Posts Tagged 'appetizer'

Chips and Dip

It is officially chip and dip time.  I actually am very found of the crunch of chips, particularly good corn chips, but most of them have too much fat for me to eat them often – and I haven’t yet found really low fat corn chips that taste good. Most of them are also too salty for my taste. But there are good corn tortillas that don’t have much fat. And it occurred to me that a tortilla is a corn chip waiting to happen.

Cumin Corn Chips

12 six inch corn tortillas (the kind that have about 1.5 fat grams for 2 tortillas)
Cooking spray
Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
Crushed cumin seeds

Preheat oven to 400. Spray 1 side of each tortilla with cooking spray; cut each tortilla into 8 wedges. Place the wedges on a large baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and cumin.
Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Check frequently to make sure they don’t burn. Cool. Makes 3 servings, at 3 grams of fat for 32 chips. NOTE: you could really spice these up with cayenne pepper or other spices.

Sesame Wonton Chips

OK, these were kind of experimental, and I have mixed feelings about them. The recipe came from Relish, one of those little magazines that comes stuffed in your newspaper (for those of you who still get a paper newspaper.)  I think I would like them better if I had a fruity dip or salsa, rather than the creamy dip I made.  I also think that the wontons need to be cut in half, either into rectangles or triangles. The big square wonton wrappers are kind of ungainly once they are crisp.

Sesame Wonton Chips

2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
30 wonton wrappers
sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Whisk together honey, soy sauce, and garlic powder. Lay wonton wrappers out on prepared baking sheets. Brush with soy sauce mixture and sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds. Bake for 7 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Makes 6 servings at about .5 grams of fat/serving.

I sprinkled some of them with black sesame seeds for contrast.

Lemony Dijon Dip (adapted from Costco magazine)

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Makes about 1 cup of dip, with 0 grams of fat/serving.

Chicken Empanaditas

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry eaten in many countries of Latin America and the south of Europe. Typically it has a doughy crust (like a pie crust), folded into a half moon shape,  and is either fried or baked. I wanted to make a diminutive empanada – an empanadita – a little dumpling that was more finger food than a hand-held snack. I also wanted to eliminate the high fat pie crust-like dough so I that had a low fat, tasty nibble. I decided to use round gyoza wrappers, which can be folded into little half moons. Gyoza are the usually the wrap for Chinese or Japanese pot stickers, so perhaps these are actually Mexican pot stickers.

At any rate, the first time I made these I followed a Food Network recipe for the filling, with appropriate fat-reducing changes, such as using fat-free cream cheese and low fat Mexican cheese blend. These first empanaditas were just awful. The filling was dry and flavorless; the gyoza skins were both tough and chewy at the same time. Even the dogs eyed them suspiciously. But they looked good!

So I tried again, adding some salsa to the filling to give it a bit of zing, and some non-fat sour cream to make it creamier. I also used wonton wrappers, since I was out of gyoza skins. They were fantastic. And it was not only the filling that was better. The wonton wrappers were crisp and vaguely buttery. And they still looked good.

(I have since learned that the dough for the gyoza and wonton wrappers consists of different ingredients; gyoza wrappers are also thicker than wonton wrappers). Now that I have gotten the recipe right, I crave them constantly. Good thing that I froze a bunch.

This recipe makes a large number of empanaditas – almost 100. But they are quite freezable before they are baked, although you might have to bake them for a few minutes longer just out of the freezer.  And once the filling is made, you can make them assembly line fashion, laying out 3-4 wrappers, dropping the filling in the middle, painting the edges with water and pressing them shut.

Chicken Empanaditas

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 (7 to 8 ounce) package shredded low-fat Mexican cheese blend
4 ounces non-fat cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups non-fat sour cream
1 cup salsa verde (any green salsa – heat depends on your tolerance)
about 100 square wonton wrappers
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two large cookie sheets with cooking spray (this will not be enough to cook all the empanaditas, so you will have to repeat baking if you want to make them all at once.)

Place pepper, chicken, and jalapeno in food processor and pulse until chopped. Add Mexican cheese blend, cream cheese, cumin, salt, pepper, sour cream and salsa to food processor. Pulse until well blended. Lay several wonton wrappers on a flat surface. Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of wrapper (you will have to get a feel for how much goes in each wrapper without overfilling them so you can’t seal them.)

(This is a picture of assembling the first batch – but you get the idea. Imagine this is a square, not a circle.)

Brush edges of wrapper with water. Fold in half to make a triangle. Press edges firmly to seal. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month).

Arrange empanaditas on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. You will need to check on these so they don’t burn. My first batch wasn’t brown enough, so I left them in for 10 more minutes and they got too well done. Makes about 100 empanaditas at 0.5 grams of fat/tasty little dumpling. (That means you can eat 6 of them sitting in front of the tv, dipping them in salsa if you’d like, and just have 3 grams of fat.)

