Category Archives: appetizer

An Ingredient for Every Pot – Brie Tarts

I am beginning to practice what I preach and finding my sermons to be quite practical. We freely give advice and sometimes even get paid for it but why do we not use it ourselves? You know the scenario, doctor tells patient not to smoke and lose some weight while their at it, then goes out for a cheese steak, fries, and a few smokes themselves. Are we above our own advice? Well not any more! I am listening to both my personalities and carrying out their wisdom bearing voices to the nines.
I have a few signature dishes, old stand-bys, and frequently requested recipes. The ingredients are readily available, straight forward and often times regular inhabitants of my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. But why do I let them run out, I mean really run out, for months even? Well I have decided to keep a running supply of a few select items that can be whipped together to complete a dish, last-minute-company-just-pulled-in-the-driveway-appetizer, or “hey can you bring a dessert to the potluck tonight?” I am changing my “No Ingredients Left Act” to “An Ingredient For Every Pot Act” starting with these little gems; Brie Tarts. Nifty, sophisticated little affairs that go long on visual appeal and taste.

Brie Tarts
Brie Tarts
1 (15 count) mini frozen Phyllo cups (tenants of my freezer)
Brie cheese– cut into 15 cubes the size of a regular dice (refrigerator regular attendee)
2 1/2 T. apricot preserves-or any other jam or preserves (hangs out on my refrigerator door)
15 pecan halves (freezer drawer monger)
Preheat oven to 400°. Remove Phyllo cups from their package and place on a cookie sheet. Place one cube of Brie in each cup and top with 1/2 t. preserves then a pecan half. Bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and preserves bubble. Remove to a pretty serving device and enjoy warm or at room temperature.


Bacon– is there anything it doesn’t make taster better? Ok, ice cream, maybe– I’ll give you that.
Rumaki is an easy-to-make appetizer that is a definite crowd-pleaser. There are many ways to make it– here’s one that has worked well for me. The recipe:
1 lb Bacon
1 can Whole Water Chestnuts
1 Sweet Pineapple, chopped into chunks
10 Dates, chopped in half
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tsp soy sauce
Cut the bacon into thirds. Wrap bacon around the water chestnuts, securing with a tooth pick. Then wrap the pineapple and the dates. Place each wrap on a baking tray. Broil the rumaki for 10-12 minutes, flipping mid-way through (so that’s 5-6 minutes per side, ok?) While broiling, mix together the ketchup, soy sauce, and sugar. Remove tray from oven, then set the oven to bake at 350 degrees. Drizzle, baste, or dip the rumaki with or in the sauce. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.

Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs

The family recipe!
Two recipes for the price of one:
Italian Meatballs
1 to 1.5 lbs of Ground Beef (80%-85% lean)
1 Egg
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Italian-style Bread Crumbs
1 heaping tsp dried basil
1 heaping tbl dried parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Best way to do it– with your hands!
Roll mixture into golf ball-sized balls (or whatever size you’re after) and place on foil-lined baking tray.
Bake for 20 minutes. Switch oven the “broil” for the last 5 of those 20 minutes.
Quick, Simple Tomato Sauce
Too often, people over-spice the heck out of a tomato sauce. Guilty as charged! Try this simple sauce and let the tomatoes speak mostly for themselves…
1/2 Yellow onion– chopped
1 Carrot, finely shredded.
2-3 cloves garlic
2 28oz cans of crushed tomato
1 28oz can of whole Plum Tomatoes
3 tbl dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
In a large pot heat 2 tbl of olive oil on medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and carrot and cook until onions are translucent.
Add garlic, cook for another minute.
Set burner to “Low.”
Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 min, stirring occasionally. When adding each plum tomato, crush it in your hand to break it apart before adding it to the sauce. This makes for a nice chunky sauce.

Hot Pesto Dippin’ Stuff

Great for dipping Italian breads. Fast to make. Garlicky, salty. Bring on the Chianti.

The recipe:
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp basil
1 tsp kosher salt
3-4 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Heat the olive oil in a small/medium frying pan over medium heat. Toss in the garlic. Let it simmer for a few seconds. Add the salt and basil. Stir and simmer until the garlic shows a hint of browning. This will all happen pretty quick. Take it off the heat and pour it in a plate. Let it cool a little, but serve it hot. Sop it up with bread.


Guacamole. I spent almost three years as a cook in a TexMex restaurant where I would make vats of the stuff. It was good then, but it’s better now with my own spin. I’m pretty confident in that– there’s never any left overs!

The recipe:
2 Ripe Avocados
1/2 Medium-sized Red Onion
1-2 Jalapeno Peppers
1-2 Cherry Peppers
1/2 Lime
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt (keep more salt handy for adjusting)
1/2 tsp Ground Coriander Seed
1/4 cup Sour Cream (or dollop, whatever that is in your mind.)
1 oz (a shot) Tequila

Dice the onion and the peppers and set them aside.
Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop out the avocado flesh with a spoon. Put the flesh in a bowl, add 1/2 tsp salt and mash with a potato masher to the desired consistency. Juice the lime into the mixture. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Add salt to taste.


  • The plant that grows from the coriander seed is known in U.S. supermarkets as cilantro. The taste, though, between seed and plant is completely different. Avoid the temptation to use cilantro in the guacamole. It is evil. Don’t believe me? Visit
  • Sample the guacamole with a spoon and then add salt to taste. If you are serving your dip with chips, though, you should sample the guacamole with a chip since chips, at least most of them, are salted. You could end up over-salting your dip.
  • Adding tequila can bring out alcohol soluble flavors– Mmmm. However, one thing soluble in alcohol is capsaicin– that’s the stuff that makes peppers hot. That means that the hotness of pepper lessens in alcohol– which is partially why drinking a cold beer after eating some hot wings takes a wee bit of the edge off. So, if you like it hot, you may want to add an extra pepper.
  • Which brings me to the peppers. Sometimes when I purchase jalapenos they are hot. Sometimes, they aren’t so hot. When you’re shopping, buy one or two more than you need just in case they’re on the mild side. You can always add some ground cayenne pepper to the dip if you want it really hot. Just remember that spicy doesn’t always mean good– save that for the wing-eating contest. That’s two mentions of wings now– do I need to do a show on wings?