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Spring Pea Crostini

15 Apr



While in the mountains, I couldn’t resist making this really springy appetizer. I made it last year and felt that I didn’t share it enough. So, I made it again with mountain views and grilled (not broiled) bread. It was the perfect treat for Happy Hour at 6pm after a long week and drive to the mountains. As you can imagine, they didn’t last long.

You must try this bright green crostini!

Sweet Pea Topping

  • About 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • small handful of basil
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Pulse everything together into a nice chunky paste. Taste for seasoning.


  • good crusty bread
  • more olive oil
  • prosciutto

Slice the bread into thick pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil until toasted. Top with pea mixture, a slice of prosciutto and more pepper. And, a splash of lemon olive oil, if you have it.

Grilled Serrano Ham Wrapped Shrimp

13 Apr



It’s beautiful outside. Tulips are blooming and the snow ball tree in my neighbor’s yard is bouncing in the wind like fluffy clouds.  It’s a perfect night to grill this delicious appetizer of fresh shrimp, wrapped in Spanish Serrano and drizzled (heavily) with red hot chili oil. So simple, yet so tasty and perfect. Well, a sprinkle of fresh parsley could help….but it’s too much work when staring at the shrimp.

But, it’s Monday. I actually just finished a chicken salad sandwich paired with an old glass of wine and a good amount of Netflix. This appetizer is worth dreaming about…for the weekend to come.

Easter Pastel Deviled Eggs

7 Apr





Over the Easter weekend, I promised my friends I’d prepare a couple new variations on deviled eggs. So in the spirit of Easter pastels, I put together some fun new versions. I was particularly proud of their artistic look. They were equally as tasty. I think the group came to a consensus that the sriracha was the fan favorite – but you pick for yourself.

 Easter Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen hard-cooked eggs
  • 1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dijion mustard
  • 1 heaping teaspoon, white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Halve the eggs  and transfer the yolks to a mixing bowl. I cut mine vertically to give the eggs a different look – you’ll need to trim the bottom to get them to stand up!

With a stand up mixer, whisk the yolks to a smooth consistency. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, white pepper and salt, and mix until smooth. Taste and season accordingly.

Divide the mixture into thirds to create creative options! Mix and fill!

Pea & Prosciutto – mix in 1/3 yolk mixture with a cup of Sweet Pea Topping. Top with a small piece of prosciutto.

Sriracha & Black Sea Salt – mix in 1/3 yolk mixture with a teaspoon (or more to taste) of sriracha. Season with black sea salt.

Smoked Salmon and Chive – no need to mix – just top with smoked salmon & chives





Goat Cheese Mushroom Crostini

8 Jan


Brrrr. It was 10 degrees this morning ya’ll! And the temperature reminded me of when I decided to grill crostini in 17 degree weather on New Year’s Eve last week!

In an effort to keep the campers happy and awake on the big holiday, I made this incredibly easy and delicious appetizer. We made the recipe with button mushrooms because the grocery shopping campers didn’t know that a cremini mushroom is the same as a baby bella mushroom (cremini are baby portabellas ya’ll!). It was still delicious. I grilled the bread on the grill and quickly melted the goat cheese on the bread using the grill heat before topping with the mushrooms.

It’s a perfect winter starter!

Goat Cheese Mushroom Crostini, from MidWest Living 

  • 30 1/4 – inch thick slices baguette-style French bread (about 8 oz.)
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • tablespoons butter
  • shallots, coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups) or 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ounces Capriole Fresh Goat Cheese or other goat cheese
  • tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf parsley) (optional)
  1. Arrange baguette slices on a large baking sheet. Lightly brush 1 side of each slice with some of the olive oil. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 2 to 4 minutes more or until lightly brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Set bread slices aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and brown sugar. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated, stirring frequently.
  3. Spread some of the goat cheese on each crostini. Bake about 8 minutes or until cheese is warmed through. Remove from oven. Top each with some of the mushroom-shallot mixture. Drizzle any remaining cooking liquid over crostini. If you like, sprinkle each with parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 30 crostini.

A Last Minute Holiday Starter with Endive

20 Dec



Snow is falling on Mendenhall Street this morning and it couldn’t feel more like the holiday season. I’m looking forward to winding down and enjoying time with my family and friends in the Sunshine State. Our tables will be full of fresh citrus and local seafood. My childhood home continues to be a place of constant cooking and surprise guests. Our living room hosts a ongoing fire by the Christmas tree with the coming and going of my childhood friends, neighbors and family. There is something special about warming by the fireplace with the view of grapefruit trees in full fruit outside.

An easy holiday starter in Florida (or really anywhere with a good seafood market) is Roasted Shrimp Salad in Endive. I love endive because it’s healthier than a cracker with a fresh crispy bite. I’ve served everything from beet salad to blue cheese, pear and walnut in endive leaves. They present beautifully stacked like soldiers or presented like a blooming flower on a round platter. Also, if you haven’t seen this clip of Steven Colbert on endive, its a hilarious.

