Category Archives: Appetizers

Caramelized onion dip

Do you ever need a dip that can go with anything but tastes *WAY* better than the packaged dip mixes? Look no further – this is the one! I like to make this a day or two ahead so that the flavors have time to meld. Then all you need to do is pull out dippers (toasted baguette slices, veggies, potato chips, etc.) and you’re ready to go. This recipe is always a hit. Enjoy!

Caramelized Onion Dip

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks blog
Serves 8 (1/4 cup per serving)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (I use Siggi’s skyr yogurt)
3 teaspoons onion powder (*not* onion salt!)
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large thick-bottomed skillet over medium heat saute the chopped onions in the olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt. Stir occasionally with a wood or metal spatula and cook until the onions are deeply golden, brown, and caramelized – roughly 40 or 50 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In the meantime, whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, onion powder, and salt. The important thing is to add whatever onion powder you are using to taste. Add a bit at a time until it tastes really good (about 3 tsp worked for me). Set aside until the caramelized onions have cooled to room temperature. Stir in 2/3 of the caramelized onions, scoop into a serving bowl, and top with the remaining onions.

Nutritional info:
Calories: 95.8
Total Fat: 3.5 g
Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.5 g
Cholesterol: 3.7 mg
Sodium: 199.2 mg
Potassium: 173.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 11.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Sugars: 2.6 g
Protein: 4.0 g


Homemade Olives

Several years ago, when we first moved to San Antonio, we visited a farmer’s market and bought a small olive tree from Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard. The woman at the market told us we could keep it in a pot for a year or two, but then it should be planted in the ground. So, a year or so later, we finally planted it and hoped that it would survive.

The tree grew the first year, and the next summer produced a few olives. We found this method for brining them online, and were excited to make our own olives! The next year, the tree produced nothing. The next time we were at the market, we asked about it at the Sandy Oaks booth. It turned out that the variety of olive tree we purchased (Arbequina) only produced olives every-other year. So, the next year, we had a few more olives. But the next year there were olives, too. Maybe our tree is a mutant? And this year, TONS of olives!! The tree branches are bending over with the weight of the fruit this year!

So, since we finally know what we’re doing with the whole harvesting/brining process, I decided I would share it with you! I know you’ll only do this if you happen to also have an olive tree in your yard, but even so – it’s fun!

Homemade Olives
Method from University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Makes enough for 2.5 lbs of fresh olives

2.5 lbs fresh purple-colored olives, washed
plastic container(s) with lid(s)

Finish brine:
1/4 lb pickling salt
4 cups water (I use bottled water)
1 cup red wine vinegar
bay leaves
olive oil

1. Pick purple-colored olives from olive tree. This is our tree (below), and you can see that some olives are ready (purple), while others aren’t quite there yet.

2. Wash olives with water. With a clean, sharp knife, make a cut in each olive (about 1/8 inch – in my olives this is from skin to pit).

3. Place cut olives in a food-grade plastic container (with a lid), and cover with fresh, cool water. Close the lid and leave the olives to soak in the refrigerator.

4. Every 24 hours (for a total of 7 days), change the water.

5. Make the finish brine. Add 1/4 lb pickling salt to 1 quart (4 cups) fresh water. Stir to dissolve, and add 1 cup red wine vinegar.

6. Drain the water from the olives, and place olives into clean jars. Add one bay leaf to each jar (if desired). Pour the finish brine over the olives, and then top with 1/4 inch of olive oil. Close the container and store in a cool dark place (60-80 degrees F)

7. Allow the olives to marinate for at least 1 month to develop the desired flavor. They usually sink when they are ready to consume.

*Note* After the first month, these can be stored in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for about 1 year if the container remains airtight.

Marinated Manchego with Orange Preserve

I wanted a fun cheese appetizer for a party, and this recipe jumped out at me from a recent issue of Bon Appetit. This takes a bit of time to make, but it can all be made ahead of time and brought out just a few minutes before serving. I made this exactly as the recipe directed (with the exception of slicing the cheese instead of cubing it), and it was fantastic! It doesn’t need any changes – everyone loved it! Enjoy!

Marinated Manchego with Orange Preserve
From Bon Appetit, Sept 2016
Serves 16 (about 2 cups total, 1/4 cup per serving)
1 head of garlic
1 1/2 cups olive oil, plus 2 tsp more for drizzling
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1 Seville or navel orange (use peels and juice the flesh)
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound young Manchego cheese, sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
Toasted baguette or other crusty bread (for serving – not included in nutritional info)

Heat oven to 350°F. Cut 1/4 inch off top of garlic bulb and place on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with 2 tsp oil; season with salt. Wrap tightly in foil and bake until skin is golden brown and cloves are tender, 35–40 minutes. Let cool. Squeeze cloves into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cut 1/4 inch off top and bottom of orange and cut lengthwise into quarters. Remove flesh from each quarter, not including white pith, from peel in 1 piece (save peels). Squeeze juice from flesh into a small bowl; set aside. Cut peel into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a small saucepan; pour in cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil then drain; repeat process twice more to remove bitterness. Return orange peels to saucepan and add sugar, reserved orange juice, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until peels are soft and liquid is syrupy, 20–30 minutes. Let orange preserve cool.

