I had to take some appetizers to a party so decided to make mini seafood potpies. I love potpies but we usually make them with chicken. I thought seafood would make a nice change. You could do this with shrimp only or crab only. Or you can add lobster or scallops for more varied seafood. Just make sure your combination of seafood totals half a pound. If you like, you can double the filling recipe to make one deep dish potpie.
Did you know that February 2nd is National Tater Tot Day? It’s an easy day for me to remember because it’s also my only brother’s birthday. Tater tots are an iconic American food that was created in the early 1950’s. The founders of Ore-Ida were trying to figure out what to do with all the little leftover pieces of potato that they had tons of everyday. They chopped up the potato pieces, mixed them with flour and seasonings, then forced the mixture through the barrel of an extruder, slicing off little one-inch pieces as the mixture came through. And so the tater tot was born.
Actually, when the little potato nuggets were first created, they didn’t have a name for them so the owners of Ore-Ida decided to have a name-the-product contest among their employees. The name “Tater Tots” was submitted by a young mother named Clora Lay Orton. Everyone loved the name and she won the contest.
It’s hard to believe that when the inexpensive tater tots were first sold in stores in 1956, they didn’t exactly fly off the shelves. Today, Americans consume approximately 70 million pounds of them per year! It’s safe to say the lowly tater tot has finally found its place in society, from school cafeterias to the ever popular food truck. It’s certainly found its way to our dinner table!
CHEESY BACON TATER TOTS
1 bag frozen tater tots
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
6 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2 stalks green onions, chopped
Bake tater tots according to package directions.
While tots are baking, combine sour cream and ranch dressing in a bowl.
Drizzle sour cream mixture over baked tater tots.
Sprinkle cheeses over the top.
Place under broiler until cheese is completely melted.
Remove from broiler and top with crumbled bacon and green onions.
Return to broiler for 2-5 minutes to warm up the bacon.
I love smoked salmon. It’s delicious made with pasta or turned into a dip for crackers. But my all-time favorite way to eat smoked salmon is with bagels and cream cheese. These canapés are a take-off on the bagel and cream cheese idea. Instead of bagels, I used english cucumbers for a base. I made our family’s traditional cream cheese filling, but I substituted dill for the green onions.
If you’re wondering where to get smoked salmon, Costco carries a Norwegian brand called Foppen that is just wonderful because besides being delicious, the salmon is already thinly sliced and ready to use. The package comes with plain, peppered, and dilled slices. I cut each slice into strips and then roll each strip into a cone to make the little rosette shapes. It’s really easy and looks so pretty on your appetizer table.
SMOKED SALMON CUCUMBER CANAPÉS
1 lb. smoked salmon, very thinly sliced
2 english cucumbers
1 pkg. (8 ozs.) cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup mayonnaise
4 tbsps. fresh dill, chopped
½ tsp. salt
With a fork, score lines down the skin of the cucumbers. Slice scored cucumbers into rounds.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, mayonnaise, dill, and salt until well combined.
Pipe a little cream cheese mixture on top of each cucumber slice.
With a sharp paring knife, cut each slice of smoked salmon into strips approximately ¾ inch wide.
Roll each strip into a rosette shape.
Top each cucumber slice with a salmon rosette.
If not serving immediately, chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
This is an old Pampered Chef recipe that I learned to make many years ago when The Pampered Chef was still in its early years. The company operates on the same principle as Tupperware — people host a party where the company’s products are demonstrated and sold. I attended a Pampered Chef party where this dish was served and loved it so much that I made it myself for the party I subsequently hosted. It’s been a favorite with my family ever since. A lot of times, I make the recipe healthier by substituting reduced fat crescent rolls, fat-free cream cheese and/or lite mayonnaise.
Anyway, it’s the last day of Nurses Week tomorrow so I’m making this to take to the office. I know the nurses will love it, especially since I’m making the healthy version. Did I ever mention that I work with a bunch of nurses? Well, I do. So healthy food always goes over big at our office potlucks.
COOL VEGGIE PIZZA
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
1 box cream cheese, softened
1½ tsp. mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced fine
1 tsp. dill weed
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups chopped assorted fresh vegetables (any combination of vegetables you like such as broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, green or red bell peppers, tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini or yellow summer squash, etc.)
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Unroll crescent roll dough onto a cookie sheet and pinch seams together to seal.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, dill weed, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly on top of cooled crust.
Coarsely chop your selected vegetables.
Sprinkle a layer of each vegetable over pizza crust.
Cut into squares and serve.
If you don’t like dill, you can substitute Italian Seasoning mix. You can also omit the garlic if you want to.
My favorite combination of veggies that I use whenever I make this pizza is: zucchini, mushrooms, green and red bell peppers, tomatoes and green onions.
