Archive for the ‘finger food’ Category

Sausage RollsWe are back from Hawaii with many adventures to share and food to write about, just give me a day or two to settle back in to real life! I wanted to put a quick repost in honor of tonight’s start of the NFL season. I now have 16 weeks of Sundays where J. will barely communicate ahead of me but we both love the game and of course the food that comes with it.

It is also finals time for Aussie Rules and NRL back home in Australia so it is fitting for my wonderful Aussie followers also.

So here is a favorite recipe and favorite footy food from Australia – the sausage roll! A delicious savory treat with ketchup, relish or bbq sauce on the side and of course the prerequisite beer.

Check out the original entry here – Aussie Footy Food!

Enjoy the recipe and the football – whatever code or team you might follow!

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Bruschetta.jpgJ. and I attempt, but don’t always succeed, to have a date night once a week. We usually head out to a nice restaurant or a movie but last week we were beat and just wanted to stay home. I had baked some wonderful crusty Italian style bread earlier in the day and we had found some beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market… Bruschetta was the answer.

I decided to make 2 different versions and after a quick trip to Wholefoods for some delicious meat we were set to go. I didn’t just want to make an ordinary tomato combination for the top. It was date night after all, I wanted something a little different and unusual. I went with garlic roasted tomatoes on Tomato and basilsoppressata or prosciutto with jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar to finish it off.

First off I put the tomatoes into the oven to roast. I only wanted them cooked for a very short time with some garlic and olive oil to really bring out the sweetness in these gorgeous tomatoes we found. I wanted them to hold their shape and keep the firm texture, not go all mushy.

ProscuittoWhile the tomatoes were in a 350F degree oven for 10 minutes, I sliced some chunky bits of our Italian crusty bread and smeared them will olive oil. I heated up our grill pan and toasted these on both sides. I tried to get nice crusty grill marks on the bread. I did ok for the most part but there were some slightly crispier parts.Soppressata

Once these were grilled I just rubbed them with some garlic and set them aside to dress. I did a few of each meat for J. and I. Layer 1 being either soppressata or prosciutto. To be honest a few slices of each magically disappeared between the two of us… I love that stuff!

Basil leavesAfter the first layer of meaty goodness I added some fresh basil leaves. We had also picked the basil up at the market since our basil plant hasn’t survived it’s first (and only) Arizonan summer. By this stage the tomatoes were out and cooling down.

I cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl, seasoned them with plenty of salt and pepper and then generously drizzled jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar over them. I mixed them together and placed them on each piece of bread.

After pouring some wine J. and I sat down to a yummy, simple dinner. I had some goats cheese on the side as well for us to eat with the bruschetta. The creamy rich flavor worked so well with the freshness of the bruschetta. J enjoyed it so much we actually had something similar for dinner the next night. The tomatoes were extremely sweet and juicy. I was happy with how crusty and delicious the bread was as well. Such an easy, quick date night dinner. A good way of keeping my boy J. happy too!

FatooshOn my final day in Washington DC, I managed to sneak away for a delicious and yummy lunch. The conference I was exhibiting at had quietened down, people were leaving and I had a long night of travelling home to Phoenix ahead of me… a hearty delicious meal (and a couple of beers) were definitely called for.

Recommended by fellow blogger Alina and some great people I met at the conference, Zaytinya was my destination. Only 2 short blocks from the hotel that I was exhibiting in, I wandered down for a late lunch.

Mythos Beer

Taking my traditional seat at the very big bar I was ready for a nice cold beer and some great food. I ordered my Mythos beer, a Turkish beer that I had never tried before and perused the menu. The girls I met at the conference had insisted I try the $25 Mezze Lunch. It was a 4 course meal with multiple choices under each course.

For first course I went with the Fattoush salad, a combination of tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper and radish. This had a delicious pomegranate vinegar dressing over it. Given the heat of DC, it was such a light, fresh and yummy start to the meal. The fresh pita bread they kept refilling throughout the meal was a great accompaniment.

ArayesSecond course was a difficult choice for me. I could have had any of the 4 choices but decided to go with the Arayes, a dish I had never heard of or tried before. These were stuffed pita breads, filled with grilled ground lamb and tahini on a bed of garlic yogurt. I don’t think it is possible for me to describe just how delicious this small plate of goodness was. Such flavor but so simple. I could have eaten an entire meal just of those. However, with 2 more courses still to go, I thought I shouldn’t order a second round. I ordered another beer instead.

