Appetizers

Easy Homemade Bruschetta

easy homemade bruschette

This time of year I’m always looking for ways to use up the last of our summer tomatoes. Last year I did some slow roasting and shared my experience making my own oven dried tomatoes, which turned out absolutely fantastic! But let’s be real, those babies took a pretty significant amount of time to make. And large blocks of time I rarely have.

If I’m being honest, my go-to tomato recipe year after year is this simple, classic bruschetta. It’s one of my favorite appetizers, and being able to make it using fresh picked tomatoes from my garden is the best! Although it ultimately signals the end of summer which is sad. At least there are always pumpkin treats to look forward to around the corner. (I already have a pumpkin treat coming up for you guys but in case you already have pumpkin fever and just can’t wait, you might wanna check out our pumpkin scones or mini pumpkin doughnut muffins from last fall! Yeah, yeah… SO “basic.” Whatever.)

what you need for bruschetta
Anyway, let’s get to the BRUSCHETTA! Yum.

You don’t need a whole lot to whip up this simple healthy dish, just some fresh ripe tomatoes, an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, olive oil, and Italian style herbs and spices. I use fresh thyme, dried basil, salt and pepper. You’ll also wanna pick up some good crusty bread to spoon it onto. All good stuff.

make bruschetta with fresh thyme

My secret to a really good tasting bruschetta is fresh thyme. We grow it in our garden but you can pick it up in the produce aisle as well. Can’t beat this stuff. It’s the perfect compliment to anything tomato and it smells incredible!

how to make homemade bruschetta

This isn’t the kind of recipe where I can give you exact amounts for anything, you just kinda have to taste as you go. I like to keep the ratio of tomato to onion something like 5 to 1…ish… but it’s really up to your own tastes! Dice up your tomatoes and onion nice and small, then mix those together. Finely dice your garlic cloves and throw that in there too.

spices to use in tomato bruschetta

Drizzle on a healthy amount of olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, basil and thyme. Just pull all the little leaves off the thyme and discard the stalk. Stir that all up and stick it in the fridge until chilled. Boom. Done.

easy homemade summer bruscetta with thyme

My favorite way to eat bruschetta is just on top of some sliced Italian bread, maybe with a little hummus on there too. Add some good cheese, olives, and grapes on the side and you have perfection!

But wait, there’s more! There are about one million other ways you can use bruschetta! Throw it in a pasta or on top of an omelette, mix it into a salad or a sandwich, sprinkle it your ice-cream or run it through your hair!…. okay maybe not but you get the idea…

Loren’s Homemade Hummus

Homemade Hummus

My boyfriend Loren has always made the BEST homemade hummus. I wanted to share his recipe, but when I asked, he told me he doesn’t really have one and just makes it each time by memory and taste. But I still wanted to share an easy, basic, homemade hummus recipe with you guys… SO we made a batch together and I took studious notes! This is a recipe for a basic hummus base which you can mix up to make dozens of different delicious versions!

Here’s what you will need:
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
2/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

The prep couldn’t be any easier – just throw all of the ingredients in a food processor (or blender – but this takes more patience) and pulse it all together until smooth!

My favorite add-in for this basic hummus is olive tapenade. I’ve recently made my own which I might share soon! It gives an awesome added Mediterranean flavor. Roasted red peppers, hot peppers, and roasted eggplant are also great additions! Get creative and create your own mix or enjoy it plain. Serve it with fresh cut veggies, bread and crackers, or spread it on toast or a sandwich.

Loren's Hummus Recipe

Marsala Mushroom Bites

Asiago Mushroom Appetizers

It’s DECEMBER?  I know I’m not the only one wondering where all the time has gone… after all of the plotting and planning for new recipes to try this year, the “end of the year” work push has left little time for experiments,   I wish there was another month to make the season Merrier and Brighter, amiright? That’s where these little bites come in handy – (basically) three ingredients, and about 25 minutes, and you’ve got a warm and hearty appetizer perfect for any celebration. 

Ingredients:

-4 pillsbury crescent rolls, uncooked

-10 oz. mushrooms

-1T butter

-about ¼ cup red wine, or a little less

-salt and pepper, to taste

-asiago cheese, or other bite-y cheese (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350.  Stem, clean, and dice your mushrooms.  In a large sautee pan, heat 1T of butter over medium heat until the butter just starts to melt.  Add the mushrooms, stir, and sautee about 5 minutes.  Once the mushrooms start to brown completely, add the wine, and turn the heat to a simmer.  Allow the wine to reduce – this should take about 6-10 minutes – and remember to stir often.

Easy Mushroom Appetizer

While that’s going, open your crescent roll can and roll the dough on your counter.  Pinch the diagonal edges of the adjacent rolls together, and cut each 2-roll rectangle into 6 pieces.  Take each piece and lightly press into an ungreased/unlined mini-muffin tin, and wait on your mushrooms!

