Appetizers, Salads

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Bites

The first official weekend of summer is finally upon us. Take a deep breath and let the beauty of that first sentence sink in … aahhhhh.

IMG_4453

Now, cube watermelon, crumble feta cheese, tear mint leaves, and assemble this lovely and straightforward gem of a summer dish. Wonderful as an appetizer or a salad. If you’re making this into a salad, place all of the ingredients into a bowl and toss together.

These three ingredients blend perfectly. Summer. Easy. Beautiful. Simple. Delicious.

You can’t mess this up … unless you use pre crumbled feta cheese … NEVER use pre crumbled feta. (Emily Always Cooks PSA announcement.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 watermelon, rind discarded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz block feta cheese
  • Fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Place watermelon pieces onto a plate or platter.
  2. Sprinkle/top with feta cheese.
  3. Top with fresh mint.

 

 

 

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Appetizers

Last-Minute Appetizer Recipes To The Rescue

Looking for a last-minute appetizer to serve at your upcoming holiday party?  I’ve got you covered.

These recipes will keep your guests happy and make it seem like you are the ultimate hostess. Because you are!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Andouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping Sauce

Andouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping Sauce

Baked Brie with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Thyme

Baked Brie

Cucumber, Whipped Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomato Bites

Cucumber, Whipped Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomato Bites

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

Zucchini Ribbon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Zucchini Ribbon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Lamb Meatball Lettuce Cups with Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

Lamb Meatball Lettuce Cups with Tzatziki Sauce

Appetizers, Salads

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-2

 

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder was right on.

The freshness of your ingredients – heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, fresh basil – make this simple salad so beautiful and delicious. Ideal for late summer gatherings with friends or family.  Pair with a good bottle of wine and fresh bread.

A simple post for a simple salad. I’d like to think Laura would wholeheartedly enjoy this. I’m certain you will.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-1Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese SaladHeirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-3

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 2 balls burrata cheese (8 ounces total), torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash, dry, and slice tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices.  Discard ends and season tomato slices with salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange tomatoes on a platter, overlapping slightly.  Top with burrata and fresh basil.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Servings: 4 (side-dish) or 2 (main-dish with some crusty bread)

Appetizers, Main Course Recipes

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

I don’t cook mussels at home often enough. But, I did this past Friday. It was glorious.

Elegant, affordable, readily available, and a breeze to make. From the fridge to dinner table, the mussels are ready to devour in just 20 minutes. I paired this batch with white wine, garlic, parsley and lemon. Obviously, I had some good bread to soak up the broth.

A few tips about buying, storing, and cleaning:

Buying: When you’re at the fish market, make sure the mussels are kept over ice and that their shells are glistening with moisture. The shells should be tightly closed. The mussels should smell briny, like the ocean. Mussels are living creatures, so they will still be alive when you buy them at the store. (Don’t worry, they don’t bite) Though wild mussels are available in certain markets, the vast majority of mussels you’ll find at the market are farm-raised.

Storing: Mussels are best if cooked within a few hours of purchasing. If you can’t do that, they’ll be fine for a few days in the fridge. If you need to store them, place the mussels in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel to keep the mussels protected and moist, and store in the fridge. The mussels need to breathe, so don’t store them in an airtight container or in water.

Cleaning: Mussels attach themselves to stable surfaces using thin sticky membranes referred to as “beards.”  Most farm-raised mussels will come debearded, but odds are good you’ll find a couple of stubborn beards left over.  Look for a group of short brown strings coming out on one side of the mussel where the two halves of the shell close. This is the “beard.” Grip these strings with your fingers and tug gently from side to side. As you tug, the strings will pull out and detach from the shell. If you have trouble gripping the beard with your fingers, a dry paper towel usually does the trick.

