Tag Archives: Appetizer

Smoked Almond & Rosemary Chicken Tenders

15 Nov

Chicken Tenders. Chicken Fingers. Whatever you wanna call it, I LOVE them.

I created this recipe to find a healthier option. Most chicken tenders are breaded & fried. I’ve seen recipes which are oven baked, but the crust of the tender is covered in breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese. No thanks.

I’ve been eating a lot of hickory smoked almonds lately. It’s the perfect combo of smokey & salty. Did you know if you’ve got a food processor or a good blender, you can grind nuts so they have a consistency of breadcrumbs? It’s true!

I made these chicken tenders for dinner, but I think they would be a great appetizer for a holiday party! I threw in some fresh rosemary, which is a perfect herb for the holiday season. Have some dipper options, like bbq sauce or honey mustard, and you’ll be all set!

I added about 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs, but if you can’t find panko or wanting a gluten-free recipe, just cut them from the recipe.

Smoked Almond & Rosemary Chicken Tenders

  • 1 cup smoked almonds
  • 1/4 panko bread crumbs (optional)
  • 2 tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 8 chicken tenders
  • Cooking Spray

Directions:

  1. In a food processor (or strong blender), put in almonds. Grind until the texture is very fine, like breadcrumbs. Heat skillet to medium heat and toast panko until it’s slighty brown. In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, almonds and rosemary. Mix well.
  2. In a bowl, stir buttermilk, Dijon mustard, salt & pepper. Dip chicken one by one into the butter milk and then into the almond coating.  Arrange a wire rack on a large baking sheet; coat rack with cooking spray. Arrange chicken on rack; coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Garnish with rosemary leaves, if desired.

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Quesadilla Italiano

29 Feb

Yes. That’s right. Not all quesadillas need to be covered in salsa & stuffed with chorizo. (But I am a HUGE fan of such a thing.)

In this quesadilla, you’ll find lots of vegetables & cheese. YUM. I also came up with a dipping sauce with an Italian flare. You can switch out a beer with this recipe and have a nice glass of vino!

I’m not sure where inspiration came from this dish. However, I did start craving italian food while skimming a gossip blog today. I read New Jersey’s favorite meatball was prego. Lord help us.

This is a meal for 1. But the great thing about a quesadilla is it’s easy to double, triple, octo-something the recipe.

The first thing you want to do is make the dipping sauce. The longer these flavors “hang out”, the better it will be.

Next, saute mushrooms, onion and garlic with some olive oil (or BUTTER). Once the onions are soft, fire up another skillet and spray it with cooking spray. Put a tortilla in the skillet. Sprinkle with cheese, mushroom mixture, sun-dried tomatoes & spinach. Top with more cheese and another tortilla. Once the cheese has set, flip the quesadilla so the other side can cook.

When both sides are brown, cut into triangles. Serve (and don’t be shy) with the balsamic dipping sauce.

CHOW, my readers. 🙂

Quesadilla Italiano

Balsamic Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Sour cream
  • 3 tbs Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 tbs Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Quesadilla

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Onion, diced
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • 2 tortillas
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbs sun-dried Tomatoes, julienne
  • 1/4 cup Baby Spinach

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the Balsamic Sauce ingredients. Mix until smooth. Set aside
  2. In a saute pan, add olive oil. Once the skillet is at a medium heat, add mushrooms, onions & garlic. Cook until onions & mushrooms are soft. Season with salt & pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a skillet (at medium heat), spray some cooking spray before adding one of the tortillas. Sprinkle cheese, mushroom mixture, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach over the tortilla. Top with additional cheese. Place the other tortilla on top.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes. Flip the tortilla over & cook for 3 minutes (or until brown.) Cut into triangles and serve with balsamic dipping sauce.

Caprese Polenta Bites

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day!! How is everyone celebrating?? I’m going to see The Vow with @hayesman_. I’m sneaking these tasty treats into the theater. I’m sooooo bad.

I’ll need some food in my belly before heading out to the theater. As much as I love movie theater popcorn, I hate how I feel after eating it. I refuse to eat popcorn for dinner tonight! Take that overpriced Movie Theater. So far, I’m feeling Meghan – 2, Movie Theater – 0.

