10 Bite-Size Spring Appetizers

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Spring is in full swing, and if you haven’t yet jumped into the depths of all of the great seasonal produce, we’re thrilled to let you know some great ways to enjoy it all. These bite-sized spring appetizers are perfect for that backyard party you’ve been waiting to have all winter. Check out the roundup of our ten favorites that have truly given us Spring Fever.

1.) Radish and Arugula Crostini with Brie

One word: radishes.  It simply wouldn’t be spring without a heaping helping of radishes on our plates and of course, in our appetizers. These crostini bites pair radishes, brie, and arugula leaves on toast for a crunchy and bright flavor experience.

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2.)  Savory Carrot Ribbon Tart

You know it’s spring when suddenly carrots are everywhere. Easter is this Sunday (can you believe it?) and a tart like this makes for a perfect pick-me-up before dinner is served. Serve up a hearty and clean appetizer like this that fits in all of the festive carrot flavors of the season on one pan. Using rainbow carrots is a great tip that incorporates all different kinds of colors into this festive spring tart.

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3.) Buttery Deviled Eggs

What kind of meal would it be without deviled eggs around Easter? Keep in mind that deviled eggs (or any recipe requiring hard-cooked eggs) are great.

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4.) “Spring Roll” Pot Stickers

Turns out you can get the fabulous flavors of takeout from your very own kitchen with these awesome pot stickers. The extra crispy-ness of this classic takeout item is enough in itself, but when you factor in all of the homemade goodness packed inside, they become out-of-this-world good.

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5.) Spinach-and-Green-Pea Empanadas

While these empanadas are a little heartier than the average appetizer and can definitely be served as an entree if desired, their fun hand-sized nature makes them a great grab-and-go food for backyard parties or get-togethers. Not only are they a delicious golden-brown, but they’re chock full of great spring veggies.

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6.) Blackberry-Brie Pizzettas

It’s true, blackberries reach their prime in the summer months, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to snag some blackberries from your local market right now, they go wonderfully with brie on these golden-brown personal sized pizzas. Not only do these colorful appetizer pizzas bring out even more of that Spring Fever, but they’ll get you all excited for the vast array of yummy produce still to come in the summer months.

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7.) Grits-and-Gumbo Tarts

All of the iconic flavors of this southern stew come together in perfect bite-sized portions with these tarts. Shrimp, okra, and polenta rounds pair perfectly in one bite and would make a great accompaniment to this warm spring weather.

These bright and colorful crostini appetizers are reminiscent of spring with their bright green colors and fresh flavor. Appetizers like this are a great way to combine multiple seasonal flavors in one bite. Fava beans get the spotlight here, but the goat cheese balances out the overall flavor.

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9.) Cucumber-Tomato Skewers with Dill Sauce

It doesn’t get much easier than these super simple veggie skewers. If you’re planning on serving a heavy meal, these light and fresh appetizers are the perfect pairings to round out the flavor palate, and the creamy dill sauce is a great accompaniment.

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10.) Fresh Spring Rolls with Pork, Mango, and Mesclun

This great appetizer comes with an essential peanut sauce, which lends a sweet and spicy flavor to these bright and fresh spring rolls. These rolls are held together with clear rice-paper wrappers, which allow for tons of great flavor to be packed into one edible snack.

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10 Bite-Size Spring Appetizers

GENIUS SOUS-VIDE COOKING HACKS

These tips will turn you into a sous-vide superstar
Genius Ways to Use Your Sous-Vide Circulator

The Instant Pot might be the most powerful kitchen gadget since the microwave, but for home cooks everywhere, there’s one thing that talented little pressure cooker just can’t replace: the almighty sous-vide machine.

There’s a special place in our heart for a tool that can effortlessly cook steak too a perfect medium rare then turn around and make the smoothest crème brûlée. In fact, an immersion circulator is probably one of the most versatile pieces of kitchen equipment on the market.

New to the world of sous vide? Or perhaps you’re looking for a little help mastering your latest holiday score? Follow these six innovative hacks, and you’ll be a sous-vide superstar in no time.

