The Crab and the Artichoke

This is one of my go-to appetizer dips because it’s easy to make and is a crowd favorite! Sometimes I sub chopped spinach for either the artichokes or the crab depending on who I’m feeding. You can make this dip your own by adding whatever you like once you’ve made the “base” in Step 1. No matter which direction you choose to take, try the original version first because I think you’ll agree, it belongs in everyone’s recipe book! Enjoy!!

Ingredients:

  • 1, 8oz block cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1, 14oz can of artichokes in water, drained and quartered
  • 8oz lump crab meat, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup Panko style bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, blend together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheeses, garlic and pepper using a rubber spatula.
  2. Fold in the quartered artichokes and the crab meat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, melt butter and add bread crumbs. Toast until slightly golden over low-medium heat. Remove from heat, add the Old Bay and mix.
  4. Transfer crab and artichoke mixture to an oven safe dish. Top with seasoned breadcrumbs and cover loosely with foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 – 10 more minutes until crumbs brown and dip bubbles.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes; dip with be red hot! Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with your favorite crackers!

Easy Crab Cakes

I made these crab cakes earlier today in preparation for our family’s Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes. My mother-in-law always hosts the meal but this year, I offered to bring a dish. Looking forward to celebrating this food themed holiday with my peeps; it’s my favorite kind of festivity! Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Feeds 10 – 12 people, 2 crab cakes each

  • 4 cups oyster crackers
  • 1/2 cup cornichons
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 4 scallions, roughly chopped
  • leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard (preferably with grains)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 pounds lump crabmeat
  • canola oil for frying
  • lemon wedges for serving

IMG_7557

Directions:

  1. Pulse oyster crackers into crumbs using a food processor. Transfer 2 cups to a large bowl, reserve the rest.
  2. Wipe out food processor and add cornichons, capers, scallion and tarragon. Pulse into small pieces. Next, add mayo, lemon juice, mustard and pepper and pulse until well mixed. This mixture is both your tartar sauce and your binding agent.
  3. Remove 1 cup of sauce from the food processor, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Add the remaining sauce to the bowl with the cracker crumbs. Fold in the eggs and the crabmeat. Mix until combined.
  4. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large frying-an over medium-high heat. Using a 1/4 cup scoop, form cakes from the crabmeat mixture and roll in the reserved cracker crumbs.
  5. Fry crab cakes in small batches taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook for approximately 3 – 4 minutes per side and then transfer to a paper towel lined plate for draining.
  6. Serve warm with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

Notes:

  • Original recipe did not call for coating the cakes with additional cracker crumbs, but I think it helped give them a nice crunchy coating after frying.
  • These can be cooled and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 325 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

*Original recipe adapted from Nancy Fuller, foodnetwork.com

 

Sweet Potato Pie Bites

It may be too late to make these for Thanksgiving today, but Christmas is coming, lol!!!

Ingredients: Makes 2 dozen

  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 roll of Crescents baking dough
  • 72 mini marshmallows
  • 24 whole pecans

Directions:

  1. Wash, pierce and microwave the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes on high.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla and salt. Scoop the insides of each sweet potato into the bowl (take care, they may be hot!) and mix well.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Unroll Crescents baking dough on a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to gently flatten. Use a pizza cutter to slice the dough into 24 small squares.
  5. Lightly grease a 24 mini cupcake pan. Gently press a dough square into each well.
  6. Fill each with approximately 1 tbsp of the sweet potato mixture.
  7. Top each with 3 marshmallows and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, top each with a pecan and bake an additional 3 minutes. Serve warm!

*Original recipe by delish.com 

Watermelon Salsa

I make this refreshing salsa so often this time of year, I don’t even need to pull out the recipe anymore! Anyone who’s ever tasted it has either asked me how to make it or asked me to bring it when we’re invited to a picnic or BBQ.  I think you’ll agree, it’s the perfect summer accompaniment to chips and a margarita and takes only minutes to pull together. So get to it… and Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Serves 6 – 8

  • 3 cups chopped seedless watermelon
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, washed and chopped (approx 4 tbsp)
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • pinch red pepper flake
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium size bowl combine watermelon, cilantro, jalapeño and onion.
  2. Season with lime juice, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flake and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat.
  3. Chill for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
  4. Just prior to serving gently fold in the avocado and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips!

Suggestions:

Adding the avocado and salt at the end prevents the avocado from turning brown and the salt from leeching all the water from the watermelon creating a soupy texture.

*Adapted from Watermelon Salsa courtesy of Paula’s Pantry

Texas Caviar

I cannot take credit for the catchy name or the tasty combination of ingredients; I know quite a few home cooks who have their own version of this recipe on file! However, I can tell you how I make it as well as list a few unique ways to repurpose your leftovers!

