Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Sweet & Spicy Nuts

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

For Christmas this year I made several versions of Sweet & Spicy Nuts and they were a big hit. The original recipe is here.

I made 3 different versions. In two versions, I used a prepared curry powder because I discovered that I did not have any cumin. One of those batches I made spicy with some extra cayenne pepper. I really liked this version.

The third version I made was vegan. I used coconut oil in place of butter, and for spices I added similar spices I used for the Golden Milk recipe (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, black pepper). I also added a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut to the nuts before adding the syrup and baking.

Sweet, spicy, crunchy, and delicious!

Sweet, spicy, crunchy, and delicious! Bonus – they’re super easy to make, too!

These will make a wonderful New Year’s Eve snack, too. Why not prepare a batch today?

Let The Holidays Begin

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Tonight was a baking night for Thanksgiving. This is the first Thanksgiving without Mom, so I am especially thankful to have been invited to join friends tomorrow. I’m bringing appetizers, desserts, and the makings for Tangerine Mimosas.

I’ll be putting together a cheese plate tomorrow, with the star being baked brie with fig jam.

Brie with fig jam in pastry, ready to bake.

Brie with fig jam in pastry, ready to bake.

It’s Thanksgiving, so it’s time for a classic dessert, right? However, pumpkin does not agree with me, so I made a Sweet Potato Pie, based on this recipe. If it tastes as good as it smells (and looks!), it will be divine.


Sweet Potato Pie

I’m missing Mom, so I also wanted to bake one of her specialties. Mom made these every year during the holiday season, so when I came upon this recipe card, I knew that was the one to try tonight.


Russian Tea Cakes … so tender and delicate … a childhood favorite!

Tomorrow’s weather is supposed to be glorious, so I’m looking forward to a nice ride in the morning. Today I got about 57 miles in, a little rain shower, a lot of sunshine, a little breeze, and lots of smiling. Let’s just say that it was one of those days that I was glad I a little overdressed.



Here’s wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

It Balances Out

Monday, December 7th, 2015

If you eat like this most of the time …

Fresh Wild Rock Cod with stir-steamed veggies.

Fresh Wild Pacific Rockfish with stir-steamed veggies.

Veggies! Lots and lots of veggies!

… and just a little bit of this … 

Holiday Treats

Holiday Treats – homemade, of course!

Then it all balances out in the end.

Just remember … if you’re going to treat yourself and splurge on goodies, splurge well. Enjoy homemade, real treats. Use real ingredients. And be sure to enjoy every delicious morsel to the fullest. That is how you can splurge and be satisfied with just a bit and survive the holiday season without gaining a bunch of weight.

Oh, and cycling lots helps!

For recipes to these yummy treats, see my previous blog post.

A Little Holiday Baking

Monday, December 7th, 2015

So, these happened today. Let the holiday gift prep begin. Have you been naughty, or nice?

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Spiced Nuts

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Nuts

Peppermint Biscotti

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies & Peppermint Biscotti

Classic Shortbread

Classic Shortbread

For the recipes, see:

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts

Peppermint Biscotti

Shortbread Cookies

The Butterscotch Chocolate Chip cookie recipe is still in testing and I’m not quite ready to share it.

Spicy Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Years ago I discovered this method of cooking shrimp and I have never boiled it since. Ina Garten, on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, made her Roasted Shrimp Cocktail. To make is spicy, just add some red chili flakes before roasting.

Spicy Roasted Shrimp with Homemade Cocktail & Tartar Sauces

The sauces shown are very simple, rustic versions of tartar and cocktail sauces.

For the tartar sauce, simply combine to taste mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, lime (or lemon) juice, and a dash of Worcerstershire sauce and blend well.

For the cocktail sauce, simply combine to taste some ketchup, horseradish (I like lots), lime (or lemon) juice, and a bit of chili garlic paste.

One week from today, right at this very moment, I will be riding in my 7th Napa Valley Tour de Cure! If you would like to help me reach Champion status, please click here to make a donation. You’ll be supporting the American Diabetes Association and helping meet their mission: To prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

I’ll be headed out shortly for a training ride on the American River Trail. It’s a beautiful morning for a ride! Hope you get one in, too.

Challenge: Day 17

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Today was a different kind of challenge because I was cooking for family and wanted to make a meal they’d all like, but would also fit within my Challenge. Well, for the most part fit the Challenge.

The menu:

Stuffed Mushrooms
Chicken Provencal
Shrimp with Spinach and Mushrooms
Stir-Steamed Vegetables
Pasta with just a drizzle of olive oil
Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

The stuffed mushrooms weren’t really on the Challenge, because they were made with full fat cheese, but I figure they didn’t have that much filling, so two small ones would be sort of OK. Next time I make them I will try a reduced fat cream cheese and I think add some sun dried tomatoes for color.

Stuffed Mushrooms

They’re easy to make. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean 12 large crimini mushrooms. Simply pop the stems out of the caps and trim and discard the cut end. Chop the stems finely, then saute in a little olive oil with some fresh garlic. Cook until the excess liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool. Blend about 4 ounces of cream cheese (preferably light), about 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 teaspoon each paprika, black pepper, and onion powder. When the mushroom and garlic mixture has cooled, mix this in to the cheese mixture. Make a little well in the mushroom cap, scooping out the soft, fleshy center. Just barely scrape – you want to maintain the integrity of the mushroom cap. Evenly divide the cheese mixture into the mushroom caps and gently press down to fill the cap and even out the top. Bake about 20 minutes, remove from oven, and top with just a touch more Parmesan cheese. Increase heat to broil, then return the mushrooms to the oven for a few minutes just to brown the tops a bit. Be careful – these can quickly go from perfect to burnt!