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and ParsleySteamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

On to the recipe …

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds mussels. Prince Edward Island (PEI) are my favorite.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you want spicy)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Lemon wedges, to garnish
  • Crusty bread, to serve

Directions:

  1. Rinse the mussels in a strainer and check them over. If you feel any muddy spots, rub under running water to remove.  All the mussels should be tightly closed. Discard any mussels with cracked shells. If the shell is open, tap the mussel lightly against the counter. If the shell doesn’t close in a few minutes, discard the mussel. Do a quick check for beards.  If any beards are still attached, remove and discard.
  2. Now you’re ready to start cooking. Warm butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add shallot and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes until shallot is translucent and garlic fragrant. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  3. Add mussels to the pot and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Pour chicken broth and white wine over the mussels and immediately cover pot with lid.  Cook, covered, for 5 minutes.  Shake the pan once or twice while cooking (with the lid on) to distribute mussels.
  4. After 5 minutes, the mussels should be fully cooked and open.  If not, return the lid to the pot and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice and fresh parsley and give the mussels a good stir. This coats the mussels in the shallots, garlic and broth. Remove and discard any mussels that have not fully opened at this point.
  6. Serve mussels straight out of the pot in the middle of the table, or pour mussels and broth into 4 large bowls. Serve with extra lemon wedges, and crusty bread for mopping up the broth.

Servings: 4 (1 pound per serving)

Appetizers, Sandwiches

Smoked Trout Salad

Smoked Trout Salad

 

It’s been said before. It’s awfully true … Food is memories.

When I was growing up, many a Friday in the winter meant one thing to me.  Roooooad trip!  We’d get out of school at 2:30 pm.  By 3:00 pm, the car was packed and we were heading north.  Skis and snowboards on the roof. Duffel bags squished into every nook and cranny (usually a friend or two in tow).  On the way up, we would stop at this little gas station that sold the best locally smoked fish.  We typically stocked up on salmon, whitefish, and trout for the weekend.  I still remember the smell of the fish smoking in the parking lot.  I’ll never forget the laughter and excitement in the car as we reached our final destination.

I haven’t actually returned to that northern Michigan gas station in years.  However, I’ve found a famous local gem which “brings me back.”  Calumet Fisheries, located on the calumet river – south side of Chicago, hot smokes their fish on site using special oak logs.  This place deserves a visit if you live in the Chicago area.  Check it out.  I made a trip last weekend and stocked up on some of my favorites.  Smoked trout, salmon, and shrimp.  This fabulous smoked trout salad was a result of said trip.

Smoked Trout SaladSmoked Trout SaladSmoked Trout Salad

 

Almost comically easy to prepare – mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a medium bowl.  Add in the smoked trout, shallot, and celery, stir to combine and serve one of 2 ways:

  1. Loaded high on top of an open face bagel topped with fresh dill and thinly sliced cucumber
  2. Served as a dip along side homemade everything bagel chips and veggies

A new regular in my meal rotation. Delicious morning, noon or night.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for introducing smoked fish into my diet at a young age.  Food is, indeed, memories.  In this case, they’re both great.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb smoked trout, skin and bones removed, flaked (I yielded 1 3/4 cups flaked fish)
  • 2 small shallots (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Add trout, shallot, and celery. Stir to combine.
  3. Serve on a toasted bagel with thinly sliced cucumbers and fresh dill or with homemade everything bagel chips (recipe below) and cucumber coins.
  4. To make homemade everything bagel chips – thinly slice a bagel into 6 slices, spray both sides with olive oil spray and season with salt. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through.  Allow to completely cool and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.  Worth the effort, trust me.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Smoked Trout Salad

Appetizers

Tequila Lime “Margarita” Chicken Wings and Southwest Ranch Dipping Sauce

Tequila Lime "Margarita" Chicken Wings and Southwestern Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

Wasted away again in Margarita-wing-ville …

Tequila Lime "Margarita" Chicken Wings and Southwestern Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

I know, a Jimmy Buffet reference. Gimmie a break, though.  It’s Sunday afternoon, I’ve got a bit of writers block going on, and I just made wings that literally taste like a top shelf margarita. (And I just got a manicure … see those pretty nails?)

