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Category Archives: Appetizers

Leap Day Monkey Breads

The interior springs, which prevent the unusually heavy dishwasher door from recklessly crashing to the floor, busted the other day. The repair man has assessed the damage and the necessary parts have been ordered. In the mean time, we’re fondly referring to the dishwasher as “toddler crusher”, which certainly kicks up the level of excitement in the kitchen. Because being in the kitchen should always feel a little like Thunderdome, shouldn’t it?

Aside from the added thrill of crashing appliance doors (thank you, LG), we are all buzzing with excitement around here today, because it’s Leap Day…and if we learned anything from last week’s episode of 30 Rock, you can do anything you want on Leap Day, because nothing counts. (Buh-bye diet!) Being as I learn most of life’s important lessons from Thursday nights’ TV line-up, we’re going to celebrate Leap Day as it ought to be celebrated.

Which means we’re going to wear mismatching socks, forget about chores, and eat ice cream sundaes for dinner. I might even buy that Mercedes E320 I’ve always wanted. And I’m totally going to bathe myself in salted caramel. Because it’s an extra day and you can spend it however you want. In an ideal world, I’d actually spend my extra day taking one very long nap in a warm, quiet sensory deprivation chamber. But since I still need to take care of my children…even on Leap Day…we’re going to go the recklessly over-indulgent and silly behavior route for the day.

In between our ice cream sundaes, we’ll eat monkey bread…because it has a funny name that I don’t understand and it’s just really, really yummy. It makes me happy. Monkey bread, though an old familiar to many, is pretty new to me. I made (and tasted) my first monkey bread for my super bowl party (aka the DeLine family super bowl massacre). I fell in love. Big time. It was a pepperoni pizza monkey bread, with gooey mozzarella cheese and bits of spicy pepperoni scattered between buttery, garlicky bits of pizza dough. But, the thing I loved most of all were the infinite possibilities.

You can make monkey bread with any number of flavors. Use whatever sort of dough floats your boat. Stuff the little balls of dough with anything your heart desires. Roll the balls in any coating. Go savory. Go sweet. Go crazy. It’s monkey bread! This time, I made two types of monkey bread. The first (your dinner course, if you will) is a buffalo chicken pizza monkey bread…gooey balls of pizza dough stuffed with spicy chunks of chicken, mozzarella cheese, and bleu cheese which are then rolled in a buttery wing sauce. Dip ’em in bleu cheese dressing…holy yum!

The boys enjoyed my second variation; s’mores monkey bread. We stuffed the chunks of pizza dough with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, then rolled them in a sugary graham cracker crumb mix. The final result is oozing with s’mores flavor. For an even more decadent treat, dip the warm chunks into hot fudge or some sticky marshmallow fluff!

Go ahead, indulge. All foods are 0 calories on Leap Day. Google it.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Monkey Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot sauce, divided
  • Bleu Cheese Dressing, for dipping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray four mini pie pans with non-stick cooking spray. (Alternately, you can use one large bundt pan or smaller cupcake-sized pans. Adjust baking time, longer for larger pans and a few minutes shorter for smaller pans.) Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of the hot sauce over the chicken and toss to coat. Mix the remaining hot sauce in with the melted butter. (If desired, add additional hot sauce for a spicier result.) Set aside. Pull off small chunks of the pizza dough (about 1″ diameter). Slightly flatten the dough. Place a little chunk of the chicken and a pinch or two of both cheeses in the center of the dough round. Wrap the dough around the fillings into a small ball shape. Dip the ball in the butter/hot sauce mixture to coat, then place it in the pie pan. Repeat until all dough has been used and each pie pan is filled with multiple stuffed dough balls. Scatter any remaining crumbled bleu cheese over the top of each pie pan. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to allow the dough to rise slightly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffy and cooked through. Serve warm with bleu cheesing dressing and/or additional hot sauce.

