Archive for the ‘appetizer’ Category

Sam scored a bagful of jalapenos at the farmers’ market on Saturday with dreams of a get-together chowing down on jalapenos stuffed with cheesey goodness and wrapped with bacon. We chatted with Alex and decided that nachos and mojitos would be good accompaniments and so it was on for tonight.

The jalapenos were halved, lengthwise, seeded and deveined, stuffed with cream cheese (some mixed with chives), and then wrapped with half slices of bacon. These little devils were baked in as 375 degree oven for at least a half hour until the bacon looked thoroughtly cooked and we couldn’t stand the wait. At that point we retired to the patio, mojitos in hand, to enjoy the varying heat of the peppers. These were all from the same farm, presumably the same crop of plants, but there were some that were relatively tame and others that were hotter. Luckily, there were no killers in the bunch. (That’s happened before!)

While we were waiting for the jalapenos, we prepared the nacos. A nice, thick layer of taco chips on a half sheet pan, topped with cooked and drained ground beef, refried beans, diced canned green chilies, dollops of sour cream, grated jack and cheddar cheese, minced onion, and into the oven for 15 minutes at 350, until the cheese is melted and the whole thing is hot and too tempting for words.

We dug into those babies and made short work of them, washing them down with a second mojito. Love those more than margaritas. They are the only reason I grow mint. Of course, I wind up using the mint in other ways, but in the spring when I plant my herb garden, I think of mojitos and make sure to get a nice and healthy mint plant. (Be sure to plant mint in a pot, not in the garden, or it will take over. You will have mint enough for mojitos for everyone in the neighborhood.

What a nice evening it was. Kids and dogs running around, adults enjoying adult food and beverages, the weather pleasurable, and the end of summer fast approaching. I hope your Labor Day holiday had at least one day as great as today was for us.

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Our family has favorite Christmas foods that we anticipate each year. As we get together to celebrate the holidays, we share some of the same recipes from year to year with occasional new dishes making an appearance. 

Olive roll-ups (see below), stuffed mushrooms, twice-baked potatoes, broccoli-cauliflower salad always show up at our Christmas Eve feast. It wouldn’t seem right not to have Buche de Noel as we wait for Santa to deliver his treats. We’ve been making it for 30 years, with a few variations from time to time.

Christmas morning we often have a grits souffle that my mother used to fix, along with fried potatoes and onions, sausages and scrambled eggs. What a treat! After that we would waddle into the living room and collapse. 

Share with us some of your family’s traditions.




Olive Roll-Ups (Great make-ahead appetizer)

(Amounts depend on how many appetizers you need. Each slice of ham should give you 4 – 5 roll-ups.)

Boiled Ham or other uniform rectangular shaped thin ham slices

Soft Cream cheese, room temperature

1 t. horseradish or to taste per small container of cream cheese

Green pimento stuffed olives



1. Drain a small jar of olives and dry the olives with towels and set aside.

2. Mix a teaspoon of horseradish into the cream cheese. Stir until spreadable.

3. Dry both sides of a ham slice with towels and lay on cutting board.

4. Spread one side of ham with cream cheese mixture, thinly.

5. Cut ham slice lengthwise into strips, each slightly wider than an olive.

6. Lay an olive at one end of the ham strip and roll it up, securing with a toothpick.

7. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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We always have a big breakfast on Christmas morning for lots of the family. Sometimes we have just our immediate family and sometimes we are happy to have my sister and her husband visiting from New York. That was our treat this year with both of them here. They are world travellers and sometimes are  unable to get to Ohio for Christmas.  

My mother started the tradition of cooking a great grits souffle back in the 1970’s and some years we fix that because it is so darn good and seems like a real treat because we hardly ever fix it any other time of the year.  We had it last year but this year we tried something different.

