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Archive for the ‘appetizers’ Category

Italian layer bake

Posted by culinaryneophyte on November 7, 2012

So remember, like, a week ago when parts of New Jersey got decimated by Hurricane Sandy? Well, now we’ve got a nor’easter on our hands. I wasn’t quite ready for the snowy weather, especially considering all my scarves and gloves are in my storage unit and my favorite pair of boots just fell apart. But, ready or not, the snow is here and I’ve already lost feeling in my poorly circulated feet.

A little silver lining to this shoddy weather is it makes a nice, warm meal even more rewarding. This Italian layer bake requires a bit of time at the deli counter, but makes a nice meaty little meal for the middle of the week when you want to eat something toasty and curl up in a ball.

By the way, I have to gripe about my experience at the deli. The service was great — no doubt — but the guy at the counter called me ma’am about 17 times, and we were probably the same age. I’m 27 and get carded for rated R movies. You should be calling me “miss.” And if the way I look doesn’t warrant a youthful epithet, the fact that I giggled uncontrollably when I told him I wanted “hard salami” should have.

adapted from mr. food
1 (8 pz.) container of Pillsbury crescent rolls
♦1/4 lb. thinly sliced deli turkey
♦1/4 lb. thinly sliced deli smoked ham
♦1/4 lb. sliced deli hard salami
♦1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
♦3/4 of a 12-oz jar roasted red peppers
♦3 eggs, beaten
♦Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll crescent dough, but instead of separating into triangles, separate into two squares along the center perforation. In an 8×8-inch baking dish, press out one square until it meets the edges of the dish. Using half of each meat quantity, layer turkey, then ham and then salami evenly in the dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. cheese and half amount of peppers. Pour half the beaten egg over peppers, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Repeat layering a second time (meat, cheese, peppers) — using the remainder of ingredients — then add second dough square on top of the peppers and pour remaining egg over, plus another dusting of Italian seasoning

Cover with pitched tinfoil (really pitch it, too, because mine touched down on the uncooked dough and made a tiny mess), and bake for 20 minutes. Remove tinfoil and bake for another 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes or you’ll get a sloppy serving. Delicious — yes, but sloppy.

Total time? 15 minutes prep, 40 minutes bake.
Cost? $2.39 crescent rolls, about $8 deli meat, $2 shredded cheese, $3.29 roasted red peppers.
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out 10. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and — despite not being a “meat person” — I was salivating. I really enjoyed the meal, but next time, I’d make it a one-layer bake spread over a larger surface area. The layers slid apart during serving and eating, which didn’t make it taste any less awesome, but I was reconstructing between bites for optimum awesomeness. Still, this is an easy concept with endless possibilities (pepperoni/mozz, tomato/mozz/basil, roast beef/cheddar). You’ll see this one again sometime.


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Posted by culinaryneophyte on November 2, 2012

As a result of Hurricane Sandy, Halloween in our area has been postponed until Monday (as decreed by Governor Chris Christie), so this post may come a little late for those non-East Coasters, but this recipe really works for any autumnal party because it’s oh-so-cute and super tasty.

Food Network calls it “pumpkin cheese ball,” but that’s a bit misleading because the only thing pumpkin about it is the appearance — not the taste. In any event, this was a big hit at the Halloween party I went to last weekend. We had barely captured it on film before it was demolished! (Hence the quickly snapped, not-nearly-as-meticulous-as-usual photo.)

slightly adapted from Food Network
♦2 eight-oz packages of cream cheese (low-fat is fine)

2 c. freshly shredded New York extra sharp cheddar
3 tbs. minced onion
2 tbs. salsa
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/3 bag Nacho Cheese Doritos (or any orange tortilla chip), finely crushed
Green bell pepper (pick one with a good stem!)
Tortilla chips, any variety

Blend room temperature cream cheese, cheddar, onion, salsa and cumin on medium high. Plop onto plastic wrap and roll into a ball. (Don’t worry about making it absolutely perfect; you will be able to mold later.) Place in fridge for at least two hours. Ground Doritos in blender or crush as finely as possible in a plastic baggie. Place crumbs in shallow dish. When mixture is solid, roll into a pumpkin shape, unwrap and roll in crushed Doritos until ball is entirely coated. Cut stem of bell pepper off and press into top of ball. Place on a serving dish with whole tortilla chips around it.

