Category: appetizers

Vegetable Egg Rolls

The last time I posted about egg rolls was over 2 years ago, when I made Hungry Girl’s Sassy Veggie Egg Rolls.  I’ve surely indulged in plenty of egg rolls since then, including some from the Chinese takeout place down the street.  But, I have been meaning to make these Vegetable Egg Rolls from Budget Bytes for ages.  The recipe promises that you can bake the egg rolls right away, or freeze them to bake later.

If you don’t have garlic ginger paste, feel free to substitute freshly minced garlic and ginger.  I found a jar of garlic ginger paste at an ethnic grocery store a while back, and it’s come in handy quite a few times.  I took one other shortcut and bought pre shredded carrots but as someone pointed out, a food processor could do all the dicing and shredding very easily.  After that, you just spend some time at the stove cooking the mixture.  If you’re intimidated by working with the egg roll wrappers, check out Budget Byte’s post with step by step instructions.  She also has some suggestions for turning the egg rolls in the oven to make sure they brown evenly but I threw caution to the wind and mine turned out fine.

I baked about half the egg rolls right away, and froze the other half in small batches to bake later.  Of course, I tried the filling before I made the rolls, so I knew I was going to like them a lot!  The rolls are crispy but not hard to chew, and the filling is quite tasty.  I can’t wait to bake some of the frozen ones to see how they turn out.




Vegetable Egg Rolls

1 T oil
1 T garlic ginger paste
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced
1 (8 oz.) package mushrooms, diced
1 (8 oz.) package shredded carrot
1 small head cabbage, shredded
2 t cornstarch
1/4 c. soy sauce
20 egg roll wrappers

Heat oil in a large frying pan.  Add garlic ginger paste and scallions.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add mushrooms, and cook for 5 minutes.  Add carrots and cabbage.  Cook until mixture is fairly soft, about 20-30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch into soy sauce.  Pour into frying pan and stir well.  Remove pan from heat and allow filling to cool.

Place about 2-3 T of mixture in each wrapper, and roll.  Seal the edges with water.  Place on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400F for 10-12 minutes, until lightly brown.

-Lightly adapted from Budget Bytes


Spinach Rice Balls

Sorry to leave you hanging last week, I was a bit under the weather.  I am feeling better now, but I still can’t deny that I’ve been cooking less than usual this year.  Or at least cooking fewer ‘blog-worthy’ dishes!  But I was invited to a dinner party on Saturday night and the host asked me to bring an appetizer.  I was instantly inspired to find something good, but I also knew the crowd was full of generally healthy eaters.

I found these Spinach Brown Rice Balls on the site Cooking with My Kid, and made just a few changes.  I used Garlic Gold toasted garlic bits in oil, but you can use regular olive oil and minced garlic.  I also used Parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella for a sharper flavor.  I think they turned out really well, and everyone seemed to enjoy them.  Even adults like finger food, and the Spinach Rice Balls were full of flavor.  Although they were an appetizer on this night, they will be making more appearances in my lunch bag.




Spinach Rice Balls

2 c. cooked brown rice
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 c. seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 T Garlic Gold toasted garlic bits in oil
2 eggs
Dash of black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Form into balls, and place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned.

-Lightly adapted from Cooking with My Kid


Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini Dip

I’ve been meaning to make this Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini Dip for weeks, but every time I bought cauliflower I ended up making something else.  Finally over New Year’s weekend, I had a fresh head of cauliflower and some time on my hands.  You begin by roasting the cauliflower with oil, loads of fresh ginger, and coriander.  Then you put it in the food processor with lemon juice and tahini, and season it with salt and pepper.  The end result is a fantastic dip that you’ll want to keep scooping up!

Molly from Cheap Beets noted that she kicked up the ginger, and I used over 2 tablespoons.  That’s what really makes this dip great.  The only thing I would change is to use less oil in roasting the cauliflower, simply because I don’t think it’s needed and the tahini adds plenty of fat later in the recipe.  The next time you have a head of cauliflower on your hands, consider this as a fun start to your meal.


