Swiss Almond Cheese Spread

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1 8-ounce whipped cream cheese, softened
6 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
1/ 3 cup mayonnaise
1/ 4 cup scallions or onion, chopped
1/ 8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/ 8 teaspoon pepper
1/ 3 cup almonds, sliced and toasted

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well.
3. Spread Swiss cheese mixture into a 9-inch pie plate or baking dish.
4. Bake 8 minutes. Stir. Bake for 8 more minutes. Serve hot with crackers, chips or cut carrots and celery.
5. ENJOY – Almondy Swiss goodness!

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Spinach Crescents

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2 packages crescent rolls
6 slices of Alpine Lace Swiss cheese
1 package frozen cream spinach
1 egg

1. Oven 350 degrees
2. Cook cream spinach and set aside to cool.
3. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
4. Unfold crescent rolls on a flat surface. Spread the spinach with a
teaspoon onto the inside of the crescent roll. On top of the
spinach, place cut slices of the alpine lace swiss cheese.
Roll up the crescent wide end to a point. Place on parchment
paper. Repeat until all crescent rolls are done.
5. Brush top of crescents with beaten egg. Optional – sprinkle
sesame seeds on top.
6. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
7. ENJOY – Spinachy, Cheesy Appetizers you can’t get enough of!

Is there anyone out there that doesn’t appreciate a quick and easy recipe? I believe that I’m a creative cook who will tackle just about anything…but who has that kinda time these days! Even if you think you can’t cook you can make these crescent appetizers. I love to entertain, but I don’t always have the time or energy to prepare different appetizers, desserts and main courses on a Friday or Saturday evening after working all week.

I admit to serving pizza sometimes as a main course, but I will always make my own dessert and toss in a few homemade appetizers. Now here is where my little recipe comes in handy…. there are food products in the supermarket to make our lives easier, and I wouldn’t shy away from using these little time savers on occasion. Take a stroll over to the dairy section and you’ll find an area just for biscuits and crescent rolls in cans. Surprisingly, those little biscuits can be used to make a coffee cake or to wrap around a mini hotdog to make the very popular pigs in a blanket appetizer.

Now that I’m a Gramma, planning my Sunday dinner menu gets tricky. I want to spoil my grandchildren with their favorite foods, yet still satisfy the adults’ tastebuds. Purposely, I made some of these spinach swiss crescent appetizers without the cream spinach for my little princes and princess. Surprisingly, only one grandson wouldn’t eat the spinach crescent. My other grandson had to be stopped from eating more than the four crescents he had devoured in under 4 minutes! My granddaughter, bless her, loved them also. You never know what kids will or will not eat, so give them more options.

Crescent rolls have proven to be the most versatile. I have used them to top a pie in a pinch. The possibilities are endless, as I well know! I have filled them with cooked broccoli and cheddar cheese, cooked bacon and cheese, and even with chocolate and nuts. Try loading them with some pepperoni and mozzarella or feta cheese and olives, or anything leftover in the refrigerator. Cheese and dough is one of those unbeatable combos. Top off your dough creation with some beaten egg yolk brushed on top and a sprinkle of sesame or poppy seeds to finish it off. Or, go Italian with a good dose of Parmesan cheese or a little garlic powder.

You can be the artist and let the crescent roll be your canvas. Create your next masterpiece for your next party, and then sit back and accept the accolades!

STROMBOLI

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2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dry yeast

OR Buy a ready made pizza dough

Olive oil

1 egg, beaten
1 / 2 cup of parmesan cheese
8 ounce fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 / 4 pound of pepperoni or sopressata slices, quartered

another egg, beaten

1. In a bowl place flour, then salt. Mix with your hands. In a cup dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let it sit for a minute. Add the olive oil. Make a well with the flour mixture then pour in the water mixture. Mix together to form a dough. Knead until dough becomes shiny and smooth. (If you are using a bread machine, make sure you use only the dough setting.)

2. In a clean bowl, rub a little olive oil to cover the inside of the bowl. Place the dough in and let it rise at least for 1 hour. Take the dough out punch it down and let it rise again for another hour. The longer it rises the better the dough. (If you are using a store bought dough, place it on the kitchen counter till it is room temperature. The dough will be very sticky, so be generous when flouring the dough.)

