appetizer

Cranberry Fig Brie Bites

This is a popular Christmas appetizer not only in our home, but with many families that I know.  The only difference with mine is, per usual, I kicked it up a notch with the addition of fig jam.  The jam adds just the right amount of sweetness that definitely offsets the tartness of the cranberries.

These truly are a perfect holiday treat that your guest will happily pop in their mouths throughout the evening.  Not to mention your happiness when this all comes together for you in about 25 minutes, prep AND baking time!  Feel free to change up the jams or cranberries for something more savory or spicy, plus toasted pecans are a fun topper to them too!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour for dusting the dough and cutting board
  • 1 (8oz) tube crescent dough
  • 1/2 cup fig preserves
  • 1 (8oz) wheel of brie cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish *remove prior to eating

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Sprinkle the flour down and roll out the crescent dough while pinching the seams together.  With a pizza cutter, cut the crescent roll dough into 24 equal-sized squares.  Gently press each piece of dough square into a 2″x2″ size and place in the muffin tin.

Spoon a small dollop of fig jam into the center of each crescent square, followed by a cube of brie, another dollop of cranberry sauce and a sprig of rosemary.  Bake until they’re a light, golden brown (about 12 minutes).  Serve warm.

CranberryBrieBites

Christmas on the “Ranch” Rollups

I just love this time of year!  Not only because of the family time, presents, décor or music, but also because of all the yummy appetizers to be had!

This one here is a cinch to make and looks great on your Christmas Eve buffet.  Its creamy, yet has great crunch from the fresh vegetables and tremendous flavor from the bacon and ranch seasoning.  Plus you can add in any additional veggies you may have on hand (shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, etc.), which is a great way to sneak in a little bit of extra nutrition for your picky eaters!  This is definitely family and kid-approved!

 

The Starting Lineup 

  • 4 large garden spinach herb flavored (green) tortillas
  • 2 (8oz) blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (1oz) packet Ranch Seasoning
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, Ranch seasoning, crumbled bacon, red bell pepper, green onions, jalapenos and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.

Spread an even amount of the cream cheese mixture over each tortilla.  Roll up like a jelly roll and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to overnight.  Slice each roll into 1″ pieces and arrange on a serving dish.  Enjoy!

RanchRollups

Puff Pastry Pecan Rolls with Bacon Caramel

These sticky buns are quite the guilty pleasure and one that needs to be taken advantage of!  They’re sweet, salty, and unlike your typical breakfast bun, these are made with puff pastry which gives a light and airy crunch to them, a la Baklava!  Plus, they have baaccooonnn!!  To answer the old age question, nothing, I repeat nothing, is better than bacon!

*Make sure to serve fresh and warm as the caramel will harden.  You can reheat them.

**These can also be made using your standard dough recipe for an equally delicious and softer bun!

***They’re also great as dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb bacon + grease
  • 1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 (17.5oz) package puff pastry (freezer aisle)
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place a 12-cup muffin tin on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cook the bacon slices until almost crispy, but not quite done.  Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.  Pour the bacon fat into a small pot.  Once the bacon is cool, crumble into small pieces.

Place the pot of bacon grease over medium-low heat.  Add 1 cup brown sugar and cook, whisking frequently, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes (the mixture will look granular).  Slowly stream in the maple syrup and whisk vigorously as the mixture begins to bubble.  Once the syrup comes together, add the cream and kosher salt.  Remove from the heat and whisk until all of the cream is incorporated.  Reserve until ready to use.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Unfold both sheets of puff pastry and arrange the sheets so that the fold lines run parallel to the counter edge.  Generously brush the sheets with the melted butter.  Combine the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the buttered sheets.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup crumbled bacon and some of the chopped pecans over the pastry.  Gently press the bacon and nuts into the sugar mixture with your palms.  Roll the pastry away from you, forming 2 tight logs.  Use a serrated knife to cut each log into 6 equal pieces.

Pour 1 Tablespoon of the caramel into each muffin cup.  Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon each crumbled bacon and chopped pecans.  Place sticky buns cut-side into caramel in each muffin cup and gently press down, maintaining the round shape.

Bake until the caramel bubbles and the buns are deeply golden brown, about 35 minutes.  Work quickly to release the sides of the buns from the muffin cups, using a small knife, as if you wait they will stick.  Carefully invert the muffin tin onto another baking sheet/serving tray.  Spoon any caramel that remains in the muffin tin over the buns.  Serve immediately.

PecanPuffPastry

 

Chicken Caesar Salad (Lightened-Up!)

If you’re like me, you loovvee a good Caesar salad.  Like a really good, restaurant-worthy one.  One that cannot be made with store bought, fake tasting nonsense.  If you’re also like me, you crave this salad more often than not, yet you know that hhmmm…they may be pretty darn fattening and you find yourself weighing the flavor over your waist.

Whelp, this easy (no raw egg even, especially if you’re ‘weird’ about that) version can be made for dinner in a quick 30 minutes!  You can get in your protein with the chicken and Greek yogurt based dressing without sacrificing ANY of the restaurant worthiness (<– not sure if that’s a word, but you get it.)!

*Feel free to sub the chicken for shrimp, or nothing at all!  By all means, use your backyard grill too!

