Maple Popcorn

Since my childhood I always associate Halloween with popcorn, apple cider and powdered sugar donuts.  I think the reason might be one of our neighbor’s when I was growing up always made the neighborhood children popcorn balls for Halloween.   Apple cider and donuts is an easy one, my elementary school always had a Harvest Festival and always served apple cider and powdered sugar donuts.  Isn’t it always fascinating how we associate certain foods with holidays and traditions.  To stick with my memories, I wanted to share this favorite recipe for popcorn.  It is a bit different from typical caramel popcorn since the identifying ingredient is maple syrup.  After this popcorn bakes, it is like eating maple sugar coated popcorn.  Always a hit no matter where I take it.  

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Maple Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 3 bags `microwave popcorn/plain, with added sea salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Pop corn as directed on package, pour into extra large bowl or roasting pan.  Combine butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla and immediately pour over popcorn.  Stir quickly, mixture will be extremely hot.  Stir until all of the popcorn is coated or almost coated. Pour onto foil lined baking sheets and bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stir every 15 minutes.  Cool and serve

Hummus/Interesting Find – Lebanese Bistro, Burke, VA

We recently ate at a Lebanese restaurant in Burke, VA, Lebanese Bistro. It is a gem tucked away in a strip shopping center.  Roland and Maria, the owners, invited us for an unbelievable dinner.   It was so fun, I never saw their menu since they ordered all of their specialties for us to try.  Every bite from every dish was just great.  I must admit I ate myself into a “food coma”  you know what that is – when everything is so good you just cannot resist a bite.  Maria graciously shared her Hummus recipe with me after I mentioned how delicious their hummus was.  One note, she never uses canned chickpeas.  This was not new to me since I have made other recipes with dried chickpeas, but you might not be familiar with cooking with dried chickpeas.  Similar to other dried beans that you cook, you soak them overnight and then simmer them until done.  I think this step is the key to her wonderful hummus.  

Photo of the hummus served at the Lebanese Bistro 

 

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Hummus- Lebanese Bistro

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini sauce
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor - Voila - exceptional hummus thanks to my friend Maria and the Lebanese Bistro, Burke, VA.


    To cook chickpeas - cover dried chickpeas with water to cover plus a few inches.  Cover and let sit overnight.  Drain and rinse.  Place in a saucepan and cover with water, plus a few inches, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 - 2 hours until soft.

 

Below are a few photos I took during dinner…

                                        

 

Southern Crab Nachos

You might wonder why I call these Southern Crab Nachos.  Well, it is because I added a layer of cheese grits!  I met Parker Hinson  from Old School Mill in Albemarle, NC. and he graciously gave me a bag of their stone ground grits.  After living in Texas for five years and making grits frequently, I can absolutely say these are the best grits I have ever had. I wanted to add a southern twist to my nachos and decided to add a layer of cheese grits.  The best thing about these nachos is not only does the top of the Southern Crab Nachos ooze with deliciousness of cheese and crab, the bottom chips scoop up a wonderful layer of cheese grits with the other toppings.  Each bite is so delicious you will want to make extras!

These grits are a find!  Check out their website http://oldschool.com  Here is a little bit on info on their mill:

Old School Brand uses the art of stone grinding grains into wonderfully pure meals, flours, and grits. Since those first products were made we have developed a line of foods and mixes that bring back all the rich goodness and flavor of centuries ago.

 

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Southern Crab Nachos

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Cheese Grits
  • 1 recipe Black Bean Relish
  • 8 - 12 ounces jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1 large bag tortilla chips (flour or corn)
  • 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 recipe Avocado Lime Buttermilk Dressing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare grits and spoon over the bottom of your ovenproof serving dish. Top with layers of tortilla chips.  Spoon over the black bean relish, crab meat and cheeses.  Bake until hot and bubbly, 8 - 12 minutes.  Serve with a side of avocado lime buttermilk dressing.