Mini Crab Cups

We had our holiday party at work last week. We’re a pretty casual group – 9 people, Wii games for entertainment, and of course a potluck. When the call to sign up for potluck fare went out, everyone wanted me to bring The Famous Jezebel Sauce. When I asked what they wanted to dip in it, they said “their fingers”. So I brought it with cold cooked shrimp and green and red peppers for dipping.

But a potluck is, for me, an excuse for manic cooking, and a chance to try new recipes, preferably those with the well-known Wow Factor.  Browsing through a recent holiday issue of Cooking Light, I found these Mini Crab Cups that definitely had wow.  And they tasted good, too.  I also made a rum chip cheese cake, which I will post later.

This recipe is actually much easier to make than the end results looks. It is a cold appetizer, so doesn’t need last minute cooking to be palatable. I used a 1 pound container of Costco crab, which is already well-cleaned (and an excellent ingredient to have in the refrigerator – it is pasteurized and has a long shelf-life.) I chopped everything in the food processor, starting with chopping the celery, then adding everything but the tomatoes, pulsing a few times, and adding the tomatoes last so I still had texture in my chopped ingredients.  The crab mixture is not really spicy, but you could leave out the jalapeno if your guests absolutely don’t want any warmth.

The crab filling would actually be very good served with crackers if you don’t want to fuss with the cups, but the cups are easy to make. I made the crab filling the day before, and baked the cups the morning of the party. I filled them just before taking them to the office, since after a time the cups get soggy. I didn’t have gyoza skins, so I used wonton wrappers and they worked just fine.

My apologies for the slightly fuzzy photos. My camera had a temporary melt down so I had to borrow a camera.

Mini Crab Cups

1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons canola oil
30 gyoza or wonton skins
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cooked lump crab meat, shell pieces removed

For the filling (which is, in essence, crab salad): Combine celery and next 10 ingredients (though crab meat) in a large bowl; toss gently.

For the cups: Preheat oven to 375°. Combine water, honey, and canola oil, stirring with a whisk. Brush mixture evenly over both sides of each gyoza skin. Fit 1 gyoza into each of 30 miniature muffin cups, pressing the gyoza firmly into base of cups. (You don’t need to spray the cups with cooking spray because you have brushed them with the oil mixture.) Don’t worry if the cups tear a little at the bottom. It won’t affect the finished product. Try to shape the cups so they are open at the top and the sides of the gyoza don’t fall inward. I baked a few extra cups just in case, but I didn’t need them. Bake at 375° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned; I advise watching the cups carefully – mine were pretty brown by 10 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack. Carefully remove cups from pans.

To assemble: Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons crab mixture into each gyoza cup.

Makes 30 mini crab cups, at about 2 grams of fat/cup.

You could garnish them with a bit of chopped cilantro if you like.

Potato Samosas

Samosas are delicious deep fried triangular pastries, typically filled with a savory filling, and served with condiments, such as chutney or spiced yogurt. The ones I am familiar with are found in India, although variations occur in the Middle East and Africa.  The filling can be any type of spiced vegetable, although potato was the most common filling I encountered in Mumbai.

I have fond memories of snacking on crisp samosas, accompanied by hot tea, in little tea houses, and they were often served at weddings and other gatherings.  My fondest memory of samosas, though, is eating them as a snack when I went out with a group of women on an excursion to the sari-blouse maker, or to buy spices in the bazaar.  We would stroll along in our colorful saris, glass bangles jingling on our wrists, and pause to get a folded newspaper cone filled with plump, hot samosas from a vendor frying them in a cart along our path. Then we would take our savory snack to an open-air stall where raw sugar cane was being pressed into juice along with a bit of lime. There were, of course, flies around the sugar cane press, and I willed myself not to think about their being crushed with the cane as we sat around laughing, drinking our sweet cane juice and eating the hot samosas.

I have made samosas before, but could not figure out how to lower the fat on the tasty deep fried snacks. But this recipe, from “Healthy Indian Cooking” captures the savory flakiness of samosa without deep frying.  They’re relatively easy to make, too, although I found that they did not keep well for eating the second day. The flavor was fine, but they lost their crispness overnight and did not regain it when warmed in the microwave.  So invite a friend or two over and eat them up right away.

Potato Samosas

14 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed and covered with a damp towel
Cooking spray

3 large potatoes, peeled, boiled, and coarsely mashed
¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed (or drained canned corn)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh mint leave, finely chopped
juice of one lemon
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mix filling ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and lemon juice if needed. (Note, I think I should have mashed the mixture more thoroughly so it wasn’t quite so chunky) Set aside.

