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Tomato pesto bites

I love popping a scrumptious biteful of something into my mouth. Finger foods are so much fun! Sometimes I daydream about what it must be like to have a butler wandering around my home, offering me a tray filled with delicious finger foods. He then retreats to my over-sized kitchen so my personal chef can replenish the assortment of goodies. And then I wake up from my dream, with only a messy kitchen and a living room that resembles tornado carnage in my sight.

Where was I? Oh, finger foods!

This fun little tomato finger food recipe contains pesto, of all things, and would be one that I would request adorn my butler's tray.

Start by cutting both ends off of 30 cherry tomatoes. Cut the base of the tomato smaller than the top, as this cut is merely intended to keep the tomato upright on the serving platter. Gut the tomatoes, using a small knife to separate the seeds from the side of the tomato.

Tomato guts. I threw them into a big bowl of salad so as to not be wasteful.

(Source: Better Homes & Gardens magazine)

Invert the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Set aside to allow for the tomatoes to drain.

For the filling, combine the following ingredients in a food processor:

1/2 of a medium avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 oz. cream cheese

1 Tbsp. basil pesto (I used spinach basil pesto)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cover and process until just combined.

Place tomatoes on a serving platter and spoon the filling into the tomato cups. If needed, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil before serving.

If you see my butler, please tell him he is late for work.

Click here for a printable recipe!


My honeys

Now that I've been back in the frigidness of Minnesota for a few days, I'm finding myself peeking through my beach pictures from last weekend with increasing frequency. Warmth, sun, beaches, the ocean, palm trees, NO SNOW!

My present reality? Cold cars, cold toes, cold everything, terrible traffic, snow piled everywhere, boots, layers of clothing, biting winds.

But, these people are in my reality, and that erases (most of) the discomfort. Mmmmm, I missed these boys.


Muffaletta dip

I was unfamiliar with the word "muffaletta" a mere five months ago. I was sitting at a table in Jason's Deli, probably munching on a spinach veggie wrap (my favorite!), when I spotted a photo of a scrumptious-looking sandwich. Layered in between the bread were olives, cheese and layers of sliced meat. Yum! The next time I was there, I ordered one of those delicious sandwiches all for myself. Actually, I ordered a quarter of one because the whole sandwiches are enormous. It was olive-y and gooey and fabulous!

Since then, I have been extra aware of my newly-learned word, muffaletta. I saw a recipe for muffaletta dip as I flipped through a magazine a few weeks ago and knew that it had to be made soon. Like the sandwich, it was olive-y and gooey and fabulous!

Gather the following ingredients:

16-oz. jar pickled mixed vegetables (giardiniera), rinsed, drained and chopped (remove stems from peppers if there are any)

8-oz. package cream cheese, cubed

4 oz. provolone cheese slices, cubed

2 oz. cooked ham, finely chopped

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed, drained and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Throw everything into a small crock pot and stir.

Cover and cook on low setting for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in enough milk to reach dipping consistency. Serve immediately or keep warm on low setting in crock pot for up to 2 hours. Add milk as necessary and continue to stir occasionally.

Serve over salami, atop a square of toasted Focaccia bread.

Click here for a printable recipe!


Angel hair pasta with crab meat and country ham

This is Week #2 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click on the above graphic to view all P&TC recipes. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

This recipe was awesome. I considered telling you how awesome I thought it was, but I won't do that. It's a bit embarrassing. Let's just say I can eat a lot when I want to. I remember my mom always saying that when I was younger, and even sometimes now when I see her. "You sure can eat a lot." Thanks, Mom! It's true, though. I can.

I have a feeling there will be a handful of recipes that I make for this challenge that I won't love and that I won't recommend, but this was not one of them. This was, again, awesome. I'm getting repetitive, sorry.

Start out by cutting 2 slices of ham into strips. (I used 3 slices because I am a huge ham lover.)

Slice enough shallots to fill 1/2 cup (or slice a few green onions if you forget to buy shallots).

Grab a deep skillet and heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add the ham and cook over medium heat, tossing, until hot. Using tongs is helpful.

Transfer the ham to a plate.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet.

Add the shallots (or green onions) and cook over medium heat until they are softened, about 4 minutes.

Add 1 clove of minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Add 3/4 cup of dry white wine and boil until it is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Chop 1/2 pound of crabmeat.

Add the crabmeat to the skillet, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of thyme. Toss until hot.

Cook 1/2 pound of angel hair pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 2/3 cup of the cooking water. Don't accidentally dip your finger into the boiling water like some people might do.

Add the ham, pasta, reserved cooking water and 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and toss until hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Click here for a printable recipe!


Carrot hummus

I have yet to find a hummus recipe that rivals Sabre's Roasted Pine Nut Hummus. YUM, that is some seriously good stuff. My three-year-old is addicted to it, as am I. I could spread it on pickled beets and find myself saying, "MMMmmmmm!" Ok, nevermind, that is a lie. I hate beets.

In my quest to find that one, true, perfect hummus recipe, I have come across a few that are very tasty. This is one of them. The thing I love about this recipe is that it tastes deliciously fresh. There isn't any harshness in the flavors, and just about anything dipped into it (no beets!) tastes fabulous.

Start out by cooking 1 cup of carrots (about 2 medium). Slice them and put them into a saucepan with a bit of water. Cover and boil, cooking for 6-8 minutes, or until they are tender.

Gather the following ingredients:

1 cup cooked carrots

15-oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained

1/4 cup tahini

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, quartered

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.

Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.

Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. If necessary, stir in enough water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach dipping consistency.

Garnish with carrot strips and/or lemon peel and serve with assorted dippers, such as pita wedges, crackers, cucumbers, carrots, celery.

If you find a hummus recipe that rivals the roasted pine nut version from the grocery store, will you let me know?

Click here for a printable recipe!