Preparing appetizers that can be made ahead or serving quickly prepared appetizers make entertaining for the holidays much easier. Here are a few of my favorites.
This stuffed bread recipe can be made ahead and reheated just before serving time.
2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced capicola
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup marinara sauce
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.
Spread half the marinara sauce over the dough.
Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.
Layer half the meat over the cheese on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.
Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, brush the seams with the beaten egg mixture
Place the Stromboli on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other dough in the same manner.
Cut four small slits in the top of the log. Cover the Stromboli with kitchen towels and let rise for 45 minutes.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool 10 minutes before slicing.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
16-20 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 6 ounces)
2-3 cups cold risotto
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko or traditional bread crumbs
Marinara Sauce, for serving
In a medium saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add in the oregano and basil and stir until the herbs are wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the herb mixture to the mozzarella balls and stir to mix.
Take approximately 2 tablespoons of cold risotto in your palm and flatten slightly. Add one mozzarella ball covered in the herb mix to the center. Cover the cheese with the rice and roll into a ball form. Dip the ball into flour, shaking slightly to remove any clumps, then into the beaten eggs, and finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place the coated balls on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto until all of the risotto and/or cheese balls are used.
Pour enough olive oil in a deep skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil and add the arancini. Cook on all sides until lightly brown all over. Drain on paper towels.
Note: I usually make them in advance and then reheat before serving in a 375 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.
For the bread crumb topping:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
For the calamari:
1/2 pound cleaned squid cut into rings, dry on paper towels, air dry and then move to a plate
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Make the bread crumb topping:
Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until lightly brown. Set aside
For the calamari:
Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Then garlic, butter and chili flakes. Add calamari, salt and pepper and parsley and cook 1-2 minutes Squeeze lemon over the fish and sprinkle lightly with the toasted bread crumbs.
Note: It is important not to overcook calamari or it will become tough. A minute or two is all it needs to cook.
Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.
1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)
Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.
Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.
Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and serve with your favorite Italian bread.
Pop all the dishes in the oven and dinner will be served. While dinner is baking in the oven, you can do something else during this busy season. I like this kind of meal where all the pots can go in the dishwasher. Besides fried chicken is one of my favorites. I always make extra so there are leftovers for lunch.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Oven Fried Chicken
8 chicken thighs
2 cups flour
1 large egg
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Cajun spice
Use a baking sheet with a rack on top. Brush some butter on the rack so the chicken won’t stick.
In a small bowl, mix together all the seasoning ingredients except for the paprika and then divide in half. Dry the chicken thighs with paper towels.
Add the paprika to one half of the seasoning and mix this well into the chicken pieces. Set aside. Can be done early in the day and refrigerate until cooking time.
Take the other half of the seasoning and mix with the flour in a shallow bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.
Taking one chicken piece at a time, dip in the egg and milk mixture and coat in the flour mixture and set on a plate. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes.
Coat each chicken piece in the flour again (not the egg) and place on the baking rack.
Drizzle the melted butter over all the chicken pieces.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the chicken pieces are brown and cooked through.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch/arrowroot
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon yellow mustard powder
8 oz 2% milk Velveeta cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Grease an 8×12 inch or 7×11 inch baking dish.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard until smooth and then gradually whisk in the milk. Cook until thickened.
Add salt, pepper and Velveeta. Lower the heat and stir until the cheese melts. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked macaroni.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the cheddar. The casserole can be refrigerated if you are not ready to bake.
Bring to room temperature when ready to bake.
Place the casserole in the oven with the chicken, after the chicken has cooked for 25 minutes. The macaroni and cheese will be ready after 20 minutes of baking.
Oven Baked Asparagus
½ pound of thin asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Grease an 8 inch baking dish or a dish that will fit the asparagus in a single layer.
Place the asparagus in the dish and drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place the asparagus in the oven after the chicken has cooked for 25 minutes. Cook for 20 minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle with the lemon juice.
Sautéed Cabbage and Onions
I had half a head of savoy cabbage leftover from making the Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Leftover cabbage makes a great side dish. Cabbage sautéed this way is quite delicious.
2 tablespoons butter
Half of a medium onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups shredded savoy cabbage
½ teaspoon paprika
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan.
Sauté until the cabbage is soft and somewhat creamy, stirring often while it cooks.
Add the paprika, salt and pepper. Toss to mix all ingredients together and coat the cabbage with seasonings. Serve.
Broccoli in Cheese Sauce
I had half a head of broccoli and about 1 cup of the cheese sauce left over from the Chicken Divan recipe. The recipe made a generous amount of sauce and I only uses half of the broccoli when I made that dish.
Half a head of broccoli florets
1 cup leftover cheese sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the broccoli into a medium pot with salted water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 5–6 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Pour the cheese sauce into the empty pot and heat on low. Add the drained broccoli and toss to coat, Serve when the broccoli is hot.
