Appetizers & Snacks

Guacamole Tortilla Cups

Shiver me shamrocks, it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day! A day devoted to drinks, green beer, cupcakes spiked with Bailey’s and Irish accents? Now that’s something I can get behind. Let’s not forget that the ever classic “Luck of the Irish” will probably be playing on the Disney channel.

I wanted to make something that would be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, but was not too keen on cooking corned beef and cabbage. I decided to go with a green theme and came up with these cute, and delicious, guacamole tortilla cups. It’s the ultimate chip and dip with no dipping required. The green color makes them a great snack for March 17th, but this little appetizer would be ideal for gameday munchies or summer cookouts.

These little cups could not be easier. Simply cut rounds out of tortillas using a biscuit or round cookie cutter then press into the cups of a mini muffin pan. Bake until golden and voila! Edible cups at your service. I can’t wait to test out more variations including filling them with salsa, seven layer dip, chicken salad, the list goes on! But for now I will happily chow down on this green guacamole version.

Guacamole Tortilla Cups
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 4-5 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 2 ripened avocados
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of chili powder (optional)
  • ¼ cup diced grape tomatoes
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Use a 2-3" round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut rounds from the tortillas.
  3. Press a tortilla round into a cup of a mini muffin pan. Repeat for the rest of the tortilla rounds.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the tortilla cups are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack.
  5. Meanwhile, make the guacamole. Scoop the avocado out into a medium mixing bowl. Add the onion, lime juice, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and chili powder. Using a sharp knife, cut through the avocado in the bowl until it is a small dice.
  6. When the tortilla cups are cool, spoon a heaping teaspoon into each cup. Top with the diced tomatoes.
Notes
You will need 24 rounds of tortilla so you may need more of less tortillas depending on the size of your tortillas and the size of your cookie cutter.

 

Olive Tapenade

A couple weeks ago Matt’s brother was talking about olive tapenade and I got inspired to create my own. Whenever I decide to make a new item from scratch I like to do some thorough research and soak in whatever information I can about the adventure I’m about to embark on. According to Wikipedia, clearly the smartest website on the internet, a tapenade is, “a Provencal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil.” This statement provided two surprising conclusions (who knew a dip could be so unpredictable?).

First, this recipe should just be called tapenade since that word already assumes olives are included. However, I’m a descriptive person so I will keep the olive in the title even though it’s apparently redundant. Second, the recipe I had for olive tapenade and was about to create was an imposter and no olive tapenade at all! There were no capers. There were no anchovies. Having only half of the Wikipedia required makings of an olive tapenade made me nervous. So I jazzed up my recipe a bit and added some capers, although you can breath a sigh of relief as I continued to omit the anchovies.

So if all this rambling and mumbo-jumboing about olives and anchovies hasn’t scared you away, please know that this dip, spread or whatever you want to call it is so tasty. Addictingly tasty. The texture is smooth while the briny flavor manages to be hearty and light at the same time. Spread it on a caprese panini. Stuff it in baked chicken breasts. Eat it straight out of the container with rice crackers, a perfect combination. Or you could put it in a presentable bowl for company if that’s your thing. Your guests will be very impressed- as long as you don’t eat it all before they get there.

Olive Tapenade
 
Yield: 1½ cups
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup minced shallots, about 3 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the shallots, garlic and oregano until cooked through and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the garlic mixture, olives, capers, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Serve with rice crackers or hearty bread.

Recipe adapted from The Southern Vegetarian.

Grilled Pineapple Guacamole

It’s almost Super Bowl time! Get ready for over-the-top halftime performances, absurd commercials and mouthwatering bite-sized snacks. Oh, I mean, kickoffs, touchdowns and end zone victory dances! Rawr! Football! Sure, I loved getting up at unGodly hours on a Saturday morning to get in line half an hour before the gates opened at my college home football games. And there is something adrenaline pumping about cheering a team to victory in a roomful of people chanting for the same cause. But to call myself a football fan would be a wild stretch of the imagination, especially since I didn’t understand any of the rules until my first college football game. Other than the whole cross the finish line or kick it through a goalpost to score points part.

Don’t worry, I get just as excited about the Super Bowl as the rest of you and even though some of you diehard footballs fans won’t admit it, you’re excited about the same part I am: the food. When you get through all the sticky wings, cheesy pizza and gooey potato skins you are left with the fundamentals of a victorious Super Bowl feast. The chips and dip. There are countless dips out there, but one of the most addictive ones in my house is guacamole. Creamy avocados, tangy lime juice, crunchy red onions and a slight kick. However this guacamole has something yours does not: sweet, smokey grilled pineapple chunks.

Adding some sweetness and extra acidity, the grilled pineapple chunks bring a unique flavor profile to your average guacamole. Guacamole is already amazing on it’s own so imagine what this grilled pineapple guacamole will do to your tastebuds. Fireworks? Symphonies? Family members raising you to their shoulders and chanting your name? How about you try it and find out.

