Archive for the Appetizers Category

Foodbuzz 24X24: Primal Party

Posted in Appetizers, Dessert, Mexican with tags , , , , , , on March 25, 2012 by Cooking For Mark

For the past three months i’ve been eating a primal diet.  Having eliminated all processed foods, grains, and legumes, I am left with whole and nutritious foods.  I am healthy, well nourished, and full of energy! I absolutely love this new way of eating.

A few friends of mine also eat primally.  I thought it would be fun to invite them over for tapas-style dinner and drinks, all of it being primal, of course.  It turns out this day fell on Foodbuzz’s 24X24 event, where 24 food bloggers are chosen to host a food-based event within the same 24 hour period. Foodbuzz chose my proposal, so here I am, happy to be a part of the lucky 24.  The primal menu consisted of the following:

 Carne Asada Bok Choy Wraps

Zucchini and Parmesan Fritters with Tzatziki Sauce

Deconstructed Tuna Roll with Wasabi Aoli

Mini Eggplant Moussakas 

Stuffed Chile Relleno in Spicy Sauce

Chorizo-Stuffed Chicken

Bacon-Wraped Dates stuffed with Honey Cinnamon Goat Cheese

Dark Chocolate Pots De Creme with Coconut Creme

Marscapone Avocado & Lime Partait with Raspberry Puree and Coconut Creme

~ And Lots of Wine! ~

 CARNE ASADA BOK CHOY WRAPS 

Ingredients:

  • Small Bok Choy leaves
  • Marinated Carne Asada
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Spicy Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Avocado
ZUCCHINI AND PARMESAN FRITTERS WITH TZATZIKI SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized zucchinis, grated and squeezed of excess moisture (I used a cheese cloth)
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Parsley
  • Lemon zest
  • Egg
  • Almond Flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Tzatziki Sauce
DECONSTRUCTED TUNA ROLL WITH WASABI AOLI

Ingredients:

  • 1 English Cucumber
  • Wasabi Aoli (mayo, sour cream, wasabi paste, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper)
  • Roasted Seaweed (Trader Joe’s)
  • Pan-Seared Tuna Steak
  • Avocado
  • Picked Ginger
  • Soy Sauce (optional)
MINI EGGPLANT MOUSSAKAS


Ingredients:

  • 2 Carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 Celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 small sweet potato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 small eggplants, insides removed (save shells)
Directions: Saute all veggies until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Fresh thyme
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • 1/3 c. parmesan cheese
Directions: Brown ground beef with spices and herbs.  Add sautéed veggies. Mix Parmesan cheese.
  • Melting Cheese
Directions: Fill eggplant with ground beef mixture. Top with melting cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 375 degrees until cheese is melted.
CHILE RELLENO IN SPICY SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • Pasilla Chiles, grilled and chard on all sides. Skin & seeds removed.
  • Melting cheese (I used Edam)
Directions:  Take skinless and seedless chiles and stuff them with cheese. Secure with toothpick.
  • Enchilada Sauce (homemade or store bought)
Directions: In a baking pan, pour some enchilada sauce on the bottom. Place stuffed chile relleno and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 376 until cheese melts.
CHORIZO-STUFFED CHICKEN

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb chorizo, cooked
  • 2 chicken breasts, pounded flat and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Serve with spicy enchilada sauce, cooked spinach, and sour cream.

Directions: place about 1/3 c. cooked chorizo down the middle of a flat chicken breast.  Roll the chicken and secure with toothpicks. Sear the chicken on all sides until brown. (Inside will not be cooked).  Pour enchilada sauce in a backing pan and place chicken on top of the sauce. Drench chicken with more sauce. Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes.

BACON-WRAPPED DATES STUFFED WITH HONEY CINNAMON GOAT CHEESE

Ingredients: 

  • 6 dates, half-sliced and pitted
  • Goat cheese with a bit of honey and cinnamon
  • 6 slices of bacon
Directions: Fill dates with goat cheese. Brown bacon until almost crisp.  Wrap bacon around dates and secure with toothpick.  Bake in oven at 375 until bacon is crisp to your liking and cheese is warm and gooey.
DARK CHOCOLATE POTS DE CREME WITH COCONUT CREME

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz good quality dark chocolate (I used 80%) – chopped into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp good vanilla
  • 1-2 tsp agave nectar (adjust sweetness to your own liking)
  • Pinch of sea salt
Directions: Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.
  • 1/2 c. freshly made HOT coffee
Directions: pour hot coffee while blending. Blend until all of chocolate is melted and smooth.
  • 1/2 c. cream or coconut cream
  • 2 -4 tbsp cream cheese (optional)
Directions: add cream to blender last. Pour in small shot glasses and chill until set, about 3-4 hours. Top with Coconut cream or whipped cream.

