Wedding Anniversary Hors d’Oeuvres ~ Clams Casino

Legend has it that clams casino was first served at the Narragansett Pier Casino in Rhode Island in 1917, or possibly earlier. It is fun to imagine dining at this luxury resort on the water 100 years ago. Eater.com featured an in depth article about the history of clams casino, which I found fascinating. If you’d like to learn more, I think it’s an interesting read!

The dish has stood the test of time for good reason. Traditionally the clams are served on the half shell and topped with toasted breadcrumbs and bacon. How can you go wrong with that? 😉 I used panko breadcrumbs and prosciutto for my version.

Clams Casino

Serves 2

About 1 tablespoon high heat cooking oil

1 small shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

1 pound Manila clams

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup (approximately) panko breadcrumbs

High heat cooking spray

2 or 3 slices prosciutto, sliced into small pieces

Place your oven rack in the middle and preheat the broiler. Set aside a casserole dish that is large enough to hold all of the clam halves in a single layer.

In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, cook the shallot until softened. Then add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant. Add the white wine and stock, and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover the pan, and cook until they are just opened. Transfer the opened clams to a plate to cool slightly. Season the broth with salt and pepper.

Remove the top shell of each clam. (I found that kitchen shears worked well.) Loosen the meat from the bottom shell. Place each clam half in the casserole dish.

Spoon a little bit of the white wine mixture (that the clams cooked in) to each clam. Top the clams evenly with panko. Spray the top of the breadcrumbs with a light coating of cooking spray.

Broil until the panko is lightly golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. Watch them very carefully so they don’t burn.

Top each clam with a small piece or two of prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Wedding Anniversary Hors d’Oeuvres ~ Crab Imperial Bites

For our second special anniversary dish, I made crab imperial bites. Crab imperial is a type of crab casserole or dip from Maryland, and it is usually served in a ramekin or baking dish. I made my version into bite-sized hors d’oeuvres with our favorite local Dungeness crab for a West Coast twist. 🙂

Crab Imperial Bites

Makes about 18 hors d’oeuvres

18 wonton wrappers

High heat cooking spray

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, plus more for the top

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Pinch of cayenne

Salt to taste (if needed)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked through to make sure there are no hidden bits of shell.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Cut the wonton wrappers into circles that will fit into the holes of a mini muffin pan. I used a circular cookie cutter for this, but kitchen scissors also work. Spray the wrappers with a light coating of cooking spray on both sides, and rub the oil with your fingers to ensure an even coating. Form the wrappers into cup shapes in the mini muffin pan.

Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the wonton wrappers are golden and crunchy.

Set aside.

Turn up your oven to 400 F.

In a medium bowl, mix the remaining ingredients except for the crab. Add the crab, and mix well, but try to keep the bigger pieces of crab intact.

Place the filling into the prepared wonton shells.

Top the bites with more panko. Spray the top of the breadcrumbs with a light coating of cooking spray.

Bake until heated through, about 4 minutes. Then turn on the broiler, and broil until the breadcrumbs are lightly golden. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t get too brown.

Wedding Anniversary Hors d’Oeuvres ~ Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Crackers

It’s our wedding anniversary weekend once again! This year was lucky 17. 🙂

We celebrated at home with delicious Northwest seafood. I’ve been exploring vintage recipes this year, and I made three classic seafood hors d’oeuvres with a twist for this occasion: crab Rangoon, crab imperial, and clams casino.

Crab Rangoon is an old tiki bar classic, and it can sometimes be found at Chinese or Thai restaurants. The filling is typically made with cream cheese and a tiny bit of imitation crabmeat. Then the filling is wrapped in a wonton wrapper and the whole thing is deep-fried. For my version, I made a dip based on the classic filling, but I used real Dungeness crab and a higher ratio of crab to cream cheese. I also made crab shaped crackers for dipping. 🙂

Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Crackers

Wonton wrappers

High heat cooking spray

Sea salt, to taste

2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

4 ounces lump crabmeat, picked through to make sure there are no hidden shells

1 scallion, green part only, minced

1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon fish sauce

1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Salt (if needed) to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut your wonton wrappers into desired shapes. Spray the wrappers with a light coating of cooking spray, and season with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the wonton wrappers are golden brown and crunchy.

In a medium bowl, mix together all of the remaining ingredients.

Serve the dip in a ramekin or dish alongside the crunchy wonton wrappers for dipping.

One more tropical celebration of summer! ~ Luau Meatballs

I made one more tropical recipe to celebrate this beautiful summer! I am soaking up the sunshine and warm weather while we still have it. It has been an especially lovely summer here in Seattle.