S’mores Monkey Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • 40-50 mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 full-sheet graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray four mini pie pans with non-stick cooking spray. (Alternately, you can use one large bundt pan or smaller cupcake-sized pans. Adjust baking time, longer for larger pans and a few minutes shorter for smaller pans.) Stir the graham crackers crumbs and sugar together. Pull off small chunks of the dough (about 1″ diameter). Slightly flatten the dough. Place a mini marshmallow and several mini chocolate chips in the center of the dough round. Wrap the dough around the fillings into a small ball shape. Dip the ball in the melted butter, then roll the ball in the graham cracker crumbs. Place the ball in the pie pan. Repeat until all dough has been used and each pie pan is filled with multiple stuffed dough balls. Sprinkle any remaining mini chocolate chips over the top of each pie pan. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to allow the dough to rise slightly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffy and cooked through. Serve warm. Dip in hot fudge or marshmallow fluff, if desired.

No diet report today. It’s Leap Day. Diets don’t matter on Leap Day!

Cocktail Meatballs Three Ways

When it comes to any type of sport, I’m more of a go-to-a-game kind of person than a sit-on-my-couch-cheering-and-cursing kind of person. There’s a whole atmosphere to being at a game. There are people passing out beer and food. There’s music and singing. There are people doing ‘the wave’. And I really like ‘the wave’. I like the whole experience of attending a game. But watching sports from my couch…boring.

So, sports-watchin’…not really my thing. But game day snacks…totally my thing! We’re throwing a little super bowl party this year, because it’s a great excuse to have some friends over and enjoy some tasty food. We’ll eat. We’ll drink. We’ll laugh. We may even do the wave.

I’ll be serving of few of my old favorites, specifically chicken wing dip, creole-deviled eggs, and spinach dip along with a few new items, like pepperoni pizza monkey bread (doesn’t that sound delicious??) and these cocktail meatballs in three different sauces.

We’ll start with a basic, versatile meatball, made with a mix of beef, pork, and turkey, then we’ll dress them in three different, but equally delicious, sauces. Make one, two, or all three! These meatballs can be made ahead of time, tossed in their sauce and refrigerated or frozen until use. Reheat in a 350 degrees oven for 15 minutes or so, until heated through. Meatballs can be reheated from frozen, but allow for extra time.

**Each sauce recipe makes enough to thoroughly coat 1/3 of the meatball recipe. Doubling any of the sauce recipes should make enough sauce for the entire meatball batch.

Basic Cocktail Meatball

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients until well blended. Roll the mixture into balls, about 1″ diameter. Place the balls in a single layer on baking sheets which have been lightly rubbed with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

Makes about 90-100 meatballs

Honey Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Sweet and Sour Pineapple Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple preserves
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Thai Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Directions

Combine all ingredients, except green onions, in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Stir in most of the green onions, saving some for garnish. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or additional red curry paste, as desired. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Garnish with remaining green onions.

And if those meatballs don’t do it for you, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom meatballs…

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs in Hoisin Peanut Sauce

Baked Clam Spread

We try to teach our kids about generosity and about giving to those who are in need. To this end, we send in donations when their school collects for the food pantry or bags of toys for sick children who spent Christmas in the hospital. Periodically, we go through the boys’ toy boxes to gather and donate neglected toys to children who would be happy to have them. And the kids watch as we package and donate baby supplies to families in need. We could do a lot more than we do. But through all of these small actions, it is our hope that our children will learn to appreciate how fortunate they are and to think of others in need.

So, you can imagine how proud I felt when the boys offered to donate their old, worn toothbrushes to ‘kids who don’t have any toothbrushes’, after Santa left shiny, light-up toothbrushes in their stockings. I suppose we still need to work on what items have donation value.

As this year comes to a close, I continue to be eternally thankful for all that we have; a beautiful, healthy family, a warm home, dear friends, close family, love. We are so fortunate. It is my wish that 2012 brings the very best of everything to each of you. Take stock of the things which really matter and let everything else go. All the rest is small stuff. Health, love, family, and friends…these are the things worth being concerned about.

I’ve got another quick and delicious appetizer idea for your New Year’s celebrations; a simple baked clam spread made with canned clams. Now, you all know I’m a big fan of from-scratch cooking, but there’s a major convenience factor here. Using canned clams turns this recipe into something you’re very likely to cook as compared to something which seems like too much work to be worth it. For the purpose of this recipe, canned clams work perfectly. And, by all means, if you’re up to cleaning, steaming, and removing the fresh clams, even better!

Baked Clam Spread

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 (6.5-ounce) cans of chopped or minced clams, drained
  • 2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender and golden. Turn off the heat. Add the clams, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh parsley. Stir until well blended. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. Spread the mixture into a small baking dish. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Spread onto crackers or slices of bread.

