Holiday, Starters

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese

This is an awesome light appetizer for the holidays.  My sister in law made this for the first time a few years back.  I still remember when I saw it I was unsure of what it was.  The moment she said it was cranberry salsa I could feel the grin on my face forming.  Just because cranberry and salsa don’t usually go.  I am not a huge cranberry fan but the moment I tasted this I was HOOKED.  I make it every year around the holidays.  I should make it more often because that’s how much I love it now.

Cranberry Salsa

12 oz cranberries, rinsed
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 small red onion, quartered
1 jalapeño, cut in large pieces (remove seeds if you want mild keep seeds for spicier)
1 cup sugar (more of less to preference)
1 medium lime, juiced
2 t salt
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
Crackers

Direction: In food processor add in the cranberries, cilantro, red onion, jalapeños, lime juice and sugar.  Pulse until minced.  Feel free to leave chunkier if you’d prefer.  I like it rather fine.  Season the cranberry salsa with salt to taste.  Place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.  This will help the sugar work with the cranberries.

I’ve seen several recipes for cranberry salsa over the years and they usually use a lot of sugar.  You can do that, I just prefer it to be less sweet and get more flavors from the other ingredients.  I’d add the sugar slowly and start out with less and see how you like it.  Add more if needed.

Once ready to serve spread cream cheese on a serving dish.  Mix the cranberry salsa well and top over the cream cheese.  Serve with crackers of your choice. You can also make this on mini dishes or cups for individual portions.

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Starters

Caprese Bruschetta

This Caprese Bruschetta is a great starter for any meal or even for a light snack or lunch.  It’s light and fresh tasting and the flavors are just amazing.

The Italian in me is a huge fan of caprese salad.  I love fresh mozzarella with a juicy ripe tomato.  With this dish I just added some garlic crostini and turned it into a bruschetta.  I could seriously make 20 of these and eat every last one of them.

This dish is definitely great for the summer as it’s light and fresh but it’s so great I’ll eat it all year long.  It’s like a mini open faced tomato and mozzarella sandwich.  Who wouldn’t enjoy that?  🙂

Caprese Bruschetta

Ingredients:
10-12 Garlic crostini (Homemade or store bought) (Recipe below)
4-6 Campari tomatoes, sliced and chilled (or any tomato)
6-8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced or chopped
2 T Olive oil
1 T Basil, dried or fresh basil, chiffonade
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Crostini:
1 Baguette sliced 1/3 inch thick
1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 T parsley
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°.  Add sliced baguette to a baking sheet.  In a bowl mix together oil, garlic, parsley and salt & pepper and mix well.  Brush the oil mixture onto the crostini and bake in oven for 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Keep an eye on the crostini so they don’t burn.

To assemble, add mozzarella to crostini and top with tomato slice. Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

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Sides, Starters

Stuffed Artichokes

One of my favorite things to eat growing up was stuffed artichokes.  My grandparents use to make them often and I can still picture us all sitting at their kitchen table with a bowl filled with a big artichoke with all the eaten leaves around the edges.  It’s funny how you remember certain things from your childhood.  Not a surprise I’d remember something food related! 🙂

My Dad was a huge fan of Italian Stuffed Artichokes as well.  Before he passed away he actually taught me how to prepare the artichokes and then stuff them.  They may take some time prepare for stuffing but it’s well worth it.  I love them myself and I am constantly on the look out for nice big artichokes at the grocery store.  It’s sometimes hard to find the larger artichokes and those are really the best ones to stuff.

Take a look at my recipe for Italian Stuffed Artichokes.

Italian Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients:
4-5- Large artichokes, cleaned, leafs and stem trimmed
3 -cups Italian Breadcrumbs
3 T- grated romano cheese
3 T- grated parmesan cheese
3 -garlic cloves, grated/minced
1 T- garlic powder
1 T- onion powder
1 T-Italian seasoning
1 T-lemon juice
1/4 -Cup Olive Oil (1 T More for drizzling)
Sprinkle: Salt and Pepper

Directions: Mix all above ingredients except 1 extra tablespoon olive oil. Pull back artichokes leafs and spoon in breadcrumb mixture.  Get deep down in the leaf.  Complete all artichokes. Put in large sauce pan with about 2 inches of water. Drizzle olive oil over the top of artichokes. Cook covered for 60-80 minutes until tender. Keep an eye to make sure all the water doesn’t cook off. Add more as needed. Also, you can add a large steamer into pan and put the artichokes in there. After cooked, serve immediately.

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