Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

While out picking the plums today, I figured I would stop and gather some of the last of the tomatoes in the garden as well. I plan to start a fall garden with hope of getting a better yield now that the scorching heat of this past summer is with luck behind us…so green and red tomatoes came into the house in the basket.  As most of the tomatoes were from the Roma plants, salsa was the best use for them I figured.  The jalapeno plant having some peppers remaining, it sealed the deal of their fate.

Fiesta Salsa

Half-bushel of tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup cilantro, diced

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced fine

4 tbsp lime juice

5 tbsp cider vinegar

4 – 6 jalapenos, diced  ( I don’t remove seeds but if you wish less fire to your salsa, remove the seeds and inner membrane)  DON’T FORGET TO USE GLOVES!!

2 tbsp sugar

Add all ingredients into a pot on stove.  Stir well and bring to boil.  Boil for 5 minutes to incorporate flavors.  Ladle into pint jars and seal.  Hot Water Bath jars for 35 minutes.


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Spring rolls are a food I’ve grown to love, it was not love at first taste for me to be certain.  There was something about the texture of the cold wrapper that just got to me, but I was determined to grow to love it as much as it’s cousin the egg roll.   An egg roll is essentially a spring roll, deep fried.  They are amazingly simple to make and friendly to a variety of fillings.  This happens to be my personal favorite, though a bit nontraditional.

Homemade Spring Rolls.


1 1/2 cup coleslaw (thick cut and minus the dressing) ….this means basically cabbage, carrots, sweet onion thick cut.

1 cup Shrimp or imitation crab, diced

2 tbsp basil or cilantro

4 green onions, fine cut

2 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 oz rice noodles

1 pkg spring roll wraps

Prepare your rice noodles per instructions,  mix up your filling ingredients (including rice noodles) and add lime juice and soy sauce in a bowl.  Taking a fry pan, place water in bottom and heat to boiling, remove from heat and add your spring roll wrappings to the steaming water 3-4 wraps at a time.  Steam in water for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.  Set the wrappers carefully on counter or cutting board.  Be very careful doing this as they are rather brittle, I found using a spoon better then tongs or other methods for lift from water to counter.   Add your filler ingredients.  Fold one edge over ingredients, then fold up both ends inwards towards each other, finally wrap the top edge firmly over top.  Serve with soy sauce or spring roll sauce.


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As everyone knows, things down here have been extremely hectic with the fires blazing in my County as well as two adjacent ones, another between Austin and Houston as well as those to the North of us.  So many people are evacuated from their homes and so many firemen and emergency personal haven’t been able to go back to theirs.  The out pouring of the people of the Community to pull together and pull up from their bootstraps to get things done, help and assure everything is being taken care of  in this Community has been amazing. People came from all over, not just our County but others as well to donate their time and services where and how they could.  Trailers and vehicles stuffed full of supplies have filled parking lots.  Not from known corporations or Government, but from your “Good ole’ Joe” who heard and wanted to help.  I could not be more proud of so many.

But, that experience is another story.

This weekend I made a bunch, and I do mean a bunch, of Pork Dumplings.  Most Chinese restaurants have these on their buffets and my children love them.  They are easy to make and highly forgiving on ingredients you choose to put inside.  Chicken and Pork are the traditional, however you can also use sea food such as crab.

Won-ton wrappers are amazing, they can be filled with chicken, pork, rice, beef, crab and seafood, cream cheese, cream cheese and crab, pepperoni and pizza sauce (I know not traditional but oh so good).   You can boil them in water or fry them up in oil.  Cut the wrappers into strips and fry in oil, delicious over salads.  My children even like them cut in strips, fried and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. The options are numerous.  Made larger they are what are used to wrap egg rolls in.

Another wonderful thing about these little packets of goodness, they are easy on the pocket book.  Oh, and did I mention also extremely low in calories?

To make Wonton Wrappers.

1 egg

1/3 cup water

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

1.) In medium bowl beat egg,  gradually add water and beat water into the egg mix.

