Category Archives: Entertaining, Appetizers, Snacks

Entertaining, Appetizers, Snacks

Mozzarella Stuffed Mushroom Risotto Croquettes

 

mozza-croquettes

cheesy-croquettes

If you’ve ever tried to re-heat already cooked risotto you’ll know that it never tastes as good as when you eat it fresh.  An exception to this, however, is using leftover risotto to make croquettes!  I serve them as a snack or appetizer with anything from marinara sauce to various different flavours of aiolis (one of my favourites is my lemon garlic aioli/dip).  These croquettes are also amazing paired with any kind of meat – particularly braised meats.

Any time I make risotto I always make extra so I can use the leftovers to make croquettes a few days later.  I LOVE these.  They’re one of my most delicious appetizers/sides EVER.

I like to use mushroom risotto but of course any kind of leftover risotto would work!  If you are making the risotto just to make the croquettes, ensure you have cooled the risotto completely (at least a few hours) before forming the croquettes or you’ll end up with a big mess.

I like to make the croquettes pretty big, but you could always cut the cheese into cubes instead of sticks and make risotto balls….

INGREDIENTS (makes 14 large croquettes)

  • 3 cups (or so) of cooked, cooled risotto
  • 1.5 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 – 3 eggs (depending on whether they are large or small)
  • A block of mozzarella cheese (enough for 12 – 14 ‘sticks’)
  • Vegetable/canola oil for frying
  • Salt

METHOD

  • Cut the mozzarella into batons/sticks (about 2 inches long and one inch across).

mozza-cheese-rectangles

  • Put flour in one bowl, beaten eggs, seasoned with salt, into another and panko into a third bowl.
  • Form an oval with the risotto using your hands and then make a dent in the middle to put the mozzarella stick in.

adding-cheese-into-croquette

  • Now carefully mould the risotto around the cheese so that the cheese is in the middle and none is showing.

forming-croquette

  • Dip the croquettes into flour, then egg wash and lastly, the panko breadcrumbs.

floured-croquettes

croquettes-in-eggwash

croquettes-in-panko

  • Once they are completely coated in breadcrumbs, heat oil in a large pan until it is hot enough that the croquette ‘sizzles’ when it goes into the pan.  NOTE:  ensure the oil is hot enough before dropping the croquettes in and do NOT over-crowd the pan or the temperature will drop and the croquettes will become soggy and absorb the oil.
  • Fry croquettes a few at a time, watching carefully to ensure they don’t burn.  Turn over when they are nicely browned.  Repeat on all sides.
  • If the oil starts to smoke or the croquettes are becoming to dark too quickly, simply turn the heat down and wait a minute before adding the next batch.
  • Once they are browned on all sides, remove from pan and place on paper towel.
  • Salt them immediately.
  • Serve with your favourite dip or marinara sauce or alongside your favourite meat!  HEAVEN!!

croquettes-with-cheese-hanging-out

 

Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites

zucchini rounds front

I’ve been having a great time coming up with fun and delicious ways to use up zucchini this summer as I have more than I know what to do with growing in the garden.  Of all the recipes I’ve created/found (Chocolatey Zucchini Banana Brownies, Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini BoatsZucchini & Parmesan Fritters with Lemon Zest) to name a few, THIS one has to be my favourite.

 

A few weeks ago I decided to bread some zucchini and fry it up as an appetizer.  I served it with a simple lemon, dill dip and although it was tasty, I knew I could do better.  I find zucchini, even fried zucchini, quite bland.  I also love fried pickles but sometimes find them to be too ‘pickly/sour’.  SO, I decided to combine the two flavours, add some cheese and lemon and voila!  I came up with fried Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites!

These turned out GREAT.  The longer you soak the zucchini in the pickle juice the more intense the pickle flavour becomes.  I recommend a minimum of 4 – 6 hours but you could even let them sit over night.  The zucchini is actually delicious eaten right out of the pickling liquid but once you bread them, fry them and serve them with dip, they are insanely tasty!!  A MUST TRY!

