Tag Archives: party food

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

I hardly ever make appetizers since I don’t entertain much and I just don’t think to make appetizers for everyday meals. But when the opportunity presents itself, I love to make little bites of deliciousness. I made these little tomato bites last time I hosted my book club. So simple, so yummy. They didn’t last long!

Obviously making these at the height of summer when the tomatoes and basil are ripe in the garden is the optimal situation. But luckily, cherry tomatoes and basil are available in the store year round and even in the winter, the cherry tomatoes are pretty tasty! I make my own pesto, but any store-bought variety would work as well in a pinch.

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Basil pesto (click here for my recipe or you can use whatever pesto floats your boat)
Cherry tomatoes

Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the tomato guts and discard them. Spoon or pipe in pesto (a ziplock bag with the corner cut off works great for this if you don’t have a piping bag).

And that’s it! You can chill these or leave at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers if you have any.

 

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Cornbread Jalapeño Poppers

I know you’ve been searching for that perfect thing to share with the gang while you watch football.  Or to eat all by yourself while you watch football.  Or while you watch Grey’s Anatomy.  Whatever floats your boat.  In any case, quality snackage is a priority!

I saw a similar recipe to this on Pinterest and added a few of my own touches.  They were easy to make, and soooo delicious!  If you don’t like it spicy, you probably won’t like these.  They definitely have a kick!  If you like the idea but not the heat, you could also use baby sweet peppers, or do a combo if you are making them for a group.

If you’re using jalapenos, I would definitely recommend wearing gloves during preparation.  Otherwise, you may find yourself with stinging fingers for a bit.  I’ve often said I thought they should sell these in the produce department, right next to the peppers.  Alas, “they” don’t listen to me.  I found mine at the pharmacy.

Cornbread Jalapeno Poppers.  So good!

Cornbread Jalapeño Poppers. So good!

Cornbread Jalapeño Poppers

12 (or however many you want) jalapenos
1 box cornbread mix (I use Jiffy, but any will work)
Milk & eggs needed for mix (for Jiffy this is one egg and 1/3 cup of milk)
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup corn kernels
3-4 ounces cream cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Slice each jalapeno down the middle length-wise.

Slice the jalapenos.  I highly recommend wearing gloves.

Slice the jalapenos. I highly recommend wearing gloves.

Clean out the seeds and membranes.  As you can see, I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to this part.  I leave the stems on because it makes a nice little handle.

Little jalapeno boats.  They don't have to be perfect.

Little jalapeno boats. They don’t have to be perfect.

Smear the inside of each pepper with cream cheese.  You can use a spoon or knife, but I found it was easier to use my fingers.  Just grab a little bit and smoosh it in there.

This little touch definitely stepped up the yummy factor.  Mmmm!

This little touch definitely stepped up the yummy factor. Mmmm!

Mix up cornbread mixture according to package instructions.  Add honey and corn and stir to combine.  Put a little cornbread mixture in each pepper half.  Don’t overfill or it will spill out all over as it cooks.  I had a few that were more cornbread blob with jalapeno in there somewhere (still delicious but not as pretty).  I had a little leftover cornbread mix, so I made a few mini muffins for the non-pepper lovers.

Don't go crazy with the filling if you want attractive poppers.

Don’t go crazy with the filling if you want attractive poppers.

Bake for 15 minutes or so, until lightly browned on the top.

If you have any left in the morning, they make dandy scrambled eggs.  Simply chop up and scramble with a couple of eggs in a hot skillet.

Good morning to me!

Good morning to me!

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Shark Tale

Most people who have eaten at my table know that while I love to cook, I don’t really get into fancy presentation.  If it looks good and tastes good, that is enough for me.  You can keep your radish roses and curlicues and edible flowers.

But every once in a while, a special occasion calls for a little extra effort.  This is where I usually find a fun project that I’ve been dying to try and give it a go.  Recently for my aunt’s birthday, my mom threw her a luau-themed party.  Now, I’m not Hawaiian (note pasty pale skin and no dance moves), so I’m guessing this is not part of any authentic luau menu, but I thought the occasion called for a shark.

I like carving things.  At Halloween I’m the first to dive into the pumpkins (even before I had kids).  In art school I did all sorts of damage to myself carving linoleum blocks for printing.  Getting creative with carving is just plain fun.  And so…when I saw a photo of a watermelon shark, I knew it was going to happen at some point.

