Crabby Cheesy Easy... Appetizers

These little goodies are my party fall back plan. Takes about 15 minutes, from start to finish, and everyone seems to love 'em.

Time was... I'd slave for half a day and fret even longer about the Christmas Eve appetizers I brought to the Harty Party. The not-to-be-missed annual gathering of the orphans who hardly ever go home for the holidays.

You see, we live in a ski resort and Christmas is what folks around here call 'Big Business.' As in the tourist business. Nobody gets time off during the holidays because this tiny little town of 8,000 annual residents swells to 80,000 come Christmas.

Enter the Hartys. They throw this amazing party, every Christmas Eve! We eat. Drink. Feel exceptionally merry. And, not the slightest bit lonely even though we're all far from home.

This year, I brought the easiest peasiest appetizer ever and ~ I happened to notice that mine disappeared quicker than anybody's on the buffet table. (Hey! :)

Here we go...
Start with those little filo something or others that you can find in the freezer section. No, they didn't pay me to do this. I found these a few years ago and I'm a big fan 'cuz they're easy. But, you have to bake them for about 5 minutes, prior to adding the filling. This makes all the difference. After baking, they taste as if you went to the trouble of making your own.

Mini Crab Tart Appetizers
  • 12 oz. crab {On a budget? Use the faux crab. With these ingredients and spices I doubt Pop Eye could tell the diff.}
  • 1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 3 tablespoons roasted garlic 
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh green onions
  • 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning (or, a bit of chili sauce/tabasco - careful. Heats up quick!)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Stir it all up, try not to eat too much of it during the process. Put a dollop of this mixture in each of the tiny tarts. Then! (This is important.) Mess up your hair a bit and try to look exhausted. That way they'll think you slaved for hours!

La dee dah.


Gingerbread Pancakes

Everything Gingerbread gets a 2 thumbs up in this household.

Do you make a special breakfast on Christmas morning? We open our presents the night before. Often stay up way too late. Which inspires some serious Christmas laziness, lounging around in our jammies the better part of the morning.

As Gingerbread lovers, we'll happily nibble on cakes, cookies... anything you care to cook us! But the pièce de résistance for a super special holiday breakfast are these hot off the griddle Gingerbread Pancakes.

Gingerbread Pancake Recipe:

Mix Together:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
Stir In:
  • 1.25 cups buttermilk ~ What's that you say? You don't have buttermilk? Join the club! Simply add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to whole milk and voila! You've got buttermilk.
  • 1/2 cup water
Do the dry stuff in a different bowl:
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
Then stir it all together and pour in...
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter


Ultimate Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Update on Thanksgiving: My beans were a big hit. I can't bring myself to open a can of Campbell's soup on a holiday so this is a much fresher, from scratch version of that best-loved...

Ultimate Green Bean Casserole Recipe
(Feeds an army)
  • Snap 2 pounds of fresh green beans into bite-size pieces.
  • Drop them into a pot of boiling salt water (use a generous amount of sea salt.)
  • Cook for 5 or 6 minutes.
  • Drain beans in a colander, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. (They'll be bright green, crisp-crunchy and oh so delicious.)
Make Your Own Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Remove the stems and slice up 1 lb. of white button mushrooms (tip: if you'd like to be extra hip and cool, use mini portobellos.)
  • Simmer shrooms in 3-4 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoon fresh garlic.
  • Stir in 3 tablespoons flour.
  • Add 1.5 cups chicken broth + 1.5 cups half and half.
  • Salt & pepper to taste. (I use extra spicy Mrs. Dash.)
  • Once the sauce is thick and bubbly, stir in those precious beans.
Building the Ultimate Green Bean Casserole
  1. Place a can of those yummy French fried onions in the bottom of a casserole.
  2. Pour in the beans and 'shrooms.
  3. Sprinkle another can of yummy French fried onions on top.
  4. Up the fat content a bit more with dollops of butter.
  5. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.


Bourbon Pecan Sweet Tater Pie

Pre-Holiday chores got y'all stressed out?
Click here and be magically delivered to Grandma's house.

50 pound turkey? Check. Bushel of sweet taters? Check. Crispy, crunchy runner beans? Oh, yeah. Half dozen pie pumpkins? Hmmm. Pumpkin Pie? That was soooo last year.... try baking up one of these goodies instead!

Bourbon Pecan Sweet Tater Pie
- 1 frozen pie shell
- 2 cups roasted sweet potatoes, peeled and shmooshed
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1.5 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
- 1 cup toasted pecans (stove top, minute or two, teflon pan)
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup real maple syrup

Uno: Pre-bake your pie crust for about 10 minutes @ 425 (F).
Dos: Toss the top list into a large bowl. Grab your trusty mixer and beat until fluffy.
Tres: Pour into the pie shell and bake @ 375 (F) for 20 minutes.
Cuatro: Mix up the nuts, butter and maple syrup. Pour over the pie. Pop it back in the oven for another 25-30 minutes.
Cinco, cinco, seis: Have a slice. Or two. Or, three! Hey, it's the holidays. Enjoy it while ya can.

