Category Archives: Appetizer

Cream Cheese Jalapeño Wontons

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There’s always so much to discover in the produce section of the grocery store. I just love checking out all the items that I’ve never tried before and figuring out how I could incorporate them into recipes.

My neighborhood grocery store carries lots of variety to cater to the diverse residents of our area. Right next to artichokes and peppers, you’ll find lemongrass, aloe vera, and giant cactus leaves. So many fun things to try.

On a recent, weekly grocery store trip, I discovered wonton wrappers in the refrigerated produce section. There they were, right next to the mini bags of baby carrots and prepackaged sugar snap peas. Beside them were egg roll wrappers. Two things I’m sure most grocery stores carry, yet I never seem to come across when I have a recipe in mind that requires them. Both sounded like a fun adventure; however, deciding I’d better start with something a little more simple, I opted for the wonton wrappers. Just wrap them around some cream cheese, and you’ve got a simple, two-ingredient appetizer.

Since I was already in the produce section, fresh jalapeños were just a few feet away. Why not add a third ingredient to give the wontons a little kick, right? So, into the cart they went.

Along with a bag of Meyer lemons. Haven’t decided what I’ll do with them yet, but they were just so cute and irresistible!

Anyway, the wontons were quick to put together and drew rave reviews, so I thought I’d share my recipe here. Even better, these are baked, so they are healthier than the traditional fried wontons. Enjoy!

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Cream Cheese Jalapeño Wontons

12 wonton wrappers
1 small jalapeño, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
4 oz. cream cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix cream cheese and jalapeños in a small bowl.

Fill a second small bowl with water to use for sealing wontons.

Place wonton wrappers on cutting board and portion out cream cheese mixture among all 12 wrappers by placing about a teaspoon of mixture in the center of each wonton.

Dip your finger into the small bowl of water and wet the edges of the wonton wrapper all the way around.

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Pull up opposite corners over mixture and seal on top.

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Then, pull up the remaining two corners and seal to form a little bundle with the corners all sealed on top. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 8 -10 minutes or until wonton wrappers begin to brown slightly.

Serve with red chili garlic sauce for dipping.

Note: You can make these in advance and refrigerate until ready to bake.

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So many recipes, so little time…

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If only there were more hours in a day.

Between work and family, there’s not much time left in a day for trying new recipes. But, I still manage to fit cooking into almost every day. It just doesn’t feel right if I don’t. There’s just so many recipes on my ever-growing love to try list.

Here are a few pictures of what I’ve made lately.

Nachos are the new go-to meal in our house. There’s always something left over to use to pull together a batch. Lately, I’ve used extra thin boneless pork chops (family pack from Target…frozen in Ziplocs two per bag for easy meal prep), diced and sautéed, atop a mountain of tortilla chips, shredded cheese, onions, peppers, tomatoes, homemade guacamole, and sour cream.

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The other day, I was in the mood for cheesesteak, so I found some thinly sliced sandwich steak at Target and a recipe online for philly cheesesteak with garlic mayo. Unfortunately, I forgot to grab a loaf of French bread at the store, so I searched online and found this recipe and decided to try baking my own.

The cheesesteaks, with their molten mozzarella and sautéed mushrooms and peppers, were an ooey, gooey treat. And, the garlic mayo….oh yeah!!!  Super delish.  But, my attempt at making homemade baguettes to serve the cheesesteaks on was a big “concrete” flop. The dough didn’t rise very well, and they baked into hard bricks…oh well.

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Homemade salsa was next, and BOY was it hot! It’s been a rough growing season this year, and my garden only managed to produce a meager supply of peppers and tomatoes. Nevertheless, I worked with what I had along with a few extra peppers and onions from a coworkers CSA and made some spicy salsa in my food processor. It was very tasty but may need to scale down the peppers a bit on the next batch. No recipe for this one…I simply rough chopped some garlic, chili peppers, jalapeno peppers, and onions and gave them a whir in the food processor with some lemon juice. Then, I rough chopped some tomatoes and bell pepper and added those into the food processor bowl with a few shakes of sea salt and pepper, gave it a few pulses….and that was it!

