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

Personal pan Pizza Frittata – fast and delish!

As a follow up to my April 28th post with the recipe for Pizza Frittata, here’s a picture of a quick-version single-serving Pizza Frittata.

Pizza Frittata for one!
Pizza Frittata for one!

I made this frittata in an 8-inch (20 cm) frying pan with 2 eggs and a couple shakes of seasoning blend. The recipe for the herbed seasoning blend is also in that post. Instead of making your own seasoning blend (which is as complicated as making a trip to a grocery store or bulk food store that sells dried herbs in bulk!), you can use Italian Seasoning to add a pizza-y flavour.

I topped the frittata with pepperoni and cheese, omitting the green pepper, onion and mushrooms called for in the original recipe. You can use whatever pizza toppings you like to personalize your Pizza Frittata.

The frittata will slide right out of the pan onto a plate. It’s best eaten with a fork as it will be hot. If you let it cool a little, then cut it into wedges, it could be served as an appetizer, sans cutlery!

This is such a simple and great-tasting recipe. No flash in the pan, but certainly ready in a flash!

When making presentations about eggs to high school Family Studies classes, I often ask a couple students to help me make a few 6 or 8-egg versions of Pizza Frittata so everyone can have a taste. The recipe always goes over well.

Slow and steady pace eventually produces a delicious dinner

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Although a slow cooker is not meant to be a seasonal small appliance, I tend to treat it so, hauling it out in fall and winter to cook the warm, filling comfort foods like soups and stews I’m not as inclined to eat in spring and summer. A silly habit, really, considering the slow cooker is also ideally suited to warm weather cooking as it can cook a delicious meal without increasing the temperature in the kitchen.

That said, as I perused cookbooks last fall ready to bring my slow cooker out of hibernation for the cool months ahead, a recipe for a lasagna-style dish caught my attention. It helped that I had all the necessary ingredients at the ready without needing to make a trip to the grocery store. Made with oven-ready (translation: no precooking required) lasagna noodles, the recipe went together quickly and the results were well worth the effort, limited as it was.

Since then I’ve also made my traditional lasagna recipe (ground beef in a tomato-based sauce layered with noodles and a mixture of ricotta or cottage cheese, eggs and parmesan cheese) in the slow cooker – also with great success.

Because of the moist heat of the slow cooker, there is very little drying out of the lasagna noodles compared to when the dish is cooked in the oven (translation: slow cooked lasagna is less chewy and minus the dried edges you usually get when cooked in the oven). If you prefer some crusted bits on your lasagna, you can get some of this in a slow cooker, but to a lesser degree. And, by the time this happens, the pasta may be too tender. But even if that’s your preferred style of lasagna, don’t not try slow cooking it. You may be pleasantly surprised at the result.

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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.