Category Archives: Appetizers

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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Filed under Appetizers, Breads, Canning/Freezing, Condiments/Sauces

Bacon Jalapeño Scones

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Scones don’t have to just be a dessert food. Scone dough is perfectly suited to add savory ingredients and served for breakfast or brunch. Or as an accompaniment to soup, stew, or chili for dinner. These scones are stuffed full of bacon, green onions, gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, and chopped jalapenos.

I only used one jalapeño this time, which was hardly noticeable. Next time I will use 2-3. Heat levels of jalapeños vary widely, however, so it is wise to taste a small piece before committing to adding 3 full jalapeños.

You can eat these plain, slathered with butter or Clotted Cream, or topped with jam. I served them with a homemade sweet & spicy Mango Jalapeño Jam.

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To form the scones, transfer your dough to a well-floured surface and use your hands to shape dough into an 8” round disc about 3/4-inch thick.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 1

Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 wedges. This recipe makes 16 scones. Don’t make one large circle and cut into 16 pieces. Instead, divide dough in half and make 8 from each round.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 2

An important factor in getting light, airy scones is not working the dough more than necessary. An easy and effective way to cut your butter into the dry ingredients is to use a cheese grater to shred frozen butter into your dry ingredients and then mix only briefly. You want there to still be strands of visible butter. That is what will create the air pockets and layers in your scones.

Tip for adding butter: This recipe calls for 8 Tbs (1 stick) of butter. Freeze TWO  sticks, then take a pen and mark around the 4 Tbs line on each stick. (It is hard to grate slippery butter all the way down to the end of the stick without grating your fingers ) Fold back the paper on the sticks of butter to the line you’ve drawn.  Holding the paper-covered end of the butter, grate the butter directly into your dry ingredients (briefly stir occasionally so that you don’t have a big pile of butter in one spot). Stop grating when you get to the line where you’ve folded back your butter paper. I usually use the larger of the two grating hole sizes on the grater.

You can also grate butter that is just refrigerated, not frozen, but it will hold it’s consistency longer if you freeze it for about 30 minutes first.

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RECIPE:

Bacon Jalapeño Scones

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2 ½ cups flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter (freeze TWO sticks for 30 mins for easier grating)
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten lightly
½ cup chopped crisply-cooked bacon
¼ cup chopped green onion
2-3 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
2/3 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten + 2 Tbs heavy cream

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture to form coarse crumbs. Tip for adding butter: Freeze TWO sticks of butter, then take a pen and mark around the 4 Tbs line on each stick. (It is hard to grate slippery butter all the way down to the end of the stick without grating your fingers ) Fold back the paper on the sticks of butter to the line you’ve drawn.  Holding the paper-covered end of the butter, grate the butter directly into your dry ingredients (briefly stir occasionally so that you don’t have a big pile of butter in one spot). Stop grating when you get to the line where you’ve folded back your butter paper. I usually use the larger of the two grating hole sizes on the grater.

Mix together the buttermilk and the beaten eggs. Make a well in the center of the  flour mixture and stir in milk just until moistened.

In a small bowl, stir together the cooked bacon, green onions, jalapeños, and grated cheeses. Mix gently into the scone dough.

On a floured surface, knead dough lightly until evenly mixed. Divide the dough in half. Pat each dough half into an 8-inch round about 3/4 inch thick. Cut each circle into 8 wedges.

Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Place dough wedges on prepared sheets and place in freezer for 30 minutes to chill.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove scones from freezer and brush lightly with egg wash. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve plain or with butter, Clotted Cream, or Mango Jalapeño Jam.

Yield: 16 scones

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**TO FREEZE SCONES TO SERVE AT A LATER TIME:

Scones can be frozen either before or after baking.

To freeze before baking: Prepare scone dough. Cut scones and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. DO NOT brush with egg wash. Freeze until firm. Place into Ziploc bag or freezer container and store in freezer. Place frozen scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Brush tops of scones with egg wash. Bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes.

To freeze after baking: Prepare and bake scones. Cool completely and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Freeze until firm. Place into Ziploc bag or freezer container and store in freezer. Place frozen scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 300°F for 10-12 minutes.

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Filed under Appetizers, Breads, Breakfast/Brunch

Clotted Cream (in an Instant Pot)

Clotted Cream 3

Clotted cream is a delicious British condiment. Perfect for topping scones, muffins, cornbread, bagels: anything that you might put butter, cream cheese, or whipped cream on. Or try a dollop on oatmeal with fresh fruit for a wonderful breakfast treat.

Clotted cream’s texture and taste lie somewhere between whipped cream and butter. So: the best of both worlds.

Vanilla Scones 3

Clotted cream is made by heating cream and keeping it at a low temperature while the fat solids separate from the thinner milk and whey. Maintaining a consistent low heat for a long time is the perfect job for an Instant Pot.

The hardest part of making clotted cream is finding heavy cream that is NOT ultra-pasteurized. Most grocery stores in the US do not carry cream that isn’t ultra-pasteurized. (You can use regular pasteurized cream, but not ultra-pasteurized. The cream will not clot the same.) I bought mine at a local farmer’s market. Some Whole Foods stores also carry it.

**Save the thinner milk/whey that is left after separation to use in other recipes where you would use milk.

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RECIPE:

Clotted Cream (in an Instant Pot)

Clotted Cream 3

4 cups heavy cream, not ultra-pasteurized

1. Pour cream into the Instant Pot and close lid (use glass lid if you have one).
2. Set Instant Pot to Yogurt and then Boil (press the Yogurt button, then press Adjust until it says Boil).
3. When the Boil cycle finishes, use a thermometer to check that the cream has reached 180°F. Repeat step if cream has not reached 180°F.
4. Return lid (glass) to pot and press Keep Warm button. Leave at Keep Warm for 8 hours.
5. Turn off Instant Pot and set insert on a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature. Do not stir.
7. Cover with glass lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Do not stir.
8. Remove from fridge. The clotted cream will have thickened and risen above a layer of milk/whey.
9. Use a spoon to scoop out a small section of clotted cream from the side of the pot, and place in a bowl. Carefully pour off the milk/whey at the bottom of the pot (keep to use in other recipes that call for milk or whey). Scoop the remaining clotted cream out into bowl. Stir back in a little whey if you want a thinner texture.
10. Store clotted cream in the refrigerator or freezer. For a softer texture, remove clotted cream from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

 

Yield: about 2 cups clotted cream

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Filed under Appetizers, Breakfast/Brunch, Condiments/Sauces, Desserts, Instant Pot, Tips and Tutorials