Here's to a lovely weekend, this proverbial calm before the storm. And, happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

* If you click that top link, you'll receive your very own Thanksgiving card from me to you, designed by Jacquie Lawson, a goddess among card creators, even if she does make me pay for a subscription.
** This yummy dessert is adapted from a recipe I discovered on Mine, naturally, contains more booze. (Just kidding. That was a test to see if you're actually reading this post...)
*** The Spanish bit is from an old song, from an old band, and if you cannot recall it, then clearly you have better taste in music than me. :)


Lemon-Sage Roasted Chicken

I tried to get all artsy fartsy with the herbs & flavors in this yummy recipe. Lemon Thyme is a pretty pink perennial I like to grow in the garden. Italian Parsley and Cooking Sage** do well in the garden, too. Rosemary comes and goes. She requires too much water and therefore dies more often than she survives. And, that's fine by me. Dried, crushed rosemary imparts great flavor to chicken and homegrown potatoes. As for the lemons? Well, until I can garden in zone 9 Nirvana those remain on the grocery list.

Do you ever bite the bullet and roast a whole chicken? There's not much cause to do so these days since the supermarkets happily do that for us. But every once in awhile I love to make this from-scratch version of that bird in the bag so readily available at the market.
  1. Place the chicken in a large stew pot and cover with water.
  2. Toss in 2 sliced lemons.
  3. Plus, one full cup of crushed herbs just like Simon and Garfunkel suggested way back when ~ parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. 
  4. And, 1/2 chopped yellow onion and a full clove, chopped, fresh garlic.
  5. Put the lid on this mess and let it percolate in the 'frig overnight.
Drain this glorious bird while you're pre-heating the oven to 475 degrees (F.) No, that's not a typo. Roasting chicken at hot, hot temps is the secret to a moist, delicious meal. Put your cast iron skillet into the oven while it's pre-heating.

After about 15-20 minutes, remove the hot skillet, coat it with olive oil and brown the chicken in it. Then put the skillet and chicken back into the 475 degree oven and roast for about an hour. (Time depends upon the size of the bird.)

* Now I know what you're thinking... 2 days of effort vs. 10 minutes in the checkout line at the supermarket. Is it worth it? Well, I can tell you it makes for one ultra-marvy Sunday Dinner. :)

** Cooking Sage differs from the ornamental sages popular in the garden. Look for Salvia officinalis - the flowers are edible, as well, and have a subtler flavor than the sage leaves.


Mâche and Asparagus Salad

Bees are diggin' the cucumber flowers.

This week's volunteer day at the organic farm involved counting to 9 about 900 times. I transplanted baby bok choy seedlings ~ spaced exactly 9 inches apart, in 3 perfect rows, in raised beds that go on for at least a mile.

Oh, okay, I could be exaggerating just a teeny bit. Bending over garden beds, for long periods of time, is not hard work. It's just one of those punishing torture sessions isometric exercises that remind me of how my flexible Gumby doll days are long gone.

Freshly harvested Mâche Lettuce

In the mornings, we do chores. In the afternoons, we harvest goodies.

This week, I discovered a brand new type of lettuce that's been around for 300 years. {In France.} It's called Mâche ~ a sweet, nutty, lettuce variety that might be perfect for mountain gardens because they appreciate cold temperatures. Mâche lettuce can even handle a mild freeze.

Why haven't we seen this in our grocery stores? Probably because Mâche needs to be hand-harvested so mechanized corporate farms could never offer such a delicacy.

Magnificent Mâche and Asparagus Salad
  • Mâche lettuce leaves
  • Shredded radicchio (the red/white head lettuce) - use about half as much of this as the Mâche.
  • Snipped tops of green onions. (Just the greens, not the white.)
  • Bite-size asparagus tips (gently steamed)
  • Toasted pine nuts (heat them in a small Teflon pan for a couple minutes to bring out the flavor.)
  • Mandarin oranges
* Toss these ingredients in a large bowl, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
* Sprinkle with goat cheese and be dazzled.
Every Wednesday, I volunteer at High Star Organic Farm, located in Kamas, Utah. 
I get paid in carrots.
And, the girls are glad I do.  :)

Roasted Carrot and Arugula Salad Recipe

The Arugula is bolting. Which means we need to whip up a yummy salad quick! I've got you covered. Find a recipe, down below...

When salad greens 'bolt' it's their way of saying life in the greenhouse is too hot to handle. They send up pretty flower stalks, hoping to go to seed. Their leaves turn bitter quickly -- the best solution I have for such a dilemma is to compost these beauties and start all over again.

Every Wednesday, I volunteer at a local organic farm - with high hopes of learning a whole lot more about growing my own veggies.

This week's fab harvest included fresh, baby carrots. They lounge on these screened tables after I give them a bath:
Rubbed, tubbed and scrubbed: first baby carrots.

