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Posts published in “Appetizers & Snacks”

Caprese salad: The best way to say farewell to summer produce

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There's something to be said about having the right tools to get a job done. I think this goes for just about anything in life, even food.

When you have nice ingredients or tools, cooking is more of a joy. It could mean a splurge on a quality olive oil or an aged balsamic vinegar, a luxury like truffles or Kobe/Wagyu beef (for meat eaters - maybe not for me ;) ), or a nice quality knife or cutting block to work with as you prepare meals.

Sometimes, it doesn't have to be expensive at all: buying produce in season, for example, when it's abundant. You're already off to a good start of making something good when you're working with fresh food that's in-season. It speaks for itself. You can do so little to it and it's still delicious.

As ready as I am for the season to change as I sit here on my porch, on the cusp of my favorite time of the year — with cool wind blowing through the windows, anticipating the turning colors of the leaves that will start any time now — I'll always take time to savor the last of the wonderful summer produce that I've grown and harvested or purchased locally at markets.

And one ingredient I always miss the most as the season turns is the tomato.

Devils on Horseback

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Also known as stuffed dates, these are a great addition to your tapas board or as a quick and simple appetizer with cocktails before a meal. They're salty, sweet, and incredibly addictive... impossible to eat just one! This recipe makes a dozen but it's foolproof: scale it to make as many as you'd like.

If blue cheese typically isn't your jam, a creamy gorgonzola is a good choice that is a little milder. If you love blue cheese as much as I do, St. Agur is fantastic, probably one of my favorite blue cheeses to both use in recipes as well as just eat by itself with some crackers, since it's so damn delicious. It's also made with vegetarian-based rennet.

Smoked Salmon Bites

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The good news: all of the "cooking" involved here for this easy appetizer is the preparation of the herb cream cheese spread—and that's easy, too. Make it in advance so it's ready to go when it's time for appetizers.

When you're ready to serve, set the cream cheese out in a fancy bowl with a platter of smoked salmon, thinly-sliced red onion and other goodness, and bagel chips, then dig in. I've made this for brunch, too, as a starter to go with Bloody Marys or mimosas before a main course, like waffles or omelettes.

Caprese Skewers with Creamy Pesto Dip

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Are you planning to watch the Grammy Awards this weekend? If you're like me, I always like something to nibble on when I'm watching an award show or special event. There's just something so satisfying about eating different, small plates of foods that I love, too. Dave and I often have tapas for dinner instead of a full meal.

These portable caprese skewers couldn't be easier, or faster, to make. You can make as many or as few of these skewers as you'd like, and serve them with the creamy pesto dip that can be made in advance. I've made these for parties in the past, as well as "just because".

Baked Pimento Cheese Dip

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The Super Bowl is this Sunday and, well, I'm not a football fan. A red-blooded Patriot I still am, yes, but no, I don't have a favorite football team, and I don't care who wins or loses the game.

As a marketer and foodie, though, I am sure you could've guessed that I do enjoy watching the commercials and eating snacks. In the kitchen is where I can be found during any given Super Bowl with a drink in hand, pausing to watch a funny commercial now and again. Works for me.

It's basically a prerequisite to have some kind of pretzels or chips and dip to snack on during the game (or commercials.) If you ask me, chips and salsa gets boring after a while. Guac, even if given a healthy dose of lime juice, is bound to turn brown. And while I enjoy a good queso, it, too, comes with challenges. The first challenge is keeping it warm. (A Crock-Pot can take care of that quite nicely, true.) The second challenge is that it can be drippy and messy to eat.

Pimento cheese, on the other hand, is absolutely divine, easy to make, and easy to eat. I wasn't born or raised in the South and I never ate it as a kid. I found it a few years ago by accident when looking for something at the grocery store, and, boy, am I glad I did.

Sun Dried Tomato and Cheese Strudels

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These strudels are quick to make and are versatile: cut in small squares for hors d'oeuvres with cocktails before dinner, or cut in slices to serve with a simple green salad for a light lunch. If you can't find the Alouette garlic and herb cheese spread, Boursin cheese, herb goat cheese, or garlic and chive cream cheese would be similar alternatives to try.

Spiced Raita

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A creamy, spicy take on the traditional Indian cucumber salad to accompany Eggplant and Red Lentil Daal—or you could eat it plain with naan bread or pita chips, too.

I added just a pinch of some really, really spicy dried and ground Jamaican chocolate pepper chilies. Dave has had these probably a few years now and I sincerely doubt they have lost any of their potency. Just a little bit packs serious heat. Fortunately, dairy helps to cool off spicy things, and I find as it sits over time the flavor develops nicely. Certainly, you can omit it for a more traditional taste; use cayenne pepper, which is more readily available; or use a fresh, seeded and diced Serrano pepper.