The Starting Lineup

Chicken:

  • 1-1/2 lb(s) boneless, skinless thin-sliced chicken cutlets
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic power
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • hefty pinch of kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the “green can”, please!)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Garnish (optional):

  • Garlic croutons
  • Avocado slices
  • Bacon, chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved
  • Lemon Wedges

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the blackening seasoning for the chicken breasts.  On a lined sheet pan, swirl about two tablespoons of oil and place chicken, tossing to coat.  Heavily sprinkle on the blackening season, each side.

Place in the oven, turning once, for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through.  Allow to rest and thinly slice.  *By all means, if weather permits, grill outdoors for another great flavor!

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.  Make sure to taste to your preference (i.e. add more salt, always PLENTY of freshly cracked black pepper, thin with a bit more olive oil or lemon, etc..)

Prepare: In individual bowls, add in a cup of rinsed and patted dry romaine lettuce.  Top with the sliced, blackened chicken, more parmesan and croutons and avocado, bacon and/or lemon if desired.  Drizzle dressing overtop.  Enjoy!

Caeser

Green Chile Artichoke Dip

If you haven’t realized, I like to take classic recipes and give them a bit of a spin!  The typical artichoke dip is no exception.  I took the hot, cheesy concoction and amped it up with a couple cans of green chiles and diced hot peppers.  What was usually tasty, but quite bland, now has a real kick of flavor and your guests will love the welcome change!

*IF you have any leftover, you can served warm over grilled chicken breasts and rice.

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 cans diced green chiles, (one 4oz hot, one 7oz regular)
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1-2 fresh jalapenos, diced (I keep seeds in)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Drain the artichokes and pat dry.  In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients and transfer to an 8-inch cast iron pan (preferred, to hold in the heat) or 8×8 baking tin.

Place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly, and then pop under the broiler till the top is a golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips, baguette bread or fresh veggies.

GreenChileArtichokeDip

Quick Chicken Lettuce Wraps

For my fellow friends who follow me, one knows I do not care for traditional breakfast foods (even though I make it for my family every single day), nor am I too found of Chinese food.  I’m sorry, truly sorry, but it’s just not so great to me.  I love Japanese, even Thai, but not Chinese.  However…..IF I am going to surprise my husband with one of his favorite cuisines, THIS is what I make!  This recipe is super easy and quick!!  After 20 minutes, you’ll have chicken lettuce wraps that will rival the ‘you-know-who-restaurant’, plus are a lot healthier!  I like to serve them with either egg rolls or pot stickers.. or both (and a to-go order of sushi for me ;)!

*The teriyaki, hoisin, soy sauce and cornstarch can easily be found in gluten-free, in case of dietary restrictions.

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce (or sriracha)
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (can substitute tapioca starch or arrowroot for true gluten free)
  • 1-2 heads of butter lettuce, leaves washed and patted dry
  • 3 green onions, sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together the teriyaki sauce, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ground ginger and cornstarch.  Set aside, but give another whisk before ready to use.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil.  Add in the mushrooms till softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Add the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil to the hot pan and add the ground chicken, cooking until done.  *I like to use my hand-held potato masher to really break up the ground chicken into crumbles.  To the cooked chicken, add in the minced garlic and the mushrooms back in, followed by the basil leaves.

Re-whisk and pour the sauce that you made earlier over the cooked chicken mixture and thoroughly combine, cooking about 1 more minute.  Spoon into the lettuce leaves and sprinkle on the sliced green onions.  Enjoy!

*Serve alongside extra sriracha, soy sauce or make a double batch of the sauce you made in the beginning to dip or drizzle over.

QuickChickenLettuceWraps

Red, White & Bleu Potato Salad

America the Beautiful.  Those three words are the absolute truth!  I am a proud American who absolutely loves the 4th of July.  Even as a young child, I’m not sure what it was exactly that this holiday brought me so much joy, but its always been my favorite.  No pretty, wrapped presents are involved, no Santa, no costumes and candy from door-to-door, just family, fireworks and delish food!

Now, I have quite a few potato salad recipes, but as a lover of meat n’ potatoes, I love to pair them with the unique flavor of blue cheese!  I know, I know, it’s not for everyone.  However, if you love this cheese as much as myself, than rest assured, you’ll love this alongside your steak hot off the grill!  If blue cheese isn’t your think, feel free to switch it out for chunks of cheddar for an equally great salad!

 

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 lbs potatoes (I prefer red or baby purple potato medley for the appropriate 4th of July colors)
  • 1 package bacon, cooked & crumbled (reserve the grease)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup green onion, sliced
  • 2-3oz bleu cheese crumbles, to taste
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Cut each rinsed potato into rough 1″ chunks and add to a large stockpot of salted water, bring to a boil until they are fork tender.  Meanwhile, crisp up the bacon, then transfer to a paper towel lined plate while reserving the bacon grease.

Drain the boiled potatoes and add to a large bowl.  While still hot, pour over the reserved bacon grease along with the cooked, crumbled bacon.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the bleu cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and the red and green onions.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the potatoes and toss to coat.  Top with any extra bacon and green onions.  Enjoy!!

 

RedWhiteandBleuPotatoSalad

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