Guacamole

There is no single better dip in the world (in my humble opinion) than homemade guacamole. I could probably sit down and finish off an entire bowl to myself! As I said, perfect for a dip, a topping for burgers or a topping for a tostada.

Guacamole

Ingredients:
3 large, ripe avocados
2 Tbs. white onion, minced
1-2 jalapenos, minced (you can remove the membranes and seeds if you don’t like it spicy)
3 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
juice of half a lime
salt

Directions:
1. Cut, peel and pit the avocados, and place into a small bowl.  (Good tutorial here)
2. Mash avocado with a fork, leaving a few larger chunks
3. Add the onion, jalapenos, cilantro and lime juice. Stir to combine
4. Salt to taste

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Caprese Bites

Not much to write about this one, the picture pretty much sums it up! I’ve done the caprese salad and the larger caprese skewers, but I wanted something more bit size for an appetizer. These were quick, easy and compact.

Caprese Bites

Ingredients:
One small container cherry tomatoes
One container small fresh mozzarella balls (called Ciliegine), halved
One large bunch basil leaves (the larger the better)
Salt/Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Directions:
1. Poke a small hole through the bottom of the basil leaf and thread the toothpick through so that the majority of the toothpick is resting on top of the basil leaf
2. Thread the cherry tomato and the mozzarella onto the toothpick
3. Bring the top of the basil leaf up and thread through the toothpick to create a “boat”
4. Arrange on a large platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar (optional)

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

If you are in need of a quick and easy appetizer recipe, here it is! It’s best made in the summer when you have access to fresher/more in season ingredients but making this in the winter did transport me back to summer (for a second anyway). This recipe is adapted from Simply Recipes and the original can be found here.
Ingredients:
1 french or sourdough baguette, sliced into half-inch size pieces
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes (I like the color, you can use regular on the vine too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. Olive Oil, plus 1 Tbs. for brushing the bread
1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
12-14 basil leaves, thinly sliced
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
1. Remove the seeds and juice from the tomatoes as much as possible. Chop tomatoes (you can remove the skin if you want, but I prefer to keep it on).
2. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. Place the olive oil side of the bread down on a baking sheet. Bake for 6-7 minutes on the top rack in the oven (or until edges brown)
3. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, 2 tsp. olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve tomato mixture with the bread olive oil side up*
 *You can serve this a few different ways, but if you are pre-loading the bread with the tomato mixture, be aware the bread could get soggy. The best way to serve is to have the bread on a platter with a spoon in the bowl to allow people to build their own.

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

So as it turns out, chicken wings aren’t that healthy for you – surprising, I know. All though nothing is quite as good during a football game, this easy and lighter recipe still satisfies my cravings for chicken wings… almost.

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Weight Watchers P+ 1 point for 2 meatballs

Ingredients:
1 pound lean ground chicken
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 egg white
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
1 1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups franks red hot buffalo wing sauce

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350
2. In a large bowl combine the chicken and then next 6 ingredients (through pepper).
3. Form the meatballs into 1 1/2 inch balls
4. Place the meatballs into a well greased mini cupcake tin. (If you don’t have one, use parchment paper on a cookie sheet)
5. Bake meatballs for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top
6. Let the meatballs cool for 10-15 minutes
7. In a medium size bowl, combine the sauce with the meatballs.
8. Serve with blue cheese dressing and carrot/celery sticks
(I didn’t get great pictures, so imagine a nicer presentation) 

Smoked Salmon Canapes

Well it’s over two weeks in to the “News Years Resolution Season” and if you’re still going strong, this is a good appetizer recipe for you. This recipe uses lower fat cream cheese and sour cream which cuts quite a bit of the calories, but not the flavor. You can either place the cream cheese and smoked salmon on top of rye bread or a slice of cucumber for an even lower calorie appetizer option.

Smoked Salmon Canapes (Makes about 35)
Weigh Watchers P+ (with cucumber) 1 point for 2 (with rye) 1 point for 1

Ingredients:
6 oz. 1/3 less fat onion cream cheese
2 Tbsp. low fat sour cream
3 oz smoked salmon
2 slices of rye bread (if you are using)
1 cucumber cut into 20 slices
dill (for garnish)

Directions
1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and cream cheese (leave the cream cheese out for a few minutes to let it warm to room temp)
2. Place the cream cheese mixture into a zip top sandwich bag
3. Arrange the cucumber/rye bread slices on a large platter
4. Snip the bottom corner of the bag off the sandwich bag to make a small opening to squeeze the cream cheese mixture out of
5. Squeeze about a 2 tsp. of the mixture onto the rye/cucumber slices
6. Place a small slice of the smoked salmon on each of the rye/cucumber slices and press down slightly to spread out the cream cheese
7. Top each with a bit of dill

Puff Pastry Cheese Sticks

I’ve been pretty behind with posts lately – the Christmas season will do that to ya! I wanted to get this recipe posted before New Years, in case anyone needed a good appetizer recipe. This has been a favorite in my family for the past couple of years… originally a Barefoot Contessa recipe, I made a few changes to kick up the flavor a few notches. The great thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever type of cheese or seasoning you want as the puff pastry provides a good canvas for most anything you can dream up.