Spanakopita

For my third course I decided to stay with something traditional, Spanakopita. This was flaky, melt in your mouth house-made phyllo pastry that was then stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Carefully rolled into a crispy, tasty roll and placed on a spinach puree. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. This was possibly some of the best Spanakopita I have every eaten. I couldn’t believe how perfect the phyllo was. I wanted to eat 6 of them, not just 1.

Apricots and yogurtI restrained myself and just sat back with another beer and waited for my dessert. I had chosen to go with the lighter of the 2 dessert choices, Greek Yogurt and Apricots. I actually didn’t read the description until after I had ordered it. It may have been the lighter of the 2 but oh my, did it sound delicious. A small cup came out, looking like a orange and white parfait. There were layers of muscat soaked apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet and pistachio powder. If I hadn’t have been in a public place I would have licked the cup clean! Delicious, light and refreshing – an excellent end to an amazing lunch!

I will go back to this place – I actually would go back to DC just for a lunch here and a dinner at St. Arnolds. My DC trip was great both professionally and culinary! I ate great food that had been recommended to me, found my own little gem on my wanders through the city and got to spend some time in one of my favorite cities on the East Coast.

When in DC next I recommend you try one of the great places I visited or perhaps you will discover a little gem of your own!

Muffin Tin Meat Pies.jpgWe reached a milestone this week… we have over 2500 followers now! To celebrate this great milestone I thought I would revisit a recipe from the early days of the blog.

Also, I have been craving a taste from home and what better way to taste Australia than through meat pies.

These were tasty little treats I made for J. and I during NFL season last year. A nice little snack for watching footy. We did an entire series of Football Food posts last year and with the NFL season only 3 weeks away, I am going to have to prepare some more great snack ideas.

These pies were very easy to make, especially since I cheated and bought the pastry instead of making it myself. You could also try all different kinds of fillings but we stayed with the traditional beef and added some spice and chili! You could also make them into a full size pie but these were the perfect size for a tv snack. Beer and a pie – a completely Australian way to watch the football.

So take a trip down memory lane, across the Pacific to Australia with me…. here.

Baileys Chocolate Balls.jpgEvery year for as long as I can remember my mother would make rum balls for Christmas. I would even spend hours in the kitchen helping her make them… getting my hands all sticky rolling the balls and covering them in coconut. When I was young I was never tempted by them and then when I got to an age where things with alcohol in them were mighty attractive I found out I had a bad reaction to rum… (not just from drinking too much). So even after all these years I hadn’t ever enjoyed these delicious bites. This year I thought I was going to make rum balls but make them so I could eat them.

I started this process by checking out what alcohol we had in Fruit in baileys.jpgthe house… bourbon, whiskey, vodka and Baileys… the obvious choice to me was the Baileys, plus it is really the only one J. would like. Yes, I drink the other things. I also had the challenge of replacing weatbix, which mum uses in her recipe, that I can’t find here in the US. I decided to use a plain cookie as a substitute for these. I just picked up some plain butter cookies from Cost Plus World Market

Cookies.jpgNow the problems have been solved… time to cook.

In a sealable container I put 2 cups of mixed dried berries, I used cherries, cranberries and raisins. To this I added 1 cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream and mixed everything together. I then refrigerated this for 24 hours…

24 hours later…Dry ingredients.jpg

I took the berries out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. In a large bowl I put 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and 1 packet of plain cookies that I had already blitzed in the food processor so it was a chunky crumble. I added the berries and Bailey’s mixture to the bowl and mixed everything together Condensed Milk.jpguntil it was all combined.

Last thing for the mixture was to add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and stir everything together. This is of course where it gets very sticky and quite difficult to mix together. If necessary get in there with your hands to make sure everything is evenly combined.Ready to roll.jpg

Now it gets really messy. I had to roll teaspoons of the mixture in my hands and then drop them into a bowl of chocolate sprinkles and cover them completely. I found the trick to rolling these successfully was to keep a bowl of hot water next to me that I could regularly dip my hands in to clean them Rolling.jpgoff. So I rolled and rolled and rolled and 70 balls later, yes 70, I had finished.

I put them into the refrigerator to harden and sat down and relaxed! J. was my guinea pig and I gave him one to try. He really liked them, he is not a big alcohol person so this was a success. If he didn’t think they were too boozy then everyone, including people at his office, would be fine with them. I must admit they were really tasty… just tiny, single bites Chocolate Sprinkles.jpgof boozy, chocolaty goodness! These got added to my little boxes and bags of goodies for friends, something decadent and a little different too.

So I finally tasted rum balls, well kind of… I am calling these Bailey’s Chocolate Balls… my favorite new invention!