Gambas al Ajillo or Garlic Shrimp is one of the best Spanish tapas ever! It’s a favorite all over Spain and is served in homes and tapas bars in practically every city in the country. It’s very easy to make and is sometimes cooked and/or served in a shallow terracotta or clay pot called a cazuela.
I originally learned to make gambas many years ago from my Spanish chef friend, Mari. Since then, I’ve tweaked what he taught me to come up with my own version. For one thing, in Spain gambas are traditionally cooked in plain olive oil but I like to use a blend of half olive oil and half butter. I find that the butter imparts a great flavor to this dish. It may not be very traditional, but it works for me! Mari also slices his garlic cloves in thin slices, but I prefer to mince my garlic. Some people add a little Spanish sweet paprika or pimentón to their gambas. I don’t usually do this (Mari didn’t), but you can if you want to. Also, more often than not, I make this dish without the alcohol at all and it turns out just fine.
Don’t forget the oh-so-important step of serving slices of fresh bread along with your gambas for sopping up the sauce! In my experience, the shrimp disappear fast whenever I make this dish, but they leave behind a bowl of garlicky sauce that is wonderful for dunking bread in. It’s a great way to extend the enjoyment of eating gambas even after the shrimp are all gone.
GAMBAS AL AJILLO
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup butter
10-14 large cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (increase to ½ tsp. if you want it spicier)
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
3 Tbsp. brandy or cognac or dry sherry (optional)
french baguette bread, sliced
Heat olive oil and butter together over medium heat in a sauté pan.
Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper until garlic is cooked but still tender. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Toss in the shrimp and salt, and sauté just until shrimp turns pink.
Stir in parsley and brandy, if using. At this point, Chef Mari would shake the pan, tilting it slightly so the alcohol would catch fire. You can skip that step. Or not. Totally up to you.
Transfer to a shallow serving bowl or cazuela.
Serve immediately with slices of french bread for soaking up the sauce.
Have you ever tried Tzatziki sauce? Tzatziki is a yogurt based sauce that is very popular in Greece. Rich and creamy, Tzatziki sauce is typically served cold with grilled meat. It is also often served as a dipping sauce.
Tzatziki is best made with Greek yogurt, but if you can’t get Greek yogurt, you can use regular yogurt. It will have a runnier consistency but as long as you don’t mind that, it’s fine. Alternatively, you could make your own “greek” yogurt by taking a piece of cheesecloth, folding it in half, and then in half again so you have 4 layers. Lay the cheesecloth in a bowl, pour the yogurt into the center of the cheesecloth, then pick up the 4 corners and tie them together. Hang the cheesecloth bag over the bowl for about 2 hours or so. This will drain the water out and thicken the yogurt giving it a more “greek yogurt” consistency.
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
½ English cucumber
3-5 cloves garlic, depending on how big your cloves are
1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. minced fresh dill (or 1 tbsp. dried)
salt and pepper, to taste
Place the greek yogurt into a medium bowl.
Slice the cucumber into thin disks, then stack the disks 3 or 4 high, and cut each stack into quarters. You could also grate the cucumber, if you prefer.
Add the cucumber to the yogurt.
Finely mince the garlic and add to the yogurt. Start with 3 cloves first, and add more if you want it more garlicky.
Add the lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper, then stir all together well.
Cover with sarap wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to use.
NOTE: This recipe is very versatile. I’ve given you a base to start from but you could really make it to suit your own tastes. If you like lots of cucumber, you could add more; if not, add less. If you want it more lemony, add more lemon juice; or less. Same with the garlic and dill. Just play around with the amounts till the sauce is to your liking. Otherwise, the base recipe is great as is.Tzatziki will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but as it sits, water from the yogurt and the cucumbers will separate. Just drain the water off and stir the sauce before serving.
This is an old recipe of my Mom’s. She made it all the time for get-togethers or when we were expecting company. It’s very addictive and you’ll find yourself heading back to the appetizer table again and again for just a little bit more.
It always reminds me of my mother-in-law whom I miss terribly. She absolutely loved this mousse! When the party was over, you just knew any leftover shrimp mousse was hers. She would spread it on bread and eat shrimp mousse sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and a snack the next day. I have to say, I picked up that habit from her and on the rare occasion that we actually have leftover shrimp mousse, I find myself making a shrimp mousse sandwich for lunch or a snack.
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp. cold water
1 box (8 ozs.) cream cheese
1 can Campbells cream of celery soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 lb. cooked small shrimp, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
In a small bowl, dissolve the Knox gelatin in 2 tbsp. cold water and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream cheese and celery soup over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.
Remove saucepan from heat, add in the gelatin, and stir until well-blended.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into a mold and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm.
Unmold and serve with crackers.
