Appetizers

Sweet and Spicy Pepperonata

Years ago, my friend lived in an amazing apartment in a big old Victorian house in a small town in South Jersey. The first floor of the house was a dentist’s office and his apartment took up the entire second and third floor. Because the office downstairs closed around 5pm every night and on weekends, we never had to worry about parking or how loud the music was. Quite often, we would walk a few blocks to the main street in town and sit at the bar of a shady Italian restaurant. There was nothing particularly charming about the restaurant except for it’s location but they served perfect bread and peppers. I’d never in my life eaten bread and peppers together before (mostly because I rarely ever ate peppers at this time) but these peppers, roasted and oily, served with soft doughy baguette, was the perfect bite for us every single time. The restaurant is no longer there and my friend has long since moved out but we still talk about those bread and peppers. When I saw this recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pepperonata, I knew it wouldn’t be a perfect alternative but it was pretty darn close.

A combination of peppers (I used mini peppers, poblano and long hots) are slowly cooked with shallots until soft and tender. A little sugar, red wine vinegar and fresh thyme are added to give a flavor boost. These peppers aren’t nearly as oily as the peppers from that restaurant but that’s not a bad thing. I served these peppers with some toasted whole grain bread and drizzled a little bit of olive oil over the top (perfection!). But these peppers, with their mild sweetness and heat, would be a perfect accompaniment to chicken or pasta or on a salad, especially if you are trying to eat more vegetables. Plus, just look at those colors! If you want to eat colorfully, you can’t get much more color than this.

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Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add salt, peppers, and shallots; cook 3 minutes or until shallots begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, 20 minutes or until peppers are tender.

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Increase heat to medium-high. Add vinegar, sugar, and thyme; cook 15 minutes or until peppers are tender and shallots are golden brown, stirring occasionally.

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Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

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Roasted Cherry Tomato and Ricotta Bruschetta

Roasted cherry tomatoes…kind of contradictory isn’t it? Cherry tomatoes are at their peak, perfectly sweet and juicy, in the summer but who wants to turn on their oven for roasting them when it’s 90 degrees outside? Well, I think when it comes to cherry tomatoes, it’s totally worth it. I came across a recipe for a tomato bruschetta that I was excited to make. But when I sat down and read the directions (something I should have learned to do a long time ago), I realized that the whole recipe required a grill (which I don’t have) and that my handy grill pan just wouldn’t do. But since I already had the ingredients, I was determined. So I improvised. The result is this Roasted Cherry Tomato and Ricotta Bruschetta.

Sweet cherry tomatoes are roasted in an oven with nothing but a little olive oil before topping toasted baguette slices and creamy ricotta cheese. A little sprinkle of salt, pepper and basil tops this tasty appetizer which satisfies those summer taste buds. The tomatoes pop with sweetness and blend so well with the creamy ricotta. And who doesn’t like basil on top of tomatoes? On toasted bread? I can’t even.

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Ricotta Bruschetta (makes 15 appetizers)

Adapted from Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta

  • 15 baguette slices (slice the rest and freeze for later!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

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Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a sheet pan, toss tomatoes with 1 T. olive oil until tomatoes are lightly coated. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Set aside.

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Preheat broiler. Lay baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush each slice with remaining 1 T. olive oil. Place under the broiler for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

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Top slice with about 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese. Spread tomatoes evenly across all slices (about 1 or 2 tomatoes on each, depending on size). Top each piece with a basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

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Mango Guacamole

It’s May 1st and so begins my month of travel. This will be a true test of how well I eat and if I can keep up with my exercise. I typically do my cooking on the weekends but on weekends like this when I’m getting ready to travel, I usually don’t even bother getting groceries. My flight is on Sunday so I need to eat what I have and make sure my refrigerator is pretty empty. Since I’ll be in London for Cinco de Mayo and won’t get a chance to make myself some tacos, I decided pick up the ingredients to make this Mango Guacamole to eat instead.

Fresh mango and avocados are stirred together with red onion, cilantro, pepper (I used jalapeño), and orange and lime juices. Mangos and avocados are pretty inexpensive in the grocery store right now so I love taking advantage of that. I could eat avocados every single day so making this guacamole makes me really happy. If you don’t like guacamole, so sorry to hear that. The mango and orange juice in this gives it a hint of a sweetness that pairs so well with the heat of the Serrano or jalapeño pepper. Luckily, this guacamole makes just enough that I won’t have any leftover before I hit the airport. I’ll happily eat it all weekend.

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Combine mango, red onion, cilantro, orange juice, lime juice, salt, avocado, and pepper in a large bowl; toss to combine.

