Spinach, Artichoke and Parmesan Dip…..

Hello everyone-

I just had to share my latest creation with you!  I made this dip for a party last night and I/they loved it!  Everyone loves artichoke dip but the usual recipe is loaded with mayonnaise.  Delicious, but over the top in terms of fat and calories.

As usual, I’ve incorporated my old stand by Greek non-fat yogurt into my recipe.  It’s the best cheat ever!  You can also lighten it up even more if you’d like to by using low-fat cream cheese and low-fat mayonnaise.

Here’s the recipe…

Spinach, Artichoke and Parmesan Dip

1 1/2 cups greek non fat yogurt
1 8 ounce package softened cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 cloves roasted garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil (in a very small sauce pan over the lowest possible heat, roast finely chopped garlic in the olive oil until slightly browned.  Cool.
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle over the top before baking
dash worcestershire  sauce
dash hot sauce
1 lb. thawed and water squeezed out frozen chopped spinach
2 cans artichoke hearts, chopped into small pieces

Stacey’s Pita Chips or toasted garlic baguette

1)  Roast the garlic and cool, thaw the spinach and squeeze out water and drain and chop the artichokes.
2)  Preheat the oven to 350′.  Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
3)  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft.  Add the yogurt and mayonnaise, beat well, scrape sides of bowl.
4)  Add cooled garlic and oil mixture, worcestershire, hot sauce and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and beat.
5)  Add the spinach and artichokes and mix on low-speed until well incorporated.
6)  Spread into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parmesan.
7)  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Serve warm with pita chips or toasted baguette



Appetizer Party/Ham & Gruyere In Puff Pastry……

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Here’s the menu from last night’s appetizer party.  I like to print out what I’m serving.  I think it’s nice for guests to know what they have to look forward to.  It can also keep you on task with what you’re serving.

orng chx slm patDSCN3048_2728I saw Ina Garten prepare this appetizer recipe on Food Network.   So simple that I didn’t need her exact recipe.  I think she used a thinly sliced deli ham in hers.  I choose to use spiral cut smoked ham because I had some on hand.  Either one works very well.

The beauty of this appetizer is that you can make it ahead and simply warm it in the oven for 12-15 minutes before serving. It is equally delicious at room temperature.  You could also bake it before guests arrive, time it so you take it out a few minutes before they’re due to arrive.  That way your house will smell amazing when your guests arrive and you’ll be ready to serve after everyone gets their cocktail.  It’s a perfect plan!

Ham & Gruyere in Puff Pastry

2 puff pastry sheets, thawed
8 ounces gruyere swiss cheese, shredded or 12 slices
1/3-1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 lb. smoked ham, sliced thin (deli ham or off the bone)
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

1)  Preheat the oven to 375′.  Defrost the puff pastry according to package directions.

2)  Dust the counter top with flour and place the puff pastry sheet over it.  Lightly flour your rolling pin and gently roll out the dough into a 12 x 18″ rectangle (approximately).  Place the dough on a large parchment lined cookie sheet.

3)  Spread an even layer of dijon mustard over the dough leaving a 1/2″ border.  Layer the ham evenly over the pastry.  Top evenly with the shredded or sliced gruyere cheese.

4)  Roll out the second piece of  dough the same size as the first one.  Brush the outer edge of the base puff pastry with the egg wash.  Top with the rolled out puff pastry and press the edges together with your fingers.  Using a fork, press around the entire outer edge of the dough.  Poke 6 holes in the top of the puff pastry to release air while baking.  Brush the entire pastry with egg wash.

5)  Place in the preheated oven.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  The crust should be beautifully golden brown.  Allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes minutes before serving.



It’s A Food Day…..

Hello everyone-

I’m at my computer with my Ry-guy doing homework next to me enjoying his goldfish with chopsticks.  So cute.   He’s really good at it!  He’s a true foodie in training.  I couldn’t be happier.

I have been cold all day.  I just put the biggest pot in the house on the stove with three turkey breast carcasses from my freezer, celery, onion and carrot.  Soups on!  Fortunately my vegetable drawer had soup essentials.  Since cooking in my awesome commercial kitchen I know more of what I have on hand there than at home.  Last night I had to scrounge around for a fresh garlic clove!

I was out most of the day gathering delicious ingredients for the appetizers I’ll be preparing for 3 parties over the weekend.    I’m using three of my favorite cheeses, boursin, gruyere, and blue cheese.  Here’s what I’ll be making:

1)  Bacon wrapped dates

2)  Bacon wrapped shrimp with chipotle dipping sauce

3)  Smoked ham & gruyere with dijon mustard in puff pastry (Ina Garten)

4)  Zucchini puffs with blue cheese

5)  Bread sticks wrapped with prosciutto, boursin and baby arugula.

