caprese wontons


caprese wontons

People always talk about shedding pounds after the holidays.  Unfortunately in this household, the holiday weight gain period extends through to the Super Bowl.  It’s flattering to hear that there are people who look forward to the get-together at our house every year, so I must be doing something right, right?  Or is it the guilty pleasure of devouring a 7-layer dip and fried buffalo chicken balls that brings everyone back?  Whatever it is, I don’t care.  Unlike the orchestrated Thanksgiving or Easter meals, the Super Bowl is a nosh-worthy event.  I throw everything onto a table and I sit back and enjoy the game, (or in this year’s case, not enjoy the game so much, but more so my friends and David Beckham).  So this time, I made a concerted effort to try to incorporate some healthier dishes without going all vegan on my guests (not that there is anything wrong with vegan!)  What is funny, is that the couscous salad sat, so did the potato salad made healthier with greek yogurt.  Anything remotely like a taco-cheese-like substance is always a big seller.  So are the veggie dips and ranch dressing.  But all my energy wasn’t wasted in trying to tone down my frowny-faced caloric menu, because I found one healthy appetizer that sold….quickly.  Ok so it has cheese.  But still, it wasn’t fried or dripping with steak juice.  These little mozzarella, basil and tomato bites were a hit.  Plus they are easy to prepare and apparently don’t sit very long!  I love the fact that you can tailor the amount to what you feel like.  I made them one night for myself and a friend, so we just made six.  Ok so we also made three other appetizers and shrimp étouffée, oh and uh, a smoothie made with Bud Light and peanut butter, but that is another story for another time.  (Or maybe I’ll just let that one go…)

three ingredients

caprese wontons

non-stick spray
1  12 oz package square wonton wrappers
1  8 oz ball fresh mozzarella, diced small
1  TB extra virgin olive oil
6  TB fresh basil, Julienne
1  large ripe tomato, seeded and diced small
crushed red pepper
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

get started on the wonton cups:

wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Add your diced mozzarella and tomato in a medium bowl.  Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Add crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  Prepare two muffin tins by spraying with non-stick spray.  Taking two wrappers at a time, rotate the top one a quarter turn and press both wrappers into the muffin cup.  Continue to fill each muffin cup until all 24 cups are pressed in.
Equally spoon mozzarella mixture into each cup and top with sliced basil.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and wrappers turn golden brown.

basil on topwontons done

note:  this makes 24 wonton cups – enough for me.  Ok enough for 8-12 people.

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crispy roasted potatoes


potato wedges

You know a side dish is good when your family asks you to make it with every meal.  We could be having spaghetti and they want these potato wedges.    It’s actually my husband who is doing most of the asking, but the kids certainly agree that these little guys are addictive.  I also like that it has basically replaced the bag of frozen fries.  Just like my rant earlier in the year about over-indulging in snack stand french fries during baseball season (bacon-wrapped potatoes), I was beginning to feel reluctant to buy those bags of steak fries at the store to accompany a meal.    We went through that stint of buying the sweet potato fries – trying to pass them off as healthier in our minds, but in the end it is still a bag of frozen fries.  These wedges are so much better for you and so easy to make.  I found the recipe in Cook’s Illustrated,  and I have learned that it is pretty hard to mess up.  So easy in fact, that my husband, not so innocently, said that I should make them for Thanksgiving this year.  Now, I know he loves them, but he was just conjuring up past Thanksgivings, and all of our mashed potato mishaps.  Cheap ricers gone wrong, burners not bringing the water to boil, vegetable peelers breaking, over salting, you name it.  But I had an industrial ricer sitting on top of my fridge, waiting to step in and save the day.  Plus, once I told my husband that he would have to share the wedges with 10 people instead of just three, he quickly changed his mind.  Mashed potatoes came back onto the Thanksgiving menu real fast.

