Category: Appetizer

Spanakopita – Remembering Spinach (CWF: Nadja and Esmee)

Spanakopita – Remembering Spinach (CWF: Nadja and Esmee)

Do you remember spinach? You know, that green superfood that kinda got pushed to the sidelines when foods like kale and chard started taking center stage as the new trendy superfood? Lucky for you I’m here to remind you how tasty spinach can be, that it’s still packed with a wealth of health benefits, and that there is a popular Greek dish called Spanakopita, or spinach pie, that will make you fall in love with spinach all over again.

I still remember the first time I tried spanakopita. It was in a charming Greek restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago called The Athenian Room. My college girlfriend (who happened to be Greek) worked there on the weekends, and it wasn’t long before the rest of us became frequent diners. The Athenian Room is famous for their Kalamata Greek Chicken, their signature dish, but for me it was their Spanakopita that had me going back.

Spanakopita is a very popular savory pastry pie in Greek cuisine. It’s made with very thin layers of phyllo dough that is filled with spinach, feta cheese, onions and fresh herbs, all perfectly baked to a lightly brown crust. It’s traditionally made in a large pan and eventually cut into square pie pieces, but I like to prepare mine in small individual triangle-shaped servings so that I can serve them either as a snack, an appetizer or a vegetarian meal.

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Mango Guacamole – A Winner

Mango Guacamole – A Winner

Every summer I used to have a contest with my nephew to decipher who could make the best guacamole. He was convinced he had the better recipe, and naturally I was convinced otherwise. Our families were always left to judge, and it would end in a 50-50 tie, year after year. Luckily after years of our ‘family guacamole challenge’ I finally prevailed with my new guacamole recipe that even had my nephew asking for the recipe, that being the Mango Guacamole recipe.

The Mango Guacamole includes the addition of a fresh ripe mango. Certainly a very untraditional ingredient in guacamole, but the mango adds an unexpected sweet flavor to the traditional guacamole that balances deliciously with the tartness of the lime and the sharp taste from the shallot. The orange mango chunks also create a beautiful color combination against the green avocados, making it a wonderful presentation for your next dinner guests.

As with traditional guacamole you can serve the Mango Guacamole with corn tortilla chips, add it to your tacos or burrito bowls, or just top it over some very cheesy quesadillas. The Mango Guacamole is also super easy to make and requires just a few simple ingredients.

Go ahead, invite someone for a ‘guacamole challenge’. You are sure to win with this Mango Guacamole recipe. But be prepared because chances are your challenger will ask you for the recipe.

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Tabbouleh Salad With Quinoa – Chop Chop

Tabbouleh Salad With Quinoa – Chop Chop

Tabbouleh Salad (or tabouli) is one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes. It’s tart and tangy with an abundance of herbs, veggies and the healthy craze of quinoa (pronounced ‘kin-wha’). A typical tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat, but I choose to make mine with quinoa because it’s gluten-free and vitamin-rich.

The star ingredient to any tabbouleh salad is finely chopped parsley, and this recipe is no exception. A lot of parsley goes into this recipe, so don’t be shy with it and definitely don’t scale back thinking I made a typo in the ingredient section. I didn’t.

The secret to making a great Tabbouleh salad is making sure everything is finely chopped, especially the parsley since it’s the star ingredient to tabbouleh. It is the essential method to releasing the strong herb flavors and distributing the proper flavors evenly throughout the salad. Although cucumbers are not traditionally used in Tabbouleh salad, I like to add it to mine as it adds crunch and freshness. You can also cater your Tabbouleh Salad to your liking by adding in your preferred vegetables. Just don’t forget to finely chop and you’ll have yourself a delicious treat.

Try Tabbouleh Salad as a side dish (goes great with chicken or fish), or try serving it on a bed of lettuce or with a side of pita bread for a fresh and light main course.

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Italian Pasta Salad – Make It Your Own

Italian Pasta Salad – Make It Your Own

I fell in love with Italian Pasta Salad the first time I tried it. It’s my favorite kind of pasta salad. I can eat it non-stop and I never seem to get full from it.