Caprese Salad (tomato, mozzarella cheese & basil) is something I don’t order that often when I go out to dinner. Mainly because it’s kind of boring but I love all of the elements in the salad. So I’m going to change it up and make an appetizer I’d love to eat.

I came up with Caprese Polenta Bites topped with homemade pesto. I’ve been eyeing the pre-made polenta at Trader Joe’s for the last week. Polenta is made from cornmeal. You can make your own (there are plenty of recipes on the internet) or you can save yourself 20 minutes and buy it pre-made.

This is how the recipe is assembled. Your polenta should be about 1/2 inch thick and it’s the bottom of your bite. Place a thinly sliced tomato piece on top of the polenta. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Meghan, where is the basil??” Well, the bite is going to be topped with homemade pesto. Once the caprese polenta is done cooking, drizzle some pesto on top. You can buy pre-made pesto at the grocery store if you don’t have the time to make your own… but if you have a good blender/food processor, it’s very easy to make your own.

Isn’t this cute??!

I ate a couple of these for dinner, but it would make a great appetizer at the party. They’re just a few bites and you don’t need silverware. Just bite right on in and enjoy the wonderful flavors.

I made a lot of pesto, so you’ll get another pesto recipe this week. I haaaaate to be wasteful. 🙂

Caprese Polenta Bites (makes 12 bites)

  • Polenta, pre-made
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Pesto, recipe to follow

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Slice polenta so it’s 1/2 inch thick. Season polenta with salt & pepper. Top with tomatoes and cheese. Bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Top with pesto and serve.

Pesto Recipe

  • 2 cups basil
  • 1/3 cup almonds, walnuts or pine nuts. (I used almonds since I had them on hand)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine basil, nuts and garlic cloves in the blender/food processor. Pulse a few times.
  2. Stream in olive oil while the blender/food processor is running. You may need to scrap the sides with a spatula to make sure everything is getting mixed. The consistency should be like a runny paste.
  3. Add lemon juice and cheese; pulse a few more times. Taste pesto and add Salt & Pepper if needed.

Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Hummus with Baked Tortilla Chips

7 Feb

Hummus is a product I always have in my fridge. It’s pretty convenient since all stores carry it and they have a variety of flavors. After making my own hummus, I doubt I’ll ever buy it at the store again. This is a cheap & easy recipe — Paying $3-5 for an 8 ounce container of hummus is just silly. If you’re a hummus lover, please stop the insanity with me and just make your own!

I decided to make Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Hummus. I had both of the main ingredients on hand, but really, you can make any kind of hummus you want. The main ingredients you need to make hummus are chickpeas, tahini & olive oil. Tahini is a sesame paste and it can be tricky to find. The only store by me that carried it was Whole Foods. Tahini can be stored in your fridge for 6 months. If you’re like me and forget when you buy things, be sure to write the date on the container so you know how long you can use it. (I also do that with cheese!)

This recipe is so easy to make. Throw all of the ingredients in the blender and blend. That’s it.

Then you have this.

Roasted red pepper & basil go so great together. This hummus so thick & creamy. But the best part about it is how fresh it tastes! That’s the reason why I’ll never buy hummus in the store again. A store bought brand can’t compete!

How do you like to eat hummus? It really is a versatile food but I love it as a healthy dip. Veggies are great with hummus but sometimes I want some carbs. Instead of having calorie loaded chips & crackers, make your own baked tortilla chips. All you need are tortillas cut into triangles, cooking spray and your favorite spices. I really like cumin & a little salt. They bake for 10 minutes and then you have your own baked tortilla chips. The chips are super crispy! This is a great way to use up tortillas before they get too stale.

This recipe makes 3 cups and will last 7-10 days in your fridge. I hope after making your own hummus, you’ll never go back to the store bought stuff!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
  • 12 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • Garlic, 2 cloves
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Basil, 8 leaves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions:

All ingredients go into the blender. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate for 3 hours before it’s served.

