appetizer

Pear & Blue Cheese Tart

Pear and Stilton are such a classic combination. As much as I like trying new food fusions, I always love the blends that are paired for a reason. So when I came across the gorgeous picture of the “Perfect Pear Tart in Nancy Fuller’s cookbook, Farmhouse Rules, I didn’t hesitate to put it on my to-do list. (Actually, there’s hardly a recipe in her book that I don’t want to try.) If you’re not a Stilton lover, it is possible that this recipe is not for you… However, if you are daring enough to try, it just might turn you into one!

Slightly adapted from Farmhouse Rule’s Perfect Pear Tart:

As organic as possible:

2 large ripe Bosc Pears, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick

Juice of 1 Lemon

3 Tbsp Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp Butter, cut into pieces

2 tsp (non-GMO) Cornstarch

1 tsp chopped fresh Thyme

1 tsp chopped fresh Sage

Salt

Pepper

1 refrigerated Pie Dough crust

2 ounces Stilton (or other Blue Cheese), crumbled

1 Large beaten Egg

 

Preheat the oven to 425°.

In a large bowl, toss sliced pears, lemon juice, brown sugar, butter, cornstarch, thyme, and sage. Season wit salt and pepper.

On a piece of parchment paper, roll the pie dough into about a 14 inch circle. Slide the parchment paper (with dough) onto a baking sheet. Spoon half of the pear mixture onto the center of the dough (leaving about a 2 inch rim) and top with half of the Stilton. Repeat.

Fold the crust up over the filling, over lapping and leaving an open circle in the center. Bake for 12 minutes, then brush dough with beaten egg and return to the oven for 15-18 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pear & Blue Cheese Tart

Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe Bosc Pears, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp (non-GMO) Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh Thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh Sage
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 refrigerated Pie Dough crust
  • 2 ounces Stilton (or other Blue Cheese), crumbled
  • 1 Large beaten Egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. In a large bowl, toss sliced pears, lemon juice, brown sugar, butter, cornstarch, thyme, and sage.
  3. Season wit salt and pepper.
  4. On a piece of parchment paper, roll the pie dough into about a 14 inch circle.
  5. Slide the parchment paper (with dough) onto a baking sheet.
  6. Spoon half of the pear mixture onto the center of the dough (leaving about a 2 inch rim) and top with half of the Stilton.
  7. Repeat.
  8. Fold the crust up over the filling, over lapping and leaving an open circle in the center.
  9. Bake for 12 minutes, then brush dough with beaten egg and return to the oven for 15-18 minutes more.
  10. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.
http://sadiesnest.com/pear-blue-cheese-tart/

 

 

The Art of the Cheese Platter

I am a lover of good cheese (it’s in my bio). So a beautiful cheese platter is a treasure to behold. Don’t let me fool you, I haven’t perfected the art of assembly. In fact, I beat my self up for like an hour for cutting my Mango-Ginger Stilton in to square crumbles rather than leaving it in a wedge for my guests to cut themselves. (It’s a bad habit I have. I still get embarrassed that my voice cracked during an 8th grade choir solo. I KNOW! I need to get over it. I have issues.) However, I’ve included some tips I’ve picked up and some ideas from the experts (or at least a couple of people I admire).

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Here is a guide to make The Ultimate Cheese Plate from What’s Gaby Cooking. Her pictures are always stunning.

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Courtesy of What’s Gaby Cooking

I love that cheese board. I almost put out some dried fruit… and I would have loved to place an assortment of nuts on my trays, but my youngest son has a nut allergy. What’s a girl to do? Well, I’ll tell you what I did, I avoided the risk. I appreciate how much she loaded the tray with variety too. My platters aren’t quite that full, mostly because I turned the whole table into a large assortment. But I did take note and try to vary ingredients on each plate; a fruit or olive or pickle, a cheese or two, a choice of cracker or dried bread or pita chip, etc.

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I think when making a cheese plate, it is important to show case several different cheeses, not just in flavor but in texture and style too. Naturally the amount of food is based on the number of guests. But even if you are only having a few people over, if you are having a “cheese board” you probably want to have a variety. Maybe a spreadable cheese, a hard sliced or cubed cheese and possibly a semi-soft cheese like a brie or a crumbled cheese. Of course, my favorite Smoky Cheese Ball makes an appearance at most of our gatherings (pecans included, it’s the one exception). Jessica Merchant from How Sweet Eats describes How to Make a Killer Cheese Plate with a few cheese ball recipes too.

