Appetizers/Hors d'oeuvres Feed

Creamy Risotto with English Peas, Lemon and Mint



Creamy Risotto with English Peas, Lemon and Mint



This is a great spring time recipe that works well as a first course or a side dish. I love the sweet flavor of English peas, but frozen ones will work fine. You can easily substitute asparagus for the peas. Just snap the ends off 1 pound of thin asparagus and cut the spears on the bias into ½” lengths. Stir them into the risotto in Step 4 after the broth has absorbed for 5 mintues.


Download Creamy Risotto with English Peas Recipe


4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth  

2 ½ cups water  

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped


2 cups Arborio rice  

1 cup dry white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc

2 cups English peas, shelled (about 12 ounces) or frozen petite peas

2 ounces Parmigiano cheese, grated (1 cup) 

3tablespoons minced fresh mint  

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest  

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

 Ground black pepper  


1. Bring the broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and keep the broth warm over the low heat.


2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until lightly browned, about 9 minutes.


3. Stir in the rice and cook until the edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it is completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.


4. Add 3 cups of the warm broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, about every 3 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed, about 10-12 minutes.


5. Continue to cook, stirring in roughly 1/2 cup of the broth every few minutes, until the rice is cooked through but is still somewhat firm in the center, about 9-10 minutes.


6. Add the peas and another 1/2 cup broth. Continue to simmer and stir until the peas are just cooked and the rice is just tender to the tooth, another 3 to 4 min. Stir in another splash of broth if the risotto is too thick. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mint, lemon juice, lemon zest, and the Parmigiano.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the risotto immediately with a sprinkling of Parmigiano and a wedge of lemon and sprig of mint.

Risotto cooking 2

Fast and Easy Homemade Pita Chips

Pita chips

Fast and Easy Homemade Pita Chips

These chips are great with Homemade Onion Dip (Click here for recipe) or any favorite salsa, hummus, or dip. You can also make great Tortilla chips using the same method.

Download Fast and Easy Homemade Pita Chips

4 pita breads (8-inch), cut into wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

1teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, carefully toss the pita triangles in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the pita chips smooth-side down, over 2 rimmed baking sheets.

3. Bake the chips until they begin to crisp and brown lightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and flip the chips so their smooth side is up. Return the baking sheets to the oven, reversing their positions from top to bottom, and continue to bake until the chips are fully toasted, 6-8 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and cool the chips before serving. (The chips can be held in an airtight container for up to 3 days. If necessary, briefly re-crisp in a 300-degree oven for a few minutes before serving.)

Pita bread cut
Pita chips oil
Pita chips baked

Easy Homemade Onion Dip

Onion dip

Easy Homemade Onion Dip

This makes a great appetizer (to take to a Super Bowl party) and is so easy to do that you’ll never bother with the dried onion soup mix version. Serve with crackers, red bell pepper sticks or better yet, make some homemade pita chips.

Download Easy Homemade Onion Dip recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions (about 1lb) finely diced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces cream cheese

6 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When shimmering, add onion, ½ teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion softens completely and starts to brown, about 9-10 minutes (reduce heat if onions brown too quickly).

2. Transfer onions to a food processor and the cream cheese, sour cream, thyme and cayenne. Pulse until mixture is well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Onion sauteed
  Onion dip pureed

Easy Crispy Chicken Taco Nuggets

Chicken Taco Nuggets
These spicy little chicken tenders are quick and easy to make and a perfect party appetizer. You can save a little time by using store bought taco seasoning, but it's worth making up a batch of the homemade.

Easy Crispy Chicken Taco Nuggets 

Download Easy Crispy Chicken Taco Nuggets recipe

2 cups crushed Santitas Corn Chips

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

6 chicken breast fillets or boneless thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes,

1/3 cup butter, melted

3 tablespoons Homemade Taco Seasoning - recipe below (or you can use a store bought packet)

½ cup flour

Salt and pepper

1.  Adjust rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and spray rack with cooking spray.  

3.  Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

4.  Mix flour with taco seasoning in a small bowl and side aside. Spread the crushed chips in a shallow dish. Beat together the egg and milk in a shallow bowl.

5. Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, then dip chicken the egg mixture and then roll in the chips to coat each piece. Place the chicken nuggets on a prepared wire rack and drizzle with melted butter. Bake until crispy and dark golden – about 18 to 20 minutes for chicken breasts pieces, 30-35 for thighs.