3. When you are ready to cook your stromboli preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and pepperoni. Toss together until everything is coated.

5. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle shape. Fill the dough with the cheese mixture evenly, covering the entire dough, then roll into a jelly roll, lengthwise. Grease a cookie sheet with a little olive oil or cover the cookie sheet with Reynolds wrap release foil. Place the Stromboli onto the cookie sheet. Brush the entire Stromboli with a beaten egg.

6. Bake in the over on middle rack for 35 to 45 minutes (depending on your oven) or until crust is golden brown. When removing from oven, let it sit for 15 minutes to cool down a little before slicing.

7. Optional recipe for Stromboli without meat. In a frying pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, saute 1/2 red pepper strips, 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, 1/2 bunch scallions, chopped and 3 garlic cloves, chopped. After everything is tender, cool down and add to beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese and follow directions the same.

7. ENJOY- Who wants a regular slice of pizza, not me, I want a slice of stromboli!

This recipe works well with homemade or store bought pizza dough. I have also made Stromboli using a white bread dough. You can put anything in your Stromboli. I use grated Romano cheese more than Parmesan cheese in mine because I like the sharper taste. Spinach and broccoli added also make for a good Stomboli. Word of caution, do not over load on the fillings, because it will become too heavy and then the dough may break open. I made two Strombolis, for this posting, one with meat and one with vegestables, because one is never enough for my family.

My recipe for Stromboli is an old one too. I actually had forgotten about it until my daughter, Marisa, asked me for it. I finally located my withered, typewritten (yep, from one of those ancient typewriters), stromboli recipe. As I read it to her over the phone, I made a decision to prepare and serve it the following evening for a gathering of friends at my house. It was a huge hit. Some recipes are always popular and this leads the pack.

Stomboli is easy to make, especially if you have a bread machine. My bread machine was a gift from my friend, Kazue, who so generously gave me hers when she went home to Japan after several years and many meals together. It’s a small machine and fits tidily on my kitchen counter, and there it will remain even if my husband wants it out of the way. It’s not going to be “out of sight, out of mind” as I use it frequently to prepare dough. I really do not like to bake bread in the machine; I don’t like the shape of that small, high bread loaf. This sweet little machine has become a time saver for me. I place all the ingredients in the machine, and it does the mixing and kneading of the dough and some of the rising. The bread machine allows me free time to work on other dishes, especially if I am entertaining that day. Along with my dishwasher, it has become a staple in my kitchen.

Have you considered getting a bread machine for your next dough recipe, perhaps making this stromboli recipe the very first thing you create with it? You may “knead” it more than you know!

Marisa’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1 can corn (drained)
1 can black beans (drained & rinsed)

finely chop:
1-2 jalapenos
2 tomatoes
1/2 red onion (about 1/2 cup)
1 avocado
1/3 cup fresh cilantro*

juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper to taste

*very important!!!

Memories! What still gives you those warm and fuzzy feelings when you look back….is it the cozy, well worn living room couch or the good times you enjoyed with your family? For me, it’s all about the good times!

When I was raising my kids, I had a friend whom I really envied. Every Memorial and Labor Day weekend she and her husband’s family vacationed together – all travel expenses covered by the very generous in-laws! My goal was to provide that very same happiness for my own family. Pay and feed them and they will come is the motto I now live by for long weekend every June. The Jersey shore has become my primary memory maker as my husband, our kids, their spouses and three grandkids eat, laugh, and enjoy each other. We book a large suite in a hotel with a private balcony overlooking the ocean and enough bedrooms and bathrooms to ensure no crankiness.

This vacation is not only with my family, but my childhood friends from Woodside, Queens: Maura, Joanne, Mary, MaryEllen, Patti and their families. Yes, I can almost hear our little childhood chant:

We are the Woodside girls,
we wear our hair in curls.
We wear our dungarees,
way up above our knees.
We never play with toys,
we only play with boys.

Maura, Mary and I have been going on this vacation for almost 25 years. We started to venture out to different locations over the years, Lake George, the Poconos and then settled the last 15 years with Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. The group has grown over the years as other girlfriends joined us. We live in different states and different cities, but we all come together every year for this long extended weekend.

