Mini Phyllo Cup Bacon Cheese Balls

18 08 2014

I saw these fun little cheese balls in this year’s bacon issue of Food Network Magazine. I thought they were so cute and great for serving at a party, but didn’t want people to worry about having to spread them on something. So I came up with the idea to pop them in a mini phyllo cup and poof….the perfect individual appetizer, no utensils required!

Mini Phyllo Cup Bacon Cheese Balls

The following makes 45 (compliments of This Girl’s Gotta Eat and Food Network Magazine):

  • 1 package turkey bacon
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (fancy shred works well)
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • Chopped chives
  • Sunflower seeds (no salt added)
  • 45 mini phyllo cups, thawed (3 packages of 15 – you can find them in the frozen section of your grocery store)

Preheat oven to 350. Lay a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray. Lay bacon across the cooling rack in one layer. You will have to do this twice depending how many strips you can fit. Bake until crisp (check on the bacon every 10 minutes until it’s done). Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat and bake the final remaining strips of bacon. Allow all the bacon to cool.

While the bacon cools, mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mustard, zest and lemon juice in a small bowl. Crumble 8 pieces of cooked bacon, and mix in with the cheese mixture.

Roll into 45 mini balls, lay in a single layer on a tray and cool in the fridge. Crumble the remaining bacon and store in a tupperware container in the fridge.

To save myself time, I did all of the above the night before I wanted to serve these.

The next day I baked the thawed phyllo cups at 350 for 5 minutes or so, to crisp them a bit. Remove cups from the oven and cool.

Next, combine some of the crumble bacon you saved, some chopped chives and some sunflower seeds in a bowl – just eyeball it. You can always mix more if you run out, or if you make too much, serve the garnish over a salad for lunch later.

Remove the balls from the fridge and roll in the bacon, chives and sunflower seeds – pressing slightly to adhere. Place one ball in each phyllo cup, and arrange on a platter to serve.

Polenta Squares With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Basil

15 06 2014

This is a unique, and tasty appetizer that I’m sure you won’t see at many parties! It’s perfect for summer picnics or potlucks because you serve it room temperature. You could also serve these polenta squares as a side dish, making this versatile too.

Polenta Squares with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Basil

The following makes 12-16 squares (adapted from The Party Girl Cookbook):

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 6 oz. sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (Don’t waste the oil, save it to use in something else!)
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Bring water to a boil in a large sauce pot over high heat. Add salt. Slowly add the cornmeal and whisk constantly. When the mixture boils (which will happen quickly and be careful, the mixture will be hot), reduce the heat to low and continue stirring (with a wooden spoon) until very thick, about 30 minutes.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and basil and stir well. Pour the polenta into a square 2.5 quart casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray, making sure to spread evenly. Chill in the fridge until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes until lightly browned. Cool to room temperature and cut into squares. You can get more squares if you go for smaller, bite-size pieces.

You can make this a day or two ahead of time and store covered in the fridge. Just bring to room temperature before serving.

Buffalo Chicken Mac-n-Cheese

3 02 2014

Reinventing the classic buffalo chicken dip never gets old because everyone loves it. Huddle up, kids…I turned the go-to party dip into a healthy mac-n-cheese for game day! Trust me, you’ll score a touchdown at your parties with this dish!

Buffalo Chicken Mac-n-Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Mac-n-Cheese

The following makes a 9×13 casserole (compliments of This Girl’s Gotta Eat):

  • 1 lb whole wheat macaroni
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded or cubed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 cup low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Frank’s original hot sauce (amount depends on your taste)
  • 2 (8 oz) bricks of reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz blue cheese crumbles
  • Chopped chives or green onion for garnish

Preheat oven to 375.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Strain pasta and set aside.

Shred or cube the chicken while the pasta cooks and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in the same pot you used to cook the pasta and saute celery for a few minutes. Remove from the pot, add to the chicken and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the same pot. When the oil is heated through, remove from the heat and whisk in the flour. Turn the heat back on to medium and add chicken stock, whisking constantly – stir until sauce thickens a little and is smooth. Next add the cream cheese and just a pinch of salt to taste. Whisk the sauce until the cream cheese is melted, stirring occasionally. Next add the hot sauce and mix well. Start with 1/2 cup and taste the sauce, adjust to your liking. I ended up adding a full cup because I wanted the buffalo taste to be more prominent.

Once you get the flavor of your sauce adjusted to your liking, remove from the heat and add the pasta, chicken and celery to the sauce and stir until well mixed. Add the mac-n-cheese mixture to a 9×13 casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle the top with the blue cheese crumbles and bake uncovered a for about 20-25 minutes, until bubbly and browned on top.