NOTE:  If you have a very large zucchini you may want to scoop out the centre ‘spongy’ part.  In this case, you could cut the zucchini into ‘moon’ or half circle shapes instead…

zucchini wedges

RECIPE (serves 4)

  • 1 medium zucchini (sliced into 1/4″ rounds – around 20 – 25 pieces)
  • pickle juice (enough to completely cover the zucchini)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs, if you prefer)
  • 2 small eggs – beaten and seasoned with salt
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • vegetable oil – enough for frying (about 1 cup)
  • salt (for sprinkling on zucchini before and after they are fried)
  • pepper

Click link for: Lemon Dill Dip to serve with the zucchini bites!

METHOD

  • Slice zucchini into about 1/4″ rounds and soak for 4 – 8 hours in pickle juice.
  • Remove zucchini from juice and pat dry with paper towel.  Salt BOTH sides of the zucchini generously and sprinkle pepper on one side.

zucchini salt and pepper

  • Arrange 3 large bowls.  Add flour to one, panko and parmesan to another and egg, salt and lemon zest to the third.  Whisk egg and lemon zest together.
  • Dip each zucchini round in flour and tap off any access.
  • Next, dip into egg mixture ensuring each piece is well coated in egg but not dripping.
  • Lastly, add zucchini round one to three at a time to the panko mix and press down on both sides to ensure zucchini is getting as much panko mixture on it as possible.

zucchini panko

  • Repeat this process until all the zucchini is nicely breaded.
  • Heat oil in a large pan until quite hot.  NOTE:  Test heat by dipping a zucchini round in the oil using tongs.  The oil should sizzle and bubble.  If it doesn’t, the oil is not hot enough.  It is CRUCIAL that the oil is hot enough of the zucchini will become soggy instead of nice and crispy.
  • Add zucchini to oil in batches ensuring you are not overcrowding the pan (overcrowding will bring the heat down too much causing the zucchini to become soggy).

zucchini one side uncooked

  • Watch the heat and increase if the zucchini is not browning fast enough (or turn it down if zucchini is browning too fast).
  • Watch closely and check zucchini often to ensure it’s not getting too browned.
  • Once brown and crispy on one side, flip and brown other side.

fried zucchini

  • Remove from heat and place on an even layer on paper towel (to soak up any access oil) and immediately sprinkle with salt.  (NOTE:  do not stack zucchini on top of each other or overlap right away because this will cause the zucchini to go limp).

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with lemon dill dip!

Cilantro and Lemon Avocado Spread

avocado spread

I still remember the very first time I tried an avocado.  I was in my early 20’s.  As soon as I tried it I was hooked.  I absolutely loved the flavour and creamy texture.  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been eating them my whole life.  Now I eat several avocados a week.

Not only are they incredibly delicious and versatile, they’re also really, really good for you.  If I listed all their health benefits here it would take me all day so I’m just going include a link to a site that details how amazing this fruit is for you!!  https://authoritynutrition.com/12-proven-benefits-of-avocado/.

One of my favourite ways to eat avocados is as guacamole.  Another way I prepare avocados is as a spread – which is the recipe below.  I am OBSESSED with this recipe.  Like the old lady in the Frank’s Hot Sauce commercial says:  “I put that sh** on EVERYTHING”!

I eat this spread on rye toast or English muffin in the morning with some diced cherry tomatoes on it or add it on top of scrambled eggs for a pre-workout breakfast.  I add it to sandwiches and wraps for lunch.  I add it to salads with some olive oil and use it as a dressing.  I make BLT’s with turkey bacon and add this spread instead of mayonnaise.  I eat it with crackers, tortilla chips and cut up raw vegetables.  I LOVE it with chilled prawns in lieu of cocktail sauce.  I spread it on pita or naan bread and top it with some smoked salmon for a healthy snack.  I even add it to soups.  Did I mention this spread/dip/dressing was versatile?!

About the recipe:  I decided to use lemon juice instead of lime juice here because I wanted a distinctly different taste then when I make guacamole.  I decided not to use garlic because the flavour of shallot has a hint of garlic in it already.  If you like things spicy, I would suggest maybe adding a 1/2 tsp of seeded jalapeño pepper to the recipe.

