Simple Valentine’s Day Appetizer: Heart-Shaped Mini Pizzas

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You can use a heart-shaped cookie cutter and make just about anything a festive Valentine’s Day dish, snack or goodie.  This appetizer is a perfect example.  Just cook up a favorite thin-crust pizza (homemade or frozen, like this California Pizza Kitchen Barbecue Chicken Thin Crust Pizza) and cut it into as many heart-shaped pieces (pressing hard with a heart cookie cutter) as you can get out of it.  Kids will love making (and eating) these as well.

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

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Looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone?  Here are some ideas.

Red Crystal Paperweight from Tiffany & Co (pictured above)

http://www.tiffany.com/Shopping/Item.aspx?fromGrid=1&sku=13459509&mcat=&cid=&search_params=s+1-p+3-c+-r+-x+-n+6-ri+-ni+0-t+paperweight-k+&search=1

Bronners Christmas Wonderland (from whom I order lots of my ornaments), also has Valentine’s goodies:

http://www.bronners.com/search/advanced/?keywords=valentine

 Dragonfly Cakes, maker of adorable petit fours (precious little cakes) for many seasons and occasions including Valentine’s Day:

http://www.dragonflycakes.com/proddetail.php?prod=valentines_day

Jelly Belly gift box:

http://www.jellybelly.com/Shop/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=97008

More Tiffany Valentine’s Gifts:

http://www.tiffany.com/Seasonal/Modules/ValentinesDay2009/#p+1-n+6-cg+-c+-s+-r+-t+-ri+-ni+1-x+-pu+-f+/0

This Tiffany Cupcake charm is darling:

http://www.tiffany.com/Shopping/Item.aspx?sku=23019493&cid=562607&omcid=VGG2009

I love this Tiffany Pink Ring:

http://www.tiffany.com/Shopping/Item.aspx?sku=GRP02240&cid=562607&omcid=VGG2009

Valentine Gift Baskets

http://www.winecountrygiftbaskets.com/gift_basket_list.asp/GIFT_BASKETS/VALENTINE_GIFT_BASKETS/SKW/VDAY/FL/SO/CMI/73/

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

http://www.berries.com/valentinesdaygifts-sv1

http://ccberries.com/

Valentine Cookie Bouquets

http://www.gourmet-cookie-bouquets.com/Valentines.html

Roasted Cauliflower

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Simple, healthy, and delicious. 

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut cauliflower into thin pieces.  Spread/brush olive oil onto foil-lined baking sheet.  Spread cauliflower evenly over oil, and toss to coat pieces with oil.  Sprinkle with some Kosher salt.  Roast in oven (uncovered) for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, turn pieces over, and return to oven for another 20 minutes. (Cook a total of 40 minutes).  Add more Kosher salt to your taste.

Orange Zest White Chocolate Biscotti

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1 ¾ cup sugar

1 cup butter, very soft

4 eggs

Rind of 1 orange

1 teaspoon orange extract

2 tablespoons anise extract

3 cups sifted flour (more if needed for firm dough)

3 level teaspoons baking powder

1 cup toasted almonds or walnuts or pecans

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream sugar and butter and then add eggs.  Add orange rind, orange extract, and anise extract.  Add sifted flour and baking powder and mix until smooth.  Add nuts and white chocolate chips and mix.  Spread mixture onto flour board.  Add more flour a little a time to make a firm dough.  Line cookie sheet with foil.  Make three long strips from dough, lay strips on foil lined cookie sheet, leaving space between them.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  Take out of oven and slice these long pieces diagonally, into several smaller slices about 1 inch apart and put bake on cookie sheet with cut side up.  Cook under broiler for a few minutes.

Italian Meatballs

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1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)

1 egg

1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon minced garlic

½ cup pine nuts (optional)

1 cup milk

Fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

Marina or tomato sauce of your choice

Mix ground beef (or turkey), egg, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, milk, parsley, salt and pepper together by hand.  Roll into balls (about 1 inch in diameter).  Heat olive oil in a pan on the stove.  Add meatballs to pan and brown on all sides.  Remove them from the pan and place them on a paper towel lined dish to drain excess oil.  Then place them in a pot with marina/tomato sauce and simmer on a very low heat for … (until they are cooked all the way through.

Italian Stuffed Shells

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Sauce

1 ½ cups finely chopped onion                                     1 tablespoon salt

3 cloves garlic, crushed                                                  1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup olive oil                                                              1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 29 ounce cans of Italian tomatoes                             1 tablespoon basil

1 6 ounce can tomato paste                                           ½ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley                              1 ½ cups water

Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil for 5 minutes.  Mix in rest of sauce ingredients.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Cover and simmer about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Shells

1 box large pasta shells                                                    2 eggs

2 pounds ricotta cheese                                                   1 teaspoon salt

1 package (8 ounce) mozzarella cheese, shredded         ½ teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese  (Plus ¼ cup more for sprinkling)

1 tablespoon parsley

Cook large pasta shells until just tender.  Drain and rinse carefully (trying not to break shells).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

                In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan or Romano, eggs, salt, pepper  and parsley.  Beat with a spoon to blend well.  Spoon 1 ½ cups of prepared sauce onto the bottom of two large baking dishes.  Spoon about ¼ cup of filling into each shell, and place shells, topside up, in a single layer on pans.  Top with more sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan or Romano cheese.  Bake uncovered for about ½ hour or until bubbly.

