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Appetizers/ HotApp

Fried Squash Blossoms

My first attempt but not my last!

Aren’t they beautiful. I may have to plant some squash just so I get some blossoms to fry.

These flowers don’t go in a vase. This past weekend a friend, Kathy and I finally got together for a trip to Houston’s Urban Harvest Farmers Market. We haven’t seen each other for a while but stay in touch through texting. I should be better and try to actually pick up a phone and call than typing into the phone things that sometimes don’t make a bit of sense. I’ve even gotten worst and use the voice activated texting, which believe me, does not come out right sometimes and I’m sure my text leave friends thinking “what in the world is she saying.” We both worked at Williams Sonoma for about six years and shared our love of food while working together so we are never at a loss for something to talk about.

Who doesn’t like farmer’s markets especially when you find a vegetable or product you have not tried before. On this trip it seems like everyone had squash blossoms and they were so beautiful and they were screaming from their cute little ruffled lips to jump into my bag. We also saw some beautiful potato greens (leaves) that a lady told me could be cooked or put into salads. They were very interesting and will be on my list the next time there. I also bought some portabella mushrooms which I used the tiny squash on the end of the squash blossoms as the filling for the Squash Stuffed Mushrooms.

A few graffiti eggplant and some organic ground beef also jumped into my basket while there and I’m sure I can come up with some yummy to do with those also.

So, after a day of looking over freshly grown produce and other products the farmers were selling, lunch was at Tiny Boxwood in Houston. I have never been there and I loved the little place and a bonus was there’s a nursery right next door. As Mr. Rogers use to say, “It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”

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Appetizers/ HotApp

Parmesan Crab Grilled Oysters

Not an oyster eater? I think you would love these.

After our vacation a month ago (can’t believe  it has been that long since we were at the beach) we went to Panama City Beach. I already told you the honeymoon story when I posted the White Chocolate Key Lime Pie.

So our first night there we got recommendations for a couple of restaurants. One was the Boat Yard and another one was Anderson’s Seafood (we had eaten at Anderson’s 44 years ago). While we were strolling around the boat docks looking at what the fishermen and their clients had caught for the day we came upon Boat Yard. It had really good reviews etc. and when we went in there was at least an hour’s wait. We like our nice restaurants just like everyone else, but we both kind of looked at each other and decided it was too touristy for us, too big and not at all what we were looking for.  I had done some googling for oyster and soft shell crab restaurants and found Billy’s Oyster Bar which turned out to be just across the street. Definitely a local spot.

Upon arriving at the restaurant I was told that there would be a 20 minute wait for either inside or outside dining. By the time my husband parked the car and found me I was at the bar. We ordered drinks and sat there for awhile waiting and watching a young guy shuck oysters and ended up eating our meal at the bar listening the the oyster guy. And, the soft shell crabs were delicious. I had never had them before and will definitely be looking for them on  menus when we go out.

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Appetizers/ HotApp

Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry

Thank you Ina for this recipe. 

Puffed pastry is one of those things that is delicious no matter what you put in it.

Last week we were in Chicago visiting our son and his family. I just love seeing the little grandsons, they are so cute; but whose grand-kids are not cute and adorable but our four are especially cute and adorable; I just want to squeeze and hug them all the time. I even blow kisses to their pictures on my refrigerator.

We had a few snow flurries while there and temperatures were in the 20-30’s. Anyone that knows me knows I prefer cold weather to hot weather. BUT, when it gets that cold I start changing my mind. I love coming up with different appetizers we can try. One day I decided to put on my gloves, scarf and long HEAVY wool coat and venture out by myself to a little gourmet grocery, Olivia’s Market. It was only 1/2 mile away but I had GPS on iPhone up and running because i did not want to take any chances of wandering off into parts unknown.

I love little markets like Olivia’s; I had gone there to buy some salad ingredients to go with the soup I was making that night. While there I bought some of their country pate and their chicken liver mousse and some cheese all of which we enjoyed before dinner that night.

Back to this recipe — about a month ago I was watching Barefoot Contessa and Ina Garten was making this Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry recipe so while I was out running around one day, I stopped to pick up some of the soppressata and cheese to make this for an appetizer for the two of us.

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Appetizers/ HotApp/ Morning Foods/ Pork

Rosemary Brown Sugar Bacon Twist

Need something special for your brunch? Only three ingredients!