The pineapple cocktail sticks are from Two’s Company. They were too cute to pass up when I saw them at the store. 🙂 I wanted to use them before the summer’s end. These cocktail sticks were actually the inspiration behind this pineapple recipe!

The adorable summer pineapple printable banner is from My Sister’s Suitcase. It is free to print for your personal use. 🙂 I hope you’ll go over to their website to check out all of the fun things they have posted.

Luau Meatballs

2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 green onions, minced

3 tablespoons minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 pound ground pork tenderloin

1 cup fresh pineapple juice

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

12 fresh pineapple pieces, for garnishing

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the panko, shallot, green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and salt. Add the pork and mix well. Form the mixture into about 12 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs for about 12 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Be careful not to over bake or your meatballs will be dry.

In a medium saucepan, bring the pineapple juice to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and cornstarch to make a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the simmering pineapple juice. Cook until thickened.

Dip each meatball in the pineapple sauce. Top with a piece of pineapple. Serve on a cocktail stick with extra sauce for dipping.

Warm Weather Appetizers ~ Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

The weather is warming up, and that gets me into the mood for something tropical! I decided to cook a traditional Hawaiian dish called lau lau, which means “leaf leaf” in Hawaiian since it uses two different kinds of leaves. I recently learned how to make the classic dish from a native Hawaiian lady, and this is my spin on the tradition. 🙂

I served some of the shredded lau lau as an appetizer on rectangles of purple sweet potato with taro chips to garnish. I love how the colors of the potato and taro compliment one another, and I also think using both the leaf and the root of the taro plant balances the dish nicely.

We enjoyed the remaining lau lau as a main course for a few days (with the extra bits of baked sweet potato!) It is a bit of a project to make this dish, so I recommend making a lot for leftovers. Or, this is a great dish to serve a big crowd. Perfect for a summer backyard luau!

Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

9 chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of excess fat

About 18 fresh taro leaves

About 18 ti leaves or 2 large banana leaves

Hawaiian sea salt

2 large purple sweet potatoes (I used Okinawan sweet potatoes)

Olive oil

Taro chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Set aside either a large pot with a lid, or a large casserole dish with two layers of aluminum foil to cover.

Salt the chicken liberally, and rub the salt into the meat with your fingers.

Remove the tough stems from the taro leaves. If using ti leaves, remove the tough stems. If using banana leaves, cut into manageable pieces, approximately 8 or 9 inches in length.

Nestle 2 taro leaves together. Place 1 chicken thigh in the middle of the leaves. Wrap it into a bundle so the chicken is completely covered by the leaves.

Then wrap the taro bundle in the ti or banana leaves so it is completely covered. Either tie the bundles with kitchen twine (or traditionally, the stem of the ti leaf) or make sure the last fold is on the bottom so they stay closed while cooking.

Place the bundles in the prepared pot or dish. Bake for approximately 3 1/2 hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone and shreds easily.

The ti and banana leaves are not edible, so remove before serving.

Shred two or three bundles of chicken for the appetizers. Reserve the remaining lau lau for an easy weeknight main course.

Turn up your oven to 400 F.

Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut 2 large purple sweet potatoes into approximately 1/3-inch slices. Then cut the slices into rectangles.

Toss the rectangles (and the extra bits) in olive oil so every side is well coated. Sprinkle with sea salt, and toss to evenly coat. Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Bake for about 10 minutes, turn the potatoes over, and continue to bake until fork tender.

To serve, top the potato squares with some shredded lau lau chicken. Top each with a piece of taro chip for garnish.

Easter Eggs ~ Pickled Rainbow Deviled Eggs

Happy Easter!

My mom makes pickled eggs with beets for Easter, just the way my grandma used to make. I think it’s an old Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that made its way into our family. I decided to expand on our tradition this year by dying my eggs pink…and yellow, orange, blue, and purple, and I was delighted with all of the bright colors, which were, amazingly, totally natural! 🙂

After I dyed the eggs, I made them into deviled eggs. Use your favorite deviled egg recipe. I like to use Greek yogurt in mine, so between the pickling and the filling, they have a bit of a tang. These deviled eggs are perfect for an Easter afternoon snack—if they make it that long. 😉

Pickled Rainbow Deviled Eggs

(Inspired by Food52)

For the pickled eggs:

3/4 cup white-wine vinegar

3/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled (for all 5 colors, use 15 whole eggs)

(Each coloring recipe below is for 1 batch of the basic pickling blend above. To make all 5 colors, make the basic pickling blend in 5 separate batches.)

