Simple savoury truffles make easy appetizers

Here are a couple easy cheesy savoury truffle appetizer recipes I demonstrated at the Thyme to Cook kitchen store in Guelph a few weeks ago. Serve these at a party and it’s rather like each guest has their own mini cheese balls!

Ham and Cream Cheese Truffles

(Makes about 2 dozen 1-inch/2.5 cm truffles)

1 (250 g) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Cheddar cheese
½ of a 156 g can of Flakes of Ham or 1/3 cup (75 mL) finely chopped ham
1/4 tsp (1 mL) garlic powder
2 green onions, sliced
Finely chopped walnuts or pecans (about 1 cup/250 mL) for coating truffles, if desired

In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, ham, garlic powder, and green onions until well blended. Cover and refrigerate mixture for several hours until chilled.

Using mini ice cream scoop, melon baller or teaspoon, shape mixture into 24 (1-inch/2.5 cm) balls. Roll balls in nuts until coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

* Cheese truffles can be made any size you wish. You can shape them with your hands if desired but they don’t have to be perfectly round.
* Roll truffles in chopped fresh parsley, shredded cheese, or toasted sesame seeds or fine bread crumbs.
* Poke pretzel sticks into cheese truffles for easy serving.
* Serve with crackers.
* Mixture can be shaped into one large cheese ball, if desired.

Sun-dried Tomato Cream Cheese Truffles

(Makes about 2 dozen 1-inch/2.5 cm truffles)

1 (250 g) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL)  minced sun-dried tomatoes in oil (well drained)
1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) chopped fresh basil
Chopped fresh herbs or grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup/250 mL) for coating truffles, if desired

In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and basil until well blended. Cover and refrigerate mixture for several hours until chilled.

Using mini ice cream scoop, melon baller or teaspoon, shape mixture into 24 (1-inch/2.5 cm) balls. Roll the balls in herbs or cheese until coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

* Cheese truffles can be made any size you wish. You can shape them with your hands if desired but they don’t have to be perfectly round.
* Use an herb paste instead of fresh basil, if desired.
* Poke pretzel sticks into cheese truffles for easy serving.
* Serve with crackers.
* Mixture can be shaped into one large cheese ball, if desired.

Easiest appetizers ever!

We hosted a couple parties this weekend and served finger food including these two easy, make-in-a-shake apps.

But there’s a qualifier for both recipes. You have to like strong flavours – blue cheese and beer (although they don’t come together in the same recipe!). If you do, entertaining doesn’t get much easier than these two appetizer recipes!

Blue cheese, grapes and mozzarella cheese on baguette slices. Bold flavour from just a few ingredients.

Blue cheese, grapes and mozzarella cheese on baguette slices. Bold flavour from just a few ingredients.

Blue Cheese Toasts

(Makes 20 to 30 depending on length of baguette)

1 loaf baguette bread, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices
Olive oil
About 3/4 cup (175 mL) crumbled blue cheese
Red or green seedless grapes, cut in half (3 halves per slice of bread)
About 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) mozzarella cheese

Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with oil. Broil on centre rack in oven for 2 to 4 minutes until golden, watching carefully so as not to burn. Remove from oven and turn slices over.

Sprinkle blue cheese on each toast. Arrange 3 grape halves per slice over blue cheese. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over grapes.

Broil for 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is melted. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Company’s Coming – Tonight! by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing, 2008

Tip: The baguette slices can be toasted ahead of time.

Like beer? You'll appreciate this spread for crackers or toasted pita chips.

Like beer? You'll appreciate this spread for crackers or toasted pita chips.

Beer Cheese Spread

(Makes 12 servings)

2 cups (500 mL) finely shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (60 mL) beer
3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) garlic powder

Let Cheddar cheese stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine cheese, beer, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Stir well until combined. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

Serve with crackers, tortilla chips and/or toasted pita chips.

