Category Archives: Snacktime

An Easy, Impressive & Delicious Starter

Like I said in my last post, I had some guests over for dinner. I wanted a quick & easy appetizer so I could spend time with my guests. What did I go to for help? My newest cookbook in my collection – Williams Sonoma Cooking For Friends. The one I got from Tim for my birthday!

This starter is a puff pastry pizza-like dish. It has pears, walnuts, rosemary and Gorgonzola cheese. Basically a combination that is mouthwatering before and after your first bite. To make it even better? Drizzle it with a little bit of honey. SO GOOD.

If you want to be adventurous, make your own puff pastry. I wouldn’t even bother though, because there’s great options in your grocery’s freezers. You just have to thaw it according to package directions beforehand.

The cookbook said to cut the sheet in half, roll out a bit and then score the edges. Did I do that? No. Not so much. All I did was lay the sheet out flat on a parchment lined baking sheet & flattened the dough a bit with my fingers. I bet it tasted the same. The directions called to fold over the edge of the puff pastry about 1/2″ to make a border. I think if I did this again (which I will!) I’m not going to make a border and just score 1/2″ of the edge with a fork. I don’t think it really needed the border.

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Puff Pastry Tart with Pears, Walnuts & Gorgonzola
(Serves 4-6)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 Bosc pear
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, stripped from the stem, finely chopped
1/4 – 1/3 c. Gorgonzola cheese
Honey

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out your thawed puff pastry sheet onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Using your fingers, flatten the dough out slightly, pushing towards the edges to thin out the dough slightly. Fold the edge over about 1/2″ to make a border (optional) then score the edges with a fork.

Cut your pear down the middle lengthwise, then cut in half again lengthwise. Angling your knife, cut out the center of your pear, this will get the core out. Then, slice into 1/4″ slices.

Lay your pear slices however you’d like onto your puff pastry sheet. Sprinkle with walnuts, cheese and rosemary.

Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are browned and puffed up.

Let sit for about 5 minutes, drizzle with honey, slice into desired pieces and enjoy!

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Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza

YUM!

Seriously, this pizza is amazing. I found the recipe in my Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh and Fast cookbook. It’s absolutely delicious and super easy to make. I added some mushrooms to it because 1) I love them and 2) I had some sitting in my fridge!

It’s perfect for lunch, dinner or slice it into smaller pieces for a great appetizer.

For the pizza dough, feel free to use either store bought whole wheat or regular pizza dough, or make your own batch and freeze for when you need it. And to make the clean up easier, I’ve started by putting my dough on the parchment paper that I’ve cut to put on my baking sheet and laying a sheet of plastic wrap on top. Then, roll away! That way, I don’t have to get the kitchen covered in flour. Then, I just transfer the parchment paper with the rolled out dough onto the baking sheet. If you prefer the flouring method, by all means go for it!

I took some help from the store by buying pre-chopped pancetta from Trader Joe’s – if you can’t find pancetta, bacon would work well here too. I also bought sliced portobello mushrooms to save on time.

When picking out asparagus spears, the thinner the better (they’re more tender). You want them to be nice and bright, stay away from brown, wet-looking spears!

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Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza
(Serves 2-4)

1 ball of whole wheat or regular pizza dough
10 spears of asparagus, 1″ of the end trimmed off
1/2 c. diced pancetta or bacon
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced (greens & whites!)
8 oz. creminis, sliced
1/2 c. shredded Italian cheeses (a blend or use mozzarella)
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment to shape your baking sheet. Place your room temperature dough on the parchment sheet.

In a small frying pan, cook the bacon or pancetta until brown over medium-high heat, about 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, slice your scallions and asparagus. Cut the scallions to about 1/4″ thick. Cut the asparagus into 2″ pieces, cutting on the bias (diagonal).

To roll out the dough, place a piece of plastic wrap similar in size to the parchment paper on top of the dough. Roll out to about 1/4″ thick. Changing directions as you roll each time to really spread it out! Once you’re done, place your dough with the parchment paper onto your baking sheet (the parchment paper keeps it from sticking).

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of pancetta grease onto your pizza dough, discard the rest, and sprinkle the pancetta or bacon pieces on top. Leave a one inch border. Then, sprinkle the scallions evenly. Next, the mozzarella cheese and goat cheese, then the asparagus and mushrooms.

Pop in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned to your liking. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Slice into desired servings and enjoy!

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Delicious App Made Easier

Who doesn’t love jalapeño poppers? Come on. Seriously.

But who wants to fill jalapenos and bread each one individually? Not me.

