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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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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Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

Stuffed mushroom bites – pizza edition.

Mushroom caps with a pizza filling.

Mushroom caps with a pizza filling. Just think of these as Mushroom Pizzas – but all mushroom and no crust.

I learned to cook in the 80’s. Remember the 80’s? Big hair, florescent fashion. Hammer pants and stuffed mushrooms were all the rage. Classic stuffed mushrooms were typically made with bread crumbs, cheese and sometimes crumbled sausage, and as the fabulous Elise from Simply Recipes declares – every home cook should be able to make this recipe as a go-to appetizer.

With all the couch time coming up in the near future – Hello: Superbowl, Olympics – I decided a twist on the classic 80’s appetizer was in order. I was inspired by Kalyn at Kalyn’s Kitchen, who made fabulous portobello mushroom pizzas. Mine are in handy little bite-size form.

The only trick is getting the water out of the mushroom caps so they won’t be soggy when cooked with the pizza stuffing. So, I brushed the caps with a little oil and roasted them in a hot oven for about 8 minutes. They filled up with water, and I just took them out of the oven and turned them all upside down and let them cool to room temperature. Then, I flipped them back over and stuffed them with pizza fixin’s and gave them a second roast. Perfect!

I just love love LOVE mushrooms – in any way, shape or form. Check out the Mushroom Channel for other mushroom delights.

I bought cute little mini pepperoni slices and used little round slices. Then, I made small round slices from a mozzarella cheese stick. And of course, sliced olives are a must. I made a variety of toppings so you get a different classic pizza bite with each mushroom cap.

Happy couch time everyone!

– posted by Donna

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Asparagus Hummus and Shrimp Bites Recipe

Asparagus Shrimp Bites

Asparagus Hummus Shrimp Bites

One of my very favorite things about spring is asparagus. Well, also having sunshine and warmth once again. Ok, but asparagus is definitely third on my list.

The Athens Mini Fillo Shells  challenge for April is “spring vegetables,” and so I knew what I had to use.

The limitation of four ingredients plus the shells means you have to choose wisely to get maximum flavor, but luckily asparagus packs a punch when roasted at high temps. So – hummus with roasted asparagus is divine – and I topped it with shrimp. Perfect for a spring brunch, I say. Or spring anything, really.

These little fillo shells are so handy – pretty and crispy – the perfect match for creamy hummus. Full of Martha-like potential. And you can whip these bites up in about 10 minutes flat.

A little spring celebration in your mouth!

– posted by Donna

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Julia Child’s Easy Cheese Tartlets Recipe

Julia Child’s Cheese Tarts – a simple, elegant appetizer.

Julia Child recipe cheese tarts

Julia Child’s Easy Cheese Tarts

Easy and Elegant are two words which define Julia Child’s cooking.

I love Julia Child. I often pause in my kitchen and repeat the phrase that Christians coined: WWJD? – but when I’m  in my kitchen “WWJD” means “What Would Julia Do?” Whenever I feel discouraged about my cooking prowess, I snuggle on my couch late at night and watch an episode of The French Chef. (Co-blogger Anne gave me a DVD set!) I laugh out loud every single time, and am instantly strengthened and renewed. When truly serious discouragement hits me, I bring out the big guns: Saturday Night Live’s French Chef Skit: “You’ll need a knife . . . a very, very, very sharp knife. . .” I dare any cook who watched Julia to watch this and not laugh out loud!  It was during one of those late-night couch sessions that I saw her make cheese tartlets. I took copious notes, and I’m glad I did, because I have not been able to find this recipe written down anywhere. It’s not in any of her cookbooks!  You’ll just have to trust my note taking on this one.

These are a masterpiece. Truly. I dare you to make appetizers that are as simple and yet sophisticated as these. It is impossible. They are the perfect blend of rich, satisfying flavors and melt-in-your-mouth comfort. If you have a favorite pie crust recipe, use that, or check out my miracle Never-Fail Pat-in-the-Pan Pie Crust.

Bonus: they take only minutes to throw together. Another bonus: they are very forgiving, and can be served warm or at room temperature. Add these mini-tarts to your Hostess Bag of Tricks. I promise you won’t be sorry.

