Category Archives: Appetizers

Party Time!

So this past weekend was spent celebrating my best friend’s last few weeks as a ‘single lady!’ The wedding is set for May 11, and is rapidly approaching! The bride and groom decided to do a combination bachelor/bachelorette party weekend and have events planned throughout the entire weekend. Friday night we all went out together to an Irish bar called Fado where there ended up being a very good one man band! Of course, we stayed out just a little bit longer than we should have, which made for a fun Saturday morning, lol! Saturday’s events were all split up, boys going golfing and the girls getting manis and pedis! We followed up our nails with a boozy Italian lunch at Maggiano’s…just the thing we needed to bring us right back to normal! Saturday night, the ladies were all meeting by my apartment for some food, booze and gift opening before heading out for the evening. I planned my menu so I wouldn’t have to spend majority of the get together in the kitchen, taking things in and out of the oven, etc! I tried to plan a booze themed evening, filled with drunken gummy bears (highly recommended), jelly bean vodka for jellybean martinis (which I forgot to serve, it’s fine), Arnold Palmer Jello shots, Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, and Kahlua laced puppy chow! For food, I went with macaroni and cheese cupcakes (delicious but difficult to eat), a savory basil cheesecake (was nervous about this one but it turned out great), a vegetable pizza and some cucumber tea sandwiches. The food was just light enough to not overfill us up but heavy enough to help soak up some of the alcohol we were over-indulging in!

Car Bomb Cupcakes:

Recipe adapted from of Annie’s Eat’s Blog

Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
Ganache:
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 T butter
  • 3 t Kahlua (Annie’s Eats uses Baileys, which is thicker and creamier, so I just added more chocolate to thicken it up a little)!
Frosting:
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 T Kahlua (same as above, didn’t use Baileys, used Kahlua instead, went with the full 4 cups powdered sugar so it was thick enough)!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners. Combine the Guinness and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix together. In bowl of electric mixer, beat two eggs with creme fraiche, add in the Guinness butter mixture (this is why it’s important to let this cool or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs)! Slowly add in dry ingredients. Fill liners 3/4 full and bake 15-17 minutes.

For the ganache, heat heavy cream over low heat until just simmering. Pour over chocolate. Wait 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Add in butter and Kahlua and mix until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool completely. To speed this along, you can throw it in the fridge for about an hour, but be sure to check on it and give it a stir every so often.

For the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar, mix until fluffy and combined. Mix in Kahlua. I think that next time I make these, I will add cocoa powder to make a chocolate version!

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, cut out a portion of the center of each cupcake (I used an apple corer, just didn’t go all of the way through the bottom). Fill hole with ganache and top with frosting! Enjoy!

Basil Cheesecake:

Recipe adapted from Giada.

  • 4 ounces ricotta
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and rosemary (any herbs of your choice really, and this may not even be necessary)!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, fold in chopped basil and bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees!

Macaroni & Cheese Cupcakes:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 T butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 t dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 t garlic salt
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • pepper to taste
  • dash of oregano and thyme
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 ounces Velveeta, cut into cubes
  • broccoli florets
  • mushrooms
  • pancetta, diced (I used the pre-diced package from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 egg
  • Bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta until al dente, adding broccoli for last few minutes of cooking…drain pasta and broccoli. In a small saucepan, cook pancetta with some olive oil until nice and crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, keeping juices in pan. Add butter to pan of drippings, once melted, sprinkle with flour, cook about 2 minutes. Add in cream and milk, whisking until smooth and begins to thicken, about 5 or so minutes. Add in seasonings. Turn off heat and add in cheeses, whisking until melted. Add in pasta, pancetta, mushrooms and broccoli. Beat in one egg. Pour into lined muffin pan, cop with breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Bake 14-16 minutes or until golden on top and heated through. Next time  I make these, I will add in another egg so it binds better, these were kind of difficult to eat!

Veggie Pizza:

  • 2 packages crescent dough
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages Neuchâtel cheese, softened
  • 1/2 package ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1 t parsley
  • 1 t seasoning salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • chopped veggies
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Roll crescents onto greased baking sheet, pressing together all perforations, making one large rectangle. Bake as package directs and let cool completely (if you spread the Neuchâtel mixture onto warm crescents, it will become watery/runny). Mix together Neuchatel, ranch mix and seasonings until fluffy and combined. Spread over cooled crescent dough. Top with shredded cheese and any veggies you want. I went with broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, red, green and yellow peppers. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

Cucumber Tea Sammies:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • good, soft bread
  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • sprouts

In food processor, combine avocados, peas, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse to smooth and combined. Remove crust from bread, spread each slice with a generous helping of avocado mixture, top with cucumbers, carrots, and/or sprouts (or any combination of these you like, I mixed and matched with all three)! Form sandwich and cut into fours.

