Tag Archives: gluten-free appetizers

Appetizers VIII; Custards,HUmmus, Couscous/Vegan

After too long of a break, we continue our series on appetizers. I have saved some of the most impressive ones for these last two post for the time being. I will give you a few unusual flavor combinations to try, or to spark your imagination for other combinations.

Although the next and,(for this series, the last), posts will feature possibly the easiest, the ones here today may take a little more time, but can be made ahead of time. In fact, it’s necessary.

We have already discussed making or buying hummus [December 13, 2014 Archive ] and polenta [January 4, 2015 Archive ], which are contained in the appetizers pictured. I have not discussed couscous, which is made of granules of semolina, (wheat), and can either be steamed or boiled to a softened-but-still-firm consistency. I often buy it made with vegetables, much like garden pasta, which makes a tasty and colorful alternative side dish to potatoes, rice and pasta. More couscous recipes will be in upcoming posts.

Some of the appetizers you see here today contain custard. Simple custard is made by a ratio of 1 large egg to 1 cup of milk (of any type, cow, almond, etc.), and baked in a slow/moderate oven, (325F), in glass or ceramic baking vessels. These need to be surrounded by water halfway up their sides , placed in a larger vessel of any oven-proof material.

Since simple custard is very “eggy”, other ingredients must be added. For a sweet custard, sugar, stevia, honey or other sweetener must be added, and can be made with many other flavorings. Most often, vanilla extract is added, but lemon or orange zest, coconut, nutmeg or almost any flavor that will not dilute the egg-milk ratio will work. Too much more liquid, and your custard will not “set”, which is to become firm. On the other hand, adding pre-cooked rice, (which is also good in the sweetened versions), will have little effect on the texture. Ground nuts, seed or coconut are also acceptable additives.

However, for savory recipes, you want your custard to noy

After too long of a break, we continue our series on appetizers. I have saved some of the most impressive ones for these last two post for the time being. I will give you a few unusual flavor combinations to try, or to spark your imagination for other combinations.

Although the next and,(for this series, the last), posts will feature possibly the easiest, the ones here today may take a little more time, but can be made ahead of time. In fact, it’s necessary.

We have already discussed making or buying hummus [ ] and polenta [ ], which are contained in the appetizers pictured. I have not discussed couscous, which is made of granules of semolina, (wheat), and can either be steamed or boiled to a softened-but-still-firm consistency. I often buy it made with vegetables, much like garden pasta, which makes a tasty and colorful alternative side dish to potatoes, rice and pasta. More couscous recipes will be in upcoming posts.

Some of the appetizers you see here today contain custard. Simple custard is made by a ratio of 1 large egg to 1 cup of milk (of any type, cow, almond, etc.), and baked in a slow/moderate oven, (325F), in glass or ceramic baking vessels. These need to be surrounded by water halfway up their sides , placed in a larger vessel of any oven-proof material.

Since simple custard is very “eggy”, other ingredients must be added. For a sweet custard, sugar, stevia, honey or other sweetener must be added, and can be made with many other flavorings. Most often, vanilla extract is added, but lemon or orange zest, coconut, nutmeg or almost any flavor that will not dilute the egg-milk ratio will work. Too much more liquid, and your custard will not “set”, which is to become firm. On the other hand, adding pre-cooked rice, (which is also good in the sweetened versions), will have little effect on the texture. Ground nuts, seed or coconut are also acceptable additives.

However, for savory recipes, you want your custard to not be sweet, so you will add salt and then, again, any herbs or dry, (or dry-ish), vegetables that strike your fancy. Sautéed onions or shallots are a good choice, or dehydrated peppers or tomatoes. Maybe you’d prefer herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme, (I don’t recommend them together!), or lemon zest. You can also add a little cheese before baking, but cut back just a bit on the milk.

Test for doneness as you would a cake. Insert a knife into the middle of the custard. When the knife blade comes out clean, your custard is done. The time depends on the size of your containers. One-cup capacity can be done in as little as 40 minutes; a large container can take up to an hour and a half. But never go by time alone.

I have not yet experimented with these myself, but I am assured that quite good vegan versions of custard can be made in several ways, at any level of cooking expertise.