MARSCAPONE AVOCADO LIME PARFAIT WITH RASPBERRY PUREE AND COCONUT CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1 small avocado
  • 1/3 c. marscapone cheese
  • about 1 tsp lime (taste and adjust)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Agave nectar, to taste
Directions: whip everything together. Place in small shot glass.
  • Pureed raspberries with 1/2 tsp vanilla
Directions: add a spoonful of raspberry puree to shot glass
  • Whipped coconut creme
Directions: add whipped coconut creme when ready to serve

Trust me, it taste as good as it looks!

Spanakopita (Spinach & Feta Pie)

Posted in Appetizers, Greek with tags , , , on November 7, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

This dish has two of my favorite ingredients: spinach and feta!  I can never get enough. Super easy to make, just make sure you fully thaw the phyllo sheets (for about 2 hours!). I was not patient enough, coincidentally, many of my phyllo sheets tore. But no big deal, I used the leftover torn sheets to make yummy baklava!

Spanakopita Ingredients: (Bake at 350 for 30 minutes)

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and moisture free
  • 1/2 package cream cheese
  • 1 4 oz package feta cheese
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 8 Phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
  • Olive oil (to brush on pastry sheets)

Directions:

  1. Saute onion in pan. Add garlic and spinach (without the excess water). Place in bowl and add cream cheese and feta. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  2. In a greased pie pan, place 1 sheet of oiled phyllo dough. Over lap with 3 more oiled sheets for a total of 4. Place spinach filling inside and top with 4 more oiled phyllo sheets. Tuck the edges in and cut into desired servings. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Foodbuzz 24×24 Kids Table Event: Jasmin’s “A Whole New World” Birthday Bash

Posted in Appetizers, Dessert, Party with tags , , , on October 5, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Last week I was picked to be part of this month’s 24×24 event…which means that this birthday party was sponsored by Foodbuzz, in an effort to raise awareness for Save the Children on behalf of Frigidaire. They were generous enough to give me $250 to put this party together for my little niece’s 3rd birthday party. I had a great time planning all the meals, and the party was a great success. A special thanks to foodbuzz, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my Mom who was the party planner, coordinator, and chef who put everything together, my sister “sou chef” Kari who slaved away in the kitchen, my Grandma Dalila who was there helping in every way that she could, and my brother Benny and sister in law Norma who were in charge of decorations. Also, a special thanks to our talented photographer, Xavier Gutierrez, who took many wonderful photos of this special day.

And we couldn’t have had a birthday party without the beautiful birthday girl, Jasmin. Happy birthday my  little sweetie pie! I hope you had a magical birthday party. I love you!

This was a “Princess” themed party, where Jasmin came dressed as “Princess Jasmine” from the disney movie Aladdin...and she looked so cute! We decided to have Middle Eastern inspired food that was not only healthy but fun for the kids to enjoy.  Some of the kid’s favorites were the fruit kebabs and peanut butter and banana hummus sandwiches. The kids enjoyed helping grill their own chicken kebabs and they built their own wraps with their choice of veggies and tzatziki sauce. They also enjoyed making their own orange cream soda with orange juice, club soda, and vanilla ice cream. The kids had a lot of fun and greatly enjoyed trying new food and learning about different cultures, and the parents enjoyed trying new food as well. Great party, great company, and tasty food. Thank you to everyone who was able to come enjoy this very special day.

PARTY MENU

Drinks

Watermelon, strawberry and lime agua fresca with bubbly club soda

Healthy Orange Cream Soda

Appetizers

For the Kids: Peanut Butter, Honey, and Banana Hummus Sandwiches

For the Parents: spicy roasted red pepper hummus with feta and chips

Fruit kebabs

Mini pizza “pogaca” bites with marinara dipping sauce

Main Course

Grilled Chicken Kebabs

Arabian Fattoush Salad

Lime Rice

Dessert

Pistachio Crumble Cookies

Lollipop Sugar Cookies with Marshmallow Fondant Swirl

Princess Jasmine Birthday Cake

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Healthy Orange Cream Soda and Watermelon Strawberry Agua Fresca

Forget the sugary store-bought soda. We served a watermelon and strawberry agua fresca with a bit of lime and club soda. It’s healthy, refreshing, and its got a little bit of the soda fizz kids like so much.

