Appetizer Idea: Basil-Tomato Margarita Bites

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So continues my obsession with egg roll and won ton wrappers.tres tomato aerial

If you’ll recall my post “Appetizer Idea: Bite-Sized Fajita Bowls,” I picked up a pack of  Nasoya egg-roll wrappers at HyVee. It’s been true love ever since.

Another one of the won-ton wrapper apps I see floating around on Pinterest.com features a combination of tomato and mozzarella.

For this first one, I wasn’t feeling mozzarella. I’ve been using a soy-based garlic-herb cheese a lot lately, so I crumbled that over the top instead, tossed in some basil, parm, and spice, and felt my eyes roll back in my head when I tasted the crispy-cheesy-flavorful crunch of this appetizer.

Hope you get a pow in the yum like I did. These appetizers are right up my alley. I’m sure I’ll continue to make them for myself, but I suspect they might become my new favorite stand-by for potlucks and dinner parties, too. Very easy, and very good.

Ingredientsbite tomato

1 egg roll wrapper (Get a good healthy brand like Nasoya)

1/2 Roma tomato, diced into medium chunks

red pepper flakes

1 oz. cheese of choice, mozzarella or a heartier herb one will do

dash of parmesan

1 t basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. Set aside.

Take the egg roll wrapper and slice into four equal squares. Press into pan, folding sides to fit down as necessary, but not pushing too hard.

In a small pan, saute the tomatoes in a little cooking oil for a few minutes, adding in the basil, then the red pepper flakes. Evenly  distribute among the wrappers.four bore tomato

Bake for about 7 minutes or until edges of wrappers turn golden brown. Top with cheese of choice (cubed or crumbled), dash of parm, and more basil if you like. Bake another 2-3 minutes until cheese melts.

Serve right away and warm, if possible. Enjoy!

Mandarin-Edamame Salad

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You always know it is potluck season when you see me posting recipes for groups. This could be easily made into single-serving recipe though, just cut everything back. Use your best judgment.SAM_5482

I was reading around on a bunch of foodie sites I found on Pinterest.com about edamame salads. I still have a lot of shelled edamame leftover from my nutrition study, and wanted to incorporate it into this group recipe.

The funny thing was that I gave up. With salads, you can follow an exact recipe or—as anyone can read in my culinary philosophies & such—you can do a little guess work and create something you like even better. Don’t get caught up in the tiny differences. Just go with your gut. Trust what you know about flavor pairings and you’ll surprise yourself.

That’s what I did this time. I knew ginger and sesame flavors are often paired with mandarin oranges or edamame. You don’t see both together often. Overwhelming?photo (1)

Hardly. My co-workers didn’t think so either. They raved about how much they liked my salad. Part of me wonders if it was the bright contrasts in colors. I’m still a firm believer that eating is 50% visual.

But part of me thinks it was the surprise of the beans with the fruit. Americans don’t see that much, but I think edamame can be bland and so the mandarins perked it up, plus some crunch red onions and sweet red peppers for pizazz.

Hope you like it as much as my co-workers did!

Ingredients

1 large or 3 small heads of romaine lettuce

½ cup red onion, sliced into strips

½ cup fresh mandarin oranges

½ cup shelled edamame

½ red pepper, sliced into strips

Newman’s Own Ginger Sesame Dressing

Optional: sprinkling of sesame seedsSAM_5479

Directions

Prepare lettuce as you normally would and place in large glass bowl.

Around the rim of the bowl, sprinkle the onions and the red peppers evenly.

In the center, add the edamame and then the oranges.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you’re using those. And at this point you can drizzle the dressing on, but I wanted to be kind to fellow potluckers like myself who hate with salads are drenched in dressing. That’s gross and inconsiderate, not to mention unnecessary, really. So I left it off and let them add as they liked. I know some people, like my step-dad, like their salads drenched, while others, like myself, do not. I always let guests choose because if I go light on the dressing, I know I’ll leave some wanting more.

You can toss the salad once you’re there, but again, presentation is key. I waited, was the first one to serve and so I tossed in front of them. Maintaining the pretty contrast in colors only heightened the experience, I’m sure.

Pizza Hummus Dip

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Having eaten more St. Louis-style Italian dishes than one can imagine, I know all too well that what makes a perfect Italian dish is a perfect blend of seasonings. I have my favorites. This recipe, modified from Drizzle and Drip’s version, is similar to the season blends I love, plus I add in a few twists.SAM_4910

I actually prepared this hummus for a Super Bowl Party in early February. Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the somewhat chunky consistency of my hummus–the enriching aspects of being a graduate student also come with less enriching realities, like mediocre food processors–it was still a big hit at the party. Again, I blame a good blend of seasonings and one of my favorite all time flavors, simmered tomato.

Try it out! It’s especially good with lightly toasted pita triangles. And if you’re looking to make it even more similar to regular pizza, throw some cheese on top.SAM_4902

Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T chopped onions
  • 2 T  tomato paste
  • 2t dried oregano
  • 1t  dried basil /or finely chopped fresh (I used fresh because I didn’t have dry)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tin of  chickpeas /garbanzo beans , drained and rinsed – (but save the liquid)
  • 2 T cup tahini
  • 1T fresh lemon juiceSAM_4907
  • optional: 1t  sea salt / kosher salt
  • optional: ground caraway seed

Directions

-In a small pan, add olive oil, onions, and the first two herbs. Simmer for a minute or so, then add in tomato paste. Simmer another minute.

