Posts Tagged 'Make Ahead Appetizer Recipes'

Peanut Dip with Fruit

I love getting comments on my posts, and I always check out the visitor’s Web site if they enter the information.  Last week, Sara from Saucy Dipper (also saucy, also based in Denver) left a note on my Breakfast Casserole post, so I thought I would see what was going on with her site.  It turns out that she’s hosting a fun blog event this week called Dipstock.  She’s encouraging all dip lovers to submit photos and recipes, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to participate.  Initially, I planned to make something savory.  When I saw today’s recipe – Peanut Dip with Fruit – in my Colorado Classique cookbook, though, I knew it was The One.

It doesn’t get much easier than this, folks.  Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Dip with Fruit
Serves: 6 portions

Ingredients:
8 ounces light cream cheese
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 1/4 ounces salted peanuts (3 small packages), finely chopped in food processor
4 Granny Smith or Braeburn apples, cut into wedges

Method:
Mix cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and peanuts and refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled dip in a bowl surrounded by apple wedges.

Peanut Dip with Fruit

Oh. Mah. Gawd.

If you ever wished for chunky peanut butter cream cheese, this is it.  I love, love, love snacking on apples and peanut butter; this recipe turns that simple concept into an absolutely divine dessert.  Now I just need to figure out how to avoid eating the entire recipe straight from the bowl before my husband gets home from work to “help” me with it…

TIPS:  At first, I thought I would need a hand mixer to blend the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla.  My beaters were in the (running) dishwasher, though, so I just mashed everything together with a fork and then used a spatula to stir in the peanuts.  Perfection!

Update (7/1/10): Now that I’ve eaten (entirely too much of) this dip when chilled, I disagree with the serving suggestion.  I would serve it either right after you make it, or let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving if you’ve chilled it.  It’s still beyond delicious, but it gets pretty firm in the refrigerator.

BLT Bites

Hey there, strangers!  Between a trip to the Kentucky Derby, a milestone birthday, two sets of house guests, and a trip back home, May has been a crazy busy month. As much as I love the adventure and the company, I’m hoping to bring in June with some semblance of a routine (and lots of cooking, of course!).

I made today’s recipe – BLT Bites – for last month’s gourmet club meeting.  We each made recipes from our respective Junior League cookbooks: Louisville, Denver, and Omaha (mine!).  Of the three appetizers I made, this one was definitely my favorite…  Each piece was a little taste of heaven.

BLT Bites

Creamy mayo, smoky bacon, juicy tomatoes - heaven!

There are some awfully similar recipes floating around online, but I couldn’t find the exact recipe I used anywhere else.  Here it is:

BLT Bites
Makes about 14 appetizers

Ingredients:
14 large cherry tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup romaine lettuce, shredded
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Method:
Cut an 1/8-inch slice from the bottom of each tomato with a serrated knife.  Gently scoop out pulp and seeds from the cut end with a melon baller cutter or a grapefruit spoon; discard.  Sprinkle tomato shells with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and invert on paper towels to drain.  In a small bowl, combine bacon, lettuce, green onions, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Spoon mixture evenly into tomato shells and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Source: Toast to Omaha

Notes:

  • I could not for the life of me figure out why the recipe wanted me to scoop out the pulp and seeds from the bottom of the tomatoes.  I ended up cutting a thin sliver from the bottom of the tomatoes to help keep them upright, then I sliced off the tops and scooped out the pulp and seeds from there.
  • I had five slices of bacon and couldn’t see throwing one lonely slice back into the refrigerator, so I used it all.  How can more bacon be a bad thing?
  • I used light mayonnaise, coarse salt, and plain dried breadcrumbs.  (I bet homemade breadcrumbs would be especially fabulous.)
  • Despite having two other appetizers on the table, I don’t think the 14 pieces this recipe made were enough for six people.  We were calling dibs and wanting more.

Make these!  You’ll love ‘em.  They’ve definitely earned a permanent spot in my summer buffet rotation.

Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés

It’s my turn to host gourmet club this month, and I’ve chosen French food as the theme.  (It’s not very original with all the Julia Child buzz from last fall, I know, but I thought it would work well since French food and February are generally known for romance.)  My first test recipe (which I failed to photograph!) was Ina Garten’s Boeuf Bourguignon.  It was absolutely delicious and can be made a day ahead, so I put it on the official menu.  The recipe serves six, though, and while there are only six people in my gourmet club, I wasn’t completely comfortable without a bit of wiggle room in terms of portions.  Rather than make more Boeuf Bourguignon, I thought it would be more interesting to curb appetites a bit with a first course.  I originally thought to serve salad and even tried a recipe, but it just wasn’t fitting with my vision.

Luckily, an Epicurious search turned up fancy, make-ahead food gold: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés.  In my mind, soufflés were always temperamental intermediate- or expert-level dishes that had to be served immediately.  These do take a bit of work for the initial assembly, but you end up with perfect individual portions waiting in the refrigerator.  A bit of seasoned cream and 15 minutes in the oven are all that stand between you and heaven on a plate.

I followed the recipe as written, so I won’t go through the step-by-step here.  I do have a few notes, though, that may be helpful if you want to attempt the recipe:

  • When the recipe says “5 cloves dried garlic,” it’s talking about the garlic we are accustomed to buying in the produce section of American supermarkets.  (Take a bulb, separate and peel five cloves, and chop them.)  I’m not even sure where to buy fresh garlic.
  • I used regular white vinegar, whole milk, and Cantal cheese (which I actually managed to find in the “fancy” cheese section of my regular old grocery store).
  • I brought my eggs to room temperature before using them.  Either let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes or submerge them in a container of warm (not hot!) water for 2 minutes or so.
  • I used my immersion blender to puree the garlic milk; it worked beautifully.
  • My ramekins only had a 1/2-cup capacity (not 3/4 cup as the recipe recommends), but I didn’t have any problems.
  • My first round of baking was 25 minutes at 350F.
  • I wasn’t as thorough as I could have been when I buttered my ramekins, so I struggled just a bit to get my soufflés out of the dishes.  Next time, I’ll butter generously.  It doesn’t really matter if they don’t come out perfectly anyway since no one will see the bottoms when the finished product is served.
  • To hold the soufflés until the next day, I put them in larger ramekins (as the recipe says), let them cool completely, covered them with plastic wrap, and then placed them in the refrigerator.
  • I put salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese in the heavy cream to make my sauce.
  • To serve the soufflés, I pulled them out of the refrigerator, removed the plastic wrap, and placed them on a rimmed baking sheet.  I spooned the cream sauce over them, baked them for 15 minutes at 400F, and served them immediately.

Here are the soufflés straight out of the oven after the first round of baking (nice and puffy!):

Garlic Souffles Fresh From the Oven

Here are the cooled soufflés in the larger ramekins before I covered them with plastic wrap:

Cooled Garlic Souffles

And here’s the final product:

Twice-Baked Garlic Souffles

They didn’t puff up quite as much as I had hoped after the second baking, but they were so incredibly delicious!  The savory combination of the garlic, thyme, and Cantal cheese was seriously to die for.  The texture was really light and fluffy, and baking them with the cream sauce creates a flaky, crusty top.  I loved how Dr. O said that he really enjoyed the sauce…  What’s not to like about something that’s 95% heavy cream? ;)

I served the soufflés with vegetables as a light dinner the first night; Dr. O liked them so much that he had two more for breakfast the next day (a good sign!).  The recipe only mentions making the soufflés one day ahead, but the fact that they were just as delicious that morning tells me that you can easily get away with two days.  I’m just so excited to have found a make-ahead recipe that is flavorful, gorgeous, and perfect for entertaining; this one will definitely be filed as a “keeper.”

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés

Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits

Whew.