Baked Tortilla Chips

  • Tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • Your favorite spices (I used cumin)
  • Salt

Directions:

Turn oven onto 350 degrees. Cut tortillas in half, and then each half into thirds. You should have a triangle shaped chip. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place tortillas on the baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Season chips with salt & the spice you selected. Bake for 10 minutes.

Multiple Meals Post: Colorful Asian Salad & Baked Dumplings

4 Jan

On Monday night for dinner, I wanted to kick off the week with a non-boring salad. I hate those sad diet salads. You know, the ones that have the everyday veggies and a light store-bought dressing. Yuck. I’ve learned you don’t need to eat that way in order to stay healthy.

I love Asian flavors. Ginger, cilantro, soy sauce – sign me up! I went to the store and bought cabbage, red peppers, apples, cilantro, onion, garlic, carrots, ginger & chicken. I knew this would make a great salad and I needed to come up with my own dressing. I believe most dressings should be made at home. They are so much better!!

When I got home, I knew I wanted to make a dressing based around soy sauce. Soy Sauce has such a potent flavor, a dressing needs some sweetness. Honey & Soy Sauce is such a great flavor combo.  My salad dressing was starting to come together.

Are you curious to see what this flavorful & bright salad looks like??

Anything this colorful & healthy will help you to eat better this year. My secret ingredient – Peanuts. It gave the salad such a fun crunch. I found myself going through the salad and trying to get them out. 🙂

Tip – If you want to eat this salad over multiple days, be sure to put lemon or lime juice on your apples to prevent them from browning.

Asian Slaw Salad — serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (8 oz.) thinly sliced savoy cabbage
  • 2 cups (6 oz.) thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots (4 oz.), shredded
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple (8 oz.), unpeeled, cored, and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 lb. chicken tenders
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 1 pinch salt, optional
  • 1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts, optional (but I wouldn’t skip on this!!)

Directions:

1. Combine savoy cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, and apple in large heat-proof bowl. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Whisk together soy sauce, lime juice, 2 Tbs. water, and honey in small bowl.

2. Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a skillet at medium heat. Salt & Pepper the chicken tenders and cook in the skillet. About 3 minutes per side, depending on how thick the tenders are. When done cooking, let them cool and dice up the meat. Add chicken to the bowl with the salad mixture.

3. Heat the other 2 Tbs. oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt, and cook 7 to 8 minutes, or until onions are browned and bottom of pan has brown bits. Add ginger, and cook 30 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture to deglaze, and cook 15 to 25 seconds, using spatula or spoon to scrape up brown bits. Remove from heat, and spread onion mixture over cabbage mixture. Toss with tongs until slaw is well combined and cabbages begin to wilt. ( Tip – if you’re eating this salad over a few days, only add the dressing to the portion you’re going to eat at that time.)

4. Add 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, and toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes, then serve garnished with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and peanuts, if using.

This recipe makes A LOT of salad. Since I had some left over won tons from the Baked Southwestern Eggs Rolls, I wanted to use them before they went bad. On Tuesday night, I decided to put the won tons in a muffin tin and filled them with the salad. I made some additional salad dressing as a dipping sauce. Dumplings in 15 minutes at home, yes please!

If you want to eat this salad over multiple days, be sure to put lemon or lime juice on your apples to prevent them from browning.

Crispy Asian Slaw Dumplings with Honey & Ginger Soy Sauce

Ingredients:

  • Asian Slaw recipe, listed above
  • Honey Ginger Salad Dressing, listed above
  • Wonton/egg roll wrappers
  • Olive oil Spray

Directions:

1. Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees. Spray muffin pan with olive oil spray. Put an egg roll wrapper in each tin you plan on using. Be sure to press the wrapper into the bottom of each tin.

2. Put 1/4 cup of the Asian Slaw into each egg roll wrapper (there should be a little salad dressing tossed into the salad.) Take the sides of each wrapper and fold it towards the center. Be sure to pinch the tops so the slaw is enclosed.

3. Spray the egg rolls again with olive oil spray. This will give the dumplings a nice brown color. Bake won tons for 15- 20 minutes. Serve with warm Honey Ginger Salad dressing.

