Asparagus-Prosciutto Spears

These days the television stays on from about 7am until 7pm for background noise.  The house can get way too quiet when you’re home with a little baby (except for those crying spells).  And while I don’t really pay attention to much of what’s on, I do enjoy The Rachael Ray Show.  Last week I happened to be catch a quick and easy recipe that I thought was a perfect addition to a cheese board:  Asparagus-Bacon Spears.  

I knew that I wanted to make bacon wrapped dates so swapped the bacon for prosciutto. The recipe is SO simple and requires only a handful of ingredients.  Simply trim your asparagus (where they snap naturally when bent) and then wrap with prosciutto.  Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with pepper and garlic powder.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes and then flip, baking for a few more minutes.

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The asparagus added a little bit of healthiness to this fantastic spread and I loved dipping the spears in our favorite mustard (which I need more of).

Confession:  we loved this appetizer so much that I made another batch on Sunday.

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Pimiento Cheese Potato Bites

Do you spell pimiento with an “i” or without an “i”?  I spell it with the “i” but I think either is acceptable.  Except don’t search for a recipe that you know you’ve seen if you don’t know how they spell it.  Once I decided I wanted to make these potatoes last weekend it took me a frustrating amount of time to find the recipe because, well, the blogger and I spell “pimiento” differently.

Anyways, regardless of how you spell “pimiento” these little potato bites are pure deliciousness.  They require a little time and effort but man, oh, man will you be rewarded upon your first bite.  And despite the time and effort, these can be made in advance (up to two days) so all you have to do is bake them when you’re ready.

To start, place your baby potatoes in a pot of cool water that covers them completely plus an addition inch or two.  Cover and turn the heat on high.  Set your kitchen timer for 25 minutes and let them do their thing.  I was unsure of whether this timing would work – but it did.  Perfectly tender potatoes.  Drain.  Allow the potatoes to cool.  I promise you they are much easier to work with once cool.

At this point, make your pimiento cheese filling.  You’ll needed shredded cheddar (do not purchase shredded cheese – do it yourself – I repeat, do not purchase shredded cheddar), pimientos (duh), mayo (Duke’s Light), sliced green onions, celery salt, hot sauce to taste plus salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are cooled, slice them in half and then remove some of the potato making a little hole in the middle.  I found that a grapefruit spoon worked the best for this job.  Have patience.  Do not do this step if you don’t have the time and are feeling rushed.  You’ll only frustrate yourself.

Once all the potatoes are hollowed out, fill them with the pimiento cheese.  I found that an appetizer knife worked best.  You don’t want a mound of cheese because that will make a mess.  Instead, level it off.

I prepped to this step the day before we were having family over.  I simply covered the dishes and let me hang out in the fridge.  On Saturday, I pulled them out and baked at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

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So addicting!  These would be perfect for a party as an appetizer but they were also perfect for an informal dinner.  I served the potatoes with short rib sandwiches and a big salad.

Oh, and for dessert – red velvet cake.  I didn’t take any good pictures of the cake but I followed the recipe EXACTLY and it was seriously delicious.  As in, you need to make this cake.  The cream cheese frosting is absolute perfection.

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Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Since we have a looooong weekend on the horizon, I thought you might need an appetizer for a party or get together.  Whether there are 2 of you or 20 of you, this dip is a winner.  The best part, there’s NO mayo involved so you can let it sit out longer without going bad.  Another awesome part, you can make this up to two days in advance.  #winning

I know, “no mayo in an artichoke and spinach dip?”  It’s true.  This healthier spin on the classic hot dip is fresh and bright and totally dippable.  You can simply serve this dip with veggies and crackers like I did or you can add it to a platter of cheese, meats and other yummy bites.

To start, sauté the well drained artichokes (I used canned) in butter and then add in the garlic.  Let this cool for 20 minutes.  Next whirl the green onions and spinach in a food processor until finely chopped.  Place in a bowl.  Now add the artichokes, shredded parmesan, and pecans (!!!) to the food processor and whirl.  Add that mixture to bowl with the spinach mixture along with EVOO, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

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What are your plans for Memorial Day Weekend?

I think you should add “making this dip” to your plans.

French Onion Tartlets + Caramelized Leek and Spinach Dip

Not one but TWO recipes coming your way today.  December is busy.  There are holiday parties to attend, gifts to be purchased, and preparations to be made for family gatherings.  These two appetizers are the perfect bites for any cocktail party or holiday get together.  I made both for Thanksgiving and they were a hit.  The best part – I prepped both recipes the night before and simply assembled and baked (one of them) the day of.

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The French Onion Tartlets are addictive!  They taste just like french onion soup except they come in a little phyllo shell.  To prep in advance, simply prepare the entire recipe up until you fill the tarts.  Place the french onion and cream cheese mixture into a container and store in the fridge.  Simply fill the shells and top with gruyere before baking the day of the party.  Changes I made to the recipe:  I used red wine to deglaze the pan (it’s what I had opened for my sangria) and I added a little more decadence with the addition of shredded gruyere on top (only because it was in the cheese drawer and I figured WHY NOT!?!).