Shrimp salad is quick and unique. I roasted mine in good garlic olive oil (I’m loving my tin of Nudo Garlic Olive Oil right now) and mix with fresh dill, fresh lemon juice, white wine, red onion and salty capers. A little mayo will help everything stay together. An extra drizzle of garlic olive oil will help with presentation!

This is perfect to serve for an afternoon cocktail hour, before a late dinner or even a lunch. Serve with cocktails or red wine. I’m currently enjoying Rios de Chile red wine from the Cachapoal Valley. 

Happy Everything! I’ll share photos of my family celebration next week.

Roasted Shrimp Salad in Endive 

  • 1 pound shrimp
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Nudo garlic olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 3 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 5 heads of California endive

Assembly: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss shrimp in garlic olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together mayo, lemon juice and zest, dill, vinegar, capers and onions. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Toss hot shrimp in dressing and refrigerate until cold. Arrange shrimp in the endive leaves to serve. I found that cutting the shrimp in half helped them fit nicely inside each leaf. Garnish with a drizzle of fresh garlic oil.

Brrr It’s Cold Out There – Must Have Warm Brie

18 Nov




Life has been so hectic lately that the chilliness of Fall has totally snuck up on me. This weekend, I walked out the backdoor of my house to find a carpet of pecan tree leaves covering my garden. And I spent Sunday searching for last year’s sweaters and coats.

The calmness of the Thanksgiving holiday is something that I’m looking forward to. A couple quiet days spent lounging by the fireplace with family and pets, wondering when it’s close enough to five o’clock to start cocktail hour. Some wine, a warm brie, seasonal apples and crackers are the perfect effortless snack for these occasions.

I warm brie for just a few minutes (10 at most) in a 350 degree oven. If honey and nuts are in your pantry, they are a nice sticky addition. Add your favorite crackers and crisp apples for the best edible cheese travelers.

I’m looking forward to reporting back from a relaxing and fun Thanksgiving.


Grilled Brie with Fresh Figs and Mountain Honey

7 Sep


When my friends informed me that their new condo had an outdoor grill over looking the mountains, I planned the entire weekend around cooking outside. Every meal utilized the grill – including when I brought out the pots and pans and heated them directly on the grill. Nothing beats outdoor cooking – especially in the mountains with a great breeze.

Grilling Brie was an experiment that turned out extremely well. The trick is to keep the cheese very cold until your ready to cook and heat the grill to high. The process won’t take too long – you’re grilling just enough to make beautiful grill marks and heat the cheese through. This will take about four minutes on each side – but please use your own discretion. And, by no means should you press down on the cheese with a spatula.

Meanwhile, warm honey with a handful or two of quarter fresh mission figs.

Once the cheese is starting to ooze slightly and you can see the grill marks, transfer to a platter. Drizzle with honey, figs and a pinch of good sea salt. Serve with crackers or grilled baguette. Crazy good.

Labor Day in the Highlands

2 Sep

image image


Im just back from a wonderful weekend in the North Carolina highlands with some of my favorite friends. We spent three days drinking cocktails with views for miles, grilling on the most fantastic patio grill and mornings climbing in hopes to burn off a couple calories.

The first night we enjoyed gin and tonics with grilled bacon wrapped scallops drizzled with cayenne pepper. After the drive up, this appetizer couldn’t have been easier. Here’s the tip: The Fresh Market sells the skewers pre-made! You don’t have to soak the wooden skewers, deal with the wrapping or the skewering. Just grill, brush with a little butter and garnish with cayenne oil and a little chopped parsley. Looks pretty fancy, right?

Smoked Salmon Dip

17 Jun


There is something about summer that screams HAPPY HOUR! Gin and Tonic, a splash of Saint Germain, a pour of rose – anything will do. But, you’ll need a good snack to go along.

This past weekend, I modified this Ina Garden recipe for a happy hour gathering.  I added more smoked salmon for more of a fishy bite (closer to my favorite childhood Smoked Mullet Dip). This took less than 10 minutes to make and was a big hit. Save it in your back pocket for your next happy hour.

Smoked Salmon Dip, inspired by Ina Garten

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoon prepared horseradish, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound cedar smoked salmon, minced

Cream the cheese in a stand up mixer until just smooth. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, horseradish, salt, and pepper, and mix. Add the smoked salmon and mix well. Chill and serve with crudites or crackers.

Stock up. Summer Starts Now

2 Jun



The weekend is already feeling distant at this point in the day on a Monday afternoon but the start of the summer felt great while it lasted. I spent my weekend drinking wine (obviously), doing some cooking and taking paddle boarding lessons! Just when you think there is nothing new to do in the area, you stumble on a unique adventure that changes all perceptions. Check out SUP Paddle Boarding lessons with Soraya! It couldn’t have been more fun.

With lots of t time seeking adventure, I love an appetizer that take almost zero time. A sweet peppadew pepper stuffed with salami and parmesan cheese was suggested on a couple weekends ago. It’s a charming bite sized appetizer that is a punch of color and flavor. Just like all things summer should be. Stock up on staples and you’ll always have time to host.



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