For pink:

1 small red beet, roasted, peeled, and cut into large pieces

For yellow:

1/2 tablespoon ground dried turmeric

For orange:

1/2 tablespoon ground dried turmeric

1 small piece (the equivalent of approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons) roasted and peeled red beet

For blue:

1/4 small red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For purple:

1/4 small red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda

Divide the eggs into five glass containers that are big enough for three eggs and one batch of the pickling liquid.

In a small saucepan, bring one batch of vinegar, water, and salt to a simmer. Whisk the mixture to ensure the salt fully dissolves. Then, turn off the heat and add the coloring of your choice.

Pour the colored pickling blend over the top of three eggs, making sure they are fully submerged. Repeat with the remaining four colors.

Refrigerate the submerged eggs until they are the color you desire. I left mine in the pickling blend for a few hours, stirring every hour or so, to ensure they colored evenly. (I found that the pink, orange, and yellow took less time to reach the color I wanted than the blue and purple, so I left the latter colored eggs in the pickling blend longer.) The eggs will also become more pickled with time.

If you make all 5 colors, you’ll end up with 15 whole eggs or 30 deviled egg halves.

Deviled eggs:

Prepared pickled eggs

5 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Salt to taste

Cut each egg in half and remove the yolks.

In a medium bowl, mash the yolks with a fork. Add the yogurt, mustard, mayonnaise, and salt, and mix until the filling is well incorporated and smooth.

Scoop the filling into a piping bag fitted with a star tip, and then, pipe the filling into each egg white half.

Retro Boder’s Night ~ Coquilles St.-Jacques

There was one nice restaurant in the town where I grew up called Boder’s on the River. It was the place to go for any special occasion or event. I think the last time I was there was for my high school graduation dinner! They had a long history starting in 1929 until they closed in 2001. Amazingly, the restaurant was maintained over all of those years by several generations of the same family.

The classic restaurant came to my mind recently, and I thought it would be fun to have a retro Boder’s night dinner! I cooked a few of the dishes that used to be on the menu over the years. The dinner started with coquilles St.-Jacques for the appetizer. Then the main course was a crab-stuffed sole, and the grand finale was the famous schaum torte dessert.

It was a fun celebration dinner, and a lovely way to make an ordinary night special!

Coquilles St.-Jacques

Makes 6 small appetizers

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 medium shallot, minced

Approximately 4 ounces white mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Chardonnay)

6 large dry-packed sea scallops, the tough muscle on the side of each removed

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup skim milk

Pinch of cayenne

1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

Salt, to taste

Gruyère cheese, finely grated

Paprika, to taste

Preheat broiler. Set aside either 6 scallop shells or 6 shallow ramekins. If using scallop shells rather than ramekins, crumple some aluminum foil on top of a sheet pan to keep the shells level when broiling.

Over medium heat, in a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the shallots, and sauté until they are translucent. Then add the mushrooms and cook until they release most of their moisture. Add the wine, and bring to a simmer. Add the scallops, and gently poach on both sides until they are just cooked through.

Remove the scallops, and set aside on a plate. Strain the remaining ingredients, reserving both the liquid and the solids.

In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms and shallots until they are the consistency of small pebbles. Set aside.

Wipe out the pan to make sure there are no bits of mushroom or shallot left that may burn.

In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once the bubbles subside, whisk in the flour to make a roux. Once the roux is golden, whisk in the milk, the strained liquid, and any liquid that may have accumulated under the scallops. While continuing to whisk, let the mixture cook until it is thickened.

Strain the mixture to ensure there are no lumps.

Off the heat, whisk the cayenne, tarragon, and lemon zest into the wine/milk mixture. Add salt to taste, (but keep in mind the scallops are naturally salty and the cheese added at the end will also be salty.)

Divide the mushrooms between either scallop shells or ramekins, and spread onto the bottom of each. On top of the mushrooms, add one scallop to each shell or ramekin. Top each scallop with the sauce. Grate a little cheese over the top of each.

Broil until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Watch very closely, because they can get too dark quickly. Remove from the broiler.

To finish, sprinkle the scallops lightly with paprika.