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Serve guacamole with tortilla chips.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

  •  Jalapeño pepper

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Edamame Hummus

I haven’t been very good at going to the gym lately which is making feel pretty bad about myself but I have been doing some workouts at home that are leaving my body SORE. But as we all know, it’s a good sore. Why is it so hard to stay motivated? I was doing great at being in a routine and eating so well but then a work trip and a few frozen pizzas sent me spinning out of control. Well, here we go again, me being a broken record, concentrating on eating well. I have a lot of traveling coming up over the next month so now is the time for me to get it together. I’ll need as much willpower as I can get when faced not having my own kitchen. Until I head out, I’m doing some healthy snacking with this Edamame Hummus.

Thawed frozen edamame is whirled in a food processor with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and tahini until smooth and thick. If you like edamame and you like regular hummus, you’ll like this version. The result is a fresh and vibrant hummus that is perfect with fresh veggies or chips. I really loved this. I used a fraction of the oil that the recipe called for (only 2 tablespoons) so use your judgment on how much you want to use. Making this edamame takes two seconds so if you think you have that kind of time, give this a try. Especially if you love hummus.

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Add garlic, edamame, extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup water, lemon juice and tahini into the bowl of a food processor; puree. Season generously with salt.

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Serve with chips or veggies.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine

Corn-and-Black Bean Salsa

Got a last minute invite to watch the Superbowl somewhere and don’t want to show up empty handed? Well, I’ve got a really quick, hearty and tasty salsa that can be made in a few minutes with only a few ingredients. If you are someone like me who generally has canned food stocked away, this Corn-and-Black Bean Salsa will be a lifesaver when you need a quick dish or have a last minute guest to feed.

Canned corn and black beans are mixed with canned tomatoes (flavored with lime and cilantro), scallions, cumin, olive oil, and lime juice. This chunky salsa is fantastic with chips as a snack or as an addition to some chicken or in a healthy salad. And because everything goes in one bowl and can be made quickly, there is little time needed to throw this together and very little clean up. Sure, everyone can go to the store and buy some tomato-based salsa (“from New York City?!”) but you know this salsa is so much better.

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Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

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Cover and chill.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Coastal Living magazine

Sesame Teriyaki Wings

Happy New Year all! Anyone eat wings over the holidays? I’ve been eating chicken for a long time now but this whole time, I’ve refused to eat chicken on the bone. People know this about me. The bones, the gristle, the skin. No thanks! Then, when I was in Toronto for work a few months ago, my co-workers ordered wings at a restaurant and I didn’t speak up. I hesitantly tried the wings and decided, surprisingly, that they were great. I’ve been on a chicken wing kick ever since. In fact, I find myself craving them. So I decided I was ready to buy some frozen chicken wings and make these Sesame Teriyaki Wings myself.

Cooked chicken wings (I followed the package directions) are tossed in a mixture of teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and sesame oil and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Sure, these aren’t your typical wings, no buffalo sauce or blue cheese in sight, but if you like Asian-flavors like I do, you won’t mind. As these wings cooked, I saw things I didn’t want to see so by the time they came out, my appetite was lost. While I’m clearly not ready to be making chicken on the bone at home, the sesame teriyaki sauce is great with a salty sweetness that I love from Asian flavors. If someone else prepared these for me in a restaurant, I’d love them. But, next time I think I’ll make this sauce for boneless chicken wings. Lesson learned.

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In large bowl, whisk together teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, dark brown sugar, and toasted sesame oil.

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Toss sauce with cooked wings and sesame seeds.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Good Housekeeping magazine

Cheesy Sausage Balls

I’m pretty slow to the sausage ball party. I first became aware of these little bites from Trisha Yearwood’s show on Food Network and thought that they would be a perfect little nugget for me considering how much I love sausage (turkey sausage, that is). But since then, I suddenly see sausage balls everywhere – on Pinterest, on the Today show, on my Instagram feed. Well, I figured it was high time for me to jump on the bandwagon and I was especially thrilled when I came across this recipe for Cheesy Sausage Balls which has a little different twist than your standard sausage balls.

Sausage, cheese, and quinoa make up the base of these bites which are perfect for a Thanksgiving appetizer. Instead of baking mix, these balls have cooked quinoa which is so much healthier than some floury mix. Granted, baking mixes are super simple and easier to throw into a bowl than cooking up a batch of quinoa but it only takes fifteen minutes for quinoa to cook so you can do it ahead of time and still have some leftover for another dish later. Plus, quinoa is so much better for you! The quinoa actually adds a bit of texture to these sausage balls, a bit of a pop, if you will. I haven’t tried the sausage balls made with baking mix but I don’t think I need to. I’m perfectly happy with these little guys and I bet you will be too!

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 Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine quinoa, cheese, cornstarch, black pepper and sausage in a bowl.

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Shape mixture into 40 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place balls on a lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

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Bake at 375°F for 18 minutes or until lightly browned and done.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

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