Recipe Source: Better Homes and Gardens Potluck Favorites magazine, Meredith Corporation, 2004

St. Patrick’s Day recipe ideas. Green food colouring required for some!

istock_000005210471xsmall-4-leaf-cloverCount yourself lucky to find these great recipes to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Have fun being Irish for a day!

Cooking Quarters blog:

Kraft Canada’s website:

McCormick’s website:

Serve dip and ‘dums for your Super Bowl party



I was first introduced to pappadums at a Grey Cup party about 25 years ago. (The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League’s version of the Super Bowl.)

Served alongside chili, potato chips, chicken wings, and other more typical fare for hungry football fans, these thin, crisp wafers made from lentil and rice flours were a novelty back then.

Pappadums are likely still not standard Grey Cup or Super Bowl party fare today. They are most often served as an accompaniment to Indian food, but they also go well with dips and chutneys and can be served as a snack or an appetizer, or as an accompaniment to soups, stews or chilis. Hmmm, why not serve them at a football championship party? Sounds as though they’d easily fit most menus.

Patak's PappadumsYou can purchase dried pappadums under a few different brand names. In my local grocery store, I can buy plain, garlic or black peppercorn pappadums under the Patak’s label.

Patak’s pappadums are sold in packages of 10 thin, flat discs. The pappadums must be fried in oil, baked in a microwave oven, or roasted over an open flame before serving.

I prefer to prepare them in a microwave oven, first lightly brushing them with oil on both sides. Then, one at a time, they are popped into the microwave to cook on High power for 45 to 60 seconds or until they expand. And expand they will! As they cook, the dried discs magically morph into crisp crackers with a multitude of craters and ridges!

This dip goes well with a plate of crisp pappadums.

Bean Dip

(Makes 4 servings)

1 cup (250 mL) canned drained kidney beans, rinsed
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground cumin
3 tablespoons (45 mL) low-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon juice

In food processor or blender, combine all ingredients; blend until smooth. Serve with pappadums, naan or pita bread.

Christmas Countdown: Party’s in the kitchen, but what if you don’t want it there?

How often do you invite guests over and everyone ends up hanging out in the kitchen?

To be honest, it doesn’t happen too often at our house because our kitchen is soooo small. There’s just not much room for much partying if guests are wedged in between the fridge and the stove!

If your kitchen is a lovely large space, perhaps even open to the family room or great room, kitchen parties may be quite the norm when you’re entertaining, and you may be perfectly fine with this. But, occasionally you might secretly wish the guests would make themselves comfortable in other rooms of the house (logically, the living room or dining room!) – say, when you’re putting the finishing touches on dinner or if the kitchen is a mess from putting the finishing touches on dinner! Interior designer Loreen Epp has posted a few suggestions for getting the party out of the kitchen on her hot new blog – What’s New At Home (

If you will be doing some entertaining this Christmas and would prefer that guests gather around the Christmas tree in the living room or the pool table in the family room, or in places beyond just the kitchen, check out Loreen’s suggestions.

Roasted Almonds

Roasted Almonds

One of them is to spread party nibbles throughout the house, or at least in the rooms you want the guests to be in! People tend to congregate where there is food, hence the natural inclination to gather in the kitchen.

Speaking of party nibbles, here’s a great one to serve at your next holiday soiree! Making it shouldn’t create too much mess in your kitchen – just in case you find a few guests still hanging out between the fridge and the stove!

Roasted Almonds

(Makes about 3-1/2 cups (875 mL)

3-1/2 cups (875 mL) blanched or unblanched almonds
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp (10 mL) coarse sea salt
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) smoked milk or hot paprika

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment (baking) paper or foil; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss almonds with oil, salt and paprika. Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast in a preheated 325 F (160 C) oven until fragrant and lightly toasted and unblanched almond skins have just begun to split, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

* Sweet or hot paprika, ground cumin or curry powder can be substituted for the smoked paprika.
* Roasted Almonds can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe Source: Canadian Living magazine, December 2005

Grilled pizzas with pita bread crust

Grilled Pita Pizzas

Grilled pizza on the barbecue is one of our favourite ways to prepare pizza.

