With the turn of the season and the heat in full swing, something about the start of the summer makes me want to entertain. For this theme week, we wanted to do some easy appetizers with a running theme that could be crowd-pleasers without being too much effort. While Amanda did amazing and fancy things with Balsamic Vinegar, I decided to go a little more “game day” with a series of sliders.
Since I was making a couple options, I knew I didn’t want any one type to dominate my time. With the electric pressure cooker to do the heavy lifting for the pork sliders, I was freed up to work on the other two options. I thought I’d cover my bases with the shredded pork in the pressure cooker, ground buffalo chicken sliders with ranch dressing and a vegetarian option of goat cheese and zucchini sliders. The zucchini was the surprise hit, and the herb yogurt sauce was such a great addition to this yummy little snack.
It is worth mentioning, if you don’t feel like standing over a pan or two waiting for all of these little patties to cook, you could always make these full size. Or if you don’t think this is enough slider options, check out our previous burger recipes, the Greek Chicken and Chickpea burgers which could easily be divided into more patties just before cooking.
Blackberry Pulled Pork
- 12 oz fresh or frozen blackberries
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 pork tenderloin (can also use about 1 lb pork shoulder preferred)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Slider Buns
- Generously coat your pork tenderloin with salt and pepper on all sides. Add it to your instant pot along with the chicken broth. Seal your instant pot and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes and allow the pressure to release naturally when done.
- After the pressure has been released, remove the pork tenderloin and shred the meat with two forks. Return the shredded meat to your instant pot to keep warm while you cook the sauce.
- In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat, stir together the blackberries and wine. Allow the mixture to boil and reduce by half, stirring occasionally. About 10-15 minutes.
- When reduced, pass the mixture through a sieve to filter out any seeds and bits of berry.
- Place some of the shredded pork on a slider bun and top with a spoonful of the sauce. These are now ready to serve and enjoy!
*Mer’s Note: So there are some flavor combinations that are just classic, and I completely forgot Amanda did something similar previously. Because I was trying this one as a keto recipe, you might want to check out hers as an alternative as well. Both could be converted into sliders!
Buffalo Chicken Sliders
- 1 lb of ground chicken
- 5 tbsp buffalo sauce
- 1 stalk celery finely minced
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- 3 green onions, greens and whites minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Ranch Dressing to serve
- Slider buns to serve
- Combine the ground chicken, buffalo sauce, celery, carrot, green onions, 1 tsp salt & pepper, garlic powder and breadcrumbs. Combine with your hands until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Separate the mixture and form/flatten into 16 equal patties.
- In a large pan over medium heat or a grill, cook the patties for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Place the cooked patties on slider buns and top with a dollop of ranch dressing to serve. Enjoy!
- 2 medium zucchinis, coarsley shredded
- 1 tsp salt plus a pinch extra for seasoning zucchini
- 2 oz herb goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp cup panko breadcrumbs
- Pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp neutral, high smoke point oil (like canola)
- Slider Buns to serve
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- Juice of half a lemon
- Sprinkle the zucchini with the pinch of salt and squeeze the shredded zucchini over a sieve and sink to release as much water as possible. If time allows, wrap the zucchini in paper towels and place in the sieve with something heavy on top to drain over an empty container for 30 minutes to an hour. While allowing the zucchini to drain, mix together your yogurt sauce.
- In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, herbs and lemon juice together and allow to sit in the fridgefor at least 30 minutes for the flavors to come together.
- Once you have released as much moisture from the zucchini as possible, combine the zucchini with the goat cheese, Parmesan, oregano, garlic powder, and the egg. Mix together and form into 16 flat patties (they will be very delicate).
- In a wide bowl or container, combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining salt and pepper to your liking. Meanwhile, heat a large pan with the oil over medium heat. Dip each zucchini patty into the breadcrumb mixture until you have an even coating and transfer directly to the heated pan. Until cooked, these patties are very delicate so I would recommend as little handling as you can manage.
- Heat the patties for about 1-2 minutes on each side until a brown and crispy, and the egg firms up the patty a little bit.
- Transfer to a slider bun and top with a dollop of your yogurt sauce to serve. Enjoy!
My brother has the best food scene in his city. I love where I live but the multiculturalism of Chicago? I can’t compete with that. Luckily, he and my sister-in-law have introduced me to some spice and specialty shops in their area, and I live for it! This post is inspired and fueled by a gift from them, some delicious balsamic vinegar. A lovely gift, I tried it out in a few different recipes!
Prosciutto-Wrapped Watermelon Skewers
- 2 cups cubed watermelons
- 4 slices prosciutto
- Mint (optional)
- Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- Bamboo skewers
- Slice or tear prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap one slice around watermelon cube.