My knitting pal Vicki gave me the recipe for a delicious egg casserole a few years ago and I decided to serve it Christmas morning. It easy to prepare the night before and requires an hour in the oven before serving. You will find the recipe at the bottom of this posting.
To go with the egg casserole, I bought a spiral-sliced honey crusted ham. I took several slices from the bone, laid them in an 11 x 7 baking dish and covered it with foil to heat up for 20 minutes or so. We also had broiled grapefruit with a crunchy topping, tomato juice, and coffee cakes. It was a great way to start the day.
Mix and set aside
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. corn flakes, crumbled
2 T. bacon fat
5 eggs till foamy
8 ounces of cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar or combo)
1/2 c. cottage cheese
1/3 c. milk
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 bag refrigerated shredded potatoes
Grease a pie pan. Pour in egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 325. 
Sprinkle pie pan with reserved bacon, cereal crumbs.
Bake 50 minutes.
I had eleven people for breakfast so I doubled the recipe and used a 9 X 13 pan. It was plenty and we even reheated it for breakfast the next day. Naturally, it was a little dry the second day, but we put some salsa on it and it was great.
 Thanks, Vicki.

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My daughter came up with a quick and easy appetizer last week. She gave me permission to share it with the “world” at least that part of the world that stumbles upon my humble writings.

It starts with fresh basil leaves, the larger, the better. I found a basil plant in a local nursery this year that has the most gigantic leaves I have ever seen. They are about the size of a 3 X 5 index card. The plant itself is about 18 inches tall, even though we have been harvesting from it and cutting it back for the past three months. I hope I can keep it alive in the house through the winter. It is a remarkable variety. I don’t know what it is but I will try to find out.

The next ingredient is mozzarella. Get the best, freshest that you can. Forget the ordinary “Kraft” like mozzarella. Find the freshest. Also, get good tomatoes.

Here is the recipe, straight from my daughter.

basil leaves (large as possible)
fresh mozzarella
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut the mozzarella either into small balls or cubes small enough to be enclosed in a basil leaf.

Cut tomatoes in half, then each half into slices, creating flat bite-size pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Take a basil leaf, put a small piece of cheese in it, then and a slice of tomato. Roll up the edges to create a little package and stick with a toothpick to hold it together.

Store in refrigerator for an hour if necessary or serve.

You can added small pieces of smoked salmon (lox) to give it more salty flavor and substance. Maybe a bit of salami would be good. Give it a try.

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Often we are invited to a potluck lunch or dinner and I occasionally bring vegies and dip. A well laid out platter of colorful fresh vegetables is not only a sight to behold, but a sight to be eaten. You can do all sorts of clever things with hollowed out bell peppers to hold dips, fancy roses carved from tomato peels or radishes. Be creative if you wish, and if you have the time. The best recommendation I can make, however, is to cut everything evenly, and make carrot and celery strips skinnier and shorter than you might initially think, maybe 1/2″ X 3″. People find slim carrot and celery sticks easier to eat. Be sure to de-string the celery even if you would leave it as is for yourself.

As for the other vegies, go for as many colors as possible. Broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper strips of all colors, and scallions usually show up on my vegetable trays. Don’t buy the all ready prepared trays from groceries. You have no idea how long they have been sitting around waiting. You also have no idea how well the vegies were cleaned. You can bet they weren’t cleaned as well as you would clean your own. Sure, it takes some time to do it right, but you will be preparing fresher cleaner and prettier food for yourself and your guests and family. I was totally grossed out recently to see celery sticks on a buffet table at a restaurant that were filthy! I mean big black hunks of who-knows-what on many of them. I still am disappointed in myself that I didn’t complain to the management. Do it right. People will notice that you took the extra time to make it special. I don’t bother with fancy garnishes, but I do try to make all the pieces uniform in size and shape where possible.

Some people prefer to blanch broccoli and cauliflower before adding them. I don’t find it necessary.

Now that you have a beautiful platter prepared, do you want to serve a savory dip to accompany it? I have two that I often make. One is the omnipresent dill dip and the other is my favorite, a tangy mustard/horseradish dip that would make a salad dressing as well. Try one, or both, next time you are preparing a vegetable platter.


This can easily be doubled or tripled

1/3 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. sour cream
1/2 t. dillweed, dried or 1 t. fresh, chopped
1 drop Tabasco, or to taste
1/4 t. Worcestershire
1/2 t. seasoned salt, (I use Lawry’s)
1/2 t. dried onion flakes, or 1 t. finely diced fresh onion
2 t. fresh parsley, finely snipped
black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients well. Cover and chill at least 4 hours. Can be made a day or 2 ahead.


1 c. mayonnaise
1 t. tarragon vinegar
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. horseradish
1 t. dry mustard
1 t. prepared yellow mustard
1 t. grated onion
1 t. curry powder

Mix all together, cover and chill. Can be made a day ahead.

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