Stuffed Dates with Pistachios

Stuffed dates create a big bang for the buck in terms of time investment. They take roughly 10 minutes from start to finish, but taste much more complex. I made these in 2 versions – 1 version used goat cheese and the second version used non-dairy cream cheese to accommodate someone with a dairy sensitivity. Either one works so use whichever you’d like.

Pistachios give a savoriness to the dates to counterbalance their sweetness. Pecans could be substituted, but the saltiness of the pistachios does seem to elevate the final product.

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Jalapeno Popper Dip

Jalapenos seem to vary in spiciness from one pepper to the next so adjust the number you use (and whether you keep the seeds) to your own heat preferences.

The addition of liquid smoke and the breadcrumb topping make the flavor and texture more realistic to fried jalapeno poppers. It will seem like a lot of topping when you mix it up, but put it all on – it really helps with the flavor.
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Baked Mozzarella Sticks

These cheese sticks help hit the spot when I’m craving something savory and indulgant. I normally use low-fat cheese sticks which seem to work just as well in this recipe. These aren’t quite the same as fried cheese sticks, but they are pretty close and definitely worth the calorie trade-off. The key is to freeze the string cheese before coating and baking so that it doesn’t melt into a pile of goo.
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Lentil Pastry Rolls

While trying to figure out what to take to a family gathering, Indian samosas came to mind. This is only abstractly similar in that it uses puff pastry with a savory filling because I wasn’t sure the group I was fixing it for would be adventurous enough to try new spices. The end result is a meaty and filling appetizer that looks pretty, but is not very difficult to make.

I used masoor dal for my lentils, hoping the end result would have a reddish-orange hue. The breadcrumbs and balsamic vinegar made the end result look more brown than orange. I liked the texture and flavor of the masoor dal and would definitely use it again, but I would also use whatever lentils I had available if I couldn’t find those.

This recipe makes a lot and can easily be cut in half for a smaller yield.

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Sparkling Cranberries

These look like frozen cranberries with ice that never melts. They make beautiful decorations, but are also quite tasty. The sweetness of the sugar gives way to the tartness of the cranberry that has been mellowed by an overnight soak in simple syrup.

After removing the cranberries, save the simple syrup (which will now have the faintest of cranberry flavor) for use in drinks or other applications.
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Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Zucchini plants┬áproduce 2 types of flowers – male and female at a rate of 3:1. While either will work for this recipe, using the male flowers allows the zucchini plant to continue normal production. Only the female flowers will turn into fruit and an over-abudnance of male polinating flowers exist to make sure that all the females are able to produce. Female blossoms can be identified by the small ball on their stem at the base of the flower head. Male flowers have a plain stem going into the flower itself.

The blossoms and stems will likely be prickly before they are cooked, but they soften significantly. They will taste like mild squash, not at all like flowers. Continue reading