After hosting book club last week (Kielbasa Black Bean Chili and White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Irish Cream Sauce!), making sugar cookies for my sorority alumnae group’s white elephant party, making appetizers for my gourmet club, and hosting my mom at my house for a week (including a Runza lesson), I’ve been doing an awful lot of cooking and not a lot of blogging.  I’m sneaking this hour between starting a new batch of cookies for a party tomorrow and going to the store for a brunch I’m having on Sunday.  Does anyone out there know if you can teach a cat (or a husband) to cook?

Anyway, I’m ready to talk bacon, cheese, and the gooey goodness that is Pioneer Woman.  My friend Katie chose her recipes as the theme for gourmet club this month, so I did a bit of experimenting before the big day.  My primary goal (as it almost always is) was to find ridiculously appetizing food that could be made ahead.  Her Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits fit the bill.  Here’s how I made them:

First, I fried up 10 slices of thick-cut bacon, drained it on paper towels, and chopped it into small pieces.  (Crumble it if you want; I was in a chopping mood.)  I drained off most of the bacon fat and then sautéed 1 cup of finely diced onion in the same skillet until browned (about 5 – 7 minutes over medium heat).  I transferred the onions to a plate to cool.

With the cooked ingredients ready to go, I sifted together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of table salt.  Using a pastry cutter, I cut in 1/4 cup of Crisco until everything was combined.  (The mixture should look a bit like coarse meal.)

In a large bowl, I whisked together 10 tablespoons of whole milk, 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and 1 egg.  I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, along with the bacon, onions, and 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese.  (PW is normally about fresh-grated cheese, but she says the cornstarch coating in packaged grated cheese can help suspend the cheese in this batter.  I used packaged cheese.)  I stirred the mixture gently to combine.

The original recipe calls for full-size muffins, but I thought mini muffins were more appropriate as appetizers.  I greased my 24-cup mini muffin pan with butter and then used my cookie scoop to portion out the dough.  (With slightly heaping scoops, there was about a muffin’s worth of dough left over.)  I baked the muffins for 20 minutes at 375F and cooled them in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.  Since mine wouldn’t be served until later in the day, I cooled them completely and transferred them to an airtight container.  If you’re ready to eat, though, serve them warm!

Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits

This is just another one of those recipes where it’s practically impossible for the results to be bad because only delicious things went into the batter.  (Cheese?  Bacon?  Sautéed onions?  Heaven.)  Initially, I was actually pretty worried that these wouldn’t work as a make-ahead appetizer because PW made them sound through-the-roof delicious when they’re warm.  I enjoyed them warm (of course!), but I almost felt like I could taste the bacon and cheese better when they were room temperature.  Texturally, they were slightly crusty on the outside and fantastically moist on the inside.  Mmmm.

Although I think it worked really well to make them ahead, they’re definitely best the day they’re made.  After spending the night in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they lose that yummy crispness on the outside.  If you want to make them ahead AND serve them warm, I’d recommend wrapping them in foil and heating them in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes at 300F when you’re ready to eat.

TIPS:  If you try this recipe, I would strongly recommend reviewing Pioneer Woman’s step-by-step instructions before you attempt the printable recipe.  I’m sure it was an accidental omission, but the printable recipe doesn’t say a word about sautéing the onions.  Somehow, I don’t think raw onion in the batter would taste quite as good. ;)

Recipe link: Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits

Pita Bread

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted an actual recipe!  The twelve days I spent away from home last month (in addition to the four I spent this past weekend) have cramped my cooking style a bit, but I’m ready to get back into my routine.