When my boyfriend and I have get-togethers with friends I love making homemade snacks. Jalapeño popper dip was my choice for the evening. It is best served warm. So, next time instead of baking it, I’m going to put the whole cheese mixture in my crock pot on warm, let it heat up, and then toast the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a teeny bit of olive oil or butter to toast them, and put on top. The repeated re-heating of the dip changed the texture a bit.

I’ve found lots of recipes via foodgawker for such a dip, but I wasn’t crazy about loading it with mayonnaise, butter and things of the like. So I attempted to make it healthier. I swapped out the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt – if you haven’t noticed I’m a huge fan of this – left out some of the butter. I also used Neufchatel cheese, which is cream cheese with less fat.

Needless to say, it was a huge hit! Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, crackers, veggies, or whatever floats your boat.

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Jalapeño Popper Dip

16 oz. Neufchatel cheese, or low fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. plain non-fat, Greek yogurt
5 jalapeños, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 c. 2% shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the cream cheese, yogurt, jalapeño, garlic, cumin and cheddar cheese together in a bowl. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, Parmesan cheese and Panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over top of your mixture in the baking dish.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the dip becomes bubbly and brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Eat up!

Note: If you are going to have people lingering and eating the dip over a couple of hours, put the dip in a crock pot and cook on low for about 45 minutes then turn your crock pot down to warm. To get the breadcrumbs toasted, heat the butter, parm cheese, and breadcrumbs in a frying pan until browned. Sprinkle on top before serving. I did not try this method out, but I’m sure it will work perfectly and I plan to do it next time I make the dip.

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What to Do with Leftover Kale?

Make kale chips!

After my spaghetti carbonara, I had a half a bag of precut kale left. So I finally decided to try to make some kale chips.

Now, if you’re like me and read a whole number of food websites, and stalk food blogs via foodgawker. You’ll notice that kale chips are becoming all the rage. And for good reason!

They are DELICIOUS. Baking kale in the oven makes the chips crispy and gives an almost nutty flavor. Best of all they’re healthy!

Many websites suggest tossing kale in olive oil. I found it slightly irritating to do so because kale has to many nooks and crannies. What did I do instead? Lay out the kale on a parchment lined baking sheet….then spray with olive oil cooking spray.

I realize kale chips themselves wouldn’t have too many calories if you even just tossed them in olive oil, but using cooking spray is easier AND has no calories. Score.

Once you start making kale chips, there is so many ways you can spice & flavor them up. The possibilities are endless. Simple with salt and pepper, a little cheesier with shredded cheese or grated parmesan. Squeezed with a little lime or lemon juice. Add spices like chili powder or cumin. See?

I used parmesan in this recipe. So I didn’t even need to use salt. But feel free if you’re just using pepper!

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Kale Chips

2 bunches of kale, stripped of stems, chopped washed and dried thoroughly
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
Black pepper
Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make sure your kale is thoroughly dried after washing. Using precut/washed kale in the grocery store will make this easy!

Spread out the kale on your baking sheet. Make sure the kale is not overlapping. If it does, use a second baking sheet.

Sprinkle with your cheese and a small amount of pepper. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until the chips are lightly toasted and crunchy. Serve and enjoy!

Note: Some people claim you can store these chips in a ziploc or airtight container. I have never tried it so I cannot attest to it! I can’t imagine the chips would stay crunchy…

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Tasty Bites

Need hors d’oeuvres for a get together? These are the perfect little bites!

I found the recipe on foodgawker…are you surprised? The recipe is from A Communal Table. The only thing I changed is that I used more cheese (and I used cheddar) and another egg yolk. I found that the 1 cup wasn’t enough.

I made this recipe for Christmas Eve at my boyfriend’s family’s get together. They were a hit! Cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions? How could it go wrong?

I absolutely love that this recipe uses premade pie dough, it adds a little sweet touch. It also makes it easy! Just grab a package of refrigerated pie crusts – they usually come with 2 in them which is all you need for this recipe.

And wait till you see my “cookie cutter” … I’m not someone who makes and rolls out sugar cookie dough to make shapes. Sometimes you have to improvise!

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Mini Bacon and Cheese Crostatas
(Makes about 3 dozen)

1 pkg. refrigerated pie dough (enough for 2 crusts)
6 slices of bacon, chopped into 1/4 bits (freeze it for an hour – it’s easier to chop!)
1 very large onion, cut into thin half moons
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
3 egg yolks
Salt and pepper

Take your pie crust out of the fridge to sit at room temperature.

In a frying pan over medium high heat, cook bacon until browned, but not crispy (it’ll cook more in the oven).

