Appetizers & Snacks

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple  |  Lemon & Mocha

I have another restaurant inspired dish for you! I say inspired because it is actually quite different from the original. This time it’s from a New England classic – Legal Sea Foods. There’s a few restaurants Matt and I have been to over and over and Legal Sea Foods is definitely in that category. It helps that there’s a lot of them here in Massachusetts and that we’ve always seemed to have one near us, whether it was the one in Chestnut Hill while we were still at Boston College or the one in Harvard Square that we could walk to when we lived in Cambridge.

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple  |  Lemon & Mocha

It was at their Harvard Square location that we first tried their Thai style fried calamari. It is described on the menu simply as “Thai style – pineapple and peanuts,” and when it came out we could smell the rich peanut sauce.

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple  |  Lemon & Mocha

The crispy fried calamari was smothered in an addictive peanut sauce, scallions, chopped peanuts and pineapple chunks. We were hooked! They are actually pretty spicy and normally I cannot do spice, but I will happily suffer through every time just for some of these saucy, crispy calamari bites!

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple  |  Lemon & Mocha

Now if you’re wondering why I’m talking about calamari when this is clearly a shrimp recipe that is a big part of why I’m using the word “inspired.” This Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple can be served as a party appetizer or as a main course alongside some rice and salad.

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple  |  Lemon & Mocha

The panko breadcrumbs, which are already crunchy, get pre-baked to ensure they create the crispiest coating for the shrimp. The shredded coconut is another departure from the original, but I love the flavor combination along with the peanut sauce and pineapple. A little savory, a little sweet and a whole lot of deliciousness. I hope you enjoy these Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple!

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple  |  Lemon & Mocha

Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp Topped with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the shrimp
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts
  • ¼ cup sliced scallions
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh pineapple
  • Salt and pepper
for the peanut sauce
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter (don’t use natural peanut butter)
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons light coconut milk or water (depending on how thick you want your sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Directions
for the shrimp
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the panko and coconut on a baking sheet then bake until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with ½ teaspoon salt.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a wire cooling rack on top of baking sheet then spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set up a breading station for the shrimp with three shallow bowls. Place the flour tossed with salt and pepper in the first one. Add the beaten eggs to the second one and the panko mixture to the third.
  3. Bread the shrimp. Coat with the flour, shaking off excess, then dip in the egg, letting excess drip off. Coat completely in the panko mixture then place on the prepared wire rack. Repeat until all the shrimp are breaded then bake for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately along with the peanut sauce, chopped peanuts, scallions and pineapple.
for the peanut sauce
  1. Whisk everything together until combined.
Notes
If you don’t want to use coconut, just omit it and add an additional ½ cup of panko.

Baked shrimp recipe from Pinch and Swirl.

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa  |  Lemon & Mocha

I never thought a warm avocado sounded appetizing, much less crave-worthy. Then a few years ago I got fish tacos at Border Cafe, which came served alongside a grilled avocado stuffed with mango salsa, and I was a complete convert. As in, every time we’ve gone to Border Cafe since, which is often, I get the same dish just so I can have the grilled avocado with mango salsa. Okay, okay, the fish tacos are really awesome as well, but the grilled avocado is the real draw.

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa  |  Lemon & Mocha

After years of having it at the restaurant I realized I needed to try making it at home. I mean, it’s literally just half an avocado that has been grilled and topped with citrus-packed mango salsa. I say “just” as though it isn’t the most magical combination you never knew you needed in your life until that first bite – which it is! My version doesn’t taste exactly like the original, especially since we all know I’m not a fan of spicy foods, but the essence of it is the same.

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa  |  Lemon & Mocha

I wanted a bit of crunch in the salsa since mango and avocado are both creamy so I added jicama. Even though jicama looks kind of like a potato, it’s crispy, juicy and a little sweet like an apple. It added the perfect textural element to the salsa. I also added classic Mexican flavors like lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and jalapeño.

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa  |  Lemon & Mocha

The punchy and sweet salsa spooned up with a big bite of the warm, grilled avocado is all you need in a summer meal. I’m not sure exactly what is so good about a grilled avocado, but the top gets a little charred while the inside stays creamy as always. Make sure you are using fully ripe avocados for this dish; no hard avocados allowed!