Courtesy of How Sweet Eats

Courtesy of How Sweet Eats

I’m a fan of labeling the food for guests, especially when there are many to choose from. I suppose if it were a small gathering and we were all sitting together I might remember the names of all of the sausages, cheeses, crackers and what-have-you. But if there are more than two or three of each, I’d probably be hard pressed to rattle off the titles of all of them. They do manufacture some beautiful note cards, little chalkboards, and the like for such an occasion. A little creativity, i.e, legible penmanship, index cards cut into shapes, toothpicks and tape works too!

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Lastly, I love that Honestly Yum used fresh figs in their post, The Perfect Fall Cheese Platter. Doesn’t it just seem right? And look at that rustic plank cheese board! Swoon.

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Courtesy of Honestly Yum

Above all remember it’s all about good times with good friends! (I keep telling myself that too!)

 

Seriously Delish’s BBQ Roasted Chickpeas

I love seasoned & lightly salted snacks. Specifically popcorn, potato chips, roasted nuts & seeds, pretzels… actually it’s not specific to anything- just season & salt it. But for a period of time I almost lost that passion. I was on a train in Alaska when my husband brought me a thoughtful and highly seasoned snack pack, because he knows me so well… that I could never eat because just the smell of the unopened package made me sick (like many things on that trip). Of course, when we got home, it all began to make sense because we found out I was pregnant (with who is now my daughter). I’ll admit it took a while to get past my little hangup, but let the good times roll and the seasoned snacks too! It’s nibbles like these that remind me of how good snacking can be. Did I mention they are healthy? Purely Coincidental! (Furthermore they are awesome tossed in a salad!)

As found in Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant:

1 Tbsp Smoked paprika

1 Tbsp Onion powder

1 1/2 tsp light Brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp Garlic salt

1/2 tsp Chili powder

1/2 tsp freshly ground Black pepper

1 1/2 cups canned Chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 Tbsp extra-virgin Olive oil

 

Preheat the oven to 425°.

In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, onion powder, brown sugar, garlic salt, chili powder, and pepper.

Pat the chickpeas completely dry with a towel and remove any of the skins that become loose. Add the chickpeas to a bowl and toss them with the olive oil and three-quarters of the spice mixture. Mix well to coat the chickpeas and spread them out on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake the chickpeas for 20 minutes, toss them with a spatula, and bake for 15 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven and let the chickpeas cool on the baking sheet.

Taste the chickpeas and season them with the additional spice mix if needed… Roasted chickpeas are best the day they are made- after a few hours they can lose their crunch. However, you can store them in a container with a sheet of plastic wrap lightly covering the top for 2 to 3 days.

 

 

Baked Parmesan Zucchini Bites

I love zucchini. It’s a green vegetable with a creamy, almost buttery, texture when baked. Top it with a little pepper and salty Parmesan, and well you’ve got yourself a tasty treat. But let’s take this one step further and serve it with a side of marinara dipping sauce. Oh my goodness! Guiltless indulgence is like an oxymoron when it comes to healthy eating… but it does exist!

As organic as possible:

Snack serves 2 (or a hungry 1) 

Olive oil cooking spray

2 Medium Zucchini, washed, dried and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

3 oz. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Coarse Kosher salt

Freshly ground Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly sprayed with olive oil. Place zucchini rounds on the oil-misted parchment paper, not touching eachother. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pinch a tiny mound of Parmesan cheese to top each slice of zucchini. Place baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until Parmesan turns golden brown. Serve warm with a side of marinara. (And maybe an iced glass of S.Pellegrino?) Indulge.

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Brenda’s Cheesy Dip

It’s the weekend, hurray! Time to cut loose, invite some friends over, and eat some corn chips!  Well, for some of you anyway. I thought it would be fun to post an easy and oh-so-tasty little dip. Hey, not everybody is clean eating these days, and for those who take occasional days off… Here’s to having a little fun! My friend Brenda brought this retro-style deliciousness to a party not so long ago. She called it “Bean dip”, and she was like “I don’t know why, there’s no beans in it.” Lol. Stuff like that cracks me up! Regardless, it was yummy and I had to have the bean-less recipe to share with you! (Call it what you want.)

