Garlic Bread

Dressing up a regular loaf of fresh bread makes it that much more irresistible.  I adapted this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and it’s unbelievably tasty and full of vibrant, fresh flavors.  Just don’t make it for a new beau, cause that garlic sure packs a punch.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large loaf ciabatta bread
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 tbsp pesto (you could also use plain fresh basil, chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until minced.  Add the parsley, oregano, basil and salt and pepper and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped.
  • Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan and add the garlic mixture – saute until the garlic is fragrant – you don’t want to overcook it, you’re just getting rid of the raw garlic flavor.
  • Slice the bread in half horizontally and spread 1 tbsp of butter on each half of bread
  • Spread the garlic mixture evenly on each half of bread (depending on the size of your loaf, you might not need all of the mixture – reserve the extra for another day)
  • Put the halves back together, wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 5 minutes
  • After 5 minutes, open the foil up and open the bread so the inside can get a little toasty – bake for an additional 5 minutes

Eggplant Parm Calzone

This calzone combines two of my favorite things: eggplant parm and garlic bread.  These are hard to put down…  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. bakery dough
  • Breaded eggplant slices (approximately 24)
  • Approximately 1 cup robust red sauce
  • Approximately 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Approximately 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Garlic butter
    • 1-2 tbsp butter, melted
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp dried parsley

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 15 in. x 10 in. rectangle (about 1/4″ thick)
  • Place dollops of sauce down the center of the dough, use the back of a spoon to spread it thin
  • Next, place a layer of overlapping breaded eggplant slices down the center of the rolled out dough (about 2-3 slices in each row – depending on size)
  • Top the breaded eggplant with more sauce, make sure the sauce evenly coats the eggplant
  • Sprinkle the cheeses on top of the sauce and repeat until you have three layers of eggplant
  • Pull one side of dough over the cheese and then overlap that by pulling the other side of dough over – fold up the ends and pinch to seal closed
  • Flip the calzone over and place seam side down on a greased baking sheet (I use Pam with Olive Oil) – brush the calzone with the melted garlic butter
  • Bake in the oven at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
  • Let the calzone cool for about 10 minutes (if you can!) and then slice into 1 inch pieces

Ranch Snack Mix

I found this recipe on Pinterest and had to try it because it seemed so easy and so tasty – and it was!  Word to the wise: one batch won’t last too long…  it’s addictive.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box/bag oyster crackers (you could also sub in some chex cereal or pretzels)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 package ranch dressing powder mix
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or to taste)
  • Salt, to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Preheat the oven to 250°F
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the salad dressing mix, garlic powder, salt and vegetable oil – mix well
  • Pour in the box of crackers and stir to get the crackers evenly coated
  • Pour the crackers onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes

Pesto Hummus

Whenever I have some leftover pesto sauce hanging around, I throw it into the food processor with some chickpeas and tahini and – voila!  Pesto hummus.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can chickpeas (save the water from the can)
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (if you don’t have this on hand, it’s ok without it, too)
  • Approximately 1/4 – 1/3 cup pesto sauce
  • 1 tsp roasted garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the strained chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, pesto sauce and roasted garlic
  • Pour in a little bit of the water from the can of chickpeas and process the ingredients
  • Check the consistency of the hummus and add more of the water if the mixture is not loose and smooth
  • Process until you have reached your desired consistency (should be soft and smooth, not watery but not thick)
    • For some reason I love this hummus paired with Garden Salsa Sun Chips – I know it might sound like a strange combo, but it’s just so good.

Mac ‘n Cheese Bites

If you’re looking for a good appetizer idea for Super Bowl Sunday, look no further.  I tried this out for New Year’s Eve – and it was a-mazing.  Crispy bite-sized mac ‘n cheese?  Yes, please.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups white cheddar, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups pepper jack, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano, grated
    • Tip: an easy way to grate all of this cheese is to thickly slice it and toss it into a food processor fitted with a metal blade – you could also use the grater attachment if you’ve got it
  • 1 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Approximately 1 – 1 1/2 cups ‘Italian’ seasoned breadcrumbs
* This recipe yields 36 mac ‘n cheese bites – you can easily freeze this and bake when you need it!

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place all of the grated cheese into a large bowl and toss together with your hands until well blended
  • While the noodles are boiling, prepare the baking dish…
    • Make sure not to overcook the noodles because they will continue to cook in the oven
  • Spray the mini muffin pans with  nonstick cooking spray
  • Pour some bread crumbs into each cup of the mini muffin pan and turn the pan around until it’s totally coated with the crumbs; reserve the extra crumbs, if you can, and reuse to coat the other pans
  • Once the noodles are just cooked, strain them and put the tbsp of butter into the hot pot
  • Pour in half of the noodles and then half of the cheese and stir together
  • Add in the rest of the noodles and the all of the cheese and continue to mix well over low heat
  • Once the noodles and cheeses are well combined spoon the mixture into each mini muffin cup – use your fingers to pack it in
  • Top the mac ‘n cheese off with another sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake at 350°F for approximately minutes or until the tops are golden brown
  • Once the mac ‘n cheese is cooked, run a butter knife along the edge of the muffin cups to loosen the mac ‘n cheese bites from the side of the pan

** This is basically the Christmas Mac ‘n Cheese recipe without the breadcrumb crust.   I did try making the breadcrumb crust in the mini muffin pans and you really couldn’t tell the difference between the crust and just plain breadcrumbs – so save yourself the work and leave that step out!