Alternately, the mixture can be stuffed into real or aluminum clam shells and baked for about 10-12 minutes. (To be honest, stuffing the mixture into clam shells is the best way to do it, but I couldn’t find those little aluminum clam shells in any of my stores, so I gave up and baked it in a dish.)

Mini Chicken Parm Hors d’oeuvres

Last week, in the rush of finalizing Christmas arrangements, I lost my baby’s stroller. My angel-faced three-year-old was in the midst of a full-fledged tantrum at the time. We’d actually needed to make a very rapid exit from Panera due to the aforementioned tantrum. My head was spinning to the sound of his screams. I drove off without the stroller. I’m lucky I didn’t forget one of the kids in the parking lot!

I didn’t realize my mistake until two days later when I went to retrieve the stroller from the back of my car. After a bit of confusion, I remembered the last time I’d seen it and figured what I must have done. In the hopes of getting the stroller back, I returned to the store to inquire if anyone had turned in a stroller. The cashier proceeded to pull out and paw through the store’s 12×18″ lost and found box. Ummm…I don’t think you’re going to find a stroller in that little box. Once the cashier was satisfied that the stroller was not in fact hiding under the mittens in the lost and found box, she called over the store manager who reported that it had been seen in the parking lot, but no one had turned it in.

Buh-bye stroller.

But my three-year-old, the cause of the commotion which led to the stroller’s loss, was still certain he was on Santa’s nice list. He was also certain that Santa would be delivering the very item he desired; a samurai castle play set. So certain, in fact, that in the days leading up to Christmas, he began practicing his reaction for discovering the samurai castle. And when he came bursting into our room before dawn on Christmas morning, anxious to run downstairs to check under the tree, he exclaimed “I’m gonna go downstairs and I’m gonna say WHAT??? A samurai castle?? For ME???”

Lucky for him, Santa must have decided he was nice enough to land on the nice list.

We had a lovely Christmas weekend all around, beginning with Christmas Eve. For many years now, it’s become our tradition to eat chicken parmesan on Christmas Eve. I made it for my husband’s family one Christmas Eve, many moons ago, and the tradition just stuck. But this year, we planned to have lunch at Dinosaur BBQ on Christmas Eve. We all agreed that a big BBQ lunch and heavy chicken parm dinner would be way too much indulgence for one day. So, we decided we’d have a few little hors d’oeuvre type snacks for our dinner instead. Hors d’oeuvre dinner happens to be my family’s longtime Christmas Eve tradition. But, not to sacrifice our annual chicken parm, I came up with these little baby parm hors d’oeuvres. It sort of feels like this melding of our family’s traditions was always meant to be.

For those of you planning New Year’s Eve menus, these mini chicken parms would make a delicious addition! We also enjoyed Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs and Mini Crabcakes with Chipotle Remoulade. And for a few other hors d’oeuvres ideas, click HERE.

Mini Chicken Parms

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken tenders or thinly sliced chicken breast
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 1 French baguette, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh parsley, torn or chopped
  • 1 cup thick, smooth, full-flavored tomato sauce (I used a smooth pizza sauce.)
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the chicken tenders into small pieces (about 1″ square). Dip the chicken into the beaten eggs. Then dip each piece into the bread crumbs. Press the crumbs onto all sides of the chicken. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When good and hot, place a few of the breaded chicken pieces into the oil. Cook for about two minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Place the cooked chicken onto paper towels to remove the excess oil. Repeat, in small batches until all chicken has been cooked.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan and a bit of fresh parsley. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Spread some of the cheese mixture onto each slice of baguette. Place a cooked piece of breaded chicken on top of the cheese. Drizzle each piece of chicken with tomato sauce. (Don’t overdo it on the sauce.) Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of each.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until hot and melty.

**The chicken can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated until assembling the hors d’oeuvres. If you prepare and chill the chicken ahead of time, it will take about 5 minutes longer in the oven to reheat during the final baking.

