Turkey Peanut Satay Wraps

Thai-flavored fare a favorite with you, like it is for me? Then these savory turkey wraps will hit the spot. I got this recipe from a Bethel University student worker (Natalie G, that’s you!), who raved non-stop about it, and she had found it on iowagirleats.com. It went together pretty easy—about 30 minutes—and most of the ingredients were the kind of thing I had on hand. I’m not concerned about using soy sauce in recipes, but those who have zero tolerance for gluten would want to sub in gluten-free tamari sauce.

Now for the adjustments I made to the recipe—let’s start with the meat. It called for ground chicken, and I can’t recall seeing that in the grocery store. (And my husband refused to look for it when I sent him to the grocery store for the butterhead lettuce…so that kinda settled it!) Since I had ground turkey on hand, that’s what I used. Not a fan of gathering loads of specialty sauces in my cupboards and frig, I subbed in fresh minced garlic and dried chili powder for the recommended chili garlic sauce. Another addition was the scallions, as I thought they’d give it a nice bite.

It also seemed that the amount of sauce made in the recipe wouldn’t have covered the meat, so I doubled the peanut butter and coconut milk. I was glad I did, because it was JUST right. And so was the flavor!!! It was a great mix of spices, and the creaminess of the coconut milk and peanut better coated the meat perfectly. Once wraps were assembled, the crunch of the lettuce wrapped around the spiced meat mixture made for a thoroughly satisfying meal. (Could also be a killer appetizer!) If there’d been leftovers, I’d tell you how it tasted second day, but alas, we ate every last morsel. DEE-lish.

Serves 4

2 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large shallots, chopped, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3-4 scallions (green onions), chopped
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger*
salt and pepper
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk (I used a can of regular, not light, and mixed to include fat and coconut milk)
¼ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
*(If you don’t have fresh ginger, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger here)
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 heads of butterhead lettuce

Coat skillet with oil, and heat to medium-high. Add ground turkey, and cook until almost no pink remains in meat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Add shallots (or onions), scallions, and minced garlic, and cook until meat is no longer pink and garlic is fragrant. Turn down to low.

Combine coconut milk and peanut butter in large microwave-safe measuring cut or bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, chili powder, curry, and red pepper flakes. Stir until combined. Add to meat in skillet, and stir to coat. Turn element off.

Remove core from butterhead lettuce, and rinse. Pat dry. Line 4 plates with several leaves of lettuce, and add large dollop of meat mixture to plate. Put cilantro and chopped peanuts on table. Let each person assemble their own wraps, and top with peanuts and cilantro.

Caprese Zucchini Bites

Fresh zucchini, basil, and mozzarella are 3 of the 5 ingredients in this super simple appetizer. Looking for another way to use up the mountains of zucchini available at the end of summer, I threw together these ingredients that mimic the ever-popular caprese salad. And they were super tasty! The zucchini added some nice crunch and gave you a “cracker” feel without any gluten involved, and the flavors all blended really well. I used the Trader Joe’s dressing because I didn’t have balsamic vinaigrette on hand, and I think you could use just about ANY vinegar-based dressing on these—Italian, simple sweet and sour, whatever you have. The sun-dried tomatoes pack such punch you don’t need a lot of help from the dressing.

Serves 4-6

1 small zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
Half of a jar of julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
4-5 slices fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch squares
¼ cup fresh basil, snipped
Trader Joe’s Ginger Soy Dressing or reduced balsamic vinaigrette

Line a plate with a layer of sliced zucchini, then top each slice with a teaspoon of sun-dried tomatoes, and a piece of fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle with fresh basil, and drizzle with spare amount of dressing. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving. Probably best to serve within 24 hours of assembling.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

FullSizeRenderMaking your own fresh, creamy hummus is a snap, and once you do it you’ll never want store bought again. We’ve been making a basic Spicy Hummus for years now (found a fave on Rachel Ray’s site) and I can’t remember the last time we bothered buying. Tahini paste—a paste made from ground sesame seeds—is the secret ingredient that makes hummus so, well, hummalicious. But I wanted to mix things up a bit, so I added a jar of Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Peppers to our basic Spicy Hummus recipe.

How was it? My handy taste testers Mitchell and Justin (sons) and Emily (boarder) said they loved it! (Too bad it looks so fleshy in the picture here. Rest assured, it tastes better than it looks!) The only thing that might improve it, would be an added teaspoon of my favorite seasoning, smoked Spanish paprika. I think the smokiness with the roasted peppers would take this dip up a notch. But that’s just my humble opinion.