Stilton Walnut Dip

The hardest work of the semester is done, and this weekend it was time to have some fun!  I made this Blue Cheese Walnut dip to take to a party back in November, but I wasn’t totally satisfied.  It tasted fine, but the texture wasn’t quite right.  So I changed a few more things and brought it to another party yesterday, where it was served with both apple slices and crackers.  I am happy to say that it went over well, and a couple of people even asked for the recipe.

I really like the White Cranberry Stilton from Trader Joe’s, and it has less ‘bite’ than traditional blue cheese.  Plus, cranberries fit with the holiday theme.  But if you like stronger cheeses, go for it and let me know how it turns out.




Cranberry Stilton Walnut Dip

8 oz. White Cranberry Stilton Cheese, crumbled
1 shallot, peeled and diced
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. light mayonnaise
1/3 c. skim milk
1 t white vinegar
Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients in a food processor.  Season to taste with black pepper.  Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.

-Adapted from Food & Wine


Cheesy Spinach Dip

There are about a thousand recipes on the Internet for cheesy spinach dips.  In fact, I posted about Spinach Artichoke Dip just last year.  But I have to confess that most times, these dips all taste the same to me.  What I like about this recipe is that it uses ‘real food’ cottage cheese and sour cream, rather than cream cheese.

Last week I made the mistake of spoiling my dinner with a dip, so this week I planned dinner to be an appetizer plate.  The dip was great with both crackers and carrot sticks, and fulfilled my craving for a fun and cheesy meal.


Cheesy Spinach Dip

1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 c.  low-fat sour cream
1/4 c. + 1 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 T whole wheat flour
Black Pepper

Mix spinach, cottage cheese, sour cream, 1/4 c. Parmesan, cheddar cheese, and whole wheat flour in a large bowl.  Season well with black pepper.  Top with remaining 1 T Parmesan.  Pour into an 8″ pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Pesto Ricotta Dip

What’s better than getting fresh herbs from the garden?  When someone takes those herbs and makes pesto for you!  The chef instructor from our Cooking Matters class made homemade pesto for the last day, and I got to take some home.  She used a traditional mixture of basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.

I came home yesterday famished, and mixed together a quick dip using 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon of pesto, and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan.  The taste was mild but I loved the creaminess of the ricotta.  Pesto is often paired with goat cheese, but this dip feels so much lighter.  Of course, I ate too many crackers and dip and spoiled the dinner I was supposed to make, but there’s always tomorrow.

Chicken Taquitos

A few weeks ago, I went on a quick trip to Mohegan Sun.  I am not really a big gambler, but love to people-watch.  The hotel room was gorgeous, and the air conditioned environment was very enjoyable in the middle of a heat wave.  But my favorite part of the trip was our meal at SolToro, a Mexican restaurant at the casino.  We ordered a bunch of appetizers to share, including the Chicken Taquitos which were amazing.  I immediately declared that I had to try to recreate these myself.

This Baked Chicken Taquito recipe served as my primary guide, although I altered the tortilla preparation as suggested in the comments.  This is a great party recipe, because you can do most of the work in advance and just fill and bake the tray of taquitos right before serving.  They are perfect for dipping in salsa, guacamole, or sour cream (or all three!)  These taquitos don’t have the same fried taste as the ones at the restaurant, but they do have a fantastic flavor.  If you’d like them a little spicier, I would add some cayenne pepper to the filling.  I almost did that myself, but was too nervous since I was cooking for a group.  And rest assured, a vegetarian version of these taquitos is already swirling around in my head…..


Chicken Taquitos

1 T canola oil
1 c. chopped onion
2 t minced garlic
1 t cumin
1 t paprika
2 c. shredded cooked chicken
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
15 corn tortillas
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onion, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Add garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add cumin and paprika and stir to coat.  Stir in chicken and cilantro, and remove from heat.