- Use bamboo skewer to secure prosciutto over watermelon.
- Stack four wrapped watermelon cubes on skewers, adding torn mint leaves in between each cube, if desired.
- Drizzle skewers with balsamic vinegar.
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 ball of mozzarella
- Basil, fresh
- Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- Slice tomatoes and mozzarella in 1/2in discs.
- Layer tomato and mozzarella slices, alternating and with a basil leaf after each mozzarella slice. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Strawberry Balsamic Shrub
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled
- 2 cups balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Add strawberries to mason jar, making sure all stems are removed.
- Add sugar and cover all with balsamic vinegar.
- Shake and store in fridge for at least 5 days, shaking every once in a while to stir ingredients.
Strawberry Balsamic Martini
Mix 1oz vodka with 2oz shrub and shake over ice. Serve and enjoy!
Still on the heels of our favorite food competition shows, Amanda and I were looking for a new challenge. This time, we wanted to see if we could use a single ingredient in three different courses. Of course, one would want something that could be used both in a savory and sweet capacity, which does limit some options. Being an ingredient that I love in basically all forms, I chose the lovely, yet humble potato. I am quite sure I would be able to and enjoy going off on a Bubba-esque from Forrest Gump speech regarding all of the potato forms and how delicious each one is. So, for this challenge, the potato seemed like a natural and budget friendly choice.
For the appetizer, I was still feeling the effects of watching one too many Food Network chefs create some fancy tasting menus and so I wanted a delicate and pretty appetizer for the first course. While this one is a bit labor intensive, they are very delicious and would for sure impress at a gathering. The savory mushrooms and cheesy potatoes make for a lovely combination. Stay tuned for the other two courses!
- 1 potato, shredded and kept in a bowl of water until ready to use
- 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 oz manchego cheese, shredded
- 1 tbsp butter
- 4 cloves of garlic
- High smoke point oil for frying (like vegetable or canola)
- Green onion for garnish
- In a small skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of butter and add the shallots, garlic and the whites of the green onion. Saute until the shallots become translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue cooking until the mushrooms have released their moisture and have turned more brown, about 5 minutes.
- Mix together your shredded cheese and potatoes.
- Heat a cast iron skillet with about 2 tbsp of oil until the oil is shimmery.
- Spoon about 1 tablespoon worth of the potato/cheese mixture into the pan and flatten, and repeat until the skillet is full, but none of these potato beds are touching. You may be able to cook about 4-5 at a time.
- When the edges of the potatoes are beginning to look brown, after about 1-2 minutes, flip with a spatula and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- When crispy and brown, remove the hashbrown beds and drain on a cooling rack with a paper towel underneath.
- Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, plate with a spoonful of the mushrooms on top and garnish with the greens of the green onions. Enjoy!
Wine Pairing: The manchego cheese would probably go nicely with something simple, like Cabernet Sauvignon.
Halloween and October is always a fun time for me, and I love to get fun with the spooky theming of the holiday. While last year Amanda and I made something sinfully sweet to celebrate the day, this year we wanted to go “Spooky savory.” Amanda went incredibly brave with a scarily unfamiliar protein to our kitchens, but I decided to go a different route. I’m not sure if I would have had the access to such a disparate delicacy, but I certainly did not have the enthusiasm or fortitude to seek it out. Instead, this dish is a much more accessible in terms of grocery availability and friendliness of flavors to all palates.
This white bean and kale hummus is as easy to make as it is crowd-pleasing. The green color, while also packing a nutritional punch throughout the year, is easy to incorporate into an Halloween party plans as a very appropriate, on theme, munchie. The breadstick snakes, while a bit more time consuming, really accent this dip with both visual and flavorful contributions. The tomato and herbs in the bread, while also making these “snakes” more colorful, pair excellently with the lemony-garlic flavors of the hummus. Whether you’re dressed as Frankenstein or Wonder Woman, this appetizer is sure to keep the horrors of “Hanger” away.
White Bean Hummus:
- 1 can of great northern beans rinsed and drained
- 3 tbsp tahini
- juice from one lemon
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1 1/2 cups packed kale (stalks removed–about 3 stalks)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until the kale is incorporated to your liking, and the mixture is smooth. I did mine for at least 5 minutes, so settle in.
- If you like room-temperature hummus, this is ready to serve immediately. However, I prefer mine chilled and allowed it to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Could be made up to 3 days in advance and will last in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Serve with “Snake” sticks or any hummus accompaniment of your choice.