It was my turn to host the Gourmet Club meeting in September, and I chose a Greek theme.  Dr. O and I absolutely adore Greek food, but we haven’t really eaten it on a regular basis since our time in Lincoln.  (Parthenon, we miss you!)  After a half-failed moussaka attempt (the flavor was fantastic, but the bechamel layer couldn’t have possibly looked less appetizing; I just can’t bring myself to serve ugly, especially when it takes three hours to produce it), I decided on a menu of Grilled Greek Chicken Kebabs with Mint-Feta Sauce, Greek Garden Salad, Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette (coming soon!), and Pita Bread (today’s recipe).  I was particularly excited about the pita bread because (1) I’ve never made it before, and (2) I’ve had such a great time making bread and pastry dough from scratch during these past couple of weeks.

I got the recipe from The Olive and the Caper by Susanna Hoffman, which is a book I picked up at the Highlands Ranch library.  I couldn’t find a link to the recipe online, so here it is:

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for coating the dough

Method:

Stir together 1 cup of the water and the sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside until bubbly, 15 minutes.

Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the 1/3 cup oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 1 cup water.  Stir with a wooden spoon until crumbly, then knead in the bowl until the dough can be scooped into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.  Lightly coat the dough with oil, return it to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and set it aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 portions.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion to make an 8- to 9-inch round about 1/8 inch thick.  Set the dough rounds aside (without stacking them), and cover them with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.  Let them rest for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 500F.

When you are ready to bake them, place as many dough rounds as will fit on an ungreased baking sheet without overlapping.  Place the sheet in the oven and bake until the pitas are puffed up, 3 minutes.  Check the oven, and rotate the baking sheets if the pitas are baking unevenly.  Continue baking until the pitas are beginning to turn golden on the bottom but are not at all crisp, 2 minutes.  Carefully remove the pitas, being watchful to avoid the escaping steam.  Stack the pitas and wrap them in a towel.  Repeat until all the pitas are cooked.

Serve right away, or let the pitas cool completely, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 2 months).  Reheat before serving.
__________________________

Everything went as planned for me until I got to the point where I was supposed to transfer the individual rounds to the baking sheet.  Despite the fact that I floured my surface well before I let them rest, they stuck.  And when I say they stuck, I mean they STUCK.  Each one completely lost its shape as I pulled it from the counter, which was especially awesome since Gourmet Club was set to begin in a matter of hours.  I decided to just wad up the dough and re-roll each round as it was time to put them in the oven.  I didn’t think the pitas would turn out because I was agitating the dough, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Lo and behold, they turned out anyway!  I was able to get two dough rounds on each baking sheet, and after 5 minutes in the oven, they were puffed up, browned, and perfect.  I used a thin spatula to remove them from the baking sheets and then stacked them and wrapped them in a clean kitchen towel as the recipe instructed.  Before serving, I divided them into two batches, wrapped them in foil, and reheated them in the oven at 300F for 10 minutes.

Pita Bread

The pita bread was seriously delicious and definitely worth the trouble.   This recipe doesn’t produce the dry, pocket-style pita bread you might be used to buying in the grocery store.  This was moist, chewy flatbread, which was perfect for dipping in the mint-feta sauce that accompanied the chicken and for sopping up the potato vinaigrette.  Mmmm.  I think store-bought pita is forever ruined for me.

TIPS:  I tried the recipe using baking sheets and a pizza stone; both worked equally well.  Also, you can make the dough several hours (and up to three days) in advance if you want.  Just bring it to room temperature before using it and resume the recipe by dividing the dough into individual rounds.

Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas

It’s back to the grind!  My parents came to stay with us this past week, so we had our first houseguests in the new place.  We really enjoyed their visit, but I think one of the best things that came out of it is that I felt compelled to cook again.  Now I just need to feel compelled to *photograph* what I cook again…

Here’s my cooking rundown for the past week.  Last Saturday, I made pulled pork sandwiches, a two-bean salad, and strawberry spinach salad; Monday, I made a sausage and sundried tomato strata; Tuesday, I made a challah French toast with mixed berry jam; and last night, I “practiced” for an upcoming Gourmet Club meeting by making four different Mexican dishes from Rick Bayless’s Web site.  The recipe I want to share today is one of the appetizers from the Rick Bayless site: Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas (a.k.a. The Only Recipe I Managed to Photograph :) ).  It’s quick, easy, delicious, and full of perfect summer flavors.