The best part about the caramelized leek and spinach dip is that it can be prepped in entirety the day before.  I doubled the recipe and simply stored in the fridge until it was time to eat.  I served the dip with crunchy crackers plus carrots and celery.

Do you have any go-to appetizer recipes for the holiday season?

A couple other easy, peasy recipes:  bacon wrapped dates (so good!) and cream cheese topped with pepper jelly (Trader Joes has a great one).

Beer-Battered Pumpkin with Dipping Sauce

It’s Thanksgiving week!  Is your menu set and your turkey bought?  I did the big grocery haul today for the ingredients I’ll need for what I’m taking to the Watson Thanksgiving meal.  Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one loading up my cart today.  Though there are still two things I haven’t been able to find:  frozen pearl onions and golden beets.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Big Guy and I had a mini-Thanksgiving yesterday and it was a blast!  We spent the evening laughing, eating amazing food and watching Hallmark Christmas movies (the husband is obsessed).  Before our big meal, we whipped up an fried pumpkin (!!!!) that blew our socks off.  It was so much better than we ever imagined.

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First, carefully peel and cut a sugar or pie pumpkin (small pumpkins used for cooking) into slices.  The pumpkin is then dipped in a beer batter  that includes flour, cornstarch, salt and the beer.  Once battered, it goes straight into the hot oil where it cooks for about 3 minutes.  After frying the pumpkin, a few sage leaves are fried for a little savory punch of herb flavor.  Sprinkle with salt and serve with a buttermilk garlic dip.

You really can fry anything.

See you back here tomorrow with a delicious and healthy side dish that will be perfect for any of you that are still putting together your menu.

Tailgate Thursday {homemade soft pretzels + a trio of dips}

After a three-week hiatus from tailgating, I’m back with a recipe for you.  These homemade soft pretzels take  little bit of work in the kitchen but they’re totally worth the effort.

To make the pretzels you start with a simple dough that’s made by mixing together warm water and sugar and then sprinkling yeast over the mixture.  Allow this to sit for five minutes before adding in flour, salt and egg.  This is mixed (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough attachment) and then allow the dough to rest and rise for an hour.  Once doubled, the dough is rolled out and then cut into strips.  The strips are formed into pretzels and then boiled in water that has baking soda added in for about three minutes.  Allow the pretzels to dry; sprinkle with salt and then bake until golden brown.  Use the above link for the full step-by-step directions and exact measurements for the ingredients.

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To go with the pretzels, I served a trio of dips.

The pimiento cheese dip was made by microwaving 8 ounces of Velveeta and then whisking in 1/2 cup whole milk, a jar of diced pimientos, paprika and black pepper.

The buttermilk ranch dip is a simple combination of a 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar plus a handful of chopped dill and chives.

The creole honey mustard dip comes together in a snap by whisking together 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons mayo, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 teaspoon creole seasoning.

Happy Dipping!!!

Tailgate Thursday {build a biscuit + bagel chips and dip}

Last Saturday was probably our biggest tailgate of this football season.  And I have to say, we did it up – enough so that we won Piggly Wiggly’s Tailgate of the Week.  I’m not even lying.

When ECU plays any other North Carolina football team (or South Carolina for that matter) it’s considered a “big game.”  Everyone loves an in-state rivalry.  This past weekend we went up against NC State and we WON!  Not only was the tailgate fun but the game was a good one to watch.  Though it was a little close for comfort up until the very end.

We knew we would have a crowd so I started planning our tailgate spread weeks in advance.  Since it was a noon game and tailgating started at the early hour of 8am, we planned a “breakfast” themed menu:

Bloody Mary Bar

Mimosas

Build a Biscuit Bar

Bagel Chips + Dip

Breakfast Casserole

Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake

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For the Bloody Mary Bar we had a homemade mixer plus an assortment of hot sauces, celery, pepper jack cheese, olives and cornichons.  Mimosas are the simplest AM cocktail:  bubbles plus some OJ.  We also had an assortment of nonalcoholic drinks and plenty of water that we encouraged everyone to drink.

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On the biscuit bar we took a short cut and purchased Bojangle’s biscuits that were lightly buttered and split (and I don’t feel guilty at all for that) along with lots and lots of toppings:  sausage patties, bacon, country ham, pimiento cheese, jellies and mustard.

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I really wanted to have a bagel and biscuit bar but we realized that not being able to toast the bagels was a problem so we improvised with two types of cream cheese dips and some bagel chips.  I made a roasted veggie cream cheese and a smoked salmon dip.  I ate my weight in salmon dip!

Oh, and some fresh fruit on the side.

We had such an amazing time with our friends and family.

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