Roasted Peppers with fresh Feta

Sometimes the best recipes happen when you least expect it.  I love peppers and feta, so tried broiling peppers (scorching them) over my gas stove, placed them in a bowl after charring and covered them with a plastic wrap and voila! After peeling the skins off the peppers and slicing them into long strips, I wrapped them around a square of feta and heaven ensued!  These are great to try any night of the week by yourself or with guests and friends – and they are wayyyy better than those jarred roasted peppers.

1 red pepper or yellow pepper (or both depending on the size gathering)
Fresh sheep’s milk feta cut into ½ inch cubes
Toothpicks to skewer the pepper wrapped feta

Follow the directions above, scorching the peppers on either the gas stove or in the oven on broil.  The skin of the pepper should be cooked until blistered and charred.  Place in bowl and cover for 20 mins. Then peel skin off the pepper, rinse and slice into 1 inch slices. Wrap the pepper around cubed feta and secure with a toothpick!

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto 

This is a great simple way to turn an ordinary party into a classic cocktail night! All it takes are some fresh ingredients and some fabulous olive oil and you’re set.

1 bundle of fresh asparagus (freshly cut ends)
1/3 of a pound of thinly sliced prosciutto 
Drizzle of good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse freshly washed asparagus and pat dry.  Place on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season slightly with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for 15 minutes or until golden and roasted and cool.  Once completely cooled, wrap each piece of asparagus with one slice of prosciutto and serve. 

Layered Brie topped w/ pesto, sundried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts

The inspiration for this recipe came after a recent trip to my local grocery store, where I saw layered cheeses priced at over $20 a pound.  This one costs about a quarter as much and adds vibrant colors and rich flavors to any party spread.

1 thick slice or wheel of Brie (depending on the size of your party)
¼ to ½ cup of freshly prepared pesto*
1-2 dozen sundried tomatoes packed in oil (chopped)
2-3 tbsp. toasted pine nuts

Place unwrapped Brie atop serving platter.  If using wheel of Brie, slice in half horizontally, so you have two pie-shaped wheels.  Smear pesto on top of Brie, layering with the chopped sundried tomatoes and pine nuts.  Add second wheel of Brie and repeat layering of ingredients. 

*Marty’s Pesto

2-3 cups fresh basil, spinach or arugula
2-3 tablespoons freshly toasted pine nuts or walnuts
2 cloves freshly chopped garlic
¼ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil to blend (use low sodium heated chicken broth if looking for a lower calorie substitute)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in food processor except for olive oil, and run 5-10 seconds.

Try the spinach (made with walnuts) or arugula pesto for a change of pace.  Serve with pastas, as an accompaniment to fish dishes or with appetizers, such as above.

This is super easy and no fuss.  This is a great accompaniment to any wine and cheese party!

1 wheel of brie cheese
1/3 cup of apricot jam or other favorite jam)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place wheel of brie on a baking dish, cover with jam and bake for 15 minutes or until just getting gooey (yes that is the word;)).  Cool and serve on dish with fabulous water crackers or your favorites.  Enjoy!

Crab cakes w/ dill mustard cream sauce

2 dozen cooked mini crab cakes (In the summer time I make the real McCoy, the rest of the year I go with Trader Joe’s crab cakes)) 

Dill Mustard Cream Sauce

¼ cup low fat sour cream or ¼ cup nonfat Greek Yogurt (Total-much thicker yogurt with fantastic flavor)
2-3 tbsp low fat mayonnaise
2-3 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp freshly chopped dill
1 tbsp freshly chopped chives
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne

Blend all of the above in a food processor (should make approximately ½ cup of sauce).  Spoon cream sauce into a Ziploc bag and push all liquid to the tip of the bag (making it an icing tool). Right before serving, cut a small opening at the tip of the bag and drizzle sauce lightly over crab cakes. This recipe is also a fantastic accompaniment to grilled seafood fare, so save any extra sauce for later in the week!

Crostini with Feta, Rosemary and Walnuts and a Honey Glaze

1 baguette, sliced into ¼” slices
1 package of feta, sliced into small rectangles
¼ cup of walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons of rosemary, chopped
½ cup of honey, warmed with 1 teaspoon of water
1 platter for serving cheese, and one cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place sliced bread on cookie sheet, ½” apart. Top bread with one slice of feta, a sprinkle of chopped walnuts and rosemary. Drizzle bread with warmed honey mixture and place in oven 8-12 minutes until bread is crispy and cheese is mostly melted. Serve on platter and garnish with leftover rosemary and walnuts.