Roasted Tomato Cashew Pesto

I’ve had pesto on the brain all week. My two lonely basil plants are finally producing enough to make a batch of pesto. One problem, though. The bunnies in our backyard keeping eating my tomatoes. Every. Single. One. …sigh….
Fortunately, Faithful Ground Farms came to my rescue! They set up a farmer’s market stand on Thursday in the building I work in. This isn’t a typically occurence at our building in the ‘burbs, so needless to say, they had lots of customers happily checking out their produce. Home I went (is that grammatically correct???) with my lovely paper bag of Roma tomatoes and an extra bunch of basil…which, by the way, made my desk at work smell heavenly for the rest of the day.
Sometimes I make pesto with the traditional pine nuts combination…but cashews…well…they just seem richer and more decadent. It doesn’t hurt that cashews cost less than pine nuts either.

And now you may be wondering, but what about the tomatoes…they don’t belong in pesto, right??? Wrong. Delicately roasted tomatoes make the PERFECT addition to pesto. They add a creamy, delicious kick to the mix and compliment the basil and garlic very nicely.

Roasted Tomato Cashew Pesto

There’s really no exact recipe for this one, a little of this and that, with several finger dip tastings as you go, works best.

6 tomatoes (I used a mix of Roma and cherry…yes a few tiny cherry tomatoes survived the bunnies…they were well hidden)
2-3 cups basil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
handful of cashews (to your liking)
sea salt
olive oil (I used a mix of EVOO and garlic olive oil)


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice tomatoes in half, sprinkle with sea salt, and roast for 15 minutes. When cooled, toss tomatoes in food processor with all other ingredients, except the oil. Pulse a few times to get things moving. Stop and wonder why it’s not working…then realize you put in your dough blade rather than your sharp cutting blade…oops my mistake. Slowly add oil until the pesto is properly processed and is at the consistency you want. I would say I used about a half cup of oil. I like my pesto thick, so that I can pile it on top of crusty french bread or add a few scoops to pasta, thinned with a little more EVOO if necessary. Store remaining pesto in fridge for no more than a few days, or freeze for later.

Gone in a Flash Tortilla Roll-ups

There are two ingredients that are always on hand in our household: cream cheese and tortillas. In a pinch, I can always whip up some sort of appetizer with either of my main go-to staples. This weekend, I made a variation of my mom’s “Appetillas” recipe. If you search online for tortilla roll-ups, you’ll find many different versions, but most start with a cream cheese base. Some use ham and cheese…yum. Others suggest flavored tortillas to add color and spice…like jalapeno cheddar…I might try that one next.

The trick with any roll-up recipe is to make sure the filling is soft and thin enough to spread easily on the tortillas, yet thick enough that it won’t squirt out the end when you roll it up. While my original recipe called for equal parts cream cheese and sour cream, I’ve had much better success with a higher ratio of cream cheese to sour cream.

Gone in a Flash Tortilla Roll-ups
16 oz. light cream cheese, softened
½ cup light sour cream
1 small onion, chopped
1 can green chilies (4 oz.), undrained
16 green olives with pimentos, finely chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 package flour tortillas
Dash of sea salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Spread a thick layer of filling on the tortillas with a spatula. Carefully roll the tortillas, keeping all filling inside. Use a butter knife to stuff a bit of extra filling into the ends of the rolled up tortillas. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least a few hours before serving. When ready to serve, remove from plastic wrap. Slice in ½ inch increments…eat the less attractive ends…to ensure quality of course…and serve the sliced appetizers on a decorative plate.

Keep additional uncut tortilla roll-ups in the refrigerator and take them out and slice as needed to replenish the plate. Or, just slice them all, pile them up, and watch how quickly they disappear!

What are your favorite tortilla roll-up ingredients?

Chunky Guac with a Twist

Here’s a super easy guac recipe just in time for Super Bowl Sunday. It’s so fast, you can whip it up during the commercial break. But, if you don’t want to miss the great commercials, you can prepare it in advance…even the day before.

That’s right. The lemon in this recipe keeps the avocado from turning into a brown, unsavory mess overnight. Lemon is also a nice twist in place of the conventional lime in most guac recipes.
One batch makes about two servings, so if you’re feeding a crowd, you may want to at least double or triple the recipe or more. For added flair, grate a teaspoon of lemon zest and mix in to the recipe.