① Poach Eggs with PrecisionNobody ever said whipping up eggs Benedict was easy, but add an immersion circulator to the mix and achieving perfect, yolk-y gooeyness is painless. Just dump your eggs directly from the carton into an awaiting water bath, no vacuum bag needed. Their shells will protect them from cracking, and the consistent, well-circulated heat will keep them from overcooking. In less than an hour, they’ll be done and ready to top your English muffins, creamy risotto or spaghetti carbonara.

② Temper Chocolate like Jacques Torres

If there was ever a more hair-pulling task, it’d be the tricky art of tempering melted chocolate. But, frustrating as it may be, there’s just no better way to give your homemade candies the snappy, illustrious and markedly professional shine. Though this method usually involves carefully raising and lowering temperatures at specific intervals,

③ Infuse Spirits, Oils and Extracts in an Instant

We’re all for DIY-ing infused spirits and extracts, but waiting weeks for them to age? Not so much. Thankfully, using your sous vide to warm tasty concoctions at a low, steady heat shortens this painful waiting period to just under a few hours, and the method is gentle enough to infuse all those same complex flavors the lengthy aging process produces. You can also employ this hack when making rich homemade tinctures like red pepper and fresh herb extracts.

④ Create Smooth, Foolproof Custards

Making silky pots de crème or sleek lemon curd presents quite the conundrum: You need to heat your eggs for maximum thickness, but raise the temperature a few degrees too high, and you’ll wind up with scrambled yolks. With a sous-vide machine, however, you can kiss curdled custard goodbye. Just seal the ingredients, drop them into the water bath for an hour, then transfer them to a blender for a quick spin. The next thing you know, you’re looking at a custard more akin to a creamy ice cream base than a stringy breakfast dish.

⑤ Pickle Vegetables on the Double

Pickle fiends, it’s time to celebrate: Brining your beloved veggies has never been easier. Rather than waiting weeks for your cukes to ferment, a sous-vide machine’s steady temperatures can cut the process down to a mere few hours. And if you prefer quick chilled pickles, a half hour in a vacuum-sealed bag with just a fraction of the brine is all you need.

⑥ Get Icy-Cold Drinks in Minutes

Say sayonara to that college-era, ice-filled bathtub. If you happen to have a Nomiku-brand machine, its minimum temperature can activate the motor without turning on the heating element. Fill a bucket with your favorite Super Bowl beverages, and the machine will churn icy water to chill them right in time for kickoff.

GENIUS SOUS-VIDE COOKING HACKS

Use Those Cilantro Stems

Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs to use in cooking, but one thing we don’t think about are cilantro stems. Crunchy yet tender and not at all stringy or woody, cilantro stems taste just like the leaves with a little extra zip. If you eat the stems you more than doubling the number of edible parts of the herb, getting way more bang for your buck, and cutting back on waste.

Whereas parsley stems are bitter and you really want to avoid using them, cilantro stems taste wonderful.  Use them, do waste them.  Use parsley stems in your stock, so you don’t waste them either.

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Cilantro stems are easy prep-wise. The stems can be attached to roots when purchased, so they tend to come in contact with a bit more dirt and may need to be washed more thoroughly. You should always wash your herbs before using them, so this is not really adding anything. I throw mine in a small colander and run them under the faucet then dry them well.

Here are just a few ideas for using cilantro stems:

Puree them into a sauce: Blend cilantro stems and leaves with a few tablespoons of tahini, a spoonful of miso paste, lemon or lime juice, and lots of black pepper for an addicting sauce you’ll want to spoon on everything from fried eggs to kale salad.

Use them in a salad: Tear off a handful of cilantro leaves, then finely chop stems and toss with your salad greens. This will work with any lettuce, but I think pairs especially well with peppery arugula.

Blend into smoothies and juice: Cilantro is bright and citrusy, so it works well in fruit smoothies and juices without adding sweetness. Try it in a pineapple coconut smoothie or in ginger-carrot juice.

Use Those Cilantro Stems

Spanish Spice-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Bites (Pinchos Morunos)

 

Tonight for a quick dinner I mixed together the spices in the morning and pulled a pork tenderloin from the freezer.  I buy them on sale, so it is a very inexpensive dinner.  Trying to keep the carbs down a little, I served it over cauliflower rice which I made from a head of cauliflower I had in the refrigerator.  I cooked it in a little ghee to give it a slight butter flavor.

The combination of spice and sauce made the entire meal delicious.  It was fast and very easy to make.  I grow my own herbs, so always have a fresh supply.

