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Mediterranean “7 Layer” Dip

4 Jan

Need a recipe for a healthy party snack?  On New Year’s Eve we had a small party with just hors d’oeuvres, which is my ideal kind of party.  I saw the idea for this dip online somewhere, but didn’t have an exact recipe to follow, so I winged it.  It’s kind of a play on one of my favorite appetizers of all time, 7 layer taco dip, but it’s a little more current and healthy.  This recipe made enough dip to serve a large crowd.

Mediterranean “7 Layer” Dip

  • 16 ounces plain hummus (this is the large size container, and I didn’t use it all – for a smaller crowd I’d say you could get away with 8 ounces.  I used plain and I thought the dip still had plenty of flavor)
  • 8 ounces tzatziki (a Greek yogurt/cucumber sauce, which is now pretty widely available in the refrigerated section of the grocery store – again, I didn’t quite use the whole 8 ounce container)
  • 4-6 ounces crumbled Feta cheese (or to taste)
  • Assorted chopped vegetable toppings: I used black olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper and red onion.
  • Olive oil and black pepper
  • Toasted pine nuts (optional – I didn’t have any because of the Salmonella outbreak, but I think they’d add a nice touch).
  • Pita chips or pita wedges, to serve

Spread the hummus on a large platter.  Top with a thin layer of tzatziki.

Sprinkle remaining ingredients on top.  Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper.  Serve with pita chips (I used the sea salt variety of Stacy’s) or pita bread cut into wedges.

Easy as pie.  And it kind of looks like a pizza pie.  The bonus to this being such an easy recipe was that it was even more delicious and flavorful than I would have guessed – and is definitely going to be a recipe we make again and again.  Enjoy!

Day 6: Endive with Goat Cheese, Craisins and Spiced Walnuts

19 Dec

We’re half way through the 12 days of Christmas, can you believe it??  It honestly still doesn’t feel like Christmas is less than a week away when we haven’t had any snow yet!  Though I’m sure it will start to feel more “real” this week as I bake Christmas cookies like a mad woman and listen to All I Want for Christmas on repeat. 

Today’s recipe is another SUPER EASY appetizer idea, perfect for holiday entertaining.  Again, just like the Tomato and Mozzarella Skewers, I love this recipe because it looks very festive, involves no actual “cooking” and can be made in advance and left in the fridge.   Also, they are fresh and crunchy unlike a lot of other heavy, greasy appetizers.

This recipe uses Belgian endive, which is a crunchy, lettuce-like vegetable, which makes the perfect single-serve vehicle for an assortment of toppings.  This recipe kind of reminds me of a very sophisticated and grown up version of ants on a log (you know, the snack we ate as kids: celery with peanut butter and raisins).

I had both goat cheese and blue cheese on hand so I tried the recipe with both, and I have to say I much preferred the goat cheese ones – I thought they were much more mild and would probably be more of a crowd pleaser.  However, the blue cheese were also good (I would suggest using not too stinky of  a blue cheese, the milder the better) and the combination of blue cheese and craisins and nuts is pretty classic.

As with the mozzarella skewer “recipe”, this is more of a rough guideline, since the amount of toppings needed will depend on the amount of endive you have and the ratio of topping you like.  So use this as a starting point and run with it.

Endive with Goat Cheese, Craisins and Walnuts

Time: 15 minutes, Yields: ~20 pieces, depending on the size of your endive

  • 2 heads Belgian endive
  • 4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, left to soften slightly at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (plain, not flavored) – if you prefer blue cheese, I would recommend using much less, only a few tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup craisins, slightly chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • cinnamon, salt
  • honey, for drizzling

Remove the root end of the endive, separate the leaves, wash and dry.  If your endive is feeling a little soft and not super crisp, cut off the root and let it sit in a bowl of water for a little bit (it will draw back up some of the water and get crisp again). 

Mix the cream cheese and goat cheese in a small bowl with a spoon or spatula until well combined.   Whether you use blue cheese or goat cheese, taste the mixture and adjust the amount depending on the strength of the cheese and tolerance of your crowd. 

Meanwhile, place the walnuts in a dry skillet over low heat on the stove top to toast (this develops the oils and brings out the flavor).  Give the walnuts a sprinkle of cinnamon and dash of salt once the oils begin to develop.  Toast until you can just begin to smell them – being careful not to burn!!  Pay close attention, they go fast.