Cut each sheet of phyllo pastry in half lengthwise, then fold each piece in half lengthwise to make 28 thin strips. Lightly spray strips with cooking spray.  I found that it was best to work with 3 sheets of phyllo at a time, cutting, filling, and folding them (six samosas) rather than trying to do all the cutting at once, then filling, etc.  Keep the pyllo sheets you are not working with covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

Using one strip of pastry at a time, place 1 tablespoon of the filling mixture at one end of the strip:

Diagonally fold the pastry back and forth (like you fold a flag) to form a triangle shape.

Place on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops of the samosas lightly with cooking spray (or brush lightly with oil). Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  Make a cup of hot tea and enjoy. Makes 28 samosas at less than 1 gram of fat/samosa.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log

Someone in my office requested that I bring goat cheese and the famous Jezebel Sauce to the office holiday potluck. Never one to leave well enough alone, I decided that I should fancy up the goat cheese.  Since Jezebel sauce is pretty spicy, I decided that I needed to make the logs either sweet or rather plain.  I rolled one of the logs in chopped, toasted pecans. I wrapped the other in cranberries.

This recipe for cranberry-wrapped goat cheese log appeared in my local paper and is just in time for holiday parties. The recipe called for a one-pound log of goat cheese, but the Costco logs are only 11 ounces. In retrospect, I should have combined 2 logs to create a fatter 16 ounce log, or used less of the cranberry wrap, since the log came out a bit uneven (but delicious).  I also would suggest chopping the cranberries coarsely, since I thought the whole cranberries were harder to wrap nicely.  The log travels well if you wait to unwrap the plastic wrap until you get to your destination.  You can make it ahead and refrigerate it for a day or so.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log

1/4 ounce package of unsweetened gelatin
1/4 cup water
12 ounce package of fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup orange or raspberry liqueur (I used Cointreau)
16 ounce log of goat cheese

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; set aside. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine cranberries, sugar, cranberry juice and liqueur. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add gelatin mixture and boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture resembles a very thick jelly. Remove from heat and place the saucepan in the ice to cool.  (I actually poured the cranberry mixture into a medium bowl and set that on the ice, since my pot did not fit into the ice bowl very well.)

Once the cranberry sauce has cooled, lay an 18 inch sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the cranberry sauce on the plastic wrap, making an even rectangle slightly larger than the goat cheese log.

Place the goat cheese on top of the sauce. Spoon the remaining cranberry sauce mixture over the log, coating it evenly. Gently roll the log up in the wrap, using the plastic to mold the sauce around the cheese. Twist each end closed.

Note – I had trouble molding the sauce evenly. Note the misshapen wrapped log. This is why I think chopping the berries slightly might help.

Freeze for about 30 minutes to allow the cherry mixture to set.  Remove from the freezer and gently remove the plastic wrapper from the log placing the log on your serving platter

This makes 11-16 one ounce servings, at about 5 grams of fat/serving.

Thisis actually the leftover log I brought home.

I set the platter out with crackers and knives for serving.  The recipe suggested using unflavored dental floss to cut the log into one ounce pieces to serve it…but I liked the do-it-yourself log approach

Mushroom and Caramelized Shallot Strudel

This delicious, flaky pastry was originally described in Cooking Light as a main dish, perhaps a vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving.  I have been making it for years, taking it to friends’ houses as a Thanksgiving appetizer. It was always popular, and every year my friends would ask “you’re going to bring the mushroom thing, aren’t you?” Now the friends go south every year before Thanksgiving, and I fly across country to my daughter’s home for the annual feast. But the grocery had packaged mushrooms on sale for an unbelievable price, and I thought this would be a good main dish for a wintry day.  Whether you slice it thin for an appetizer or thick for a main dish, this is one of the best vegetarian low-fat dishes I have ever made. It requires just a little fussing, but it never fails.  It also has a pretty decent “wow” factor to bring to a potluck or a friend’s dinner table.

Mushroom and Caramelized Shallot Strudel

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2  cups thinly sliced shallots (about 8 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon water
4 (8-ounce) packages presliced mushrooms (or you could thinly slice  2 pounds of mushrooms)
2  Tablespoons Marsala or Madeira wine
2/3 cup non-fat sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8  sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Cooking spray
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs, divided
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sugar; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

cut shallot

Thinly sliced shallots.

Sprinkle with water; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until shallots are soft.

sauteed shallot

Caramelized shallots

Add mushrooms; cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat 20 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring frequently. Add Marsala; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, and cool. Stir in sour cream, parsley, salt, thyme, and pepper.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board or work surface (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), and lightly coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons breadcrumbs. Repeat the layers with 3 phyllo sheets, cooking spray, and breadcrumbs, ending with the phyllo. Spoon 1 3/4 cups mushroom mixture along 1 long edge of phyllo, leaving a 1-inch border.
filling on phyllo

Starting at the long edge with the 1-inch border, roll up jelly roll fashion. Place strudel, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Tuck ends under. Repeat the procedure with the remaining phyllo sheets, cooking spray, breadcrumbs, and mushroom mixture. Brush strudels with butter. Bake strudels at 400° for 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes.
phyllo log

Cut each strudel into 4 slices. This makes 8 main dish servings at 5 grams of fat/serving.  When I used this as an appetizer I cut each strudel into 6-8 pieces, so the appetizer was a little over 2 grams of fat/serving – which was light enough to precede a Thanksgiving meal.

phyllo slice

One main dish serving

I actually halved the recipe and made one strudel. I find that food made with phyllo doesn’t keep several days without getting soggy – and it doesn’t always reheat well.