Pork

We usually prefer the flavor we get from grinding whole spices ourselves, but in this recipe, we found preground worked. Cutting the pork tenderloin into 1- to 1½-inch cubes produced more surface area, allowing the spice rub to quickly penetrate and season the meat. (Any smaller and the meat cooked too quickly)

INGREDIENTS
  • 1½ TEASPOONS GROUND CORIANDER
  • 1½ TEASPOONS GROUND CUMIN
  • 1½ TEASPOONS SMOKED PAPRIKA
  • ¾ TEASPOON EACH KOSHER SALT AND COARSELY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
  • 1 POUND PORK TENDERLOIN, TRIMMED AND CUT INTO 1- TO 1½-INCH PIECES
  • 1 TABLESPOON LEMON JUICE, PLUS LEMON WEDGES FOR SERVING
  • 1 TABLESPOON HONEY
  • 1 LARGE GARLIC CLOVE, FINELY GRATED
  • 2 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
  • 1 TABLESPOON CHOPPED FRESH OREGANO

In a large skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until just smoking. Add the meat in a single layer and cook without moving until deeply browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and browned all over, another 2 to 3 minutes.


Off the heat, pour the lemon juice-garlic mixture over the meat and toss to evenly coat, then transfer to a serving platter.


Sprinkle the oregano over the pork and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Serve with lemon wedges.

Spanish Spice-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Bites (Pinchos Morunos)

Instant Chicken ~ Instant Pot

IMG_1790.jpgIt is a very snowy day here and I started thinking about what I could cook for dinner.  I always have back-up supplies in my garage freezer, so I went out to browse and see what might be good a snowy night.  I realized I had way too much chicken so grabbed a package, thinking I should have thawed this out way earlier.

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Hummm.  Instant Pot might do the trick.  I had homemade tortillas left over from the other day and a few interesting ingredients that could make chicken tacos.  Here is a photo of my friendly Instant Pot.

Doing a little online research I found an article about thawing and cooking chicken in an Instant Pot in about ten minutes.  So today I am the “Ten Minute Cook”.  Boy that has a lot of appeal!

The exact time you might use for your Instant Pot would depend on the size and weight of the chicken breasts. Just be sure when you open the pot the chicken is at least a safe 165 degrees. I figure a little higher is better than a little lower.

If you are in a hurry add a little water or chicken broth.  Today I had beef broth and no matter what people say, if it sits about it, you can’t really taste that much difference.  If you are a purest, well that is your problem.

I cut off the ends of some garlic and threw in some taco seasoning and little salt and pepper.

IMG_7158I set the Instant Pot for ten minutes on manual.  When time is up, let it release naturally if not in a hurry.  A quick release if fine for this too.  Not bad for ten minutes or so work.

There you have it, a yummy and quick dinner for working people.  Add a little sauce or throw it in a taco with other taco stuff and have a wonderful dinner.

Instant Chicken ~ Instant Pot

Spiced Pomegranate Chicken

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Here is another delicious and quick dinner for your eating pleasure.  It is low in calories and I served it over cauliflower rice, which you can buy in frozen foods, or make yourself.

Ras el hanout is a North African spice blend made from cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, nutmeg and turmeric.  It is usually free of salt. Most grocery stores carry it.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs Ras el Hanout

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs ( I used two chicken breasts and cut them in half)

1 Tbs EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

1 Tsp pomegranate molasses ( I could not find any, so used Pom and boiled over a low heat till denser

1/4 cup toasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup pomegranate arils (these are the individual seeds)

 

  1. Stir together the ras el hanout, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub evenly over both sides of the chicken.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium and add the chicken.  I only used four thighs, so did it all in one batch.  Either that or use a very large pan. Cook until browned and the thermometer inserted in the thickest part register 165 degrees (about 6-7 minutes per side) Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the molasses. sprinkle with the pepitas and pomegranate arils and serve over the cauliflower rice.

I thought the flavor of the cauliflower rice was wonderful with the added flavors.  Here is to another fast and simple delicious dinner.

 

 

 

Spiced Pomegranate Chicken

Curried Chicken Thighs in 15 minutes

Curry Chicken Thighs

Made this simple and delicious dinner last week and wanted to share the recipe with my friends.  It is quick and easy and low in calories, as it is a Weight Watchers recipe. An average serving has 276 calories.