 

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Cheese Grits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup stone ground grits
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring water and salt to a boil.  Add grits.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. 

 

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Black Bean Relish

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/3 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients.

 

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Avocado Lime Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime peel
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut avocado in half and discard pit, scoop flesh into food processor bowl. Combine all remaining ingredients in the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve

Easy Spinach and Cheese Bites

In my arsenal of recipes, I came across this recipe that is from my mom’s recipe box.  She was always the master of making delicious, quick to prepare recipes, from easy to find ingredients.  I am aware of all of the online ship-to-your-house websites that advertise easy to prepare meals in a box.  I am sure there are many that use these sites for their weekly meals and I know in certain situations they are a lifesaver of convenience.  I even purchased a gift card on one site for a couple expecting twins; I thought they would appreciate a few meals that were easy to prepare and did not require a trip to the store. But, on an every day basis, it is easy to prepare foods just like my mom made, with fresh and easy to find ingredients.  Easy Spinach and Cheese Bites are perfect when entertaining, a light lunch or along side a cup of soup.  

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Easy Spinach and Cheese Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup grated cheese, mozzarella and cheddar mixed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 English muffins
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • garlic salt
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the spinach as directed, drain and dry the spinach.   In a medium bowl mix the spinach, cheeses, and egg until well blended.  Split the muffins in half, spread each half with butter and sprinkle with garlic salt.  Spread spinach mixture on each half, top with Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 10 minutes, then put under the broiler to brown and get hot and bubbly (watch carefully).  Cut each muffin half into 4 pieces to serve.

Goat Cheese Mousse

Have you ever heard of goat cheese mousse?   I was one that had never heard of it or tasted it until I visited the farmers’ market in Durham, NC.  While shopping this lovely market,  I purchased a jar of goat cheese mousse topped with blueberry jam.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but with the reaction of shoppers all purchasing jars of Goat Cheese Mousse, I knew it had to be something good.  There was only one label on the jar that said Goat Cheese Mousse, no list of ingredients.  After a bit of research and experimentation, I think I have come up with the easiest appetizer recipe you can make.  I like to top the mousse with hot pepper jelly but you can be creative and top it with any of your preferred jams or chutneys.  Perfect on crackers, toast or bagels.

5 from 1 vote
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Goat Cheese Mousse

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 5-6 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Put goat cheese into a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer beat until smooth, gradually add heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time.  Continue until goat cheese is smooth and fluffy.  Typically it will take 5 - 6 tablespoons of cream.  Once mixture is fluffy, spoon into a serving container. Top with preserves or chutney of choice.

    You can easily adjust the recipe according to the amount of goat cheese used.

Overnight Marinated Shrimp and Avocados

Have you ever been asked to bring an appetizer to a party?  This is the recipe that you will want to keep handy and prepare over and over again.  As you know from the majority of my posts, I love make ahead easy to prepare dishes.  Overnight Marinated Shrimp and Avocados is just that type of recipe.  Always a hit – serve with water crackers or over a bed of lettuce.  The perfect appetizer or first course.

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Overnight Marinated Shrimp and Avocados

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined, cooked
  • 2 avocados, firm and ripe, cubed
  • 1 red onion, sliced extremely thin
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Place the shrimp, avocados, and red onion in a large zip top bag.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over shrimp mixture.  Toss to coat.  Refrigerate overnight, turn bag a few times.  Drain mixture, serve cold.  Serves 12 as an appetizer.

Orange Cucumber Mussels on the Half Shell

Mussels are one of our favorite dinners.  I typically cook a large pot of steaming mussels every Friday night.  They are perfect to cook after a busy week and there is nothing better than a pot of angry mussels, crusty bread and a great bottle of wine.  This time, I wanted to serve cold mussels as an appetizer.  Orange Cucumber Mussels on the Half Shell are so easy to make and a show stopper of an appetizer!  Steam the mussels in shallots and wine, remove the mussels from their shells, toss with orange and cucumber relish, load back into the shells and refrigerate until serving.  As a quick side note – when shopping for mussels, I always ask at the fish counter for the freshest bag of mussels they have, ask  ice to go and always keep the plastic bag open so they can breathe.