Simple Cheese Platter

5-6 blocks of various types of cheeses ranging in size and color from your local gourmet grocery store (brie, cheddar, chevre, stilton and gouda for example).                    

1 box of Carr’s crackers or other favorite cracker                                                                                                        

1 cup of assorted olives (preferably Kalamatas or other stuffed variations)                                                    

Dash of mixed Italian seasoning dried or fresh for garnish                                           

 2-3 Cheese knives                                                                                                                                                

A Large platter for serving

Unwrap various cheeses and arrange on platter, do the same with crackers. Sprinkle olives and herbs over arranged platter and serve.

Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil Mini Skewers

1-2 cartons of cherry/grape tomatoes
1 ½ cups fresh basil
1-2 packages of fresh mozzarella balls
1 package of toothpicks
2-3 tablespoons of your favorite balsamic plus 1-2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 large platter for serving

Wash both tomatoes and basil and pat dry. Break basil leaves of stems and set aside.

Take toothpicks and begin layering mozzarella, basil and tomato on each toothpick.  Repeat until you have filled the appetizer tray and or have a suitable amount for your group.

Lastly drizzle balsamic mixture over the mini skewers and serve.

Hummus, Pita and Pepperocini Peppers

1 package of store bought hummus
1 package of pita, cut into wedges (and heated in over at 300 degrees for 7-8 minutes)
1 lemon cut into wedges
1 jar of pepperocini peppers drained
Dash of both paprika and cayenne
Dash of dried Italian seasoning for garnish
1 platter for serving/bowl in center for hummus

Place store bought hummus in bowl, garnishing with both paprika and cayenne-depending on original flavor. Arrange pita wedges around bowl and do the same with pepperocini peppers. Squeeze one wedge of lemon on hummus and arrange remaining wedges on platter.

Sprinkle Italian Seasoning and Paprika over both pita and hummus for garnish.

Olive Tapenade

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
¼ cup of pitted green olives (you can use the ones already stuffed with pimento, if you prefer)
¼ cup of capers
3-4 cloves of garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup of olive oil (high quality)
Pinch of pepper (and salt if needed after tasting)

Blend olives, capers, garlic and lemon zest in a food processor, slowly add olive oil until combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with assorted veggies or toasted baguette or crackers.  Can be stored and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Salmon Mousse

2 cans of salmon, drained
1 8 oz. package of light cream cheese
¼ cup of chives chopped
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon of fresh horseradish
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients except for the salt and pepper in a food processor.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with assorted veggies or water crackers.  Can be stored and refrigerated up to 2 days.

Easy Chili Cheese Dip

For a tailgating party or a sports game-this super easy crowd pleaser will be an appetizer you’ll want to use for years to come!

1 can of your favorite chili
1 8 oz. package of light cream cheese
1 ½ cups of your favorite shredded cheese

Spread layer of package of cream cheese on a 9x13 (or similar sized) pyrex type dish.  Next, pour can of chili over cream cheese and smooth evenly. Sprinkle all of shredded cheese over chili and cream cheese layers.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave 5-7 minutes or until melted and bubbly. Remove plastic and serve with your favorite tortilla chips! *This can also be prepped a day before and kept in the fridge until ready to heat.

Herbed Goat Cheese Balls

The inspiration from this recipe came from enjoying several salads that had goat cheese and herbed vinaigrette.  This recipe is great for a cocktail party, added into salads and fantastic for brunch as well. Enjoy! 

1 package of fresh goat cheese                                                                                                                                                                       Several tablespoons of herbs de Provence and a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

Take goat cheese out of container and break into smaller teaspoon sized pieces. Use hands to roll teaspoon sized goat cheese balls and place on plate or small platter.  Chill in fridge for 15 - 20 minutes.  Take chilled goat cheese balls and roll in herb mixture.  Place back on plate and serve.  These can be made a day ahead of time if preferred.

Marty’s Cranberry Relish

I discovered this super easy way of making a raw cranberry relish when I was in my teens.  It is SUPER easy, fresh and tart, and simply the best on fresh turkey and those leftover turkey sandwiches!  Add a little orange juice if it needs a little more liquid. Make sure to sweeten to taste.

1 bag of freshly rinsed cranberries
1 whole orange sliced into 4 wedges                                                                                                                                                       1/4-1/2 cup of granulated sugar

Place all of the above ingredients in a food processor and blend until all ingredients are a smoothrelish consistency.  Feel free to add freshly chopped walnuts when serving.  I also sometimes like blending with a fresh apple (cored and seeded) to give it a cran-apple twist.  Enjoy!