Snake Breadsticks Ingredients
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
- 2 cups of flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
- Black sesame seeds for eye garnish
- 1 egg+1 tsp water
Snake Bread Stick Instructions:
- Add the lukewarm water and the yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Allow the yeast to sit with the water for 2-3 minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
- Add the flour on top of the yeast/water. then the salt (be sure it does not touch the yeast), tomato paste, garlic powder, basil, and rosemary. Turn the mixer to low speed for 1-2 minutes everything is mixed together. Then, mix on medium speed for 4-6 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.
- After those 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 300°F and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 25 equal portions and roll into long strips. Make one end taper slightly to form the tail and keep the other end wide and flatten slightly to form the face. Repeat with all portions and place on a baking sheet in your preferred pose (slithering waves, coils, etc).
- Whisk the egg and water together in a small bowl and brush the egg wash over the prepared breadsticks. Add two black sesame seeds to the snake faces to form the eyes after the egg wash is applied.
- Bake at 300°F for 50 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy with the Witchy Hummus or as a spooky accompaniment to any dinner.
Wine Pairing: With the Mediterranean flavors of both the hummus and the bread, a refreshing Sangiovese would be a nice choice, but if you want to go all out, check out this “I’m Ready for Fall” cocktail that would be a great addition to any Halloween party.
While reality television has never quite captured my attention, Amanda has recently gotten me hooked on a little show about the elite of Charleston called Southern Charm. The fourth season recently premiered and the Amanda household was kind enough to include me via Skype for their premier-watching party. Naturally, I wanted to make a meal that allowed me to feel the elegance and flavors of the south and to celebrate with the Florida crew in spirit.
I wanted to make something light, summery, and fancy-feeling that both touched on a southern classic (pimento cheese! yum!) but also represented the class of our favorite character on the show. Therefore, this trio of tea sandwiches–two savory and one sweet–was the perfect option for a viewing party (even if it was a party of one) and let me pretend I was one of the Southern Charm gang at one of their fancy garden parties (but without any drama or drinks thrown in faces).
Spicy Cilantro Cucumber Sandwich:
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 4 oz can green chiles
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
- Combine cilantro, spinach, chiles, jalapeno and lime juice in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine puree. Add this mixture to a small bowl with the cream cheese and stir until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture onto 3 of the white bread slices and top with cucumber slices. Top with the other 3 slices of bread to form 3 separate sandwiches.
- Trim edges and slice into triangles, and they are now ready to serve!
Pimento & Pulled Chicken Tea Sandwich:
- 4 oz of cream cheese
- 2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
- 4 oz jar of pimento peppers, drained and rinsed
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt
- 2 tsp hot sauce
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 slices of white bread
- Mix together the all ingredients (it does make it a bit easier if the chicken is still warm).
- Spread onto 3 slices of the white bread as thick and even as you can manage.
- Top with the other 3 slices of white bread to form 3 sandwiches.
- Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to serve!
Sweet Strawberry Mascarpone Tea Sandwich
- 3/4 cup of strawberries, trimmed of greens and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- Loaf of angel food cake or pound cake
- 3-4 large strawberries, trimmed of greens and sliced longways-thinly
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar and salt and cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar is liquified and the strawberries are mushy
- Pass this mixture through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds and allow to cool slightly.
- Once cooled, mix together the strawberry puree and the mascarpone cheese until fully incorporated and there are no white specs in the cheese.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the cheese to cool.
- Slice the angel food cake/pound cake into 1/4″ thick slices.
- Spread the strawberry mascarpone onto one slice of bread and then top with sliced strawberries. Add another slice of the cake to the top. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to Serve!
Drink Pairing: With these yummy sandwiches, I decided to forego wine this time in favor of a more Charleston representative cocktail: 2 parts firefly sweet tea vodka, 2 parts pink lemonade and 1 part firefly peach tea moonshine. Be warned though, these little numbers are tasty and dangerous.
I remember one of the first times I thought I might be becoming an adult (I mean, still not 100%), it was after a particularly indulgent weekend full of gastronomic delights. It was at that point when I had the spontaneous thought: “Man, I really just want a vegetable.” That was a completely new feeling to me as anyone who knew my former eating habits could probably verify. Nowadays, it doesn’t take much to get that feeling again and I take pride in it. However, after weeks of the holiday season, hosting, attending parties (some people, not necessarily me), and partaking in all the scrumptious treats of the holiday season, it’s nice to get back to the routine of healthy meals for a little while.
This week, Amanda and I wanted to share our go-to veggie filled recipes when we need a little nutritional pick-me-up. While I try to make pretty healthy meals on the regular, when I’m really feeling disgusting and bloated and a little too deep-fried, a nice salad roll is my favorite. They are light, basically a salad burrito and if you fill them full of veggies and lean protein, a little dipping sauce might not hurt if you don’t go overboard.