Italian Pasta Salad is not known here in the Netherlands, and neither is Italian salad dressing which is the main ingredient you need to make Italian Pasta Salad. But it’s the start of BBQ season, the start of picnic season, and the start of summer potluck parties. I was really starting to crave this Italian Pasta Salad, the salad that I enjoyed so much in the summer season back home in Chicago.

I don’t know why I never bothered to look up the recipe for Italian salad dressing until now. There are tons of recipes to choose from and it is sooooo easy to make. I guess I thought that if it comes in a bottle then it must be the only way you can get it. I was fortunately wrong.  And not only is freshly made Italian salad dressing much tastier, it is much healthier without all the unrecognizable preservatives.

Aside from the favorite choice of pasta for this salad, rotini or fusilli, you can prepare this salad with any of your favorite vegetables. I like mine with broccoli florets and cucumber slices, but you can also add in black olives, sliced pepperoni, carrots, or just about anything you like with Italian salad dressing.  It is, afterall, the kind of pasta salad that is meant to be your favorite.

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Watermelon Feta Salad

Watermelon Feta Salad

The combination of watermelon and feta cheese may sound a little bit unusual, but you need to trust me on this one and try it. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and savory, and it’s going to be your favorite salad this summer.

We’ve had some pretty hot temperatures already here in the Netherlands, and we haven’t even dove into the summer season yet. Luckily, watermelon has already made its appearance in the supermarkets, and I’ve made frequent trips already just for the watermelon, just to make this Watermelon Feta Salad.

This Watermelon Feta Salad is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. It’s a beautiful cookbook filled with many vegetarian recipes and mouth-watering pictures. I read this cookbook from beginning to end, and good thing I did because this Watermelon Feta Salad recipe is the very last recipe in the book.  I guess you could say Ottolenghi saved his very best recipe for last.

This is a great salad for a BBQ, picnic, brunch, or actually anytime on a hot summer day. With only five simple ingredients you can prepare this Watermelon Feta Salad in no time all summer long.

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Tomato Crostini With Whipped Feta

Tomato Crostini With Whipped Feta

I’m going to help you out with your next dinner party by giving you the best appetizer recipe. It’s called the Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta. It’s fresh, really delicious, and the recipe is very forgiving (meaning it will come out unbelievably tasty every time you make it). All the prep work can be prepared in advance, allowing you to spend more time with your guests and actually enjoy the party too. Best of all these crispy toasts with marinated tomatoes and lemony sharp feta cheese will leave your friends thinking you are not only a great cook but also a well-organized party host.

I’ve made the Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta countless times. It’s my go-to appetizer, especially when I am serving an Italian dinner. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t limit this recipe to just dinner parties where I am serving Italian cuisine. This is my top choice for BBQ dinners, happy hour evenings (or ‘borrel’ in Dutch), or a light lunch or snack. As a family we even like to enjoy it as a dinner course, turning our favorite appetizer into a meal. I just double the recipe when this is the case.

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Spring Rolls – The Magic Spell (CWF: Sylvia)

Spring Rolls – The Magic Spell (CWF: Sylvia)

I grew up calling them egg rolls, and then into my adult years started calling them spring rolls. I think somewhere in between I even called them summer rolls. I know there is a difference in the wrapping, filling, size, and whether they are fried or not, but which is for which? Does anybody know? I live in the Netherlands now and luckily the Dutch have just one name for it: Loempia. So that is what I call it nowadays.

Just a few weeks after we moved to the Netherlands it was soon Easter. My in-laws were coming to visit and not knowing what a typical Dutch Easter brunch was (after living here for 7 years I still don’t know) I decided that having égg’ rolls on the menu was a fun idea. So an idea was born, and the search for the best loempia recipe was on.

I did indeed eventually come up with the best loempia recipe. It was honestly one of the few things I knew how to cook at the time, and if you were going to have a prize recipe in your recipe index this one was sure to be it. Everyone loved it. I was proud and happy to see that friends and family enjoyed it. I think I brought it to every potluck, holiday party, and every other event we had where I needed to bring a dish. These loempias actually misled a lot of people into thinking I could cook.

