Appetizers & Snacks

Baked Zucchini Fries with Special Sauce

Many people extol the wonderful qualities of winter. They argue that warm winter fires, cozy blanket couch snuggling and glistening snowflakes are romantic and special. Well as someone who lives in a fireplace-less apartment that Matt keeps at a snuggie required temperature year round I argue, what is so romantic about an extra-long work commute on a sandy, dirty snow-covered road?

Yes, I know, January just started and I’m already complaining about winter. January gets me a little down as my favorite holiday of the year is over and there’s nothing to look forward to for the rest of the season. Besides Valentine’s Day, my anniversary, skiing, creamy winter mac and cheeses… but hey, I’m busy complaining here! Sometimes I need a little burst of summer to get me through these long dark days. Aside from actually seeing the sun before and after work, what really gets me thinking about summer are summer vegetables. And french fries, mmm french fries.

Voila! Baked zucchini fries. These fries will have everyone gobbling their vegetables like they’re, well, eating fries. The subtle flavor of the zucchini is amped up by the seasonings in the crunchy coating. Served alongside special sauce these baked zucchini fries may just be habit-forming. My mom used to call it fish stick sauce, but I think special sauce sounds a little more appetizing and versatile. Special sauce is also fitting as it has special powers that include getting kids to gobble up their fish sticks and vegetables. So make these fries and bring some summer to your winter.

Baked Zucchini Fries with Special Sauce
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
for the zucchini fries
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
for the sauce
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Lightly coat a cooling rack with cooking spray then place on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Set aside.
  3. Cut the zucchini into 3 inch sticks.
  4. Place the olive oil in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. In a separate small bowl combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and seasonings.
  6. Working one zucchini stick at a time, dip the stick into the olive, coat in the breadcrumb bowl then carefully place on the prepared cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining zucchini sticks.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. While the zucchini fries are baking, combine the mayonnaise and ketchup. Serve the zucchini fries warm with the special sauce for dipping.
Notes
Zucchini is naturally a soft vegetable when cooked so don't expect a sturdy fry, just one with flavor and an outer crunch.

Recipe adapted from Health Magazine.

Crab Dip Puffs

It seems as though New Year’s Eve menus are just classier versions of Christmas meals. Since it’s only a few days later all the same winter and holiday flavors are still relevant. But you want to look festive ringing in the new year so you bust out the champagne flutes, 2014 flashing glasses and the kazoos. See? Classy. I’m here to help you take your regular tasty traditions to the next level. Introducing flaky and creamy crab dip puffs.

The original cheesy and addictive crab dip has been elevated to proper New Year’s Eve fanciness. Serve these for any party or gathering and your guests will be both impressed and satisfied. The best part is that they don’t have to know how simple it all was. Squares of pre-made puff pastry are pressed into a muffin tin before being topped with a quick one-bowl dip.

The little squares of puff pastry serve as a vessels for the dip and provide a perfect flaky and buttery complement. Topped with chopped scallions for some nice color, crunch and enhanced flavor, everyone will be going back for thirds and fourths. The crab dip puffs can also be made ahead, frozen and reheated in the oven giving you less to do and more time to hang with your guests. So at your next gathering get fancy with these simple delicious crab dip puffs and remember, pinkies up!

Crab Dip Puffs
 
Yield: 48 puffs
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 8 ounces lump crab
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 package puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1 green onion, chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, sour cream, crab, mayonnaise and seasonings. Set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface unfold the first puff pastry sheet. Roll into a rectangle about 10" by 15".
  4. Cut the rectangle of puff pastry into 24 squares. Press each square into a cup of the prepared mini muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.
  5. Spoon a small tablespoon of the prepared crab dip into each puff pastry cup then top with half of the reserved cheddar cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  6. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheet, crab dip and cheddar cheese.
  7. Remove from the pan and top with the chopped green onions. Serve hot.
Notes
To reheat frozen crab dip puffs place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until hot.

Recipe adapted from Pepperidge Farms.

Baked Crab Dip

When I was younger my extended family had a big Christmas party every year. There were gingerbread house contests, karaoke, full-family renditions of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and even a visit from Santa. A Christmas gathering still happens every year, but now that my generation of “kids” are older between work, distance and college, not everyone is able to make it, including myself this year. Even though I can’t be there I will certainly be thinking of all my family, especially my cousins, and how I’m amazed we ever ended up with actual gingerbread houses considering how much of the candy and frosting supplies we used to consume.

 

Being the food-obsessed person I have been all my life I will be missing all the family favorites everyone cooks each year. Last year my cousin had the fabulous idea of creating a cookbook of all our family recipes so now I have all the tasty traditions right on my bookshelf. Although it’s not as special to have the food without my whole family around, it still tastes every bit as delicious.

One of my absolute favorites is my Aunt Georgia’s crab dip. I could eat an entire bowl of this cheesy, creamy appetizer. You can serve it with crackers, but I love it with slices of crusty bread. Perfect for any holiday party since it’s incredibly easy and can be made ahead. Oh and did I mention that waiting for the bubbling cheese to cool down enough so I don’t burn my tongue makes me drool with anticipation? There’s been a lot of drooling on Lemon & Mocha lately; I would apologize, but then cheesy goodness like this dip might not make an appearance so I’m sure you will let it slide.

Baked Crab Dip
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 8 ounces lump crab
  • 1 tablespoon mayonaise
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except the cheddar cheese.
  3. Lightly coat a casserole dish or cast iron skillet with cooking spray and add the crab mixture.
  4. Evenly spread the cheddar cheese over the top of the crab mixture.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm with slices of crusty bread or buttered crackers.