As a dessert drink, we had a “build your own Orange Cream Soda”. Very simple: kids would fill their cups with orange juice, club soda, and top it off with a scoop of low-fat  ice cream. Fun, easy and a healthier alternative kids are sure to love!

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Peanut Butter, Honey, and Banana Hummus Sandwiches

I cannot believe how well my invention turned out!  This is a peanut butter hummus (no, there is no garlic!) sweetened with honey, sprinkled with cinnamon, and served in a pita sandwich with bananas.  SUPER nutritious, and SUPER tasty! The sprinkles on top make it that much more appealing to the little ones. This snack is not only great for parties, but for regular after-school snacks as well. Parents, you will thank me for this one, cause your kids are gonna start to like eating healthy…without knowing it!

Click here for the recipe.

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Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Feta Hummus and Chips


A great appetizer everyone will surely love. And extremely easy to make at home! The addition of roasted red pepper, cayenne, and feta make this a fantastically unique hummus like you’ve never had before…and it’s extremely addicting too!

Click here for the recipe

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Fruit Kebabs


A great hit with the kids! Not only does it look extremely appetizing, but it’s a great “on the go” snack for kids.  They would simply pick up a fruit skewer and run off to play with the other kids.

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Pogaca Pizza Bites


Remember the Turkish Pogacas I made a few months ago? Well, I decided to revisit that and make little pizza balls stuffed with mozzarella and pepperoni paired with a marinara dipping sauce. Could anything else be more appealing to kids?

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Grilled Chicken Kebabs

 

Yes, another convenient “on the go” meals for the kids to enjoy. Instead of having the kids take time to sit down, cut their chicken and eat it, they simply went over to the grill and asked my dad for a chicken skewer. Even though they were meant to be chicken kebab pita sandwiches, the kids were perfectly content with picking up a kebab and running off to play while they ate their juicy marinated grilled chicken.  There was no begging kids to eat. They did it all by themselves!

The chicken was marinated with a mixture of plain yogurt, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper. Marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight for some delicious and juicy chicken!

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Arabian Fattoush Salad

We served this as a side salad and as a topping for the chicken kabob sandwiches. This tangy, yummy and healthy salad is super easy to prepare, and best of all, the kids ate  it because there were onion chunks in there.

Click here for the recipe.

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Lime  Rice


This was no ordinary rice. This rice had a bit of butter, roasted garlic, lime zest, and was cooked in lime juice and chicken stock, resulting in a fragrant and full of flavor rice. Even though it had “green stufff” (parsley), the kids nonetheless enjoyed it.

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Pistachio Crumble Cookies

It’s no kids party without the sweets.  We made little pistachio “mexican wedding” cookies and added sprinkles on top. A great dessert for kids and adults alike. My sister Kari made about 100 of these, but it was not nearly enough!

Click here for the recipe.

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Lollipop Sugar Cookies with Marshmallow Fondant Swirl

These lollipop sugar cookies were really fun, but I wouldn’t recommend making them. The fondant swirl was a bit labor intensive..and much too sweet.  I ended up making only 3 fondant swirl cookies, and the rest were regular sugar cookie lollipops with a pink sugar glaze.  Much easier and tastier too. But, I would recommend these as a project where the kids can make their own. As long as the fondant is already made (which is really not all that hard), the kids will have fun molding and shaping their own swirl cookie.

Click here for the recipe.

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Princess Jasmine Birthday Cake


Because we didn’t have enough time to make and decorate a cake, we outsourced the job to a local bakery.  And as for the decorations, no one had Princess Jasmine cake decorations so we used a Jasmine Barbie doll…so clever!
HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY JASMIN!



Kids Peanut Butter Hummus

Posted in Appetizers with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Pita Sandwiches with Peanut Butter, Honey, and Banana Hummus

I cannot believe how well my invention turned out!  This is a peanut butter hummus (no, there is no garlic!) sweetened with honey, sprinkled with cinnamon, and served in a pita sandwich with bananas.  SUPER nutritious, and SUPER tasty! The sprinkles on top make it that much more appealing to the little ones. This snack is not only great for parties, but for regular after-school snacks as well. Parents, you will thank me for this one, cause your kids are gonna start to like eating healthy…without knowing it!