2.) In large bowl add flour and salt, mix together and create well in center.  Add your egg/water mix to well and mix.  If to crumbly gradually add water a small dab at time until mixture forms a pliable dough.

3.) On lightly floured surface, knead dough until elastic.  Cut into two separate balls and cover each with damp towel for at least 10 minutes.

4.) Cut each ball into four equal pieces.  Roll out each piece into a 10 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch square (approximately).  **if you have a pasta machine, this works perfect to get it thin enough, if not…it’s good old fashion hand rolling**.   Cut each square you rolled out into nine 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inch squares for wontons….for egg roll wrappers you want 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 inch squares.


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I love this recipe, it is not only easy, makes an excellent meal for the hot days of summer, is extremely versatile, but it also helps get your kids to eat their vegetables.  How we do it, every one gets to choose two vegetables to go on the pizza.  You can choose from a wide variety, onions, radishes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, mushrooms, summer squash and green onions are the more traditional ones we usually choose from.

For the base it’s crescent roll dough.  Two can’s fill a cookie sheet.  You can either buy the pre-made canned in the store or you can choose to make your own, either works fine.  Remove from can, squash into a ball and using a little flour roll out to size you need to fill pan.  You want this thin as you can make it.  Using a fork, pierce the dough numerous times to keep it from bubbling and raising.   Cook per directions or at 400 degrees for 12 minutes (watch bottom for browning.)

As you let the dough cool, mix up your spread of 8 oz cream cheese, 2 tbsp sour cream & 1 tsp garlic powder.   You can add other flavorings to this as well.  Some I like to use is Italian seasoning,  parsley, dill, basil, or a few tsp ranch dressing mix.

Spread the now cooled dough with the cream cheese spread, add your chopped vegetables of choice and put the entire mix in the refrigerator for at least half a hour to a hour before serving.  Cut into squares or as a regular pizza and serve.  Delicious!

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My son asked me one day to buy these store packages of mini pizza bites for him. I gave in and spent a ridicules price for a few morsels of something I could easily make from home and in larger quantity for the same price.  These Pizza Bites have now become a staple in our freezer. They are easy to make, quick to reheat and great for quick snacks, tie-me overs on busy days or to serve when their company comes calling.

To make you will need a package of mini bagels in your choice of  flavor (Wheat, Plain, Onion.). Split them in half and put on cookie sheet.  Place under broiler to crisp and take out to cool slightly.  Cover with pizza sauce either store bought or homemade.  Add your choice of toppings (Pepperoni, turkey pepperoni, chopped onions, peppers, onion, olives, bacon, etc).  Sprinkle on your preference of cheese.  I use basil, parsley or oregano seasoning in addition but that is my personal preference.  Put the pan of pizza bites back under broiler and melt the cheese.

At this point you can either serve them, or let them cool and put the cookie sheet in freezer for a hour to flash freeze.  Store them in ziploc baggies or containers to take out as many as you need for a snack.  To reheat, put on cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

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It’s Superbowl time again.  Here are some quick appetizers I whipped up to kick off the game. I’ve made this before and it’s been well received each time.

Open Face Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Bagel Appetizers.

1 pkg plain mini bagels – divided.

2 pkgs smoked salmon filets

1 lg cucumber or 2-3 “pickles” (I was lucky to find small pickle cucumbers.)

1 lg container cream cheese

Black pepper

Spread your cream cheese on the bagel halves.  Cover with smoked salmon and add a cucumber slice, or couple.  Sprinkle with black pepper and serve.  You also can add capers which are delicious on this. I did not happen to have any on hand so did not add them this time.

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With the winter months upon us while thoughts of summer sun, sweet tea and fresh vegetables from garden fill our daydreams bruschetta is firmly on my mind.   There is no better way to mingle the taste of summer into a delicious appetizer to begin ones meals.  Bruschetta is also very simple to make and a highly versatile  food.  I begin with two of my favorite Bruschetta’s.  Tomato and Basil, and Pineapple-Mango.