CHUNKY GUAC WITH A TWIST

1 large ripe avocado
1 roma tomato
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic

Cut avocado lengthwise and remove seed. Over a large bowl, squeeze the outside of each half of the avocado to get the inside to slide out. Mash the avocado with a fork. Add lemon juice, salt, and pressed garlic clove. Stir. Chop tomato and add to the bowl. Stir once more and serve with tortilla chips.  Healthy, fresh, and inexpensive…gotta love it!

Cheeseburger Bundles…aka…Dirty Diapers

You can imagine the kids’ reaction when I told them we were having dirty diapers for Sunday dinner.

I found this awhile ago on my favorite recipe website, www.allrecipes.com.  The original recipe is called Dirty Diapers, but I prefer the name Cheeseburger bundles, as they remind me of warm summer night fare, even on the coldest of January days.

Given the name, it at least peaked the interest of both kids.  What’s in these, mom? The Youngest tried one and liked it (ok, one small bribe was required…video game time…but he said he genuinely liked it).  The Oldest (aka…the pickiest) said no way. 

Regardless of the name, these little packets of goodness are unbelievably YUM.  They are great as a stand-alone meal or served as appetizers.

My adapted recipe is a lighter version.  It uses reduced fat crescents, half the cheese, and half the beef than the original recipe. 

Cheeseburger Bundles (aka Dirty Diapers)

Melted cheese and ground beef wrapped in flaky crescents make the perfect game-day snack.

1/2 pound ground beef
1 8oz can refrigerated reduced fat crescent rolls
1/2 onion, chopped
4 slices American cheese

 Prep:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef over medium-high heat.  Add the onions in the last few minutes.  Then, remove from heat, and let cool slightly.  Unroll the crescents and cut each of the 8 crescents in half with a sharp knife to form 16 smaller triangles.  Cut each slice of cheese in half diagonally to make 8 triangles.  Then, cut the 8 cheese triangles in half to make 16 cheese triangles.  Layer a piece of cheese on each crescent, and then top with a tablespoon of beef.  Carefully stretch each point of the dough over the beef and secure on each side.  Place bundles on a 9 x 13 baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, until browned. Serve with pickles and ketchup for the full cheeseburger experience.

Amy’s Notes:

Brown an entire pound of ground beef and save the other half to jump start dinner later in the week.  I like to have it on hand to mix into spaghetti sauce or for a speedy taco salad.

Kicked Up Southwestern Quesadillas

We’ve had a quesadilla maker for years, and it doesn’t do much but collect dust on our shelf.  Everytime we do use it, the cheese seems to ooze out until there’s nothing left inside and the quesadilla comes out looking like a dry, tasteless pancake.  This recipe is a much tastier version.

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Kicked Up Southwestern Quesadillas

Mouth-watering Monterrey Jack melds with creamy refried beans for the perfect appetizer that’s hearty enough to be a main course.

1 package of flour tortillas (10 taco size)
1 8oz package Monterrey Jack cheese
½ can corn
1 can refried beans
1 cup black olives
1 cup salsa
½ onion
8 oz sour cream
1 tsp taco seasoning

 Quesadilla Prep:

Chop onions and black olives and set aside.  Drain corn.  Shred cheese.  Using a spatula, spread refried beans on each of the 10 tortillas.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of the beans on each of the 10 tortillas.  Set five of the bean and cheese covered tortillas aside to be used as the tops of the quesadillas.  Add the following toppings to the remaining 5 bean and cheese tortillas: 1 tablespoon of corn, 1 teaspoon of onions, 1 tablespoon on olives, 1 tablespoon of salsa.  Gently pat the cheese into the beans on the 5 tortillas that will be used as the tops of the quesadillas.  Then flip them over and set on top of the tortillas with toppings.  Gently pat top to hold it together.  Heat quesadillas on a griddle or in a skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crispy on the bottom.  Flip quesadilla and repeat until golden brown on the other side.  Then, remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes before cutting into triangles with a chef’s knife or pizza cutter.  Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce:

Mix sour cream, taco seasoning, and remaining salsa.  Add a little extra salsa for more southwestern kick…

Amy’s Notes:

Adapted from Sunny Anderson’s Southwest Quesadillas.  I changed up the toppings and the dipping sauce to give it my own spin.  Just don’t leave out the beans – they are the glue that holds it all together.