Category Archives: Appetizers

Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers & Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

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The countdown to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, has officially begun, which means the planning process is now in motion. Much like a vacation, I think I get more pleasure out of the planning and anticipation of the day than the feast itself (though that is a big part of it too). And the better planned your vacation, or Thanksgiving meal, the more smoothly and therefore enjoyable the day will be.

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My family is pretty traditional when it comes to the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, so I usually like to experiment with some of the sides and appetizers. These Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers with Chipotle Cranberry Sauce that I made on a recent Sunday afternoon while dozing through watching football would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu. They’re simple and can be made in advance (make the sauce a day ahead and just bake off the squash an hour before you’re ready to eat), so that’s one less thing to stress about when you’re juggling the turkey, potatoes, and pies. The tangy and spicy sauce perfectly complements the slightly sweet and nutty squash. Even better, they’re nice and light so you won’t feel weighed down before you even dig in to the big ol’ bird.

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Or, if you want some extra inspiration in finding the perfect recipe or planning your Thanksgiving meal, you can contact me – I’d love to make your day even more delicious!

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Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers & Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

2 acorn squash, cut into 1/2″ thick rounds

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup panko

8 sage leaves, chopped

3 egg whites, beaten

2/3 cup fat-free greek yogurt

2 tbsp half-and-half

1/3 cup cranberry sauce

10-20 dashes chipotle hot sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Peel the skin off the squash if desired.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the spices, flour, cornmeal, panko, and sage. Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Dredge the squash rounds in the egg and then coat in the panko mixture.
  5. Place on the baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Flip and bake 20 minutes more until golden and crispy.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the greek yogurt, half-and-half, cranberry sauce, and hot sauce until smooth.
  7. Serve the dippers hot or at room temperature with the sauce.

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

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Wowza! It has been quite the start to the week. Still coming off the excitement of this weekend’s news and working nonstop for a bunch of holiday catering orders, I feel like I haven’t had a chance to breathe. I am SO looking forward to some major R&R with my family this week in Rhode Island. I’ll be signing off the blog over the next week to take that much needed aforementioned breath and savor our holiday traditions, like panettonne french toast, sporting Emma’s annual Christmas knitwear gifts, and getting over-caffenated on our favorite local drink: the Chippi. I hope you’ll also be enjoying whatever your holiday traditions may be! In case you’re in holiday prep crunch time or looking for a fun and festive appetizer to add to your holiday traditions, try these Mini Chicken Pot Pies. I’ve made about 200 of them within the past few days at work and they’ve been a hit every time! Bon appetit and Happy Holidays!!

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

makes 1 dozen

Ingredients:

1 chicken breast, poached and cut into small pieces

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (corn, green beans, peas)

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 tbsp herbes de Provence

1 can Pillsbury biscuits

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix together cooked chicken, soup, veggies, and spices.

3. Open up the can of biscuits. Cut 6 biscuits in half so that you have 12 half moons. Flatten the half moons with the palm of your hand. Seal the ends of the half moon together and press down again to form a circle. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits. Line the muffin tin with your biscuit circles.

4. Spoon a generous dollop of the chicken mixture into each of the tins. Bake for 15 minutes until the biscuits puff up and are golden. Let sit 5 minutes before removing from the muffin tin and serving.

 

White Pizza Pull-Apart Bread

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Normally I like to start the week off with a post featuring a healthy, well-balanced recipe. One you can make Monday night and take for lunch the rest of the week. But Christmas is less than 2 weeks away and I am in full holiday chub gainage right now, so instead today I bring you this White Pizza Pull-Apart Bread.

Allie and Raven drove down yesterday to NJ for our now 3rd annual holiday hangout day. We finally put our mason jar cocktail shaker to use thanks to Raven’s dangerously smooth gin martinis, noshed on Syrah-soaked cheese from Trader Joe’s, watched and recited all of Home Alone, and also ate this bad boy…

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Garlicky, buttery, cheesy, and crusty – it’s all that you hoped pizza pull-apart bread would be. AND it comes together in about 5 minutes. Make this as a last minute appetizer for a holiday party this season and it will not disappoint.

White Pizza Pull-Apart Bread adapted from How Sweet It Is

1 sourdough or italian bread loaf

5 tbsp butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 1/2 cups shredded Italian cheese mix (We used Quattro Formaggio from Trader Joe’s, which has asiago, fontina, parmesan, and provolone.)

fresh basil leaves, julienned

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut a grid pattern into the top of the bread loaf, leaving about an inch uncut from the bottom of the loaf. Loosely tent with foil and bake for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic, grated Parmesan, and thyme. Stir.