NOTE:  Because avocado discolors (goes brown) easily, ensure you have as few air bubbles in it as possible when storing and always store in an air tight container with a layer of plastic wrap right on top.  This spread should last up to 4 days if stored properly.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large avocado (1 cup)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 packed cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fat-free greek plain yogurt (or you could use light sour cream)
  • 1 Tbsp shallot (use red onion if you don’t have shallot)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup green onion – diced
  • OPTION:  1 Tbsp olive oil

METHOD

  • You can either dice the shallot, cilantro and green onion and just smash everything together with a fork to get a ‘chunky’ spread OR for a smoother spread, mix all ingredients, except green onion, in a small hand-held mixer and pulse for a few seconds.  Add diced green onion last for texture.
  • Adjust lemon juice, salt and pepper as desired.

Whipped Garlic and Herb Butter

herbed butter

Butter is great without doing a thing to it.  But add some garlic, shallots and fresh herbs to it, whip it to soft, fluffy perfection and I could literally eat it with a spoon (don’t judge).

I came up with the below recipe last week while I was making the cream cheese frosting for a carrot cake.  I whipped the cream cheese and butter together and before I added the sugar, I decided to slather a bit on some leftover baguette.  It was delicious.  That got me to thinking about how I could make it even better and of course garlic and fresh herbs immediately came to mind.

SO, the other day when I got up early and made a batch of apple cheddar biscuits, I decided whip up some ‘special’ butter to go with them.

The result was unbelievably good.  I’ve been using this butter on everything now.  Obviously, I’ve been slathering it on every type of bread known to man; but I’ve also been using it to finish pasta sauces, adding it to rice, quinoa….  You name it.  I’ve even been using it to fry eggs and drizzling it on popcorn!!

If you make a batch and don’t want to use it all, it freezes beautifully.  Just portion it into little patties and freeze it on a parchment paper lined tray.  Then just pop them into a ziplock bag and pull them from the freezer when desired.  Voila!  Instant ‘gourmet’ butter any time.

frozen butter 'patties'

frozen butter ‘patties’

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp softened cream cheese (light cream cheese is fine too)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping tsp shallot – minced (if you don’t have shallot, use green onion)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic – minced (use more if you want it really garlicky!)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley – finely chopped
  • 1 heaping Tbsp mixed fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage….)
  • NOTE:  use one/a few of these herbs or a combination of all.  Use what you love!
  • OPTION: 1 Tbsp whipping cream or half and half (use milk if you don’t have either) for an even fluffier butter

herbed butter in bowl

 

 

Decadent Bacon, Sausage & Spinach Quiche

quiche with fork

quiche with cheese and green onion

quiche with cheese and green onion

Quiche is one of my favourite dishes to make.  I love how versatile it is.  You can literally put just about anything into a quiche.  I love making vegetarian quiche loaded with tomatoes, bell peppers and tonnes of fresh herbs during the warmer months.  During the winter months I tend to use more hearty ingredients like mushrooms, leeks, bacon, sausage and/or ham.

Quiche is one of those dishes that everyone seems to do a little differently.  You would think it would be a very simple ratio of milk/half and half to eggs (much like the ratio of oil to vinegar in a classic vinaigrette).  However, I have literally looked up dozens of quiche recipes over the years and I don’t think I’ve seen ONE recipe that has the exact same ratio of eggs to milk!!  I suppose it all comes down to personal preference.  Do you want your quiche to be more ‘custardy’ or more ‘eggy’?  I believe I have found, what I feel is, a perfect balance (:

I believe that the key to a truly amazing quiche is in the technique.  When I’m making the filling, I sauté my meat and/or vegetables with the herbs, deglaze with half and half and bring to a boil, let it cool completely and then whisk is my egg mixture before putting it all into the pie shell to be baked.  This allows all the flavours from the pan to be incorporated beautifully into the custard mixture for a really flavourful quiche.

