Tag Archives: appetizer

Taco Night Popcorn

Who doesn’t love a really simple snack recipe? Popcorn, in general, is a simple and low calorie snack but sometimes it can just be so stinking boring. I go in waves with popcorn where I’ll eat a portion-controlled bag each and every night and then when I run out, I’ll buy another box that will sit, unopened, in my cabinet and go well past the expiration date. Sometimes it tastes good and sometimes I can’t fathom the thought of it. But I came across a bunch of recipes for flavored popcorn and decided I had everything to make this Taco Night Popcorn. With a frosty beer and a good movie, this is an addicting and not boring popcorn snack.

Olive oil, chili powder, lime zest, cumin and garlic powder are mixed together and tossed over basic microwaved popcorn and pieces of tortilla chips (I used these chips – my favorite!) making this a flavorful snack that really does make you think of tacos. I combined the oil and spices together and dumped the mixture into a zip-top storage bag then added the popcorn and chips and shook it all up. It really seemed to coat the popcorn well, without too much of any oil or spices ending up in random clumps. I know adding olive oil to a healthy snack like popcorn isn’t necessary what you want to do when you are trying to be good but a little goes a long way and this is a great snack for those nights when you just can’t have plain old popcorn yet again.

Like this? Also check out Chili and Spice Popcorn and Buffalo Popcorn!


Mix olive oil, chili powder, grated lime peel, cumin, and garlic powder; toss with 1 bag microwave popcorn, popped, and tortilla chip pieces.


Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Good Housekeeping magazine


Lime-Spiked Black Bean Dip

It’s Cinco de Mayo so what are you planning on eating today?  Burritos?  Enchiladas?  Fajitas?  Tacos?  Mexican food is so good but can be really terrible for you, especially because so much of the Americanized Mexican food available to us is loaded with ooey gooey melted cheese.  But the good thing is, Mexican food can easily be made low-fat at home by substituting low-fat cheese, low-fat sour cream, healthy beans and lots of veggies.  As tempted as I was to make a big Mexican meal, I decided to keep things a little simple with an easy bold and healthy dip.  This Lime-Spiked Black Bean Dip is a healthy way to enjoy some Mexican food on this Cinco de Mayo without a)breaking the bank or b)spending hours on the elliptical machine working it off.

Canned black beans are whirled in a food processor until smooth (but not too smooth – chunks of beans make for awesome texture) and combined with grated carrots, fresh lime juice, scallions, garlic, and cilantro.  A little salt and cayenne pepper add seasoning to beans which can typically be pretty bland (I used low-sodium black beans so I could control the salt content).  I really love the addition of the grated carrot because it provides a fat-free crunch while the scallion gives a fantastic mild onion flavor.  And the lime – it really brings this dip to life.  This is a thick dip, especially if it’s been in the refrigerator for a bit so add a little water or black bean juice if you ‘d prefer it to be more “dippy”.  If you don’t like cilantro, you can leave it out but it provides an herby flavor that is so good in Mexican food.  Serve with tortilla chips and you’ve got a healthy vegetarian snack or appetizer than would also be great folded into a tortilla for a light lunch.


Place beans in a food processor, and pulse until almost smooth.


Combine the beans, carrot, and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until well blended. Let stand 30 minutes.


Serve with baked tortilla chips.


Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light magazine


Marinated Peppers and Mozzarella

Sorry if I’ve been a little obsessed with appetizers lately.  They are just so easy to make and most of the time they are much easier to keep portion controlled than a bigger meal.  But when I first used mini bell peppers for this appetizer a while ago, I’ve kind of been looking for another recipe for them. And when I saw them on sale at my grocery store this weekend, I grabbed them without a second thought.  I’m not really sure how I came across this recipe for Marinated Peppers and Mozzarella (on page 6 of the booklet) but I’m sure glad I did.

Mini bell peppers are broiled until blackened and soft and then mixed with olive oil, garlic, lemon rind and red pepper flakes. After marinating in the refrigerator overnight, lemon juice and fresh basil are added, livening up these low-carb peppers which are RIDICULOUS. The peppers are perfectly soft, sweet, and mellow, the mozzarella is creamy and rich, the red pepper flakes are mildly spicy, the lemon is bright and the basil is perfectly aromatic. I used half the amount of olive oil indicated in the recipe and still think I could have used less so use your judgment. These are fantastic just the way they are but would also be great served on some baguette slices or even with the peppers cut up in some pasta. Mini bell peppers, I’m officially in love with you.