This is by far the easiest recipe I have ever made (Rosemary and The Goat comes in second.) with the fewest ingredients.Go figure, I use to say I like recipes with lots of ingredients which yield lots of taste and flavors; but this recipe just goes to show you that great things come from small beginnings.

Do you know there are entire blogs that are devoted to bacon. Is there anything better than the smell of bacon and the sizzling sound of it cooking to make you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Did you know there are bacon flavored beers, vodkas, candy bars with bacon bits, chocolate covered bacon (now that sounds good), bacon toothpaste (that sounds like a little too much bacon even for me), bacon mayonnaise, and the list goes on and on and on.

When it comes to bacon I will try just about anything that has the cured meat as one of the ingredients. Turkey bacon is not a favorite of mine. If you can find uncured bacon, then you have pork belly and I think this is even better than bacon. Fry it up, salt it because it hasn’t been cured and it is the Cinderella of bacon. Canada has Canadian Bacon, Pancetta is Italy’s version of bacon, all the dieters have turkey bacon (they can keep it), and the Irish have back bacon.

Bacon has such an addictive taste; it is hard to just eat one piece, kind of like potato chips. Have you tried caramel popcorn with bacon added at the last stirring; it’s great.

I’ve seen lots of bacon twist recipes and they all have the brown sugar; but most of the recipes have cinnamon and other sweet type spices. I decided to use the rosemary because I think it pairs nicely with the brown sugar and the bacon. Now these would really be good with a glass of wine or beer or just for your weekend brunch.

One more thing before I get on to the recipe; my son, Paul, made a compound bacon butter at Christmas to put on top of our steaks. I’ve been thinking of doing a blog on different compound butters that can be made and kept in the freezer; so stay tuned because that may be coming in the near future.

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Appetizers/ HotApp

Mini Grilled Pork Skewers

Star skewers!

Don’t you just love cute little foods on a stick. Forget those corn dogs, although I make a pretty darn good corn dog that would rival any concession stand at your county fair; forget those caramel apples on a stick and how about the deep fried Twinkie on a stick. So long beloved Twinkie. Even though I haven’t eaten a Twinkie in years, I do have fond memories of the pillowy  puffs of cake with that yummy vanilla filling.

If you are tired of preparing the same old appetizers for your get-togethers, why not try this pork skewer for your Christmas company. Spicy and nice and not that hard to make.

I love pickonuscom. They have some of the cutest picks. I bought these star picks to use during the holidays and also some heart shaped ones. I couldn’t pass up some little blue porpoises ones I plan to use at the beach this summer for our family vacation. (I’m already planning the food and I want to have an “app of the day”, “cocktail of the day” and maybe even an “ice cream of the day.” I may do my pickled shrimp in a jar and use the cute  porpoise pics. I also found horseshoe and horse pics which will be great for my daughter’s annual derby party; can’t wait to hear what she comes up with to spear for her guest.

I saw Giada make these cute little pork skewers and they are delicious to boot. As usual, I’m testing these out on my bunco group along with the cranberry avocado salsa recipe of my daughter by way of Martha Stewart.

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Appetizers/ HotApp/ Sauces

The Best Egg Rolls

Great beginnings — Our Egg Rolls.

Crisp and delicious.

I’m sorry if I always think (I don’t actually say it) my recipes are the best. That isn’t always true, BUT (my husband says I say BUT way too much) this recipe is better than any (of course) that you would buy frozen and better than any I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant.

My sister started making these years ago and of course shared the recipe with me. She and a friend once made 1000 of these for an Arts & Craft event. My kids actually use to help me make them and we would do a double batch, some small ones in won ton wrappers and mostly the larger ones in egg roll or spring roll wrappers. A quick fry, drain, cool and then to the freezer (after sampling quite a few) so they can be enjoyed at anytime you have an egg roll craving.

I use to cook Asian food quite often; and I don’t know why I quit but I use to love doing moo gai pan, sukiyaki, fried rice, and egg foo yung and of course these egg rolls. Maybe the reason is because we can find Thai, Chinese and just about any other kind of Asian food restaurant in our area. This winter, I’m committing to doing more of those quick stir fry dishes that makes getting dinner on the table faster and I just love being able to do everything in one pan.

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Appetizers/ HotApp/ Sandwiches

Hawaiian Pork Sliders

Let these little gems slide off your plate and into your mouth.