New Year’s Eve Appetizer Ideas

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Roast Garlic

Focaccia Bites and Roasted Garlic

1 pound or 1 can premade pizza dough (a refrigerated canned dough, such as Pillsbury, works well)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ to ½ teaspoon of each of the following: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper

Preheat oven to suggested temperature on dough package.  Roll out pizza dough on nonstick baking sheet.  Brush/spread olive oil on dough.  Sprinkle basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper on top.  Bake about 10 minutes (or as package suggests), until dough is lightly browned.

 Roasted Garlic

3-4 whole heads of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

¼ to ½ teaspoon pepper

Large sheet of foil

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut off the very top portion of the garlic heads (about ¼ to ½ inch) and peel away some of the papery skin.  Place garlic heads on large piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Wrap foil around garlic heads, place on cookie sheet, and cook in oven for about 30-45 minutes (or until garlic cloves are soft).

 Cut up focaccia into bite-sized pieces and serve with roasted garlic.  Spread roasted garlic on focaccia pieces with a small knife.

Mini Calzones

2 10-ounce cans of refrigerated pizza dough (such as Pilsbury), or the same amount of other kind of pizza dough

1 package frozen, chopped spinach (thawed, drained, and squeezed dry)

1 whole medium white onion, chopped

2+ cloves garlic, minced

1 cup canned artichoke hearts, chopped

1 cup canned sliced mushrooms

1 cup cottage cheese

½ cup (or 4 ounces) cream cheese

¼ cup sour cream

1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup tomato sauce of choice

Cooking spray

            Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat oil in skillet, add garlic and onions and sauté until onions are softened (not browned), and then remove from heat.  In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream until smooth.  Then add spinach, 1 cup or mozzarella, garlic salt and pepper, and mix well.  Unroll pizza dough and spread out on flat surface.  Split each large rectangle of dough into quarters (for a total of 8 smaller rectangles).  Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray and place pieces of dough on sheets.  On each piece of dough, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce (on one half), and then spoon spinach and cheese mixture, some artichokes, mushroom slices, and sprinkle with mozzarella.  Fold the other half over and pinch the ends closed (to seal edges).  Bake according to canned dough directions, until dough is lightly browned (about 15 minutes).  Top each calzone with sauce and serve.  (Makes 8 servings).

Mini Italian Sandwiches

Mini Sandwiches2

These little sandwiches are a simple yet delicious and cute appetizer or snack.  Use the same recipe for Herbed Focaccia Bites (posted 10-13-09), and add your favorite sandwich fillings (such as salami and mozzarella).  Top with olives and secure with toothpicks.

Prosciutto Wrapped Melon

Proc and Melon

No recipe is really necessary here.  Just wrap slices of prosciutto around slices (or balls scooped out with a melon ball scooper) of cantaloupe and/or honeydew.  It makes a great salty/savory and sweet snack, and is a pretty addition to the table.

Prosciutto is also great wrapped around asparagus, shrimp, breadsticks, mozzarella, dates, figs, and just about anything else you can think of.

Mini Crab Meatballs

crabball

2 cans crabmeat

1 cup bread crumbs

1 egg, beaten

¼ teaspoon basil

¼ teaspoon parsley

1 tablespoon fresh grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups prepared tomato/Marinara sauce

             Mix first nine ingredients together in a bowl.  Form small (about ½-inch) balls out of mixture.  Heat oil in pan until very hot.  Cook crab meatballs in pan, turning often, to lightly brown all over.  Heat tomato sauce in another pot.  Add crab meatball to sauce and simmer about 30 minutes.  Serve with pasta or on their own as appetizer.

Individual Seafood Cocktails

shrimplemonpic

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

24 jumbo shrimps (cooked, tails on)

3 large lemons

2 cans crab meat

Avocado

1 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon horseradish sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1-2 cloves minced garlic

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon pepper

 Wash lemons and cut them in half.  Scoop out insides of lemons (keeping peels intact).  Set lemon peels/cups aside.  Squeeze juice from lemons into a cup.  Mix together ketchup, horseradish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Add crabmeat and stir together.  Chill sauce/crab mixture until almost ready to serve.  Scoop sauce/crab mixture into lemon peel cups, place 4 shrimps around each cup, and top with pieces of avocado.