It is a weekend long food fest too! I usually bake ahead of time and bring it. But my children shop and cook during our stay, as well as picking up the dinner checks! This year, the kids made chicken skewers, hot dogs, hamburgers and croissant breakfast sandwiches. Everyone brings drinks and snacks to share with the whole group at our saved waterfront table. My kids collectively made my daughter, Marisa’s Corn Salsa Dip. Everyone in the group really enjoyed it with tortilla chips. I participated by supplying the party bowl!

There is nothing like being with your family and lifelong friends together to kick off the summer season, just having fun, and making memories!

ROASTED RED PEPPER DIP


1 – 12 ounce jar of roasted red peppers
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
1 – 8 ounce cream cheese
A couple of dashes of red hot sauce
Salt and pepper

Pita pockets
fresh red pepper

1. Unwrap cream cheese and place into a medium bowl, leave out on counter
to soften ahead of time( a few hours).
2. In the meantime, drain the roasted peppers and cut into very small pieces.
3. In the same bowl as cream cheese, add feta, garlic, chopped jar peppers and
mix well with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste and a few dashes of
red hot sauce. Mix well and place into serving bowl.
4. Slice red pepper into one thick ring. Place into center off dip, cover and refrigerate.
5. Just before serving.
6. Oven 350 degrees.
Start with 3 pita pockets. Cut the pockets into 8 mini triangles. Place on triangles
on a cookie sheet.
7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until warm to touch. Place warm pita triangles on a platter surround the dip bowl. Serve immediately.
8. ENJOY – Have fun dipping….

Everyone loves a good dip, and I’m no exception. Chips and dips are the order of the day when my daughter, Mia, arrives home from college. If it looks like dip and smells like dip….well, it’s dip in her world and she won’t turn her nose up no matter what flavor!

Dips are great meal starters. Just recently, I hosted dinner for 7 family members who traveled from 4 different locations, ultimately arriving at 4 different times. A glorious red pepper dip was ready and waiting along with other finger appetizers. Everyone was happy as I just kept refreshing the chips and kept the finger foods coming.

I always set up the living room with appetizers and drinks for the first half of the dinner hour, till everyone arrives and settles down. You want to give folks time for socializing, a healthy dose of gossip, and “happy to see you again” conversation. I try to avoid dishes, utensils and too many plates. Finger foods tend to keep the “pre-dinner” relaxed and simple, and this featured dip with pita triangles is one of the tastiest. Combine this with plenty of pickings and you have a recipe for a successful evening.

This recipe is from my other daughter, Marisa, who is a great cook in her own right. Whenever I call her after we both get home from work, I always ask what she’s cooking for dinner. Marisa and her husband, Jeff, are always experimenting; they are really into cooking. When I called Marisa for this recipe, she emailed me all the ingredients but no measurements! I called again for more details, and Marisa told me she just wings it. I was so proud. My daughter is becoming such a truly creative cook. So, I winged it and it came out great. Who knew?!

“Like Mother, Like Daughter”, sounds real good to me!

Sun Dried Tomatoes Dipping Sauce

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2 cups sun dried tomatoes
1 / 2 cup black olives
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 / 3 cup water
2 1 / 4 cups olive oil
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

1. Add first 5 ingredients together in a food processor or blender.
2. Blend well. Add the garlic powder with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Store in air tight containers in refrigerator until ready to serve.
4. Serve with toasted or warm Italian bread wedge slices.
5. ENJOY – Dip into something new and exciting today!

Picture a table by a window overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on a balmy, breezy evening in Belmar, New Jersey. That was the setting for a birthday celebration dinner with my life long friend and “sister”, Maura. For my birthday gift this year, Maura insisted on taking me out to dinner during a visit to her summer home. There was a restaurant she always wanted to try, Matisse, on the beach. We didn’t have lunch that day, so we decided to have an early dinner. Fortunately, we arrived early and had the option of choosing our seats. The atmosphere and scenery provided us with a perfect setting, and we got the vibe that the food and service would prove to be top notch as well. To kick off dinner, the waitress brought over bread with a dipping sauce. I was intrigued as the sauce was thick and red, not the typical olive oil and garlic combo. At first, I assumed it had to be Italian sauce. Well, the taste told me otherwise! Maura and I kept trying to figure out the ingredients and determined that tomatoes and olive oil were central to this tasty dip, but we needed to figure out what else might be in there. I love trying to figure out, via taste and sight, how to recreate foods that blow me away. I tasted something I could not put my finger on. Defeated, I ended up asking the waitress, “What is in this dipping sauce?” “Tomatoes, olives, fennel and olive oil, are what the chef puts into a big container and that is all I know”, she answered.