Arnold Palmer Jello Shots:

  • 1 package lemon jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chilled sweet tea vodka
  • 10 lemons, halved, juiced and insides removed (this is way more difficult than it sounds, honestly took me an hour to accomplish this)!

Combine boiling water and jello until jello dissolves. Once dissolved, add in cold sweet tea vodka. Stir a minute or so to combine. Pour into halved lemons. Set in the fridge to harden. Before serving, cut halves in half (into fourths).


For the drunken gummy bears, I just combined gummy bears with vodka, pouring in enough vodka to cover the bears, and put it in the fridge. After the first day, I had to add move vodka since they little guys soaked it all up! I added enough to cover them again and let them sit in the fridge for another 4 days. They swelled up and not only looked super cute but were also very delicious! For the jellybean vodka, I separated out the jellybeans into colors, and put red, orange and pink each in 1 1/2 cups of vodka and let them sit in the fridge for 3 or so days. I then drained the vodka and it would have been ready to drink/serve, had I remembered! Oops! And lastly, for the puppy chow, I just added in a few tablespoons of Kahlua to the chocolate, butter, peanut butter mixture before coating the chex cereal!

 

All in all, the menu was a hit and the weekend was amazing! After our get together the ladies headed out to Whiskey Sky, on top of the W hotel for some martinis and an amazing view! We then headed to one of the bride’s favorite piano bars, Zebra Lounge; a cute little place with the same piano player every night! We then headed to Vertigo Sky in the Dana hotel to meet up with the boys, making this quite a brief stop for the debacle it was to get in! And then finally, ending our night at Local 22 for some karaoke! Sunday, we met at 25 Degrees for some brunch and bottomless mimosas (as if this was necessary after the weekend we had)! We all collectively stated that we will definitely be returning to 25 Degrees. The food was delicious, the mimosas were continuously flowing and the atmosphere and staff were very nice and accommodating! So to recap, I will be recovering until Wednesday! No seriously though, fantastic weekend, well worth it, even if I am dragging today!

Advertisements

Easter!

Yes, I realize this post is a bit late but still wanted to share about our Easter anyways! We all went over to my brother’s house since they just recently had the new baby and wouldn’t have been able to celebrate with us otherwise. My gram has a problem with overdoing everything (no surprise there) so she ended up catering an entire home-cooked Easter dinner over to their house. Crazy, yes, delicious, yes, unnecessary, probably! In an effort to help her out, we all made little things to bring along. I was given the task of side dish, appetizers and a dessert. I went with a pesto cream cheese dip with homemade pesto, a buffalo chicken ring, cheesy potatoes, and a caramel pie with a chocolate pretzel crust. So here they are:

Pesto Dip:

Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup salted almonds
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Add almonds, garlic and arugula to nut grinder, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to incorporate/chop a little, then stream in olive oil until all blended, chopped finely enough for your liking. Pour into bowl, mix in parm.

For the dip, spread 1 (8-ounce) package of room temperature/softened cream cheese on the bottom of a serving bowl/platter. Top with homemade pesto and then diced cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with more parmesan. Serve with crackers, chips, pretzels, anything your little heart desires will do!!

Buffalo Chicken Ring (aka, the one ring to rule them all):

I got this recipe from my best friend’s fiance Joe, he emailed it to all of us asking one of us to please make it for him! Here is the website he sent us: http://jayesel.net/2011/11/10/recipe-buffalo-chicken-ring/

  • 2 crescent roll packages
  • 1-2 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/2 packet of ranch dressing mix
  • Frank’s to taste
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Boil chicken until cooked through, set aside to cool. Combine cream cheese and ranch packet, set aside. Mix shredded chicken, cream cheese mixture, and Frank’s to taste. Mix in celery and cheese. Open crescent packages and keep in two’s; on a pizza stone,  form a circle, overlapping the corners so it looks like this:

recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring

Fill the ring with the chicken mixture and fold over outer edges, seal to close, like so:

recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring   recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring

Bake about 20-25 minutes, until crescent dough is cooked through. BE CAREFUL, you will want to eat this immediately out of the oven because it is so incredibly delicious but it will burn the shit out of your mouth, I promise! Let cool before indulging!!

Cheesy Potatoes:

This is a Hover family favorite, definitely all the credit for this recipe goes to them! I also cannot remember for the life of me if I have already shared this recipe in a previous blog, but it is  definitely worthy enough for another post if I have!