Easy: Silken tofu or heavy, canned coconut milk * blended with a small amount of coconut oil, then chilled

Moderate: Almond or coconut milk blended with tapioca powder or arrowroot ,( plus flavorings), baked as above.

Nuts, (especially cashews), puréed with a little coconut oil or heavy, canned coconut milk*

Advanced: Pastry cream made of coconut or nut milks. This is cooked by whisking over a double boiler with water, salt, flour and cornstarch.

[* NOTE: Coconut milk in cartons is too thin for the quick custards which have this notation. Several types and brands of canned coconut milk are available. Although I generally choose the types that ‘slosh’ when I shake the cans, you want the ones that seem solid when you shake them. Do not use “Cream of Coconut”, as this is far too sweet.]

For the appetizers here, I used cooled custard, and put them together easily with purchased, premade filo cups and rye flatbread.

Filo custard cups, which are vegan, sometime come in grocery freezer cases, but if you will be using them quickly, refrigeration is not necessary as they are prebaked and ready-to-fill. Flatbread, which is also vegan, comes in packages in the cracker aisle. It comes in several flavors made from several types of grain. It also come in long pieces which I just snapped off with irregular edges. Since there is no way to cut them evenly, let’s say that it lends a certain handmade charm to the appetizers.(That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) You can use any type of non-sweet cracker, gluten-free cracker or even corn chips.

Appetizers featuring Hummus, Couscous and Custard make an imaginative and impressive array

Appetizers featuring Hummus, Couscous and Custard make an imaginative and impressive array

Pictured are :

Pepper-Jack cheese melted over polenta in filo cup, feel free to use vegan ‘cheese’

Pepper-Jack cheese melted over couscous in filo cup, topped with a slice of black olive

Herbed rice custard in filo cup topped with an herbed tomato slice

Hot Pepper custard in filo cups with salmon cream cheese, topped with apple and bacon; vegan “bacon” can easily be substituted.

Hummus in filo cup topped with sautéed mixed vegetables

Hummus with toasted coconut in filo cup topped with toasted sesame seeds

Hummus with pistachio on flatbread

Hummus with coconut on flatbread

Herbed custard rice with herbed tomato on flatbread

Salmon cream cheese with cashew and apple on rye flatbread
(More on using cream cheeses in the next post.)

Of course, you should know by now that none of these combinations are absolutes. Try mixing and matching textures and flavors, herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and anything that strikes your fancy. If you like it, try serving it!

Any comments?

be sweet, so you will add salt and then, again, any herbs or dry, (or dry-ish), vegetables that strike your fancy. Sautéed onions or shallots are a good choice, or dehydrated peppers or tomatoes. Maybe you’d prefer herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary OR thyme, (I don’t recommend them together!), or lemon zest. You can also add a little cheese before baking, but cut back just a bit on the milk.
Test for doneness as you would a cake. Insert a knife into the middle of the custard. When the knife blade comes out clean, your custard is done. The time depends on the size of your containers. One-cup capacity can be done in as little as 40 minutes; a large container can take up to an hour and a half. But never go by time alone.
I have not yet experimented with these myself, but I am assured that quite good vegan versions of custard can be made in several ways.
Easy: Silken tofu or heavy, canned coconut milk * blended with a small amount of coconut oil, then chilled
Moderate: Almond or coconut milk blended with tapioca powder or arrowroot ,( plus flavorings), baked as above.
Nuts, (especially cashews), puréed with a little coconut oil or heavy, canned coconut milk*
Advanced: Pastry cream made of coconut or nut milks. This is cooked by whisking over a double boiler with water, salt, flour and cornstarch.
[* Coconut milk in cartons is too thin for the quick custards which have this notation. Several types and brands of canned coconut milk are available. Although I generally choose the types that ‘slosh’ when I shake the cans, you want the ones that seem solid when you shake them. Do not use “Cream of Coconut”, as this is far too sweet.]
For the appetizers here, I used cooled custard, and put them together easily with purchased, premade filo cups and rye flatbread.
Filo custard cups, which are vegan, sometime come in grocery freezer cases, but if you will be using them quickly, refrigeration is not necessary as they are prebaked and ready-to-fill. Flatbread, which is also vegan, comes in packages in the cracker aisle. It comes in several flavors made from several types of grain. It also come in long pieces which I just snapped off with irregular edges. Since there is no way to cut them evenly, let’s say that it lends a certain handmade charm to the appetizers.(That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) You can use any type of non-sweet cracker, gluten-free cracker or even corn chips.
Pictured are :
Pepper-Jack cheese melted over polenta in filo cup, feel free to use vegan ‘cheese’
Pepper-Jack cheese melted over couscous in filo cup, topped with a slice of black olive.
Herbed rice custard in filo cup topped with an herbed tomato slice
Hot Pepper custard in filo cups with salmon cream cheese, topped with apple and bacon; vegan “bacon” can easily be substituted.
Hummus in filo cup topped with sautéed mixed vegetables
Hummus with toasted coconut in filo cup topped with toasted sesame seeds
Hummus with pistachio on flatbread
Hummus with coconut on flatbread
Herbed custard rice with herbed tomato on flatbread
Salmon cream cheese with cashew and apple on rye flatbread
(More on using cream cheeses in the next post.)
Of course, you should know by now that none of these combinations are absolutes. Try mixing and matching textures and flavors, herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and anything that strikes your fancy. If you like it, try serving it!
Any comments?