Although you can grill a pizza made with a homemade pizza dough, store-bought frozen pizza dough (thawed to room temperature, of course), flatbread or even tortillas, our preference is to use whole wheat pita bread for the crust.

For a variety of good reasons. Or so we like to think.

* A pita pizza cooks quickly.

* Depending on how hungry you are, one or two pita pizzas (or more if you’re a lumberjack!) make a perfect lunch – or served with a green salad, a filling supper.

* A pita pizza is a convenient size to cut into small wedges to serve as an appetizer.

* It’s also a perfect size for making individual pizzas to suit personal tastes. In fact, we often have grilled pizza on the menu when we’re entertaining during the summer. We put out the toppings and have our guests make their own pizzas. Sure, we might be shirking our hosting responsibilities by making our company prepare their own meal. But this way, no one can complain that they don’t like their pizza. Or if they do, no one can blame the irresponsible hosts!

To make a grilled pizza, start by heating the barbecue on High. Brush one side of the pita bread with olive oil. This will help crisp and flavour the crust. Then spread on the sauce of your choice – pizza sauce, pasta sauce, sun-dried tomato pesto, a flavoured olive oil, roasted red pepper dip, a combo of hoisin and barbecue sauce (very nice when you’re putting chicken on your pizza), or vegetable-flavoured cream cheese (goes well with a veggie pizza). Think outside the pizza box a little, and use whatever “sauce” you like!

Then add the toppings of your choice. Keep in mind that the cooking time for this pizza will be short, so it’s best to slightly pre-cook hard vegetables (e.g broccoli, asparagus, sweet peppers), or at least cut them into small pieces. Unless you want a crunchy pizza, that is. Hey, you’re the pizza chef! You can make this pizza however you prefer!

Once the pizza is loaded with ingredients and the barbecue has been preheated on High, turn the heat down to medium-low. Slip the pizza on to the grill, close the barbecue and heat until the toppings are warmed through and the cheese has melted, about 5 or 6 minutes.

Pizza is served!

Celebrating with red and white foods on Canada Day

Tomorrow is Canada Day, a celebration of the nation’s 141st birthday. There will be much flag-waving and expressions of patriotic sentiments. The colours de jour will be red and white.

If you want to inject some patriotic zeal into your July 1st menu, consider the colour palate of the foods you plan to serve. It’s not too difficult to include some red and white foods. If you’re a little more adventurous, try creating an entire meal of just red and white foods. Think tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, spaghetti and meat sauce, bruschetta, barbecued ribs, strawberry shortcake, whipped cream, sour cream, cream cheese, red potatoes, mozzarella cheese, angel food cake, and on and on.

A simple red and white appetizer or snack can be made quickly by creating tiny kabobs of pesto-marinated mini-mini bocconcini and grape or cherry tomatoes. Mini-mini bocconcini are small balls of buffalo mozzarella. They can be found in tubs in the deli area of most major grocery stores. If you can’t find the mini-mini variety, purchase mini bocconcini and slice them into quarters or cut large balls of bocconcini into small pieces.

To make the kebabs, marinate the bocconcini in a couple spoonfuls of homemade or prepared pesto for at least 15 minutes, then poke a toothpick into a bocconcini and a grape or cherry tomato. If you use halved grape or cherry tomatoes, the kabobs will be able to stand and you can arrange them upright on a plate. These little mouthfuls are colourful, flavourful and make up very quickly, leaving you lots of time to enjoy Canada Day festivities and fireworks.

Ontario strawberries!

I was finally able to get my hands on some good-looking, sweet-smelling, fresh-tasting Ontario strawberries, so they’ll be on the menu in our house tomorrow. We’ll enjoy some berries fresh, then maybe in the strawberry-rhubarb sauce that follows, served over cake or ice cream. I’ve also bought ingredients to make strawberry ice cream, which would be served, of course, with fresh sliced strawberries.

Hmmmm…..since strawberry season is so short, we just might have to have both desserts!