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup (or 1 large can)
  • 1 medium container of sour cream
  • 1 bag frozen potatoes or hash browns
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat, add onions and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, in a very large bowl, mix together the cream of chicken soup, sour cream and 2 cups of the cheese. Add in potatoes and butter/onion mixture. Pour into a 9X13 baking dish, top with remaining 2 cups of cheese and bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Caramel Pie:

Emily made this pie for me and our friend Sisen a while back and it was sooo tasty, I had to try it myself (and her version was salted, which upped the tasty factor in my book)! Instead of salting the caramel, I decided to add the salty element into the crust. Warning, this recipe did not turn out how it was supposed, I should definitely have practiced this one ahead of time! It was still delicious however presentation was seriously lacking!

  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups chopped pretzels
  • 6 ounces chocolate, melted
  • 5 T butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together melted chocolate, melted butter and pretzel crumbs. Press into bottom and up sides of a greased 9-inch pie plate. Pour sweetened condensed milk into crust, bake for 1 1/2 hours, COVERED WITH FOIL! This was my big mistake, I did not cover until half way through which caused a lovely burned topping of my pie. Luckily, this was easy to salvage by removing the burnt top and exposing the wonderfully cooked caramel underneath! I also disguised this by adding some crushed pretzel crumbs and drizzled chocolate on top.

It’s That Time of Year Again!

The time I am talking about is of course pumpkin season! Just about everyone’s favorite time of year…coffee shops bring back the pumpkin lattes, donut shops and bakeries the pumpkin donuts and muffins, stores the canned pumpkin puree…all such wonderful things! I do have to say though, some coffee shops really fail on the pumpkin syrups and they end up tasting as if you’re drinking a melted down candle (Caribou and Julius Meinl I’m talking to you), but Starbuck’s you are exempt, yours is delicious! So my obsession with pumpkin hit an all time high the other year when canned pumpkin became a rare commodity…I ended up buying at least a can or two every trip to the grocery store and when all was said and done, I ended up with a stockpile of 15 + cans! Needless to say, I needed to come up with a few recipes/ways to use them! So to celebrate the season, here are a few of my favorites:

Pumpkin Sage Alfredo (courtesy of Emily Vandenbroucke):

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 16 fresh sage leaves (sliced into thin strips)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Combine the cream, puree, parmesan, sage, salt and pepper into medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. Simmer the mixture until slightly thickened (10 – 12 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in butter. Toss with cooked pasta and serve immediately.
Pumpkin Donuts:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or a Dash of ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil for deep-fat frying
  • Spiced Sugar
  1. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high seed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in pumpkin, buttermilk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour until well combined. Cover and chill 3 hours.
  2. Shape into balls or on a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut with floured 2-1/2-inch doughnut cutter  (if you are fancy enough to own one of these)!
  3. Fry doughnuts, 2 or 3 at a time, in deep, hot fat (365 degrees F) about 2-1/2 minutes or until golden, turning once. Using a slotted spoon, removed doughnuts from oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and doughnut holes. Coat warm doughnuts in Spiced Sugar.
  4. Spiced Sugar: In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Stuffed Pumpkin:
Pumpkin and cheese
  • 1 pumpkin, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • 4 ounces stale bread, sliced thin, then cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 4 ounces cheese ( Gruyère, Blue, or Goat are my favorites), shredded or cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Any other seasonings you like can be added! As can any type of meat or vegetable…
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Either line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Using a very sturdy knife, cut a cap off the top of the pumpkin. Clear away any seeds and strings from the cap and hold it aside while you scoop out the seeds and filaments inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper and put it on the sheet or in the casserole. Toss the bread, cheese and garlic together in a bowl, then pack it into the pumpkin. Season the cream with salt, pepper and several gratings of fresh nutmeg and pour the cream into the pumpkin. Put the cap back in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbly and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. I removed the cap during the last 20 minutes or so of baking so that the top could brown. Another variation on this is to stuff the pumpkin with a combination of ground beef, cream of mushroom, cheese and some veggies (broccoli, mushrooms, etc)! Really you can stuff anything that is normally baked in the oven into the pumpkin and cook it inside and scrape the insides of the pumpkin when serving!
I have plenty more pumpkin recipes so I’ll keep them coming throughout the season!! Here’s another I got from a patient, tried it last night…didn’t turn out as it was supposed to but was still absolutely amazing!! I can’t even imagine how sickeningly good these would be had they come out of the liners properly!
 Pumpkin Pie White Chocolate cups:
 