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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 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(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?

Appetizers II

I am quickly going to get out the promised appetizers here for the holiday season, although they can be useful at any time. All of these are gluten-free,low-carb and all are vegetarian; they can be made dairy-free and vegan.

A selection of appetizers

A selection of appetizers

The selection pictured above go from a little preparation to pull-‘em-out-of-a-jar. I simply stuck toothpicks in jarred pimento-stuffed green olives and those are fine for an addition to a plate, but please, don’t just serve those!
The tomatoes I prepped with a melon baller:

A handy tool:the melon baller

A handy tool:the melon baller

(A famous TV chef recently described this item as a “mini ice cream scoop”!)

The tool is used to ‘ball’ melons, but they also make a useful tool to hollow-out grape and cherry tomatoes.

The grape tomatoes above to the right in the picture are miniature versions of my Italian Baked Tomatoes [ October 15, 2012 archive], served on fresh spinach leaves.

The cherry tomatoes in the middle and the black olives to the lower right in the photo are stuffed with herbed cream cheese. I use Neufchatel, (reduced fat cream cheese) and usually add a few drops of olive or any nut oil, then I add herbs. “Vegan cream cheese” or silken tofu can be substituted for the Neufchatel cheese.

Some suggestions to mix into the filling are:
Italian seasoning , or mix any of the following{ parsley, marjoram, basil, garlic, oregano
Thyme and cracked pepper
Ground rosemary and parsley
Chives, celery salt, turmeric,paprika
Onion and pepper flakes
Cilantro and ancho powder,(be careful!)
Mesquite
Celery seed and saffron
Dill weed
Or use flavored, spreadable cream cheese from your grocer. Kraft has everything from pineapple to smoked salmon and everything in between. You can do the stuffing!

The black olives to the left in the picture have marinated chick peas (garbanzo beans) in them. Prepare as directed,{ You Know Beans, August 24, 2012 archive),or use drained, canned chickpeas. Marinate in olive oil and your choice of herbs or in Italian salad dressing for at least 3 hours .Drain and push into pitted olives.

The grape tomatoes to the left in the picture are fresh and filled with a vegetable mix that is easy and very useful. I served them on pieces of Romaine lettuce.
Frankly, I am not sure what was in that particular mix! I often fully cook whatever vegetables I have in the house,(at least 5-7 of them) along with some herbs and spices.

Use any or all of these, chopped finely:
Onion, chives, leeks and/or shallots
Celery, swiss chard, Romaine or any type of lettuce
Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach,
Bok choy, Chinese, red and/or green cabbage
Carrots, turnips, parsnips
Sweet peppers
Yellow squash and or zucchini
Green and/or wax beans, (canned or fresh)
Garlic
Opt: Parsley, ginger, celery seed, turmeric, paprika, salsify, saffron, thyme

Cook in olive oil or nut oil, stirring often. This mixture is very useful and makes a wonderful spread when mixed with cream cheese, silken tofu or to mix into or top hummus or polenta. (Recipes for both upcoming.)

I hope the picture and the recipes inspire you to try them or branch out on your own.
I will be posting more in quick succession.
Any questions?

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Yes, I said I’d put this recipe up before, but I had a quick request for my Codfish Cake recipe by people who missed the Gorton canned codfish cakes,(no longer available.)
Twice Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, but I serve them often with seafood for Lent.

Twice-Baked Potatoes are also one of the tastiest ways to stretch your budget and leftovers. They are very convenient, and can be made well ahead of time and even frozen, ready in your oven or microwave in short order.

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

[The ones pictured above are made with tiny shrimp and spinach]

Twice-Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, used as a side dish or as an entrée. They can even be made with mini-potatoes and used as finger-food, appetizers or placed on a buffet. They can be made with meat, seafood or vegetables and they can be made completely vegan.

You start with a nice, firm potato, any size. (For an entrée, I suggest russets.) Bake the potato to very soft in the middle. Times will vary according to the size of your potato, and, if using a microwave, the power of your unit. (Use 400F oven for baking 45-60 minutes or microwave on high for about 5-7 minutes for good-sized potatoes.)
Microwaves make perfectly acceptable Twice-Baked Potatoes, and makes them much more quickly, but when done in an oven, the potato skins become nice and crispy and the tops brown. One compromise is to first bake the potatoes in the microwave, (saving up to an hour) and then finishing them off in the oven, or even more quickly, under a low broiler.

If you are unused to baking potatoes, wash them first under running cold water and brush them with a vegetable brush or rub them using a clean cloth. If you usually wrap your potatoes in foil to bake them in the oven, omit for this recipe. Pierce the potato skin with a fork, just once. This will release enough of the pressure from the steam that may build up when the moisture in the potato get heated. If there is enough steam build-up and it cannot escape, potatoes can explode all over your oven or microwave!

When the potatoes are done, (a fork can easily slip all the way into the center of the potato), remove and, using a clean towel, oven mitt or pot holder, carefully cut through the potato length-wise. The potatoes will be very hot and the escaping steam may burn you if you are not careful. Allow to cool slightly, (but don’t let them get cold) and gently scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving the skin intact. (You may want to leave up to ¼ of an inch of the pulp all around the inside so that your potato skin does not break.) Place the pulp in a bowel, and now the creativity begins!

Here is where your taste, what is available and the season challenges you.

From appetizer to entrée any of the suggestions or your own ideas will determine your finished potatoes.

Start by mashing or even whipping the insides of the potatoes with any of the ingredients below, or a combination: [*See Note for easiest suggestions]

Butter, margarine or coconut oil

Cream cheese, sour cream or vegan sour cream, (made from tofu)

Small amount of cream or milk,{rice, soy, coconut or almond can be used

I usually use tiny shrimp, but have used crab meat and imitation crabmeat,(see ‘Seafood Pasta Salads’; Feb 2013 archive for guidelines), but I have used any pre-cooked fish.
You can also use minced bacon, ham, roast beef, or no meats at all. (For roast beef, you can add a little horseradish to the mix.)

You can add cheeses, (or vegan cheese substitutes); cheddar is the best choice here.

Use salt and pepper of any type.

You can add cooked, minced onion, green onion or onion powder, a little garlic or garlic powder;

Sautéed shallots, leeks, celery carrots, sweet peppers;

Cooked, (or frozen and well-drained), spinach is very good in these, as are canned or jarred asparagus

Parsley, paprika, celery salt, chives, sage

Dehydrated vegetable mix

A couple of drops of sesame oil and sesame seeds

Mix & match the above to taste.

* Note: I suggest you start out simply if you are unused to cooking. Add sour cream or cream cheese, salt and pepper, a little onion of some sort and vegetables, cheese, minced ham or tiny shrimp.

After you have mixed all the ingredients, spoon the filling or pipe it with a pastry bag,( or from a zipper-lock bag with the corner cut off), into the potato skin “boats”; they should be heaped in the middle, as there is more to the filling than what you scooped-out. Place the ‘boats” back in the oven, preferably under the broiler on low setting for a short time or placed back in the microwave until heated all the way through. These can then be cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen in a zipper-lock bag, (with as little air trapped as possible), for months. They are great to have on hand as a quick meal or for an addition when having unexpected guests. You can make the little ones ahead of time for a party or gathering.

