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Roasted Cherry Tomato Crostini

August 31, 2017

It’s harvest time and the fruits and vegetables are brimming with beautiful flavors and colors of the season! Nothing tastes like summer more to me than tomatoes…any variety, shape or color! I could literally eat them with every meal. Matter of fact, I have. In this dish, the red wine, the balsamic vinegar and the fresh basil compliment the cherry tomatoes perfectly!! And then when you add the goat cheese to the mix — the creamy texture with a touch of tang — you get a perfect crostini! Enjoy the remaining days of summer and all that harvest season has to offer!

Preheat your oven to 400º. Wash and pat dry your cherry tomatoes. Slice each one in half and put in a baking dish. Stir in the olive oil, the red wine, the balsamic vinegar and a generous amount of both black pepper and sea salt (I like to grind both fresh). When the oven is heated, roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When done, remove the tomatoes from the oven, stir in the chopped fresh basil and let the mixture come to room temperature. There will be an excess of juices which is great to let your tomatoes “stew” in while you prepare your crostini toasts.

Slice your baguette in roughly ½” thick pieces. Butter each top and sprinkle with various herbs (I like to use fresh garlic, basil, black pepper and a little sea salt). Toast in a 400º oven until browned and crispy.

To assemble, spread the softened goat cheese on each crostini, top with a spoonful of the roasted tomatoes with a hint of the juices and finish by placing a fresh basil leaf on each one.

Makes a perfect hors d’oeuvre to enjoy al fresco!!


1 pint cherry tomatoes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp red wine
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Black pepper
Sea salt
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 baguette
½ stick butter, brought to room temperature
Your favorite spices (garlic, basil, etc.)
1 log goat cheese, softened to room temperature
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Petite Pepper Poppers

April 14, 2015


This recipe is a shout out to my buddy Katie who turned me on to these adorable mini tricolored peppers. At a recent stay at her house, we ate these peppers with scrambled in eggs for breakfast, for an extra crunch in a wrap for lunch, and as a grilled side dish with salmon for dinner. I fell head over heels for these little buggers! Upon my return home, I immediately bought a bag of peppers and started putting the mini guys in everything. Only problem, there were so many! Seeing as there are only two of us at home right now, I had a lot of peppers to use! Hence, this recipe was born. My husband and I were heading off to watch a Blackhawks game at a friend’s house so I decided to bring along this newly created appetizer to see how it would be received….they got two thumbs up!! So, Katie, next time you are serving margaritas by the pool please serve these Petite Pepper Poppers too…they would make a great pair!!

Begin by slicing each pepper from stem to bottom and scape out the seeds and any large ribs you can get at. Wash out and place on a towel to dry off. Meanwhile, put the goat cheese in a small bowl and bring to room temperature. If using plain goat cheese, you may want to spice it up with fresh herbs — think thyme, parsley, garlic to name just a few options. Just make sure if you add your own spices to finely mince the herbs. Next, crumble the bacon into the cheese and stir to blend well. Now the fun part — using your hands (tried a spoon — didn’t work) stuff each pepper with the cheese mixture and place in a Pyrex dish. Drizzle each pepper with a little olive oil and bake at 375º for 15-20 minutes (until peppers are softened). Place on serving platter and sprinkle with chopped chives.


 Serve with a napkin as these poppers are a little juicy!!


12 mini peppers, 4 of each color
1 log goat cheese (herbed or plain)
3 pieces bacon, cooked very crispy
Olive oil
Chives for garnish, finely chopped

Makes 12 Petite Pepper Poppers

Tots Gone Wild

January 31, 2015


I hear you. It’s Super Bowl Sunday and you have no idea what to bring to the big party. Let me just say this: tater tots; BBQ sauce; bacon. Oh yeah, bleu cheese dip. Read on fans.