  • 10 oz good-quality chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips
  • [10 mini (2 inch) aluminum/tin foil muffin liners]
  • 2 oz (about 4 Tbsp) 1/3-less-fat Neuchâtel cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup finely ground cinnamon graham cracker crumbs (a food processor works best here)
  1. Melt chocolate in double boiler.
  2. Continuously stir the chocolate until completely melted. Remove bowl from the heat.
  3. Using a small spoon or pastry brush, “paint” the melted chocolate all over the insides of the 10 muffin liners (the tin foil cups are easier to peel off than the paper cups). The layer of chocolate should be thick enough so that you cannot see through it, but thin enough that the paper cups remain upright and intact. You will not use all of the melted chocolate in this step.
  4. Allow chocolate cups to cool and harden completely by placing on a tray in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You can also complete this step the night before.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese through vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Stir in graham cracker crumbs.
  6. Evenly divide the pumpkin mixture between the hardened chocolate cups., smoothing the top to create an even surface.
  7. If the remaining melted chocolate has hardened too much, simply repeat steps 1-2.
  8. Evenly divide the remaining melted chocolate amongst the filled cups, smoothing the tops and making sure the chocolate reaches all the way to the edges in order to seal the cups.
  9. Chill in the refrigerator until set, about 1-2 hours.
  10. Try to eat just 1 or 2, I bet you can’t!
  11. http://www.healthyfoodforliving.com/?p=14620 (this is the site the recipe came from)!
When I made these, I think I used too small of liners (they didn’t have 2″ at the store so I got the 1 1/2″. I think going bigger would have been better in this situation! Mine don’t exactly peel out of the liners so easily! They were better today than last night however still some white chocolate stuck onto the wrappers, easy to lick right off though! I am going to try these again this weekend (since all but a few of mine have been eaten already, oops) so I’ll let you know if the liner size makes any difference! Oh and if you are not a white chocolate fan, do not fear this recipe, my husband despises white chocolate, but after much begging and convincing, I got him to try one and now he’s also addicted!

Deep Dish Throwdown!

While watching Food Network Sunday  (as I tend to do at least once a day), I caught a new Throwdown with Bobby Flay…where he challenged Mark Malnati (son of the famous Lou Malnati) to the ultimate deep-dish pizza challenge! I am not a super huge pizza fan, unless it’s deep dish! Regular thin or thick crust pizza does nothing for me! From the show, I learned a few important tips to making the best deep dish pie which I tried out for myself Sunday night. Apparently the secret is all in the dough, deep dish pizza dough has more fat in it (be it butter or oil) to make the dough extra soft and flaky. This is not the type of dough you toss up and twirl into the air, it is fragile and would probably rip, which was exactly what happened to Bobby on his first try. Secondly, the layering of ingredients completely surprised me…the order goes: dough, cheese (Malnati’s uses slices, not shredded mozzarella), toppings, then sauce. The slices melt so much better than shredded cheese, giving it that signature ooey, gooey, melty goodness that makes deep dish pizza so damn irresistible! Instead of picking up the phone and calling in a delivery, I opted to give making my own a try!

Lou's pizza!

I will admit that I cheated on the dough and used store bought Trader Joe’s dough. I didn’t think it was the right consistency but I figured I’d give it a shot anyways! I did however make my own sauce with fresh basil, oregano and parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, Parmesan and olive oil. There’s a pizza place in Battle Creek, Michigan that my husband is in love with, called Sir Pizza that makes one of the only thin crust pizzas I truly enjoy and he always orders hamburger, ham and mushroom. This was my inspiration for my filling! I fried up some diced pancetta (also courtesy of Trader Joe’s), set it aside and sauteed portobello mushrooms in the grease from the pancetta. Meanwhile, I browned some ground sirloin in olive oil, drained it and set it aside. To make the pizza, Josh rolled out the dough enough to fit into the deep dish pizza stone (if you don’t have one, a cast iron skillet or even a pie pan would work just as well), worked it up and over the sides of the pan. I then added two full layers of mozzarella cheese slices, the more cheese the better in my opinion! After that, I spread out the ground beef, pancetta and mushrooms. Finally topping that with the homemade sauce and a large sprinkling of Parmesan,and rolling the edges down to form a nice crust to hold in all of the luscious ingredients! I melted some butter and painted the edges of the crust and sprinkled them with Parmesan for a little extra dose of deliciousness! We baked it at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes and it came out perfectly! Tonight, I am going to make this again, however this time, I am going to make my own dough!

Our pizza...and sadly this was all that was left!

Considering we almost ate the entire thing, I would say it was yet another success! Hopefully it will get even better with homemade dough tonight!!