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

I hosted a little cookie exchange this weekend. It was really just an excuse to engage in a bit of holiday cheer with a few of my best girl friends…as if we needed an excuse! We drank pomegranate champagne cocktails and warm mugs of mulled wine as we laughed by the light of the Christmas tree. Then we loaded up our trays with the assortment of delicious cookies and homemade bread before saying good night. I love the holiday season exactly for such festive gatherings.

Our evening was as educational as it was fun. We learned such things as:

  • When offering your guests mulled wine, it helps to say the word “mulled” slowly and clearly, so your guests do not believe you are offering them some sort of fancy French mold wine.
  • Carrots are not only delicious, but also an excellent source of small talk.
  • If your boot gets stuck on your foot as you pass through airport security, you will need to sit in the naughty passenger area until the boot can be pried from your foot. (Try to appear as if you’re ok with this situation.)
  • Alec Baldwin likes Word with Friends and Wegmans. And we still like Alec Baldwin.

I made a few snacks for my cookie party, including some spinach-gorgonzola triangles (think spanakopita, made with gorgonzola cheese instead of feta) and these cranberry meatballs. They’re inspired by a recipe I spotted in an advertisement for Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray’s recipe calls for a combination of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce over frozen cocktail meatballs. It reminds me of the sweet and sour meatballs which my mom used to make with a combination of grape jelly and ketchup. It was one of her standard dishes to bring to potlucks and they were surprisingly delicious. You’d never have guessed the sauce was made from jelly and ketchup, of all things!

I knew there was something to this cranberry meatball idea. So, I made a few little tweaks to raise the homemade factor in the recipe and to kick up the flavor with a bit of chipotle heat. The result is sweet, savory, spicy, and surprisingly delicious. These tasty little meatballs are going to make a prompt reappearance on my Christmas Eve menu!

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle in adobo)

Directions

To prepare the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ground turkey, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until well-blended. Form into 1″ balls. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet which has been lightly rubbed with oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.

To prepare the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat. (Use one chipotle pepper for mild/medium heat or two chipotle peppers for medium-hot.) Use a fork to smash up the cranberry sauce. Stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes until a sauce forms. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the mixture using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs.

Meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated or frozen until use.

To reheat: Reheat the meatballs in a foil-covered baking dish in a 350 degrees oven, until the meatballs are heated through, about 25-30 minutes (frozen meatballs will take longer). Periodically stir the meatballs as they reheat. Alternately, the meatballs and sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a slow-cooker.

Makes about 60 cocktail-sized meatballs

Tis the season for festive cocktails, like pomegranate champagne cocktails and mulled wine.

For the pomegranate champagne cocktails: Place a few pomegranate arils (the bright red seeds) into the bottom of a champagne glass. Pour a splash of pomegranate juice over the arils. Fill the glass with champagne. The arils sparkle like floating gems and are really fun to pop in your mouth as you enjoy your festive cocktail.

For the mulled wine: Mulled wine is warm, spiced and flavored wine…sort of a warm sangria. It’s typically made with red wine. The flavors and spices can vary. I combined 1.5 liters of Merlot with 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and two cinnamon sticks. Then, cut one navel orange in half. Squeeze the juice into the mixture, then place the orange halves into the liquid. Slowly warm the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Do not boil. Serve warm. You can prepare the wine on the stovetop in a saucepan or use a slow cooker.

Pomegranate and Poached Pear ‘Salad’

I’d like to take a moment to officially declare pomegranate as the most fun fruit to eat.

First comes the game of removing the tiny, shimmering pomegranate gems, called arils, from the hard exterior rind. Some people recommend a process of scoring the outer rind of the pomegranate, soaking it in cold water for a few minutes, then breaking the pieces open and allowing the arils to fall to the bottom of the water while the rind floats on top. Others recommend cutting the pomegranate into pieces and smacking the rind with the back of a spoon to loosen the arils, which should eject from the fruit. I like to simply cut the pomegranate into pieces and go to work, pulling apart the fruit piece by piece, systematically releasing the gazillions of juicy arils from within. There’s something incredibly satisfying about peeling back the layers of membrane within the fruit to uncover pockets of the sweet, plump gems.

The small effort of removing the arils yields a great reward; a bowl full of sweet, ruby gems. Pop one in your mouth and enjoy the sweet burst of juice as you bite into each delicious seed. Pick one up the next time you spot them in the grocery store. Now is the time to enjoy this delicious, fun fruit! And they’re super healthy for you too!