 

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Fresh Rolls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce

Thanksgiving is tomorrow! Just in case you forgot I figured I would remind you. Although I’m counting down the hours until I can eat until I can’t eat anymore, what’s even more exciting than actual Thanksgiving day is the day after Thanksgiving. It involves leftovers and I love leftovers. You get to revisit all your favorite dishes from the day before and there’s no waiting for everyone to sit down for the big meal. The leftovers are in your fridge waiting for you, calling your name… Unless of course you didn’t have Thanksgiving at your house or word got out that you were cooking Monday’s mushrooms and unexpected guests ate all your would-be leftovers. Sorry about that.

But sometimes after a couple rounds of leftovers your stomach needs a break. All that stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie weigh on you and your body craves something light and refreshing. That’s when it is time to reinvent your leftovers. These leftover Thanksgiving turkey fresh rolls are exactly what you will need the day after Thanksgiving. They may look complicated, but I made about eight of these in less than ten minutes. After a long day you don’t need something that takes a lot of work.

Soaking the turkey in soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil moistens the leftover slices. The cellophane noodles are a light filler and there’s no boiling required as they only need to be soaked in warm water. Then you can add whatever vegetables you have sitting in your fridge. Leftover avocado from guacamole? Done. Carrots, lettuce and cucumbers from leftover salad fixings? Done, done and done. I used carrots and lettuce in mine because that was what was in my fridge, but feel free to get creative. The sweet and tangy cranberry dipping sauce compliments the spring rolls well and helps you use up all that leftover cranberry sauce. So when you’re running out to the store today for those last minute ingredients make sure to pick up some spring roll wrappers and cellophane noodles. Your stomach will thank you for it, as will your taste buds.

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Fresh Rolls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce
 
Yield: 8 fresh rolls
Ingredients
for the rolls
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • 1 cup chopped roast turkey
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • ½ package cellophane noodles
  • 8 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 cup roughly chopped lettuce leaves
for the sauce
  • ¼ cup cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
Directions
for the rolls
  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and seasonings. Add the turkey pieces and grated carrot, stir to coat and let soak.
  2. Place the cellophane noodles in a medium mixing bowl. Heat 4 cups of water and pour over the noodles. Let soak for 10 minutes, or until soft. Transfer the noodles to a small bowl with a fork or tongs leaving the water in the medium bowl for the spring roll wrappers. Rip the noodles or cut with kitchen scissors into shorter strands about 1 inch long. It doesn't need to be exact or even.
  3. Take the first spring roll wrapper and submerge it in the warm water the noodles were soaking in. After the wrapper is soft and pliable, about 10 seconds, remove from the water and carefully lay flat on a cutting board or clean counter.
  4. Take a small amount of the noodles and place in a line in the middle of the spring roll wrapper. Add a spoonful of the turkey mixture onto the noodles and a couple pieces of chopped lettuce. Fold the two sides next to the ends of the filling line you created up and over part of the filling. Take the top of the wrapper and pull it over the filling then tuck it under and roll the wrapped filling towards you to finish the roll. It sounds complicated, but once you do one or two you will get the hang of it.
  5. Repeat for the rest of the rolls.
for the sauce
  1. Place the cranberry sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir and mash the cranberry sauce until mostly smooth.
  2. Whisk in the sugar, vinegar and soy sauce then bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has slightly thickened, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat and serve with the rolls.
Notes
You can use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge as part of the filling. Some ideas include cucumber or avocado cut in 1 inch strips.

Inspiration from The Pioneer Woman.
Dipping sauce from allrecipes.com.

Pumpkin Hummus

This post was not supposed to be pumpkin hummus. I had other recipes in store for you before this hummus was even a thought. Upon realizing I had yet to post a pumpkin recipe I immediately went out and purchased a can of pumpkin puree. Trial one was some sort of chocolate pumpkin tart, but I never got to the pumpkin portion. Although the chocolate tart shell tasted delicious, it wasn’t very… photogenic… so Matt and I happily ate the scrapped tart shells while I moved on to trial two. One skillet pumpkin cornbread later I was staring at a beautiful dish that would have photographed quite nicely, but after one bite I knew it wasn’t for Lemon & Mocha. Thankfully I refuse to settle on mediocre dishes and was determined to share some pumpkin tastiness so this smooth and addictive pumpkin hummus was able to find its way to the homepage. The lesson to be had here is try, try, again, if you fall down get back up, no tart shell shall go uneaten, or something like that.

If you are looking for something light to serve before your big Thanksgiving meal next week or you simply would like something tasty to snack on and get you in the fall spirit look no further than this pumpkin hummus. Do you have five minutes and either a food processor or an immersion blender? Then you are five minutes away from savory, creamy, pumpkiny hummusy perfection. The pepita garnish provides a great crunch and nicely compliments the cumin and cinnamon spiced pumpkin flavor. What are pepitas? Well they are just shelled pumpkin seeds. I know you’re thinking I’m super smart right now, but don’t feel bad, Google taught me that just the other day! I served this hummus with cinnamon sugar pita chips, but any sort of pita chip or cracker will pair well. Another idea is to serve pumpkin hummus and roasted turkey wraps the day after Thanksgiving- now we’re talking.

Pumpkin Hummus
 
Ingredients
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • 5 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Pepitas for garnish
Directions
  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas to remove the excess salt. Set aside in the strainer to dry.
  2. Puree the chickpeas, pumpkin, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and cinnamon in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth.
  3. Season with salt to taste. Top with the pepitas before serving.

Recipe adapted from the October 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine.