Guest: Author Edith Maxwell

I invited my friend, author Edith Maxwell, to do a guest post months ago and she agreed to help me with the appetizer,/party foods I have been offering.
So here is all the info you need to whet your appetite not only for the wonderful recipe she has graciously shared with us, but for the other recipes and stories in her Local Food Mysteries, as well as her many other stories, written under several pseudonyms. I turn the blog over to Edith Maxwell. Please welcome her.

Guest:: Author Edith Maxwell

Guest:: Author Edith Maxwell

Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps
My fictional farmer, Cam Flaherty, might make these next time there’s a potluck on her farm for the volunteers, even though brown rice isn’t particularly local to New England.
This is an easy and tasty gluten-free party appetizer. Makes about fifteen crisps.

Ingredients:

Garlic Pesto Rice Crisp ingredients

Garlic Pesto Rice Crisp ingredients

1 local egg
1 cup cooked medium or short grain brown rice
1 tablespoon basil pesto made with local basil and garlic
½ cup grated Parmesan (can be pre-grated)
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan
Olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl.
3. Add the rice, pesto, and first cheese.
4. Oil a baking sheet with olive oil.
5. Drop a tablespoon onto the baking sheet, flattening into a round.

How to make Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

How to make Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

6. Sprinkle each round with fresh Parmesan.
7. Bake about twelve minutes, until light brown underneath and on top.
8. Serve hot.

Easy, tasty Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

Easy, tasty Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

Autumn has descended on Westbury, Massachusetts, but the mood at the Farm-to-Table Dinner in Cam’s newly built barn is unseasonably chilly. Local entrepreneur Irene Burr made a lot of enemies with her plan to buy Westbury’s Old Town Hall and replace it with a textile museum–enough enemies to fill out a list of suspects when the wealthy widow turns up dead on a neighboring farm.
Even an amateur detective like Cam can figure out that one of the resident locavores went loco–at least temporarily–and settled a score with Irene. But which one? With the fall harvest upon her, Cam must sift through a bushelful of possible killers that includes Irene’s estranged stepson, her disgruntled auto mechanic, and a fellow CSA subscriber who seems suspiciously happy to have the dead woman out of the way. The closer she gets to weeding out the culprit, the more Cam feels like someone is out to cut her harvest short. But to keep her own body out of the compost pile, she’ll have to wrap this case up quickly.

Bio:Til Dirt Do Us Part is the latest in best-selling author Edith Maxwell’s Local Foods Mysteries series (Kensington Publishing, 2014). Her new Country Store Mysteries, written as Maddie Day (also from Kensington), will debut with Flipped for Murder in November, 2015.
Maxwell writes the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries under the pseudonym Tace Baker, which Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau solves small-town murders (Barking Rain Press). The second book in the series, Bluffing is Murder, released in November, 2014. Edith holds a doctorate in linguistics and is a long-time member of Amesbury Friends Meeting.
Maxwell’s Carriagetown Mysteries series features Quaker midwife Rose Carroll solving mysteries in 1888 with John Greenleaf Whittier’s help. Maxwell also writes award-winning short stories.
A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, Maxwell lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors:  (wickedcozyauthors.com),
and you can find her at http://www.edithmaxwell.com,
@edithmaxwell, on Pinterest,
and at http://www.facebook.com/EdithMaxwellAuthor.

Thank you for joining us and helping out, Edith.

.

Appetizers VII-Potatoes and Rice/Leftovers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Appetizers from left-overs? It’s possible. What you need to start are mashed potatoes.
(If you don’t know how to make your own, please see You Can Do It, December 10, 2012 Archive)

Many are vegetarian, many can be made as vegan. All can be made gluten-free.

Sautée sweet peppers, (multicolored are nice but not necessary), and a little onion, green onion, leeks or shallots. Add paprika and parsley. If you have a favorite herb, you can use it sparingly. Add a little flour,(may use rice flour), and an egg, to help make them firm enough to be picked-up. But the egg is optional if you want to ‘go vegan’. A little more flour and a little longer cooking time will be necessary. Or you can place them on a cracker, a piece of fresh endive, romaine or spinach.

To make them hold their shape, form the potatoes into small, flat patties and fry them slowly on medium-low heat until they are lightly browned on each side and are very firm.

Top them with anything you’d  like.

Examples are :
Bacon or Tofurkey
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Herbed cream cheese, sour cream  or vegan sour cream; (may add nuts)
More sautéed or pickled peppers
Any left-over vegetable dish,(above has Spinach Bake

These are hearty, more party-food fare,but  they will keep your guests satisfied if the night is long or the meal delayed.

Spinach Bake

2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained  or
equivalent in fresh spinach which has been blanched,(Submerged in boiling water until limp)
4-6 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Optional:
2Tbsp. sautéed onions
1 Tbsp Parsley

Mix well. Place in buttered casserole dish.

OPTIONAL TOPPING: [Omit if going Gulten-free or to avoid carbohydrates]
4 oz melted butter
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs(I prefer half-Italian and half-plain mixed)
or
plain breadcrumbs with
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp. basil
1tsp marjoram
1 tsp. oregano (optional)

Mix butter and crumbs. Spread over the top of the spinach mix and bake at 375F  just until  set.(A knife inserted into the middle will come out clean)

I developed this recipe one day at my bakery/restaurant when we ran low on vegetable dishes during a Sunday dinner carry-out rush.I have had many requests for it.It was popular with my clients when I was a personal chef and is big with my family.  Served hot, it makes a great side dish, but cold and cubed, it makes a great appetizer.

Sampling of Spinach Bake and  Mixed Rice appetizers

Sampling of Spinach Bake and Mixed Rice appetizers

On the plate above, we have not only,chilled, cubed Spinach Bake topped with lightly herbed  mashed potatoes, but it is also stuffed into halved grape tomatoes.

Some of the gape tomatoes are filled with the mashed potato mixture recipe above, of course, without the eggs.

One of the white mixtures pictured is a quick chicken salad made with left over chicken breast,(baked, rotisserie or roasted).A little grated onion and celery,or just onion powder and celery salt with paprika. Mix into mayonnaise or veganaise and add to shredded chicken; it works beautifully .Add pecan pieces, hazelnuts, pistachios or walnuts and you have a truly special filling for tomatoes, olives or to be rolled into romaine leaves.

 

The other white mixture is cooked rice mixed with paprika, turmeric and celery salt. You can add parsley and, again, nuts,to add a spark. (Roasted or wasabi almonds add a bigger spark.) Mix with a slight amount of cream, coconut or almond milk enough to make it stick together somewhat.

You should always have a can or jar of black olives in your cabinet, and possibly some pre-made filo cups,(more with them next time), but they aren’t necessary. Tomatoes may not be in season or just not in your refrigerator . A slice of cucumber will work, as will an inch-and-a- half piece of celery or leaves of any lettuce or bok choy. And you can always use  bread or toast squares/triangles using any type: white, wheat, pumpernickel, rye, oat…whatever you have,
plus any type of cracker. You can even use chips, if they are big enough and curved enough to hold filling and be picked up.

Just be certain that your left-overs are fresh and your offerings kept cold.

Any questions? Just a few more posts to go in the series of appetizers.

I hope you have found some among them that you can use.

 

 

 

Appetizers VI/Polenta-based

I hope that everyone had a safe and wonderful holiday season and that the New Year finds all of you well and happy. Appetizers know no season.

As we continue with the appetizer theme, I will offer some that are all are gluten-free and can be made vegan. [By the way, did you know that Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies are vegan?]

Today our base is polenta:

Pictured below are:
Cooled stiff polenta with sautéed peppers , onions and parsley,  made into patties and lightly fried. They are topped with hummus,(see previous post),
Herbed mashed potatoes,
Herbed sour cream or cream cheese, (silken tofu or vegan sour cream can be substituted),or
Baby corn marinated ,and broccoli dipped, in Italian salad dressing
Pepperoni and provolone
I also show stiff polenta wrapped in turkey bacon,( you can use vegan bacon) and
Wrapped in cheese.

I also show the marinated baby corn and dipped , cooked broccoli wrapped in cheese, as well.

Polenta can make delicate to hearty appetizers

Polenta can make delicate to hearty appetizers

Polenta is basically cornmeal, not to be confused with grits, which are…grittier. Grits use a courser-grind of cornmeal.
Polenta can and has been confused, however, with ” mush“. which is cornmeal cooked in water and salt  alone,(basic polenta). In the southern parts of the U.S., it is usually cooked to full stiffness, cooled, then sliced and pan-fried; it is often served with syrup.

(Shortly after I moved to Kentucky, I left polenta and a pan of sausage sauce at a dinner at church.Before I could get back down to the kitchen, the women there had taken my sauce and added it to someone else’s barbequed cocktail wieners.They  misunderstood me as I had rushed out …they thought that I was bringing caramel sauce back for the “mush”.  What I made  was eaten very quickly by the Locals, who were glad to see ‘mush’ offered, but I was advised that I should have fried it before serving! My sons wondered who cooked like me when they ate the wieners.)

Polenta often has cheese or herbs added to it while cooking.One can even add well-cooked vegetables to the mix; common ones are onions, peppers, broccoli.

You can , in some areas, buy polenta mixes or pre-made polenta in tubes, which are often in the freezer case of your supermarket.

Making it from scratch is easy:

Basic Polenta

1 part corn meal (not self-rising!)
4 parts water

which means  use one-half cup of water to two cups of water; one cup of cornmeal to four cups,(one quart), of water;  two cups of cornmeal to  eight cups,( two quarts),  of water, etc.

Add at least 2 tsp. salt per cup of cornmeal

Bring the water to a boil and slowly add the cornmeal to keep it from lumping. (I advise using a wire whisk.)

You can add parsley, grated cheese,(I always add a little  grated Parmesan), plus onion or garlic powder, saffron , turmeric or any savory herb that you would like at this point; add any well-cooked vegetables at the end.

Stir continually over a medium high heat until your polenta is at a desired consistency…you want it very stiff to make appetizers.

You can leave the polenta for a few minutes if the heat is on low and you get right back and whisk it thoroughly. (Many Italian cooks would consider that last statement heresy, but it works.)

It’s a little more work but they should be made ahead of time and chilled. They could be made days ahead of time.

I have a few more samples to show you.I hope they inspire your own tatses.

 

Appetizers V/Stuffed Cold Cuts, Tofurkey/Marinated Mozzarella, Tofu

These heartier, filling "appetizers" should be used to fill a spot when a meal is missed.

These heartier, filling “appetizers” should be used to fill a spot when a meal is missed.

In Appetizers IV, I gave a few heartier version of what is a bit more than an actual “appetizer” should be, and here are a few more! These should be used more as a latter offering to take the place of a small meal, rather than as a pre-meal appetite-whetter.

Using Hummus as I spoke about in my last post, I added to it sautéed peppers in some cases, peppers and onions in others and sautéed mixed vegetables in others.

Simply take over-lapping layers of finely sliced deli turkey or chicken,( oven-roasted, mesquite or Cajun are best), roast beef,(add a little prepared horseradish sauce to the mix), or spiced ham. Add a dollop of prepared hummus and fold the ends of the meats over the top, close with a toothpick. If you can get Tofurkey, (soy-based meat substitute), or Seitan,(a wheat-based one), large enough and thin enough, it should work as well.
I used the same principle here with cooked Spinach leaves, You could substitute romaine or endive, instead.

I first blanched the Peapods, (plunge then into boiling water until just wilted),or you could steam them until tender. Slit the top without going through to the bottom and fill with humus prepared as you wish.

The Cheese Balls are fresh Mozzarella that I purchased at my local grocery store. I drained them,(they come in small tubs of brine), and marinated them in a mix of olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar,(you could use any type, but I suggest if not balsamic, then apple cider vinegar.
(Any nut oil would work well, too, instead of olive.) To the mix I added: garlic, salt, basil, marjoram, parsley, rosemary and black pepper. You could use “Italian Seasoning”, which is basically the same mix, and/or add oregano.(or use any combination of the above.) let them sit is a tightly –sealed container for at least days in your refrigerator. Turn the container twice a day. These will last for weeks in your refrigerator, so they are easy to make ahead. You can add black olives to the container as well. Drain to serve. (You can use the marinade to mix with Neufchatel or cream cheese to fill the olives, or use for other, upcoming appetizer recipes.

Use cubes of firm Tofu for a vegan-version.

I do hope his series is giving you ideas and courage to serve your guests and families.

 

Appetizers IV-Stuffed Mini-Peppers/Hummus/Fresh Fruit

Colorful Stuffed Mini-peppers are as delicious as they are cute

Colorful Stuffed Mini-peppers are as delicious as they are cute

 
Colorful Stuffed Mini-peppers are as delicious as they are cute
Mini-peppers are now readily available in most supermarkets in the U.S. I find them in bags of red, yellow and orange mixed. They have a very sweet and gentle flavor and are beautiful in salads or sautéed in butter or oil and added to any vegetable, pasta, grain or rice dish. Roasted gently in the oven, they can be slit and seeded, then stuffed and made into lovely, somewhat heartier, appetizers. Fresh fruit served with these is a bit of a respite from the heaviness of them.
[TIP: To keep non-citrus fruit fresh,dip them in citrus-fruit juice,(lemon or lime are very tart; I like to use pineapple or grapefruit juice), or any citrus-based soda, such as lemon-line (Sprite) or Mountain Dew.]

The peppers above are just a tiny example of what one can do with the darling vegetables.
Above I have some meat-filled with taco-ground beef and cheddar cheese. Others are filled with cream cheese with parsley chives, onion powder and topped with crumbled bacon.
One has spiced pork, (cooked pork ground with a hint of cloves and nutmeg, or you can do herbed pork with fennel, parsley and chives). You can use finely chopped beef mixed with prepared horseradish; top with a cherry tomato half.

Sauté tiny shrimp with leeks, (shallots or chives), thinly sliced celery and cooked spinach and use the mix to stuff some.

The others are stuffed with Roasted Chickpeas [Garbanzo beans], or hummus.
You may use canned, cooked chickpeas, (or to cook your own, see my August 24, 2012 post: You Know Beans.)

Place cooked beans on a baking sheet and roast in a 375F oven for approximately 10 minutes, stir to turn and cook for about 8 more. Crush these and mix with crushed pistachios, almonds, preferably smoked…or my new obsession, wasabi almonds. Fill the roasted peppers.

If you don’t know hummus, it is a food made from ground chickpeas and usually tahini, which is a roasted sesame-seed paste. You may use any of the prepared bands, as hummus has become quite common as a dip in the U.S., and much of the rest of the Western parts or the world, (the East always knew its glory.) There are many brands,(beware, one does not mix as well with other foods as it contains a great deal of chili powder in its ‘regular’ formula).Many types are to be found with roasted garlic, tomatoes, etc. You can use these, but I make my own with a slight change; I use sesame seeds instead of tahini. Feel free to try this using canned chickpeas.

My Hummus [Vegan, gluten-free]
½ pound of chickpeas cooked in a slow-cooker with
1 Tbsp. of Olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp. finely diced onion
½ tsp white pepper
3X water to cover the chickpeas
When the chickpeas are soft, reserve some water and drain the rest. I run them through a food processor, then add:
2 Tbsp olive oil,
salt to taste
2 tsp. crushed garlic
½-2/3 cup white sesame seeds
I process them again until completely smooth, and add more of the reserved cooking water if too dry.
For the peppers in the photo, I added chopped, sautéed vegetable mixed, as described in “Appetizers II”.

I do hope that you try any of the above combinations, or any of your own.

 

Appetizers III Savory Fruit/ Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Vegan-optional

“Savory” and “Fruit” may not come to mind as being compatible, but when it comes to appetizers,the combination is perfect. Sweet and spicy or tart, plus pairing of textures, give a surprise spark to the taste buds and leave  guests wanting to experience more.

Stuffed dates, figs  and grilled pineapple make wonderfully surprising  appetizers

Stuffed dates, figs and grilled pineapple make wonderfully surprising appetizers

The stuffed dates, figs, apricots and grilled fruits above are quite easy and quite eye-catching.

To start, the easiest:

Grilled fruit:
Heat butter in a frying pan until slightly brown. Add slices of firm fruit, such as pineapple, peach, pear, plum,  apple, apricot.

On high heat, brown quickly on each side.You may sprinkle with spices, such as nutmeg or cloves, or you can go  hot, with a little white pepper, ginger, Indian  hot pepper, (be careful!) or paprika. Sugar is unnecessary as the caramelization of the fruit sugar in the pan-frying makes them particularly sweet.

Skewer with a toothpick.

Stuffed Dried Mission figs: slit, filled with hazelnut-chocolate spread,(Nutella), a smoked or wasabi almond, glazed walnut or any of the suggestions below.

 Stuffed Dates and Apricots
With a short,sharp knife, slit the fruit and open the cavity gently with a dull knife, (or a clean finger!), and insert any of the following:

sweet coconut, with or without nuts, or dried fruit bits,(mango, pineapple, crasins, cherries,(dried or Maraschino),

or with sweet cheese [ricotta, mascarpone or Neufchatel mixed with honey, sugar, stevia or other sweetener, plain or with the options of  nuts and/or spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, etc. Silken tofu or “vegan cream cheese” can be used as well.]

Top these with a piece of dried fruit or  nuts.

These will also have to be skewered or placed in candy paper cups, or , easier, mini cupcake papers.

 

Note: Pre-made sweet coconut can be used or prepared with stevia or other sweetener as I suggested in the NuNaturals promo post of September 11, 2014.  Although I developed those recipes with  the product  in mind, ANY stevia product or sweetener of choice can be used. (I found that wasabi almonds are a fantastic mix with sweet coconut…I can’t get enough of the combination!)

Please see all of the September 11 post for more (sugar free)  sweet appetizer ideas.
Again, please feel free to use
  ANY sweetener of your choice.

It’s crunch-time for the holidays.I will post again in a day or two to get in as many appetizers as I can before most of the holiday season.

 

 

Appetizers(III) vs. Party Foods

I have found confusion among some people concerning the difference between “Party Foods” and “Appetizers/Hors d’oevres.”

Appetizers are party foods, make no mistake, but not all party foods are appetizers. There is a time and a place for both. Dips, nuts, cheese boards and rolled sandwiches are wonderful party foods, but do not belong where you would serve appetizers.

Appetizers and Hor d’oevres are usually used in a less casual atmosphere, but they don’t have to be “stuffy”. I hesitate to use the rather old-fashioned terms “Cocktail Party” or “Open House” because I have found them to be something negative in people’s minds, just as I found the term “Dinner Party” is to many. That was one topic I suggested on my shared blog “Four Foxes, One Hound” here on WordPress and nearly everyone seemed to have thought that they had never been to one or that they have to be terribly uncomfortable experiences. A dinner party does not have to be a formal affair with oyster forks and starched collars any more than an “Open House” needs to mean pseudo-sophisticates making inane conversations.  Any time there are guests for dinner it is technically a ‘dinner party’; some are just more formal than others. Appetizers can be served at any of them.They are especially  handy when some guests will be arriving some time before  the others.