Tequila Lime "Margarita" Chicken Wings and Southwestern Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

All excuses for literary creativity aside, these wings are really good and really unique.  The tequila and lime hit you right off the bat, while the heat from the jalapeno and chili powder slowly sneak in.  Dip ’em in the vibrant green sauce and you’ve got a meal any Jimmy Buffet fan would be more than happy to devour.  If you’re not a Jimmy Buffet fan, then just pretend you didn’t read the above and know that these wings are delicious.

Tequila Lime "Margarita" Chicken Wings and Southwestern Ranch Dipping SauceTequila Lime "Margarita" Chicken Wings and Southwestern Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

Chicken Wing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 limes)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • A small handful fresh cilantro
  • 3 lbs chicken wings, split at the joint, tips removed

Southwestern Ranch Dipping Sauce Ingredients:

  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2-3 tbsp Ranch dressing mix
  • A pinch of salt

Directions:

First, make the chicken marinade.  Combine tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and cilantro in a blender or food processor.  Blend until all ingredients have been chopped, 2 minutes.  In a large bowl combine the chicken wings and the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours and if possible, overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Place baking rack on top of foil.  Place wings on rack.

Transfer the marinade to a sauce pan.  Bring marinade to a vigorous boil over high heat for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Bake chicken for 45-50 minutes, turning chicken and basting with reduced marinade multiple times throughout. Broil or throw on the grill for the last 5 minutes of cooking to crisp up the skin.

While wings are baking, combine dip ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.  If you double the recipe, no need to double the sauce.  There will be plenty leftover.

Sprinkle wings with freshly chopped cilantro to serve. Add a side of dipping sauce and plenty of napkins.

Serving: 6 (Serving size: 4-5)

Note:  Cooking alcohol in a pan over medium heat or when in the oven will reduce most of the alcohol through evaporation, but not all.  Do be aware, if you are serving children.

Thank you Casa Noble for sponsoring this post.

Tequila Lime "Margarita" Chicken Wings and Southwestern Ranch Dipping Sauce

Appetizers, Snacks

Andouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping Sauce

Andouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping Sauce

 

You know the “This Little Piggy” nursery rhyme, don’t you?  Of course you do.  You’re saying it to yourself right now … Well, these little piggies waited to mature into sophisticated, tasty pigs before they went to the market.  That said, they still love the simple pleasure of cuddling into a blanket.

(Now that I’ve got my somewhat awkward pig-to-human analogy out of they way, lets get to how easy these are to make.)

Sophisticated, yet only 5 ingredients!  Andouille sausage is wrapped in puff pastry, sliced into rounds, and baked until golden.  The Andouille is bit spicy.  Thus, the sweet, cooling, addictive chutney and mustard dipping sauce is a must.  These morsels get consumed in high volume, so be sure to make plenty.

Sophistication combined with simplicity.  If you think about it, aren’t we all trying to achieve that? (Just say yes, and agree with me.)

Enjoy.  Happy New Year!

Andouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping SauceAndouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping SauceAndouille Pigs in a Blanket with Chutney Mustard Dipping Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces all-butter puff pastry, thawed and cut into four 5-inch squares
  • 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
  • 4 andouille sausages (3 ounces each), I used Kayem Artisan Andouille Sausage
  • 1/4 cup mango ginger chutney, or your favorite chutney
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and position a rack in the center of the oven.  Arrange the puff pastry squares on a work surface and brush the top edges with the egg wash.  Place the sausages on the bottom edges and roll up the pastry, pressing the edges to seal. Freeze the logs for 10 minutes, or until firm.
  2. Cut the logs into 1/2-inch slices, discarding the end pieces, and place them in a 24 cup mini muffin pan.  Each sausage should yield 6 pieces.  Bake for 25 minutes, until golden and sizzling.
  3. Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the chutney and mustard just until the chutney is chopped.
  4. Serve pigs in a blanket warm with dipping sauce.

Thank you Kayem for supplying the Artisan Andouille Sausage for this post.  They were a real treat!