Grilled Pineapple Guacamole
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 sections of whole pineapple (see note), or 4 rings of pineapple
  • 2 ripened avocados
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of ground chili powder (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat and lightly coat with cooking spray. Grill the pineapple 2-3 minutes per side, or until light grill marks appear. Once grilled, cut the pineapple into ½”- 1” chunks.
  2. Meanwhile scoop the avocado out into a medium mixing bowl. Add the onion, lime juice, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and chili powder. Using a sharp knife, cut through the avocado in the bowl until it is a small dice.
  3. Use a spoon to make sure all the ingredients are combined, add the grilled pineapple chunks and stir once more until just combined. If you like your guacamole more smooth than chunky then mash the avocados more.
  4. Serve fresh with chips.
Notes
If using fresh pineapple follow these instructions:
1. Cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple.
2. Sitting the pineapple upright, cut it in half, then into quarters.
3. Standing each quarter upright, cut it in half to make 2 wedges.
4. Standing each wedge upright, cut the point off down the entire length of each wedge to remove the thick core, about ½” - ¾” into the pineapple.
5. Still standing each wedge upright, cut the skin off each wedge.

 

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle

Hang onto your hats folks, we’re in for a whirlwind! My excitement over this soup is bursting out of me and it cannot be contained. The best thing for you to do is to hold on, take it all in and then get cooking. I first cooked this soup a couple years ago, but every time I make it I wonder to myself why I wait so long in between whipping it up.

I love creamy vegetable soups, but they are usually laden with heavy cream and high fat milk. A creamy soup that is low in calories and fat, but high in nutrition and flavor? Definitely a win. But a soup that also has added protein? Now that is the ultimate trifecta! A tasty tender trifecta.

Roasted cauliflower and garlic soup topped with kale chips and a balsamic drizzle. No, you don’t have to go to some fancy farm-to-table restaurant to enjoy this cozy dish; you can make it in your kitchen right this minute. Cauliflower is roasted to add depth to its flavor and tenderize it. Roasting the garlic mellows it and causes it to develop a creamy texture. While the vegetables are roasting a light roux is created then mixed with onions, carrots, celery and seasonings.

The sautéed vegetables brown and release their inner juices just before being combined with rich vegetable stock and white wine. The roasted vegetables are added to the pot and everything is pureed to a rustic creaminess. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt lends to the creaminess and provides a very subtle tang. Finally the soup is topped with kale chips for crunch and an easy balsamic drizzle for continued depth of flavor. Go make this. Now. I’ll be running to the kitchen for more leftovers before I pass out from excitement.

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle
 
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ⅛ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 ounces fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 batch crispy kale chips
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
for the soup
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil and set aside.
  3. Cut the cauliflower into similar sized florets and evenly place on the baking sheet. Toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cut the tops off both heads of garlic so that almost all the cloves are exposed. Place each head of garlic in a little square of tinfoil and curve up the sides. Lightly drizzle the garlic heads with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Seal up the tinfoil to make little packets of the garlic heads.
  5. Place the cauliflower and garlic packets in the oven. Let the cauliflower roast for 25 minutes then remove from the oven. Let the garlic continue to roast for another 10 minutes.
  6. While the cauliflower and garlic are roasting, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk until the mixture is light brown in color, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the celery, onion and carrot. Stir to combine and cook until the onions have started to brown and the vegetables have started to soften.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, italian seasoning, paprika, oregano and chili powder, stirring to combine. Add the wine and water. Bring to a slow boil then cook for 5 minutes.
  9. When the heads of garlic have cooled, squeeze out the garlic cloves and add them to the soup along with the vegetable broth. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  10. Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 more minutes. Using a food processor or immersion blender puree the soup until smooth. Add the greek yogurt and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
for the garnish
  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat until it has reduced to a 2-3 tablespoons.
  2. Top each bowl of soup with kale chips and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef.

Crispy Baked Kale Chips

“Cauliflower is really trendy right now,” the woman bagging my groceries told me last week, “it’s the new kale.” She then proceeded to bag the kale I was also buying and told me that I was right on trend. Well, of course that’s the only reason I was buying these vegetables along with the other eight or so types of vegetables I was buying! To be trendy, obviously. Nothing to do with the fact that both cauliflower and kale are in season right now, nothing at all.

To be honest most of the buzz about food trends confuses me. Certain trends I understand, such as bacon on everything. Yes it has been overdone, but bacon is amazingly delicious and I love that people started pushing the limits for what dishes are acceptable for including bacon. Without this trend you wouldn’t be able to find bacon maple donuts and bacon kettle corn in every US city. Then where would we be? Cupcakes on the other hand? Cupcakes have always been delicious and I don’t think anyone has ever doubted that. What did we get out of the cupcake trend other than an over-saturation of some good, but mostly bad, cupcake shops? Cauliflower and kale are both in season right now, provide a lot of fabulous health benefits as well as taste yummy when cooked just right so of course it makes sense that they are (or were? or will be?) trendy.

I will get to cauliflower later this week, but for now let’s dive into these kale chips. Crunchy, salty and with a hint of spice these kale chips are everything you desire in a snack. Except that they are extraordinarily low in calories and good for you. And not good for you like, “these potato chips were baked not fried so they’re super healthy!” Actually good for you. The best part, other than their addictive crunchy texture, is that they take twenty minutes to make and 99% of that is them sitting in the oven. Kale will always be in season during the winter, which makes it forever a winter trend in my mind so time to start snacking trendy!

Crispy Baked Kale Chips
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch kale
  • Olive oil or cooking spray
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Wash the kale then dry completely.
  3. Cut the thick rib out of the kale then roughly cut the kale into 1" - 1.5" pieces.
  4. Lay the kale pieces in one layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly spray with olive oil or cooking spray then toss to evenly coat. Do not oversaturate the kale pieces or they won't get crispy.
  5. Sprinkle kale pieces with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Toss to coat.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

Recipe from Melissa d’Arabian.