Place 5 tortillas between two damp paper towels, and microwave on medium power for 30 seconds.  Fill each tortilla with about 2 T chicken mixture, and 1 1/2 T shredded cheese.  Roll up, and place seam side down on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Lightly coat filled tortillas with cooking spray, and bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

-Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Salsa and Guacamole

Last year for my Mom’s birthday, we had an elegant dinner of bruschetta, eggplant gremolata, penne with vodka sauce, veal scaloppine, and mocha ice cream cake.  It was certainly a meal to remember, and we enjoyed the earlier courses while our littlest family member was awake, and then had the later courses after his bedtime.

This year, we had a much more low key Mexican-themed meal, but it was just as much fun.  And this time, the littlest person got to stay up right to the end, to sing a well practiced “Happy Birthday”.  Of course, every Mexican fiesta needs to start with some homemade salsa and guacamole.

For the salsa, I turned to this Salsa Fresca recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  It’s a simple recipe with the usual ingredients: tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime.  The salsa was fine, but not spectacular as we’ve come to expect from Deb.  To be fair, I am not a salsa eater so need to rely on the opinions of others.  Still, I think it was nice to eat salsa that didn’t come from a glass jar.

For the guacamole, I turned to Jenna from Eat, Live, Run and what she calls the only guacamole recipe you’ll ever need.  It’s another easy recipe, calling for avocados, onion, lime juice, jalapeno, and salt.  I may not enjoy salsa, but guacamole is something I’ve grown to love.  Some people thought the lime flavor was almost too strong, but I really liked it, and the jalapeno gave the guacamole just the right amount of kick. 


You may think that homemade salsa and guacamole are no big deal, and to you I say, just wait for the next recipe, chicken taquitos!

Beets with a Blueberry Balsamic Reduction

When one of the vendors at the Brookline Farmer’s Market said that he had pulled the beets just that morning, he definitely had my attention.  Normally, I  roast beets, although last year I grilled beets as well.  This time I decided to try boiling them.  After simmering in water for about 40 minutes, the skins slipped right off.

Since I had a little time on my (beet stained) hands, I wanted to do somthing a little more interesting.  I found this recipe for a Blueberry Balsamic Reduction.  I happened to have blueberries on hand, and the recipe is as easy as putting a few ingredients in a pot and letting them simmer for a while.  I didn’t even use a blender since the cooked sauce was already fairly smooth.  I placed the sliced beets on a bed of fresh lettuce, and topped them with the sauce as well as chopped walnuts and fresh Paremsan.

This made an excellent salad, although the sauce was perhaps a bit too sweet on top of the beets which were sweet as well.  The original recipe suggested that the sauce could be paired with goat cheese.  Since the next meal to roll around was Happy Hour, I spread some goat cheese on a baguette, with a dollop of  Blueberry Balsamic sauce.  Oooh, now that was really good.  (And not just because it was served with wine.)

If the farmer hadn’t talked about his freshly harvested beets, I never would have bought them, and then discovered this sauce.  The best cooking inspiration always comes from talking about food!


Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Manchego Cheese



You didn’t think I would just make Bacon Cheese Inside Out Turkey Burgers for a BBQ meal, right?  Of course not.  Every good BBQ needs a vegetarian option, and portobello mushrooms are one of my favorites.  This Bobby Flay recipe is fairly simple, yet so elegant.

You start by drizzling portobello mushrooms with olive oil, and grilling them for 4-5 minutes on each side.  Right at the end, you place thinly sliced manchego cheese on the mushrooms, allowing the cheese to melt.  Each mushroom is then plated, and topped with chopped fresh spinach leaves and a balsamic viniagrette.  The mushrooms can be served as an appetizer or side dish, or you can make a stack of 2 or 3 mushrooms to serve as an entree.  Either way, these portobello mushrooms will be the highlight of the meal.

A quick word about cost.  Portobello mushrooms can be expensive – one grocery store in my area charges $3.99 for a package of 2 caps.  I found the best deal at a local produce market which sells portobello mushrooms for $3.98/lb., and I ended up paying just about $1.00 per mushroom.  That still adds up quickly if you’re cooking for a crowd, but is more reasonable.  If you’re going to splurge on food, fruits and vegetables are the best choice!  I happen to believe that good cheese is also worth every penny and really enjoyed the Manchego, but you could easily substitute a less expensive sharp cheddar.