To assemble, spread the bottom third or half the endive leaf with goat cheese mixture (about a tablespoon), sprinkle with spiced nuts and chopped craisins.   If storing in the fridge for a while before serving, store on paper towels to avoid any excess sogginess from developing. 

Just before serving, generously drizzle with honey – don’t skip this step – it makes a huge difference in flavor! 

Day 5: Homemade Sour Cream & Onion Dip

18 Dec

I’m here today with another easy but impressive appetizer idea for the holidays (Or any time of year! This would be perfect for a Superbowl party).  This chip dip recipe is from Everyday Food magazine, and it blows the store-bought kind out of the water.  So impress your party guests with this homemade version.

Homemade Sour Cream and Onion Chip Dip (recipe from Everyday Food)

Time: 20 min + 1 hour to chill, Yield: 2 cups

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Vidalia or sweet onions (1 lb), finely diced (*see tutorial below to learn how to chop an onion like a chef)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup reduced fat sour cream (I only had regular on hand – oops! now it’s extra delicious)
  • 2 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature (makes it easier to mix)
  • 1.5 teaspoons white wine vinegar (I only had red wine and rice wine on hand so I used half of each)
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives (cut them with kitchen shears to make it super easy)
  • Potato chips (I like kettle chips or some other sturdy chip for this dip.  Colorful vegetable chips would be great too)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown (about 15 min).  Let cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, cream cheeses, vinegar, chives, a little more salt and pepper, and the onions.  Chill the dip about an hour before serving with potato chips.

The dip can keep in the refrigerator for 2 days – so make it ahead or keep it on hand during the holidays!

*How to chop an onion like a chef (also discussed in my post here)

1. Cut off the stem of the onion.  Leave the root end intact.  Cut in half and peel.

2.  Slice the onion into thin strips length-wise (while holding the  onion – I didn’t have enough hands to photograph too)3. Slice horizontally twice.  This step can come before or after the previous one (usually I do this first but it’s up to you)

4.  Chop the onion moving towards the root end – it will result in a nice, uniform dice every time. (Please excuse my weird looking hand and blurry picture).  If that was clear as mud, and you really want to learn, here’s a helpful video.

Day 4: Tomato Mozzarella Skewers

17 Dec

It’s Day 4 of my 12 Day of Christmas, and the next 3 days are going to be all about simple and easy appetizers for your holiday parties. 

First up, tomato mozzarella skewers.  This is so easy and adaptable that it’s not really even a “recipe”.   I love these little guys because 1) they taste fresh and delicious 2) they look impressive but are so easy and 3) they’re Christmas colors!

Tomato and Mozzarella Skewers

Time: 1020 minutes to assemble, Yield: as many as you want!

All you need is:

  • Small mozzarella balls (bocconcini) – buy them from the olive/cheese bar area of your grocery store.  Mine were already marinated which was a huge help!  If you can’t find them premarinated, toss them with some olive oil, red pepper flakes, and fresh or dried herbs (basil, parsley, oregano – whatever you have on hand)
  • Cherry/grape tomatoes
  • Fresh basil or oregano leaves – I would absolutely recommend basil, but for some reason my grocery store was out of it, so I used a little fresh oregano – use what you can find!

In the past I’ve just used tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, but since I had them on hand I also added some:

  • Mini pepperoni – I had these on hand from a different recipe and I thought they would make the perfect addition – right color and right size.  They are super cute if you can find them – I think they are Hormel brand? And they were with all the other pre-packaged pepperoni
  • Green olives  – again, I had these on hand, and they were the right color, so I threw a few on

Now here’s the fun part: assembling.  For the mozzarella and tomatoes I left some whole and cut some in half, just to add variation.  I cut the olives in half since they were the very large kind, but if you have smaller ones you probably don’t need to cut them.

Then I amused myself trying to make no two the same.  The simple things in life.

I recommend giving them a drizzle of olive oil before serving.  I added a little more olive oil back to the container the mozzarella was marinated in – which gave me a nice herbed oil to drizzle on top. 

So simple, so easy, and so beautiful! 

Matt couldn’t resist.