Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Foodie Explorations: Spicy Almonds #3

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Here is another version of the Spicy Almonds. I added garlic salt and just a touch of sweetness, but I forgot the lime juice. Next batch will be basically this with a squeeze of lime juice.

Spicy Almonds #3

1 cup raw whole almonds
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine nuts, olive oil, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and sugar and stir to mix well. Spread in a single layer in a baking dish. Bake for about 30-35 minutes. Watch your time and temperature carefully as nuts can go from perfection to burned in an instant.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Sprinkle with garlic salt and allow to cool a bit before eating.

Serve warm or cool completely before packing in an airtight container.

The touch of sweetness balances out the spiciness of the cayenne.

 I’ve got to get this down soon, because this will be on the appetizer table for Thanksgiving!

Foodie Explorations: Spicy Almonds #2

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

I made a few changes to the first recipe:

  • Increased chili powder and cayenne pepper to 1 teaspoon each.
  • Roasted for 30 minutes.
  • Salted after roasting, immediately after removing from the oven.

Spicy Almonds

These are too spicy for me. Next batch I think I’ll try 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. Next batch I might add a bit of cinnamon to add just a hint of sweetness.

Foodie Explorations: Spicy Almonds #1

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

I’m gearing up for the holiday season and working on some treats that are flavorful and healthier than standard fare at most holiday feasts. These nuts are inspired by the spicy almonds served at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards.

Spicy Almonds #1

1 cup raw whole almonds
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
squeeze of fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all ingredients in a dish and stir to mix well. Spread in a single layer in a baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes. Watch your time and temperature carefully as nuts can go from perfection to burned in an instant.

A squeeze of fresh lime adds a fresh brightness that complements the spiciness of the cayenne.

Just a touch of spicy heat.

Foodie Exploration Notes For the Next Batch …

  • Bake a bit longer, probably 25 – 30 minutes to get more crunch.
  • Add the salt after the nuts roast, while they’re still hot.
  • Go a bit spicier!


Heart Healthier Christmas Menu

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Here’s a very basic outline of what to expect … I’ll have to do a full post later with recipes and photos. The menu will be along these lines, but I’m going to have to sort of “wing it” a little on some things:

Smoked Wild Salmon with Organic Light Cream Cheese on Rye Toasts
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Port Sauce
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Roasted Yams
Baby Kale Salad with Granny Smith Apples, Candied Pecans, and Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette
Low-Fat & Low-Sugar Orange Curd with Fresh Blackberries

The curd turned out a bit looser than I had hoped, but it will work nicely as a sauce for the big beautiful fresh blackberries I found this week at the store. I don’t think this curd would work well in a tart, though, because it’s not quite thick enough. Perhaps next time I’ll try 1/2 whole eggs and 1/2 egg whites, and I need to play a bit more with the Monk Fruit. I guess I could also use some corn starch, but that seems like cheating, but we’ll see. I think this recipe has promise, but it’s not just right yet.

I also wanted to make meringues to serve with this, but there is just so much going on right now that I did not have time to do so.

I will have limited Internet access over the next few days, so it may be the weekend before I get a chance to post any pictures or follow-up.

Merry Christmas! May your hearts be filled with the joy and warmth of the season, and your bellies be nourished by delicious and wholesome food!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

I am thankful to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my mother. This year will be a little different. Rather than having Thanksgiving at her home, we are joining her friends and neighbors in a potluck. I’m bringing homemade bread, a salad, and a fruit & cheese platter.

Hearty homemade whole grain bread with whole wheat, pumpernickel, oats, millet, and polenta.

The loaves are still warm as I type this and the house is filled with the satisfying aroma of freshly baked bread.

Salad will be a light and fresh mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach with crisp-sweet Fuji apples, toasted walnuts, and a light honey-mustard vinaigrette I whisked together.

After work today I was pleasantly surprised to find the Davis Farmers’ Market happening downtown and picked up some lovely red grapes, persimmons, and a couple of artisan cheeses that will make for a festive platter. I haven’t decided which cheeses to bring tomorrow, but I’m leaning towards these four: an herbed goat, a smoked cheddar, a Stilton with cranberries, and a “Foggy Morning” fresh cheese (perhaps served with some fig jam).

Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, but I do hope to get at least a quick ride in in the morning. I haven’t been riding nearly enough! It’s not quite light enough in the morning anymore to ride before work, so I’m back at the gym or out walking on nice weather mornings. It’s been chilly, but beautiful!

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! I hope you get to spend it with your loved ones!

Good Morning Sunshine!

Coming Soon … Sweet & Spicy Mixed Nuts

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Ready to go into the oven ...

A little treat I’m working on for the Holidays. I’ll post the recipe as soon as I get it just right.

A little spicy … a little salty … a little sweet. The perfect party nibbler!

Happy 3-Day Weekend!

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Can it really be Labor Day weekend already? Where did this summer go?


The weekend got off to a good start with a nice, light dinner of an easy quesadilla and simple fish tacos.


Fresh artisan corn* tortillas
Light cheddar cheese
Salsa Verde, warmed
Fresh limes

Make a quick quacamole-like topping by mixing the avocado with some fresh lime juice and a little salsa verde. Heat the tortillas over medium-high heat on a cast iron griddle, turning once. Turn the heat down to medium. Top one tortilla with a little cheese, the avocado mixture, and a little salsa. Place the second tortilla on top and gently press down. Allow to heat through a couple of minutes, then turn to lightly brown the other side. You want the cheese to melt and the tortillas to pick up a light, golden brown color. Cut into wedges and serve with some warmed salsa.

*If you prefer, you can use flour tortillas.