6. Serve with a dipping sauce (mix your favorite salsa with sour cream)

Homemade Taco Seasoning

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 ½ tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 ½ teaspoons onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper


Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to blend.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Chicken taco nuggets flour dipped
Chicken taco nuggets on rack
Chicken taco nuggets baking
Santitas Corn chips

Pat Loud's Holiday Cheese Log

Holiday Cheese log

Pat Loud’s Classic Holiday Cheese Log

Download Pat Loud Holiday Cheese Log recipe 

This is a fantastic and easy recipe from my friend Pat Loud which was passed down from her mother. She serves it at nearly every party that I’ve attended and it’s always a big hit. As with most good recipes, the amounts are somewhat flexible – in other words, feel free to use more or less of any of the ingredients. Key to success, however, depends upon quality sharp cheddar cheese. I used Cabot Private Stock Extra Sharp Cheddar. Any favorite bleu cheese will work  - Roquefort, Danish Bleu, or English Stilton. Make sure that the cheeses are not too cold, or the mixture will not blend in the food processor.

10 ounces shredded Cabot extra sharp cheese, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

4 -6 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled

2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/3 cup each of pistachios and dried cranberries, chopped

1. Place cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4-5 times to combine, then process for 1 minute until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

2. Put mixture on a piece of wax paper and using the paper, shape into a ball or 2 logs. Refrigerate until firm. Roll ball or logs in a mixture of chopped pistachios and then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Serve with crackers and additional dried fruit.

Holiday cheese log cracker 2
Cheese log blended
Cheese roll wax paper
Cheese log on board
Cheese log rolled in nuts

Easy Parmesan Cheese Straws

Parmesan Cheese Straws  


  I like to make a bunch of these ahead of time and keep the “straws” in the freezer until I need them. They make a great appetizer or serve them with your favorite pasta recipe. 


½ box Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry (1 sheet), thawed on the counter for 10 minutes

2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, (or Asiago) about 1 cup

¼ teaspoon table salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika (optional)


1.     Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place the puff pastry on a sheet of parchment and sprinkle it with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Place another sheet of parchment over the top and, using a rolling pin, press the cheese into the dough by gently rolling the pin back and forth. Without removing the parchment, carefully flip the dough over, cheese-side down. Remove the top layer of parchment and repeat with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Measure the piece of dough and continue to roll it out to a 10 1/2-inch square, if necessary.

2.    Remove the top sheet of parchment. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into fourteen 3/4-inch-wide strips (see photos below). Gently twist each strip of dough and then transfer it to the prepared baking sheets, spacing the strips about 1 inch apart.

To Store: Wrap each baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or transfer to the freezer for up to 1 month. (After the straws are completely frozen, about 4 hours, they can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag to save space in the freezer. Transfer back to a parchment-lined baking sheet before baking.)

To bake: Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is ready, remove the baking sheets from the refrigerator or freezer, unwrap, and bake the straws until fully puffed and golden brown, 8 to 13 minutes, switching and rotating the trays halfway through the baking time. Let the straws cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving. (The cheese straws, completely cooled, can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.) 

  Parmesan cheese straws dough

Parmesan cheese straws twist

Parmesan cheese straws cooling

Best Baltimore Crab Cakes with Creamy Chipotle Chile Sauce

Crab cake

I've tried crab cakes in most parts of the country, but none taste as good as the ones found in Maryland. They’re known for the large lumps of crab and very little breading, which makes for a spectacular crab cake. Old Bay is a spice staple and key to an authentic recipe. I like to serve them with a spicy chipotle cream sauce, but you can use the more traditional tartar sauce as well.

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat  

4 scallions, white and green parts, minced (about 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves or cilantro, dill, or basil, chopped

1 1/2   teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

2-4 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs, (pulse 2 slices quality white bread in food processor)

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 large egg


¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup vegetable oil

1. Carefully mix crabmeat, scallions, herb, Old Bay, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, zest, and Worcestershire sauce in medium bowl, being careful not to break up crab lumps. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Carefully fold in egg with rubber spatula until mixture just clings together. Add a few more bread crumbs if needed to help hold mixture together. 

2.    Divide crab mixture into four rounds, about 3 inches across and 1 1/2-inches high. Arrange on baking sheet lined with waxed paper; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (Can refrigerate up to 24 hours.) 

3.    Put flour on plate or in pie tin. Handling crab cakes with care, lightly dredge crab cakes in flour. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Gently lay chilled crab cakes in skillet; pan-fry until outsides are crisp and browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve hot, with sauce. 