Iced Under ~ Lobster Fra Diavolo in Angel Hair Pasta Cups

I just finished a wonderful cozy mystery set in the midst of a frigid New England winter called Iced Under. It is part of a delightful Maine Clambake series from Barbara Ross. I think this latest installment was my favorite of them all! I love how it combines a family mystery with some real New England history. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a cozy winter book. 🙂

In the back of each Maine Clambake mystery, there is a recipe for a lobster dish. This one happened to have a lobster fra diavolo recipe, which combines lobster and other shellfish with a spicy tomato sauce and pasta. I decided to transform the dish from a main course into hors d’oeuvres that can be eaten in one bite. It’s a perfect snack to enjoy while you read!Lobster Fra Diavolo in Angel Hair Pasta Cups

Makes about 24 hors d’oeuvres

For the cups:

Approximately 4 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta, broken in half

1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 egg, beaten

For the filling:

1 tablespoon high heat cooking oil

1 small shallot, minced

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup crushed canned tomatoes (I used San Marzano)

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Approximately 8 ounces precooked lobster meat, cut into a small dice

About 1 tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, minced

About 1 tablespoon fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons

For the cups:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Aim for a softer texture rather than a firmer texture, since they will dry out slightly in the oven.

Drain the pasta. Toss with cheese and egg until all of the strands of pasta are well coated. Divide the pasta between 24 mini muffin cups. Arrange the pasta strands in the muffin cups so they cover the bottom of each and form cuplike shapes.

Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the egg is set.

Cool slightly, and then remove the pasta cups carefully from the pan.

These can be made the day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Gently warm the cups for a few seconds in the microwave before filling and serving.

For the filling:

Preheat a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the oil, and allow it get hot and shimmering. Then add the shallot, and cook until translucent. Next, add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and oregano. Cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, and bring to a boil. Scrape any fond from the bottom of the pan. Then add the tomatoes. Cook until the mixture reduces and thickens to your liking. Season with salt and black pepper.

Add the lobster meat to the tomato mixture, and cook until it is just heated through.

Turn off the heat, and stir in the parsley and basil.

Spoon a little of the lobster/tomato mixture into each pasta cup. Serve immediately.

More Elegant Bites for Valentine’s Day ~ Lobster Thermidor Tartlets

We paired our lobster Newburg canapés with lobster thermidor tartlets. And we paired them both with a little wine of course! It was Valentine’s Day after all. 😉

You can buy premade tartlet shells or make your own with store-bought phyllo dough. I made my own, but only because my local stores didn’t have the shells. I think there was a run on them for Valentine’s Day! 😉 The filling for this appetizer can be made ahead and reheated in a warm pan. I love recipes I can make ahead. Then I can focus on the celebration instead of being back in the kitchen. This recipe also works really well with shrimp. This month, my Valentine tasted three batches with shrimp while I was testing the recipe before we enjoyed the lobster version on the big day, (but I don’t think he minded. 😉 )

Lobster Thermidor Tartlets

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 small raw lobster tails, split in half lengthwise and deveined

About 4 ounces white mushrooms, finely diced

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon brandy

1 cup skim milk

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

White pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Mini phyllo tartlet shells

Parmesan and/or Gruyère cheese

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the lobster tails, including the shells, and cook until the shells are red. They do not need to be completely cooked through at this point.

Pull out the lobster and set aside on a plate to cool.

In the same pan, add the mushrooms and shallot, and cook until they soften and brown slightly.

Remove the mushrooms and shallot with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Wipe out the pan to make sure you don’t have any bits of shallot or mushroom left that may burn. Over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Let the bubbles subside. Sprinkle the flour in the pan, and whisk to make a roux. Cook until the roux turns golden. While continuing to whisk, add the sherry, brandy, and milk, and cook until the mixture is thickened. Add the paprika, mustard, and pepper, and whisk to combine.

Strain the mixture for any lumps. Return the sauce to the pan off the heat.

Take the lobster meat out of the shells and cut into a small dice.

Add the lobster meat, mushrooms, and shallots back to the pan with the sauce. Mix until everything is well coated. Over low heat, cook until the lobster meat is just cooked through. Season with salt if needed, (but remember there will be salty cheese added as a final edition, so be careful not to over salt.)

Spoon the mixture into the tartlet shells. Grate a little cheese over the top of each tartlet. With a kitchen torch, melt the cheese. Add a little more grated cheese on top for a pretty presentation.

Serve immediately.

Elegant Bites for Valentine’s Day ~ Lobster Newburg Canapés

This year, rather than an elaborate Valentine dinner, I focused on hors d’oeuvres I could enjoy with my hubby later in the evening. 🙂 I made lobster Newburg canapés and lobster thermidor tartlets, two classic lobster dishes converted into small bites. I have to say, both went quite nicely with a glass of wine by the fire!