Preheat broiler to high. Arrange sweet peppers in a single layer on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan; broil peppers 4 minutes on each side or until blackened and tender. Cool.


Combine peppers, olive oil, garlic, lemon rind, crushed red pepper, salt, and mozzarella balls; toss. Cover and refrigerate overnight, tossing occasionally.


Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Stir in basil leaves and lemon juice before serving.



Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  cookinglight.com

Slow-Cooker Smoky Blackberry-Barbecue Turkey Meatballs

Did you watch the Superbowl last night?  I did even though neither one of the teams were my team (I’m talking about you, Philadelphia Eagles).  I always used to find myself quietly routing for Denver in games I didn’t have a personal investment in because I lived there when I was 24-years old. But this time I found myself routing for Seattle and, even though I’m kind of a Peyton Manning fan and don’t know anything about anyone on Seattle other than what has been highlighted in recent interviews and sports news, I tend want to see the underdog win.

Regardless, did you know that the Pacific Northwest is a big producer of blackberries?  I didn’t know this until I read Blackberry Winter, a book by one of my favorite authors, Sarah Jio.  I didn’t intentionally make these Slow-Cooker Smoky Blackberry-Barbecue Turkey Meatballs with the Seattle Seahawks in mind but they are what I made for Superbowl Sunday and I was plenty happy with them.


Blackberry jam and hickory smoked barbecue sauce are mixed together and tossed with frozen turkey meatballs before hot tubbin’ it in a slow-cooker for a few hours.  I came up with this recipe after my sister and I made meatballs over Christmas using the typical chili sauce and grape jelly.  One of my sister’s friends mentioned how she used barbecue sauce instead of chili sauce so it got me thinking about using blackberry jam instead of grape jelly.  So this appetizer was born. Any of your favorite bottled or homemade barbecue sauces would work here but I particularly love how the smokiness pairs nicely with the sweetness of the jam.

Serve this as an appetizer or throw a few on a bun for a fun and different meatball sandwich.

Slow-Cooker Smoky Blackberry-Barbecue Turkey Meatballs (makes 8 servings)

  • 10 oz. seedless blackberry jam
  • 12 oz. hickory smoke barbecue sauce
  • 24 oz. frozen turkey meatballs

Place jam and barbecue sauce in the bowl of a slow-cooker and mix together. Add in frozen meatballs and toss until meatballs are coated. Turn slow-cooker on high and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Top with chives, basil, or scallions before serving.





Cheddar-Beer Fondue

Yesterday, the recipe I brought you had beer.  Today, this recipe has beer.  Honestly, it was a coincidence.  I do love beer but I’m not at the point where I have to have it in my food.  At least not yet.  There is a restaurant near me called Redstone American Grill who has the best jerk chicken fondue I have ever had.  When I came across this recipe for Cheddar-Beer Fondue, I really wanted to see how easy (or hard) it was to make fondue at home.  Especially when you don’t own a fondue pot.

Light beer, Dijon mustard, garlic, and hot sauce are whisked together in a saucepan before cheddar cheese is added and melted until ooey and gooey.  A little cornstarch tossed with the cheese before it goes in helps to thicken this fondue up a little and the Dijon mustard and hot sauce add perfect complementary flavors.  I used reduced-fat cheddar cheese and, I have to admit, I thought this was going to be a disaster.  The cheese, which first seized and stuck in clumps to my whisk, eventually softened up and melted smoothly.  Obviously regular cheddar cheese will react, and probably taste, better but I was pleasantly surprised by this fondue.  I served mine with apple slices, baby carrots and coins of smoked turkey sausage but broccoli florets, grape tomatoes, bread cubes, brussels sprouts, grapes, clementine wedges, baby potatoes and even chocolate would be other great dippers.  Additionally, any other of your favorite melting cheeses like mozzarella, smoked Gouda, Fontina, or Gruyere could be used instead of cheddar.  This may be a little messier than you want for a party but just keep napkins nearby because who doesn’t love cheese?

