Saturday, December 31, 2011

Appetizers for The New Year

Spinach balls, spice-roasted chickpeas and stuffed mushrooms.
It's that time of year, when you enjoy more cocktail time than usual.  Here are a few appetizers you can make ahead of time.
I've been making these spinach balls for over 20 years.  Everyone loves them, especially me, simply because I can make them and freeze for later use.  I found this recipe in the Ft Lauderdale newspaper too many years ago to remember.
Baked Spinach Balls

2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 C chopped onions
2 cloves minced garlic
1 C oil (a little less)
2 C Pepperidge Farm herbal stuffing
6 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme
Thoroughly mix all ingredients. Refrigerate for an hour or two. Then roll into balls of desired size, I usually make them about an inch and a half.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or you can freeze them, and bake as needed.  If frozen, bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or til done.  These are excellent with meals or as  an appetizer.
I made these stuffed mushrooms  after I saw  Bernard Guillas create them on the Today show.  I didn't  have a ripe mango on hand, but they were still good. 

Baked cremini mushrooms with caramelized onions, mango and blue cheese.
  • For mushrooms
  • 16 cremini mushrooms, 2" cap
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For caramelized onions
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced roasted red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For assembly
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, sliced into 16 pieces
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese

For mushrooms: Preheat oven to 400°. Remove stems from mushrooms. Clean mushrooms with dry cloth or brush. In mixing bowl toss mushrooms with remaining ingredients. Place mushrooms upside down on baking sheets. Cook 3 minutes. Set aside. Cool.

For caramelized onions: Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed.
For assembly: Divide caramelized onions equally among mushroom caps. Top each with one thin mango slice and blue cheese. Bake in oven 3 to 4 minutes, until blue cheese is softened, but not melted.
Serves 8

I am a big fan of garbanzo beans. These spice-roasted chickpeas are in the October 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.  They are great served like peanuts or on top of a salad.
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp coriander seeds
1 15 1/2oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained, rinsed,well dried
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
pinch of cayenne
coarse kosher salt
  • Test-Kitchen Tip

    To make sure the chickpeas get crunchy, it's important to dry them thoroughly. Spreading them out on paper towels works well. 
    • Preheat oven to 400°F. Toast cumin seeds and coriander seeds in small skillet over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Cool. Transfer to spice mill; process until finely ground. Place chickpeas, olive oil, pinch of cayenne, and ground spices in medium bowl. Sprinkle with coarse salt; toss to coat evenly. Transfer to small rimmed baking sheet. Roast in oven until lightly browned and crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
      DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Reheat in 400°F oven until warm, about 5 minutes, before serving.
      Wishing everyone a prosperous New Year filled with good food, good health, happiness and love!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gingerbread Scones

Here is a simple, tasty way to start your morning.  This Gingerbread Scone recipe is really quick and easy.  By the time you're done cleaning up the dishes you've used in preparation, they are almost ready to eat.
I found the recipe at a couple of days ago.  Since I am not a fan of sugar on my food in the morning, I decided not to make the lemon icing that she drizzled on top.  Instead I pressed slivered almonds into the dough after I shaped it on the baking sheet.  With a few fresh berries on the side and a good cup of coffee..well...bring on the day.  URL to article:
Here's a photo of my Mandarin Orange tree.  90% of the fruit are ready to eat, so I've started twisting them sweet and juicy.  It was a small crop, only 16 pieces of fruit, but I can't tell you how satisfying it is to pick fresh fruit off a tree in your house, while you are looking out the window at snow on the ground.
The Meyer Lemons are just beginning to turn yellow If I remember correctly, they fully ripen in the middle of January, so check back then.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Using the Chipper Shredder

Thank goodness my husband decided to pull out the Troy Built Chipper shredder when he did, a couple of weeks ago.  Who would have thought we'd have so much snow on the ground this early?  Every fall we trim all the trees and shrubs, then shred them to use as ground cover for our perennials during the winter.
I also cover the the vegetable gardens with our fresh shredded chips.  We set the apple tree branches aside to dry out so we can use them in the smoker the following year.  Did you know you can use ornamental  apple branches in your smoker, such as Spring Snow? Well, you can.
At our fire side chat that evening, we had a spectacular moon peeking through the leafless tree branches, with the dried Hops still hanging on the Arbor.
Only a couple more weeks and the days will start getting longer:))))))))-- that is a BIG smile for longer daylight hours.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pre Winter Wonderland

Something about a white winter wonderland, everyone wants it,  especially for Christmas Eve, but this is too early.  It's not officially winter until December 21st,  and that's two weeks away. 
I've brought in all the cushions or covered those that stay out so they are protected from the extreme outdoor conditions.
But when the sun is out and it's reflection causes the snow to sparkle, you can't help being in awe of the beauty.  
We are already ahead of the curve as far as snow totals for this time of the year.  If this is any sign of the rest of'll be hearing about it...from me.