I’ll start with the canapés. I love that the topping can be made ahead and reheated in a warm pan, and the lobster can totally be substituted for shrimp for a more modest dish. I made a couple batches with shrimp as I was testing the recipe this month, and my taste tester (AKA, my hubby) loved it! The lobster was perfect for our special Valentine’s Day celebration, though. I think this is a recipe I will go back to again and again. It is fancy enough for a special occasion, but simple enough to make on a weeknight.

Lobster Newburg Canapés

Sliced artisan bread, cut into approximately 1 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter

Extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 small raw lobster tails, split in half lengthwise and deveined

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon brandy

1 cup skim milk

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Ground white pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Preheat broiler. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Brush the tops of the bread with a little olive oil. Arrange the bread with the oil side facing up on the prepared sheet pan. Broil for a minute or two until the bread is golden on top. Watch them closely, because they can burn very quickly. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the lobster tails, including the shells, and cook until the shells are red. They do not need to be completely cooked through at this point. Set aside to cool.

Continuing to cook over medium heat, sprinkle the flour in the pan, and whisk to combine with the remaining butter. Cook until the roux is golden brown. While whisking, add the sherry, brandy, and milk. Continue to whisk until the mixture is thickened. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, and white pepper, and whisk until well combined.

Strain the mixture for any lumps. Return the sauce to the pan off the heat.

Take the lobster meat out of the shells, and cut into a small dice.

Add the lobster meat back to the pan with the sauce. Mix until the lobster is well coated. Over low heat, cook until the meat is just cooked through. Season with salt if needed.

Spoon a small amount of the lobster mixture onto the toast rounds. Serve immediately.

It’s 2017! ~ Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger Limes

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger LimesHappy New Year!! I hope this year is filled with many good things for you. 🙂

I made these little appetizers to help ring in 2017. They are fresh and flavorful with the unique addition of finger limes. The little vesicles of the finger limes pop in your mouth with a burst of freshness. It is almost like citrus caviar! Or nature’s Pop Rocks. 😉 If you ever see finger limes, I would highly recommend trying them. I think you’ll find them delightful!

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger Limes

Makes 30 appetizers

1/2 block (4 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 large ripe avocado

Handful of fresh cilantro, big stems removed

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Approximately 3 English cucumbers

30 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Approximately 1 tablespoon high heat cooking oil

Approximately 6 finger limes

In the bowl of a food processor, add the cream cheese, avocado, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Process until fully combined and smooth.

With a large peeler, peel strips of cucumber lengthwise. Stop when you reach the seedy centers. Neaten the ends of the strips with a knife. Gently pat the strips dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Season the shrimp on both sides with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the oil. Wait until the oil is hot and shimming, and then add the shrimp. Sauté on both sides until the shrimp are just cooked through. Transfer to a plate, and let cool.

Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture onto one side of each strip of cucumber. The spread should cover the whole length of cucumber. Place one shrimp on the end of each strip of cucumber. Make sure the tail is sticking up over the side. Roll the cucumber strip. Repeat until you have 30 appetizers.

To finish, squeeze a little finger lime over the top of each appetizer.

Serve immediately. They are best when they are freshly made.Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger LimesPS. Finger limes are also fun to add to your midnight sparkling wine! The little juice vesicles float up and down in the bubbles and give the drink a nice little pop of acidity.Sparkling wine with finger limes

A Lowcountry Wedding ~ Pickled Shrimp

Pickled ShrimpI just finished a delightful summer book called A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe. It was the fourth book in a series I have enjoyed over the past couple of summers, and the finale was just as entertaining and satisfying as the first three novels! As in the first three, the story is set on picturesque Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. There the characters I have come to know and love continue their journey, (and as the title implies, it’s time for a wedding or two!) If you are looking for your next book to read by the beach, I would highly recommend this one. 🙂

Inspired by the story, I made a Southern celebration dinner! I made three of the recipes included in the back of the novel. We had pickled shrimp as an appetizer, and a chicken and shrimp gumbo for the main course. I paired dinner with a cocktail called A Lowcountry Wedding, which combined sparkling wine with peach moonshine made by Firefly Distillery in South Carolina. All three recipes were quite delicious, but I think my favorite was the pickled shrimp. It is a light and easy appetizer that is perfect for summer entertaining. I’ll definitely keep this recipe on hand for future cocktail parties and celebrations.

Pickled ShrimpPickled Shrimp

Based on a recipe from A Lowcountry Wedding

1 1/2 quarts water

2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning

1 1/2 pounds large, wild-caught shrimp, peeled, deveined

4 tender inner stalks of celery, cut into thin 2-inch strips

1/2 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced

2 ounces jarred sliced pimento, drained

1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced, plus a couple of sprigs for garnish

3/4 cup light olive oil

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring the water and the Old Bay to a boil. Stir in the shrimp, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the covered pot sit for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Drain the shrimp, but do not rinse.

