Very Berry Bruschetta

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Once I tell someone that I’m a food blogger and that I love to cook I’m inevitably asked “so, what’s your signature dish?”  This is definitely a valid question and I love that people are interested enough to ask it but, truth be known, I really don’t feel like I have one.  I mean, am I an expert at just one dish?  Do I have one particular dish that I love to make and go to time after time?  Hmmmmm, not really.  It’s honestly a question I dread and have really contemplated just making something up!

All that being said I do think that one of my favorite things to make, if not my most favorite is bruchettas or crostinis.  I have become quite known for them and I serve a different one at each gathering I host.  I don’t believe there’s a more versatile or popular appetizer.  It falls into my #1 guideline that an appetizer has to be a “finger food” and it is probably the most versatile and creative appetizer you can serve.  The ingredients are endless and you can fit those ingredients beautifully into any season or holiday.

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I made this berry bruschetta for a Fourth of July party and I have to say, it was a major hit!  So much so that I’ve been asked to make it regularly this summer.  It came to me because of the colors (red, white and blue) and the fresh in season ingredients (strawberries, blueberries and fresh mint).

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Very Berry Bruschetta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 French baguette loaf - sliced into rounds (approximately ½" thick)
  • 1 tub of honey nut flavored cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (or coconut sugar which is what I use)
  • 1 quart of strawberries - chopped
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • bunch of fresh mint - chopped
  • honey for drizzling
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the bread rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the bread rounds and sprinkle them with Kosher salt.
  4. Bake the bread rounds in the oven for approximately 6-7 minutes until slightly browned and a bit hardened.
  5. Let the bread cool slightly until cool enough to handle.
  6. Mix the berries and the sugar together in a medium bowl. Allow them to sit for a few minutes.
  7. Spread each bread round with the cream cheese.
  8. Spoon the berry mixture onto the bread rounds.
  9. Drizzle the honey over the tops of the bread rounds.
  10. Sprinkle the chopped mint over the tops of the bread rounds for garnish.

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Spring Crostini – Two Ways

 

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It’s finally happened after another dreadfully long winter my “Bring Spring” chants have been heard!  Spring is officially here and with it all of the beautiful dishes that remind me of this glorious season.

I was talking to a child the other day and asking her to describe Spring for me.  She stated in a matter of fact way that “it just makes you happy to be alive.”  Well…..I could not have said it any better.  With longer days, more sunshine, warmer temperatures (hopefully) and flowers about to bloom what doesn’t make it a wonderful time to enjoy life?  Hopefully life outdoors again at that!

I hosted a dinner party for my girlfriends on Friday night and what better to begin with than a bright Spring appetizer.  These little crostinis are “blooming” with bright flavor and went over really well.  In fact, they were requested at our next girls night party!

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Spring Crostini - Two Ways
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer, light meal
Cuisine: Spring
Serves: 40 pieces
Ingredients
  • 1 baguette - sliced into thin rounds - I used 40 rounds for the recipe
  • 1 15 ounce container of Ricotta cheese - either whole milk or part skim
  • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 can chickpeas - drained and rinsed
  • 10 ounces of snow peas - ends cut off, chopped
  • ¼ cup pecans or walnuts - chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning spice blend
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • Olive oil - for drizzling
  • Spicy olive oil - I used Harissa - for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
Instructions
  1. Lie the baguette slices onto a cookie pan lined with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Drizzle the baguettes with olive oil and sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, Kosher salt and black pepper.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes until slightly browned and firm.
  4. Allow the baguettes to cool so they can be handled.
  5. Place the chickpeas in a single layer on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper or foil.
  6. Drizzle the chickpeas with olive oil and mix them with your hands to evenly coat them with the oil. Sprinkle them with the cumin and Kosher salt and pepper.
  7. Roast the chickpeas in a 400 degree oven until nicely browned and a bit crispy, approximately 12-15 minutes. Check them frequently to prevent burning them.
  8. Allow the chickpeas to cool.
  9. Mix the Ricotta, lemon zest, Kosher salt and black pepper in a bowl until creamy.
  10. Assemble the crostinis:
  11. Spread a nice layer of the ricotta mixture over the baguette rounds.
  12. Top ½ of the baguettes with the roasted chickpeas and the other ½ with the chopped snow peas and the chopped pecans.
  13. Drizzle the spicy oil onto the snow pea crostinis and the olive oil over the chickpea crostinis.
  14. Serve and enjoy!

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Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

 

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a baker!!  But occasionally I try and in the case of this bread it came out really yummy.  My problem with baking is the precise nature of it.  I definitely have to use a recipe and all that measuring is chaos I say.

I am loving pumpkin as I do every Fall and I love zucchini bread so I was thinking why not put them together?  Pumpkin zucchini bread sounds good so I went on a search for it.  I found a basic recipe on Allrecipes.com but it was loaded with sugar.  A full cup per loaf, yuck!  So I used the basic recipe but substituted all of the sugar for raw honey, egg substitute for the eggs and adjusted the seasonings to my liking.  The result is a flavorful, moist bread that you can feel good about eating.