*Hint before you begin. To aid in removing the water from tomatoes that can turn dishes to mush. Lay your tomato slices out on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with Kosher salt to begin “seeping” the liquid from the meat.  Let rest a hour and then dab with napkin the watery juices from the slices.*

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta.

6 ripe tomatoes, small chopped. (Roman honestly are the best for Bruschetta as it holds less water and more “meat”.)

1/2 sweet onion, small chopped.

2 cloves garlic, minced

6-8 fresh basil leaves, fine chopped.

4 sprigs cilantro , fine chopped.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all above ingredients together in bowl.  Let marinade 15 minutes to half hour to infuse the flavors.  Serve on French Bread Baquette.

*You may add cheese to top if you desire.  It is not needed but offers a variation.*

Mango-Pineapple Bruschetta.

1 Mango, cleaned and chopped fine.

4 slices fresh pineapple, (6 slices if using store canned.), chopped fine.

1 red sweet pepper, diced.

3 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped.

3 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Combine in bowl, let marinade 15 minutes to half hour to infuse flavors.   Serve cold.

Go ahead and give them a try.

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Anyone who has been to Olive Garden knows how addictive their Toasted Ravioli is, and honestly it’s extremely simple to make from home, however, as easy as making pasta dough is, it is not for everyone to try to do from scratch.  I’ve used two versions of Toasted Ravioli for our family and for work and both work wonderfully.  I’ll post them both here for you to use and enjoy for you and yours, but today focus is on the “Cheaters” version.  As you will see I don’t bother to do the fancy edge crimping, while it’s tradition for out eyes to see that shape, it’s not required and like I said, this post is about keeping it simple.

“Cheaters” Toasted Ravioli

1 pkg Wonton wraps


1 lb hamburger

1 carton Ricotta cheese

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp dried oregeno

2 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp ground cumin


2 cups water (separated into 2 bowls)

2 cups flour

2 cups bread crumbs

Set out your wonton wrappers on piece of wax paper, have a small bowl of water nearby for finger tip dipping.

Place your meat in a bowl and add the rest of the filler ingredients, using your hands mix together until evenly distributed.

Set out the Water, Flour, Water, Crumbs in separate dishes in the order given.

Get your pan of hot oil on stove and heat to 350 degrees.

Using your hands pinch off marble size pieces and roll into “logs” , place in center of wrapper so they sit corner to corner, using finger tips press down to flatten slightly while keeping them still in middle.

Using finger tips, dip in water and wet edges of wrapper.

Fold up and in two edges of the wrapper, then bring up the bottom of wrapper and finally down the top flap until you have made what looks like a little envelope.  Using fingers assure the edges are sealed properly around the filling.  ( I showed two ways to do this, I prefer the “envelope” but a quicker way is just to make the triangle wedge style)

Coat by dipping first in water, then flour, then water, and finally bread crumbs.

Place in hot oil and fry until golden, set to side on paper towel to cool and drain.

Eat immediately with marinara or pizza sauce, or freeze.  Frozen they can be re-deep fried or you can place them on cookie sheet in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

That’s it….simple.

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What do you do with the inevitable little bit of corn that doesn’t quite fill a jar when canning? Why make Texas Caviar of course.  This stuff is my downfall. I could eat entire ice cream buckets of the stuff without blinking an eye.  Best of all, it’s healthy for you.  At least once a month this becomes our main meal in this household providing protein (beans), vegetables and starch all in one.  You can eat it just as it is with a spoon, or using tortilla chips to scoop it up.  We do both depending on how we feel that particular day.

Texas Caviar

1 can black beans, drained.

1 can corn, drained

1 tomato, diced.

1/2 onion, diced.

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1/4  cup red wine vinegar

1/8 tsp – 1/4 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

Mix together last 6 ingredients into a dressing.  Put the other ingredients into a large bowl and pour dressing over.  Refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving to allow flavors to mingle.   Serve with tortilla chips.  Absolute heaven.

PS: for those that like a little “kick”  dice 1-2 jalapeno peppers and add to mix.   You can also dice up green peppers to add for a different twist.

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