The chef apparently is world renown and cooks dishes from around the world. I have to admit, I was really into this sauce, this restaurant and this Chef Anthony Wall. I loved the inspiration I got from the entire dining experience. I also paid attention to the chef himself. I noticed he came out from the kitchen and greeted his regular customers. I was hoping he would stop at our table so I could compliment him on the meal and the dipping sauce. But it was not to be and he was gone before I could reach out and speak to him.

I have no idea about the measurements or even the actual ingredients that Chef Anthony Wall puts into his dipping sauce. However, from trial and error, I came up with my own version. I would love to have some of his special dipping sauce alongside my dipping sauce and compare. Maybe in the near future, I will get to meet him personally and actually give him a sample of my own sun-dried tomato dipping sauce.

It’s like buying a “Gucci” bag off a street vendor – even if it’s not an original, you’re still gonna enjoy it!

Deviled Eggs

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10 hard-boiled eggs
1 /2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/ 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

paprika

1. To hard boil eggs, prick a pin hole on one end of the egg. Place egg in a pot of cold water. Cover the eggs completely with water. Place on a high flame on the stove and leave on till the water is full boil. Once it is boiling. Boil for a full 10 to 12 minutes to cook the egg.
2. Remove the hard boiled egg from the stove and dump out the hot water. Run cold water over the eggs and let them sit in the cold water for a few minutes. Then dump that warm water out and run cold water again over the eggs.
3. While the eggs are cooling, take one egg at a time and with the faucet running cold water, start to peel where you pricked the egg with a pin. The shell under the running water should come off easy. Discard shell and place egg on a paper towel.
4. Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Gently remove yolks and place in a food processor or small bowl. Using the chop switch or with a fork, finely crumble the yolks.
Stir in mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper until smooth.
With a spoon (or with a decorating bag) fill the egg white centers where you removed the yolk. Decorate with paprika.
5. Serve immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
6. Enjoy – The Dijon mustard devil made the eggs!

Deviled eggs are one of the simplest and most satisfying recipes you will ever make. When these little colorful babies make an appearance on my table, everyone makes a beeline for them! However, have you noticed that they’re not front and center anymore when you head for the appetizers? Yep, we’re all worried about the cholesterol; the stomach says “oh yes” and the head says “no way!” Who wins your battle?

When my second child, Marisa, was born, we were pretty broke. I was planning on having her Christening celebration when she was 6 weeks old. My husband and I thought we would invite just the family; before we knew it, the “family” expanded up to about 70 people. Entertaining that many people at a restaurant was way too expensive at the time. My neighbor, Joan, suggested we rent the Girl Scout house in the park. We did that and then we had to figure out the food. I made some calls and asked family and good friends if they would bring something. I started by asking my mom to cook something and it just took off from there. An aunt made her famous chili; my sisters-in-law brought stuffed shells, potato salad and desserts. Someone brought gallons of wine, a roast beef, appetizers etc. Everyone was unbelievably generous, leading me to the reason why I am telling this story. My friend, Sandy, offered to bring something too and had decided on making her much revered deviled eggs. I let her know that I was totally up for that. She asked how many people I was expecting, so I told her there’d be about 70. God Bless her heart, Sandy made at least 50 deviled eggs. Understand this, while the recipe is simple and the outcome worth the effort, it does take a little time and patience to make them look good on a tray and to be worthy of a little admiration before devouring. (I’m sure you, like my friend Sandy, can appreciate the visual difference between a deviled egg served at a backyard cookout and one presented at a restaurant). Anyway, Sandy was so traumatized after making all those good looking deviled eggs for Marisa’s christening that I don’t think she made another deviled egg for many years after! While writing this story, I called Sandy to verify the amount of deviled eggs she made. She still remembers that for years after the christening, she couldn’t even look at a deviled egg!

I always felt that party was one of the best parties I ever had. Everyone pitched in and made their special dishes. The menu included appetizers through desserts of all different homemade dishes. There is nothing like food made with love. I never forgot how everyone brought something. It just goes to show you it never hurts to ask for help, because you just might get what you asked for — seventy fold!