Roasted Carrot and Arugula Salad
- Slice young carrots in half lengthwise (Remove the greens and feed them to my eternally grateful horses)
- Drizzle with olive oil
- Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt and pepper
- Roast at 400 F until the carrot tips have browned

* Create a bed of chopped arugula for your fancy carrots.
* Garnish with Feta cheese, walnuts and craisins.
* Add the finishing touch - your favorite vinaigrette.

Bok Choy and Radish Coleslaw

Bok Choy, fresh-picked at the High Star Organic Farm greenhouse.

To me, the most fun aspect of owning a local's produce farm share is how you never know what you'll be making for dinner until your box of goodies shows up.

I'm at the mercy of whatever produce is freshly harvested each week. This week's score was Bok Choy and Radishes - 2 things I've never purchased before, prompting creation of a brand new salad idea...

Bok Choy & Radish Coleslaw
  • 1 head fresh bok choy, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh, chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green tops of fresh green onions
  • 2 tablespoons Litehouse brand light coleslaw dressing


Three Cheese Artichoke Nibbles

It's a tradition. On winter full moons, we gather the usual suspects, don our snowshoes, and take an adventurous hike through the snowy woods. Most times, the moon lights our path so nicely that we don't even need headlamps to find our way.

After a bit of hard work, we rendezvous back at the lodge to warm ourselves in front of a roaring fire. There, we sip some wine and try to out-do one another with fabulous little finger foods. 

Here's mine from last night ~ which got rave reviews from all my snowshoeing friends:

Three Cheese Artichoke Nibbles
The general consensus: "these tasty little goodies are pretty much to die for"
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts, finely chopped
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 - 6 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 containers Better'n Eggs (liquid eggs) Or, 12 shell eggs.
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 container French Fried Onions
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese
How To:
Saute onion, artichokes and garlic in a little bit of olive oil. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon into mini muffin tins. Bake these little goodies @ 350 (F) for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Happy February Full Snow Moon

* While this is not a low fat appetizer, using liquid eggs vs. shell eggs trims 48 grams of fat from this recipe. Bonus! You really can't tell a difference in taste. I prefer Better'n Eggs because this brand doesn't contain seasonings that interfere with my recipe flavors.


Roasted Beets

Please don't write me off as a raving lunatic. Not just yet, anyway. I know... I know... the only time you've ever eaten beets was when Granny forced them down you ~ and the only good thing to come of that experience was how they turned your taters pink.

But, here's an amazing fact about the lowly beet: Eaten fresh, they're surprisingly tasty.

Roasted Beets
Prep time: 1 whole minute!
  • Snip tops and tails
  • Rub, tub and scrub
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Sprinkle with sea salt
  • Roast @ 375 (F) until slightly tender (about 45 minutes)
Who knew?
Beets are simply suffering from a bad rap because cheap salad bars display their canned counterparts just to make us queasy.

Fresh beets are rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus, and a gazillion other things that are good for us, though we're not sure why. Fresh beets are so healthy they even slow cancerous tumors. But, why wait until you have one foot in the grave to give them a try? Roasted beets are dee-lish.


Flower Pot Bread

It may look like a bread pan but it's actually a flower pot I never use. :)

On Mondays I bake bread. Don't I sound like a Pioneer Woman?

Alas, that's about as far from me as we could be. The only kid getting home schooled around this joint is Bad Dog. Were I to hand out report cards, he'd be getting an F.

I bake bread for a few simple reasons:
  1. I love the methodical motion of kneading bread dough.
  2. I'm learning how to live on half my salary...
  3. Therefore! I'm very upset that a totally tasty loaf of bread can cost four or five bucks. Such delightful luxuries are no longer within my budget.
These days, I make 'artisan bread' at home. I love this simple recipe and I especially love the fact that the ingredients cost me about... 50 cents!
Good to go. It will rise more in the oven because this bread isn't punched down and allowed to rise a second time. A sprinkling of cornmeal keeps the bread from sticking.

Flower Pot Bread
* Named as such because I'm too cheap to go purchase a terracotta bread pan. Breads bake up quite nicely in this old flower box.
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4.5 teaspoons active yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups warm water
How to:
Using an electric mixer, combine the white flour, yeast, honey, salt and water. Mix for 2-3 minutes. Add the whole wheat flour while stirring with a large spoon. Sprinkle a little bit of white flour onto a bread board, knead for 10 minutes. (Great isometrics!) If the bread is sticky while kneading, simply add a little more flour.

And, then:
Place in a terracotta bread pan. Let it rise - perhaps an hour or so. Bake at 375 (F) for about 45 minutes. Easy peasy!
Tips for truly great homemade bread:
Preheat the oven to 425, turn heat down to 375, pop the loaf in the oven, mist with a little spritz of water. The beginnings of high heat and the misting gives you a nice, crunchy bread crust.

* A yummy, fat-free dense bread.
** This is a high altitude recipe that requires no specific adjustments for lower altitudes. You may find your dough requires more flour and it's okay to add up to another cup.