If you can stop yourself snacking on this tasty fruit, save some of the pomegranate arils for this delicious composed ‘salad’ of sorts. This seasonally perfect dish would make a very elegant hors d’oeuvre for a holiday party or perfect first course for a seated dinner. (Pretty certain this is going on my Christmas dinner menu!) Fresh pears are poached until tender, then paired with salty gorgonzola and vibrant pomegranate arils, nestled into a crisp leaf of Belgian endive. A simple pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnuts provide the finishing touches.

Poached Pears and Pomegranate ‘Salad’

Ingredients

  • 2 heads Belgian endive
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

For the Poached Pears:

  • 2 ripe, firm pears (Anjou, Bosc, Bartlett…)
  • 4 cups poaching liquid (water, white wine, champagne, apple juice…)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

For the Candied Walnuts:

  • 1/2 cup shelled walnut halves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Pinch of cinnamon
For the Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
Directions

For the pears: Peel pears, cut off tops and bottoms, and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the core, using a melon baller or knife. Place the pears in a saucepan with your poaching liquid. (Any combination of water, white wine, champagne, juice, etc. would be delicious.) Stir in the honey. If desired, add a cinnamon stick and/or a vanilla bean to the liquid. Bring the poaching liquid to a gentle simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pears from the cooking liquid and allow to cool. Once cool, chop the pears into small chunks and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Walnuts: Heat walnuts in a pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until they begin to toast.  Add butter and cook for an additional minute.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and about 1 tablespoon water to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the water has evaporated and the nuts are glazed. **You may need to add small quantities of additional water to achieve a glaze. Allow to cool. The glaze will harden as the nuts cool. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

For the Vinaigrette: Whisk the oil, vinegar, pomegranate juice, and mustard together. Season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble the Salad: Rinse the endive. Cut off the core end and carefully separate the leaves. Fill each leaf with a bit of the pear, pomegranate, and crumbled gorgonzola. Top with candied walnuts. Arrange on a platter to serve as an hors d’ouevres or plate 2-3 prepared endive leaves per person as a first course. Lightly drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Serves 4-6

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

My ultra-keen, super sleuthing skills (errr… google), have led me to discover that it is currently football season.

Football and I may be strangers, but tailgating-type munchies and I are the dearest of friends.

Chicken wings are always a popular pick when it comes to football-watching munchies. And people go wild for all sorts of chicken wing flavored goodies, like Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins and Chicken Wing Dip.

The next time you’re in charge of the snacks for a big game, try these spicy chicken wing meatballs. They’ve got the celery and blue cheese baked right into the chicken!! Definitely winning!

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  •  1 egg
  •  1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  •  1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  •  1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  •  1/2 cup gorgonzola (or other bleu cheese) cheese, crumbled
  •  1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable or olive oil, to grease the baking dish

For the sauce

  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the bottom of a large baking dish with a bit of oil, to prevent the meatballs from sticking.

Combine all meatball ingredients until well-blended. (The mixture may feel a bit sticky.) Roll the mixture into one inch balls. Place in a single layer in the baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes.

Combine the Frank’s Red Hot with the melted butter. For a milder sauce, add more butter or decrease the hot sauce.

Pour the sauce over the meatballs and serve!

Makes about 2 dozen. You can easily double or triple this recipe for a big crowd!

Top Ten Gourmand Mom Recipes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m greatly entertained by reading through the search terms which lead people to this little blog. It often leaves me puzzling over how the terms “Christmas money wreath” or “dog with running shoes” brought people here. What in the world have I been writing about? Of course, most of the time, people are just looking for recipes and, as it turns out, some of those recipes are quite popular!

Here, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten most viewed Gourmand Mom recipes. Then, if you scroll down a bit further, you’ll see ten of my personal favorites. (Clicking on the recipe titles will bring you straight to the recipe.)

What’s your favorite recipe? Tell me about it!

Top Ten Gourmand Mom Recipes

(according to page views)

Crab Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers  – Coming in at #10, these spicy little appetizers are a fresh and flavorful alternative to the kind you’ll find in the frozen food section of your grocery store!

A Better Caramel Apple Cake – Yum! This recipe is the result of experimenting with a delicious recipe I found in the Food Network magazine! Who knew that a bit of boiling water would make such a big difference?? With apple season reaching its peak, now’s a great time to give this one a try!