Add orange preserve, Manchego, rosemary, thyme, and remaining 1 1/2 cups oil to bowl with garlic and gently toss to combine. Cover and chill at least 12 hours.

Bring marinated Manchego to room temperature before serving with bread.

Do Ahead: Manchego can be marinated 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Nutritional info (per 1/4 cup):
Calories: 321.8
Total Fat: 30.8 g
Saturated Fat: 9.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 15.3 g
Cholesterol: 25.0 mg
Sodium: 248.1 mg
Potassium: 21.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 4.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Sugars: 3.1 g
Protein: 7.2 g

Mini Feta & Olive Quichettes

This is absolutely one of my favorite appetizers to make, for just about any occasion. I found the idea in a cookbook, and once I made them and found out how easy they were, I started making them all the time! These are always a huge hit! Enjoy!

Mini Feta & Olive Quichettes
Adapted from Hors D’oeuvres Cookbook
Serves: 24

24 mini phyllo shells
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp fat free half & half
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled fat free feta
6 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced into 4 pieces
24 rosemary sprigs (3-5 rosemary leaves, attached)

Place phyllo cups into mini muffin tins. Fill with feta (equally divided).

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, half & half, and pepper. Distribute among phyllo cups.

Add 1 slice olive and 1 rosemary sprig to each phyllo cup.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, until filling is set. Enjoy!!

Nutritional info:
Calories: 28.2
Total Fat: 1.5 g
Saturated Fat: 0.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 17.1 mg
Sodium: 73.8 mg
Potassium: 10.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 2.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Sugars: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.8 g

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms

If you’re looking for a perfect 4th of July appetizer, look no further! This will please *everyone* at your party (well, except the mushroom-haters!). I made this up in order to have a fun appetizer when my vegan friend came over for dinner recently, and it was a hit! You could also make this non-vegan (but still vegetarian) by subbing goat cheese, since the vegan cheese can be a bit pricey. These are fantastic! Enjoy!

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms
A Karen original recipe
Makes 12 appetizers

12 baby bella mushrooms (about 1 lb)
5 Tbsp vegan sun-dried tomato pesto (I used Taste Elevated)
2 oz vegan cheese (I used Kite Hill original)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Wash and pull stems from 12 baby bella mushrooms. Fill each mushroom cap with 1 tsp sun-dried tomato pesto. Cut cheese into 12 portions, top each mushroom with cheese.

3. In a small bowl, mix panko, olive oil, salt & pepper. Distribute evenly on top of the mushrooms.

4. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Nutritional info:
Calories 45.1
Total Fat 3.3 g
Saturated Fat 0.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 86.8 mg
Potassium 57.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.8 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 1.5 g

Bacon Jam and Brie Tarts

I am a very organized person – I keep an inventory of my pantry, freezers, etc. on my phone. But sometimes I’m *still* surprised by what I find! A few days ago, I found a jar of bacon jam in the pantry. I thought, “What on earth did I buy this for? What was I planning to make with this?” So, I decided to do some online searching for recipes using bacon jam. I came across one on the Wry Toast blog, but it had instructions to *make* bacon jam (which I already had!), so I just adapted their method using my store-bought bacon jam. I ended up taking these to a friend’s house, and they were so popular that my friend asked me to bring these to the next party! These are soooo tasty! Enjoy!

Bacon Jam and Brie Tarts

Slightly adapted from Wry Toast blog
Serves 15 (appetizer)

2.5 Tbsp bacon jam (I used HEB’s Cookwell & Company Better Than Good Bacon Jam)
4 oz brie, rind cut off
1 pkg Athens Filo shells (15 per pkg)

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Place phyllo shells into mini muffin pans. Cut rind off brie, then cut into 15 pieces. Place one piece of cheese into each shell. Top each with 1/2 tsp of bacon jam.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and shells are browned.

Nutritional info:
Calories: 47.8
Total Fat: 3.3 g
Saturated Fat:1.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 8.4 mg
Sodium: 72.6 mg
Potassium: 11.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 2.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Sugars: 0.7 g
Protein: 1.7 g

Mini Crawfish Pies

It’s now nearing the end of crawfish season, but luckily, frozen crawfish tails are available almost year-round! This is a great party appetizer – it is always a hit with our friends. Enjoy!