You can either garnish with chopped chives or green onion for a pop of color, or serve them along the side for people to top themselves.

Apple Bourbon White Sangria

31 12 2013

As you can see, I’ve been on an apple and bourbon kick 🙂 Might as well keep it going into 2014 with a festive New Year’s Eve cocktail!

Heading into this post, This Girl’s Gotta Eat had about 25,000 views on the blog in 2013…not too shabby! Thanks to everyone who stopped in for a visit and/or tried out a recipe! Here’s to another fun year of passionate cooking and recipe sharing….salute!

Apple Bourbon White Sangria

Apple Bourbon White Sangria

The following makes a big pitcher (adapted from Heartfelt Confessions):

  • 2 McIntosh apples, diced
  • 2 cups of cranberries
  • 6 cinnamon sticks (one .75 oz jar)
  • 6-8 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1 bottle of mild bodied white wine

The day before you want to serve the sangria, combine the bourbon, apple cider and cranberries in a large pitcher and store (covered) in the fridge.

Then the next day, add the diced apples, thyme sprigs, cinnamon sticks and wine to the bourbon and apple cider; stir to mix.

Let the pitcher chill in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours to give let the flavors absorb (I’m actually letting it chill for 8 hours).

If you have extra cranberries, apples, thyme and cinnamon sticks, you can add those to your glasses as a garnish before serving this cocktail.

Brie Stuffed Mushrooms

29 12 2013

I’ve been enjoying Christmas dinner leftovers all week, and a slight break from cooking! We have a good amount of turkey leftover, but not enough leftover side dishes….so guess I’m back to cooking tonight, ha! I was looking for good ideas on how to use leftover brie, and stuffing mushrooms seamed like the perfect avenue. Glad I stumbled on this recipe, which tonight will serve as a side dish, but these shrooms would be a great appetizer too.

Brie Stuffed Mushrooms

Brie Stuffed Mushrooms

The following makes about 12 shrooms (adapted from What’s Gabby Cooking):

  • 1 (10 oz) package whole baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 small wedge of brie cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted and slightly pulsed
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp herb-flavored olive oil (or regular olive oil if you don’t have herb-flavored)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast walnuts for a few minutes until fragrant. Pulse lightly in a food processor to break up the pieces.

Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Place them bottom side up on a baking sheet and drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put about a small piece of brie into each of the mushroom cavities.

In a small bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Fill the mushroom cavity with a heaping scoop of the bread crumb and walnut mixture.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes (20 minutes for smaller mushrooms) until the mushrooms are tender and then cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and serve…be sure to scrape up the brown bits from the pan and serve with the mushrooms, it’s like cheesy gold!

Apple Bourbon Cream Cheese Wontons

27 12 2013

Found this idea on pinterest and was excited to try it for Christmas dinner. Stuffing and forming is a little time-consuming when you’re making for a crowd, but I like serving mini desserts like this at dinner parties, so I thought it was worth it.

Apple Bourbon Cream Cheese Wontons

Apple Bourbon Cream Cheese Wontons

The following makes 40 (adapted from lab@56):

  • 4 medium size apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Kentucky Bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 (12 oz) package wonton wrappers
  • About 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • Water for sealing wonton wrappers
  • Oil for the cookie sheet
  • 2 large egg + dash of water for egg wash
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350.

Mince apples with a knife or process them in a food processor with a chopping blade.

In a medium size bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, and sugars. Whisk lightly with a folk to combine. Add apples and bourbon; mix again until apples are well coated.

Heat butter in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium once butter is melted and sauté apple mixture, about 5 minutes. Stir constantly with spatula to prevent from burning. Turn the heat off and set aside. You can make the mixture a day in advance and store covered in the fridge at this point.

Put 1 cup of water in a shallow bowl. Place 1/2 teaspoon of cream cheese, then 1/2 teaspoon of apple mixture on top of cheese. Dip 2 fingers in water and wet all edges of wonton wrappers. Fold the wrapper over to form a triangle, then press edges to seal.

Place filled wontons on lightly oiled cookie sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush some egg wash on top.

Bake them for 15-20 minutes in preheated oven until golden. Slightly cool wontons at room temperature and dust with powdered sugar.

Baked Brie Cups with Craisins and Walnuts

26 12 2013

Served these beautiful brie cups up for Christmas and everyone loved them! It’s like baked brie in mini, individual-sized bites, perfect for a crowd!

Baked Brie Cups with Craisins and Walnuts

Baked Brie Cups with Craisins and Walnuts

The following makes 15 (compliments of Gina’s Skinny Recipes):

  • 3 oz light brie, skin removed cut into (15) 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 Tbsp craisins
  • 4 Tbsp chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 15 Mini Phyllo Shells (Athens)

Preheat oven to 325.