Creamy Chipotle Chile Sauce:

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (minced)

½ tsp. chili powder

1 small clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves

1 -2 teaspoons lime juice from 1 lime


For the sauce: Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes. (The sauce can be refrigerated for several days.)

Crab cakes side 1

Crab cakes saute

Crab cakes frying


Southern Style Shrimp and Cheesy Grits for Two



Uglesich's Restaurant in New Orleans (Uglesich website) serves one of the best shrimp and grits that I ever tasted, although, just about everything there was incredible. This recipe, which follows a method from America’s Test kitchen, is pretty easy to throw together and makes a great quick dinner for two.

 Download Southern Style Shrimp and Grits for Two recipe

8 ounces shrimp (large size 31-40 per pound), peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 minced garlic clove

pinch of Cayenne pepper

¼ - ½ tsp. Cajun Seafood seasoning

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small onion minced (about ½ cup)

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup Heavy Cream

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup Quick Grits (Quick not instant grits is key)

4 oz extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese, shredded

1 green onion sliced thin

 1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle and heat oven to 375 degrees

2.  Toss the shrimp with the oil, garlic, cayenne, Cajun seasoning and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate will making the grits. 

3.  Melt butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until soften stirring frequently, 4- 5 minutes.

4.  Stir in water, cream, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring to a boil.

5.  Slowly whisk in grits, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often until grits are thick and creamy, 5-7 minutes.

6.  Remove from heat and whisk in cheddar until combined.

7.  Lay shrimp on their sides in a pinwheel (circle the skillet with tails in middle) over the grits then press on them slightly to submerge about halfway down.

8.  Transfer skillet to oven and bake until shrimp are cooked through, about 5 – 7 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Shrimp grits pan


Deviled Eggs


Deviled Eggs

Hint: To center the yolks, turn the carton of eggs on its side in the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook the eggs.

7 large eggs (cold)

3/4 teaspoon grainy mustard 

3 tablespoons mayonnaise 

1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 

1/4 teaspoon sugar  

1/8 teaspoon table salt  

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives 

1. Place eggs in medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let stand 12 minutes. Meanwhile, fill medium bowl with 1 quart water and 1 dozen ice cubes. Pour off water from saucepan and gently shake pan back and forth to crack shells. Transfer eggs to ice water with slotted spoon and let cool 5 minutes.

2. Peel eggs and slice in half lengthwise, discard 2 halves of the worst looking halves. Transfer yolks to fine-mesh sieve and use spatula to press them through sieve and into bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mashing mixture against sides of bowl until smooth.

3. Arrange whites on serving platter and fill with yolk mixture, mounding filling about 1/2 inch above whites. Sprinkle with chives or paprika. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs 2

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Ribs


I’ve never really use a “crock pot” that often, but these ribs make it worth dragging it out of the basement. They literally fall of the bone and the sauce is the perfect combination of sweet and savory.  They are quick to throw together but take a few hours to cook, so start them early. America's Test Kitchen suggests standing the ribs in the crock. Simply halve each rack of ribs and stand the pieces up in a ring around the outside of the slow-cooker insert, where the heating coils are. Their technique results in perfectly cooked ribs with concentrated meaty flavor and even allows the ribs to brown a little right against the heat source.

Download Slow Cooker Sweet Sour Ribs Recipe


1 medium onion, chopped

1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

8 ounces apricot or peach jam

6 ounces frozen pineapple concentrate

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup rice vinegar plus 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

4 lbs baby back ribs (2 pieces)

salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped 



1. Place the onion, pepper, garlic, and ginger in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, about 8 pulses.


2.  Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable mixture and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is softened and slightly brown, about 7 minutes.


3.  Stir in the jam, frozen juice, soy sauce, sugar, 1/4 cup vinegar, lime zest, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.


4.  Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Stand upright in the slow cooker, winding them around in a spiral, meaty side toward the wall of the cooker. Pour the sauce over the ribs.


5.  Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours until tender.


6.  Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 20 minutes.


7.  Let the cooking liquid settle 5 minutes and pour off the fat. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium pot. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook down until it measures about 1 ½ cups, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk the cornstarch and the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce together in a small bowl, then stir into pot. Cook until the sauce is glossy and thickened, about 2 minutes.



8.  Stir the remaining tablespoon of vinegar into the sauce and correct the seasoning. Slice the ribs between the bones and toss with the sauce.


9.  Serve on a platter garnished with cilantro. 



Baby back ribs pot