Caprese Salad

One of my all time favorite summer flavor combinations is tomato & basil! There is nothing quite like a garden fresh, homegrown tomato and gorgeous, fresh basil leaves – add some fresh mozzarella and you have an amazing salad! We have had the nicest basil I have ever seen through our CSA and we have been thoroughly enjoying it.

I generally make my caprese salad fairly structured on a plate but you can make it however you like! The amount of ingredients are completely up to you – I used 4 small tomatoes and 3-4 ounces of cheese with about 12 large basil leaves on the salad below.

You can serve this with some sliced and toasted Italian bread rubbed with fresh garlic for a nod to bruschetta. Totally delicious!

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CAPRESE SALAD

Tomato
Basil
Fresh Mozzarella (usually available in the deli area)
Salt & Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar

Thinly slice the tomato(es) and fresh mozzarella. Chiffonade the basil (to do this: stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them together from the long side to the other long side and then thinly slice). Arrange the tomato and cheese in an alternating pattern on a plate. Sprinkle with the basil chiffonade. Freshly grind Salt & Pepper to taste. Drizzle with a good quality Balsamic Vinegar (I have some general use vinegar and then I have  some amazing vinegar that I reserve for uses such as this). Let stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Enjoy!

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10 Appetizer Ideas

One reader asked about hot appetizer ideas. IT seem that around this time of year, it is a popular pitch-in request! Personally, I love appetizers – they make a great, fun dinner and a festive start to a meal or contribution to a party. However, I don’t usually have a lot of time to spend on them so I have a few quick (but super tasty) recipes that I depend on!

1) BBQ meatballs or mini sausages (or both!) – I usually use pre-made, frozen meatballs…shhh…don’t tell. 🙂 Put them in your crockpot and pour your favorite, nice quality bbq sauce over it and cook on low.

2) Hot Chipped Beef dip – My mom’s recipe and definitely delicious! This is delicious with crackers!

3) Jalapeno Popper Dip – My boss made this last year and I LOVED it! This is my version of it. I serve it with crackers and cubed bread.

4) Baked Brie (pictured above) – You can find large wheels of brie fairly affordably at the large discount warehouses. I slice the top rind off and cover with any manner of things – jams, nuts & honey, or nuts, honey, & fruit. You can bake it until melty or you can even microwave it. Serve with sliced pears, apples, crackers, and bread. This is probably my most requested appetizer at family events. 🙂

5) Orange Cranberry Dip – You might notice a theme of dips but they are just so easy. I have one of the little dipper crockpots which makes keeping these warm and making them very easy.

She didn’t specifically ask for cold appetizers but here are five of my favorites:

1) Antipasti platter – an assortment of olives, marinated vegetables, cheese and cured meats. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you like! The marinated mozzarella above is easy and delicious!

2) Cheese ball & crackers – There are so many, many variations! You can  make a large cheese ball or small individual ones.

3) Cheese tray – Use 3-4 different cheeses and arrange on a platter. Garnish with grapes and assorted fresh fruit. Serve with crackers.

4) Hummus – You can make your own or buy it prepared! You can serve with fresh vegetables, pita, tortilla chips, and/or crackers.

5) Cream Cheese dip – Spread cream cheese on a plate, top with your favorite preserves (cherry is my favorite!). Serve with crackers.

What are your favorite appetizer recipes? Or what are your favorite appetizers to eat?

Appetizer: Grilled Stuffed Jalapeno Chilis

These were the star of dinner last week! They were easy and incredibly delicious. Don’t skip the sauce – it took the dish to a whole ‘notha level. The grill flavor and the melty, cheesy goodness with the slight heat/spice was perfection. The grilling of the jalapeno made these less spicy than I would have expected. The recipe says this serves 4 but really, this easily served 8 for us. Just writing this post makes me want to go make more – a winning recipe from Bobby Flay!

GRILLED STUFFED JALAPENO CHILIS W/GRILLED RED PEPPER-TOMATO SAUCE
From Bobby Flay/Food Network
Print This Recipe

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces soft goat cheese
4 ounces shredded aged white Cheddar cheese (I used regular sharp cheddar)
2 ears corn, grilled in husk and kernels removed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 jalapeno chiles, halved, stemmed and seeded
1 heaping tablespoon ancho chili powder
Grilled Red Pepper-Tomato Sauce, recipe follows

Heat grill to medium.

Whisk together the cream cheese and goat cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold in the Cheddar, corn and green onions and season with salt and pepper. Fill each jalapeno half with about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and sprinkle the top with some of the ancho powder.

Place on the grill, filling-side up and cook until slightly charred and tender, about 7 to 8 minutes. Spoon the red pepper sauce onto a platter and top with the jalapenos.

GRILLED RED PEPPER-TOMATO SAUCE

2 red peppers, grilled, peeled and chopped
2 plum tomatoes, grilled until charred on all sides, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the pepper, tomatoes, vinegar, honey and cilantro in a food processor and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add oil and season with salt and pepper.

Healthy Living: Black Bean Dip

Looking for a healthy dip alternative? I was – I wanted a guilt free dip that I could enjoy with vegetables or for a treat with tortilla chips. This recipe is the result and I was so pleased with the delicious, easy, healthy dip created with such simple ingredients!

BLACK BEAN DIP
Print This Recipe

2 cans black beans (1 drained, 1 not)
1/2 c. cilantro
1/2 tsp. lime zest
juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeno, cut into large chunks
1/2-1 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Chill before serving or serve at room temperature. Serve with prepared vegetables or tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Superbowl Snacks: Jalapeno Dip

We are being pounded with bad weather and ice here in Indiana and sadly, that means I don’t have a picture of this for you today – I simply didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand to make a batch. But, I have made it several times and I will add a picture as soon as I am able.

My family and friends can vouch for the delicious goodness of this recipe! I first had Jalapeno Dip this fall – my boss made something similar for an open house we had at work. It is not low in fat or calories so if you want a healthy superbowl party, look elsewhere.  But it is so easy and so popular with everyone – you may become a celebrity with this dip! 🙂 Oh and you can easily halve this recipe…but you won’t want to!

JALAPENO DIP
Print This Recipe

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (4 ounce) can sliced jalapenos – double if you want it spicier
1 cup bread crumbs (panko or regular)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted

In a food processor, add the first 6 ingredients and process until smooth. You do not need to drain either can of peppers. Spread the dip into a greased 2-quart casserole. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter; mix well. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip and bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for about 20 minutes. You want the top to get browned and the dip to be heated through and bubble gently on the edges.

Do not over cook this dish or the mayonnaise with separate and you will have a grease puddle in your dip. Serve with Butter crackers or a thinly sliced French baguette (my personal favorite).

Appetizer: Avocado Salsa

This week we will be featuring five days of yummy recipes that are perfect for your next game night or even your Superbowl party on Sunday! We hope you enjoy our collection of snack ideas and even a delicious chili that’s easy to make for a crowd.

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I’m kicking off this week with a light, fresh, delicious and terrifically easy salsa recipe. This would be perfect with any sort of Mexican dish or as a dip with chips or pita, but also I think lovely over a mixed green salad.

I found this recipe in The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, a wonderful cookbook I received for Christmas. The other day I wanted to jazz up my lunch of flounder and rice, so I decided to mix up Avocado Salsa to top the rice. Not only is it lovely to look at, but the taste combination is perfect. Though I must admit, fresh cilantro would have been better than the dried. Ah well, you use what you have.

AVOCADO SALSA
(from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)
Print This Recipe

2 large avocado, diced
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
2-3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
pinch sea salt, or to taste

Place all ingredients into a small bowl and gently mix. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.