Hint: I often have a problem finding the time to fuss over food preparation when I get home. This is one of those dishes where you can make the filling ahead and then fill and bake the strudel when you want to eat it.

Vietnamese Noodle Rolls

Woman doth not live by plums alone – if she did, she wouldn’t still have a large bowl of plums taking up refrigerator space where she needs to put things from the grocery.  There are other foods…and there are potlucks.

I needed to bring a vegetarian or “dairy” (milk products only) dish to a potluck this week.  Naturally, I wanted Wow Factor, and low fat on the off chance I might have to bring some home – not very likely once you see them.  I have tried to make rice paper wrapped rolls before, and they always fell apart. Then I ate at a Thai restaurant where we ordered summer rolls. They were small and tightly wrapped, not the big floppy things I produced.  The trick is in the tight wrapping.  By the way, this is pretty much a no cooking recipe.

This recipe came from Sunset magazine. I was a little surprised at some of the ingredients – Granny Smith apples and French-fried onions? But they worked and were delicious.  I made a double recipe – 20 rolls or 40 halves on toothpicks.  This recipe is for 10 rolls. The trick to this recipe is to prepare all of the filling ingredients and lay them out in a row on your work surface.  Then it is kind of an assembly line process to put them together.

Vietnamese Noodle Rolls

3½ ounces thin dried rice noodles (also called rice vermicelli)
¼ English cucumber, unpeeled
½ large carrot, peeled (I might use a whole carrot. This seemed a little skimpy. At the end I was stretching the carrot to have some in each roll)
5 red lettuce leaves, torn in half crosswise (use only the upper part not the thick stem)
½ Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced lengthwise
30 mint leaves
40 cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup canned french-fried onions
Ten 8 1/2-in. rice-paper wrappers (bánh tráng)
Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce or your favorite peanut sauce (see recipe below)

Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with almost-boiling water. Let noodles sit until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Don’t leave them longer or they’ll get too soft.

Meanwhile, cut cucumber into 4-in. lengths and then into matchsticks. Grate carrot finely (the recipe called for carrot matchsticks, but that seemed too crunchy for me.)

Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Spread noodles out on a baking sheet lined with a kitchen/paper towel. Pat dry. Divide noodles into 2 long “logs,” then cut each log with scissors into 5 equal portions.

Set out all ingredients except the sesame sauce near a large work surface. Pour very hot tap water into a large shallow bowl such as a pie plate (I put the pie plate in the kitchen sink so it wasn’t too drippy). Submerge 1 rice-paper wrapper until moistened and softened slightly but not completely pliable (it will continue to soften as you work with it). The trick here is to dip it in the water, turn it over, and dip it again. That’s enough! Do them one at a time. Don’t try to be efficient and dip several of them. You will have a mess, and you will not get into the Zen of making nice noodle rolls. Also, unlike phyllo dough, which can be patched, broken rice papers don’t patch well. Your roll will fall apart (this us the voice of experience speaking).

Lay damp wrapper on work surface – I have large flexible plastic mats that I use – and put 1/2 lettuce leaf in center. Mound 1 portion of noodles on lettuce followed by about one-tenth of the cucumber, carrot, and apple slices; 3 mint leaves; 4 cilantro leaves; and a sprinkling of onions. Arrange ingredients into a rectangle about 4 in. long. Fold paper tightly over short ends of filling, then roll up tightly from the bottom. Repeat to make remaining rolls. Serve with sesame sauce.  This makes 10 rolls at less than one gram of fat/roll.

noodle roll whole

These are rolls on a plate waiting to be sliced.  I found that if you want to cut the rolls in half, you should let them dry for a few minutes until the wrapper is no longer slippery. This kind of firms them up.

noodle roll cut

This shows the inside of the rolls, which are very colorful. I put the toothpicks in before I cut them.

noodle roll platter

The platter itself included the dipping sauce below.  I thought it might have a little too much of a kick, but no one thought it was too spicy.  And you have to admit it all had that Wow.

Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce

3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon red chile flakes
1 Tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
½ cup hot water

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  You can make the sauce ahead (the noodle rolls should be eaten the day they are made. Chill airtight for up to 1 week. Makes about ¾ cup, with 1.6 grams of fat/tablespoon.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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