with a few appetizer and drink recipes...
Healthier Spinach Bread Bowl
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup plain Greek 2 percent yogurt (if you can't get the Greek kind, then drain regular plain yogurt in a coffee-filter-lined sieve for a couple of hours so it gets nice and thick)
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 10-oz box frozen spinach, thawed, drained, then squeezed dry by the handful
1 (8-oz) can water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1 round loaf bakery wheat bread, the top sliced off and diced into 1-inch cubes, and the inside torn out and cut or pulled into pieces.
Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium heat and saute onion with salt, stirring frequently, until it's very nicely browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic right at the end, and saute, stirring, another minute before turning off the heat. Meanwhile in a food processor whir together yogurt, cottage cheese, and mayonnaise until smooth. Add the slightly cooled onion mixture and spinach, and whir until nearly smooth. Scrape dip into a bowl, stir in water chestnuts, then season to taste with pepper, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, and more salt. Scoop into the hollowed loaf or individually hollowed-out rolls, and serve with raw veggies and the bread innards or pita chips (recipe below).
Homemade Pita Chips
3 (7-inch) whole wheat pitas
Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each pita in half, then split each half into two pieces. Brush or spray the rough side of each half with the olive oil, then stack the halves and cut into 6 wedges each. Arrange in a single layer on large baking sheet and bake 6 to 8 minutes, until browned.
Tiny Taco Tarts
30 individual frozen mini phyllo shells, thawed
3/4 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 (1 1/4 -ounce) packet taco seasoning mix (3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Toppings: grated carrot, shredded lettuce, minced cilantro, minced green bell pepper
Heat the oven to 375º. Place the phyllo shells on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake the shells until they turn light golden, about 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, seasoning mix, and lime juice. Spoon the mixture into the phyllo shells.
Top with the garnish of your choice. Arrange the tarts on a serving platter and keep them chilled until ready to serve. Makes 30.
Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Apricot Ginger Dip
For the Bacon wrapped Shrimp:
1 bag frozen Shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined (about 32 shrimp)
16 pieces Bacon
For the Apricot Ginger Dip:
1 jar (9.5 ounce) Apricot Spreadable Fruit
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon warm water
FOR THE BACON WRAPPED SHRIMP:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut bacon in half, lengthwise. Wrap a piece of bacon around each shrimp and secure with a toothpick. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Serve with apricot ginger dip.
FOR THE APRICOT GINGER DIP:
Combine the fruit spread, vinegar, ginger, thyme, garlic powder and water. Mix well. Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick.
Spinach Cheese Mushrooms
1/2 pound torn fresh spinach
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, divided
56 large fresh mushrooms (about 3 1/2 pounds)
Refrigerated butter-flavored spray
In a saucepan, bring spinach and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Drain; squeeze dry and finely chop.
In a mixing bowl, beat ricotta and butter until smooth. Beat in egg. Stir in Parmesan cheese, water chestnuts, 3 tablespoons pecans and chopped spinach.
Remove stems from mushrooms (discard or save for another use). Spray inside of mushroom caps with butter-flavored spray. Place caps on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Stuff with spinach mixture; sprinkle with remaining pecans. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 dash Angustora bitters
1/2 cup chilled champagne
Stir sugar and bitters in pre-chilled Champagne glass. Add Champagne.
Twist lemon peel over and drop into glass.
White Hot Chocolate with Gingerbread Spice
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch of salt
5 ounces white chocolate baking bars (such as Nestle Premier White); 4 ounces finely chopped, 1 ounce finely grated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon each: ground ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves
2 teaspoons sugar
Combine cream and 3 tablespoons sugar and whip in cream whipper. Cover and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, place remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in heavy large saucepan. Whisk in egg yolks and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until mixture thickens slightly (do not boil), about 10 minutes. Add pinch of salt. Reduce heat to very low and add 4 ounces chopped white chocolate a small handful at a time, stirring constantly. When chocolate has melted, remove pan from heat and add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix spices and 2 teaspoons sugar; reserve.
Divide hot chocolate between smallish mugs or heatproof glasses. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle some spice-sugar and grated white chocolate over and serve.
Warm Peach Wine
1 cup peach juice (not nectar)
1/3 cup sugar
One 750-ml bottle merlot
1 or 2 whole oranges, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/8 teaspoon food-grade rose water, available in health food stores
Ground nutmeg, for garnish
Stir peach juice and sugar in large nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Add wine and 3 orange slices. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let steep 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.
When ready to serve, rewarm wine mixture (do not boil). Remove from heat, stir in rosewater. Taste, adding another drop or two of rosewater, if desired. The rose flavor should be very soft and delicate. Divide the warm wine between brandy snifters or glass mugs. Top each with tiny pinch of nutmeg and one-half orange slice.
Hot Buttered Rumba
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons soft butter
Pinch each of ground cloves, allspice, and cinnamon
1/3 cup apple cider
1/4 cup dark rum
2 tablespoons whipped cream
Ground nutmeg for dusting
Cinnamon stick for stirring
In a small bowl, cream the brown sugar and butter together. Blend in the cloves, allspice, and cinnamon. Put the paste in the bottom of an 8-ounce mug.
In a small saucepan, heat the cider until steam rises from the surface; do not boil. Pour the hot cider into the mug and stir vigorously to dissolve the paste. Stir in the rum.
Garnish with whipped cream and a dusting of ground nutmeg. Serve with a cinnamon stick for stirring.
2 bottles dry red wine, such as Cotes du Rhine or Merlot
6 star anise pods
One 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh passion fruit juice
10 half slices of orange
In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, star anise, cinnamon and allspice. Simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Cover and remove from the heat. Let the wine steep, covered, for 20 minutes.
Whisk the sugar into the passion fruit juice until dissolved.
Just before serving, reheat the wine, but do not boil. Stir in the passion fruit juice. Place an orange slice in each of 10 brandy snifters and ladle in the wine, leaving the spices behind; serve.