Makes 6-8 servings

1 (14.5-ounce can) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (also called chickpeas)
1 jar (8 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained
2 rounded tablespoons tahini paste
¼ cup olive oil
½ of a lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Course salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)

Combine all ingredients in food processor bowl or blender and pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy. Transfer to small bowl and serve with corn tortilla chips or veggies. Or store in airtight container in frig for 2-3 weeks.

NOTE: Be sure to drain and pat the red peppers dry, or they add a lot of extra moisture to the dip.

Cranberry, Turkey, and Sharp Cheddar Bites

FullSizeRenderHeading into New Year’s Eve celebrations, this tart and tasty cranberry, turkey, and cheese concoction is a quick fix to have in your kitchen recipe arsenal—IF you have the cranberry conserve made ahead of time! Originally posted about a year ago, the conserve goes together in about 30 minutes, so isn’t a huge culinary black hole. In that post, I also talk about a tasty sandwich option using the cranberry conserve.

But we’re talking about quick appetizers here, so let’s move on! You’re basically making a mini open-faced sandwich, with either deli turkey (or leftover holiday bird) or ham, a slice of provolone, Swiss, or white sharp cheddar cheese, green apple, and a dollop of the cranberry conserve. That’s it! Easy, peasy, lemon squeezey, right? The picture here shows these with “Food Should Be Good” gluten-free corn tortilla/crackers from Costco. But I’ve also make these on sour dough bread or those mini rye bread squares, when I’m not serving a gluten-free crowd. (You know, the ones your Mom used to buy only during holidays for housing the abundant cream cheese spreads…)

Speaking of abundant cream cheese, the nice thing about these appetizers is that they do NOT start with a brick of Philadelphia cream cheese—and that’s rare in nibbles offered on holiday tables.

Serves as many as you want!

Layer the following ingredients and place on serving platter:

  • Food Should Be Good Corn Tortilla Chips/Crackers, sour dough bread, or mini rye bread squares
  • Sliced deli turkey or ham
  • Sliced Provolone, Swiss, or extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Green apple, sliced thin (do not peel)
  • 1 half-pint jar of cranberry conserve

Apple Avocado Salsa

FullSizeRenderA little chopping of a couple apples, an avocado, and some herbs yields this sweet and sassy salsa. Apples get second-billing to all the pumpkin spice la-dee-dah stuff in the fall, but I’d take a juicy Honeycrisp over pumpkin-flavored treats any day. (Especially since pumpkin actually has no flavor, and it’s really the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves everyone is gaga about!!! Let’s just stop the pumpkin madness, people.)

This super simple recipe was in the August 2016 Real Food magazine, put out by Lunds & Byerlys, and I tagged it to try as soon as Honeycrisp’s were in season, as those are my faves. It went together in a snap, and we served it as an appetizer to a meal of smoked chicken, and yellow rice and peas. The fresh and crispy salsa was a great complement to our comfort food, and a nice change-of-pace from tomato salsa. Our taste-testers this time were my son Justin and his girlfriend Ashley, and they both found the taste twist to be refreshing. I did sub in a Granny Smith apple for one of the sweeter variety, and that really helped. I also adjusted seasonings throughout the recipe. Tip: you’ll want to sharpen your knives and dice small, so you get a good mix of fruit bits on your chips. 

Serves 8-10

1 Granny Smith apple, cored, and diced
1 Honeycrisp apple, cored, and diced (or Gala, or other sweeter apple)
1 avocado, diced
½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
1 scallion, sliced (use both white and green parts of the green onion)
1 fresh jalapeño, minced (remove stem veins, and seeds)
Juice of ½ of lime
1 teaspoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons of minced fresh cilantro
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in bowl, and toss to combine. Cover and chill for an hour to blend flavors. Serve with corn tortilla chips.

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

FullSizeRenderA can of artichokes, and a few handfuls of fresh spinach make for a new twist on classic hummus. I found this recipe in the Fall 2016 edition of Lunds & Byerly’s Real Food magazine, and couldn’t wait to try it. My son Mitchell loooooves spinach in everything, so I wanted to see if this would be another way to give him his spinach fix next time he’s home from college. It was a nice dip for corn tortilla chips, and would actually be great with cukes, carrots, and jicama sticks as well. And if you’re a raw broccoli dipper, go for it. (I personally avoid broccoli in a raw veggie tray at gatherings. That, and raw cauliflower florets…those veggies are best eaten when roasted, if you ask me. But I digress!) If looking for some interesting appetizer ideas, this would be good to include in a hummus trio, with Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus (previously posted), and the classic hummus, for the true hummus aficionados. Serve with warm pita bread triangles, and your family and friends will gobble these up.