Total time? 10 minutes prep, 2+ hours chill, 5 minutes set.
Cost? $3 cream cheese bricks, $3 cheddar, $1 onion, $3 Doritos, $2.50 tortilla chips.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out 10. This “pumpkin” vanished shortly after being set out. I really thought it was going to be more of an aesthetic novelty for the Halloween party, but it actually tasted really good — like, shoveling-it-in good. The jalapenos were nixed to protect the faint of heart, but I didn’t feel it was lacking flavor at all. If you wanted to get really crafty, you could add slivers of black olive to create a jack-o’-lantern face. (You know… show them your o’ face…) The only other thing I’d consider doing differently is setting out darker colored chips for more of a contrast in presentation; otherwise, it was the perfect appetizer for a Halloween (or any fall-time) party.

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prosciutto flatbread

Posted by culinaryneophyte on July 5, 2012

If you read my last entry, you know how hectic my recent party planning was — particularly the menu. When you bribe your friends with food, they have high expectations. I made spinach bites, pepperoni puffs, crab-stuffed cucumber cups, a few tasty dips, etc. I still felt like it wasn’t going to be enough, so at the last minute, I called an audible and threw together these cheater prosciutto flatbreads.

When I Googled “party flatbreads” the day of the party, I found all sorts of fancy recipes that involved making your own bread. Yeah… Maybe next time. Instead I took a bunch of shortcuts and still ended up with something I considered relatively fancy.

♦Pocketless pitas
Shredded mozzarella cheese (obviously fresh mozz is preferable, but if you’re in a pinch…)
1/4 lb. prosciutto
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay out pitas on tin foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake about 10 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Add handful of arugula, then spread prosciutto evenly. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with black pepper. Use a pizza slicer to cut and serve.

Total time? 15 minutes.
Cost? $3 prosciutto, $2 shredded mozzarella cheese, $4 balsamic vinegar, $2 arugula
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. I am in love with these flavors, and these flatbreads would hands down be 10 out of 10 if I had fresh mozzarella on hand. Still, these were really easy to put together in a hurry, and fed aplenty (whether necessarily or not).

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it’s like, classy ham

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 31, 2012

I’m super psyched for Super Bowl — Déjà BLUE all over again — and I’m trying to crank out some game-day snack posts for you to bring to the big party on Sunday (or eat alone in the other room while watching the Puppy Bowl).

I made this prosciutto bread for the Winter Classic last month. I was on a Food Network Magazine cooking kick (I adapted this recipe from their November issue) and happened to have some leftover prosciutto in the fridge.

This snack is incredibly easy to make; if you’re not hosting this weekend, you might even consider making this on the premises so it’s fresh out of the oven for the first quarter. This type of cured ham isn’t for everyone, though, so consider your party peers before you start stuffing. I’m not a traditional ham person because thick slabs of meat freak me out (joke away), but I’ll eat prosciutto because it’s thinly sliced and pairs well with Italian flavors. I like to call it “classy ham.” It makes me like it more.

prosciutto bread innards

♦1/4 lb. prosciutto 
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella cheese (shredded is fine)
11-oz. package of Pilsbury Crusty French Loaf refrigerated bread
Italian seasonings
Olive oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Completely roll out dough, then add layers of prosciutto, mozzarella and Italian seasonings. Roll dough into a log, pulling and twisting it into a ring by connecting ends. Drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with more Italian seasonings. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, add more olive oil and bake for five more minutes. (I also threw a bit of cheese on top for fun.) Slice and serve. Makes 10-12 slices.

Total time? 5 minutes prep, 25 minutes bake.
Cost? $3 for prosciutto (on sale for $9.99/lb), $3.19 for Pilsbury bread, $3 mozzarella.
Overall success relative to expectations? 7 out 10. I love stromboli-like stuffed breads, and I was really excited to try this. I added cheese to the FN Magazine recipe because I didn’t think the prosciutto could stand alone. Maybe it was the kind I used, but I found the prosciutto flavor a little more prevalent than I would have liked. Next time I try this, I’ll consider adding some arugula or basil to add another level of flavor.