If you’re looking for other apps for Oscar Night, check out my new book: 200 Appetizers by Gibbs Smith Publisher. Julia’s tartlets plus 199 other fab small bites!

– posted by Donna

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Crispy Proscuitto Cups with Caprese Chopped Salad Recipe

Proscuitto Cups 2

Crispy Proscuitto Cups with Cparese Chopped Salad

I decided to attempt some Sans-Fork salads by making edible cups. I had seen this wacky idea to make bacon baskets, but they just seemed too greasy . . and heavy, and UN healthy for my plan. Proscuitto to the rescue. Here’s the entire recipe: 1) get 1 pound of thinly sliced Proscuitto, 2) brush 12 muffin tins with vegetable oil, 3) heat up your oven to 400 degrees, 4) Line each muffin tin with a slice of proscuitto, 5) stuff the cup with aluminum foil so the Proscuitto “cup” will hold its shape while cooking, and 6) bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until, obviously, crispy. That’s it.

Oh yes, then cool and stuff with a favorite filling. Caprese chopped into little cubes sounded perfect. So, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil tossed with a little of your favorite vinaigrette. Cinchy! Might try egg salad next!

Crispy Proscuitto Cups

Crispy Proscuitto Cups with Caprese Chopped Salad

– posted by Donna

Gift Wrapped Shrimp Bites – Your New Favorite Easy Appetizer

The Perfect Festive Holiday Appetizers - Gift Wrapped Shrimp Bites

So, let’s say you’re invited to a holiday get together at the very last minute, and your hostess, who is one of those really maddeningly Martha-Stewart kind of people, says – casual as can be – “Oh, just bring some finger foods.”

So, you need some appetizers that are not just delicious but pretty on a platter, and you need them STAT.

Never fear, foodie fans.

This idea was inspired by Martha herself in her latest issue of Martha Stewart Living. She made Shrimp Mango Bites by wrapping a thin piece of mango around a grilled shrimp and tied it up with a softened green onion. Really,   green onions are just perfect for bow-making, aren’t they? And, since I love making green and red food this time of year, I switched up the mango and used  roasted red bell strips with the green onion bow.

You could make these even easier by just making the spicy shrimp and then tying it with a softened green onion (skipping the bell pepper strip).

These are seriously the cutest little holiday bites I have seen -  they just scream out “Happy Holidays!” They look adorable on a party platter, and the flavors are perfect together – spicy shrimp, sweet bell pepper and the green onion tang.

A perfect holiday bite!

Holiday Shrimp Bites Appetizers

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Super Appetizers for Super Bowl Sunday – Our Highlights for a Fab Frugal Feast

No matter which team is your champion, we are ALL united in our support of GOOD FOOD! Here are some of our faves from appetizers of the Fab Frugal past!


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Sushotto: Fun Fusion Appetizer for Fab Frugal Friday


Many people know that a classic appetizer, arancini (cheesy Italian rice balls,  often stuffed), can be made from leftover risotto. (And many of you out there will automatically be thinking “Leftover risotto? What on earth is that?” I understand. I have the same response to recipes using ‘leftover’ avocados or wine.)  At any rate, whether you have the restraint to keep leftover risotto overnight or, like me, you purposely made a batch the night before and refrigerated it expressly for this purpose, behold my fun and easy appetizer equation: Risotto + sushi = sushotto. …

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Tricolor Vegetable Pate Party Recipe

I haven’t made pate since the early 70’s. And I hate liver – any kind of liver. But then I thought – Hey! – how about a veggie version? -This is a perfect Meatless Monday re-do of a formerly meaty dish. I can do this!

I had never even thought of making a vegetarian pate! It was truly shocking to me how great this recipe was. Layers and layers of flavor. Bright and refreshing. The raw garlic added a nice bite. So good on toasted baguette slices. I just can’t say enough good things about this amazing spread! I would most definitely make this again. I added diced sun dried tomatoes on top for color and another flavor layer.

Now, as for the bread, that was a whole different story. I am a terrible bread baker, apparently. It took me three tries before I got one loaf that was even passable, and only then if drizzled with lots of good olive oil, thinly sliced and toasted.

Happy Feasting All!

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