Serves 6-8

1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans*, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
3-4 cups fresh spinach
2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini paste
½ teaspoon salt

Combine garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini paste, and salt in food processor, and pulse until smooth. Stop to scrape down side occasionally. Serve. Leftovers may be stored in a covered container in the frig for up to five days.

*NOTE: The original recipe called for soaking dry chickpeas overnight, and then boiling them for an hour, and letting them cool. That sounded like waaaaay too much work for me, so I used the canned chickpeas (aka: garbanzo beans). Also, I added more lemon (as noted above) then called for in the magazine recipe, as it seemed to need more zing.

Pesto Chips

IMG_1718Bunches of fresh basil and some other kitchen staples are all you need to make these incredibly fragrant and savory appetizers. These are pretty easy to whip up, yet your kitchen will smell like you’re a seasoned gourmet who’s been slaving at the stove all day. I’ve been making these for years to serve either as appetizers, or as a side to a meal of grilled meat, veggies, and some fruit. When tomatoes aren’t in season, these are great with just the tortillas, pesto, and grated cheese. I often made these sans tomatoes for an after-school snack for my boys. (Hmmmmm. Maybe that’s why they developed rather sophisticated food palettes. They did occasionally get Rice Krispy bars or other more kid-friendly fare…occasionally.)

Farmer’s markets are teaming with fresh basil, parsley, and tomatoes this time of year. I got the most delicious Roma tomatoes this weekend from a little Saturday morning Farmer’s market in West St. Paul (Icy Cup parking lot, 63 George Street, corner of George and Stryker. For more info, visit growingwestside.com/farmers-market/). My friend Sue’s daughter, Nellie (and her new husband Stephen), have a booth there selling organic produce from their farm, Whistling Thistle. The Roma’s I got from them were perfect for these, as they were meaty and had a lower moisture content than standard grocery store ‘maters. That’s essential to keep the chips crispy once baked.

Makes 8 ounces pesto

For pesto:
1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves (washed and rinsed)
½ cup fresh parsley springs (without stems), or ¼ cup dried parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup slivered almonds (or pine nuts)
1 large clove garlic, quartered
¼ teaspoon salt

For chips:
Corn or flour tortillas
Shredded aged mozzarella, or cubed fresh mozzarella
Roma tomatoes, diced

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In a blender or food processor, combine basil, parsley, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, almonds, garlic, and salt. Cover and blend or process with several on-off turns until paste forms. Stop machine to scrape down sides as needed.

Spread a few tablespoons of pesto over one of the tortillas, and put it on a baking sheet. (Flour tortillas are tastier, but I’ve used corn tortillas to make these gluten free.) Sprinkle cheese of choice on top, then repeat process for desired number of tortillas. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until edges are crispy and slightly browned. Cut into wedges and serve as is, or sprinkle with the diced tomatoes, then cut and serve.

NOTE: If not using the pesto immediately, store in airtight container and refrigerate up to a week, or freeze for 6-12 months.

For another tasty way to use your basil pesto, Check out a previous post with directions for a basil pasta that’s a fabulous meal on it’s own.

Hot Mexican-style Spinach Dip

FullSizeRenderWith the Big Game coming up, thought I’d share this recipe for a creamy, hot spinach appetizer that’s a step above the Knorr’s soup and mayo dip we’ve all feasted on. (Remember when it was all the rage to serve that dip in a hollowed out round loaf of bread? That was looooong before Pinterest, so only the hostesses with the mostest were aware of that little trick.) I got this recipe from a friend many moons ago, and dug up the recipe to serve at a recent book club. The ladies loved it, and I promised I’d post it.

Chopped spinach used to only be sold in a solid 10-ounce brick, which takes forever and a day to thaw out. Now you can buy a bag of loose chopped spinach, and that’s usually about 16 ounces. It thaws much quicker, so I made this with the 16-ounce bag for my friends. It was extra spinachy, but no one turned into Popeye. So use whichever package you prefer. (I’ve always thought the spinach squished into a block was kind of strange. What’s the point? Storage issues? So you can teach kids geometry while you cook? Not sure on that one…)

Sometimes I divide this into smaller ramekins, and give each guest their own dish of this delicious dip. Avoids that whole double-dipping faux pas, and no one gets an elbow in the face from an over-eager dipper. It only needs about 20 minutes in the oven if you’re doing smaller individual-size portions.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 fresh tomatoes (about 1½ cups), chopped, and excess liquid drained
2 tablespoons canned chopped jalapeño, or 1 fresh jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed, minced
1 (10-ounce or 16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, and excess moisture squeezed out
2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
8-ounce cream cheese, cut into ½-inch pieces, room temperature
1 cup Half and Half cream
2 (2.2 ounce) cans sliced black olives*
1 tablespoon red wine or apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in medium skillet; saute onions until translucent. Add tomatoes and jalapeño, and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in spinach, Monty Jack cheese, cream cheese, Half and Half, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into shallow 9″x9″ baking dish and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE: This dip can be prepared ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days prior to baking. You will want to let it sit at room temp for an hour or so before baking.