 

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Orange Cucumber Mussels on the Half Shell

Ingredients

  • 1 -2 pound bag mussels
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 orange, finely diced, save the juice
  • 1 seedless cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 tomato, finely diced, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallot and garlic, cook 2 minutes stirring frequently.  Add white wine and bring mixture to a boil.  Add mussels and cook covered for approximately 5 minutes or until the mussels have opened.  Stir once or twice while the mussels are cooking.  Drain mussels in a colander.  Throw away any mussels that did not open. Remove mussels from their shells and place in a medium size mixing bowl.  Reserve shells.  Toss mussels with the orange, cucumber, tomato, and parsley.  Add the white wine vinegar and salt and pepper.  Refrigerate.  Rinse shells and place on a serving platter.  After the mussel mixture is chilled, approximately 2 hours, spoon one mussel into each shell half, top with some of the minced vegetables.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Cheese Wafers

When we lived in Texas, cheese wafers were extremely popular snacks.  I think they are perfect with a glass of wine or add Cheese Wafers to any cheese and fruit tray.  Making Cheese Wafers is similar to making slice and bake cookies. I often divide the dough; bake one now and freeze the other cheese log to bake at a later date.  The sharp cheddar and Parmesan cheese are just the perfect combination.  I like to add a bit of cayenne pepper, you can certainly adjust the amount if you like a cracker with spice.  These are best if stored in an airtight container.

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Cheese Wafers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups flour

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until you have a smooth dough.  Turn dough out  onto 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  Form into two logs approximately 1 inch in diameter.  Refrigerate logs for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the logs into 1/4 inch slices.  Place on baking sheet and bake 30 minutes or until they begin to brown around the edges.  Cool.  Store in airtight container.  You can freeze the logs, just place in refrigerator to thaw overnight, slice and bake.

  

Chipotle Grilled Wings

On a recent trip to Fayetteville, NC we had dinner at a terrific bar/restaurant called Mac’s Speed Shop.  Their wings were hands down the best wings I have ever had.  They smoked their wings and tossed them in a wonderful chipotle sauce.  The thought of those wings made me think of grilling wings and then tossing them with a BBQ sauce with a hint of chipotles.  These wings are truly finger lickin’ good. Did you know the key to grilling wings is to have them touch each other while grilling to keep them moist and to turn them every 6-8 minutes.  It takes about 35-40 minutes for the wings to be crispy on the outside and fall-off the bone tender.  Serve them with your favorite blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing.  Keep plenty of napkins handy – you will need them!

 

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Chipotle Grilled Wings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken wings, cut
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1//4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook wings over medium heat on the grill, turn every 6 - 8 minutes for approx. 35 minutes or until crispy and meat is falling off the bone.  When grilling, the wings should be touching each other as they cook to keep them moist.  While the wings are grilling, combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Remove wings from grill when finished cooking, place in bowl with sauce and toss until all are coated.  Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing on the side.

 

White Truffle Popcorn

You cannot pass by this recipe.  The elegant taste of truffles tossed with popcorn is a taste sensation.  When I was playing around with ingredients one day, I brought out my bottle of white truffle oil and I had just made my Cantaloupe Tomato Salad and fresh Italian parsley was still on my cutting board.  I thought it was time for a glass of wine and I needed a break from recipe writing.  Out came a bag of microwave popcorn and I tossed in a few other items.   Time to sit, relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

5 from 1 vote
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White Truffle Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, plain
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon white truffle oil
  • 1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley minced
  • kosher salt,

Instructions

  1. Pop corn as directed on package.  Pour popped corn into a large bowl.  Toss with white truffle oil, add melted butter, toss.  Add cheese and parsley, toss.  Salt to taste.  Enjoy!