INGREDIENTS

1 Tbs Madras curry powder

1 Tbs all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1’4 tsp pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs ( I used four)

Olive oil flavored cooking spray

1 cup julienne cut red bell peppers (1 pepper)

1 onion thinly sliced

1/3 cup pain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place curry powder in a large nonstick skillet.  Cook over medium high until toasted, about a minute. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  2. Place the flour, pepper and salt in a large ziplock bag. Coat the chicken with cooking spray and add to the flour mixture.  Seal the bag and give is a good shake to coat.  Remove the chicken from the bag, shaking off the excess flour mixture.  Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over medium until browned and a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 165 degrees (about 7 minutes, turning after 4 minutes) Remove from the pan and keep warm.  I put mine in a warming drawer, but your oven can do the same thing. 
    Coat the bell pepper and onion with cooking spray, and add to the skillet.  Cook til almost crisp-tender (about 3 minutes). Stir in the curry powder, add the chicken and cool for two minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the yogurt just before serving, tossing to coat the chicken and the veggies.  

    Enjoy a lovely dinner. I served over brown rice, which I made in a rice cooker.

Curried Chicken Thighs in 15 minutes

Yes! Drink Wine

Ah, the joy of that glass of wine at dinner or out with friends.  Succulent to the lips, sensual to the tongue, not so great for the figure, but help for your brain.  Figure or brain? To have a glass of wine or not?

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Yes! Drink Wine

Herbes de Provence

Everything you need to know in an article by Gillie Houston

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The iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals, but what exactly is it?

Perfecting the impossibly fluffy French Omelet or sensitive soufflé can be a formidable task for any home cook. The most reliable way to instantly feel like an experienced French chef is with a sprinkling of the country’s most famous spice blend: Herbes de Provence. Don’t you think very recipe feels just a little bit gourmet with the addition of the aromatic mixture.

The Provence region in southeast France is known for endless vineyards, olive groves, and rolling hills of fragrant plant life, this ubiquitous mix has established itself as one of the most popular spice blends used—remarkably it is fairly new.

While this herbaceous ingredient might seem like it would date back eras , the commercial sale of the blend merely goes back to the 1970s, when the Ducros France brand began marketing and selling a popular mix to overseas consumers. Prior to the spice company’s commercialization of the product, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the lexicon of cooks around the world was none other than Julia Child, who included a recipe for Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence in her classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Before Child, the term “herbes de Provence” was a lesser-known, all-encompassing descriptive term for the many herbs grown throughout the region.

Like most spice blends, from curry powder to Dukkah, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbes de Provence. While thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf are considered the standard base ingredients, other herbs that are often incorporated are oregano, basil, tarragon, marjoram, savory, sage, fennel, dill, and lavender. Although lavender wasn’t traditionally added to the blend, packaged Herbes de Provence sold in the U.S. have come to commonly include the ingredient as a touristic nod to the iconic lavender fields of the Provence region.

The most popular use of the mixture is to instill grilled items with an herbaceous, Mediterranean flavor, which is heightened by the addition of olive oil and heat. This fragrant blend is an idea rub and seasoning for a diverse variety of meats, like Herbes de Provence Crusted Lamb Chops, Oven Poached Halibut, and Roast Chicken. Herbes de Provence can be sprinkled over coals, infusing the smoke with its flavors in addition to using directly your choice of food.

The versatile mixture can be used to flavor stews, sauces, cheeses, and unexpected recipes like Deviled Eggs, Turkey Soup, and Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad.

While fresh Herbes de Provence is traditionally sold in small clay containers, you can find a variety of dried blends in your grocery store’s spice aisle. If you’re looking to craft your own signature blend, start with the basic recipe noted below, and slowly introduce your own pantry additions. You’ll be feeling like a true Chef de Cuisine in no time—whether you’ve perfected your soufflé yet or not.

Herbes de Provance

This version of southern France’s seasoning blend uses dried herbs. Mix with olive oil and brush on fish before baking, rub on a turkey before roasting, or whisk into homemade salad dressing. Present with a bottle of French extra-virgin olive oil for Provençal flair. Double the recipe to make two gifts.