Quiche is especially great to make for special occasions and/or when you’re having a lot of people staying over night.  You can make the filling a day or two in advance and then just fill the pie shell(s) the morning of and in under an hour you have a decadent, beautiful and delicious breakfast/brunch/lunch, with almost no work or clean-up, that can serve as many guests as you like!  Just pair it with a side fruit or green salad and you’re all set!

I use deep dish frozen pie shells for my quiche.  I can’t be bothered to make my own crust because the store-bought one is just fine.  If it ain’t broke….

The ingredients below are suggestions and the measurements certainly don’t need to be exact (except the egg and half and half).  If you want a vegetarian version, just omit the meat and add some bell peppers or your favourite vegetable(s) instead!

quiche without garnish

quiche without garnish

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 quiche)

  • 1 1/4 cup half and half (or 2% milk for a healthier/lighter quiche)
  • 3 large eggs (or 4 small ones)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 3 – 4 strips bacon
  • 1/2 cup Italian Sausage meat (out of casing)
  • 1/4 cup leek (white part only) – small dice
  • 1/4 cup shallot (or white onion) – small dice
  • 3 cup spinach (about 1/4 cup cooked and drained well)
  • 1/2 cup white mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms you like!) – sliced
  • 1/4 tsp fresh thyme (parsley is also nice) – chopped
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt – 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 deep dish pie shell

OPTIONAL GARNISH:  

  • 1/2 cup cheese (feta, grated mozzarella or cheddar or a bag of your favourite mixed cheese blend)
  • 1/4 cup green onion
  • 1/4 cup sliced cherry tomato

METHOD

mis en place for the quiche

mis en place for the quiche

  • Par-cook the bacon (cook until about half way done.  It should still be quite fatty.  Drain excess fat and keep pan for cooking the rest of the ingredients.
  • Remove the sausage from its casing and chop the par-cooked bacon into bite size pieces.
  • Steam the spinach then blanch in ice water and squeeze out any excess liquid.
  • Slice/dice onion/shallot, leek, mushroom and finely chop the thyme and/or parsley.
  • Bring the pan you cooked the bacon in to medium heat and add butter (or you could just use some of the bacon fat for cooking).
  • Add sausage, bacon, mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme and cook until bacon is beginning to crisp and sausage is browning, breaking it up into little bite sized pieces with your wooden spoon.
  • Add leek and shallot and sauté for another few minutes until soft and fragrant.

quiche ingredients in pan

  • Add half and half (or milk), spinach and a pinch of nutmeg and bring to a boil stirring often to ensure all the bits on the bottom of the pan get incorporated into the liquid.

quiche adding cream

  • Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool COMPLETELY.
  • Whisk eggs, a little salt and parmesan cheese together and then whisk into the cooled mixture.
  • *NOTE:  You can now store the mix in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days OR you can put it in the pie shell immediately to be cooked.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Poke defrosted pie shell with a fork all over so the shell doesn’t bubble up and place in oven on middle rack for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.  Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  • Pour mixture into pie shell and place in oven.  Cook for 40 – 50 minutes or until the centre is just cooked.  (It should have a slight giggle right in the centre when you lightly shake it).
  • Remove from oven and turn oven off.
  • Add garnish to quiche such as shredded cheese, green onion, cherry tomato, etc., if desired.
  • Place quiche back in the still-warm oven just long enough to allow the cheese to melt.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

Suggestion:  Serve with a side salad or a bowl of mixed fruit

quiche out of oven

 

Beet and Orange Salad with Walnuts and Goats Cheese

 

beet salad with walnuts

I’ve been making slightly different versions of this beet salad for years and I’m never disappointed with the results.  It’s my favourite way to eat beets.  There is just something so amazing about the combination of sweetness from the beets and oranges, the crunch from the celery and walnuts and the creaminess of the goats cheese.  It all comes together beautifully when combined with a delicious bed of perfectly seasoned greens, dressed with a tangy citrus vinaigrette.  The result is an unbelievably fresh and delicious tasting salad.  It’s a perfect harmony of flavours and textures.