In a large bowl, mix the shrimp, celery, onion, pimento, capers, and minced dill. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour the oil mixture over the shrimp mixture and toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, drain the excess liquid and garnish with sprigs of dill.Lowcountry Wedding

Easter Brunch Addition ~ Quail Scotch Eggs with Smoked Halibut Mashed Potatoes

Scotch Quail Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed PotatoesWhat’s better for Easter brunch than Scotch eggs? Two different kinds of Scotch eggs! 😉Scotch Quail Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed PotatoesIn addition to crab Scotch eggs, I made one more version with cute little quail eggs encased in smoked halibut mashed potatoes. It was a festive little dish that was a perfect accompaniment to our Easter brunch.Scotch Quail Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed PotatoesQuail Scotch Eggs with Smoked Halibut Mashed Potatoes

Inspired by a recipe from BBC Good Food

1 large russet potato

Skim milk, to taste

Smoked halibut, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

10 quail eggs

1 cup (approximately) all-purpose flour

2 beaten eggs

1 cup (approximately) panko

Peel and coarsely chop the potato. Add to a medium saucepan. Fill the pan with cold water so the potatoes are covered. Bring the water to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they are tender. Drain the water. Mash the potatoes, adding the milk a little at a time to thin them out into a thick and creamy texture that will hold up around the eggs. Flake the smoked fish with your fingers and add it to the potatoes. Mix well. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, fill a medium saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, adjust the heat so the water stays at a gentle boil. Add the quail eggs. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove the eggs immediately after 3 minutes and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Carefully remove the shells.

Gently press and shape a couple of tablespoons of the fish and potato mixture around each egg. The result should be in the shape of an egg.

Preheat oven to 475 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Add the flour, beaten eggs, and panko to three separate shallow bowls.

Roll the potato-covered eggs in the flour, making sure they are completely coated. Gently knock off the excess flour. Then roll the eggs into the beaten egg until they are fully coated. Let the excess beaten egg drip off. Finally, roll the eggs in the panko. Press gently to make sure the crumbs stick.

Lay the panko-covered eggs slightly apart on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops of the eggs lightly with cooking spray to help them brown. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

PS. I made mine with smoked halibut, but I think hot smoked salmon would also be delicious.

PPS. Here’s sending you one final happy Easter wish!!Quail Scotch Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed Potatoes

The Oscars ~ Steak Oscar Canapés

Steak Oscar CanapésToday is Oscar Sunday! What would I like to nibble on while I watch the show? Steak Oscar, of course! 😉 I couldn’t think of anything more perfect!Steak Oscar CanapésSteak Oscar is typically an entrée consisting of a beef tenderloin steak, crab, asparagus, and Béarnaise sauce. I made mine into bite-sized canapés that would be perfect to pass around an Oscar party. I topped a small rectangle of toasted bread with a Béarnaise-inspired sour cream sauce, small slices of beef tenderloin, a little bit of Dungeness crab, and an asparagus tip. Serve on a pretty platter, and it is ready for the red carpet! 😉Steak Oscar CanapésSteak Oscar Canapés

High heat cooking oil, such as safflower

1 small shallot, minced

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced

4 slices artisan bread, crusts removed (I used The Essential Baking Company’s sliced Columbia)

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

6 ounces beef tenderloin

1 bunch asparagus

2 ounces fresh lump Dungeness crab meat

To begin, make the Béarnaise sour cream sauce. Heat a small pan with a lid over medium heat. Add the high heat cooking oil and the shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Sweat the shallots with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until they are softened but not caramelized. Let cool.

In the meantime, mix together the sour cream, mustard, vinegar, and tarragon in a small bowl. When the shallots are cool, mix them into the sour cream mixture. Season to taste. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut the bread into small rectangles. Place the rectangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the bread with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until warm and slightly crisp on the outside, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat a small skillet over high heat. Season steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Add high heat cooking oil to the hot pan, and when the oil is hot and shimmering, add the steak. Sear on both sides, until caramelized and cooked to your liking. Once cooked, set aside on a cutting board, tented with foil, and let rest for at least 5 minutes. Cut against the grain into thin slices.

In a medium skillet with a lid, add the asparagus and a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper. Steam with the lid on until the asparagus is tender crisp. Cut off the tips, and reserve the remaining asparagus as a side dish for another night.Steak Oscar CanapésTo assemble:

Spread a small amount of the Béarnaise sour cream sauce on each piece of toasted bread. Top with a small slice of beef, a tiny mound of crab, and the tip of an asparagus spear.