Ingredients: Serves 10 – 12

  • 24 oz frozen corn, thawed
  • 1, 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 cup cilantro (loosely packed), chopped
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • juice from one lime
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (plus extra)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (plus extra)

Directions:

  1. Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the last six ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Add the liquid to the corn mixture and toss to coat.
  4. Adjust seasoning to your personal taste preferences by adding additional salt and/or pepper..
  5. Let chill 2 – 3 hours, allowing flavors to develop.
  6. Serve with tortilla chips.

Leftovers:

IF you have them… consider the following (drain any liquid that accumulates first):

  • Add it to eggs in a scramble or a quiche, or use it in egg cups (search site for recipe).
  • Fold into corn bread batter to jazz up your corn muffins/corn bread.
  • Top grilled chicken or fish with a scoop.
  • Toss it with a green salad.

Jalapeño Poppers

Just in time for your Cinco de Mayo celebration!  Made a batch for a party we’re having tonight and knew I had to share this recipe ASAP so you too, could make ’em for your next fiesta! Olé!!

Ingredients: Makes 24 poppers

  • 12 large jalapeño, cut lengthwise and seeded
  • 8 oz softened cream cheese (1 block)
  • 1/3 cup shredded Mexican Blend cheese
  • 3 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • sea salt

Directions:

  1. Blanch jalapeño halves in boiling water for 5 – 6 minutes (taking care to maintain their bright green color and crisp texture).  This will help decrease their spice/heat.
  2. Drain the water and submerge jalapeños in an ice bath to stop them from cooking.  Let sit for a few minutes, drain and gently pat dry.
  3. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, Mexican Blend cheese and chopped bacon.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet with either a wire rack or a sheet of tinfoil.  Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  5. Using a small spoon, fill each jalapeño half with approximately 1 tbsp of filling.  If you have any left over, go back through and add more to each (it’s OK if they’re overflowing a bit).
  6. In a small pot, melt the butter over low/medium heat and add the Panko.  Stir to incorporate and allow the crumbs to brown just a bit.
  7. Top each popper with approximately 1 tsp of the Panko crumbs and press gently to make sure they “stick”.  Sprinkle each with sea salt.
  8. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes until crumbs are browned and filling is melty/bubbly. Serve immediately.

Suggestions:

  • Some like it hot… skip the blanching if you like a full flavor popper! You will have to increase the baking time by 5 minutes or so.
  • If you can’t find shredded Mexican Blend cheese, you can substitute cheddar or even Monterey Jack.
  • I make extra filling by adding another 4 oz of cream cheese, doubling the shredded cheese and adding another slice of bacon.  We spread this on toasted bagels the next day!!!

Mini Shepherds Pies

These tiny treasures were a big hit at our St. Patty’s Day party yesterday!  I took some time saving short cuts because I was busy making several other dishes from scratch, but none of my guests were the wiser!  Do your self a favor and don’t wait until next St. Patty’s Day to make them!

Ingredients: Makes 24 appetizer size pies

  • 1 lb ground beef (I used 85% lean)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1, 14 oz jar beef gravy
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas and carrots mixed
  • 1, 8 oz family size package instant mashed potatoes (I used roasted garlic flavored)
  • 3 thawed pre-made pie crusts at room temperature
  • cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Brown your ground beef in a skillet over medium heat, adding the garlic and onion powder as well as the thyme as it cooks.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Once browned, add the frozen peas and carrots and stir to incorporate.  Add the jar of gravy and mix well.  Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes then cover and set aside off the heat.
  3. Prepare the instant mashed potatoes as directed on the package.  Set aside, covered.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  5. On a floured surface, unwrap, unroll and roll out pie crust dough using a rolling pin.  Take care not to press too firmly or to roll the dough out to thin.
  6. Generously spray two standard sized 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray. Using a jar or glass with a diameter that is larger than that of your muffin cups, cut out circles or “rounds” from the dough.  I can get about 8 from each pie crust, if I re-roll the “scraps” into a new sheet of dough.
  7. Gently press each pie round into a grease muffin cup.  They will not come up the sides completely and that is ok.  Bake for 6-8 minutes until they begin to brown.
  8. Remove mini pie crusts from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Uncover the meat mixture and the potatoes.  Everything will still be warm so take care while building each mini pie.
  9. Carefully remove each mini pie crust using your fingers and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Fill each with approximately 1 – 2 tbsp of the meat mixture.  Follow by topping each with 1 – 2 tbsp of mashed potatoes.  Pop the cookie sheet into the oven for 6 – 8 minutes allowing the crust to finish baking and the potatoes to develop a slight crust.
  10. Let cool only a few minutes before serving, as these are best served warm!

Suggestions:

  • Use left over gravy or make your own using beef stock.
  • Same goes with the potatoes… I’d say you need approximately 2 lbs worth.
  • I had left over meat and potatoes after this recipe and probably could have made another 8 – 12 mimi pies (if I had defrosted another pie crust), but I wasn’t prepared!  So instead, I assembled a small shepherds pie sans crust in a casserole dish which I froze for another time!
  • Lastly, I made these ahead of time, stored them at room temp and then popped them in a warm over for 5 minutes when my guests arrived to heat them back up.  worked like a charm!