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread
 
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This is a healthy version of a delicious flavored bread. I've substituted all the sugar with raw honey. The result is a moist delicious bread that you can feel good about eating.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast, Brunch, Snack
Cuisine: Bread
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten or ¾ cup egg substitute (which is what I used)
  • 1¼ cups of raw honey (or clover honey)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini ( shredded on the box grater, large holes)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add the pumpkin, butter and vanilla.
  4. Combine dry ingredients and gradually add them to the pumpkin mixture. Mix well.
  5. Stir in zucchini and nuts.
  6. Pour into two loaf pans that have been greased and floured or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a knife inserted into the center of the loaves come out clean.

 

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This bread is perfect with a bit of whipped pumpkin or honey nut cream cheese or flavored butter.  It’s great for breakfast, served with soup or as a tasty snack.  It can be wrapped in foil and stored in the refrigerator for a week.

 

BLT, the perfect weeknight indulgence.

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As I sat staring at the beautiful tomatoes on my kitchen table I decided on tomato sandwiches for dinner.  Then it just got out of hand by adding bacon (ok, turkey bacon so a bit less guilt), and this unbelievably addicting bread.  The bread I used is from Panera, it’s they’re Asiago cheese loaf and it’s just ridiculous.  I’ve truly never had a bread I’ve enjoyed more.  I butter both sides and throw it on a griddle to toast it up and could eat the entire loaf.  My guests now ask for it.  It comes in a loaf and a baguette.  So there you go Panera, a free plug for you!

I’ve messed up BLT’s before and I think it’s because you have to toast the bread ahead of time.  It just doesn’t keep the bacon and lettuce crisp enough if you assemble the sandwich first and then put it on the skillet to toast the bread; it just gets mushy.

Of course regular bacon is wonderful on this sandwich but I’ve used turkey bacon here which I think is very tasty with just a fraction of the fat.  I’ve also used a veggie burger in place of the bacon and I love that too.

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BLT, the perfect weeknight indulgence.
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Sandwich
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 6 slices of bacon (I used turkey bacon)
  • 1 large tomato sliced into rounds (I used 3 slices of heirloom tomato per sandwich)
  • iceberg lettuce
  • 4 slices of your favorite bread
  • canola mayonnaise
  • butter
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon until crisp.
  2. Butter both sides of the 4 slices of bread.
  3. Toast both sides of the bread on a skillet.
  4. Assemble the sandwich by spreading the canola mayonnaise on the bread.
  5. Layer on the lettuce, tomato and bacon.

 

 

Caprese Panini with tomato, basil and mozzarella

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“This might be the best sandwich I’ve ever had.”  Yep, those were the words my Mom uttered last night when eating this sandwich.  I think that just about covers it.

“Caprese” is defined as a simple salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt, and olive oil. It was made to resemble the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green.  I think this combination is pure bliss!  I love the colors and how the flavors meld together.  I’ve taken that “caprese” combination, added some baby portabellas and put it on some delicious seven grain herb crusted bread and grilled it in a Panini maker…..wow!

In fact, I must tell you, I purchased a Panini press last month at a ridiculous closeout price with the sole purpose of creating this sandwich.  It most certainly did not disappoint.  I think it was the best sandwich I’ve ever had as well.  Thanks for the compliment Mama…

Caprese Panini with tomato, basil and mozzarella
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Panini, sandwich
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 2 slices of seven grain bread (or bread of your choice)
  • 1 Tablespoon softened butter
  • 2 slices of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Roma tomato - sliced into rounds
  • 1 baby portabella mushroom - sliced
  • 2 large basil leaves - cut into ribbons (chiffonade, see note below)
  • 1 scallion or small Vidalia onion - sliced thin
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat up the Panini maker or a griddle pan on medium heat the stovetop.
  2. Butter 2 slices of bread.
  3. Place one slice of bread butter side down on your surface.  Build the sandwich starting with 1 slice of mozzarella, the roma tomatoes (3-4 rounds fill the sandwich nicely), the sliced portabella, the sliced onion, the basil ribbons, the 2nd slice of mozzarella cheese and the 2nd slice of bread, butter side out.
  4. Place the sandwich on your Panini press or griddle pan and heat until golden brown on both sides.

“Chiffonade” means little ribbons in French, referring to the little ribbons you create while cutting.  It is a chopping technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and basil) are cut into long, thin strips.  This is done by stacking the leaves, rolling them up tightly, then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

IMG_0257Roasted Tomato bruschetta is a beautiful appetizer and easy to make.  The roasted grape bruschetta recipe went over so well I thought I’d give a more savory bruchetta recipe.  I use grape tomatoes which are so sweet and bite-sized so they don’t need to be cut.  Fresh basil and melted mozzarella perfect the beautiful presentation and taste profile.