3. Pour the butter mixture into the crevices of the bread. Next, gently stuff the bread with sun-dried tomatoes. Finally, stuff with shredded cheese and top loaf with more shredded cheese and some basil leaves.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Top with more freshly grated Parmesan and basil. Dig in hands first!

Ladies Who Brunch

I love going out for brunch in New York City, but sometimes it can be quite the scene. Few places take reservations, which can be a hassle if dining with more than 2 people (read: 1 hour + wait times); and the bill can quickly creep up if you’re not careful (“you mean those 4 mimosas weren’t included in the prix-fixe?!”).

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Sometimes a lazy brunch is all you and your hangover can handle, regardless of how much that bloody mary will cost you. But if you’ve got a strong cup of coffee and some time on your hands (or a few friends to help out), a DIY brunch is the perfect solution to NYC brunch scene woes.

My friend Bekah graciously offered to host a “brunch cooking class” at her lovely apartment this past weekend. With seven girls attending, I knew I’d have to create a menu with lots of food and, of course, lots of booze.

I wanted the menu to be classy (we are ladies, after all) and full of fresh spring flavors. Since we’d all be chipping in with the cooking, I knew I’d also want to pick dishes that could be served cold or a room temperature, so we wouldn’t be fighting over the stove. Here’s the menu I came up with:

Pesto, Tomato & Mozzarella Frittata

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Avocado & Radish Crostini

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Balsamic Strawberries with Feta & Basil

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Sparkling Grapefruit & Strawberry Sangria

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We divvied up each of the recipes into parts and then went to work! The group had a range of cooking knowledge and abilities; the more experienced cooks dove right in, while I helped out others with their cooking questions.

The cooking segment of the brunch went very smoothly and made the eating/drinking part even more satisfying after all our hard work. We all agreed that everything was delicious, but the sangria was the unanimous favorite (duh). I’ll be making this refreshing drink on the regular once warmer weather strikes!

If you’re also tired of the city brunch scene, hit me up to help you plan your own DIY brunch! I’ll help you come up with a menu, food shop, and can either prep and serve the meal for your guests, or make it an interactive class.

Pesto, Tomato & Mozzarella Frittata

serves 6-8

Ingredients:

8 eggs

1/3 cup prepared basil pesto

1 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded

2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 tsp olive oil

kosher salt + black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in pesto and 3/4-cup mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add egg mixture, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes.

4. Arrange tomato slices in an even layer and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

5. Bake in the oven until the frittata puffs up and eggs are just golden, 10-12 minutes. Let sit at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Can be served warm, cold or at room temperature.

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Avocado & Radish Crostini

makes about 15 crostini

Ingredients:

1 loaf French baguette

5-7 radishes, sliced into thin rounds

2 avocados

juice from 1 lemon

kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the baguette into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until just golden, about 5-6 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, mash the avocados with lemon juice and a pinch of salt to taste.

3. To assemble, spread a thin layer of the avocado on each crostini. Top with 2-3 radish slices and sprinkle with more salt.

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Balsamic Strawberries with Feta & Basil

serves 5-8 as a side

Ingredients:

3 cups strawberries, sliced

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

handful basil leaves, chiffonade

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1. Place sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toss to coat.

2. Sprinkle strawberries with basil and feta. Toss to combine and serve.

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Sparkling Grapefruit & Strawberry Sangria adapted from How Sweet Eats 

serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 bottle riesling

1 bottle prosecco

1 cup grapefruit juice

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup club soda

1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

1 grapefruit, sliced into rounds

1. First make the simple syrup. Combine sugar and water in a saucepot; bring to boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

2. Place strawberries and grapefruit in a pitcher. Add remaining ingredients and 1/2-cup simple syrup. Stir to combine and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve over ice.

A Feast Fit for Mad Men (or Mad Women)

Oh hello, Don Draper. Why yes, I’d love a drink.

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As you may know, this past Sunday night was the season premiere of Mad Men; which, besides The Great Gatsby remake (LEO! LEO! LEO!), I’ve been looking forward to since last year. So yea, I guess you could say I’m a big Mad Men fan. The costumes, Jon Hamm, hidden meanings everywhere, feminism (go Peggy!), Jon Hamm – what’s not to love?!

It’s now become a bit of a tradition between my friend Elana and me to cook up a retro-themed feast to gorge on while we (mostly me) swoon over Don. Last year we went classic 1950’s with deviled eggs, onion dip & chips, and mint juleps. This year we stayed in the 50s/60s era, but decided to amp up the flavors a bit.

Instead of your typical deviled eggs, we sprung for Smitten Kitchen’s version: caesar salad deviled eggs. The garlic-anchovy breadcrumbs on top added a nice crunch and extra tangy-salty punch.