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa  |  Lemon & Mocha

These Grilled Avocados Stuffed with Mango Salsa could be served with all sorts of dishes, particularly any type of grilled fish, tacos or grilled steak, pork or chicken. I know I basically just named all the proteins, but avocado and mango go with so many of them! I served them with something a little unique, which I will be sharing with you all next week. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa  |  Lemon & Mocha

Grilled Avocado Stuffed with Mango Salsa
 
Yield: 4 stuffed avocado halves
Ingredients
  • 1 finely diced ripe mango, about 1¼ cup
  • ⅓ cup peeled and diced jicama
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped (use parsley if you don’t like cilantro)
  • ½ jalapeño, seeds removed and finely chopped (leave seeds if you like spicy food)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Zest from ½ lime
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 avocados, halved and pits removed
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
Directions
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mango, jicama, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, lime zest and salt. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
  2. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Lightly brush the flesh of the avocado halves with olive oil then grill, flesh side down, for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately fill with the mango salsa and serve.

 

Tomatillo Guacamole

Tomatillo Guacamole  |  Lemon & Mocha

Tomatillo Guacamole is about to become your latest summer obsession. This is a recipe I pulled from my Food Network Magazine binder archives and next to the recipe they wrote, “I always make a double batch because we go through this so quickly!” They are not kidding around, this Tomatillo Guacamole is addictive.

Tomatillo Guacamole  |  Lemon & Mocha

Right after I made it I could barely stop shoving it in my face long enough to get the photos. I also completely admit to rushing this photo set just so I could get back to the shoving-my-face action.

Tomatillo Guacamole  |  Lemon & Mocha

I determined that I am in love with the flavor of tomatillos because I couldn’t get enough of this dip in the same way I pine for a roasted tomatillo salsa I made for Matt’s birthday a couple years ago. Tomatillos may look like little green tomatoes wrapped in husks, but they are fruity, tart and loaded with fragrant flavor.

Tomatillo Guacamole  |  Lemon & Mocha

Like most guacamole recipes there is no cooking involved so you can have this in a bowl with chips on standby in under ten minutes. Tomatillos, avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, jalapeño, ground cumin and salt get pulsed together in a blender or food processor. If you are like me and not a fan of spice then remove the seeds and pith from the jalapeño. By removing the seeds and pith you get all the flavor with the heat. If you like spicy food just chuck it all in.

Tomatillo Guacamole  |  Lemon & Mocha

Even though the recipe is called a guacamole, to me the texture and taste is a cross between a guacamole and a salsa. If you prefer it thicker and chunkier like a guacamole then mash in another avocado at the end. You could always make it as is with an additional avocado or two at your disposal in case you decide you want that thicker guacamole consistency. I personally love the salsa-guacamole crossover because it is just the right balance of flavors while still being thick enough to scoop onto your tortilla chip of choice. Enjoy, friends!

Tomatillo Guacamole  |  Lemon & Mocha

Tomatillo Guacamole
 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 tomatillos, husked, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
  • ½ onion, coarsely chopped
  • ½ jalapeño pepper, see note
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Directions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Serve in a bowl with chips and veggies.
Notes
If you don’t want it spicy, remove the seeds and pith. If you want it spicy, leave the seeds.

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Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette

Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette  |  Lemon & Mocha

I know, another appetizer bite! I told you I’m all about them so here we are with another one that’s just right for both caprese and strawberry season. There’s nothing like a classic caprese salad with ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt.

Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette  |  Lemon & Mocha

Sometimes, though, I like switching it up and one of my favorite ways is by adding fruit. The sweetness of fruit pairs so well with the saltiness of the cheese and the acidity of the tomatoes. Last summer I posted my Melon Prosciutto Mozzarella Skewers and the Watermelon Caprese Salad. These bites are simple recipes like those except we have mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and strawberries.

Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette  |  Lemon & Mocha

This was my first time having strawberries as part of a caprese salad. Unlike the cantaloupe and the watermelon, which I’ve had before at restaurants, I’ve never ordered a caprese salad with strawberries, although I’m sure there’s some places out there with it on their menus. I wasn’t sure how the flavors would all work together, but I was hooked after one bite. In fact, Matt and I downed this whole platter in about ten minutes immediately after I took these photos.

Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette  |  Lemon & Mocha

The sweetness of the ripe strawberries was exactly what I wanted with the mozzarella and tomato. What really ties it all together is the fresh and bright basil vinaigrette. I love basil in dishes, but sometimes I find myself wishing I could have the flavor of basil without all the big hunks of basil leaves. This easy vinaigrette can be whipped together in your blender or food processor and is concentrated with so much delicious basil flavor.

Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette  |  Lemon & Mocha

You will have leftover vinaigrette, unless you make more Strawberry Caprese Skewers, which is perfect for drizzling over chicken or topping salads. Or you could be like Matt and just dip some toasty bread in it – yum! Enjoy!

Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette  |  Lemon & Mocha

Strawberry Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette
 
Yield: 24 bites
Ingredients
  • 12 strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 24 bocconcini mozzarella balls
  • 24 grape or small cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ½ small shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 24 toothpicks
Directions
  1. Make the caprese bites by first skewering a strawberry halve, a mozzarella ball then a tomato with a toothpick. Repeat for the remaining caprese bites.
  2. In a high-speed blender, add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil leaves, shallot, garlic and salt. Blend until smooth. Drizzle over the caprese bites.

 

Elote Wonton Bites

Elote Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

There’s something so fun about bite-sized appetizer food. They’re great for parties and big crowds, but don’t discount appetizers for everyday either. When I have a few friends over I love serving just a bunch of appetizers we can all pick at until we’re bursting at the seams – of course always with leaving room for dessert. Sometimes they’re a nice casual dinner for Matt and I, too.

Elote Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

These Elote Wonton Bites would be perfect for a big outdoor bash or to just feel those summer Friday vibes. If you aren’t familiar with my elote obsession, elote is also known as Mexican street corn. Usually served grilled on the cob, it’s slathered with lime, salt, chili powder, cotija cheese (a crumbly Mexican cheese) and mayo or crema fresca. Elote instantly makes me feel like it’s summer and last year I turned it into a bunch of fun dishes, including Elote Hot Dogs, Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad and Elote Pizza.

Elote Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Of course this summer I had to keep it going with some more exciting ways to get your cheesy, creamy corn fix. Crispy wonton cups are filled with corn, scallions and all the elote flavorings then topped with salty cotija cheese and a lime mayo drizzle. Make sure you don’t skimp on the cotija cheese or the mayo! Both are what help transport you to a beach-side happy hour sipping on a margarita.

Elote Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

I have been able to find cotija cheese in every grocery store I go to near me, but if you can’t find it you can substitute queso fresco, which is another crumbly Mexican cheese. If you can’t find either of those then you can use feta cheese, although the taste won’t be quite the same. As many of you know, I do not like spicy foods so I use smoked paprika in these to get the smokiness without the heat, but if you like spice then season with chili powder to your preference.

Elote Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

The one thing I didn’t do was char the corn because I wanted to keep things a little more simple, but next time I might go the extra step and sear the corn in a sauté pan or grill some ears of corn to fully get the Mexican street corn experience. I hope you like these little bites and get excited for another Elote twist dish I have coming up later this summer!

Elote Wonton Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Elote Wonton Bites
 
Yield: 24 bites
Ingredients
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • 1 15-ounce can corn, no salt added (about 1½ cups corn kernels), drained
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch chili powder
  • Cotija cheese, for topping
  • Cooking spray
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a mini muffin pan then place the wrappers into the cavities so they create little wonton bowls. Lightly spray the wonton wrappers in the pan then bake for 6 minutes. Set aside.
  3. While the wrappers are in the oven, combine the corn, scallions, mozzarella, cilantro, lime zest, ½ teaspoon of the smoked paprika and salt in a mixing bowl.
  4. After the wontons have baked on their own, spoon the corn mixture into the wontons in the mini muffin pan, evenly dividing between them. Bake for 5 more minutes. While the wontons are finishing baking, make the lime mayo by combining the mayonnaise, lime juice, remaining ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika, ground cumin and chili powder in a small bowl. Pour into a squeeze bottle if you have one. When the wontons come out of the oven, serve them hot topped with plenty of crumbled cotija cheese and a generous drizzle of the lime mayo.
Notes
If you can’t find cotija cheese, you can substitute queso fresco. If you can’t find either of those Mexican cheeses you can use feta cheese, but the taste won’t quite be the same.