The key is to finely grate whatever cheese you chose to use (unfortunately most cheese you buy pre-grated at the store is a bit too large, and usually falls off when you twist the sticks). I use a microplane which can be purchased almost anywhere these days, or you can use the smaller side of a box grater. Whatever seasoning you use make sure its chopped up fairly small – again larger chunks tend to fall off during twisting. One more tip – don’t skip the egg wash or you’ll end up with a pile of cheese/spices on the counter instead of the sticks.

Puffy Pastry Cheese Sticks – Makes about 20-24 sticks

Ingredients:
1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry – thawed (throw it in the fridge overnight)
Flour for dusting
1 large egg
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups finely grated swiss cheese
1  Tablespoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
2. Place one sheet of puff pastry on a floured cutting board. Roll the pastry out until it’s a tad bigger than a legal sized sheet of paper (about 10 inches by 12 inches)
3. Brush the sheet with the egg wash
4. Sprinkle the puff pastry with half of the parmesan, swiss cheese, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
5. Gently press the toppings into the puff pastry with the heal of your hand (this will help the ingredients stay on while twisting)
6. Cut the puff pastry into one inch strips (this should give you about 11-12 strips per sheet) with a sharp knife or pizza cutter
7. Twist each strip so that the ingredients are on the inside of the twist
8. Place each twist on a cookie sheet with parchment paper
9. Bake the sticks for 12-15 minutes (or until the sticks are slightly browned). Be careful not to over bake!
 The sticks are served best at room temperature. 

Chicken Wings

So I’m not really sure this qualifies as a recipe, but more of a how to. As it turns out, chicken wings are pretty easy to make and are a lot cheaper when made at home. They are relatively easy – the only real leg work is separating the wing. I forgot to take pictures of it but you can check out this video on youtube, it’s a really good how-to.
I had no idea, but there is an entire section in the grocery store dedicated to wing sauce, which is awesome. My boyfriend is more into the sweet and spicy sauce and I’m a fan of the original buffalo sauce so we selected Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce (Special shout out to Scott who gave me his super secret wing recipe) and Moore’s Honey BBQ Wing Sauce.
The Franks was a pretty typical buffalo sauce, not overwhelming spicy but a good flavor. The Honey BBQ was a perfect combo of sweet and spicy but it also had a faint hint of bbq flavor, not overwhelming.
Ingredients:
40 chicken wings – separated
2 cups wing sauce of choice (we did two kinds, so 1 cup of each sauce)

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
3. Bake the wings for 20 minutes (you don’t need to flip)
4. Let the wings cool for 3-4 minutes and place them in a large ziplock bag
5. Pour the sauce into the bag and shake making sure all the wings are coated
6. Pour into a bowl and serve with carrots, blue cheese and ranch

I love tomatoes!

Yep, I do. Probably more than Mexican food which is saying a lot. Tomatoes are finally starting to ripen in most of our gardens (I ate my first ripe one today). It reminded me of all of my favorite tomato recipes, call it tomato nostalgia if you will.  Our summer came so late here in Seattle that you can still find amazing tomatoes at the farmers markets and local organic heirlooms in the grocery store… score for me!

I have included links/recipes for some of my favorite tomato recipes. Enjoy!

Slow roasted tomatoes from Kalyn’s kitchen
Roasted tomato sauce from Champaign Taste
Tomatoes Provencal from Amy Cotler
Tomato and goat cheese tarts from Ina Garten
Panzanella from Ina Garten
Basic Marinara Sauce from Smitten Kitchen

Tomatoes with Basil and Mozzarella:

Ingredients

A few large heirloom tomatoes (or beefsteak if you can’t get heirlooms) sliced
As many basil leaves as you have tomato slices (sliced into ribbons if you’d like)
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (as many slices as you have tomato slices)
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Place tomatoes in a single layer on a platter, cover with a slice of mozzarella and the basil. Add a splash of olive oil over all tomatoes and a drop of vinegar on each tomato. Finish with a dash of salt and pepper.