Peanut Butter Hummus Ingredients:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1/4-1/3 c. honey
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Pumpkin spice, to taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • A little bit of either orange juice or milk, but just enough to allow it to blend. (About 2-3 tbsp)

Tip: If your child is picky about the chunky consistency, you can make the hummus smoother by removing the skins off the garbanzo beans.  Simply roll each bean between your fingers and it will slide right off.

Blend above ingredients. Cut out star-shapped pitas and fill with peanut butter hummus and slices of bananas. Top with pita star. Add cooking spray to top of pita and add sprinkles.


Happy Hour with Russian Pel’Meni and a Vodka Shot

Posted in Appetizers, Russian with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I had never heard of these before, but they are all the rave in Bellingham, WA. Pel’Meni Restaurants‘ only items are either meat or potato dumplings topped with olive oil, vinegar, hot sauce, sour cream, curry and cilantro. I don’t know how Russian it is, considering the diversification of ingredients used. But the Indian, Mexican and Russian influences in this dish work really well together. Who would have thought?

The potato dumplings at the restaurant were plain potato. I added a lot more flavor into mine by adding curry, cream cheese, and ricotta to the mashed potatoes. The result? The filling is seriously out of this world. Next time I make mashed potatoes I am using these ingredients.

And because it is “Russian”, don’t forget to wash it down with some vodka!

This appetizer is extremely easy to put together. Once you have cooked the potatoes, you will have plated this amazing appetizer in less than 10 minutes. I know, it’s pretty awesome.

Ingredients:

  • Round Wanton wrappers
  • 2 med/small potatoes, boiled
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 1/2 tbs ricotta cheese (or sour cream as substitute)
  • Season filling with salt, pepper, and curry (recommend using Madras curry)
  • Topping: a bit of olive oil, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, curry (Madras), sour cream and cilantro
  • Sprinkle of lime juice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Boil potato until soft
  2. Mash potato, and add the rest of ingredients
  3. Brush water around outside of wanton wrapper. Place 1/2-1 tsp filling in middle, fold over and seal. Take corners and fold in a bit.
  4. Boil in water for about a minute on each side
  5. Plate the dumplings, and add a drizzle of olive oil, vinegar and hot sauce. Top with sour cream. Sprinkle a bit of curry, salt and cilantro.
  6. Sprinkle with a bit of lime juice (optional).

Pesto & Artichoke Bruschetta

Posted in Appetizers with tags , on July 11, 2010 by Cooking For Mark



Mark and I were invited to a party yesterday and I literally spent hours trying to decide what to bring.  The party was an outdoor BBQ so I thought I would make a summer salad. Then I was told that maybe it wouldn’t be a BBQ after all, just a party, so I came up with the perfect idea to make a Spanish Sangria, yum!  I figured it wouldn’t take me long to make, so I made a last-minute stop at the liquor store I had mapquested earlier. Turns out the liquor store I went to was no longer in existence. I spent an unecessary amount of time driving 3 mph back and forth until I pulled out my iphone only to find out their number was disconnected. You’re probably thinking, so? Go to the next liquor store…yes…but the nearest one was like 6 miles away–ridiculous!  I mean, this isn’t Utah anymore. I thought it would be like California with a liquor store on every block. Anyways, I had to come up with another plan, and fast. I decided to make bruschetta since I had most of the ingredients at home, and they were easy to make. On the way to the party Mark and I thought it would be best to taste one to make sure it was good–and it was so good!  We ended up having three each, and would have had more if it didn’t thrown off the balance of my carefully assembled baguettes. Within five mutes of arriving at the party the entire plate of bruschetta was cleaned off. Everyone loved them. Great success.

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • Store-bought or home-made pesto
  • Artichoke Tapenade or canned artichokes, chopped
  • Tomato
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Lime
  • Gorgonzola (optional)

Directions:

  1. Slice baguette, drizzle with olive oil and place in pre-heated oven (400*) until golden brown
  2. Spread a layer of pesto on sliced baguette and a layer of artichoke tapenade
  3. Slice tomatoes and mozzarella and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a bit of lime. Assemble on sliced baguette.
  4. Add a tiny piece of gorgonzola at the top of baguette
  5. Sprinkle parsley to garnish
  6. Finish off with drizzle of olive oil.