An “Open House” is a drop-in, casual  party that are usually held on weekends, often during any holiday or holiday season when many folks have other obligations and cannot stay for any length of time at one function. The host(s) simply state a starting time and are prepared to have guests in and out for several hours,(at least 4-5), or for most of the day.These are often held on a Saturday mid-day into the late afternoon or on a  Sunday  afternoon into the evening.Some are bold enough to hold them on Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve  Open Houses usually go until the wee hours of the morning. Drinks are served, and usually a punch is kept going and the food will be light hors d’oeuvres.

[“Cocktail parties” are early evening affairs where hors d’oeuvres are served along with…you guessed it, “cocktails”. I don’t know if they are ever held under that name any more.]

Appetizers/hors d’oeuvres need to be one-two bite individual servings, without sauce and never to need any ‘work’ on the part of the guest, (no dipping, layering or cutting, for instance.) They are to be used to lead into a meal, or be served at a late gathering/lead into a function afterward, not to substitute for a full meal, as “party foods” often are.

You will find a variety of just how much or how little work you feel you want to do in this series.

Please try one more complicated one at a time if you feel you don’t have the time or the skill…you do have the skill. Try them when you aren’t pressed for something to serve and you’ll find you can easily follow my instructions. Most can be made in advance or have make-ahead components which can be put together closer to serving. Have fun trying them for yourself or w family and friends when you don’t have to worry about making an impression and you’ll gain confidence and knowledge in the making of all of the recipes and ideas I offer, which I hope will inspire more ideas of your own. A few will need to be served warm, so chose these to serve in your home; others can be taken to be shared elsewhere.

I will be back in a few days with more, but will leave you with a few adapted party-foods-turned-appetizers:

This "Party Food" can be made into mini appetizers

This “Party Food” can be made into mini appetizers

Baked Brie en Croute: (more complicated; vegetarian)
1: Make Old World Crust, [“You Can Make Pie Crust and Savory Pastry/(Vegan)/Chiffon
November 2013 Archive]
OR
Use ready-made pie crust
2: 1 Baby Brie
3:Small amount of Topping
[I often use Cranberry Relish,November8, 2012 Archive]
Or Use a jarred all-fruit
Or pie filling ,(added nuts optional)
Or Butterscotch/Caramel ice cream topping with added nuts

Roll and cut small rounds of pie crust.  Place very small portions of brie in the center; top with a very small amount of topping of your choice. Fold the crust around the cheese and topping and pinch to close. (Try to keep them closed or at least, keep the opening on the very top.
Brush with egg wash,(beaten egg mixed with 1 tsp water.) to create a nice golden brown.
Place on a greased baking sheet,(can use oil spray), or sue parchment paper.
Bake @375F until golden brown. Serve warm. May be made ahead and re-heated carefully.

Easy salad stuffed mini tomatoes can be a refreshing appetizer

Easy salad stuffed mini tomatoes can be a refreshing appetizer

Mini Stuffed Tomatoes (easy; pescetarian; dairy-free,low-carb, gluten-free)
1:Cherry or grape tomatoes, cored:
Stuff with:
2:Seafood Salad made with
Drained canned tuna (or salmon),
Or Flaked crab or imitation crab
Or tiny cooked shrimp
Or hard-boiled eggs
3: thinly sliced celery
4:finely minced green onions, white or yellow onion, leeks or shallots
5: celery salt or onion salt
6:mayonnaise or veganaise
Place small amount in tomatoes, top shrimp salad with a tiny shrimp; the egg with green or black olives; salmon or tuna with a cooked asparagus tip…or use your imagination.

I will be back very soon with more to finish this before the holiday entertaining season is over.

Any questions?