Texas Chili Stuffed Burritos
Instead of reheating the Texas Chili, I decide to use some of it in burritos for our dinner. The original recipe made quite a lot, so there was plenty leftover for the burritos.
1 cup of leftover Texas Chili
½ cup cooked black beans
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 flour tortillas
Heat the chili and beans together. Lay a tortilla on a flat surface. Arrange half of the chili mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Top with 1/4 cup cheese.
Fold two sides of the burrito in, then fold the remaining two sides over to form a small packet. Please seam-side down on a plate.
Repeat with the remaining tortilla and filling. Place on a microwave plate and heat until warm. Serve with Guacamole and Sour Cream.
Here are a few more popular recipes from the past. The Flounder recipe is one we like a lot.
1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
2 teaspoons oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the ground beef in a medium bowl, breaking it up as you do.
Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning and parsley over the beef. Add the breadcrumbs and cream. Mix gently.
Divide the seasoned ground beef into 4 even portions and form into patties.
Season the outside with salt and a good amount of coarse black pepper. (Lots of pepper gives the hamburger steak great flavor.)
Place a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the 2 teaspoons of oil and swirl to coat the pan.
Add the burger steaks and cook for approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove the burger steaks from the pan to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
Turn the heat down to medium.
Season mushrooms with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute the mushrooms in the same pan as the meat, until brown, about 5 minutes.
Add butter, the onion, thyme and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour.
Add broth, slide meat back into sauce, cover and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 flounder or sole fillets (about 1 pound)
All purpose flour
2 eggs beaten to blend
1/4 cup slivered almonds toasted
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Melt 4 tablespoons butter with the olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Dip fillets in flour then in beaten eggs.
Add the fillets to the skillet and cook until browned and just cooked through 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter, keep warm.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same skillet. Add the almonds and cook until heated through about 1 minute.
Add wine and lemon juice and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly. Pour the sauce over the fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.
Jelly Roll Cake
1 cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
About 2/3 cup of lemon curd or your favorite jelly
Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with parchment paper. Coat the paper and pan sides lightly with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.
Beat in water and vanilla on low-speed. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until the batter is smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the corners.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Immediately loosen cake from the sides of pan and turn upside down onto a kitchen towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the paper.
Trim off stiff edges of the cake if necessary. While the cake ¡s hot, carefully roll the cake and towel from the narrow end into a cylinder.
Cool on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.
Unroll the cake and remove the towel. Beat jelly slightly with a fork to soften and spread over the cake. Roll up the cake.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into ½ inch slices to serve.
Easy Lemon Curd
If you do not have access to Meyer Lemons, you can use regular lemons. Because Meyer Lemons are larger, you will need more regular lemons to get 1 cup and more sugar because regular lemons are less sweet than Meyer.
1 cup Meyer Lemon juice (2 large)
6 large organic eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) salted butter softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extra
Put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and continuously whisk the mixture until it begins to thicken – it only takes a few minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue whisking. The lemon curd will thicken – all at once.
Remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir with the whisk for one minute more. Pour into a clean container and let cool to room temperature.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Are any of you old enough to remember Chicken a la King, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Tunnel of Fudge Cake or Beef Wellington? All popular recipes from the past. I thought I would have a little fun this week and cook up some of these old timers.
Holiday Cheese Balls
The cheese ball is an American party food classic that takes you back to the 1960’s. A cheese ball is the kind of thing you can easily adapt by using your favorite cheeses, herbs and seasonings. Here is the classic recipe.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon (Tabasco) hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 roasted and chopped pecans
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
A few dashes paprika
With a hand beater, combine the cream cheese with the next 5 ingredients ( lemon juice) in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.
Refrigerate the mixture overnight. The next day, stir together nuts, parsley and paprika in a large bowl.
Shape the cheese mixture into two balls and roll each in the nut blend to coat completely.
Serve at room temperature with crackers.
Old Fashioned Creamy Tomato Soup
Yes, before the canned version. Don’t forget to have it with a grilled cheese sandwich.
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrot
Two 26-28 oz. containers finely chopped tomatoes (undrained)
2 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, heat the butter and cook the onion, celery and carrot in the butter for 2-3 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except the cream.
Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the mixture with a hand immersion blender.
Add cream and black pepper. Return the pot to very low heat and warm gently. Do not let the soup boil.
A chicken casserole dish with broccoli and cheese sauce from the 1950’s that was usually reserved for company dinners. Chicken Divan was the signature dish of aNew York restaurant, the Divan Parisienne. In English, the word “divan” came to mean sofa, from the council chamber’s benches. The owners of the New York restaurant thought it a fitting name for this dish.
2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large head broccoli, stems removed and florets cut in half
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup half & half
3 tablespoon sherry
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool slightly.