Serve immediately.Steak Oscar Canapés

Happy New Year ~ Cucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

Cucumber Cups with Crudités and DipHappy New Year! I hope you had a fun and festive celebration to ring in the New Year, whether it was big or small. 🙂

In addition to the beef Wellington canapés, I also made these cute little cucumber cups yesterday. This is a way to dress up plain vegetables so they are ready for a party! 🙂Cucumber Cups with Crudités and DipCucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

2 large English cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds

Bottled ranch dressing (or any dip of your choice)

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks

2 medium celery stalks, cut into thin sticks

With a small melon baller, scoop out most of the seeds from the cucumbers. Make sure not to scoop all the way to the bottom so the dressing can be contained in the cup.

Add about a ½ teaspoon of dressing to the bottom of each cup. It won’t look like a lot, but when the carrots and celery are added, the dressing will rise up the sides a little.

Add as many of the carrots and celery sticks as you like to each cup.

PS. The appetizer in the background was another fun way to dress up carrots for the party. 🙂 I simply peeled a large carrot lengthwise so I ended up with long strips. Then I piped a small bit of store-bought hummus along each strip and rolled them up. The hummus acted as the glue. The finishing touch was a little more hummus piped inside the middle, and a thin round slice of carrot on the bottom as the base.Cucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

New Year’s Eve Party! ~ Beef Wellington Canapés

Beef Wellington CanapésAs 2015 is coming to a close, I made these mini beef Wellington canapés as my last hurrah of the year. 🙂 These little Wellingtons had all of the flavors of their full-sized counterpart – puff pastry, mushrooms, beef tenderloin, and prosciutto. They were fun and festive, and oh so cute!Beef Wellington CanapésBeef Wellington Canapés

6 ounces crimini mushrooms

1 sprig thyme

1 splash dry white wine

1 sheet puff pastry, refrigerated

1 egg, beaten

4 ounces beef tenderloin

Approximately 5 pieces thinly sliced prosciutto

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until they are approximately the size of coarse breadcrumbs. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the mushrooms (without oil) with the sprig of thyme until the mushrooms are dry. Add a splash of white wine, and cook until the pan is dry once again. Remove the thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured work surface until it is about double in height and width. With a pizza wheel or pasta roller, cut the pastry into small squares. Place the squares on the prepared sheet pan. Cover the pastry with another piece of parchment, and cover the sheet pan with another sheet pan so they are nesting. This will ensure that your puff pastry won’t puff too much. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the top pan and top parchment paper. Let the pastry cool enough so you can handle it, and then lightly brush the beaten egg on each piece. Bake for 3 minutes more, or until shiny and golden.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Sear until the meat is done to your liking. After it has rested for 5 minutes, slice as thinly as possible.

To assemble, scoop a small spoonful of the mushroom mixture on the top of each piece of puff pastry. Top with a thin slice of steak. Roll a small piece of prosciutto into a tiny tube, and place it on top of the steak. Serve immediately.Beef Wellington Canapés

Healthy Holiday Hors d’Oeuvre ~ Cauliflower Flatbread

Cauliflower FlatbreadCauliflower is usually a part of my holiday table, whether the occasion is Thanksgiving or Easter. It is so versatile that it can be made into anything from a mash that rivals mashed potatoes (like I made last St. Patrick’s Day) to an appetizer that is very much like a flatbread! It really is a pretty amazing vegetable for which I am thankful today. 🙂

This unique spin on flatbread can be used in any way traditional flatbread is served — with an olive tapenade, with melted cheese, or even with your favorite pizza toppings. I’d recommend it as an appetizer that is out of the ordinary to start off your Thanksgiving meal!

Cauliflower Flatbread

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, cut into approximately 1/2 inch pieces

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, grate the cheese until it is the size of tiny pebbles. Transfer the cheese to a large bowl. In the same processor, (no need to clean the bowl), process the cauliflower in two batches until you have fine pieces that look a little like rice. Transfer the cauliflower to a clean dishtowel. Squeeze as much excess moisture as you can out of the cauliflower. Discard the liquid. Add the cauliflower to the bowl with the cheese. Then add the eggs, oregano, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Combine until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.

On the prepared baking sheet, spread the mixture into a thin layer, about 1/8 inch thick. Bake for about 45 minutes, turning the pan half way through, until the cauliflower is golden and crisp on the edges.

Cut with a pizza wheel and serve immediately.