Sauteed Mushroom Pillsbury Bites

 When the mushrooms are done, allow them to cool for a few minutes so that they can absorb some of the sauce.  Then, take about a tablespoon or so of the mushrooms and place in each crescent rolled-mini muffin cup. I used a slotted spoon for this, so that there wasn’t too much liquid in each cup. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until brown.

I added some Asiago cheese shavings to a few of these little cups for an extra bite.  They are so buttery and delicious, and would make a great pair to a creamy soup, or an addition to your holiday apps spread!  I’m looking forward to making these again using leftover sauteed mushrooms after Christmas dinner…can’t wait!

Marsala Mushroom Bites

Mini-Meatloaf Cupcakes

mini-meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting

As an invitee to a highly anticipated “B.Y.O.M” (Bring Your Own Meat) party, I anxiously sought out a recipe that would look great and appeal to many different pallets.  After brainstorming for a while and coming up with some pretty stellar ideas, I decided that I didn’t want to risk trying a fancy meat recipe for the first time and end up with a disaster, so I settled for a comfort food classic – meatloaf!  As good as this recipe would have been in loaf form, I wanted to amp up the presentation and make them more appetizer friendly – mini-meatloaf cupcakes were born!  These little appetizers are simple and delicious, and can be served at any temperature for the ultimate party-win.

mini-meatloaf cupcakes ingredients

Ingredients:

Meatloaf “Cakes”

  • 3 lbs ground meat (I used 85% lean)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2t minced garlic, or 1-2 cloves
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • ketchup, to cover
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • cooking spray

Mashed Potato “Frosting”:

  • about 10 smaller potatoes, peeled
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2T butter, unsalted
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • chives, for garnish (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350.  Heat a large frying pan on the stove on high, and drizzle enough olive oil in the pan to almost coat the bottom (about 2T).  Finely dice the onion, toss it into the hot pan, and reduce the heat to medium low.  To really get that good caramelized flavor, be sure to be patient and cook them over lower heat – we don’t want the outside to be crisp and the inside to have that raw onion bite.  Once the onions are done, remove the pan from the heat, add the garlic, and stir.  The garlic adds a little extra flavor (and aroma) without being overpowering if it’s not sautéed in with the onions.  Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes, so that it won’t burn when you blend it into the meat.  Place the meat in a large bowl, add the cooled onions, a few shakes of Worcestershire, 2 eggs, the breadcrumbs, enough ketchup to just coat the top, and salt and pepper to taste.  Now, I know that there’s a debate about eggs to meat ratios, and after talking with some expert chefs, I’ve learned that there is no real answer.  The egg serves purely as a binder – it doesn’t really help to make the meat moist or enhance flavor or texture – and you don’t need to add one per pound of meat you use.  I used two because three pounds of ground beef is a lot of beef, but for servings under 2 ½ pounds, I’d say stick with one.

caramelized onion meatloaf

I mixed up my meatloaf by hand, mostly because that’s how I’ve known it to be done, but also because it’s easier to tell if the mixture is consistent throughout.  Spray the mini cupcake tin with cooking spay, and fill each cup up with the meatloaf mixture.  Remember, these are not real cupcakes, and will not rise or take form of the pan unless you make them – so press the meat into the cup to prevent any misshapen mini-meatloaves.  Bake the meatloaves for about 10-15 minutes, or until the meat is cooked completely through.  You can use a larger tin for the cupcakes – just be sure to add on some cooking time, maybe 18-22 minutes.

Now for the frosting.  While the “cakes” are cooking, peel and boil potatoes until tender.  Mine took longer than expected – about 15-20 minutes – but I was also using a very small pot.  To check for doneness, you want the potato to fall off a fork but not completely break apart in the water. When they’re done, drain the potatoes, add in all ingredients (except for the chives), and using an electric mixer, whip the potatoes for a nice, creamy consistency.  You want to avoid lumps here – lumpy mashed potatoes are difficult to pipe and will be very frustrating.  Chop the chives, and set aside.

When the meatloaves are all cooked, set them aside to cool to the touch.  Prep your icing bags with a star tip, fill with potatoes, and frost your cupcakes.  I sprinkled over some chives for color.  Because these were for a party, I made the meatloaves the night before – try to make the potatoes the day of to keep the texture just right.   Just like regular meatloaf, these are great hot or cold, as two bite appetizers or mashed up on an italian roll with gravy for lunch later in the week.

sour cream mashed potatoes

I’d show you a picture of that sandwich I was talking about, but there were no leftovers…

mini-meatloaf cupcakes with sour creal mashed potato frosting