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Next up were our favorite spicy cocktail meatballs. These have quickly become one of my go-to recipes for entertaining. The spicy-sweet sauce is so addictive, and the meatballs are small enough that they’re easy to eat while socializing (or have your eyes glued to the TV).

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Finally, and not necessarily in theme, were chocolate brownie cookies from Joy the Baker. These treats really are the best of both worlds: a brownie and a cookie wrapped into one perfectly fudgy and chewy package.

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If I can’t transport to the 1950’s for a drink with Don Draper, I’ll just have to make do with a whiskey sour and 15 brownie cookies on my couch.

Spicy Cocktail Meatballs adapted from Food Network

serves a crowd

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork

1 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 eggs, beaten

1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped

3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the canned chipotles)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1-2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 scant cups ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar.

1. In a large bowl, gently mix together all ingredients for the meatballs except the olive oil. Using your hands is the best way to get a feel for when everything is incorporated without over mixing.

2. Roll the meatball mixture into 1-inch balls.

3. Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. In batches, cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, so they brown on all sides and cook through – about 5 minutes per batch. Add more olive oil to the pan between batches if needed. Place cooked meatballs on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

4. Heat the remaining olive oil in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until just translucent, about 8 minutes.

5. Add in crushed red pepper flakes and stir until slightly fragrant, 30 seconds-1 minute.

6. Add in remaining ingredients for the sauce. Stir to combine and reduce heat to low.

7. Add the meatballs to the pot and gently stir to coat in the sauce. Simmer 5-10 more minutes for the meatballs to heat through and absorb the sauce. Serve hot or cold!

Eating with Oscar

Okay, I know the Oscars are old news by now, but I had to share the impressive menu me and my friend Elana put together last week. We’re always looking for excuses to try out new recipes, whether it’s the Super Bowl, Mad Men or any awards show. This year we decided to really challenge ourselves and come up with a menu in theme with all of the best picture nominees. Not only were all of the dishes delicious, but the funny (and somewhat stretched) movie tie-ins made for some good laughs. From the bourbon punch to the french onion crostini, any of these recipes would be great for entertaining guests, regardless of the occasion.

The recipes we found were from two of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen and Feed Me Phoebe. If you don’t already follow them, you definitely should! Click the links below to get the original recipes.

Bourbon Punch with Mint → Beasts of the Southern Wild

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French Onion Crostini → Les Miserables + Amour

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Black Bean Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Crema → Lincoln + Django Unchained

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Hummus → Argo + Zero Dark Thirty

Naan → Life of Pi

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MMMBop & MMMTasty

I’m beginning to think I have an obsessive personality. Mostly in terms of entertainment, but nonetheless obsessive. It all began with Hanson in the 4th grade. Taylor Hanson’s high tenor had me hypnotized at the first “MMMBop. I had a pile three feet tall with every issue of Teen Bop and Tiger Beat that those three heads of luscious blonde locks ever did grace. I knew all of their birthdays, favorite colors, favorite foods. I knew more about Hanson than they knew about themselves. My greatest possession was a gigantic, wall-sized poster of the trio, which served as my audience while I danced and sang along to all of their songs. But the greatest testament of my love was the not one, but two Hanson concerts I went to, after which I cried for days because I was so devastated that it was over. I wasn’t your average teeny bopper, I was dedicated to the core. I lived and breathed Hanson.

While that enormous poster has been rolled up in the attic for some time now, I’ve found other outlets to latch my obsessive tendencies onto over the years: NSYNC, Britney Spears (still pretty obsessed with her), Harry Potter (also still in love with him). And most recently, The Hunger Games. As my friends and I waited inside the theater at 8:45 PM for the midnight movie debut, I actually had butterflies in my stomach. I was so overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation. Would it live up to the hype? What if I left disappointed? It was the same sort of nervous-excited I remember feeling at my first Hanson concert. To my stomach’s relief, the movie was all that I’d hoped it would be and left me wanting a loaf of bread kneaded by Peeta ❤

The only thing that could make Hunger Games week even better was… MAD MEN!!! Another current obsession of mine, and probably the most age appropriate. So to top off such an epic week, Elana and I decided it was totally necessary to make a Mad Men themed feast to celebrate. Complete with deviled eggs, homemade onion dip & Peeta chips (sorry, had to!), mint juleps, and a funfetti cake. I really couldn’t have asked for a better way to sign off the weekend. Well maybe with Peeta and/or Don. And a little MMMBop in the background.

Cilantro garlic pita chips, recipe at Epicurious 
Caramelized onion dip, also Epicurious
Deviled eggs, recipe adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen
Mint Juleps – Epicurious 
Funfetti – greatest ever boxed baked good