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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Italian Trio

Below are some quick and easy Italian inspired finger foods. The nice thing about these, is there is no exact recipe, and they become a starting point for more involved appetizers if that’s what you’re looking for.

Easy Baked Bruschetta:

Loaf of Italian Bread
Fresh garlic cloves
Olive Oil
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced Mozzarella
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut bread into ½ inch thick slices (if your loaf is large, you may want to cut each of the slices in half).

Cut a garlic clove in half, and rub the cut end onto the bread rounds (you will probably need more than just one garlic clove, depending on the amount of bruschetta you’re making)

Place all slices on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil.

Place a slice of tomato, and a slice of fresh mozzarella on each of the slices.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake until mozzarella is browned and bubbly.

Pizza Pinwheels:

Refrigerated pizza dough
Tomato Sauce and/or Alfredo sauce
Grated cheese (we used an Italian blend)

Preheat oven to 375.

Flatten your pizza dough into a rectangle.

Spread a light layer of sauce over the entire surface, leaving a small amount on the long edges, free of sauce. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the sauce.

Roll the dough into a pinwheel (starting with the top long edge of the dough).

Cut ½ inch rounds and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake according to pizza dough instructions.

Fried Ravioli:

1 package of cheese ravioli (we used pre cooked frozen ravioli, thawed. You can use the refrigerated ravioli, or you can cook and cool regular frozen ravioli).
1 egg beaten and mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
½ - 1 cup of breadcrumbs (we used Italian style panko).
Oil for frying

Dip ravioli into egg wash then into breadcrumbs. Stack coated ravioli on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a pan. Place as many raviolis as you can fit into the pan, without over crowding. If the oil does not completely cover the ravioli, flip them over when the bottom is a golden brown.

Remove from oil and place on a paper towel covered plate (this removes the excess grease).

Fry the remainder of the ravioli in the same manner.

Serve with dipping sauce, we used tomato and Alfredo.


Bruschetta:  There are so many variations you can do with this basic recipe. Add basil, caramelize some onions and add them. Bake the bread ahead of time, use chopped fresh tomato as a topping. So many options!!

Pizza Pinwheels: Finely chop any topping that you would put on a pizza and throw them in with the cheese.
Fried Ravioli:  Experiment with ravioli filled with other fillings. Even try some Tortellini.

As always, please share your variations with us, we love to hear them!!

Happy and safe New Year to all of you!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why Not? I'm a Fungi ...

Yes, we know there are those out there that who don't like mushrooms... in fact there is one half of TCC who falls into that category, we won't mention any names though.

For those of you willing to serve stuffed mushrooms, try the following recipe.  We created this for a wedding we catered, and has been a staple recipe ever since.  The most time consuming part is brushing and stemming the mushrooms... after that, it's a breeze.

Italian Sausage and Fennel stuffed mushrooms:

1 dozen white mushrooms – cleaned and stems separated from caps
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fennel bulb
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1 Italian sweet sausage – casing removed
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
2 – 3 oz. cream cheese – room temperature
¼ cup bread crumbs
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 375

Sautee fennel bulb, garlic clove, and finely chopped mushroom stems in a small amount of olive oil. Put in bowl to cool slightly.

While cooling, place mushroom caps on a cookie sheet, and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.

Into the bowl with the sautéed garlic, fennel, and mushroom, add Italian sausage, Pamesan, and cream cheese. Mix until almost combined. Add bread crumbs, and mix until fully combined.

Scoop mixture into each of the prepared mushroom caps (the amount will vary depending on mushroom size). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 375, approx. 25 minutes (or until filling is cooked through).

Serve warm, or room temperature.


You can make this veggie friendly, by removing the italian sausage and subbing veggie cream cheese for the unflavored cream cheese.  You can also add in some chopped veggies. 

You can heat up the filling by adding hot italian sauage instead of the sweet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Little Piggy

If you’re looking for an incredibly easy and quick appetizer, this is it. Three ingredients, 20 minutes of your time and you’re on your way to serving a twist on an old favorite. 