Cut the chicken into four equal sizes and set aside.
Place the broccoli into a large pot, cover with salted water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until barely tender, 2–3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rub the inside of a deep 2-quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter; set aside.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Gradually pour in stock and half & half while whisking constantly. Cook until very thick, about 10 minutes.
Add salt and pepper, sherry, nutmeg, and 1⁄4 cup of the cheese; stir until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Remove cheese sauce from the heat and let cool slightly.
Arrange the broccoli in the prepared dish in a single layer and sprinkle with the remaining 1⁄4 cup cheese. Arrange chicken evenly over the top.
Pour the white sauce over the chicken. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes.
In Spanish, the word chili from the Nahuatl (Uto-Aztecan language) “chīli” refers to a “chili pepper” and carne is Spanish for “meat”. A recipe dating back to the 1850s describes dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt, which were pounded together and called Chile con Carne. The San Antonio Chili Stand, in operation at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, helped popularize chili by exposing Americans to its unique taste. Chili con Carne is the official dish of the state of Texas as designated by the House Concurrent Resolution Number 18 of the 65th Texas Legislature during its regular session in 1977.
Before World War II, hundreds of small, family run chili parlors (also known as “chili joints”) could be found throughout Texas. Each establishment usually had a claim to some kind of secret recipe. As early as 1904, chili parlors were opening outside of Texas, in part, due to the availability of commercial versions of chili powder, first manufactured in Texas in the late 19th century. After working at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Charles Taylor opened a chili parlor in Carlinville, Illinois, serving “Mexican Chili”. In the 1920s and 1930s chains of diner-style “chili parlors” grew up in the Midwest.
“Texas-style chili” may or may not contain beans or tomatoes and is usually made without other vegetables. Most native Texans will state that any chili with beans in it is considered “Yankee” Chili”. This was referenced in Texas Monthly Magazine. So what’s the difference between a real Texas chili recipe and the other chili recipes? What makes it authentic? Common knowledge in Texas says real chili recipes use cubed chunks of meat instead of ground beef and cutting the meat into cubes gives Texas chili a more stew-like texture than the more common ground beef recipes.
Real Texas Chili
I used all beef broth for cooking this chili instead of half chili pepper soaking liquid and half beef broth. Using the chili pepper soaking liquid made the chili too spicy for me. Texas chili is served with cornbread not tortilla chips.
2 ounces whole dried chilies (guajillo, ancho, chipotle or chile de arbol or a combination)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
2-3 pound boneless beef chuck roast, fat trimmed
1 large onion finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups beef stock plus 2 cups chili pepper soaking liquid or 4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons masa harina (corn tortilla flour)
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Sour Cream and Cornbread, optional
Place the chilies in a Dutch Oven over medium-low heat and gently toast the chilies, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn or they’ll turn bitter.
Be sure to wear latex gloves and using a pair of kitchen scissors cut the stem tops off the toasted chilies.
Position each chili over a bowl and cut the chilies into “rings”. With your glove covered hands, sift out the rings. The seeds will fall to the bottom.
Place the chili rings in a bowl and cover them with 4 cups of very hot water and soak until soft, 30 to 45 minutes, turning once or twice.
Toast the cumin seed in the Dutch Oven and set aside.
Drain the chilies and save the soaking water.
Place the soaked chilies in the bowl of a processor and add the toasted cumin, black pepper, 1 tablespoon coarse salt and 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid.
Purée the mixture, adding more soaking liquid if needed (and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl), until a smooth, paste forms.
Cut the chuck roast into 1/2-inch sized cubes and use paper towels to pat the meat very dry.
In the Dutch Oven melt 2 tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat and add half of the beef.
Lightly brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side, reducing the heat if the meat is browning too quickly.
Transfer the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl and repeat with the remaining beef. Reserve.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add 4 cups beef stock (or 2 cups beef stock and 2 cups chili pepper soaking water) and gradually and slowly whisk in the masa harina to avoid lumps.
Stir in the reserved chili paste, oregano and the browned beef (and any juices in the bowl) and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and place the pot in the oven, uncovered, for 3 hours.
After three hours remove the pot from the oven and stir in the brown sugar and vinegar.
Return the pot to the oven and cook 15 minutes more.
Remove the pot from the oven and let the chili stand for at least 30 minutes, during which time the meat will absorb about half of the remaining sauce.
Reheat gently and serve in individual bowls with a spoonful of sour cream on top.
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt, and pepper; make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Add buttermilk and eggs and whisk to loosen eggs. Gently incorporate dry ingredients, then mix in cheese.
Place butter in a 9-inch heavy metal cake pan or cast iron skillet and bake until the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the oven, and tilt to coat the bottom and sides.
Pour batter into the pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Let cornbread cool at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Wrap completely cooled bread in plastic, and store at room temperature up to 1 day.