appetizer

Southwest Succotash

Ah, good ol’ succotash!  An American classic that has been served on supper tables for decades and, for some reason, is one of my favorite words to say.  Today though, we’re giving the southern staple quite a southwestern twist!  The added ingredients of avocado, black beans and jalapeno are balanced out with a tangy and sweet vinaigrette.  Now, by all means, please add in the original versions most popular ingredient, lima beans (I really do like them).  Though, I suppose they can be optional and given there are still beans in the mix, no one will be the wiser…

 

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 cups cooked/grilled corn, fresh or frozen *grilled fresh is ideal
  • 2 avocados, cut into 1/2″ cubs
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup frozen, thawed lima beans (optional)

Vinaigrette

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime, plus zest
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper, each or to taste

 

In a large bowl, combine the prepared vegetables and beans.  In a small separate bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients.  Make sure to taste for seasoning (i.e. more salt? pepper?  Maybe an added tablespoon of honey?)

Pour the dressing over the corn salad, toss to coat and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.  Serving suggestion:  Plate under grilled chicken, steak or fish or serve with tortilla chips.

SouthwestSuccotash

Roasted Green Chile Artichoke Dip

Well, if artichoke dip wasn’t addictive enough, wait till you try it with the smoky kick of green chiles added to it!  At all of my get-together’s, I always like to have an assortment of goodies out, including an ooey, gooey cheese dip.  Now most can be heavy and bland, but this version will definitely spice up your party!

Another great and yummy idea for this dip, is you can use it to stuff chicken breast prior to baking or use it as a spread for a juicy hamburger!  Oh man…drooling!

*I realize that I used both canned AND fresh chiles in this dish.  Reason being, is I like the textural difference and flavor of both.  The canned gives off a good tang and the fresh add a smokiness to the dish.  However, feel free to use all fresh (so 2-3 peppers) or 1-2 cans of your favorite chiles…and I also like a bit of heat, so I added the jalapeno.  If you are more of the mild eating type, then simply omit!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 (14oz) can/jar artichoke hearts in water, drained, rough chop
  • 1 (4oz) can green chile
  • 1 Anaheim or Hatch chile, roasted, peeled and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, roasted, peeled and chopped 
  • 4oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated/shredded (NO “green can” please!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Drain the artichokes and pour onto a paper towel and gently pat dry.  After the fresh peppers have roasted, steam in a paper sack or plastic bag for 15 minutes to soften skin.  Peel off the blackened skin, scrape out the seeds and chop up.

Combine all of the above, prepared ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir to fully incorporate and then transfer to either an oven safe 8×8 casserole dish or pie plate (coated in nonstick) or an 8″ cast iron pan.

Place in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until warmed though, hot and bubbly and golden brown on top!  I like to serve with tortilla or pita chips, baguette bread chunks, crostini or fresh cut veggies.

greenChileArtichokeDip

 

Oaxacan Steak Quesadillas

Oaxaca (wha-ha-ka) cheese is a delightful semi-soft, stringy, cows-milk white cheese that could be best compared to mozzarella!  The Oaxaca cheese is a stretched, curd cheese that is formed into a ball, often resembling a softball in size, that you can shred for the gooiest of dishes.

All of the quick info above being said, why not make a quesadilla inspired by the southern Mexico state!  To keep with the flavors of the real SOUTH of the border, I have decided to incorporate other commonly used ingredients from Oaxaca while infusing it with a couple of my own.  Plus, I just really NEED steak in my life, but by all means, make this a veggie’dilla if you wish!

*I LOVE these marindes and always have them on hand for many dishes!https://www.goya.com/en/products/cooking-bases-sauces-and-marinades/ready-to-use-marinades

 

The Starting Lineup

STEAK (& marinade)

  • 2-3 lbs flank steak (or pounded skirt steak)
  • 1/2 cup of GOYA Marinade Naranja Agria 
  • 1/2 cup of GOYA Marinade Mojo Criollo 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped with stems
  • 1 tsp cumin

QUESADILLA

  • Tortillas (fresh corn to be authentic, but flour will work and taste fust fine too)
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1 serrano/or jalapeño, finely chopped (seeding optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves (or a few chopped Epazote leaves if possible)
  • 2 tsp kosher
  • 1 cup Oaxaca cheese, shredded or thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cheddar-jack cheese, shredded

OPTIONAL (fillers and garnish)

  • Avocado slices
  • Squash blossoms (though hard to find)
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Cilantro
  • Mexican crema or sour cream
  • Chopped cabbage/carrot slaw
  • Queso Fresco or Cotija cheese crumbles
  • Salsa/hot sauce

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STEAK:  In a gallon zip lock bag or baking dish/bowl, combine the meat with the marinade ingredients; toss and massage to coat.  Zip up or cover and let sit for 30 minutes on the counter or 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.

When ready to eat, remove the steak from fridge about 20-30 minutes prior to cooking.

Cook the steak (medium-high heat on the grill or cast iron pan on stove) till desired doneness.  Let rest for at least 5 minutes or more.  Cut across the grain into thin slices.