Box of Goodies.jpg

Shrimp in a bag.jpgI have finally recovered from our 4 day weekend in Las Vegas. The Vegas part was great, the road trip was a little bumpy and took some getting over. But I am back on board now and ready to share with you one of, if not our number 1, favorite place to eat in Las Vegas… Hot ‘N’ Juicy Crawfish.

If you are after the fancy, glitzy glamor of the strip this is not your place. If you don’t like getting messy when you eat this is certainly not your place. If you can’t handle ripping shrimp heads off and removing legs then this certainly isn’t the place for you … plastic sheets covering tables, food served in plastic bags, rolls of paper towels on the tables and compulsory bib wearing are what greet you when you venture into this off strip restaurant.

We headed there first thing Friday night after we had checked into our hotel. Unfortunately this weekend it wasn’t crawfish season so we decided not to go with those. We could have had theMussels in a bag.jpg frozen crawfish but we really like to stick with the season with them. Instead of crawfish we ordered 2 pounds of shrimp and 2 pounds of mussels. YUM!

One of the things I like about this place is that you order the seasoning for your bag of seafood and the spiciness. We were with some mates who can’t handle spice and they ordered the mild level of spice for the garlic butter seasoning on their shrimp but they still found that too spicy. So just as a warning if you can’t handle any spice stay away… of course we love it.

Our shrimp were seasoned with the Hot N Juicy Special seasoning. I find this is their spiciest and yummiest seasoning. It is hot, really hot but soooo good with a strong Cajun style flavor behind it. Ours were cooked so well and so delicious. Of course we asked for the extra spicy. When they came out in their big plastic bag, we opened it up and the smell is just overwhelming. J and I dived in and enjoyed every bite. Our faces, fingers, hands and parts of our arms were covered in the delicious sauce. You rip a head of, peel the legs and shell away before dipping the shrimp back in the bag for more sauce… this is the best way to eat these! Soooo good!

Cajun fries.jpgWe went a little different on the mussels because one of our mates wanted to try them. We got these prepared with the garlic butter seasoning and only medium spicy. Needless to say the medium was too hot for our friend but perfect for us! This 2 pound bag of mussels disappeared so incredibly quickly. They are so juicy and yummy… J and I both couldn’t stop until they were all gone! Dipping the shell into the sauce to get lots of it covering the mussel is just the perfect way to eat mussels!

I really should have taken a photo of the aftermath… messy paper towels, bibs, shells, shrimp heads all over the table… IT WAS FANTASTIC! We also ordered a side of their cajun fries, this was the first time we’d had these and they were really good. The spice they added on those was delicious, though too hot for our friends yet again!

If you are in Las Vegas, and can handle the spice… go here it is so amazingly good. Not to mention it is a fun experience. You get dirty, you eat great food and you venture away from the tourist craziness of the Las Vegas strip.

Saturday night marked my first opportunity to cook for friends here in Phoenix. I had hijacked a group of J’s mates to come over for dinner after the boys had all gone motorbike riding that afternoon.

I spent time during the week leading up to the night planning a menu to suit their tastes. They aren’t the most adventurous eaters and most importantly I couldn’t put the tiniest bit of spice in anything… without profuse sweating and cursing for our mates.

So after some consultation with J. we came up with a menu. First course was really just going to be finger food to keep them happy when they got back from riding so I went with Cheesy Bacon Bites with Plumb BBQ Sauce.

These are ridiculously easy to make but taste so good. Nothing tastes quite as good as bacon and cheese so I was really in no doubt that these would be a hit.

For 20 bites I used 1 sheet of puff pastry rolled out a little thinner than usual. I then cut the sheet in half length ways. On each of the halves I crumbled crispy bacon down the centre. I had cooked and cooled the bacon earlier.

Once the bacon was evenly placed down the middle I added the grated cheese. Any cheese would be tasty with this and I just used some 3 cheese grated mix we had in the fridge.

Then it is just a matter of carefully rolling the pastry over. I use a little water along the edge to seal it. I then just cut into bite size pieces and placed them on a greased cookie sheet. Be careful that you don’t loose all the filling because it falls out very easily. Brush the tops with a little beaten egg.

These went into a 400F degree oven for 15 minutes, until they were golden brown.

While these were cooking I made up the dipping sauce. Usually this sauce would have some Thai sweet chilli sauce in it but I steered away from that. I mixed together 2 tablespoons of ketchup, 2 tablespoons of smokey BBQ sauce, and 1/4 cup of plum sauce. That’s it! If you want the spice add 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce as well.

They came out of the oven just as the boys got home from riding and they disappeared within 5 minutes!! Quick, easy and delicious. You can’t go wrong with bacon and cheese! That glorious magical animal called the pig has given us so much!