I know this looks fancy, but in reality, it was pretty easy to pull off!  You don’t have to be a master carver by any means. Give it a try and impress all your friends.

Shark!

Shark!

Watermelon Shark with Fruit Salad

Watermelon – go for longer oval shape rather than round
Pineapple
Grapes
Blueberry or chocolate chip

Slice off a small wedge at one end at an angle, so when you sit it on the flat part it leans a bit to one side.  Save the wedge – you’ll use it to cut a piece for the fin later.

Cut a big V shape out for the mouth.  One edge of the V is almost straight up, the other at a low angle – chomp!

Dig out all the watermelon flesh.  I did this by cutting around the inside edge and then slicing and scooping with a big spoon.  Then use the spoon or knife to scrape close to the sides (not all that different from cleaning a pumpkin but quite a bit easier).  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s nice to get all the edible stuff out so it can be eaten.  If you have loads of time, you can use a melon baller to do this, but I went more down and dirty and just hacked it all into bite sized chunks.  Set those aside.

Now you should have a watermelon shell with a big mouth cut in it and a hole in the bottom.  Good job!  Now take a small, sharp knife and score around the mouth about a half-inch or so from the edge all the way around.  Using the knife, cut away ONLY the green skin, leaving the white rind exposed.

Go slowly and slice off only the green outer layer.  If you score your outer line first it's easy to get a nice clean edge.

Go slowly and slice off only the green outer layer. If you score your outer line first it’s easy to get a nice clean edge.

Cut teeth out of the rind.  Very scary!

Close up of teeth carving.

Close up of teeth carving.

Carve a little diamond shape for the eye, inserting a blueberry or chocolate chip for the eyeball.  Cut a fin shape out of a piece of the rind you cut off.  I cut a little hole in the back of the shark and inserted it there so it would stay put.  Or you could use toothpicks to hold it in place if you prefer.

And here's your empty shark vessel.  Fill with fruit salad and wow all your friends!

And here’s your empty shark vessel. Fill with fruit salad and wow all your friends!

Chop up pineapple and de-stem grapes. Toss with the watermelon chunks and fill your shark.  Surround shark with fruit salad on the plate for a pretty presentation and you’re good to go!  You did it!

 

 

 

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Getting Springy with the Cupcakes

For my daughter’s 13th birthday (how did that happen??), we had a Spring theme.  Fruits, veggies, bright colors and flavors.  Pasta salad on a stick!  It was all good, but the best part was the cupcakes.  Not only were they delicious, but they were so darn fancy!

I’ll admit I used a box mix for the cake.  If you like to make cake from scratch, go ahead.  Since I was short on time, Ms. Crocker came to my rescue.  But the frosting was my own creation and let me tell you, with this frosting, cake is a complete afterthought anyway.  It’s so much better than anything you will buy in a can.  AND you can pronounce all the ingredients!

Since I was making these for two events – a sleepover and a party the next day, I made two batches of cupcakes.  Some large ones, and some mini cupcakes.  The large ones were perfect for butterflies and the mini cupcakes made beautiful bite size flowers.  So much fun and so delicious!

A little touch of Spring.  Hello Mr. Butterfly!

A little touch of Spring. Hello Mr. Butterfly!

Spring Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

24-48 cupcakes (I used a mix, but if you prefer you can use your favorite cake recipe)
2- 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 tbsp. raspberry syrup (I used syrup you’d use for coffee drinks, find it by the coffee & tea in the store)

For butterflies:
Small pretzel twists
Sour gummy worms

For flowers:
m&m’s or jelly beans
sliced almonds

Make cupcakes and set aside to cool.

Red Velvet and Triple Chocolate cupcakes cooling off.

Red Velvet and Triple Chocolate cupcakes cooling off.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together until creamy.  Add whipping cream and raspberry syrup.  Beat on medium high for 4-5 minutes until thick and fluffy and creamy.  Be sure to scrape down the sides from time to time.  Add more syrup for more of a more intense raspberry flavor if desired.  Frost cupcakes.  I scored some disposable piping bags with tips at Bed, Bath & Beyond that worked beautifully, but use whatever you’ve got. This easily made enough frosting for all of my cupcakes, with a little leftover for dipping…well whatever you want.

For butterflies, I used a gummy worm (sour ones are my favorite, plus they are pastel colored) for the body, and small pretzels for the wings!