On a large tin foil lined cookie sheet, arrange your frozen tater tots in neat little rows (hey, I’m OCD). Wrap each tot with a strip of cut bacon and place on cookie sheet seem side down. Repeat until all tater tots have a piece of bacon wrapped snuggly around them. Bake in a 400º oven for 20 minutes, or until the bacon starts to crisp. Remove from oven and liberally brush on the BBQ sauce on each tater tot. I’m serious — be generous with the sauce!! It adds great flavor. Cook another 10 minutes until sauce is sizzling with yumminess. Arrange the tots in neat little rows on a platter and serve with a bowl of bleu cheese dressing (btw, I have an amazing recipe for bleu cheese dressing right here on this blog!). Use your fingers when dipping — I tried using cute little forks but the tots fall apart. Plus, BBQ sauce is always finger licking good!!




1 bag frozen Tater Tots
1 lb bacon, cut into 3 inch strips
1 bottle your favorite BBQ sauce
Bleu cheese dressing (see my recipe for Creamy Bleu Cheese Dressing in Salads and Dressings category)

Makes a whole lot of Tots Gone Wild if you use entire bag!

Mandy’s Mini Mushroom Cups

April 3, 2014



When entertaining, simplicity is nice. I am a true believer in enjoying your own party. Often people think the only way to accomplish this is by buying (or catering) appetizers already made and just reheating…not always so! My Mini Mushroom Cups are so simple — the mixture can be made ahead of time and then assembled and heated right before your guests arrive. And because they are a one bite treat, there will be no crumbs for Fido…an added bonus to post party clean up!!

In a large skillet, melt butter over low to medium heat. Add the shallots, mushrooms, garlic, thyme and parsley and saute stirring the mixture often (do not let the garlic burn). After 10 – 15 minutes, slowly add the wine to the mixture and cook until liquid has reduced.  Turn off heat and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Meanwhile, arrange your mini phyllo cups on a cookie sheet. Fill each cup with a spoonful of the mushroom/shallot mixture, topping each one with a generous amount of Gruyère cheese. Bake in a preheated 400º oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is thoroughly melted and the phyllo has slightly browned. Serve immediately.


Perfect one bite wonders!!


1 tbsp salted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 package crimini or baby portobella mushrooms, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh parsley
¼ cup white wine
Salt & pepper to taste
¾ cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 packages frozen mini phyllo cups (total of 30 cups)

Makes 30 mini cups

Mini Taco Bites

June 6, 2013


One of the easier and more festive appetizers I’ve ever made is Mini Taco Bites. You may think tacos are reserved only for a Mexican themed party but NO — Mini Taco Bites are great at a BBQ, a Super Bowl type party or even a child’s birthday party (kids love size appropriate food). I love “mini” foods — small versions of larger dishes — as they make for super creative appetizers! And, most importantly, being mini, they are an adorable one bite treat!

Begin by spraying your mini muffin tin with vegetable oil. Next, slice the flour tortilla to make it relatively square. Now cut the tortilla into four equal “squares”. Repeat process for all tortillas. Arrange each small tortilla square into the mini muffin cups and bake at 375º for 7 to 10 minutes (or until just crispy).

text1Meanwhile, cook your meat in the taco seasoning. When shells and meat are done, arrange the mini tacos on platter and fill with a generous spoonful of meat. Then, in this order, add a little spoonful of each of the following: salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, and a scallion slice. Top it off with a garnish of fresh cilantro. If you like, you can mix up your toppings to suit your own particular tastes — perhaps an olive slice, some hot peppers, fresh chopped tomatoes or shredded lettuce. The ideas are endless!



6 small (7″) flour tortillas (use at room temperature–easier to mold into muffin cups)
Cooking spray (I use Pam’s Original Canola Oil)
1 pound ground meat (beef, turkey or chicken)
1 package taco seasoning
1 package shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream (I always use fat-free)
1 avocado, cut into small bite-size pieces
3-4 scallions, sliced
Fresh cilantro for garnish

Makes 24 Mini Taco Bites

Spring Pea Soup Shooters

April 12, 2013


After making Spring Pea Soup today, I put the leftovers in the fridge and then the light bulb went on — what a great appetizer for a party!! The soup is quick and easy to make (see my recipe under the Soups category), you can serve it either hot or cold and you can make it ahead of time. How easy is that?! Serve in soup shooter glasses or, as I would, in shot glasses. I have an extensive collection of shot glasses (ask my husband) and I am always looking for ways to use them. They make for great conversation starters too!