Mini Crawfish Pies
Slightly adapted from website
Makes 72 appetizers

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp cornstarch (dissolved into 1 cup water)
1 lb peeled Crawfish Tails (Louisiana)
1 bunch finely chopped green onions
1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
6 dozen bite-sized phyllo shells (mini muffin tin size – I use Athens brand)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and bell peppers, and cook, stirring until they are soft, about 6 minutes.

Add salt, cayenne pepper and white pepper, and reduce to medium-low heat. Add tomato paste and paprika and let mixture bubble for a few minutes.

Add dissolved cornstarch and cook until a fine glaze appears on the mixture. Add the crawfish, green onions and parsley. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Spoon the mixture into pre-baked phyllo shells and bake until golden brown, five to eight minutes. Serve warm.

Nutritional information (each):
Calories 39.4
Total Fat 2.4 g
Saturated Fat 0.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 14.6 mg
Sodium 53.4 mg
Potassium 16.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.8 g
Dietary Fiber 0.2 g
Sugars 0.2 g
Protein 1.6 g

Tomato, Watermelon, and Basil skewers

What do you take to a summer picnic, especially when it’s too hot to cook? These tomato, watermelon, & basil skewers, of course! They are so easy and delicious, and they are devoured in minutes whenever I take them to a party! Enjoy!

Tomato, Watermelon, and Basil skewers
Adapted from “Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites”
Serves 8 (2 skewers per serving)

1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar (or 1/2 cup regular balsamic vinegar, reduced to 1/4 cup)
1 small seedless watermelon (need about 1/2 of the melon to make cubes)
48 small basil leaves (or torn larger leaves)
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
olive oil (in a misto or simliar product)
coarse kosher salt

Equipment: 16 6-inch wood skewers

1. If using regular balsamic vinegar, add 1/2 cup vinegar to small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and reduce liquid by 1/2. Set aside to cool.

2. Cube watermelon into 1.5 inch cubes. Assemble the skewers by pushing a basil leaf to the end of one skewer. Then skewer a cube of melon, then a tomato half. Continue with another watermelon cube, basil leaf, and tomato half, ending with a basil leaf. Repeat to make 15 more skewers.

3. Spritz the skewers with olive oil (from a misto), then drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Nutritional info:
Calories: 31.5
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Saturated Fat: 0.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 41.0 mg
Potassium: 138.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 6.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Sugars: 5.4 g
Protein: 0.6 g

Caprese salad

A simple, yet amazing summer salad.  When tomatoes are amazingly ripe and the basil plant is growing out of control, there’s only one thing to make – caprese salad!  Now that our tomatoes in the garden are finally ready to eat, we’ve started making this regularly again.  This is one of our all-time favorites, and it’s basically a make-as-you-go recipe – use as many tomatoes as you’d like, and go from there!  Enjoy!

Caprese Salad
servings vary (therefore nutritional information will vary)

Ripe tomatoes, sliced into rounds
Fresh basil leaves, torn if large
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Good quality balsamic vinegar
Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Flaky sea salt

Place sliced tomato rounds onto a serving plate. Top each tomato with a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf. Grind pepper and sprinkle salt evenly over the the tomatoes.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Artichoke Turnovers

I love having fun appetizers that can be on-hand at all times!  I always have cheese available (if not, there is *definitely* something wrong with me!), but sometimes a real appetizer is great to have around for last-minute guests, busy weekends, or something fantastic to bring to a party.  I love these because they go well with champagne or cocktails, and they freeze well, so they can be made well in advance. These are the perfect appetizers to have for spring gatherings, since artichokes are such an early spring/summer vegetable! Enjoy!

Artichoke Turnovers

From Martha Stewart Living, Dec 2010
Makes 40

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (from 3 small cloves)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup 2% milk, warmed
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, warmed
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped (3 cups)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 ounce)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 packages (14 ounces each) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten for egg wash

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook shallot and garlic for 1 minute. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add wine, and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, some pepper, and the cayenne. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in artichoke hearts, cheeses, thyme, zest, and mustard. Let cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out puff pastry to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into forty 3-inch squares (you will have pastry left over).

3. Arrange 1 tablespoon artichoke mixture in center of each square. Brush 2 perpendicular edges with egg wash, and fold over to form a triangle with remaining edges, pressing to seal. Brush 1 corner of triangle with egg wash and join it to the opposite point. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Brush turnovers with egg wash. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

**Note** These freeze well. After cooling, place in a single layer on waxed paper, stacking with additional waxed paper in-between. Warm at 350 for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Nutritional info:
Calories 105.1
Total Fat 6.7 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol 8.8 mg
Sodium 137.4 mg
Potassium 14.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 8.1 g
Dietary Fiber 0.7 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 2.3 g