Hand Held Chicken Caesar Salads with Anchovy Caesar Dressing

Hand held caesar salads

Hand held Caesar salads are made with baby romaine leaves and they are the perfect buffet item for a spring feast. You just pick them up and eat them just like you would Asian lettuce wraps – but less messy. And more garlic-y.

I started out to make a REAL Caesar dressing – just because I read the label on my purchased dressing and couldn’t pronounce half of the ingredients. I turned to America’s Test Kitchen, an organization that has taught me so much, with recipes and culinary history that I trust. My well- worn The New Best Recipes cookbook in my kitchen is my proof.

I followed their recipe very precisely – and it did not disappoint. The dressing is what makes this recipe sing – so creamy and tart you  will want to eat it with a spoon. Not that I’m saying I did that. Ok, I did that.

When I could only find a package of baby romaine leave sin my grocery store, this idea hit me: make a hand-held salad. This works great for a party – or for the kind of group I have on most Sundays: big, come and go groups.

Happy Brunch Easter Week, everyone!

– posted by Donna

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Spinach Souffle Hash Brown Nests

Spinach Souffle Hash Brown Nests

Saint Patrick Day at the Kelly house starts with breakfast. Green breakfast, naturally.

I love these little crunchy hash brown nests with spinach soufflés in the center. Crunchy and soft and pillowy all in one bite!

When I was a newlywed, I was excited to have a new Irish last name. So, I went all out. Green pancakes. Green orange juice. Green syrup. Green scrambled eggs. But now I go more for food that is not just colored – not just a few drops of green in non-green food. Now I go more for naturally green food.

Take these little souffle nests, for example. Pretty green – naturally.easy spinach recipe

These are great for breakfast, of course, but also good as a side dish or as an appetizer.

So pretty on plate!

– posted by Donna

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Crowd Pleaser Grilled Shrimp Guacamole Tostada Bites

Grilled Shrimp Guacamole Tostada BitesTwo of my favorite things are grilled shrimp and guacamole – combined here in a cute little package. Who wouldn’t want a whole platter of these sitting on a coffee table within arm’s reach on Game Day? Or pretty much any day?

These little bites can be thrown together in just minutes. You could make the recipe even easier if you used purchased guacamole and round tortilla chips. I used flour tortillas cut into circles and then sprayed lightly with oil and baked for a few minutes. Super easy = Super Bowl, no?

And who doesn’t love guacamole? Make our roasted guac, or use your own favorite recipe. Guacamole is one of those things that I rarely make the same way twice. Really hard to mess up! After I made these, the hubs and I ate the WHOLE platter for dinner. These are crowd pleasers, for sure. Consider yourself warned!

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Baked Curly Fries for Superbowl Sunday

baked curly friesI’m hosting my first ever Sportsball Party this weekend, so of course I’m most looking forward to the food. Lucky me, I just got a spiffy new addition to my kitchen gadget collection, the Paderno Spiralizer. Along with making oodles of zoodles, the first thing I looked forward to making was a baked version of a curly fry. The widest setting on the Paderno was perfect for this! It worked with both sweet and regular potatoes, and I plan to experiment with other root vegetables in the future. Perfect lighter fare for your game day plans, whatever other decadence is served alongside them. …

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Roasted Garlic Guacamole Bar

Roasted Garlic Guacamole Bar

There is no such thing as the “perfect” guacamole recipe. And everyone likes their guacamole a certain way. Onions/no onions. Cilantro /greens free. Lime or Lemon? That’s why a guacamole bar is genius for Game Day or other gatherings.

To me, guacamole is one of those dishes that is – and should be – a unique creation every single time. My guacamole depends on my mood, the occasion, who the eaters are, and what is in my fridge and pantry. Avocados are good for you and have such a mild, creamy texture that they pair well with, well, pretty much anything.

I have used the basic recipe of Rick Bayless, a south-of-the-border anthropologist/chef I admire. Hat tip to you, Chef Bayless – the addition of roasted garlic is genius!

Just set this out in a bowl surrounded with toppings and let everyone scoop up the guacamole onto chips and then sprinkle with toppings of choice: diced cilantro, diced red bell peppers or jalapeno chiles, sliced green onions, crumbled queso fresco, grated pepper jack, pepitos (toasted pumpkin seeds), etc., etc.

Arriba! Arriba!

– posted by Donna

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Un-Rolled Eggroll Stacks

Wonton squares – not just for making wontons anymore.

Unrolled eggrolls

Unrolled Eggrolls – in pretty stacks.

Egg rolls. UNrolled. And in pretty little stacks. These little stacks are a unique way of making egg rolls – with less fat and less hassle than making old school eggrolls. They are just plain FUN to make.

And there are so many possibilities coming up for festive foods: You could make these for upcoming Game Day treats. You could make these for Chinese New Year on February 2. You could make them for Valentine’s Day. I made them to take a walk down memory lane with my sweetie. And just because he deserves them.