Almost Perfect Fontina Chops – This recipe is inspired by a Bonefish Grill dish, which is apparently a big favorite, since I get a few search hits every day from people looking for this recipe. This version is not intended to be a copycat recipe; it’s just a delicious dinner inspired by the popular Bonefish dish.

 Independence Day Berries and Cream – Mixed Berry Mousse and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta – My love for panna cotta began with this sweet treat. Mmmm….fresh berry mousse with sweetened cream! Mmmm…

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds – The fresh ingredients do all of the hard work in this simple and delicious salad!

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp – This is another recipe that gets a ton of search hits. The people want Hawaiian garlic shrimp…and with good reason! It’s delicious! Next time, I’d veer away from the traditional preparation and cook these babies with the shells removed to get more of the buttery garlic in my mouth and less on my fingers.

Chicken Wing Dip – Coming in at #4 is Chicken Wing Dip. It’s practically a classic and totally crave-worthy. Oh dear, just thinking about it makes me want to throw batch in the oven. Must. Have. Chicken Wing Dip.

Pumpkin Gingersnap Parfait – Perfect season for these tasty treats. Some may prefer to sweeten the pumpkin a touch more in these easy treats. For me, they’re just right!

Sweet Honey Cornbread – This one scored most of its hits when it landed on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed section for a day. It’s a great cornbread recipe; sweet, tender, and super easy to make!

And the #1 Most Viewed Gourmand Mom recipe is (drumroll, please)…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie  – This luscious pie wins the top spot by a landslide. Somehow it’s found itself within the StumbleUpon community. I’m really not quite sure how StumbleUpon works, but it sure drives a ton of traffic to this delicious recipe!

Ten of My Personal Favorite Recipes

Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce – This burger takes the cake as far as my husband is concerned! It’s become his meal of choice for birthdays, anniversaries, and any other excuse he can come up with!

The World’s Greatest Penne ala Vodka – I can’t claim credit for the creation of this recipe, but it’s definitely on my list of all-time favorites!! Seriously the best vodka sauce I’ve ever tasted!

Sausage, Bean, and Rapini Soup – This incredibly satisfying dish is in our regular dinner rotation. It freezes well, so make it in a huge batch to keep on hand for an easy dinner. Make it as brothy as you prefer and serve with a nice piece of French bread!

Chicken Salad Sandwich – Waldorf Style – There’s something incredibly satisfying about the combination of sweet, savory, and crunch in this chicken salad. It’s on my go-to list of easy weeknight dinners!

Grilled Honey Garlic Baby Lamb Chops – I want to slather this honey garlic sauce on everything. I think I could live on this honey garlic sauce.

Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits – I first made these biscuits during a major craving for Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I searched online for a copycat recipe and found a ton of Bisquick-based recipes. Wanting to make fresh biscuits from scratch, I combined the elements from a basic, buttery drop biscuit with the seasoning of the Red Lobster biscuit. They’re perfect. Everyone cheers when these are on the menu!

Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad in Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette – This was initially intended as a pantry meal, if you will; something quick and easy using a few leftover ingredients I had on hand. It became an instant favorite. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the combination of flavors and textures in this simple dish!

BBQ Beef Chili – This hybrid chili/bbq beef dish makes my mouth water. Serve it with the cornbread from the Top 10 list!

Corn and Bacon Fritter Cakes – I just posted about these recently. I want to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday, topped with smoked salmon and creme fraiche. The best part is that they reheat really well. In fact, they may even be better reheated than straight out of the pan. Pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees and they’re perfect! (P.S. A dollop of sour cream would make a fine substitute for the creme fraiche!)

Pizza Dragon and Chairs of Stock (Steak Bordelaise Pizza) – My brother in law goes nuts for this pizza! He’s still trying to figure out how to package it and sell it, since he’s convinced it will make me millions. This pizza is a steak dinner on a pizza crust. It takes a little time to get all of the components together, but everything can be prepared ahead of time and it’s worth the trouble!

Do you have a favorite Gourmand Mom recipe? Any other recipe you’d like to see here? Tell me about it!