Combine craisins, chopped nuts and honey in a bowl and mix well.

Arrange mini shells on a baking sheet. Fill shells with cheese (one piece per shell) and top with sticky craisin/nut mixture. Bake 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Serve immediately.

This Girl’s tip: An 8 oz wedge of brie would be enough to make 3-4 batches, so if you are serving a crowd you can easily multiple this recipe.

Grandma Ferritto’s Keebler Dessert Crackers

19 12 2013

These are my Grandma Ferritto’s famous dessert Keebler crackers that our family enjoys at the holidays. A lot of people ask for the recipe because they are simple, but leave a lasting memory….just like Grandmas do! I’ll need a little more practice to get mine to taste like Gma F’s though 😉

Grandma Ferritto’s Keebler Dessert Crackers

Grandma Ferritto’s Keebler Dessert Crackers

The following makes approximately 45 crackers (compliments of This Girl’s Gotta Eat):

  • 1 box of regular Keebler Club crackers (green box)
  • 1 and ½ sticks of butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup slivered almonds with skin, broken up

Preheat oven to 350.

Put foil on a large cookie sheet and spray with non-stick spray. Place crackers side by side, until you fill up the whole tray.

Gradually melt the butter in a pan. Next, add the sugar to the melted butter and cook until it bubbles. Remove the butter/sugar mixture from heat and pour over crackers, spreading with spoon/spatula to make sure all crackers are equally covered. Sprinkle the coated crackers with the slivered almonds (break them up a little with your hands first).

Bake at 350 for 8-10 mins.

Remove from the oven and cool completely right on the cookie sheet. When the crackers are cold, lift with a spatula and store in tupperware (covered) in the fridge.

Cheese Tortellini Soup

19 12 2013

After we enjoy appetizers, I like to start our family’s Christmas dinner with a homemade soup. Traditionally I’ve made Italian wedding soup, and one year I made a rustic minestrone. This year however, it’ll be tortellini soup with the homemade turkey stock that I made using the bones from our Thanksgiving turkey. First I roasted the bones, then I let the stock cook on low all day (with the bones, onions, carrots and celery) to develop a deep, rich flavor.  I froze the stock knowing I’d use it to make soup for Christmas.

I grew up enjoying my Mama’s tortellini soup quite often, but I haven’t had (or made it) in years. Hence this post….thought I’d whip up a bowl for the hubs and I before making my army-size Christmas Day batch! I did make this a little different from my Mama’s, and I’ll be making it a little different for Christmas Day too (will be using turkey stock instead of chicken broth and white beans instead of mushrooms)…but sharing this before Christmas in case it sparks an idea for your own holiday meal planning.

Cheese Tortellini Soup

Cheese Tortellini Soup

The following serves 4-6 (compliments of This Girl’s Gotta Eat):

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Couple cloves of garlic, minced
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 container portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 boxes reduced-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 package cheese tortellini, like Buitoni whole wheat cheese tortellini you find in the refrigerated section
  • 1 bag fresh baby spinach
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add onion and cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme springs (don’t worry about taking off the leaves, add the whole sprig) and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add mushrooms and brown, stirring often, another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Deglaze the pan with wine, scrapping up any brown bits from the pan. Cook for another minute or so until the wine reduces to half.

Next add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook to al dente according to package instructions. When you have a few minutes left on the pasta cooking time, add the spinach and wilt into the soup, stirring often.

Remove the sprigs of thyme, season soup with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Turkey and Pesto Tortilla Pinwheels

18 12 2013

I was telling a friend about the multiple holiday parties we had this past weekend and how I was working on concocting what to bring to each. A day or so went by and she asked what I decided on, and I quickly said, “oh ya know, boring pinwheels”. She laughed at me and said I love those, everyone loves those…and you don’t always have to make something fancy! And, she was right! They seem boring to me because so many people make them, but I never had….until now. And I admit, these are a good go-to when you need to bring something to a party and are in a pinch for time!

Turkey and Pesto Tortilla Pinwheels

Turkey and Pesto Tortilla Pinwheels

The following is compliments of Home Cooking Memories:

  • 8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup pesto (I use homemade, but you could use store-bought)
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 3 large whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 lb turkey, thinly sliced

Combine the softened cream cheese, parmesan and pesto in a bowl until smooth. Spread pesto mixture evenly on open tortillas (basically from edge to edge). Next, add a layer of turkey on top of the pesto mixture. Roll up tightly and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator, unwrap, slice into rounds and serve.