golden potatoes

sliced potatoes

crispy roasted potatoes  (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

3  TB canola oil
cooking spray
2  (24 oz) bags small golden potatoes, each potato sliced into four wedges
4  TB cornstarch
1 1/2  tsp garlic powder
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
pinch crushed red pepper flakes

seasoned potatoes

get started on the crispy roasted potatoes:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slice the potatoes.  On a large baking sheet lined with foil, coat with cooking spray.  Add oil to baking sheet and place in oven.  While pan is heating up, place potatoes in a large bowl and toss with cornstarch and remaining ingredients.  Carefully remove preheated baking sheet from the oven, and tilt sheet to evenly coat with oil.  Place potatoes, mostly cut side down in a single layer, and roast until browned on all edges, turning halfway through, for about 30 minutes.  Add kosher salt and pepper to taste if needed.

roasted potatoes

note:  potatoes feed 6-8 hungry people.  We like to add grated cheese to them when they come out of the oven.  Feel free to adjust the seasoning or add other spices to the cornstarch.  It’s all good.

baked feta and romesco and olive tapenade


two crostini

I can eat a whole loaf of crusty bread.  Add olive oil or cheese and I’ve just gained 8 pounds without blinking. I also get into trouble when my husband makes his big pot of ragù sauce.  That pot calls me…taunting me all effin day…while it simmers away.   He has to shoo me away from it, or else I will have ‘tested’ it 45 times before serving, and then all the bread will be gone for dinner.  He can even tell while he’s upstairs, that I have removed the lid of the cast iron pot to dunk some bread in the bubbling sauce.  I can’t help it.  Maybe this bread addiction stems from when I was growing up, my parents would snack on it after my father got home from work, and they would review their day before dinner.   The telltale ‘antipasti’ – the Boursin cheese (and if bought that week, dad’s stinky cheese…aka some sort of blue cheese), pepperoncini and green olives.  It wasn’t anything fancy – just a flimsy single paper plate, damp with dumped out olives and pepper tops.  It wasn’t put out for me or my sister either, but that didn’t stop us from cruising by, and ripping off some bread and smearing it with cheese and exiting the kitchen while our parents continued to talk.  Fast forward 20 years and marry an Italian.  The cycle has reset itself.  My husband has a soft spot for cheese and bread as well, but he brings soppressata and hot peppers to the mix.  After sampling this dip, he made the ‘eh’ face, which says to me he’s sticking with his toppings.  That’s ok, you can’t please everybody.  I liked this mix of cheese, olives and romesco.  I had never made a romesco sauce before and it was delicious!  Plus, it all was served warm with a crusty loaf of bread, which reminded me of dipping in his pot of tomato sauce…

baked feta with romesco and olive tapenade (adapted from Cooking Light October 2011)

romesco:

red bell pepper
cooking spray
1  28 oz. can San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes, chopped
5  garlic cloves, minced
1/2  cup low sodium chicken broth
2  TB chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1  slice wheat bread, chopped
1/4  tsp. black pepper

tapenade:

1/2  cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2  cup pitted fruity green olives (I used a large green olive in a spicy oil)
1/4  cup fresh flat leave parsley, chopped
1  TB extra virgin olive oil
2  TB sherry vinegar
1/4  tsp. fresh ground black pepper

remaining ingredients:

1 1/4  cups (5 oz) crumbled feta cheese, divided
2  TB fresh flat leave parsley

roasted pepperswhole peeled tomatoes

get started on dip:

Preheat broiler to high.  To prepare romesco sauce, cut red bell pepper in half lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes.  Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet and flatten them slightly with hand.  Broil for 8 minutes or until blackened.  Place peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap to steam.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Peel and chop peppers.
Reduce oven to 425.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.  Add chopped tomatoes and garlic.  Cook 4 minutes or until garlic starts to brown slightly, stirring frequently.  Add red bell peppers and broth.  Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in nuts and bread and cook for 1 minute more.  Transfer mixture to a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and add pepper.
To prepare the tapenade, place olives, 1/4 cup parsley and the next 3 ingredients (through pepper), in a food processor.  Process until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl.  Coat a smaller size broiler safe casserole dish (1 1/2 quart) with cooking spray.  Spoon half of romesco sauce into prepared dish, and top with 3/4 cheese.  Dollop tapenade over cheese.  Spoon the remaining romesco sauce over tapenade, and top with remaining 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with parsley.

chopped olivesdip dish

note:  this dip serves 12 (which is hilarious).  Ok portion control….deep breath.  Oh, and I had Serrano peppers laying around…stuck them on there for ‘garnish’.

crostini