Want some other appetizer ideas for the big game?  Try Buffalo Chicken Cheese Bites, Chipotle-Garlic Edamame, Layered Bean Dip, Lemon-Horseradish Dip, Roasted Red Pepper Dip, Sausage-and-Feta Cheese-Stuffed Peppers, and Tortellini Caprese Bites.


The ingredients:


Heat beer, Dijon mustard, garlic, and hot sauce in 4-quart saucepan on  low; whisk in Cheddar cheese tossed with cornstarch until melted and  smooth.



Serve with sliced cooked sausage, cooked new potatoes, bread cubes, vegetables and/or apple slices for dipping.


Additions:  None

Omissions:  None


  • Reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Good Housekeeping magazine

Maple-Chipotle Peanuts

I’ve had so many people say to me lately, “Can you believe it’s almost Thanksgiving?” I don’t know what’s surprising about it to people but it’s no shock to me.  Maybe it’s that I think about food all the time and have been thinking about what I want to make for Thanksgiving since the calendar changed to November.  Either way, yes, Thanksgiving is this Thursday so I hope everyone is ready.  It’ll be low key for me, just me and my cousin, so I have no stress in making a ton of food.  But if you have a bunch of people coming by and wonder how you’ll get everything done, consider making these Maple-Chipotle Peanuts if you need a quick and easy, no stress, no fuss appetizer that can be made ahead of time.

Maple syrup and chipotle chile pepper are simmered together until slightly thickened and then mixed with dry-roasted peanuts.  Once cooled, the result is sweet, salty, and spicy peanuts that are seriously addictive.  Once the peanuts cool, the peanuts become ooey and gooey and it’s hard to not want to shove your face into these.  Once they’ve cooled overnight, the syrup hardens, the gooeyness is gone and the peanuts become candied.  Whichever way you prefer, these are amazing.  The smell of these peanuts reminded me of being at a carnival or my county fair as a kid for some reason.  I realized that if I continued to eat these peanuts at the rapid rate I was, there was a good chance I would have devoured an entire container of peanuts in two days.  So consider yourself warned.  If you have a lot of guests coming, you might want to make two batches.  And if you have any leftover, throw a handful on top of some pumpkin ice cream.  Yum!


The ingredients:


Simmer 1/3 cup maple syrup with 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder in a saucepan until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.


Stir in 2 cups salted dry-roasted peanuts.


Pour onto a lightly oiled pan and let cool.



Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Food Network magazine

Creamed Spinach Phyllo Cups

I think I might have a little obsession with appetizers.  I don’t know what it is about them but I just love, love, love them!  Maybe it’s because they can be deceptive little suckers and trick your brain into thinking you aren’t eating much.  Or maybe it’s just the simple laid-back ease that come with appetizers that tells your guests to sit back with a glass of whatever and relax because we aren’t formal here.  Whatever the case may be, when I had two girl friends over last weekend, I was so excited to make these Creamed Spinach Phyllo Cups for them. 

Fresh baby spinach is wilted over the stove with garlic before being bathed in cream (I used fat-free half-and-half) and reduced-fat cream cheese.  The result is a tangy creamed spinach that would be good enough on its own but is instead spooned into baked mini phyllo shells.  A quick dusting of fresh Parmesan cheese on top finished off these little bites.  These bite-sized appetizers came together quickly and didn’t take me away from drinking wine with my friends.  I will undoubtedly and happily be making these again!


The ingredients:


Preheat oven to 425°F. Arrange phyllo shells in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly coat shells with cooking spray. Bake at 425°F for 4 minutes or until lightly browned and very crisp.


Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute or until fragrant but not browned, stirring frequently.


Coarsely chop 1 bag of spinach. Add chopped spinach to pan; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, tossing frequently. Chop remaining spinach; add to wilted spinach in pan. Cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, tossing frequently. Sprinkle spinach mixture with salt; toss well.


Stir in cream and cream cheese; cook 1 minute or until cheese melts and sauce is thoroughly heated. Remove pan from heat.


Spoon about 1 tablespoon spinach mixture into each shell. Top evenly with Parmigiano-Reggiano.


Additions:  None

Omissions:  None


  • Fat-free half-and-half

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light magazine

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