Now the original calls for Velveeta, which even my favorite celebrity home cook Ree Drummond herself condones at times. However, I’ve listed a more “natural” option that I’ve come to appreciate- for all of you purists out there. (I can see both sides.)

4 – 15 oz. cans Hormel chili (no beans)

8 oz. Sour Cream

1 – 16 oz. block of Velveeta (or 2 – 8 oz. jars of Trader Joe’s Chipotle Queso)

2 – 10 oz. cans original Rotel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies

2 bags of your favorite corn chips

Family and/or friends (optional)

 

Place all of the ingredients into a crock pot and turn on low, stirring occasionally. When all ingredients are well incorporated and warm, bust out those corn chips and dip on. Whoot Whoot!

 

Brown Eyed Baker’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

A good dip is hard to beat. I mean, how many times have I spoiled my dinner filling up on a crazy delicious appetizer… with no regrets? Too many to count probably, and totally worth it every time. I love the combination of creamy artichokes, slightly bitter spinach (for a little depth), smooth cream cheese, and salty Parmesan. Who doesn’t? I’m drooling just thinking about it. I owe my friend AnnMarie credit for bringing this winner to my attention.

As organic as possible: (you know I have to say that)

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1½ cups (6 ounces) finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Paprika, to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Press the excess moisture from the spinach.

Combine the artichokes, spinach, 1¼ cups of Parmesan cheese, 1¼ cups of Monterey Jack cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, and garlic in a bowl and mix well.

Spoon the artichoke mixture into a 1½-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheeses on top, and then sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with tortilla or pita chips, crackers or vegetables.

Thank you Annie for sharing this recipe with me! View the original at www.browneyedbaker.com

Erica’s Apple Baked Brie

A friend of mine made this, so I feel at ease to boast and say, “Look at this gorgeous presentation!” I am a long-time fan of baked brie. If you are not familiar with the cheese, it is a soft French cow’s milk cheese, most often encased in an edible covering of white mold. Depending on the process it can range from very mild to a strong musky flavor. (I am not one to shy away from a pungent cheese). Usually I do mine wrapped in a puff pastry, but I love that Erica used a croissant pastry dough! It made for such a lovely crust! Of course the rustically sliced apples were beautiful too… and then the taste! Sweet apples and brown sugar with warm creamy brie on slices of fresh bread, grainy crackers, and ripe fruit. La vie en rose!

1 – 16 oz round Brie

2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

1 apple (plus 1/2 for decoration, optional)

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) Butter

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

1 Egg

 

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Thinly slice or dice (your preference) the apple and sauté it in the butter. Add the brown sugar to the butter and apple mixture, and gently stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture has slightly thickened. Place the beautiful apple syrup on top of the Brie and wrap it in the crescent rolls. Whisk the egg and brush it top of the dough. Optionally, cut a few slices of apple for decoration and position them on top in a circular pattern. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is warmed through. Allow to set for a few minutes before serving. You want the cheese to be warm and spreadable, but not to ooze. Serve with slice rounds of bread, apple slices, and or crackers.

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Fried Ravioli

Little soft pillows of creamy cheese… coated in a blend of bread crumbs, Parmesan, and Italian herbs… fried into crispy golden perfection… A little warm marinara for dipping on the side… It’s a good day… dolce vita.

As organic as possible:

2o oz. frozen Cheese Ravioli

3/4 cup Flour

5 eggs

8 oz Parmesan & Italian Herb Bread Crumbs

2 tsp salt

3-4 cups of frying oil (give or take depending on the size of your skillet) such as Canola or Peanut

Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

 

This is a perfect example of how prepping your work area first makes the job a lot easier. In 3 separate shallow baking dishes (brownie pans, small casserole dishes, etc.) place the flour, whisk the eggs, and toss the Parmesan & Herbed bread crumbs with the salt. Heat your oil on the high end of medium. The oil is ready when you sprinkle a small amount of flour in it and it starts to sizzle. You only need a couple inches of depth.