This week my dear friend, Sylvia from Hackbarth Art, came over to help me make (and eat) my loempias for this blogpost and new segment, Cooking with Friends. When I sent her a text asking if she would be interested in taking part of this post it was only a matter of seconds before I got her response. That is how good these loempias are. It works like a magic spell. Make them yourself…and use the loempias to get what you want!

CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce – Penny For Your Thoughts

Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce – Penny For Your Thoughts

When I think of Thai food I always have to think about Penny’s Noodle Shop in Chicago. It was there that I had my first Thai food experience. I was just out of college and worked nearby, so it was a popular lunch destination, one where my co-workers and I visited often. And when I think of Penny’s Noodle Shop I am always reminded of how I love their Vietnamese spring rolls. Why they had Vietnamese spring rolls on a Thai menu I really don’t know, but I surely did not mind.

These Vietnamese spring rolls as you may know are not fried. They are made with softened rice paper that is filled with vegetables, noodles and a variation of meat such as chicken, pork, beef or shrimp. What makes these spring rolls so tasty though is the THAI PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE that is served with it. It never failed to have the peanut dipping sauce disappear before I could finish all my spring rolls. I always had to order a second portion of this yummy peanut dipping sauce.

Since living in the Netherlands I haven’t been able to find a good Thai restaurant that serves their Vietnamese spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce that is as good as Penny’s Noodle Shop’s, but luckily I was able to find a peanut dipping sauce recipe that is equally as delicious. It includes the taste of red curry, so it has an extra authentic kick to it.

Whether you are having spring rolls, chicken satay, salad, or just need a dip for your veggies, this peanut dipping sauce won’t disappoint.

SEE RECIPE

Ranch Dip – An American Thing

Ranch Dip – An American Thing

I have a ranch dip story. It happened in my first week living in the Netherlands. I was at the supermarket and when I realized I forgot to get a bottle of ranch dressing i asked my husband to quickly go get it while I stand in line. He came back empty-handed. He said he couldn’t find it.

Not believing him I told him this time i will go get it while he stands in line. Well, there were surely a lot of dressings that looked like ranch, but OMG no ranch! In my denial I was convinced the store was just out of stock, but later when I asked around I learned that ranch dressing is an American thing and not known to the Dutch.

Since then i found the best ranch dressing/dip recipe. I make it so often that I don’t even need to look up the recipe anymore. I never even knew you could make ranch dressing/dip at home. I thought it was one of those things you just buy, like ketchup. And best of all the ingredients are easy to find and it is just a matter of stirring all the ingredients together. Super easy and super quick!

SEE RECIPE

Ramen Noodle Salad – My Secret Snack

Ramen Noodle Salad – My Secret Snack

I think the first thing I ever ‘cooked’ was Sapparo Ichiban original flavored ramen noodles. There was always a big box (a box included 21 packages!!) in our kitchen pantry. It was one of my favorite meals as a child.

What I loved the most about ramen noodles is eating them raw, not cooked, just straight out of the package. Sometimes it even tasted better than the warm cooked version. This was my little secret though as this was not the proper way to eat ramen noodles. My older sisters didn’t eat ramen noodles raw (or at least I wasn’t aware of it), and certainly neither did my parents, so I kept this to myself. Thank goodness my parents always bought the large box though. Taking just 1 or 2 packages here and there never went noticed!

In my twenties I had stopped eating these packaged ramen noodles because of my growing interest in eating more whole and fresh foods. I did crave it though, and was often tempted to buy just 1 package. But having 3 small children gave me the willpower to just walk away.

This was only until a few months ago when I landed on a David Chang episode of Mind of a Chef: Noodle. In the preview he explained that while other kids came home to an after school snack of Chef Boyrdee, he ate ramen noodles after school…RAW! He even sprinkled on the little packaged seasoning right over the raw ramen noodles. Mr. King of Noodles and I had the same secret as children. I must definitely be on the right track in my cooking journey if I had the same idea as David Chang!

Since then I’ve found THE BEST salad that includes a sprinkle of raw ramen noodles. I could eat this everyday for lunch. My family rate this the best salad EVER!!

SEE RECIPE