This salad is so easy it can be made any time, but it’s so good I tend to save it for special occasions or when I’m hosting a dinner party.  It really is as lovely to look at as it is to eat.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 4 – 6 cups mixed greens (I love the kale, swiss chard and baby spinach mix I get from Costco but use any kind of greens mix you like!)
  • 1 – 2 stalk(s) celery – dark green stringy parts peeled away and sliced into half-inch pieces on a bias/angle
  • 1 orange – peeled and segmented (click link for how to segment and orange)
  • 1/4 cup red onion – sliced as thinly as possible (or diced)
  • 1 cup or so cooked, peeled beets – cut into bite sized wedges  NOTE:  depending on the size of the beets, I usually cut each beet into 8 wedges
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • GARNISH: 1/4 cup green onion – sliced  & 1/4 cup goats cheese  NOTE:  you could also use blue cheese or even feta instead of goats cheese!
  • 1.5 Tbsp Citrus vinaigrette or so (use a little and add more as needed.  You DON’T want to overdress the salad).
  • salt and pepper to taste

beet and orange salad

METHOD

  • Cook beets by adding them to a pot of cold, well salted water.  Bring them to a boil then turn down to a simmer.  Cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until a knife can easily pierce into the middle of the beets.
  • Drain beets and allow to cool slightly.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, slice of both ends and the skin should slide right off.  If it doesn’t come off easily just peel with a vegetable peeler.
  • Slice each beet into bite sized wedges (around 8 wedges per beet) and put in fridge to chill.
  • NOTE:  Beets can be cooked and sliced up to 3 – 4 days ahead of time!
  • Make a small batch of citrus vinaigrette.  NOTE:  this can be made up to 1 week ahead of time!
  • In a large bowl combine greens mix, celery, onion, orange segments, and citrus vinaigrette.  Season with salt and pepper and gently toss to mix everything together.
  • Adjust seasoning and amount of dressing as desired.
  • Add seasoned beets and put onto plates/into bowls.
  • Garnish with green onion, walnuts and goats cheese.

Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes with Mango Salsa

salmon and yam cakes

The other night I really wanted fish for dinner but I hadn’t defrosted/bought any.  I had a few cans of salmon in the pantry which are usually reserved for making salmon salad sandwiches to put in my son’s school lunches.  I decided I was going to get creative and turn a can of salmon into a delicious, super healthy and easy entrée.

The reason I decided to use sweet potato in this recipe (as opposed to mayonnaise) is because I wanted something to help ‘bind’ the salmon mixture together to form a patty, but didn’t want to add a lot of fat and calories.  Instead I wanted to add nutrients.  I only had a sweet potato on hand.  Regular potato or even yam would also work in this recipe.

These salmon cakes could be served with a nice aioli (basically a flavoured mayonnaise), but since I had the ingredients on hand, I went with a delicious corn and mango salsa and served the  salmon cakes on a bed of seasoned greens and cucumber.

This dish can be served as a light entrée for lunch/dinner or as a wonderful appetizer.  Simple.  Healthy.  Delicious.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 large cakes or 6 small ones)

  • 1 can salmon
  • 1/4 cup mashed/pureed sweet potato/potato/yam
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest + a squeeze of lemon juice (around 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup green onion – sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley – chopped (or fresh dill would be a nice option)
  • 1 Tbsp shallot – small dice (red onion would also work)
  • 1/4 cup celery – small dice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • oil for frying
  • flour for coating salmon cakes