I have never seen the beautiful waters of Hawaii or taken a bike ride down the side of a volcano, or seen the pineapple fields or been there to bring back cans of macadamia nuts to friends or even sat on the beach enjoying the hula dancers as we chowed down on an elaborate luau.

It’s been a year since my daughter and her husband got married (how time flies). They had such a beautiful wedding and then honeymooned in Hawaii so I thought I would make these little Hawaiian Pork Sliders on their anniversary.

These little sliders are great for any kind of party whether it’s at home, a tail gating party or even your bunco group which is where I’m taking mine. You can serve these open face or closed on the toasted Hawaiian roll.

I don’t normally use Hawaiian rolls because they are sweet, but I think for this little slider with grilled pork, a crunchy slaw with a little pineapple and a kick of Texas heat they make the perfect bun. If you don’t want to serve this on the buns, just do the pork tenderloin with the sauce and serve with whatever sides you want. I think lining a dish with the slaw and putting the pork tenderloin in the middle and a then drizzle with a little of the sauce would be a beautiful presentation.

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Appetizers/ HotApp

Crispy Asparagus Straws

Asparagus Straws for your next party.

I know Spring has been here and gone and we are looking at a hot dry summer ahead of us. But you can always get fresh asparagus, just not always at the low springtime prices.

(On our way to Chicago to see grandson #4; #3 arrived 2 months ago.)

When we were at the Food and Wine Festival in Austin (Texas) a couple of years ago, one of the caterers had several items made with phyllo. So that got me to thinking about this recipe I have had for a while and not made for several years.

I have always liked working with phyllo and never really understood some people’s “fear” of the stuff.  If it tears you just piece it together and continue on with the recipe. I have made roses with phyllo for a platter garnish, I’ve used it for desserts, I’ve made a Chicken in Phyllo with Lemon Veloute Sauce, there are all kinds of appetizer recipes out on the web just begging for someone to try them. Here is a wonderful dessert I posted a couple of years ago. It looks so elegant and is delicious to boot and really easy — Mandarin Orange Napoleons.

If you have never used phyllo, you should give it a try. Just make sure it is thawed either at room temperature or in the refrigerator and keep it covered with a tea towel while making your recipe and you will have no problems.

Appetizers are one of my favorite things to make and definitely my favorite type party to cater. Sometimes I tend to fill friends up too quickly on the appetizers before getting to the meal and I really need to start reeling myself in when it comes to the amount of food I prepare. Usually I have enough food to feed a small army. An appetizer is suppose to whet your appetite for the food to come, not kill your appetite and I admit, I’m guilty of that.

A lemon dipping sauce would also be great with this recipe.

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Appetizers/ HotApp

Cheese Stuffed Baby Bells

Colorful appetizer for your summer parties.

Some how I forgot to take a picture of these little peppers after they were plated.

With Memorial Day just around the corner, here’s a new recipe for your grill and appetizer files.

I just love these little baby bell peppers.  I have always loved stuffed bell peppers like my mother use to make with ground beef, onion, rice, some tomato sauce and seasoning. One of these days I’m going to try and make these mini peppers with a meat and cheese filling, maybe just add some ground cooked meat to the below recipe for a start.

There’s just something about cute little vegetables that are so appealing to me. I think for one thing, they have a sweeter taste. And, other mini vegetables like long baby carrots, baby zucchini, patty pan squash and the little fingerling potatoes and of course the cipolini onions just make a plate of food move up a couple of notches on the appealing factor.

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Appetizers/ Entree/ Game/ HotApp

Duck Confit

So you say, “what is duck confit” and what are you going to do with it.

I tried to anticipate what we might be eating and tried a few French recipes. I’m sure I will be taking a lot of food pictures and I will post some of our favorite places and meals when we return.

In just a few more hours and we will be boarding our plane for France. A week in Paris and a week in Provence I’m sure the trip is going to be wonderful with breathtaking scenery, new experiences and lots of wonderful food. I am sure that we will be seeing duck confit on all the menus; so I decided to make it before our trip then I can compare my version to theirs.

I tried to anticipate what we might be eating while there and tried a few French recipes before going. I’m sure I will be taking a lot of food pictures while there an

Duck confit is a French dish made with the leg/thigh of the duck and it is prepared in a century-old process that consists of salt curing the duck legs and then poaching slowly submerged in its own fat for hours.