Olive Cheddar Balls

It’s time to start making Christmas hors d’oeuvres around here… and I’m kicking it off with one of my Godmother’s recipes.  These are a great appetizer to have around for the holidays since they can easily be made ahead of time and frozen until you need them. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 lb. Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Approximately 30 Pimento olives

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine all of the dry ingredients and blend well
  • Mix together the softened butter and grated cheese and then pour in the dry ingredients
  • Mix the dough together with your hands; if it seems too dry and crumbly, put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften the mixture up
  • Take a spoonful of dough into your hand and roll it into a ball and then flatten it out
  • Place the olive in the center of the dough and wrap the dough around it
  • Round the dough ball out by rolling it in between your palms until it’s a perfect sphere
  • Bake on a greased baking sheet at 350°F for approximately 20 minutes or until the dough looks crackled and cooked and the edges are slightly browned

Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are by far the best ones I’ve ever had.  To make them, I combined my mom’s recipe with the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe – the result was the ultimate baked stuffed mushroom.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 links of sausage (I used one sweet and one hot), removed from the casing
  • Approximately 25 large stuffing mushrooms
  • 1 bunch of scallions (about 8 chutes), finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2/3 cup crushed Ritz crackers (1/2 of a sleeve)
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup powdered parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 5 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Marsala wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Clean the mushrooms and remove all of the stems
  • Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tbsp of olive oil and 3 tbsp of Marsala wine – set aside
  • Finely chop all of the mushroom stems and set aside
  • In a large saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and saute the loose sausage meat – make sure you keep separating the meat with a spoon so it doesn’t clump together
  • Once the sausage is browned, add in the chopped mushroom stems and 2 tbsp of butter and saute until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and they’re tender
  • Add in the scallions and saute for a few minutes
  • Add in the pressed garlic and saute for an additional minute or so
  • Stir in the Ritz cracker crumbs and panko breadcrumbs and thoroughly coat them with the mixture
  • Add in the mascarpone cheese and stir until the mixture is creamy (if you want a drier consistency, feel free to add in more panko)
  • Lastly, off the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese
  • Now, you’re ready to stuff your mushrooms!
  • Stuff each mushroom with a heaping amount of stuffing
  • Snugly line up your stuffed mushrooms in a baking dish
  • Bake at 325°F for 50 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the tops are browned

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

These chicken tenders are the perfect accompaniment to a dish like the veggie lasagna or a great appetizer when entertaining. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. – 1  1/2 lb. chicken tenderloins
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs (you can also use seasoned panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch)
  • 1 cup powdered parmesan cheese (if you have grated parmesan, just pop it in the food processor and process until it’s powdery)
  • Olive Oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • If you want to make chicken nuggets, cut each tenderloin in half – otherwise, just use the whole tenderloin as it is
  • Pour the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs into three separate containers (I use these breading pans – they’re great)
  • Dredge your chicken it the flour (shake off any excess), then dip it in the egg, and finally coat it in breadcrumbs and parmesan
  • Continue this process with all of the chicken tenderloins
  • Brush a baking tray with olive oil and place the breaded tenders onto the tray
  • Generously brush the breaded chicken breasts with olive oil
  • Bake for 20 minutes (10 minutes on each side) at 350°F
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and layer the cutlets on a dish in between paper towels (to blot excess oil)
  • If you’re making nuggets, they’re great served with honey mustard, ketchup and BBQ sauce



Spanakopita II

This is my recipe for the classic Greek appetizer, spanakopita.  I like to use fresh spinach and butter instead of olive oil — I think it makes it lighter and flakier.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups packed spinach leaves
  • 1 lb. fillo dough (16-20 sheets), defrosted
  • 1/2 lb. feta cheese
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg (if I’m doubling this recipe, I use 3 eggs), beaten
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 stick of butter (at least)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Rinse your spinach leaves and remove and large stems
  • Roughly chop the spinach before putting 2 cups of it in the food processor – process for about 10 seconds or until the leaves are finely chopped
  • Add in half the chopped garlic, scallions, feta and salt and pepper
  • Process the ingredients for about 5 seconds and then pulse the mixture 3 times for 1 second to make sure everything is well combined
  • Repeat this process for the other half of the ingredients
  • Combine the two batches of spinach (you can and should taste it before you add in the egg and adjust the salt and pepper to your taste) then stir in the beaten egg
    • Set the mixture aside
  • Take your defrosted fillo dough out and unfold it onto a working surface (keep the stack of dough covered with a damp – but not wet! – towel to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle)
  • Depending on the dimensions of your sheet, you may need to cut them in half so your sheet has a width of about 7.5 in.
  • Take a sheet with the 7.5 in. width and brush it with butter
  • Then, fold the sheet over into thirds so you’re left with a long strip that’s only 2.5 in. wide
  • Place about 1 tbsp of spinach mixture at the end of your fillo strip and roll it up into triangles, like a paper football – or American flag
  • If your dough seems dry and needs help sticking, brush it with additional butter
  • Place the triangle pieces onto a greased baking pan
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
    • Makes approximately 32 – 40 pieces
Variation…
    • Layer 10 sheets of fillo dough, brushing butter in between each sheet
    • Spoon about 1 cup of the spinach mixture along one edge of the fillo dough in the shape of a sausage
    • Roll up the fillo dough and brush the top with butter
    • Score the roll into 1 in. rounds
    • Repeat until all of the fillo and spinach is used
    • Place the roll on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400°F for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Sweet Seeds

Wondering what to do with those seeds after you carve your Halloween pumpkin? Try oven roasting them for a tasty treat!  You don’t have to stick to salt and olive oil – although that’s still a good option…  

INGREDIENTS

SWEET

    • 1  1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and cleaned
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
      • You can also add in a pinch of vanilla sugar if you have it on hand
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp salt
SAVORY
    • 1  1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and cleaned
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp salt

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the pumpkin seeds with the olive oil and your desired dry ingredients (sweet or savory)
  • Spread the seeds out evenly on the baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, or until the seeds are golden brown
    • Stir the seeds from time to time so that they roast evenly
Savory Seeds