CORN AND MANGO SALSA

  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1/3 cup mango chunks – (I used frozen and cut into small bite sized pieces)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper – small dice
  • 1 Tbsp red onion – small dice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro – chopped
  • 1 tsp lime juice – possibly more, to taste
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Make salsa by mixing all of the above ingredients together.  Adjust seasoning as desired. Put aside.
  • Peel potato/yam.  Cut into large pieces and add to a pot of cold, salted water.
  • Bring water to a boil and turn down to a simmer.  Cook potato/yam until you can easily pierce through it with no resistance (around 15 minutes).
  • Drain the potato and mash until smooth.  NOTE:  I added 1 teaspoon of butter, a Tablespoon of milk and a dash of salt and mashed until smooth but you don’t necessarily need to add those ingredients.
  • Open the can of salmon and drain out any excess liquid (ensure you drain it well as too much moisture will result in loose salmon cakes that easily fall apart when frying).
  • Mix all ingredients together and check the seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.
  • Form the mixture into patties/cakes.  You can make a few large ones or around 6 small ones.  (They should be round and about 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick.  Like little hockey pucks).  (:
  • Dip/dust both sides of each salmon cake with flour just before adding them to the pan.  NOTE:  This isn’t mandatory but helps hold them together and gives a nice ‘crust’ on the outside.
  • Add vegetable oil to pan (around 1/4 cup) and allow it to get hot.  NOTE:  The cakes should sizzle when you add them to the pan.  If the pan isn’t hot enough, the salmon cakes will stick to the bottom.
  • Add salmon cakes to the hot pan.  Do this slowly and carefully to avoid getting any splattered oil on you.
  • Cook until golden brown on one side and then flip and cook the other side until browned.  Around 3 – 4 minutes per side.

salmon cakes in pan

  • Season with a little more salt immediately after the cakes come out of the oil and serve on a bed of seasoned greens/spinach/kale and cucumber slices.  Top with salsa or serve with a side of aioli.

salmon cakes on plate

 

 

Classic and Simple Guacamole

guacamole

I’ve been making this guacamole recipe for years and always make it the exact same way because it’s delicious and I wouldn’t want to change a thing.  I serve this almost every time I have people over.

The measurements below are estimates only.  The ingredients need to be adjusted slightly depending on the exact size of the avocados.  Also, some jalapeños have more heat than others so you will need to adjust the ‘heat level’ based on that.  Just play with the measurements until you get the amount of heat/garlic/lime flavour, etc. YOU like!

INGREDIENTS (serves 8)

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 medium ripe avocados
  • 2 tsp jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (use more if you want to add more heat)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup red or white onion, small dice
  • 2 – 3 tsp lime juice
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste (use a generous amount of salt to really bring out the flavour)

METHOD

  • Slice the avocados in half lengthwise.
  • Using a sharp knife, hammer into the pit.  Turn the knife and the pit should come loose (if it doesn’t, the avocados aren’t ripe enough!).
  • Slice the avocado into criss-crosses then scoop out into a bowl.
  • Add all the other ingredients and mix together.  (Smash the avocado a bit if you want the guacamole smoother.  I just mix it because I like it chunky)
  • Adjust seasoning until desired flavour is reached.

Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips and a cold cerveza!

 

 

 

The Best Cheesy Spinach, Crab and Artichoke Dip

cheesy spinach, crab and artichoke dip

cheesy spinach, crab and artichoke dip

I brought this recipe over to a friend’s house last week for a ‘girls night’ and served it out of a sour-dough bread bowl with a side of tortilla chips.  I garnished the dip with extra cheese, fresh dill and green onions because, in my opinion, you can never have too much cheese and I absolutely love the taste of green onion and fresh dill with seafood, such as crab.

As all the women in this group, myself included, are health conscience, I wanted to make this recipe as low in fat as possible without taking away the rich flavour or creamy texture of the dish.  I used light cream cheese and  fat-free greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  (If you want to reduce the fat and calories even further, you can opt to serve this dip out of a dish instead of a bread bowl and serve it with vegetables and/or whole wheat pita chips.  It’s also still WONDERFUL without the added cheese on top!)  

spinach, crab and artichoke dip without cheese

spinach, crab and artichoke dip without cheese

INGREDIENTS (serves 8 – 12)

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic – minced
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper)
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping Tbsp shallot – minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice + 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup onion – small dice
  • 2 dashes worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard powder (optional)
  • 1 300g pkg spinach (frozen) – thawed and DRAINED
  • 1 120g can crab meat (around 1 cup drained.  Reserve liquid!)
  • 1 398ml can artichokes – drained and chopped. (Reserve liquid!)
  • 1 cup light cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (the best quality you can get/afford)
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (you could use low-fat, but I prefer full fat)

OPTIONAL GARNISH:  

  • 1 cup shredded mixed cheese blend (mozza, parm, cheddar, Monterey jack, asiago, etc)
  • fresh dill
  • green onion
  • OPTION:  hollowed out ‘bread bowl’ to serve dip in!