Angel Food Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce
(Makes 12 servings)

Twelve individual mini angel food cake rounds, sponge cake flans or shortcakes can be used instead of the angel food cake slices.

3 cups (750 mL) sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (cut in 1/2-inch/1 cm slices)
3/4 cup (175 mL) sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) water
2 cups (500 mL) strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 angel food cake (cut into 12 slices)
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture just comes to a boil (about 7 or 8 minutes). Reduce heat to low; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender (6 to 8 minutes). Let cool.

Just before serving, stir in strawberries. Top each slice of cake with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and about 1/4 cup (50 mL) strawberry rhubarb sauce.

Dippidity Fondue


Since putting up the last post, I’ve been craving fondue!

Here’s a favourite cheese fondue recipe which I demonstrated on the cooking stage at the Total Woman Show in Kitchener last February. (This year’s show takes place at Bingemans on February 9th and 10th.)

Cheese fondues are typically cooked on the stove top, then poured into a fondue pot for serving. Make sure you regulate the flame below the fondue pot so it doesn’t overheat the bottom of the pot – and burn the fondue! (You want the smokey flavour to come from the bacon in this recipe, not burnt cheese.) If you occasionally give the mixture a stir with your fondue fork as you dip you should be able to prevent it from badly sticking or burning on to the bottom of the pot. (Some consider the cheesey bit that inevitably sticks to the bottom of the fondue pot as a tasty treat.)

If you wish to leave out the bacon, go ahead, but it does add a crunchy texture and a smokey, salty flavour.

Although bread is always a winning dipper for cheese fondues (and there is likely a tempting selection of bread available at your local bakery!), for variety, reach for some of these great dipping options as well: chopped celery and apples; cooked mini potatoes, sausages, tortellini or perogies; and/or button mushrooms.

Cheese and Bacon Fondue
(Makes 4 servings)

1 cup (250 mL) sour cream
1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
250 g (8 ounces) Gruyere cheese, grated
125 g (4 ounces) old Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon (.5 mL) ground nutmeg
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Dippers: cubed bread; cherry tomatoes; chopped celery; cooked mini potatoes, tortellini, and mini sausages; and/or chopped apples

Heat sour cream and milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth and warmed through, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, combine Gruyere and Cheddar cheeses in a bowl until well mixed. Add cheese a handful at a time to sour cream mixture, whisking or stirring well after each addition, until all the cheese is melted.

Add Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and nutmeg; mix well. Transfer mixture to a fondue pot. Sprinkle bacon over top. Serve with dippers.

* If fondue mixture is too thick, whisk in additional milk, a tablespoon (15 mL) at a time.

A Couple Appetizers to Help Ring in 2008

The following two appetizer recipes are courtesy of my friend, food consultant and food stylist Yvonne Tremblay. Either (or both!) would be a flavourful addition to your New Year’s Eve menu.

In the weeks before Christmas, Yvonne was busy doing TV interviews/cooking demonstrations as a media spokesperson for Mushrooms Canada. One of the recipes she was demonstrating was Bacon, Walnut and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms. I was the lucky recipient of some of the leftover filling one day and promptly went home to stuff a few mushrooms.


Bacon, Walnut and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
(Makes 32 appetizers)

3 strips of cooked crisp bacon
1/2 container (250 g) spreadable herbed cream cheese
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
32 fresh medium mushroom caps

Crumble bacon (about 2 tbsp /25 mL) into a small bowl; mix in cheese and walnuts until well blended. Stuff each mushroom with about 1-½ tsp (7 mL) of mixture. Place on baking sheet; sprinkle with paprika. Broil just until the tops are browned slightly and filling is warm, about 2 to 3 minutes.

* To toast walnuts, heat in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until browned slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cool.

Nutritional Information: Per Stuffed Mushroom: 29 Calories, 0.9 g Carbohydrate, 1 g Protein, 2.5 g Fat, 0.4 g Fibre
Recipe Source: mushrooms. ca

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Continue reading