-Add in chickpeas and garlic. Simmer 3-4 minutes so the flavors become more robust.

-Transfer to food processor. Start processing.

-If your food processor is awful like mine, gradually add in the chickpeas and paste. Alternate settings. Stir frequently and gradually start introducing the tahini, lemon juice, a little more olive oil if you like, salt, and caraway. (Caraway gives a nice pizza spice flavor, I think, but that may be a uniquely St. Louisan preference.)

-Continue to process until you reach a consistency you like. If the dip starts to look too dry, you can add in some of the chickpea juice or more olive oil to keep it moist. Sprinkle with some more Italian herbs and serve with your favorite veggies or pita triangles.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup for the Crock-Pot

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Remember my adorable Crock-Pot? The one with the damask pattern my mom surprised me with? I used it like crazy over winter break, and now I’m back at it again, Crock-Pottin’ away (my new favorite verb). SAM_4942

Lately, I’ve been using it a lot to create tasty soups. I’ve blogged about this before, lots actually, that I love making big portions of soup.

Yes, this sort of goes against my single-serving approach, but it’s the one kind of cuisine I (1) can’t get enough of, and (2) one that I actually like having as leftovers. Why go against my usual routine? Because soups freeze so well. They almost never taste like leftovers.

Here’s what I do: After making a big batch of soup, I portion the remaining soup out to mason jars and old glass salsa jars I’ve saved. I like to freeze in glass because it’s more sustainable, reheats well, and freezing glass doesn’t break down chemical compounds as plastic containers do. So anytime I need a quick lunch-on-the-go, I grab one from the freezer in the morning, let it thaw throughout the day (leading up to lunch), and then heat it right in the glass jar. It’s kind of fun eating soup from a little glass jar, but you can always pour it into a bowl if you don’t get a kick out of that like I do.SAM_4947

So to make this very easy Crock-Pot soup, here’s what you need and need to do:

Ingredients
4 cups water
2 cans cream of chicken (or mushroom or celery) soup
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (10 oz.)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (or -10 oz. bag)
1 t garlic pepper seasoning
1.5 cups dried egg or rotini noodlesSAM_4952

Directions
-Turn the Crock-Pot on low if you have time to let it cook for 6-8 hours, high if you only have 3-4 hours.
-Stir in water, then condensed soup until well blended.
-Add in chicken, vegetables, and seasoning. Cover and cook.
-About 20-30 minutes before serving, add in the dry noodles. If you’re using the low setting, switch now to high. Serve once noodles are tender.

Garden Veggie Yogurt Dip

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Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is so versatile.SAM_4859

I’ve made it into ice cream, mixed it into smoothies, baked it into cakes, whipped it into pancakes, thicken pasta and taco sauces with it, and made more dips with it than I can recall.

Here’s one I really like. If you’ve ever had a craving for a thicker veggie spread for your bagel or chips or raw veggies, this one is really yummy.

And easier than it looks.SAM_4851

Ingredients

1 6-oz. serving of Greek yogurt (plain, non-dairy alternatives work just as well)

2 T finely chopped onions

1 t onion powder

1 T dillSAM_4852

slight dash of garlic powder, pepper, and paprika

Optional mix-in ideas: small carrot shavings, chopped green onions, finely diced red pepper

Directions

Simply remove the cover on the yogurt and begin adding in each ingredient until well blended. Chill about one hour. Transfer to a small serving dish.SAM_4860

Hmm… I wonder what else this could top? I’m open to suggestions.

Easy Caprese Skewers

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So quick.

So easy.

And yet, still so darling.

When I didn’t know what to bring to a writing center meeting last fall, I remembered those fancy little caprese skewers on Pinterest. They pop up all the time, but I can’t help but wonder if anyone ever makes them? They look easy enough. But I imagine that the caprese skewers, like so many other popular pins, are pinned and forgotten.

But I remembered. And I wanted to try.SAM_3610

Ingredients

Mozzarella, fresh preferred

1 carton of grape tomatoes

balsamic vinegar for dressing the skewers

fresh herbs to garnish

Directions

Not exactly rocket science on this part either. Just skewer–in whatever order or pattern or amount you like–drizzle with balsamic, and serve on something cute. (Great-tasting food is always 50% presentation.)

A bright, healthful addition to any potluck, and as always, my co-workers thanked me for bringing something fresh to the table. It’s always a pleasure to hear that.

Sweet-On-You Valentine’s Fruit Skewers

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So you can put any kind of fruit on any kind of skewer, chill it, and it will add a lovely, bright touch to any potluck.SAM_4897

Or you can bring out your inner-Martha side and pick fruits you can shape. Melons are great for this.

As you can see, I had a Valentine’s Day potluck for my writing center. Wanting to deliver a healthy treat, I picked the reds (no, not wine, strawberries!!) and used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to shape the pinks (watermelon, not kisses).

They were pretty adorable.SAM_4893

And they must have been good because I didn’t even get to try one. They were gone in a flash, and that just proves my theory on presentation and my theory on healthy choices. On presentation, that’s 50% of a good dish. On healthy choices, I don’t care when anyone grumbles, they always reach for it and appreciate it.SAM_4896