QUESADILLA:  Heat the canola oil and butter in a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat. When melted and butter is slightly browned, add in the onion and sauté about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the serrano (or jalapeno) and chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, for about a minute.

Next add in the sliced mushrooms and let cook down for 3-5 minutes, letting the juices come out, which will in turn allow them to dry out.  Follow that with the fresh spinach leaves and salt.  Continue to stir and sauté until mushrooms and spinach have wilted and the mixture is not too wet, but not too dry.

ASSEMBLY:  Again, whether grill or stove top pan, heat to medium and place a tortilla into a dry pan and warm/char (30 seconds).

Flip tortilla over and start to layer the 2 cheeses, the sliced steak and the mushroom-spinach mixture over half of the tortilla (I also added a bit of sliced avocado to this), fold in half and cook a couple minutes until golden brown.  Flip and cook the other side till browned and cheese is gooey!

SERVE:  Place on a platter and cut into wedges (pizza cutter!!); serve with your choice of accompaniments.  I chose pico de gallo, a crunchy cabbage slaw, cilantro, Mexican crema and salsa!  Enjoy!!

OaxacanSteakQuesadilla

 

Stuffed Tomatoes Puttanesca

A lot of influences helped bring this recipe idea to mind.  One, being my love for Pasta Puttanesca, a common order from me at many Italian restaurants.  Secondly, I love having people over and serving unique appetizers aka hors d’oeuvres if I’m being fancy, and thought this will make a great contender for my counter….and lastly, my hilarious, old soul of a little 6-year-old son who legitimately enjoys anchovies on his pizza.  Yes, if he’s not a chef, food critic or stylist when he grows up, I will be shocked.  Future foodie right there!

So because of that last reason, I had a couple containers of anchovies handy and the rest of the ingredients are pantry staples for me…so given all that, the Stuffed Tomato Puttanesca was born!  Thanks Brooks. 🙂

Also, you can make this with out stuffing the tomato/oven-step and serve in a dish drizzled with a bit more olive oil alongside crackers, bread and veggies for a great tapenade!  Heck, even spread it on your bread for an amped up turkey sandwich!  Endless options folks!  Ps.  These are great paired with a juicy steak and glass of red….

The Starting Lineup

  • 12 small cocktail style tomatoes, 2-3 inches and ripe
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 25+ pitted Kalamata olives, rough chop
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 8-10 anchovy filets (canned or jarred in olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment, foil or silpat sheet.

Using a serrated knife (I always use serrated when dealing with tomatoes, trust me), slice off the tops of each tomato (keep) and carefully scoop out the inside of each tomato with a spoon into a bowl.  Once finished, pour and press the tomato flesh through a fine mesh sieve to get the fresh tomato juice.

In a food processor, place in the tops of your tomatoes (stem cut off), Kalamata olives, anchovies and garlic.  Process until well chopped.

Combine the olive paste with the bread crumbs/panko, capers, parsley, thyme, olive oil, the tomato juice, pepper and Romano cheese.

Place the cut and hollowed tomatoes onto your lined baking sheet and use a spoon to stuff each tomato with your tapenade filling.  Once they’re all full, sprinkle the tops with the shaved parmesan cheese slices.  Place into your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has browned and tomato is slightly wilted and heated through.

Sprinkle a bit of fresh thyme or parsley overtop and serve as an appetizer or side dish, enjoy!

PuttanescaTomatoes

Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Potatoes

If you’ve ever been to my casa for a get-together you know I love to make this spinach artichoke dip (bubbling hot in a cast-iron skillet with torn fresh baguette and tortilla chips…insert drooling), because I know that you love to eat it!

So while one night with just my family of 4 at home and the “diet-angel” on my shoulder telling me to NOT make just a skillet of this with spoons for our dinner, I figured I would stuff a fluffy potato with my party go-to!  Also worth noting, my husband must eat meat with every meal, so I shredded some blackened chicken in the mix and yessss mam!!

*If extra occurs, please keep!  Warm and serve with veggies, bread or tortilla chips…or that trusty spoon! 😉

The Starting Lineup

  • 4-6 Large russet potato’s
  • Olive or canola oil
  • Kosher/rock Salt
  • 4 Tbsp butter, (1/2 stick) unsalted
  • 14oz can artichoke hearts, drained, rough chop
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (can use 10oz frozen, just thaw and drain)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 2 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 16oz light sour cream
  • 4oz can diced jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (topping, optional)
  • Chicken, cooked and shredded/chopped (optional)

SAPotato.jpeg

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and poke holes in your rinsed and patted dry potatoes with a fork.  Rub the olive oil and salt all over the outside of the potato.  Place directly on the top rack of your hot oven.  *Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any drippings.  Bake for 45 minutes or until tender; depends on size of potato.   You’ll have crispy, salted potato skin and a fluffy interior.

Cook your chicken now as well (grill, blacken, bake, simmer and shred, etc) if desired.