Pigs in Comforters

1 package of mini hot dogs
12-14 slices of bacon
2 tubes of refrigerated crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 375. Cut bacon into thirds, using one third of a slice to wrap each mini dog.

Unroll crescent rolls and cut each triangle into thirds. Wrap each of the dogs with the cut roll.

Bake at 375 for 13-15 minutes. When the bacon is cooked, these little puppies are ready to eat.

Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice. We decided to mix up a spicy ketchup, recipe to follow.

Ketchup with a kick

3 parts ketchup
1 part bbq sauce
pinch of chili powder
pinch of cayenne

Mix together, and serve. You can adjust the heat by adding more or less cayenne.

See, we told you this was easy!!


You can make this vegetarian by getting veggie hot dogs, and the veggie bacon.  We haven't tried it, but if you do, let us know how it works out!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baked Potato Overload

Twice baked potatoes are super tasty, but not very finger food friendly.  These are a slight variation on the traditional twice baked, which lend themselves nicely to eating without any utensils.

Loaded baked potato bites:

8 small red potatoes

2 peeled red potatoes
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. Sour cream
¼ cup grated cheese
1 Tbsp. Bacon pieces
1 Tbsp. Dried chives
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and dry the potatoes. Cut each of the unpeeled potatoes in half. Slice a small piece of potato from the end, to allow the potato half to sit flat. Take a small melon baler and scoop a divot from the potato half (keep these, for filling).

Place potato shells on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. You want these to be tender.

While potato shells are baking, cut the peeled potatoes into small pieces, and combine them with the scooped potato from the shell. Boil these for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash with a fork. To this, add the sour cream, cheese, bacon, and chives. Mix until combined.

When the shells are done, fill each one with about ½ Tbsp of filling. Put the potatoes back into the oven for 15 minutes. 

Serve warm.


If you're looking for a bit of a cheat, use the pre cooked bacon, or even the real bacon pieces, found with the bacon bits.

We used extra sharp cheddar cheese, but this recipe would work well for many other types of cheeses.

Assemble these ahead of time, and just pop them into the oven before guests come, if you're going from the fridge to the oven, add on another 5 minutes so that the bites are heated through.

Make these vegetarian friendly by taking out the bacon.  Even if you wanted to do half and half you could.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keeping up with the Joneses

This recipe originates from a close friend, Nurse Julian, who mentioned it in passing once and we ran with it. It’s relatively easy and is always a party favorite.

Poor Man’s Baked Brie

8 oz. block of cream cheese
8 oz. Pillsbury crescent roll dough (in the tube)
4-5 tbsp jam or chutney
2-3 tbsp chopped nuts (optional)

Roll out half of the crescent roll dough and press the seams together to make a solid sheet.

Place the block of cream cheese in the center. Pull up the dough on the sides to box in the block and make a ridge along the top. Fold the extra dough in along the ends.

Place a couple of tablespoons of your favorite jam or chutney on top of the cream cheese and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Here we used our Cranberry Chutney (from post on Nov 22) and chopped walnuts.

Roll out the other half of the crescent roll dough and press the seams together to make a solid sheet. Measure off a 1-1/2” strip along the edge. Using a small cookie cutter or knife, cut out some decorative shapes.

Place the rest of the sheet of dough over the cream cheese and toppings. Tuck the edges along the bottom to create a neat loaf. Place the decorative dough pieces on top.

Wrap up the loaf in foil and bake at 350° for an initial 20-25 minutes.

After that time, pull back the foil to allow to brown and continue baking another 5-10 minutes or until crust turns a nice golden baked brown (golden brown without a shadow falling across it).

Serve on a platter with crackers and watch it disappear.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

This next hors d'oeuvre has been a party staple for years. If there is anything we know for a fact here at TCC is that people love food on a stick…seriously, it's fun…it's food…it's on a stick -- 'nuff said. Try it and you’ll see.