Everything Pumpkin! ~ Pumpkin Deviled Eggs

Pumpkin Deviled EggsI absolutely love anything and everything pumpkin at this time of the year! (Almost as much as these little squirrels. 😉 ) I love pumpkin muffins, pumpkin custard, pumpkin curry, and now, pumpkin deviled eggs! Mind you, they aren’t pumpkin flavored eggs. That might be a little too much, even for me. 😉 They would be perfect for Halloween or even Thanksgiving.Pumpkin Deviled EggsYou can use your favorite classic deviled egg recipe, or use my lightened version below. The extra paprika mixed in is what gives them their pumpkin color.Pumpkin Deviled EggsPumpkin Deviled Eggs

8 hard boiled eggs, cooled, sliced in half, yolks removed, 1/2 of the yolks reserved

3 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon paprika, plus more for garnish

Salt to taste

1 or 2 fresh chives, cut into one-inch lengths

In a small bowl, stir together the yolks, yogurt, mustard, mayonnaise, paprika, and salt until smooth. With a small spoon, fill the holes in the egg whites with the yolk mixture. (FYI, you will have more whites than yolk mixture if you mound the filling as I did. But no worries, whites are a great snack!) Smooth the mixture with your finger. With the back of a butter knife, make 4 small little lines in each yolk filling to imitate the lines of a pumpkin. Place the cut chives into the yolks to make a “stem.” Sprinkle extra paprika over the top as a garnish.Pumpkin Deviled Eggs

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Soup ~ Rocket and Courgette Soup (Arugula and Zucchini Soup)

Rocket and Courgette SoupThis week marks our 15th wedding anniversary, and since it’s a big year, we wanted to celebrate in a big way! We had an extravagant British-themed dinner that took me several days to complete, but it was a fun project that was well worth the effort. I wanted to tie this anniversary back to our engagement anniversary/Valentine’s Day celebration when we enjoyed a Downton Abbey themed dinner. Given that the traditional gift for the 15th wedding anniversary is crystal, I thought another classic British meal with all the trimmings would also give us a great excuse to get out the crystal pieces we were given as wedding gifts but don’t use as often as we could. This crystal-studded celebration dinner was my anniversary gift to my hubby. 🙂

We started with a simple summery soup called rocket and courgette soup in the UK, but here in the States, we would call it arugula and zucchini soup. 🙂 I based the dish on a recipe from BBC Good Food, and then added a couple touches of my own.Rocket and Courgette SoupRocket and Courgette Soup

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

1 teaspoon high heat oil, such as safflower

1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium russet potato, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

About 3 1/5 ounces, or 2 large handfuls, rocket (arugula)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan. Add oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and potato. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add the courgettes and stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits. Bring to a boil. Cook until the courgettes are tender. Next, add the rocket, and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. In small batches, blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Stay tuned for the main course…A trio of mini British meat pies!Rocket and Courgette Soup

Happy Fourth of July ~ Part 1 ~ Homemade Dill Pickles

Dill PicklesI hope you had a lovely Fourth of July weekend!

To celebrate the occasion this year, I made fresh dill pickles from the farmers’ market, trout burgers with a tarragon mayonnaise, and my hubby’s favorite summer strawberry cheesecake tart. I’ll share all three recipes since we really enjoyed them all, starting with the pickles. 🙂

I stumbled upon a farmers’ market last week where I saw some beautiful Kirby cucumbers that I couldn’t resist, along with a big bunch of fresh dill. (I must admit, I’m one of those people who gets much more excited about beautiful cucumbers and herbs than I do about beautiful shoes and purses. 😉 ) For a couple of dollars, I knew I could make something fresh and delicious with my discoveries.

I used a dill pickle recipe from Food and Wine magazine with only a few small changes. I reduced the amount of sugar by half and added some whole peppercorns for added seasoning. I also omitted the dill seeds and used more fresh dill than the recipe called for (since I had a huge bunch). These pickles were so flavorful and delicious! I have a feeling I’ll be making this recipe again and again. Maybe I’ll try radishes or green beans next time? I can see what my local farmers’ market has to play with next week!

Dill Pickles

Based on a recipe from Food and Wine magazine

1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

2 cups hot water

2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise or sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 1/2 cups fresh dill, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

In a large, heatproof measuring cup, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns with the hot water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the brine cool.

In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the dill and garlic. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and turn to coat. Place a small plate over the cucumbers to keep them submerged, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the pickles overnight, stirring once or twice. Serve cold.

The dill pickles can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Stay tuned for the trout burger recipe next! 🙂

Dill Pickles