The duck legs are rubbed with garlic, herbs (thyme) and salt (I love using thyme because my herb garden is full of it), then refrigerated 36-48 hours. After rinsing off the salt and herbs the meat is slowly poached for 6-8 hours and the meat and fat are removed from the bone. After the meat has cooled it can be put into a container and submerged in the fat.  A sealed jar of duck confit can be refrigerated for up to six months or longer. You need to top the meat in the jar with at least 1″ of fat.

One weekend when we were in Austin visiting our kids, my son was chopping up some duck legs that he had confitted (if that is a word). Anyway, my grandson, Milo, who was only two at the time stood on his chair, watching his dad cook and ate a whole pile of chopped duck legs.

My duck legs were not easily found; I looked all over Houston for duck legs and finally found them at Central market (by phone) but at $6.99 lb. So, what I love most about the internet is that after searching just a little while, no driving, traffic, or gas involved, I found the duck legs at Maple Leaf Farms at $2.99 for 12 oz. leg/thigh. So I ordered six. Why not order more than I needed since I had to pay shipping anyway and on top of that I found a promo code for $5.00 off. So I ordered 6 legs for $25 and that included shipping. I search for promo codes on EVERYTHING I order off the internet. Usually one can be found for a percentage off, free shipping or at least $5.00 off. In this case I got $5.00 off so, what a deal; now I don’t have to drive into Houston. So if you need a promo code, just Google promo code for…. (whatever) and you may have to look through a couple of sites before you find one that works.

I did find whole duck at this Asian market in Houston ,BUT, the frozen and fresh ducks had their heads and feet still on and I just couldn’t bring myself to buying them; they kind of gave me the heebe geebies to look at them. I know I have eaten tripe, lamb fries, tongue and different organ meats that most people wouldn’t think of eating but there was just something about seeing the head and legs/feet still on the duck all curled up in the package made me shiver just to think of it.

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Appetizers/ HotApp

Mushroom Asparagus Tarts

Finally this recipe makes an appearance.

I can’t believe I had this recipe ready to post in March 2010 but never got around to trying it. What a mistake, it is a delicious appetizer or even a brunch or main dish item.

Yesterday, I had a guy from our local camera shop come to my house and give me tips for taking better food pictures. (These may not be BETTER yet, I’m a work in progress when it comes to learning new things.) Like this recipe, it took be a year and a half to get around to using a gift card my husband had given me from the camera shop. But, I finally set things up and it was definitely beneficial and I hope my pictures eventually improve.

So, in anticipation for my visit I made these Mushroom Asparagus Tarts, a Sugar Plum Cake (will post that), some Rosemary Blue Cheese Wafers (coming soon), and a red cabbage and fennel salad (also to make an appearance). So I had all this food ready to take pictures of for my lesson and I just wanted to dig in and try some of it.

I could tell from the aroma of cooking the asparagus and mushrooms that this was going to be delicious, and how good they would taste with a glass of wine. I took this to our bunco group last night and everyone loved them. I can’t wait to make them again and may vary some of the ingredients and try tomato and caramelized onion for another time. I had four squares left and brought them home and it didn’t take long for my husband to gobble up a couple of them.

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Appetizers/ Entree/ Fish/Seafood/ HotApp

Hawaiian Coconut Shrimp w/ Orange Marmalade Sauce

Delicious coconut shrimp from Hawaiian feast night.

I’ve blogged a coconut shrimp recipe before but this is a little different and one of the recipes from our Hawaiian feast on Thanksgiving weekend.

My first recipe was coated in an almond meal which can be pretty expensive to buy. This recipe has some Cajun seasoning (I used Tony’s) and hot sauce which spices it up a bit.

For my course on feast night I did three coconut shrimp per plate and then a little puddle of the orange marmalade dipping sauce. I have made orange marmalade before so I knew that part of my course was going to be easy. In fact, I did the orange marmalade a week before. The recipe for the orange marmalade just called for one orange but I used four because I wanted some extra jars of marmalade in my pantry for this winter.

One thing about making the orange marmalade though is it will only be as good as your oranges. I used Texas oranges when I made mine and they had a lot of seeds to pick out and they were not as orange color on the inside as I would have liked them to be. Look for naval oranges and I don’t think you can go wrong. I have been wanting to try blood oranges for this recipe; the color would be beautiful for a sauce or on your toast, scones or morning bagel. OR, even easier, just buy a good orange marmalade.

I think this would be a nice little appetizer to do during the Christmas holidays.

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