NOTE: You can easily turn this into “Crab Mousse” by substituting 1 pound crabmeat for the shrimp. I’ve also made it into “Seafood Mousse” by making it with ½ lb. shrimp and ½ lb. crab.
I got the inspiration to make these appetizers from the Pillsbury website. My family has been making crab salad for years, though we always serve it in a bowl with crackers on the side for an appetizer. When I saw the Pillsbury recipe, I thought how perfect it would be to wrap our family’s crab salad in crescent roll dough instead of serving it our usual way with crackers. It turned out great!
CRAB SALAD CRESCENT APPETIZERS
1 pkg. imitation crab meat, chopped
⅓ cup mayonnaise
½ pkg. (4 ozs.) cream cheese, softened (optional)
1 large shallot, finely minced (can substitute ¼ small onion)
1 stalk green onion, green and white part, finely chopped
½ tsp. worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Mix imitation crab, mayonnaise, cream cheese, shallot, green onion, worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper together in a bowl until well combined.
Unroll dough on work surface and pinch seams to seal.
Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows to make 24 squares.
Spoon about 1 teaspoon crab salad onto center of square.
Pull opposite corners on each side up over filling and let points meet in center.
I made these appetizers for a party and they were a big hit! They’re sooo good and easy to make. The recipe does use up a lot of bacon because I use one slice of bacon for each little roll, but they’re so yummy it’s worth it. If you want to, you could lighten them up by using lowfat cream cheese and turkey bacon. Or you could cut the bacon strips carefully in half lengthwise so each roll would have just a thin strip around the middle like a belt.
The trick to making these is to pre-bake the bacon till it’s cooked but not quite crisp. You want the bacon to still be pliable so that you can wrap them easily around the bread rolls. A toothpick does a good job of holding the ends closed together. Then bake until the bacon becomes nice and crisp around the bread. Don’t forget to pull the toothpicks out before serving. Give these appetizers a try. I guarantee you’ll love them!
12 ozs. cream cheese, at room temperature
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup roasted red pepper, diced
¾ cup scallions, sliced, white and green parts
1 loaf (about 20 slices) soft white bread
3 lbs. lean bacon
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Arrange bacon in a single layer on a foil-lined jelly roll pan.
Bake until cooked but still pliable.
Drain bacon strips on paper towels and set aside.
In a bowl, mix cream cheese and parmesan together until smooth.
Stir in the peppers and scallions until well combined; set aside.
Trim the crusts from the slices of bread.
Spread each slice with filling, covering completely.
Roll bread up, pressing down just enough to make it stick to itself.
Slice the rolls into thirds. If your bacon strips are thin, slice rolls into fourths.
Wrap a strip of bacon around each roll, overlapping the ends a half inch and trimming off any excess. Save excess bacon for another use.
Push a toothpick through the overlapping ends to hold them closed.
Lightly grease another baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
Arrange rolls on baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes (5 minutes longer if baking from frozen), or until the bacon is crisp and the tops are golden brown.
Remove from oven, pull out and discard toothpicks, and place on serving platter.
Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
NOTE: Bacon Roll-Ups can be made ahead of time and frozen until ready to use. Just follow recipe through Step 12, then place the bacon-wrapped rolls in the freezer for up to 6 weeks. The rolls can be baked from frozen. Just take out what you need when you have company and bake at 350°F until crisp.
VARIATIONS: If you’d like to try some variations, you can substitute swiss cheese for the parmesan, or add 1-2 tbsp. horseradish to the filling, or try using diced cooked shrimp and pineapple tidbits in place of the peppers and scallions.
New Year’s Eve for me means time for new appetizers. Every New Year’s Eve, I make a whole bunch of savory appetizers and bite-sized sweet treats. I don’t bother fixing dinner or creating a fancy sit-down meal. Instead, I start putting out different appetizers and canapés at around 7 p.m. for people to graze on all night long. Everyone just wanders up to the dining table and eats whatever they want to whenever they feel like eating.
I usually make some tried-and-true favorites, but this is also the time that I look for new appetizer and dip recipes to try.These Onion Cheese Puffs were one of my newbies. I found the recipe in an old issue of Saveur magazine and thought they sounded good. They were so easy to make and smelled amazing while they were baking! Of all the new appetizers I tried for our New Year’s Eve celebration this year, I liked these the best. Definitely a keeper!
ONION CHEESE PUFFS
½ small sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
8 slices of white bread
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix onion, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, and parsley in a medium bowl.
Season with salt and pepper.
Using a 1″ round cookie cutter, cut 4 rounds from each slice of bread.
Place bread rounds on a cookie sheet and bake, without turning, until lightly toasted, about 6-7 minutes.
Spread about 1 tsp. onion mixture onto each round, then sprinkle with more parmesan.