*Also note that the cheap sliced black olives work best in this dish. I made this again for a gathering after initially posting it, and I used Kalamata olives, thinking that would take it over the top into a new realm of tasty goodness. It did not. They made it taste funky. Morale of the story, don’t waste your Kalamata olives in this dip!

Nette’s Cranberry Salsa

FullSizeRender-2Tomato salsa is so last year! This cranberry salsa has some kick and some sass, just like my neighbor Nette—which is fitting, since I got this recipe from her. You’ll need a food processor or blender to make it, but if you’ve got the tools, it’s a snap to whip up. If you serve it with corn tortilla chips, it’s both gluten free AND dairy free—how many appetizers can make that claim? Not many! At least not the appetizers found on most midwestern buffets in the cold winter months. And if you need more incentive to try this recipe, take note that cranberries are higher in antioxidants than the highly-acclaimed blueberry, and offer 24% of your daily allowance of vitamin C. So stick THAT on your chip and eat it. (Smiley face…)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup chopped red onion
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and membranes removed, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño (like Mrs. Renfro’s brand)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine apple, sugar, onion, lime zest and juice, fresh and pickled jalapeño, and cilantro in a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add cranberries and pulse until grainy. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Ginger Crisps with Cranberry Goat Cheese, Pear, and Pepitas

IMG_1298It takes longer to say the name of these delicious, sweet and savory appetizers than it takes to make them. With only 4 ingredients (see picture below) and no cooking or baking required, you can churn these out in a snap, as long as you’ve got the right stuff on hand. Purchased ginger thins are the base, and they can be found at a variety of stores. I used to only be able to find Anna’s Ginger Thins at high end grocery stores like Lund’s, Byerly’s, and Kowalski’s. While they still carry these, you can also find them at Walmart or even Walgreen’s right now. (I believe those two places only carry them seasonly, so if you’ve got a craving for these appetizers in the spring or summer, check at the aforementioned places.) Trader Joe’s carries something called “Triple Ginger Cookie Thins” and are about $4 per box. Again, they only carry them when people are gaga for ginger and pumpkin flavors. Not sure that the “triple ginger” claim makes them taste any different than the other brands… But I think the best value can be found at IKEA, where they sell a large box of Pepparkakor for $7.99, and the cookie/crackers are bigger and sturdier, like any good Swede should be.

FullSizeRenderThe other seasonal ingredient you need is a small log of cranberry goat cheese. Goat cheese straight up is a little too pungent for my taste, but with the addition of the sweetened cranberries, it’s perfect on these little appetizers. They sell this at just about any grocery store in the fall and winter—high end to Trader Joe’s. I even found a brand called Celebriti’s Cranberry Goat Cheese at Costco this year. For the fruit, you can use any type of pear for this recipe (Bartlett, Anjou, etc.), but the Red Anjou looks especially festive on top. 

The last ingredient is a sprinkling of tasty little pepitas, roasted Mexican pumpkin seeds. These are sold in bulk at just about any grocery store, or pre-packaged at the high-end grocery stores. They taste similar to a sunflower seed, but you can eat the greenish shell after they’ve been roasted and salted.

Whew!!! That enough info for you? Believe me, it’s worth the effort to seek out these special ingredients. These little taste treats are a perfect way to start anything—especially a New Year!

Serves 8-10

Rating: Super Easy

1 package Anna’s Ginger Thins, Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookie Thins, or IKEA’s Pepparkakor
1 (8 to 11 ounce) package cranberry goat cheese, at room temperature*
2 Red Anjou pears, cored and sliced
¼ to ½ cup pepitas

Spread goat cheese on ginger thins. Top with slide of pear and a sprinkling of pepitas. Arrange on a platter and serve.

*NOTE: It’s easier to spread the cheese and not break the crackers if it’s room temp. You can make these with goat cheese straight from the frig, but you may have a few more broken cookie fatalities.