You see, there are at least two things I love about Chinese restaurants: egg rolls and fortune cookies. I have had many fortune cookie prophesies fulfilled in my life. No, really. My favorite was right after I was engaged to my sweetheart in 1976. We went to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate and my fortune proclaimed: “You are doomed to be happy in wedlock.” I still have that little strip tucked away in a scrapbook. And that prophesy has been exactly right so far: 37 years of wedded bliss and counting. My marriage is the best thing about my life. By far. Nothing else even comes close. Jim makes me laugh every single day. And think. And weep. And be a better person. I still perk up every single time he walks into the room!

So, just between us, Chinese food is always a special unstated celebration food for us. We love being reminded that we are “doomed” to be happy!

I decided Jim deserved some egg rolls today. But simpler. And prettier.

I used the Nasoya brand and I love them – they never stick together and bake up golden and crispy and light. Baking instead of deep frying saves calories, fat and increases the crunch factor of wonton squares. I baked the wonton squares after brushing them lightly with just a touch of oil until they were brown and crunchy.Then, I just made shrimp eggroll filling and layered it all in cute little stacks. Cinchy!

Here’s to you, Jim. I’m so glad we have eternity together. One lifetime is not nearly enough.

Eggroll Stacks

 — posted by Donna

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Fried Black Eyed Peas for a Happy New Year!

Surprisingly delicious fried black eyed peas!

Fried Black Eyed Peas

It’s not too late to have a happier New Year!

Really, it’s not too late. Black Eyed Peas are a traditional food in the south and the tradition is that they will bring you luck in the new year.

The tradition started during the Civil War. In those times, black eyed peas were grown only to feed livestock and slaves, and so the Northern army left these fields alone (no pillaging or burning). So, Southerners were “lucky” to have black eyed beans to eat even when other crops were destroyed. So, the humble bean became a hero.

I watched an episode on Food Network where my culinary crush Alton Brown described eating deep fried black eyed peas. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I do have a poster of my crush Alton hanging in my pantry. He loved the “ca-woosh” of crunching down on them and the crispy salty exterior with the soft creamy interior.

I am not normally a fan of these legumes, but after I saw this I just HAD to make these for New Years’ Day.

I must say they are a hassle to make but SO worth it. The crispy crunch is delightful and the flavor is superb when these beans are tossed with salt and Old Bay. DO make these and you will forget all about luck and get lost enjoying a big ole bowl with your lucky friends and family.

Happy 2015 to us all!

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Five Ingredient Cranberry Pistachio Goat Cheese Bites

Festive appetizers in five minutes flat!

Cranberry Goat Cheese BItes

Festive Cheese ball – one bite at a time.

I love that during the holiday season we make and eat such festive foods!

These little goat cheese bites are perfect on any holiday buffet – they are tart and creamy on the inside and sweet and crunchy on the outside. And with just five ingredients, they come together in just minutes.

Just take a tablespoon of the cheese mixture and roll it and chill it and then roll in pistachios and cranberries. That’s it. Really!

Happy Holly Days, y’all ~

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Crispy Baked Portobello Fries

Portobello slices make crispy baked “fries.”

Portobello Fries

Crispy Mushroom Fries – with Sriracha dipping sauce

We live in times of culinary adventurousness, my friends. I mean, when I was a youngster no one would ever have dreamed of making fries out of anything but good ole Russets. Preferably from Idaho.

But now, all bets are off and fries come from too many vegetables to count. Here at Apron Strings, one of our favorite has been Green Bean Fries. And our Sweet Potato Tater Tots were a huge hit.

I decided to try my luck with mushrooms, and chose Portobellos because the caps can be cut into long planks like home style fries. There are two tricks: One trick is that you have to remove the gills from the caps, because this is where a lot of water comes from and will make your mushroom fries soggy. Then trick two: the oven has to be very hot so that the fries cook quickly.

I loved these fries so much, The Hubs and I stood over the pans eating them fresh out of the oven and we had to make another batch to get photos. Yes, I sacrifice for my art.

– posted by Donna

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Pumpkin Deviled Eggs

Pumpkin – in shape and flavor – deviled eggs.

Pumpkin Deviled eggs

Deviled Eggs with a splash of pumpkin!

October begins today, and you can tell by all the pumpkin recipes on food blogs everywhere. I love fall flavors, and especially pumpkin, so I decided to try pumpkin puree in deviled eggs.

Turns out, pumpkin and eggs are heavenly together!

You just decrease the amount of mayonnaise in your usual deviled eggs and swap it with pumpkin puree. And, we had some season’s end okra in our garden, so the tips made perfect handles for the pumpkins. You could use any green veggie – string beans or green onions or even a piece of bell pepper.

I won’t say how many the Hubs and I ate, but let’s just say this became our dinner after the photo shoot. Just a sprinkle of chili powder on top and these babies are perfect for a fall appetizer, snack, or == ahemmmm  == dinner.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

— posted by Donna

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