Meanwhile, slice the onion. When the bacon is done, let drain on a paper towel. Leave about 1-2 tbsp. of bacon grease in the pan and discard the rest. Cook the onions in the bacon grease on medium heat for about 20 minutes until the onions have melted down and turned a caramel color.

While the onions are cooking, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour a clean work surface and place one of your pie crusts down. Roll out to about 1/8″ thick, basically almost thin enough to see through it. Then using a 3″ cookie cutter (or a drinking glass…) punch out circles, set the scraps aside and repeat with the other pie crust. Take the scraps, roll together and repeat until you’ve used all you can.

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Place the circles on your lined sheets. They won’t all fit, but one you crimp the sides you can put all of them on!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together your egg yolks and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now, it’s time to assemble. Put about a teaspoon of cheese mixture in the center of the pie rounds, topped with a pinch of onions. Spread around the wealth and then if there’s leftovers, dish out accordingly.

To crimp the sides, fold up an edge, then take the corner of the fold, and fold that up. Make sure you pinch around the sides to seal it. Repeat until you get around the crostata and pinch the last side up. Repeat to the rest of the crostatas.

Place in the oven and bake about 10 minutes until just barely golden. Take out of the oven and top with bacon. Put back in the oven for 5-8 minutes until the crusts are a nice golden brown.

Serve warm or reheat before serving!

Sweet Potatoes: Chips, Strips or Fries. The Final Chapter.

Fries. I’ve experimented with sweet potato fries before, but they usually turn out soggy with no crunch whatsoever. Or just burnt. Where is the middle ground?

Well, I found it.

I combined all of the methods to create crispy fries into one post. The outside has a nice bite, while the inside is still soft and tasty. In my opinion, it’s the perfect balance.

If you want them crunchy throughout, well, I’m not quite sure that’s possible without actually frying. BUT, the thinner you slice them, the crunchier they’ll get. Just cut down on the cooking time.

These are delicious. And again, easy to double, triple, etc.

Sweet Potato Fries
(Serves 2)

1 sweet potato, peeled or unpeeled, whatever you prefer
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. chili powder

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put your boiler pan (insert for a deep pan that has holes in it) or an oven safe wire rack over a cooking sheet and place into the oven.

Meanwhile, cut the sweet potato lengthwise into 3 sections. Then slice into about 1/4” to ½” inch matchstick pieces. Chances are they won’t be perfect, but try to get them all into the same shape as best you can for even cooking time.

Fill a mixing bowl with 2 cups of ice, the sweet potato slices and enough cold water to cover the fries. This will help pull some of the starch out. Soak for about 30 minutes.

After soaking, pat dry with a paper towel to get off all the extra moisture.

In a large ziploc bag, put in your fries, cornstarch, pepper and chili powder. Seal it well and shake it until the pieces are well coated.

Pop in the 1 tablespoon of oil, and shake it around again.

Take your preheated pan out of the oven and spread out the fries on top without overlapping. Bake for about 30 minutes or so, flipping about every 10 minutes.

Cooking times my vary depending on your oven, so just keep cooking them until they reach your desired doneness.

When finished, allow to cool on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt and serve!

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Sweet Potatoes: Chips, Strips or Fries. Part Two.

This sweet potato experiment comes from a method of “chips” I stumbled across on foodgawker. SURPRISE!

I saw it a few times around the blogging world. It uses one tool: a vegetable peeler.

Yep. That’s right. Using your vegetable peeler to make thin strips for sweet potato chips. Good idea in theory.

Personally, I found this method more time consuming than trying to slice uniform chips. Also, I thought it was more difficult and my hand got tired. But hey, it was worth a shot.

I used the same seasoning as I did for my chips. These took even more babysitting than the chips did.

Sweet Potato Chips – 1

Sweet Potato Strips – 0

Sweet Potato Strips
(Serves 2)

1 sweet potato
1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. chili powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet (or 2 so you can cook both batches at once) with foil and place in the oven while it preheats.

Meanwhile, start peeling! Peel off the skin of the sweet potato, discard, then keep on going! It was a little labor intensive for me and it got difficult towards the end. It was also hard to make sure they were all the same size…so they weren’t.

Mix together the oil and spices in a bowl. Toss around to coat evenly.

When the oven is ready, take the sheet out and place the slices on. A tiny bit of overlapping is ok because the strips are so thin.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Shuffling them around the pan with a spatula or something so they get crispy. Like I said with the chips, you need to babysit these a little because they go from brown to burnt very quickly!

When the chips are brown, take them out and place them on a paper towel to drain. They will crisp up more after they cool.