So cute!

So cute!

For tiny flowers, use an m&m or jelly bean for the center, and place sliced almond “petals” around it in a circle.

So pretty!  And soooo tasty!

So pretty! And soooo tasty!

Present to your guests and prepare yourself for many accolades.  You may also want to plan an extra few minutes on the treadmill the next day to make up for all the scrumptious cupcakes you’ll probably eat!

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The Sleepover Solution: Build Your Own Pizza Bar

The giggling still echoes in my ears.  Four thirteen-year-old girls can make a lot of noise.  And apparently require almost no sleep.  In any case I know one thing:  A key element of a successful sleepover is the food.  The build your own pizza bar is one we’ve done a couple times and it’s always a rousing success.  Not only is it delicious, but it’s also a fun activity for the kids, no matter what age they are.

While this is perfect kid food, I’ve been known to do this with my grown up friends too.  Everybody gets just what they like, and it’s great if you have a group that includes vegetarians, or others on a special diet.  I love to use the little ciabatta rolls, or a french baguette cut into pieces. If you have gluten-free or low-carb folks in your group you can use gluten free buns, stuff toppings in a pepper half or toss with salad greens for a pizza salad.

We followed up with Frost Your Own Cupcakes for dessert. Yum!

Our masterpieces!

Our masterpieces!

Build Your Own Pizzas

Ciabatta rolls or French baguette, cut into 3-4″ pieces.
Pizza sauce
Pesto (I like to offer an alternative to tomato sauce in case of allergies, etc.)
Mozzarella
Assorted pizza toppings of your choice.  We used:
Banana pepper rings
Sliced red & yellow peppers
Pepperoni
Olives

The pizza bar.  It can be simple or elaborate.  Basic or gourmet.  It's up to you!

The pizza bar. It can be simple or elaborate. Basic or gourmet. It’s up to you!

Put all the ingredients out, make sure you have plenty of utensils for spreading and scooping ingredients.  Have everybody wash their hands first and then make their own pizzas.  Preheat the oven to 400˚.  Lay out a baking sheet or two on which to place the finished masterpieces.  I always recommend they put some sort of marker on their pizzas so they will know which ones are theirs, or just remember where they put it.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.  Remove from oven and let cool a minute or so.  Clear out while the hungry horde descends.

 

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Did Someone Say “Wrapped In Bacon”?

With the start of football season, my mind automatically turns to Super Bowl food.  Which, as it turns out, is good for just about any football game, not just the Super Bowl.  And before you ask, the answer is YES.  I like football, but I like football food even more!  Whether you enjoy the sport or not, any gathering with nice people and great food is going to be fun.  I don’t really care who wins, I just want to cheer and laugh and eat!

When I was married, I had the best mother-in-law a girl could ask for.  Known by my kids as “Mimi,” she has many fine qualities but cooking is not really something for which she is famous.  However, the one thing she did cook, she did brilliantly.  These hot dogs might very well be one of the most delicious, decadent things you’ve ever eaten on a bun.  But be warned, you will probably be ruined for regular hot dogs after this.

I realize this is a bit of a departure from my usual “leaning toward healthy” fare, but every once in a while you just have to indulge, and these are one of my guilty pleasure foods. I make them slightly healthier by using turkey dogs, but I’m all about the real bacon.  To save on calories, just skip the bun!

Mimi Dogs. Stuffed with pickles and cheese. Wrapped in bacon. Grilled to a crispy finish. My mouth is watering!

Mimi Dogs
(recipe from Mary Arnold)

Turkey hot dogs (plan on two per person)
Cheddar cheese, sliced in matchsticks
Dill pickles, sliced in matchsticks (I prefer the crunchy baby dills)
Bacon (you’ll need one slice per dog)
Toothpicks

Slice each hot dog down the center (don’t slice all the way through) and stuff with cheese and pickles.

Stuff with pickles and cheese.

Wrap one slice of bacon completely around the hot dog, sealing in the cheese and pickles.  Secure with a couple of toothpicks.

All wrapped up and ready for the grill.

Cook on the grill (or indoors on a grill pan) over medium heat.  Turn frequently to cook all sides.  Cook until bacon is completely cooked on all sides.

Yummy, crispy, gooey, and ready to eat!

Remove toothpicks before eating!  You can eat them just like this, or on a bun with your favorite condiments.  I like a little ketchup on mine.

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