated. Spray a baking pan with oil spray. I lined my pan with tin foil for easier cleanup. Lightly spray the peppers with a little more oil spray. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until golden and cheese oozes out. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Serve hot.

Review: This actually ended up coming out somewhat flavorless.  I would include some more seasoning into the cheese mixture or add more cheddar cheese.

Approximately 16 servings (2 tbsps per serving), 2 PointsPlus per serving

2 medium avocados, seeded and mashed
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup onion, diced (I used scallions this time since we had some leftover from the poppers)
1/4 cup jalapenos, diced
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (about a half a lime)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper

Cut the avocados in half and remove meat from the avocado.  Mash with a fork or masher.  Add tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, and lime juice and mix well.  Add garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix well.   Add more seasonings to taste.

Review: This is my patented guacamole recipe.  Therefore, it was and will continue to be awesome.

Veggies with  ranch dip
Time considerations led us to take the easy way.  16 oz. Fat free Sour Cream and 1 packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dip (makes 16 servings (2 tbsps per serving) that are 1 PointsPlus per serving)

Review: Easiest thing I made.  Just mix and serve.  I’m going to start looking for a new homemade ranch recipe for the future though because this feels like cheating!

Buffalo Shrimp
(we had 24 servings, 1 PointsPlus per serving)
This is a recipe B found and wanted to make.  It comes from Stephanie Cooks.

Review: This was, by far, the best thing we made.  I was amazed with how tasty it was.  We baked it with the panko mixture and then tossed in a large bag to get well coated.  The panko didn’t get soggy and it still had a nice crunch to it.  B also made a homemade blue cheese dip so the tanginess of the dip with the spiciness of the shrimp were great!  We’re probably going to have the leftovers over rice for dinner tonight (Day after the superbowl).

Pizza Bites
Got this one from Annie’s Eats.  The biggest changes we made was we cooked each separately on a cookie sheet instead of in a pan together and we cut back on the oil and cheese

Review: Frankly, I was disappointed with this recipe.  I’ve made some other dips from this website with a few changes (jalapeno popper dip and spinach and artichoke dip) and they were fantastic.  This recipe ended up being somewhat doughy and flavorless.  We made half with just cheese and half with pepperoni.  In both, you tasted very little of the cheese and pepperoni.  B and I decided that if we made it in the future, we’ll increase the amount that goes in the bites or we’ll make “calzone” bites by adding some ricotta cheese into the middle.

Large Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundaes
11 servings (large cookies), 7 PointsPlus per serving

1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1 cup Splenda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts.  Using plastic wrap, roll dough into a loaf.  Refrigerate to let the dough harden.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Cut loaf into 24 large chocolate chip cookies.

Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and whatever other toppings you would like.

Review:  This, unfortunately, was also a bit of a bust.  This was my first attempt to make “healthier” chocolate chip cookies by replacing butter with applesauce and sugar with splenda.  The cookies ended up tasting alright but the texture was just very odd.  They were very chewy and then tough on the bottom where it was touching the pan.  The cookies actually stuck to the pan (which was a first for me for chocolate chip cookies) and I had to pry them off.  Oh well, live and learn.

Have a great Superbowl Sunday!

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I made this for my family’s Christmas Eve party.  It seemed to be a hit.  I’ve had good luck with dips from Annie’s Eats before (I definitely recommend the jalapeno popper dip) so I adapted the recipe from one she had on her site (Source).  I adapted it based on my own preferences and what was in the kitchen.  I love cheese and garlic and I prefer a slightly chunkier dip.  Also, my mother had done the shopping for the dip since I was baking it at my parent’s house and not at my home so I had to go with what was available.  Enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 can coarsely chopped canned artichoke hearts
5 cloves roasted garlic, smashed
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. roasted red pepper flakes

If you to make the roasted garlic: Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Take the five cloves of garlic and cut the tops of each clove.  Put the five cloves in a tin foil pouch.  Bake garlic for about 20-25 minutes or until soft.  Allow to cool before adding them to the dip recipe.  Squeeze roasted garlic out of each clove and smash with a knife to use in dip.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, Parmesan, sour cream, mayonnaise, spinach, artichokes, roasted garlic, salt and red pepper flakes.  For the artichokes, I pulled all the leaves off the hearts before roughly chopping them up.  Mix well with a rubber spatula until all ingredients are evenly blended.  Spread into a small baking dish (I used a gratin dish).  Sprinkle additional  Parmesan over the top if desired.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is slightly browned (I baked it in a toaster oven and it only took about 30 minutes to be done).  Serve warm with toasted baguette slices or  pita chips.

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