Fish Tacos

Fresh artisan corn tortillas
Cod filets, or other light flaky white fish
Salsa Verde
Fresh limes
Fresh cilantro

Fish Tacos

You can either slice the avocado or use the quacamole-like topping as above. Warm the salsa a bit, if you like. Heat the tortillas on a cast iron griddle over medium heat. Cook your fish – you can steam it, grill it, saute, or whatever method works best for the particular fish. I had some beautiful cod fillets, so I just cooked them in a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and seasoned lightly with just a dash of salt. For most fish, cook to an internal temperature of about 145-degrees. Assemble the tacos by placing some fish in the center of the tortilla, then top with some salsa and avocado. Garnish with some fresh cilantro (which was missing from these last night) and a squeeze of fresh lime.

If you are not a fan of fish, these tacos would also be yummy with chicken … especially if that chicken has been marinated with lime, fresh cilantro, a little Serrano chile, and if you are so inclined even a little tequila, then grilled and cut into bite-sized pieces.

These can even be made vegetarian or vegan. Grill up some portabello mushrooms and slice, or grilled onions and peppers, or zucchini … I’ll bet even grilled sliced potatoes would be good in these. Of course, there’s always tofu. The possibilities are nearly endless!

Here’s wishing you a great weekend! I hope you get the chance to ride. I know I am certainly looking forward to logging a few miles this weekend!


Coming Soon … Wild Mushroom Lasagna

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Tonight we’re making Wild Mushroom Lasagna with organic shiitake, oyster, Royal Trumpet, and maitake mushrooms from Solano Mushroom Farm; that recipe will have to be posted by a guest blogger. I can tell you, though, that it will have smoked mozzarella and fresh thyme.

I’m in charge of appetizers, salad, and dessert. For appetizers, a little cheese and bread … I made a goat cheese with fresh lemon and thyme spread. For salad, some lovely fresh greens lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, maybe some fresh tomatoes, whatever looks good. Yesterday at the Davis Farmers’ Market I picked up 3 absolutely stunning baskets of berries (strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries) and restocked on fresh lemons, so for dessert, I’m making a low fat lemom curd tart with fresh berries.

Well, I’d better run! Got lots to do to get ready for company tonight! Gotta’ shop! Gotta’ clean! Gotta’ ride! Gotta’ cook and bake and play with some fabulous food!



Paragary’s Bar & Oven

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Last night a little foodie exploration and treat was in order, so off to Paragary’s Bar & Oven in Midtown Sacramento. I’d never been there before, but have heard wonderful things about it. Now, I know why!

Malbec ... beautiful color!

We shared a special Manhattan and it was really good. I am not a big mixed drink aficionado, and have not had a Manhattan since I don’t know when, but wow. OK, we didn’t officially share it, but I sampled it a couple of times. I sampled an aperitif, Branca Menta, which was interesting and I’ll have it another time, but I decided to just stick with wine. I wanted something a little earthy to pair with the Wood Oven Roasted Portobello Mushroom appetizer, so I ordered a glass of the Sangiovese (Perazzeta, Tuscany, 2010). My fellow foodie friend had the Malbec (Crios, Mendoza, Argentina, 2010).

We started out with the Wood Oven Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Polenta, Garlic, Herbs, Parmesan.

The Wood Oven Roasted Portobello Mushroom appetizer was fantastic. Each item was divine on its own, but a little of each together formed the perfect bite.

Little Gems Lettuces

We then shared the Little Gems Lettuces salad, with pears, bleu cheese, pecans, and fresh pomegranate. Every aspect of this salad was fresh and perfect. The balance of sweet, tart, savory flavors, and tender crisp lettuce was exquisite. In hindsight, I think this would have been lovely with a sparkling wine.

Entrees ...

For entrees, we tried the special tortellini (filled with ricotta, goat cheese, greens, and served with a Gorgonzola cream sauce, garnished with walnuts) and a Pizza Sampler (half homemade fennel sausage with smoked mozzarella, wood-roasted onions, roasted Calabrian chile peppers, and half roasted mushrooms with leeks, fontina, garlic, thyme, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese).

Tortellini close-up

Normally, I am not a big cream sauce fan (and don’t really want to develop much of a taste for them), but this was fantastic! The pizza was lightly topped and the crust was thin and perfect. This is the kind of pizza I want to make at home. The crust stayed crisp and held up to the toppings, but it was not tough. I love the slightly puffy rim and super thin base. (It also made for yummy lunch leftovers!)

Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake

I was only going to look at the dessert menu, but someone promised to share this with me. We shared the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Espresso Gelato and Chocolate Sauce.

I’m not sure how many miles I’ll have to ride to work all of this off, but every bite was worth it.


This was my first trip to Paragary’s Bar & Oven, but my sincerest hope is that it will not be my last. Every aspect of the meal and experience was superb. Our server, Julie, was attentive, friendly, knowledgeable, and professional. The atmosphere was comfortable, elegant, and unpretentious. Check them out online:


Smoked Salmon Wrap

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Feels decadent, but it's actually pretty light

These are very easy to make. Start with Trader Joe’s Clay Oven Baked Whole Wheat Lavash Bread. Spread some light cream cheese (the whipped one works best) on the bread, then layer about 4-5 ounces of smoked salmon on top. Sprinkle with fresh herbs – I used chives and Italian parsley. Roll it up. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least a few hours or overnight. Just before serving, unwrap, then slice into about 3/4-inch thick slices. Enjoy with a nice glass of white wine.

I will definitely make these again, but next time I think I’ll use less salmon. In fact, I think I’ll make a mixture of light cream cheese and smoked salmon, and pulse it in a food processor to make a somewhat smooth spread. I think that will give the salmon flavor, but will lighten it up even more. That will be more cost-effective, too.