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smokin’ them (USA! USA!)

Posted by culinaryneophyte on July 14, 2011

U.S. goalkeeper, Hope Solo

I was still reeling yesterday from the U.S. Women’s National Team’s amazing win Sunday in the World Cup quarterfinal match against Brazil, and then they pulled out another fantastic victory over France to move on to the finals. This team is amazing. If you haven’t watched a game yet, take some time this weekend to do so.

The women play again this Sunday, and with the impressive amount of support that fans of all kind have shown over the last two weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some Women’s World Cup viewing parties on tap. Whether you’re hosting or attending, serve these little bacon-wrapped Smokies and you’ll get almost as much praise as Abby Wambach’s clutch air game.

didn't have a chance to snap a good photo...

♦1 package Hilshire Farm Lit’l Smokies (or any cocktail links; could use all-beef)
1 package bacon (I used thin cut)
Brown sugar for sprinkling (about 1/2 c.)

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and cover with baking spray. Cut eat slice of uncooked bacon into fourths. Wrap each Smokie with a bacon fourth, secure with toothpick and place on sheet. Sprinkle each Smokie with brown sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, but check periodically for doneness. Serve with toothpicks in; it makes it much easier and less messy for your guests to stuff their faces.

Total time? 10 minutes prep, 20-25 minute bake.
Cost? $2.50 for Smokies (on sale), $3 for bacon.
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. I made these sweet and smokey treats for Super Bowl, and they were snatched up in seconds. Fortunately, they’re really easy to make and don’t require much attention. My only gripe with the finished product was the bacon could have been a bit crispier, but I didn’t want to burn the Smokies. The only other downside is that it can get a little expensive if you are serving a sizable bunch; each Smokie package has a little less than 40 links, so I’d recommend making at least two batches if you’re serving 10 or more people.

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Opening Day dip

Posted by culinaryneophyte on March 31, 2011

The wait is over. Five long, dark months have passed. It’s Opening Day. Baseball has returned.

From a few of the players’ mouths (Hunter Pence, B.J. Upton, James Shields), Opening Day has been described as reaching the top of a roller coaster, the first day of the school and, of course, Christmas. Yes. All of the above.

I usually like to tie in what’s going on outside my kitchen to what I post here, but I didn’t get a chance to make cute little baseball-themed cookies or anything of that ilk, so rather than stretch it make it work, I’m reluctantly shifting focus to today’s “food holiday” — National Tater Day — with loaded baked potato dip (from bakedbree).

I made this for a recent potluck, and while it was successful, it was a little overshadowed by all the more substantial dishes there. This is much more appropriate for a casual hangout — maybe one where you and your friends are sunk in the couch watching a handful of baseball games [via MLB Extra Innings free preview] and want to put as little effort as possible into what you’re eating?

The dip doesn’t actually contain any potatoes, so like baked bree, I would recommend using potato chips or fries as dippers to get the full baked potato effect. If you don’t have a deep fryer, go with the chips; without something strong enough to scoop, it’s a little frustrating to eat. McCain waffle fries + my new deep fryer = winning combination.

♦1/4 lb. bacon (I used about six slices of medium-cut)
16 oz. sour cream
2 c. cheddar cheese
1/3 c. chopped fresh chives (I bought a 1/4 oz. package and it sufficed)
2 tsp. hot sauce, plus little more for drizzling on top
dippers — waffle fries, potato chips, etc.

Cook bacon, and crumble when cooled. Place all ingredients (sans dippers) in bowl. Mix. Let chill in fridge for at least an hour. Check taste, and adjust with salt or hot sauce if desired. This really couldn’t be easier.

Total time? 15 minutes prep (bacon is most time-consuming part), 1 hour chill time.
Cost? $3 bacon, $1.50 sour cream, $1.74 chips, $1 chives, $1 hot sauce, $2 fries/potato chips.
Overall success relative to expect? 6 out of 10. I liked this dip, but I didn’t love it. I’m not really sure why, and I know that’s not helpful. It might be because I’m not the biggest sour cream fan. I would still recommend making it because it’s tasty, easy and seemed to be a crowd-pleaser (which may or may not have been because it came with freshly deep-fried waffle fries). Happy Opening Day, baseball fans!

time to dip!


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