Gouda Stuffed Mini Meatloafs

April 9, 2013



I’ve had a request for “fancy finger foods” from a fellow blog follower — she is looking to make appetizers for an upcoming book group meeting she is hosting. I’ve got some great recipes that I will be posting in the upcoming days but let’s get started with my Mini Meatloafs. I made these last fall for a party where only hors d’oeuvres were served. The mini meatloafs are very satisfying because they are not only served hot but also because they are filling…something my guests truly appreciated!!

Begin by mixing together all the ingredients listed below except the cheese in a medium-sized bowl (if you have a meatloaf recipe you love, by all means use it instead of my recipe). Gather a golf ball size amount of the meatloaf mix, place one cube of cheese on top and then roll the meat around it so the cheese is now in the middle. Place in a greased mini muffin pan.

textBake in a 350º oven for 20-25 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked through. Place on a serving platter and pass to your guests while still warm. Now sit back and listen to the quiet as your guests devour their “dinner”.




1 pound ground meat (Beef, Turkey or Chicken)
1 egg
½ cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp ketchup
½ red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp oregano
Gouda cheese (smoked or regular), cut into 16 cubes each about a ½ inch square

Makes 16 mini meatloafs

Variations: you can add a touch of BBQ sauce on top and/or a piece of crispy bacon; you can switch up the cheese–cheddar, swiss, etc.; you could make the meatloafs in a regular size muffin tin and serve them for dinner!!  Also, check out my Sandwiches category…the ideas are endless!!!!!!!

Tomato and Caper Bruschetta

March 14, 2013


Bruschetta. Though technically it means “thick slices of bread grilled, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil” (thanks Webster’s!), to me it conjures up images of summer when there is an abundance of fresh tomatoes and basil. So, as I sit here in mid March with yet another snow storm approaching, I decided to make my bruschetta in great anticipation for summer.

Start by sauteing the onions in a little olive oil until just about caramelized. This brings out the sweetness of the onions–a good compliment to the tartness of the tomatoes, capers and vinegar. Set aside to cool.


In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add your diced tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar. Mix well. Stir in the garlic, basil, thyme and capers. Next, add the cooled onions and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.


Meanwhile, slice your fresh bread and generously rub both sides with olive oil and fresh garlic. In keeping with tradition, I like to grill my bread in a cast iron skillet that has grill ridges (looks very pretty too…) but you can also toast the bread in the oven. It’s a preference thing….you just need to get the bread nice and crunchy. I flip the slices a couple of times during the toasting process to get the perfect crunchiness (is that even a word?).


To serve, I like to set out one of my cute serving bowls filled with the tomato mixture and let my guests serve themselves. If you’d rather, you can arrange it beforehand and serve the bruschetta on a platter. I prefer my guests to make their own as this way the toasts don’t get soggy with the juices from the topping. If you arrange ahead of time, be sure to drain as much liquid form the tomato mixture as you can.



4 tbsp red onion, finely diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 sprigs fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
4 tbsp capers
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 baguette, sliced (I bought a rosemary & sea salt loaf…oh my it was yummy with this recipe!)

Serves 8-12 depending on how big your toast slices are. 

Goat Cheese Marinara

February 22, 2013


Goat Cheese Marinara is one of my favorite appetizers — easy to make, so warm and satisfying to eat and yet is very gourmet!! Not bad for a simple dish. Next time you are asked to bring an appetizer to a party, bring this and watch as people ooohhhh and aahhhhh….

In an ovenproof baking dish, add your marinara sauce. Unwrap your goat cheese and place it in middle of the sauce so it is “swimming” if you will. Cover with tin foil and cook in 375º oven for 30-40 minutes. Make sure the cheese is heated thoroughly.


Meanwhile, make your garlic bread to your liking. Cut the cooked loaf into slices and use as the “utensil” for scooping out the cheese and marinara together. The messier and more mixed up the cheese and marinara get, the better the appetizer tastes!! Only question I have for you, will you let your friends double dip? Enjoy!!



Goat cheese log, plain or herbed
1 jar of good quality marinara OR homemede marinara (see recipe under Sauces category)
Garlic bread loaf (made to your liking)