Baked Southwestern Eggs Rolls

2 Jan

I’ll admit it. I LOVE Chili’s. It’s probably my favorite restaurant chain. I love the appetizers (holy queso!), Presidential Margaritas and the Molten Brownie Cake. If my husband said “We’re going to Chili’s tonight,” I’d be the happiest girl in the world.

In Chicago, there is one Chili’s and it’s in River North. We don’t get there too often. A group of friends planned a happy hour there about a year ago. I think that was the last time I was at a Chili’s.

I got to thinking that I don’t need to go to Chili’s to have some fantastic apps & margaritas…. I can make their delicious food at home and hopefully do it better.

Have you ever eaten the Southwestern Eggs rolls at Chili’s? O.M.G. SO GOOD. The crispy flour tortilla encasing mexican flavors is something I could eat everyday. Unfortunately, these bad boys are fried and not good for you.

I came up with a recipe which embraces the flavors of Chili’s Southwestern Eggs rolls, but it’s figure friendlier. 🙂 These eggs rolls are baked and since I sprayed them with Pam before going into the oven, they got really crispy.

Here are the cast of characters you will need to make these vegetarian rolls. (Opps, I forgot the sour cream!)

And this is how the Southwestern Egg Rolls will look right before they are devoured.

I like to serve these with Salsa & Ranch…. and a couple margaritas.

Southwestern Egg Rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 cups corn
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles, drained
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 TBS light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 package egg roll wrappers (about 24 total)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine everything but the egg roll wrappers.  Mix well to blend.  Lay an egg roll wrapper out on a work surface so that one of the corners is pointing toward you and place ¼ cup of the filling in the center.  Fold the tip closest to you up over the filling, roll a bit, then take the points pointing outward and fold them in toward the center.  Continue rolling into an egg roll shape until a small part of the remaining point is still free.  Dip a finger in water or beaten egg and lightly brush on the edges of the free corner.  Finish rolling and press to seal closed.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place the sealed egg rolls on the baking sheet seam side down and spray the tops of the egg rolls with cooking spray.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly brown, turning halfway through baking.  Serve warm with salsa & ranch.

Keeping it festive

21 Nov

Alright peeps, it’s time step out of the “salsa is only for tomatoes” box and get festive with fall flavors. There are a lot of fruits out there which are in season right now. I usually think of fresh produce as a summer time thing, but look at your grocery store the next time you’re there. Notice all the types of pears & apples available. Of course with Thanksgiving coming around the corner, your local store should also have FRESH cranberries.

I saw a recipe for Cranberry, Pear & Apple Salsa and I knew I had to try it. Having a Vitamix mixer made this recipe so simple. I couldn’t imagine chopping all of these things and trying to accomplish my normal morning routine. I’d never be out the door on time.

Along with the seasonal fruit, this salsa also has some “typical” salsa ingredients including onion, jalapeno, cilantro & lime juice. I must say I loved the jalapeno in this recipe. It really gave the salsa a spicy kick and the recipe would have been missing something with out it.

Another great thing about this salsa — it’s really pretty! The red of the cranberry and green cilantro pieces remind me of Christmas.. but cranberries are for Thanksgiving! Oh who cares! This salsa is so refreshing, you’ll hardly notice how cold it is outside. It will transport you to a warmer place. Pear (lol) this salsa with a frosty beverage and you’ll feel like you’re on vacation.

Holiday Season is here.

Enjoy!!

Cranberry Pear Salsa  (from www.howsweeteats.com)

Cranberry Pear Salsa

makes about 1 1/2 cups of salsa

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

1 anjou pear, peeled and chopped

1 large apple, peeled and chopped

1/4 red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped

1/3 cup fresh cilantro

the juice of two limes

the juice of one orange

4 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or strong blender) and blend until smooth. Taste and season with additional salt or honey if desired.

Note: this salsa can be very TART depending on your cranberries. Don’t be afraid to add more honey, salt or even a few spoonfuls of sugar (yes, sugar!) to the mix.