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Sweet Potatoes: Chips, Strips or Fries? Part One.

The other week I had a craving for sweet potato fries. So I went on a hunt to look for different methods of cooking sweet potatoes in the oven to make them crispy.

I found a few that looked interesting: chips, strips and fries.

This first experiment was for sweet potato chips. I don’t have a mandolin, but I tried slicing the chips as thin as possible with a very sharp knife, about 1/8” thick. If you have a mandolin I would recommend using it!

The chips that were cut the right thickness turned out incredible. Of course, the thicker ones took longer. The thin ones cooked more quickly. You do have to babysit these a little bit after about 5-7 minutes. It’s definitely worth it though.

For these experiments, I used one sweet potato for each. Feel free to double, triple, etc. I’m not quite sure how well they keep, but I would think they’d be better fresh out of the oven.

Sweet Potato Chips
(Serves 2)

1 sweet potato, sliced into 1/8” chips (peeled or unpeeled, whatever you prefer)
1 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. chili powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet (or 2 so you can cook both batches at once) with foil and place in the oven while it preheats.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, put in sliced sweet potato, oil and spices. Mix well until evenly distributed. Use your hands! It works the best.

When the oven is ready, take the sheet out and place the slices on WITHOUT overlapping. At all.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes. Turning once when the sweet potatoes start to curl up. Like I said, you need to babysit these a little because they go from brown to burnt very quickly!

When the chips are brown, take them out and place them on a paper towel to drain. They will crisp up more after they cool.

Here’s a good example of a nicely crisped chip and the thickness.

Good luck waiting for all of them to be done before you start munching! 🙂

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Who Doesn’t Like Muffins?

Baking muffins is not something I do often. Baking a lot of stuff really, besides something adapted and fixed up out of a box, or something very simple. Or if a recipe really jumps out at me, like pumpkin scones. Why? I hate measuring things. With baking, you need to have the proper proportions of flours, baking soda/salt, wet and dry ingredients, etc. But I still never follow the recipe exactly. I end up eyeballing things. Usually it’s fine though. (Sorry avid bakers!)

But, sometimes I cave, like with these muffins. I absolutely love lemon poppy seed muffins. I got a craving for them the other day, so I tried to find a recipe low in fat.

I discovered this recipe from A Bicycle for Two. I adapted it a smidge based on things that I had on hand.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)

2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 c. raw sugar plus 1 tbsp.
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 small container (about 5 oz.) non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
½ c. egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
1/3 c. oil
1/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. poppy seeds

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with muffin liners or grease each cup.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the lemon zest and juice with the sugar. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
  3. In another bowl, combine the yogurt, egg, oil, and milk.
  4. Combine the wet into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined, then add the poppy seeds.
  5. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, dip up the batter into the cups.
  6. Bake about 14 minutes, until light browned and a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool and eat up!

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Healthy Snacking

Last night I wanted a little salty snack, but as I am coming to the end of my last grocery stash, I had to improvise.

I had a can of chickpeas in my pantry, along with some spices. Now, I’ve heard of people roasting chickpeas to make a crunchy snack. BUT I cannot use my oven in my shoebox studio I call home. The fire alarm goes off every time! I have since given up trying.

So, I decided to pan toast these little guys. While the results were delicious, they didn’t get as crunchy as their slow roasted counterparts. I think I was just being a little impatient (not one of my virtues by any stretch of the imagination). But they’re nutty flavors came out in a great way.

I used chili powder, lemon juice, and cumin. Another great flavor combination would be a little bit of garlic, rosemary/thyme and lemon. The possibilities are endless.

Like I said, you could also roast them. If you choose this route, put them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes and shake the pan around every 5-10 minutes. Next time I have an oven available to me, definitely going to try that out!

Pan Toasted Chickpeas
(Serves 2)

1 15-oz can of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
2 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp cumin
½ juice of a lemon
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat up your pan on medium high heat along with the bit of olive oil. Throw in the chickpeas.
  2. Sprinkle in the spices and lemon juice and shake the pan around to stir.
  3. Since the pan is a bit high on heat, don’t walk away! Shake the pan around a bit… not constantly, but maybe every 30 seconds or so. We don’t want them to burn.
  4. Cook them for about 8 minutes or so. If they look like they’re getting too done, drop the heat a little to medium. I taste them along the way for seasonings, add more if needed.
  5. I like when they start popping in the pan a little. At this point, another 2 minutes and they’re done!
  6. Cool for a couple minutes, and devor!

The great thing about this snack is that they’re high in fiber and protein. So eat up!

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