Mini Cocktail Chicken Kabobs

3 large boneless chicken breasts
Green olives
Black olives
Pepper Jack Cheese
Grape tomatoes
4-6” wood skewers


1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp dry white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp Fines Herbes
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp minced onion
1 clove minced garlic
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Cut chicken into cubes (should be able to get about 17-18 pieces per breast) and place in a medium-sized bowl.

Blend the marinade ingredients with a whisk and pour over chicken cubes, mix well. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Put chicken and marinade into a large skillet and cook on medium-high heat until cooked through. Once the chicken is done, remove from skillet and drain.  Let cool enough that you can handle without burning your fingers.

For a 4” skewer, use two pieces of chicken and add any combination of cheese, olives and tomatoes (will make 27 skewers). For a 6” skewer, use three pieces of chicken (will make 18).   We like to change the order on each skewer just to mix things up a bit and so they don't all look exactly alike.

Serve cold or at room temperature.


You can find 4-6” wood skewers at World Market, Pier 1, or The Party Store (in the Luau section).

Besides olives, Pepper Jack cheese and tomatoes, try mushrooms, banana peppers, smoked Gouda, horseradish cheese, cocktail onions, or wee little pickles.  Whatever you choose, you want to make sure it has some structural integrity so that it doesn't crumble or break when you put it on the skewer.

You can also use this recipe to make chicken-veggie kabobs done on a grill. Skewer the raw marinated chicken alternately with raw onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, and/or peppers. Cook 3-4 minutes per side until done. TASTY!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sugared Cranberries... the healthier sweet tarts

Do you crave sweet and tart?  Do you want to stay away from those sugar loaded, unnaturally flavored and colored candy bites? Well friends, you have come to the right place.

We came across a recipe for sugared cranberries and immediately decided that we were going to try it (lets face it, here at TCC we're just a little obsessed with cranberries).  We were so thrilled with the outcome, that we decided to share with our faithful followers.  If you are planning on serving these at a party, you might want to double or triple the recipe, they tend to go quick.

Although this is an incredibly easy recipe, make sure that you give yourself at least 9 hours for soaking and  drying.

Sugared Cranberries:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
Zest from 1 orange (or 1 tsp. orange extract)
1- 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries (picked over to remove any super soft cranberries)
3/4 cup superfine sugar*

Stir granulated sugar and water over heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Heat until mixture has come to a low boil.  Remove from heat.  Let the mixture stand for about 2 minutes to cool.

Transfer sugar syrup to a bowl (we used a plastic bowl with a lid), and add orange zest.  Pour in cranberries, cover and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl to reserve the steeping liquid (you can skip the reserving of liquid, although the syrup now has this nice cranberry tang to it that could be used in a cocktail, or as suggested by a friend, reduced down and used over pancakes!)

Place the superfine sugar in a shallow dish and add the cranberries, rolling them to coat with the sugar.  Place the sugared cranberries on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and let dry at room temperature for an hour or until the sugar has dried.

After the cranberries have dried, put them in their display bowl and prepare to watch them disappear.


* If you can't find superfine sugar you can easily make your own.  Put some granulated sugar into a food processor and whirl it up for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Cooling the sugar syrup will help prevent the cranberries from popping once they've hit the liquid.

We soaked our cranberries in the syrup overnight, and dried the cranberries in an unheated oven for about 3 hours.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

WARNING: Addictive Food Ahead

Here’s a good recipe for when you’re pressed for time, but want to bring something tasty and different to a party. This crowd favorite comes from k2’s friends, Bill and Elayne, who used to serve it whenever they had folks over to watch a Steelers game.  Maybe it had something to do with the colors, though more than likely it was the additive taste.

Wild Bill’s Kicky Black Bean-Corn Relish

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) white corn, drained
2-1/2 tbsp Cento diced hot cherry peppers*

Mix all three ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors blend. Serve with Scoops tortilla chips (the food suitcase of parties everywhere).

Yes, it’s that simple. And yes, you won’t be able to stop eating it.

* You’ll more likely find Cento at any local grocery stores that tend to carry some specialty items. We found ours at Kroger in the isle with tomato sauces and pasta near the pesto and sun-dried tomato products.