Herbes de Provence

How to Buy and Store Goat Cheese

I don’t eat dairy, so enjoy all sorts of goat and sheep cheeses.  I found this article by Janet Rausa Fuller in Epicurious.

When you hear “goat cheese,” what probably comes to mind is that little white log: fresh chevre, creamy, tangy deliciousness.

It’s a good starting point. From there, goat cheese can run the gamut from firm to funky to crumbly to melty to nutty, you name it. Basically, anything cow or sheep’s milk can do, goat’s milk can do just as well—or better.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know on your next goat cheese excursion.

FINE FAT

You know how the cream in raw cow’s milk rises to the top? It doesn’t in goat’s milk. That’s because the fat molecules in goat’s milk are smaller and finer.

Think of it this way: Goat milk is naturally homogenized. It’s also more digestible and has less lactose than cow’s milk. When that milk is turned into fresh cheese, “It’s a whole different ball game,” Schad said. “That texture is going to be like silk in your mouth.”

By the way, the flavor of the milk has little to do with what goats eat. “It’s what they’re smelling right before they produce milk that transfers over,”  Impress your party guests with that one next time.

ALL-SEASON CHEESE

Used to be, spring was goat cheese season. Breeding happens in the fall and into early winter, so baby goats (and therefor goat milk) happened in the spring. But year-round demand means you can find goat cheese all the time, though artisans say the time of year can affect production.

“We get almost twice as much milk from our goat producers in the spring and summer as we do in the fall, which is why we started making aged cheeses to begin with, so we’d have cheeses that could hold.”

Grilled Sausage and Fig Pizza with Goat Cheese

WHAT’S YOUR STYLE?

Goat cheese can be fresh (unripened) or ripened. Texture and flavor vary quite a bit beyond that depending how the cheese was made.

Fresh goat cheese is soft, young and not always log-shaped. Soft- or surface-ripened goat cheese develops a white or sometimes wrinkly rind as it ages over weeks; texture-wise, it can range from creamy to crumbly. Aged goat cheese is firm, ripened over a longer period and can be quite complex and pungent.

BUY JUST ENOUGH

Goat cheese is like bread or wine, to be enjoyed once you crack it open. So this is not the time for bulk shopping. Buy what you know you’re going to eat within seven days.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Plastic wrap invites unwanted mold, so avoid it if you can. “What happens if you put mushrooms in a plastic bag for a week? It’s the same thing.”

If you have a cheesemonger who lets you sample before you buy, who can slice to order, who constantly refreshes the case, who uses paper, not plastic, wrap … fantastic. That’s ideal—and probably not the situation at your average supermarket. Still, you can take steps to find the best options wherever you shop.

Fresh goat cheese should feel firm, not mushy, “otherwise you’re paying for water,”. For vacuum-sealed cheese, avoid excess liquid, leakage and any off-colors. For varieties with rind that have already been cut into, look for any separation between the rind and the cheese — you don’t want that. If it looks dried out as if it’s been sitting there a while, it probably has been.

LET IT BREATHE

Goat cheese—any cheese—needs humidity and some room to breathe. If you missed it the first (and second and third) time, here it is again: Plastic wrap BAD.

Vacuum-wrapped chevre from the grocery store can keep, unopened, for at least two months. But once opened, take it out of the packaging and store in a lidded plastic or glass container in the refrigerator.

For varieties with rind that didn’t come in paper, wrap first in wax paper and then in plastic and store in the refrigerator drawer. “You’re creating a layer of breathability.”

CHECK, SCRAPE, TOSS

And remember: You’re buying goat cheese to eat within a week, not to see how long it’ll keep in the fridge. Eat the fresh stuff within days, and check on the aged and softer ripened types every other day or so.

When you do, scrape off the surface with a knife and rewrap in a new layer of wax paper, then plastic wrap. While a spot of gray or brown mold isn’t cause for alarm, bright yellow or pink mold is, Schad says.

If your goat cheese tastes sour or way goat-ier than you think it should, toss that, too.

Quotes are by Schad, proprietor of Capriole in Indiana, one of the nation’s foremost makers of goat cheese. Naturally, she has much to say about the stuff, from what makes it so distinct (the fat molecules in the milk) to why plastic wrap is the enemy (hello, suffocation).

How to Buy and Store Goat Cheese