METHOD

  • In a large pan, heat butter, shallot, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  • Cook on medium-low heat until onions are soft and translucent.  Stir often to ensure nothing gets browned.
  • Turn heat up to high and deglaze with crab juice (add juice ONLY.  Reserve crab meat for later).
  • Reduce liquid by half.
  • Add cream cheese and stir until melted.
  • Add yogurt, mayonnaise, crab, spinach, artichokes, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, ground mustard and parmesan cheese and mix until all is combined.  NOTE:  If mixture is  too thick for your liking, add a little bit of the left-over artichoke liquid or a bit of milk to thin it out slightly.  Ensure you are only adding a very small amount at a time until desired consistency.
  • Scoop mixture into a hollowed out bread bowl (NOTE:  you could always just scoop the mix into a baking dish and cook it in that instead if you don’t want to use a bread bowl).
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and, if desired, garnish with 1 cup of your favourite cheese blend.
  • Put back in oven for 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Remove from oven and garnish with green onion and/or fresh dill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Herb and Cardamom Falafel

falafel in bowl

The other night I decided to make falafel.  I found a recipe in Bon Appetit Magazine that had cardamom as an ingredient in the mix and I was intrigued.  I’m not normally a fan of cardamom.  I find it very ‘flowery’ tasting.  But I wanted to try something new so I gave it a shot.

The below recipe is quite different from the one in the magazine.  Although most of the ingredients are the same, the measurements are completely different.  I increased or decreased things based on what I like.   I also used pre-cooked, canned chickpeas as opposed to fresh ones.  I wanted to keep things simple.  Even though I cut the amount of cardamom in half for this recipe I was still worried it would be too much.  It wasn’t.  It was perfect.  I absolutely LOVED the falafel.  In fact, I can’t wait to make this recipe again.

You could definitely serve these balls in a pita shell with some shredded lettuce and tomato, but I opted to serve them with garlic infused jasmine rice, cucumber and cabbage salad with pomegranate and a dill, lemon yogurt sauce/dip.  SO GOOD.  This was a big hit with the kids too.  I just served them some broccoli instead of the cabbage salad.  I figured I’d introduce one new thing at a time.  Dinner usually goes smoother that way (:

one falafel ball

INGREDIENTS (makes 12 balls)

  • 1 can chickpeas – rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 Tbsp jalapeno – seeded (use more if you want it really spicy!)
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp shallot (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 3 Tbsp flour (chickpea flour if you have it, otherwise all-purpose if fine)
  • 2 tsp salt (up to 2.5 tsp)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • vegetable/canola oil for frying (about 1 – 1.5 cups)

METHOD

  • Pulse chickpeas in a food processor or hand-held processor.  About 5 seconds. You want it to still be a bit chunky.  (The texture should be uneven, with some slightly larger pieces visible).
  • Transfer to large bowl.
  • Pulse onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, parsley and lemon juice until it’s a finely minced mix.
chickpeas and herb mix

chickpeas and herb mix

  • Add to chickpeas, then mix in flour, salt, baking powder, cardamom and cumin.
  • Form into ping-pong sized balls.
falafel balls uncooked

falafel balls uncooked

  • Pour about 2 inches of oil into a pan.  Once oil is hot (about 330 degrees), add balls.  (You should hear a sizzle and see little bubbles when you drop the balls in.  Ensure you do this slowly and carefully so you don’t splash hot oil on yourself).

falafel frying in pan

  • Cook falafel, turning occasionally, until deep brown and crisp on all sides.  About 5 – 7 minutes.

browned falafal frying in pan

  • Transfer to paper towel and sprinkle with a little salt.

falafel on paper towel

Serve in a pita or on rice or just dip them into your favourite yogurt dip and eat them by themselves as an appetizer!

 

family dinner

family dinner