I hope you try these.

Refried Beans/Layered Bean Dip/Tortilla Roll-ups

Here is a quick and easy, but impressive and substantial dish. This is easy to make, you can make it ahead and it is an impressive contribution when joining with others to watch a game or to take to any gathering…or to serve at home game for or movie night.
It is gluten-free and can be made fat-free and dairy-free or vegan, (if made without sour cream; vegan ‘sour cream’ can be substituted, if desired. Check the labels to be certain no traces of gluten are included in the beans, or make your own; “You Know Beans” August Archive.)

Bean dip

Here is how I made it for the Superbowl,[with Crab Cheese Ball (December Archive), Hummus-stuffed olives and Tortilla Roll ups],but you can make this in any plate or shallow bowl. (Once I made it into the shape of a Christmas tree, used sour cream as ‘garland’ and ‘hung’ olives and  jalapeño peppers on it.)

 

This can be made as mild, (the way I like it), to very hot, depending on the ‘heat’ if your salsa and the option of additional jalapeño peppers. Without knowing that your guests like it hot, better to err on the side of caution and make it mild. You can place extra jalapeños on 1/3 to ½ of the dip.

You can make your own refried beans or use canned. You can make your own Black beans,(“You Know Beans” August Archive), or you can open a can of those, too. Simple, right?

Layered Bean Dip

1 Large can of Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos) plus 1-2 tsp. chili powder
Mix these together in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, add:

1 regular can of Black beans (Frijoles Negro), plus  2 tsp. lime juice
(slightly mash the Black beans with a fork , a wooden spoon or a potato masher, but keep them chunky; add the lime juice

¾ cup red salsa or picanté sauce (mild-to-medium)
½ cup green chili salsa,(mild)
½ cup sour cream or vegan substitute (if desired)
optional: chopped black olives or jalapeños

Spread the Refried bean mixture to about ¾ inch thick. Spread the Black bean mixture on top, leaving about ¾- one-inch of the Refried beans showing.
Top the Black bean mixture with the red salsa, again, leaving a ¾-one-inch border and do the same with the green salsa. (If using, now spread lines of sour cream or substitute).

Take a spatula or wide, flat spoon and insert all the way down from the middle of the dip and . without lifting it, cut a curve toward the outside. OR, take a Tablespoon and push it down into the dip and do a half-twist. Repeat this about an inch or more apart throughout the dip. This will slightly mix the layers and flavors. If desired, garnish with the olives and/or jalapeño slices. Chill; serve.

Refried Beans (My mother-in law’s recipe)

1 pound of pinto beans, cooked (see “You Know Beans” August Archive) reserve some of the liquid,
(or used canned, cooked pinto beans)
Mash with potato masher or food processor until the desired texture is reached…some like their frijoles smooth, others, quite chunky.

Then add:
1/8-1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp. (or more) crushed,(or minced) fresh garlic
½ tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
OPTIONAL:1 Tbsp. bacon grease or vegetable oil ( I have found that it is really better with a little oil, but omit for ‘fat-free’;. If using olive oil, do not use ‘extra virgin’; it is too fruity and the flavors will be in conflict.)

Place in a heavy pot and simmer for at least ½ hour, stirring occasionally to keep the beans from sticking. Add reserved liquid,(or a little water), if the beans are too thick to stir. Cool and use for the recipe above, other recipes, (upcoming), or topped with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, mild cooked peppers, onions, &/or salsa.

[The Tortilla Roll-ups are known at our house as “Superbowl Food”. My sons and I saw these ridiculously easy finger foods demonstrated at our local grocery store just before one Superbowl many  moons ago.We have had them ever since and everyone loves them…and they are no effort!]

Tortilla Roll-ups

1/2 cup Neufchatel (light cream cheese) or silken tofu,

one 1/8 cup salsa or picanté sauce,(mild-medium)

Approx. 4 large flour tortillas or  6 small ones

Mix the cheese and salsa; spread fairly thinly on the tortillas.Roll the tortillas and slice about 1 1/2 inches thick. That’s it.

Any questions?