The beauty of these rolls are in their customizability. You can add anything you like and dip into anything you like. I have seen spring and summer rolls filled with everything from cooked shrimp and vermicelli noodles to mangoes and strawberries. If you keep these rice wrappers on hand, you can easily scoop up some leftovers you have in your fridge and let your imagination go wild. Below, I wanted to share the version I gravitate towards as well as a few dipping sauce options:
Spicy Pineapple Dipping Sauce
- 3/4 cup pineapple puree
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tbsp sriracha
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 tsp of sliced greens of green onions for garnish
- If you don’t have pineapple puree, blend together about 1 cup pineapple chunks (canned is fine) until smooth.
- Whisk together all ingredients minus the green onions until combined.
- Top with green onion slices.
Sesame Ginger Dipping Sauce:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp grated, fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1-2 green onions, chopped
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until well mixed and enjoy.
Peanut Dipping Sauce:
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp grated, fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
- Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined (the peanut butter might fight you for a second but it will come around) and it is ready to enjoy.
My Salad Roll Ingredients:
- Rice Paper Wrappers
- Butter Lettuce
- Cooked Chicken
- Green Bell Pepper
- (But the possibilities are endless so go wild)
- Gather and slice all your ingredients mise-en-place style so you aren’t fumbling for anything. I like my vegetables and proteins (although shrimp can probably stay whole) to be cut into strip for easier eating.Make sure you have a large bowl of clean, cool, water big enough to submerge the entirety of your wrapper at one time, and a flat, clean surface to build your roll.
- Dip one rice paper wrapper into the water and allow to sit for 10-15 seconds.
- Remove from the water, and try to shake off and excess. Transfer to your surface for assembly.
- Place a small amount of your ingredients about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the roll not surpassing the halfway mark of the wrapper. Try to fill in as much free space as possible but be careful not to overstuff.
- Once you have added all of your ingredients, fold the bottom third over your ingredients and then fold in the sides. Then roll the rest up just like a burrito. As you can see in my picture above, the rolling might not always be perfect, but try to keep it as contained as you can.
- Enjoy immediately as a whole meal or as an appetizer with your choice of dipping sauces.
Wine Pairing: I know we’re trying to be healthy here, but come on. Sometimes you can have both right? While it would depend on your dipping sauce selection, I can’t help but feel that a light Rose might be a nice selection to the summery feel of this dish–which may also match with the peanut sauce nicely. Happy cooking!
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” as I’m sure your radios are crooning non-stop, but there are certainly quite a bit of stresses that comes with the joy of the holidays. Not only are we running around trying to decorate, purchase gifts for all of our friends and family, but there often are a deluge of holiday party invitations or hosting obligations this month (as I’m sure Amanda can attest). Whether it’s an office potluck or a family tree decorating party, an easy appetizer is always a hit with the other party guests and the host alike.
I wanted to share something that is easy, shows depth of flavor, and doesn’t take up too much kitchen space, just in case you also have an impressive entrée in the works. These sweet and tangy meatballs only take a few minutes of assembly and are low maintenance. However, they are sure to impress.
Full disclosure: I did attempt to not cut corners and make my own meatballs for the purpose of this post, but I don’t believe my meatball skills are quite up to snuff just yet. When I made these again the other night (they’re that good) with frozen meatballs, not only was if infinitely less stressful (which is the whole point) but also more delicious. If you’re the type who regularly makes meatballs and has a knack for it, by all means go for it. You probably wouldn’t need my recipe anyway. For the rest of us though, recipe is as follows:
- 1 32oz. bag of frozen meatballs, or your favorite homemade recipe. Turkey is also good!
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 2 green onions, whites and greens separated (greens will be the garnish)
- 2 tbsp sriracha
- Sesame seeds for garnish
To make the Appetizer:
- Add the frozen meatballs to your slow cooker.
- Stir together all remaining ingredients except for the greens of the green onions and sesame seeds in a medium bowl until combined.
- Pour sauce over meatballs and stir to ensure all are coated.
- Cook on high for 2 hours if you’re pressed for time or on low for 4 hours and then enjoy at your leisure. Can be served with rice as a full meal or on toothpicks as yummy apps! Or you can always leave out the slow cooker with a serving spoon and let your guests fend for themselves. Happy partying!
Wine Pairing: Because these flavors are so bold with sweet and sour notes, I’d recommend an aromatic wine to accompany. I did try this with a Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve 2013 Riesling and I highly recommend. The fruity flavors of pear and peach complements the tangy sauce of the app in a delightful way. It’s definitely worth a try.