While you’re waiting for your oil to get hot, take the frozen ravioli and dip it in the egg, coating it completely. Dip the egg covered ravioli in the flour, covering it, and lightly shaking off the extra. Then put the ravioli back into the whisked eggs, covering it again, and lastly into the bread crumb mixture. Make sure to get every area of the cheesy pouch coated with the delicious salty herbed bread crumbs. Repeat. Make sure you have a a few ready to go before you start to fry.

When the oil is ready, fry the raviolis in batches of about 4 or 5 at a time (to not lower the temperature oil too much). After about a minute, flip the ravioli and let it cook another half to whole minute. Using a slotted spoon or something similar remove the raviolis to a paper towel-lined plate. When raviolis are fried, transfer to serving dish of your choice and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan, (maybe even freshly chopped parsley if you’re into that sort of thing) accompanied by some warmed marinara sauce for dipping. Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I know what you’re thinking. That is an unnatural shade of orange. And yes, I agree. But don’t let that stop you from trying this… because it’s SO GOOD! I mean super delicious. It’s flavor packed in every bite. I’m crazy about the stuff. It lets you enjoy the taste of buffalo chicken wings without the mess! But here’s the secret, you have to use Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce. I know, I know, it’s not organic. (Hey, I always say as organic as possible.) There is no comparison. You just have to believe me on this.

As organic as possible:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp butter, softened

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce

4 oz. Gouda, shredded and divided (or cheddar, but really Gouda)

 

I love using organic chicken that has already been cut into tenders for dips like this (although that may not be the most economical). They are so quick to boil, about 10 minutes, and easy to cut. If you are using whole breasts it could take longer (about 20 mins), make sure the chicken is cooked through.

In the meantime preheat the oven to 350°. Using a standing mixer (or your powerful arm and a utensil), cream the cheese, butter and salt together.

When the chicken is cooked, chop it into small diced pieces. (Shredding is an option, but I really prefer the small dices.) Add the chicken, hot sauce and a 1/3 of the Gouda shredded cheese to the cream cheese blend. Mix until all is well combined. Then spread the mixture in a 9 x 9 inch baking dish (or equivalent). Top with the remaining cheese (*note it won’t cover the dip completely). Place the dish in the oven and bake until bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve with corn chips (not flimsy corn chips)… and maybe a personal bowl for yourself? Enjoy immensely.

 

Marsh-bani Fruit Dip & Fruit Salad

It doesn’t get easier or tastier than this. Honestly it’s just delicious. The fruit dip is sweet and a little tangy, ridiculous when you think about how easy it is. Did I mention it is fat-free? Your taste buds will never know. The yogurt goodness coats the fruit nicely as a dip, but why stop there? The next thought was, oh my goodness, this needs to be in a fruit salad. And can I just tell you, it was stellar. As in: this is what fruit salad needs to taste like for the rest of my life. If you are having a party this weekend, it’s great to serve dip style or in individual cups. So because I really can’t decide which way I like more, I’m sharing both. Lastly, let me just add that if you have any left over, you should throw it into a morning smoothie, because it is awesome… and so are you.

1 cup Marshmallow Creme

1/2 cup Chobani Fat Free Vanilla Greek Yogurt

1 pint blueberries, rinsed and drained

2 pints strawberries, rinsed and drained

2 large bananas (or 3 medium), I leave mine in the peel and third or quarter

2 apples, cut into wedges (with a couple center slices reserved for garnish)

Dipping fruit of your choice

Garnish with apple slices and fresh mint (optional)

That’s it! Two parts marshmallow creme to 1 part Chobani Vanilla Greek yogurt. Brilliant! I used a hand held mixer (with a whisk attachment) to blend the marshmallow and yogurt in a medium sized bowl. If you are blending by hand, just mix until they are incorporated. Place the mixture into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or until party time), and the marshmallow and yogurt blend will continue to infuse.

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Now if you want to turn it into fruit salad…

Hull and half (or quarter depending on size) your strawberries, peel your bananas and cut them along with the apples into bite size pieces. Place the fruit into a bowl, drizzle with the Marsh-bani Fruit Dip and gently toss. I take the extra step of tossing the fruit salad in a separate bowl from the one I am serving in, especially for a party… but that’s up to you. The dip can be made a day in advance, but I would not dress and toss the salad until ready to serve. Present in a bowl with a serving spoon or in individual serving dishes for guests to help themselves. Indulge yourself in this sweet treat!