Dessert?  Of course!  Mini key lime tarts.  If I have time, I think I’ll make tiramisu.  It’s out of the March 2013 Cooking Light Magazine.  Might have to go a little heavier on the Kahlua than they recommend:-)

I’m ready for the weekend!

Have a great evening~


My Favorite Appetizers!

lima salad and brie 005

Who doesn’t love an extremely delicious appetizer?  It’s so great to taste something that you want to keep eating, but so much fun to move on to the next tasty tid bit.  I enjoy my guests anticipating what might be coming out next!  When entertaining guests at an appetizer party, I recommend that you focus on hot appetizers.  In my experience they’re  the most popular.    Pictured above is my caramelized onion and brie flat bread.  It’s a flat bread topped with gooey melted brie cheese, sweet caramelized onions, crunchy toasted walnuts and a light drizzle of honey.  It’s an amazing combination and so so simple to make.  Pine nuts could easily be switched out with the walnuts.  YUM!

bufffalo wings 002Spicy Buffalo chicken wings are an absolute crowd favorite!   I totally love this recipe as the wings are oven fried until they’re nice and crispy then tossed with a very authentic buffalo sauce.  No guilt and no crazy oil mess to clean up!  Serve with my light blue cheese dip.

orng chx slm patDSCN2201_2057_50This is one cold appetizer I enjoy serving.  They are prosciutto wrapped bread sticks with boursin cheese and arugula.  They’re pretty, easy to serve and delicious!
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Who doesn’t love a good baked potato skin with sour cream, cheddar cheese and bacon?  I seldom deep fry anything if I don’t have to.    These are DELISH!

I hope you have a safe and Happy New Year!!


Appetizer Party!

I made this Chicken Satay for our annual party a couple of years ago.

Hello Everyone!

I’m gearing up for one of my favorite parties..Cocktails and Appetizers!

Every February, I like to throw an appetizer party to celebrate the the birthdays of my beloved in-laws.  There are so many birthdays in the fourth quarter that I can’t keep up!  My sweet Mother-in-law hosts in her lovely condo.  Everyone will bring their favorite cocktail and I’ll bring the appetizers and desserts and we enjoy a nice adult evening together.  So fun!

The fun actually begins with me pouring over recipe after recipe.  I also have ideas in my head that sound good too.  Thought I might like to make mini goat cheese balls that I could fry and serve with a warm marinara sauce…  Joe gets tired of me asking what he thinks of different ideas because he knows I’ll most likely change my mind 100 times!

Here’s what I’m thinking so far….

1)  Bacon wrapped shrimp with chipotle BBQ sauce
2)  Roasted garlic hummus with warm whole wheat pita bread
3)  Zucchini keftedes with feta and dill
4)  Greek lamb meatballs with spicy yogurt sauce
5)  Red cabbage salad with simple olive oil and vinegar


Chocolate fondue with Frangelico.  Dipping items include fresh strawberries and cubed angel food cake
Snickerdoodles  (my Mother-in-law’s fav) and possibly my famous chocolate chip cookies

I’m about 99% set on my menu.  I was all over the place!  I thought a lot about Thai Spareribs , pork and chive pot stickers with dipping sauce and a spring rolls but they didn’t flow well with my other choices.  I wanted some vegetable offerings as I didn’t want to serve all protein based fare.  My menu tends to be mostly Mediterranean inspired dishes, which are always so good.  I haven’t tried the Greek lamb meatballs but the recipe uses minced jalapeno peppers which will be great with the cool  yogurt.  Now I have to make a shopping list and get going!

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Have a good evening.


New Year’s Soiree….

Looking forward to a simple cocktail/appetizer party on Saturday.  As always, I obsess over what I’ll be serving.  (in a good way!)  In my experience I’ve found that most people really go for hot appetizers.  I think it’s nice to offer a couple of cold items  so that there’s something available between hot apps.  Olives are nice.  I like to offer some vegetables as well so that my guests have a healthy option.  I love the look of blanched broccoli on a vegetable tray.  *Blanching will make the broccoli very bright green and will make it less bitter.  Serve fresh cut veggies with my Light Bleu Cheese Dip.  No one will know it’s light, so good!

Another thing to consider is whether your guests will mostly be standing and mingling.  Always a good idea to serve items that are bite size and easy to eat.  Be sure to have plenty of cocktail napkins on hand as well.  If guests are a little shy about going up to an appetizer table, circulate them yourself or enlist another guest to do so.  This will put everyone at ease.