Spinach Artichoke Filling:

In a skillet over medium heat, melt together 8oz cream cheese, 16 oz sour cream, 1/2 stick butter, 2 cups parmesan cheese, and minced garlic, stirring frequently until melted and an even consistency.

Stir in coarsely chopped artichoke hearts, drained jalapenos and fresh or drained spinach (remember to remove excess water).  Finally, stir in the cooked chicken (if using).

Serve:

Cut a slit in the top of your potato and I prefer to scoop out a bit of the flesh.  Fill with a large ladle full of Spinach Artichoke filling and if desired, top with some shredded mozzarella and place on the baking sheet in a 375 degree oven until cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

SAPotato4

BBQ Bacon Ranch Meatball Subs

Frozen meatballs are always a staple in my freezer for easy & quick last-minute dinner or appetizer ideas.  However, most of my friends and family get stuck in the rut of only using them for Italian flavored meals, which is great, but let’s change it up just a bit!

Awhile back when trying to think creatively, something struck me when my 6-year-old son asked for BBQ (we do live in Texas and a giant smoker owns our back porch) for dinner.  Well, I hadn’t made my weekly grocery run yet but I did have meatballs in the freezer, a slow-cooker and a few jars of barbecue sauce in the pantry…change my thinking and the standard marinara sopped hoagie was about to receive a southern twist!  After a few ingredients were added and the smells were filtering through my house (did you see there’s bacon too??), I just KNEW I had a winner on my hands!  Boy did I ever!

*You can leave the bacon in strips or chopped.  Ill often do simple crispy strips for my husband and I, but the chopped is easy for lil mouths.

*I also go back and forth with sliced cheese or shredded…sliced is gooey’er but shredded works in a pinch!  I still say cheddar is best here!

*If you’d like this as more of an appetizer you can make them into sliders or just pour onto a serving dish, sprinkle with bacon, cheese and green onions.  Keep toothpicks & cocktail napkins handy!

 

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 package frozen fully cooked home-style meatballs 
  • 2 jars of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packet
  • 1 onion, rough chop
  • 1 package bacon, rough chopped and cooked
  • Sliced or shredded cheese (i.e. Cheddar, Jack, Colby)
  • Sub/hoagie rolls, lightly toasted

BBQRanchMeatball1.jpeg

Simple, simple, simple!  First, lightly spray your slow cooker with a non-stick spray and then add in the chopped onions.  Next, add in the frozen meatballs, sprinkle on the ranch dressing dry mix and pour the bbq sauce over top.  Toss to coat.  Cover and set on low for 4-6 hours.  Yep, you’re done until it’s time to assemble the subs!

Fast forward to dinner time…….this is how I serve ours:

I preheat my broiler and line a baking sheet with foil.  I first halve the hoagie buns lengthwise and give a light toast under the broiler (watch veryyyyy carefully as it goes quick!).  Then, buns still on baking sheet, I scoop on about 4-5 of the meatballs along with extra bbq sauce onto the toasted rolls from the slow cooker.  Finally, top with the crunchy cooked bacon and then copious amounts of cheese.  Place back under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly…enjoy!!

BBQMeatballSub4

Bacon & Blue Stuffed Mushrooms

Whether you’re planning a party, enjoying a romantic steak dinner at home or need a new creative idea for some football game snacks, this is a fun twist on a classic appetizer!

More often than not, when I think of blue cheese, I often think of bacon.  They pair together as well as peanut butter and jelly in my book!  So while I was at our local grocer last week, I saw they had a special on their packages of bacon AND mushrooms and figured I could make something great happen between them!  With the few simple ingredients listed below, you truly get a rich and indulgent, highly umami kick-in-the-butt of flavor!  These are oh so good and “fancy”….yet insanely easy!

*For the larger sized button mushroom, pick from the crate of individual mushrooms; not the prepackaged variety.  At home, store unwashed in a paper bag for up to 2-3 days in your refrigerator before use.  **Simply double the ingredients if making 2 dozen, etc.  ***These are naughty and rich, so I always allot about 2-3 per person.  ****Can be assembled earlier in the day and popped in the oven to warm through when needed.

The Starting Lineup

  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 12 large button mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 Tbsp chives, fresh, divided 1:1

Mushrooms1

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Clean any dirt off your mushrooms with a vegetable brush or dry paper towel (do not rinse with water, as they become water logged and wont hold up well).  Gently “snap” the stem off of each mushroom, while leaving the cap whole (set caps aside on a foil lined baking sheet).  Then give a rough chop to all of the stems.

In a skillet over medium heat, crisp up the chopped bacon.  Once done, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined dish and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease in the pan.  To that bacon grease, add in the chopped mushroom stems and sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add in the minced garlic for 1 minute more.

In a medium size bowl, thoroughly combine the sautéed stems and garlic with the crisped bacon, softened cream cheese, blue cheese and 1 tablespoon of the fresh chives.

Using a spoon (I use two spoons myself), stuff each mushroom cap with the filling you just made.

Transfer your tray of stuffed mushrooms to the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Serve immediately.

Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of fresh chives and enjoy!

*Makes 12.  Literally double the ingredients to double the recipe. 🙂

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