Category Archives: Appetizers

Satay Chicken

Satay Chicken

While this is usually served as an appetizer in Thai restaurants, we like to give it center stage and serve it as a main course. It is easily one of Julia’s top 2 favorite meals.

Thin strips of chicken are marinated in a pungent blend of spices, and then glazed with a peanut sauce during the final minutes of cooking.

Traditionally, the chicken is threaded onto bamboo skewers before cooking. However, in the interest of time and ease, I usually skip the skewers.

These are great grilled outside, but can also be cooked quickly under a broiler.

Serve with cooked rice and additional peanut sauce for dipping.

RECIPE:

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Seven Layer Dip

Seven Layer Dip

We are going old-school today, with a seven layer dip straight out of the 80’s. Sometimes the classics are worth a revisit.

I like the spiciness turned up a notch, so I use spicy refried beans mixed with diced canned chiles. But since there are a lot of flavors going on in here, I stick with a simple guacamole: avocados, lime juice, and salt.

Technically, there are more than 7 ingredient layers in this chilled dip, but the olives, green onions, and diced jalapenos aren’t really distinct layers  so I count them all as one layer.

This makes an easy appetizer to assemble ahead of time and then pull out for the big game!

RECIPE: Continue reading

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Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

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As the weather warms, these fresh spring rolls make a perfect appetizer or light main dish.

Fresh spring rolls are made with a thin rice paper wrapper and a combination of thinly sliced vegetables, proteins, noodles, and herbs. The hardest part about making them is seeing the wrapper once you wet it. They are very thin and almost transparent when wet. And chopping-these do involve a lot of vegetable chopping.

To make the rolls:

Fill a large shallow bowl (or plate with a rimmed edge) with warm water. Dip one piece of rice paper into the water, just until the wrapper begins to soften (about 15 seconds); make sure to wet entire piece. Lay the wrapper on a separate plate, textured side up, with a small edge hanging off of the plate (this will make it easier to start rolling). Don’t wet more than one wrapper at a time; they will quickly stick together.

Place a combination of desired vegetables, protein/noodles, and herbs on the bottom part of the rice paper. Fold the bottom edge of the rice paper over the filling and roll tightly once or twice. Fold in the two sides and then continue rolling completely.

Fresh spring rolls should be served the same day as making then. If you do need to store leftovers, store rolls (not touching) in a single layer; the rice paper gets sticky as it starts to dry and they will stick together if stored in layers.

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Below are ideas for vegetable, protein, noodle, and herb  fillings that can be used, and recipes for various dipping sauces. Pictured above are Spicy Sesame, Creamy Peanut, and Sweet Chili Hoisin Dipping Sauces.

RECIPES:

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Eleventh Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Slow Roasted Spiced Almonds

Slow Roasted Spiced Almonds 1

DAY 7: Slow Roasted Spiced Almonds

Not a cookie, but perfect for Christmas snacking when you need something savory to counterbalance all of the sugar. These also make a great gift for friends and neighbors.

Slow Roasted Spiced Almonds 2

RECIPE:

Slow Roasted Spiced Almonds

  • Servings: 18 ½-cup servings
  • Print

Slow Roasted Spiced Almonds 1

¼ cup coconut oil or butter
4 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Sriracha
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground mustard
9 cups (3 lb) whole raw almonds

Preheat oven to 250°F.

In a Pyrex measuring cup, melt coconut oil or butter in the microwave. Stir in seasonings. Place almonds in a large mixing bowl and pour seasoning mixture over the nuts. Stir with a rubber spatula until nuts are well coated.

Spread nuts in a single layer on a very large baking sheet (or use 2 medium baking sheets). Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Taste nuts and sprinkle with additional sea salt (½ – 1 tsp), to taste. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 9 cups

NOTE: Almonds can also be roasted at 350°F for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.

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Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

A Caprese Salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled summer meats: chicken, steaks, pork, even hamburgers. Made with summer fresh tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella, and a reduced balsamic glaze, it just screams summer and healthy eating.

Caprese Salad 1

I like to make a “chopped” version of the salad with various cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella pearls. I drizzle this with some extra-virgin olive oil and serve the balsamic reduction on the side so that the tomatoes and cheese don’t soak up too much vinegar before serving.

I love these little “mozzarella pearls”. They are perfectly bite-sized:

Image result for mozzarella pearls   Pearls

If you are short on time, you can serve this with straight balsamic vinegar, but it is so worth the little time it takes to reduce the vinegar to a stronger syrupy consistency. I usually reduce an entire bottle of vinegar and then store the left-overs  in the refrigerator. You can also infuse some delicious flavors into your reduction while you are at it, things like fresh herbs and garlic. Some people add additional honey or sweetener to the reduction, but I find balsamic vinegar to be plenty sweet without additional sweetener.

If you don’t want to do the chopped version of this salad, you can also make it in the more traditional format with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella:

Caprese Salad 3

Tomorrow we officially begin our summer break (after a final half-day of school). This salad will be a frequent side dish on our table.

Caprese Salad 2

RECIPE:

Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup mozzarella pearls
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced in thin strips (chiffonade)
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
about ¼ cup Balsamic Reduction

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper. Serve Balsamic Reduction on the side to be drizzled over salad just before eating.

Balsamic Reduction

1 (16 oz) bottle balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs honey, optional (I DO NOT add honey)
2 whole cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vinegar reduces by about half and thickens to a thin syrup. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Remove garlic, bay leaf, and herbs (strain if necessary). Cool. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 cup glaze

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Mango Jalapeño Jam

Mango Jalapeno Jam 1

Slightly sweet, slightly spicy. Perfectly versatile.

Serve it with savory scones, like these Bacon Jalapeño Scones:

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 5

Use it instead of apricot jam in this Apricot (Mango) Glazed Chicken:

Apricot Chicken 1

Serve it with these Indian Samosas:

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Heat the jam until warm and dip Chicken Taquitos in it:

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-Bake it with Brie wrapped in puff pastry dough for a delicious appetizer. Or cut pastry dough into squares and press dough into a well-greased mini muffin pan; place a square of Brie in the center and top with ½ tsp jam. Bake until browned.

-Spread it over a block of cream cheese or goat cheese and serve with crackers.

-Spread it between tortillas, along with grilled chicken and cheese, and grill for amazing quesadillas.

-Spread it on an English muffin and top with egg, cheese, and bacon for a breakfast sandwich with a kick.

-Add it to a grilled cheese sandwich.

-Spread it on a sandwich of leftover roast turkey or chicken.

-Add it to a marinade for roast pork or grilled chicken.

RECIPE:

Mango Jalapeño Jam

Yield: About 7 half-pint jars

Mango Jalapeno Jam 1

3 lb peeled and seeded mangos (weigh after peeling/seeding), about 6 cups
6-7 oz (about 6-7 whole) jalapeños
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
4 ¼ cups sugar, divided
1 box low-sugar pectin

Chop mangos in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pureed. You should end up with about 5 cups finely chopped mango. Pour into a large pot.

Use the food processor to finely chop the jalapeños. Leave the seeds/ribs in the jalapeños for a more spicy jam; remove them for a milder jam. Add to the pot along with the vinegar, and 4 cups of sugar.

Bring to a full rolling boil, reduce heat to medium, and boil for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the pectin and ¼ cup sugar. Add pectin mixture to the pot and return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 2 additional minutes.

Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized jars. Wipe rims of jars with a damp cloth and add lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling bath canner for 10 minutes for half-pint jars. Remove from canner and place on a towel on kitchen countertop. Let sit 24 hours. Check seals before storing on pantry shelf.

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