To make the shrimp mixture, I started by prepping my ingredients.  I cored and seeded 1 large red tomato, cut it into 1/4-inch dice, and placed it in a medium bowl.  Next, I opened a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo (you can find them in the ethnic food aisle at the grocery store) and added 2 tablespoons of the canning sauce to the diced tomato.  I removed 2 peppers from the can, slit each one open, scraped out the seeds, chopped them finely, and added them to the bowl as well.

To finish my prep, I finely diced 1 medium red onion, finely chopped 1 scallion (green parts only), minced 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme (leaves only), and chopped 2 1/2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro.  I added these ingredients to the bowl along with 3/4 cup of sour cream.

We can’t have shrimp tostadas without shrimp, right?  The recipe calls for 1 pound of tiny salad shrimp, but my grocery store didn’t have any (fresh *or* frozen!), so I just bought some cooked shrimp from the meat counter, removed the tails, and chopped the meat.  (I did locate salad shrimp at Safeway this morning, so I’ll have some tomorrow when I make it “for real.”)  I added the shrimp to the mixture, stirred everything together gently but thoroughly, and seasoned with salt to taste.  (I ended up using about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.)

The recipe said to serve the mixture on homestyle tortilla chips or Guerrero-style chalupitas.  I just wanted to make sure the chip would be thick and sturdy enough for the shrimp mixture, yet small enough to be finger food.  I looked at Sunflower Farmer’s Market and King Soopers, and the best I could do was a bag of On The Border Premium Rounds.  So commercial and so *not* homemade, yes, but they worked out beautifully.  I finished the tostadas with a sprinkling of Mexican queso fresco.

Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas

I was a bit wary of the heat these might have since the last time I cooked with chipotles in adobo Dr. O and I couldn’t even finish our dinner (it was sad!), but removing the seeds made all the difference.  I loved the smoky flavor of the adobo sauce, the fresh bite of the scallion and cilantro, and the creamy coolness of the sour cream.  I think the tostadas will be a big hit at my meeting tomorrow, and I definitely plan on making them for parties at our place this summer.

TIPS:  This might be obvious, but just in case: You can make the shrimp mixture a couple of hours ahead, but don’t assemble the tostadas until just before you plan to serve them.  No one likes soggy chips!

Recipe link: Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas

Twice-Baked Potato Bites Look a Lot Like Dessert…

When you make them with purple potatoes.  (Especially when they’re only once-baked at this point.  Throw the plate on a pink napkin and the effect doubles!)

Twice-Baked Potato Bites Made with Purple Potatoes

I didn’t do this deliberately…  For some reason, Sunflower Market only had 2-pound bags of creamer potatoes last week, and each one had a assortment of red, white, and purple potatoes.  A couple of my guests (particularly the one who won’t eat onions unless they’re well disguised) approached the purple potatoes with caution, but in the end, they went oven better than the red and white.  (Perhaps because they were more exotic?)

Anyway, they were delicious.  Perhaps I’ll use purple potatoes on purpose next time…

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Potato Bites
Original post: Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Fresh Salsa

This is a short one but a good one. I get rave reviews every time I make Fresh Salsa from Pampered Chef’s All the Best (except from my friends who don’t like raw tomatoes – I have a few!). The recipe is quick, easy, and flavorful.

I started by seeding and finely dicing 6 plum tomatoes (1 1/2 cups). I put that in a bowl and added 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion, 1/4 cup of snipped fresh cilantro, 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground red pepper. The recipe says to let the salsa stand for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. I usually end up covering and refrigerating mine for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours before serving.

fresh_salsa1.jpg

If you’re looking for zippy salsa, this isn’t it; I suppose you could seed and chop a jalapeño and add it to the mixture for heat. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to super spicy foods, though, so this recipe suits me just fine. :)




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