Shrimp Cocktail Bruschetta and a Dinner Party Plan

About a month ago, two of my favorite people in the whole world ran off to a funky little motel in the Catskills and secretly eloped. (This place looks seriously cool! You can check out some of the wedding photos on the Roxbury facebook page.

I was ecstatic when I heard the news. And then, almost instantly, my mind went into dinner party mode. If there were ever a perfect reason to throw a dinner party, this was it.

Don’t you just love the idea of a dinner party?? Good food, plentiful drinks, amazing company… I love every bit of it; planning the menu and decor, preparing the meal, presenting each course, coming up with a few special touches… It’s something that I wish we could do more frequently.

But with three little kids (including a teething four-month-old, who’s fully convinced that sleep is for suckers), it’s hard enough to get a simple macaroni and cheese dinner on the table on any given day of the week. The thought of preparing an elegant, five-course plated dinner for ten is a bit overwhelming even to consider. It can be done though. It just requires a little careful planning.

A carefully crafted menu is the most essential component of any successful dinner party (aside from your guest list, that is). For our feast, I wanted to use fresh, seasonal foods which would bridge the transition from summer to fall. In order to spread the preparation throughout the week and keep things as simple as possible during the party, I wanted to serve dishes which could be easily reheated without any loss of quality. And then the big thing… I wanted to be able to sit down to enjoy each course with my guests. I mean, who wants to spend the whole time in the kitchen while your guests are laughing at the table (and threatening to eat the cupcakes prematurely)??  My goal was to create a menu where each course could be effortlessly completed and served within ten minutes of the previous course.

Here’s what I came up with…

Sunrise Champagne Cocktail

***

Shrimp Cocktail Bruschetta on Toasted Baguette

***

Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart in a Pine Nut Crust with Balsamic Reduction

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Seared Scallops over Sweet Potato Bisque with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

***

Braised Beef Short Ribs in a Fig and Red Wine Reduction

with

Creamy Brie Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Asparagus

***

Pumpkin and Nutella Wedding Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Aside from the anti-sleep demonstration, which my four-month-old staged throughout the entire party, the dinner went off without a hitch. Preparation between the courses was a cinch and everyone enjoyed the meal.

Interested in hosting your own simple and elegant dinner party? Here are a few little tips:

Start with a signature drink; something fun, unique, and fitting for the event. We were celebrating a wedding and what wedding celebration is complete without champagne?? My Sunrise Champagne Cocktail is a simple twist on a classic Bellini. Fill champagne glasses a little more than halfway with champagne. Top with passionfruit juice. Finally, drop about 1/2 teaspoon of grenadine into the glass. The grenadine will fall to the bottom and disperse, creating a beautiful layered color effect…an effect which happened to match the layered colors of the bride’s wedding dress. Coincidence? I think not.

As guests arrive and mingle, have some little hors d’oeuvres available. Keep ’em light though. You don’t want your guests to overfill their bellies before dinner. And, you don’t want to be busy in the kitchen fussing over snacks as your guests are arriving, so keep it easy. The shrimp cocktail bruschetta I served during our party is an ideal option. It takes the concept of a tomato bruschetta on toasted baguette and combines it with chunks of fresh shrimp and the flavors of cocktail sauce. Simply arrange on a platter and set out for your guests to enjoy. You’ll be free to greet your guests and enjoy a cocktail as you focus on preparing the first plated dinner course.

For the first plated course, serve something cool or at room temperature. It will make it easier to get things started. I served the heirloom tomato and goat cheese tart I recently shared with you. You can prepare and freeze the crust a week or more ahead of time. It takes only a few minutes to finish the tart on the day of your party. Pop it in the oven just as your guests begin arriving. It will make your house smell delicious and will be ready in perfect time for the first course. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Serve a soup as part of your second course. They’re easily reheated and offer a ton of options depending on the season. I served my seared scallops over sweet potato bisque with applewood smoked bacon. The bisque can be completely prepared a few days ahead of time. Refrigerate the bacon pieces and freeze the bisque to keep it fresh. During the party, you’ll only need to quickly sear the scallops and reheat the bisque and bacon before serving. Within 5 or 6 minutes, the second course will be ready to serve.