Here’s what I’m thinking…


1)  Fried Calamari with Fresh Marinara Sauce (the sauce can be made ahead)  Not sure about this one….like to have most everything done ahead of time! 
2)  Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli (make ahead, just warm in oven)
3)  Black Forest Ham and Gruyere Puff Pastry Squares (Ina Garten) great at room temperature (make ahead, serve at room temperature or warm in oven for a few minutes)
4)  Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms (make ahead, warm in oven)
5)  Proscuitto Wrapped Breadsticks with Boursin and Arugula (cold) (make ahead)


Mini Cheesecake Bites with Fresh Raspberry Sauce (make ahead)
Something Chocolate…not sure what….
Fresh Berries with Mascarpone Cream-beautiful, simple, and festive.  (make ahead)

I have time before my gig, so I’ll be changing things around a bit.  Will let you know my final menu.

Have a nice evening-


*to blanch broccoli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the cut broccoli to the water and set the timer for 1 minute.  Drain and immediately plunge the  hot broccoli into a bowl of ice water.   Once the broccoli is cool, drain well.  Enjoy!

Prosciutto & Boursin Cheese Appetizer…..

This is a very elegant, simple, and amazingly delicious appetizer!  The best part?  There is no cooking involved!  If you like ham rolls with cream cheese, this is a bit more sophisticated.  I used onion bread sticks, a blend of cream cheese and garlic & herb boursin cheese, baby arugula, and prosciutto ham.   I was disappointed when I opened the box of bread sticks and half of them were broken.  I decided that it made the plate look interesting to offer different sizes.

When you buy prosciutto, ask for it to be sliced slightly thicker than usual, which is paper thin.  If it’s too thin it can be very difficult to work with.  Cut the prosciutto in half longways.   This ham actually sticks to itself nicely so they stay wrapped.  I used a broken bread stick here.  I just made sure that the prosciutto covered the broken top.
Next add a smear of cream cheese and boursin cheese, beaten together with a hand mixer.
Add a couple of pieces of arugula.  Be sure that it’s completely dry after washing.
Carefully roll the ham over the cheese and arugula.  Done.  Now taste one.  Holy moley that’s good!

Prosciutto and Boursin Cheese Appetizer

1 box of onion bread sticks (20 pieces)
4 ounces softened cream cheese
4 ounces garlic and herb boursin cheese
14-16 slices proscuitto ham, sliced thin
8 ounces of arugula, washed and completely dried

1)  With a hand mixer beat the softened cream cheese and the boursin cheese until well blended.
2)  Slice the prosciutto in half longways.  Wrap the tip of a bread stick with the ham, add a smear of the cheese mixture, add a couple of arugula leaves.  Gently wrap the ham around the stick.
3)  Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.  Makes about 10 servings.

Pretty and yummy.

Have a great week!


Warm Tomato & Garlic Goat Cheese Dip


I had my good friend Amy over for dinner the other night for a belated birthday dinner.  I just  so happened to have a good size chunk of goat cheese on hand, one of my friend’s fav’s.    How could I go wrong with  fresh  plum tomatoes, onions, and lots of garlic?   I made it ahead and put in the frige.   I popped it into the oven about 10 minutes before she arrived so it would give us a little time for chat and a glass of prosecco before we dove into the appetizer.  It was savory, creamy and delicious. 

Warm Tomato & Garlic Goat Cheese Dip

Toasted bread crumbs
1 slice of whole wheat bread, processed into crumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small sweet onion finely chopped
2 large cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes, finely diced
2 pinches kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper
2 tablespoons of red or white wine
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely sliced (chiffonade)
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 Baguette thinly sliced on a diagonal

1)  Preheat the oven to 275′.   Process the slice of bread until you have crumbs.  Add the olive oil and pulse a couple of times.  Spread over a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes, give them a toss after about 4 minutes.  Bake a little longer if needed.  You’ll want them to be evenly toasted brown.  Watch them closely as they can easily burn.   Remove from the oven and cool.  Turn the oven temperature up to 350′.
2)  Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, add olive oil.  Saute the onions until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the garlic and cook another minute. 
3)  Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and wine.  Cook until most of the moisture has evaporated from the tomatoes, stirring often.   Add the water.  Cook until most of the water has evaporated.  Remove from heat and add the basil.
4)  Coat a small 3-4 cup baking dish with olive oil.  Add the crumbled goat cheese.  Top with the fragrant cooked tomato mixture.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove from the oven and top with the toasted bread crumbs.  Serve with sliced baguette or pita chips.  Serves 4.

I hope you had a nice weekend!


Baked Potato Skin Appetizers with Bacon and Cheese

Who doesn’t love potato skins?  Look to buy small potatoes.  They bake in about 45 minutes and are easy to manage when eating.  Make the skins and bacon ahead of time and bake right before you want to serve.  Save the leftover potato flesh for skillet potatoes

Start by baking 12 small potatoes at 375′ for 40-45 minutes.  