Ingredients:

1 loaf of French or multi grain baguette, sliced into ½” rounds

1 pint grape tomatoes

fresh basil, approximately 10 – 15 leaves, chopped

1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Directions:

Place the tomatoes onto a nonstick baking sheet (if not nonstick, line it with foil, dull side up) or a shallow casserole dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.  Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  The skins will shrivel up a bit and they’ll become very soft.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Turn the oven heat down to 400 degrees.

Place the baguette rounds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake the bead rounds for approximately 5-8 minutes until they harden up a bit.  You want them to be a little crisper with some texture so they don’t fall apart when you layer the ingredients onto them.  Remove the bread rounds and allow to cool just enough so you can handle them.

Top the bread rounds with the mozzarella cheese and place back into the oven just until the cheese melts, approximately 5 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and top with the roasted grape tomatoes.  Sprinkle with the chopped basil and pepper.

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Roasted Grape Bruschetta

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All I can say is…try these!  They have been the number one hit of the holiday season so far.  My friends and family have described them as “wine and cheese on bread” and “deconstructed grape jelly with an unexpected flavor twist.”  Both of these are accurate but just fancy ways of saying Yummy!!

I came up with the idea because as you know by now my preferred cooking method of pretty much anything is roasting.  I roasted the grapes not exactly knowing what to expect with the hope of creating a twist on the usual bruschetta.  I happened to be walking through the supermarket and found the honey nut flavored cream cheese (which is ridiculously delicious) and these little beauties were born.  I planned on drizzling them with regular balsamic vinegar which is always a good match with fruit but I decided to go with the fig flavored balsamic and I think that really put these over the top.

Please give them a try and let me know what you think.  Your guests will be glad you did, I give you my word.

Roasted Grape Bruschetta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf of multi-grain or whole wheat baguette, sliced into ½” thick rounds
  • 1 – 1½ pounds of black or red seedless grapes
  • 1 container of honey nut flavored cream cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Fig balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Place the grapes onto a nonstick baking sheet (if not nonstick, line it with foil, dull side up). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. The skins will shrivel and they’ll become very soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  2. Turn the oven heat down to 400 degrees. Place the baguette rounds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake the bead rounds for approximately 5-8 minutes until they harden up a bit. You want them to be a little crisper with some texture so they don’t fall apart when you layer the ingredients onto them. Remove the bread rounds and allow to cool just enough so you can handle them.
  3. Assembly directions:
  4. Spread a layer of the honey nut flavored cream cheese on the baguette rounds. Slice the grapes in half lengthwise. Place 3-4 grape halves onto the cream cheese layer. Drizzle the fig flavored balsamic vinegar over the baguettes using a teaspoon.
  5. Serve and be totally amazed at how unbelievable these are!

Festive Cornbread

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This cornbread was born kind of by accident.  I am NOT a baker.  In fact, most of my cooking life I’ve steered clear of baking as it’s just too darn precise for me.  I’m a pinch of this, dash of that kind of cook.  I just throw ingredients into the pot and it all comes out right.  That’s absolutely not true with baking, measuring is essential.  So this bread was kind of the best of both worlds.  I have to bake the bread but my creative side came into play with the add-in ingredients.  I found a basic recipe for a healthy cornbread but it needed a little pizazz.  I initially thought about jalapeno as that seems to be a favorite cornbread ingredient.  I then wanted to balance that spice with something sweet as the bread has very little sugar; I went with dried cranberries which are both delicious and economical.  The jalapeno turned into green chile peppers and the result has been very well received.  In fact, this cornbread went in about 5 minutes at our annual Chili Cook-off event!  This non-baker was so proud.

Festive Cornbread
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: Bread, Grains
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • ½ cup egg beaters (the equivalent of 2 large eggs)
  • 1 4 ounce can of green chile peppers with the liquid
  • ½ cup (or to taste) dried cranberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Spray an 8x8 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, soda and salt.
  4. Stir in the yogurt and eggs. Do not over mix, stir just until well blended.
  5. Gently fold in the can of chilis with their liquid and the dried cranberries.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean and the edges are lightly brown.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Nut Muffins

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Okay, I’m still on the pumpkin kick.  It’s just such a wonderful flavor and good in so many things.  These pumpkin muffins are healthy but most of all delicious!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup raw sugar or organic coconut sugar (I use coconut sugar)

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

2 tbsp canola oil or vegetable oil

2 large egg whites

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Non-stick cooking spray

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a nonstick muffin tin with paper liners and lightly spray liners with nonstick cooking spray or spray pan directly omitting the wrappers, that’s what I did.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix pumpkin puree, oil, egg whites and vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

 Add flour mixture to the wet mixture, then blend at low speed until combined; do not over mix. Fold in chopped nuts.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tin and bake on the center rack for 24 – 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 To make bread out of this, cook for 50-55 mins.

Let them cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

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(Recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com)

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