The main course should typically be the heaviest item on the menu. Try to plan something which gives you flexible timing. I served braised beef short ribs in a fig and red wine reduction. This dish is an ideal main course, since it actually does best when prepared a day ahead of time and can be reheated and held until you’re ready to serve. Preparing a day before allows the sauce to chill, making it easier to remove the excess fat which will rise to the surface. You can then adjust the seasoning of your sauce and slowly reheat the short ribs, keeping them hot and ready in the oven until it’s time to serve.

To keep things easy during the party, do whatever little preparations you can ahead of time. On the side of the short ribs, I serve creamy brie mashed potatoes, which can be fully prepared a day ahead of time, and roasted asparagus, which take only a few minutes in the oven. Get your asparagus ready for roasting by washing, cutting, and arranging on a baking sheet earlier in the day. Before roasting, toss in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then simply pop them into the oven.

For dessert, serve something which can be made ahead of time and requires little or no preparation during the party. I served pumpkin-nutella cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. They made a beautiful centerpiece on the table and were ready to eat when the time came. This meant that I could sit back and relax once the short ribs were served…Well, I would have been able to sit back and relax if the aforementioned anti-sleep demonstration weren’t still underway. Alas, what can you do?? He’s lucky he’s so stinkin’ cute!

Recipes for the short ribs, creamy brie mashed potatoes, and cupcakes will be coming up soon! For now, let me whet your appetite with this simple and delicious shrimp cocktail bruschetta!

Shrimp Cocktail Bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 6-8 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 2 cups shrimp, deveined, cooked, and chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Tabasco, to taste
  • 1 French Baguette, sliced
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Combine tomatoes, shrimp, green onions, horseradish, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, salt, and tabasco. Adjust seasoning as desired. Refrigerate until serving. Brush the slices of baguette with olive oil. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degrees oven until lightly toasted. Serve shrimp bruschetta topping with toasted baguette slices.

Corn and Bacon Fritter Cakes

I have a confession to make. Until moments ago, I had no idea what Labor Day was really all about, other than it being the weekend before school starts, the symbolic end of summer, a traditional occasion for grilling out, and the last day where it is appropriate to wear white. Does that fashion rule even still apply? 

Oh, I could have made some guesses, based on the holiday’s name; perhaps something having to do with working people or labor unions. But it took a visit to Wikipedia to learn the history and reason behind the holiday we’re celebrating today.

The worst part is that I’d never given much consideration to my ignorance about this particular holiday until my son asked me to explain it.

Me: Daddy has off from work tomorrow!

Little Man: Oh yeah? Why?

Me: Because it’s Labor Day.

Little Man: What’s Labor Day?

Me: Uhhhhhh…a day when Daddy doesn’t have to work? 

I feel ashamed. I am clearly one of the millions of Americans who are clueless about so much of our history. I can hear my Dad in my ear warning, Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.

I’m certain that I must have learned the history of Labor Day sometime back in my elementary school days. But I think that sometimes we’re just not prepared to appreciate that sort of history without the background knowledge or experience to latch onto. It’s not until we’ve experienced a bit of the world that these things start to really make sense. I think, as adults, we need to take the initiative to reeducate ourselves a bit, reread those classic novels, remind ourselves of the significance of things we’ve come to take for granted…

Do you know the history of Labor Day?

Let me tell you about a holiday I do know something about… International Bacon Day! It takes place every year on the Saturday before Labor Day. Did you celebrate? I certainly did. If you missed it, it’s not too late to pay your respects to bacon. (Bacon won’t mind that you’re celebrating two days late.)

If you’re in need of a suitable celebratory bacon recipe, I’ve got just the thing. My corn and bacon fritters pair delicious, crisp bacon with irresistibly sweet end-of-summer corn in a rich batter to form little fry cakes; slightly crisp on the outside, tender in the middle. Make them large and serve them as a side dish to broiled salmon or make them small, topped with bits of smoked salmon and creme fraiche for a fantastic little hors d’oeuvres!

Cheers to all of the working people who help to make our country great and cheers to bacon!

Corn and Bacon Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • Corn from 4 cobs, cooked (about 3 cups)
  • 8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Vegetable oil

Directions

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the milk and the egg. Gradually whisk the milk and egg mixture into the dry ingredients to form a batter. Stir in the corn, bacon, and green onions. Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Pour or spoon batter into the oil, as large or as small as desired. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Drain in a single layer on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

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