Cook the bacon until crispy.  Drain over paper towels and cut into small pieces.  Set aside.

Once the potatoes are done, cool until you can handle them.  Carefully scoop out the flesh of the potato.

Brush canola oil on the potato skins to coat.  Once they’re all coated with oil, season generously with kosher salt.   Bake in 375′ oven for 14-16 minutes.

The leftover potato flesh will be good for 7 days in the refrigerator.

Top the hot skins generously with cheese and cooked bacon.  Bake at 375′ another 5-7 minutes.  Serve with sour cream and sliced green onions.  Enjoy!

Potato Skin Appetizers
 12 small potatoes, baked, halved, and hollowed out
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ lb. bacon cooked and cut into small pieces
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup sour cream
½ cup thinly sliced green onions

1) Preheat oven to 375’. Bake potatoes for 35-40 minutes.

2) While the potatoes are baking, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and cut into small pieces. Set aside.

3) Remove potatoes from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle them. Cut in half and remove the flesh of the potato.  Save the flesh for breakfast potatoes.

4) Brush the inside and the back side with a thin layer of canola oil. Season the inside of the potato skin generously with kosher salt.  Place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and generously top with cheese and bacon. Bake an additional 8-10 minutes.

5) Remove from the oven and top each skin with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of green onion. Serve immediately.   Makes 24.

Natchitoches (Nack-uh-Tush) With Spicy Yogurt Dipping Sauce

I came across this little stuffed meat appetizer pie in a Food and Wine Cookbook,  Best of 2010.  I made a couple of small changes.  I didn’t care for the crust, it was a bit tough.  I used my own pie crust recipe-worked like a charm.  I did, however, love the idea for a spicy tart dip.  The recipe suggested using buttermilk, but I always have plain yogurt on hand, so I made my version of it.

The name really piqued my curiosity so I googled.  Turns out these meat pies were popular in the late 1700’s in the small Louisiana town that shares the name.    It is said that the meat pies were easy for working men to transport to work and were easy to eat.  I LOVE food history! 

I enjoyed making these little appetizers but they were time consuming.  I think it would make an interesting dinner (make them larger) and I think kids would dig it.  (maybe cut back on some of the spice)  I’d serve a nice green salad with a vinaigrette.  The sharp vinegar cuts the richness of the meat filling. 

Brown the meat in a little olive oil.  Add minced garlic, green pepper, and onion.  Cook until vegetables are soft.  Add tomato paste, cayenne pepper, ground cloves, dried thyme, ground coriander, allspice, sugar, and water.  Add a couple of pinches of salt and a couple of dashes of Tabasco.  Allow to cool completely. (be sure to do this, the crust dough will not fare well with warm filling)  Prepare the egg wash and preheat the oven to 350′.

Roll out a pie crust disc into a 12-14″ circle.  Using a 4″ biscuit cutter, cut out as many circles as possible.  Working one at a time, brush half of the circle’s edge with the egg wash.

Add a tablespoon of the cooled meat mixture to one side of the circle.

Fold the circle over the meat and seal the edges.

Crimp the edges with a fork and poke the center of the pastry with the fork to vent steam.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.

Brush the tops with the egg wash.  Bake for 25 minutes.  While they’re baking, prepare the dipping sauce.  Enjoy!

Natchitoches Meat Pies with Spicy Yogurt Dip


My pie crust recipe, doubled and chilled for 30-40 minutes


 1 tablespoon olive oil

½ lb. lean ground beef

1 large clove garlic, minced

½ cup onion, finely diced

1 small green pepper, seeded and finely diced

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons water

2 pinches salt

Two shakes of Tobasco

1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk

Yogurt Dip

 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sour cream

½ cup non fat greek yogurt

1 teaspoon ground celery seeds (or ½ teaspoon celery salt)

Two shakes hot sauce

1)  Prepare crust and wrap discs in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 30-40 minutes.

2)  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add meat and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, onion, bell pepper, and bay leaf.  Cook 7-9 minutes until veggies are soft.

3)  Stir in tomato paste through water.  Cook for 3-5 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf and allow the mixture to cool.

4)  Preheat the oven to 350’.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

5)  Roll out the pie crust to a 14” round.  Using a 4” biscuit cutter, cut out as many circles as you can.  Brush the edge of half of the round with the egg wash, add a tablespoon of cooled meat mixture to one side of the circle.  Fold over, press to seal.  Using a fork, crimp the edges and poke the center of the tart to vent.  Place on cookie sheet.  Brush with the egg wash.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

6)  In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients until well blended.  If sauce is too thick, thin out with a little milk.

 *Make a day or two ahead and warm in 350’ oven for 10 minutes.  Whisk the sauce and serve.