Chicken Provencal

For the Chicken Provencal, marinate a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a little white wine, olive oil, and herbs de Provence. Marinate at least a few hours or best if overnight. You will want to slice each breast into two or three thinner pieces before marinating. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat a heavy bottomed skillet on high and pour in no more than 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. When the pan is hot, remove the chicken from the marinade and add one piece at a time to the skillet. Reserve the marinade. Brown the chicken a little on each side. Cook a few minutes on medium-high heat, then add about 1 cup of white wine and cook until it’s reduced by about half, then top with chopped fresh tomatoes – I like to use heirloom cherry tomatoes because they’re delicious and easy to work with. Use about 1 cup of the cut tomatoes per breast of chicken. Then add the marinade to the pan, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is tender and fully cooked (about 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick you’ve cut your chicken). Season to taste with salt and pepper. We enjoyed this with a little pasta, but it would be equally good with rice, or just on its own.

Shrimp with Heirloom Red Spinach and Crimini Mushrooms

The Shrimp with Spinach and Mushrooms could hardly be any easier. Saute sliced mushrooms until they just begin to soften, then add fresh spinach. Cover and allow to steam until the spinach begins to wilt. Clean and devein the shrimp, saute in a non-stick pan, turning each shrimp just once. Add the cooked spinach and mushrooms to the pan, give a gentle stir to combine well. Cover and allow to cook on low for a few minutes, careful to not overcook the shrimp (they’ll get tough). Season to taste with salt and pepper. I have a feeling that bacon would add great flavor to this, but … not so great for the Challenge!

Stir-Steamed Veggies - asparagus, broccolette, carrots, green beans

The Stir-Steamed Vegetables … see here for the method.

The cookies … clearly are not on the Challenge, but it’s Sunday Dinner with Family, so …

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a recipe I have been working on and it’s showing great promise.

I got a quick ride in this morning, and was hoping that I had had time for more, but then it got super windy in the afternoon, so I was thankful that I was not out in that.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Cioppino Party

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Last night I had some friends over for dinner. After the holidays, we’re all feeling a bit, dare I say, overindulged? However, last night was the final “holiday” party for 2014. It just had to wait until 2015 due to everyone’s schedules. So a light and healthy meal with just a touch of decadence was in order.

We had a few appetizers, the usual fresh vegetable platter, some cheese and crackers, and one experimental recipe – Roasted Crimini Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese and a Balsamic Vinegar Glaze.

Roasted Crimini Mushrooms

Fresh Veggies

For the entree, I made Cioppino, mostly based on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. I made just a few modifications, but tried to follow her recipe as closely as possible because I’ve never made Cioppino before.


3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
28 ounces of chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dry white white
2 cups oyster broth
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 pounds mixed seafood: mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamari
1 1/2 pounds wild caught fresh swordfish, cut into chunks

Mis en place: assemble and prepare all of your ingredients.

In a large pot (at least 5.5 quarts), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, and shallots; saute about 8-10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, broths, water, and bay leaf. Stir to combine well. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to gently simmer for about 30 minutes. This will allow the flavors to blend.

Add the mixed seafood, cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Add the fish, stir gently, and cook another 5-10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with a good, crusty bread. This recipe makes six generous portions.

Cioppino - light, yet rich and satisfying, this Cioppino will make you want to head back for seconds.

We served a 2011 Luna Canto, which paired nicely and stood up to the spicy kick of this Cioppino.

For dessert, I made a “Paleo” Apple Crisp that I know you’ll want to try.



Roasted Crimini Mushrooms

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Roasted Crimini Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese & Balsamic Glaze

These are quite simple to make. Rinse and pat dry your mushrooms. Remove the stems and set aside for another use. Drizzle the mushroom caps with a little olive oil and salt, and place stem side down in a roasting dish. Roast in a preheated oven at 350 degree Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool. You can prepare these a day ahead and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

To make the herbed goat cheese, you’ll want to use a good quality plain goat cheese, such as Laura Chenel Chevre. Blend the cheese with a splash or two of good olive oil and your choice of freshly chopped herbs. I used fresh thyme and rosemary, a classic combination, in my opinion. Use just enough olive oil to get a smooth, creamy consistency that you’ll be able to pipe into the mushroom caps.

To assemble, gently pat the mushrooms dry to remove excess moisture. Using a pastry bag*, pipe the cheese into the mushroom caps. Arrange the mushrooms on a platter and drizzle with a balsamic glaze. I like this one from Trader Joe’s.

If you have leftover herbed goat cheese, this is also lovely on bread or crackers.

* If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a zip-top plastic bag with a corner snipped off.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Just a quick post to wish you all a very Merry Christmas Eve and to share just a few appetizer ideas for the holiday.

Veggies with Homemade Blue Cheese Dip (low fat!)

Smoked Salmon Wraps (low fat!)

Assorted Treats (not low fat!)

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies (not low fat, but loaded with dark chocolate & espresso & therefore lots of antioxidants!)

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

These are based on an Ina Garten recipe. The only modification I made was to use olive oil in place of the butter. They are positively wonderful! I am looking forward to serving these tomorrow – I am taking care of the appetizers for Thanksgiving this year.

This is a must try recipe! Sweet, salty, spicy, and delicious!