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Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Beer Bread

Posted by booksncooks on July 9, 2011

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine brought some Pampered Chef beer bread and dip to a party. The bread was incredibly flavorful – I couldn’t stop popping the little squares all night.

Last night, after working late with a couple coworkers, I came home to an empty house. I had my glass of wine on the table, Harry Potter on the tv, and my igoogle bookmarking my favorite blogs and hundreds of recipes I want to try. Since my coworkers stayed late on my behalf, I thought I’d bake them a treat over the weekend – perhaps cookies or a pound cake. I’ve yet to decide on a recipe for them, but stumbled across this Beer Bread recipe from The Novice Chef. I immediately thought back to that Pampered Chef recipe. Knowing that homemade is always better and having nothing else on my plate, I immediately went into the kitchen to make it.

5 minutes later, I was done. Back to my seat on the couch, starting this blog post, and keeping my fingers crossed that the bread is everything I was hoping it would be. It was. It had that wonderful spongy consistency I had hoped for, with just a slight sweetness from the beer.

Serve as an appetizer with dip (spinach dip or a crab dip come immediately to mind), as a snack with butter, or as an accompaniment with dinner (such as chili, stew, steak).

Beer Bread

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake via The Novice Chef

Makes 1 loaf


3 c. all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
12 oz. (1 bottle) beer
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9-in. loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients until combined.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in beer. Be sure to get the bottom! The dough will very sticky.

Pour half of melted butter into bottom of loaf pan, then dough. Top with remaining butter.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until golden brown.

Posted in Appetizers, Bread | Leave a Comment »

Tomato Mozzarella Tart

Posted by booksncooks on June 25, 2011

The day of my evening baking marathon with K (lemon limoncello cupcakes and cosmo cupcakes for S’s birthday), I played hookey from work. I have more vacation time than I know what to do with, so I decided to stay home, read, and play in the kitchen. I knew I wanted to do something fun for our girl’s night, but substantial enough to go with the cocktails I knew we’d be drinking (Limoncello Cosmos, as it turned out!). And, not having the guys there meant that I was able to go meatless. Thus, the Tomato Mozzarella Tart!

I had it both hot and at room temperature. While it was best straight out of the oven, it was also great at room temperature. It was pretty much as expected – sweet tomato, burst of flavor from the basil, warm gooey cheese… it was fantastic! Serve with a side salad as a light meal or, in tartlet form, as an appetizer.

Tomato Mozzarella Tart

Adapted from from Ezra Pound Cake and The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook as seen on Annie’s Eats

Ingredients for the Crust:

  • 1/3 c. fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp. minced)
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted butter, chilled
  • 4-5 Tbs. very cold water

Ingredients for the Tart Filling:

  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 Tbs. minced fresh basil

Make the Crust: Pulse basil and garlic in a food processor until finely minced. Add flour and salt, pulsing until just combined. Add in butter, cut into 1-in. chunks. Pulse until ingredients are incorporated and mixture is in small, pea-sized crumbles. Add water, 1 Tbs. at a time, pulsing in between each addition. Stop when dough forms a ball. Remove from processor, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

After an hour (or whenever you’re ready to bake), preheat oven to 425° F. Lightly flour a wooden cutting board or counter and remove dough from fridge. Roll out dough into a 12-in. circle. Lay dough over a 9-in. round tart pan and press into sides, removing excess dough from top. (I used an 8-in. tart pan, and used the extra dough to create 4 tartlets.). Cover with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads. (I didn’t have any baking beads, so baked without weighing down crust. It came out fine, the only difference was that bottom puffed up a bit.) Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove baking beads and foil, and bake for another 5 minutes, until crust is just set and slightly golden.

Finish the Tart: Remove crust from oven for the second time. Lower oven to 375° F. Arrange sliced mozzarella and tomatoes over crust. Season with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and minced fresh basil.

Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Rotate pan and use a paper towel to sop off any extra moisture that has formed. Cook for another 15 minutes. Crust will become golden brown and mozzarella with be bubbly and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Posted in Appetizers, Vegetarian, Veggies | 2 Comments »

Birthday Menu & Shrimp-Mango Salad

Posted by booksncooks on April 21, 2011

A while ago, I received a copy of Williams Sonoma’s Cooking for Friends as a gift. Every month or so, I take out the book and look through it, my mouth watering at the delicious-sounding recipes and the incredible photos. However, some of the recipes are a little fancier than my crowd is used to, so alas, I never got around to making any.

For my birthday last month, I decided to raise the bar and fancied-things up, to include a recipe from this cookbook. Hubby and I had about 20 people over the house for cocktails. I went all out and made two birthday cakes (I couldn’t decide which I wanted more and the vote to my friends was split), a cocktail, and three appetizers. Here’s what the menu included:

Amaretto Sours with Prosecco
Almond Cake with Raspberry Layers & Amaretto Buttercream
Toffee Brownie Torte
Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms
Shrimp-Mango Salad
Baked Fontina & French Bread

I was excited to try the shrimp-mango salad – a little fancier than the usual appetizer and elegantly served in these mini-martini glasses. Neither me nor my guests were disappointed. It was nice and light, tangy and sweet, the perfect addition to our cocktail party.

Modifications: I used all shrimp instead of a combination of shrimp and crab, as reflected in the recipe below. I skipped the avocado because mine didn’t ripen in time (plus allergies).

Shrimp-Mango Salad

Adapted from Shrimp, Crab and Avocado Salad in

Williams Sonoma’s Cooking for Friends (p. 62)

Makes 12+ servings in mini-martini glasses


  • 1 lb. cooked fresh shrimp, diced (or combination of fresh cooked crab and shrimp)
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, minced (plus sprigs for garnish)
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 head butter lettuce, shredded
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • lime wedges

In a medium bowl, toss the mango, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno, and shallot until mango is coated. Season with salt and pepper. Add shrimp (and crab), tossing until coated.

In your serving glasses, line the bottom with some of the butter lettuce, followed by the mango-shrimp mixture. Top with avocado (I would have tossed it in with the mango and shrimp at the last minute) and garnish with lime slices and sprigs of cilantro.

Posted in Appetizers, Menus, Seafood | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Baked Fontina

Posted by booksncooks on April 4, 2011

“It’s like fondue in a cast-iron pot–you just throw everything in and it’s ready in six minutes.”
~ Ina

When I received Ina’s new cookbook at Christmastime, I knew this would be one of the first recipes I’d try. I’m not much of a cheese person (remember the story about me, a weird kid, taking my cheese off my pizza?), but as soon as I saw the photo for Baked Fontina and read ingredients, I began looking for an opportunity to make this. I was not disappointed. I loved the herbs and slightly salty taste of the hot cheese. I loved that I could serve this family-style for an appetizer (first for Valentine’s Day and later for a cocktail party at our house). I love that it requires minimal-effort and is super-fast to cook. Really, what else could you ask for in an appetizer?

There were a few reviews on Food Network, with about half of them saying that the fontina was too salty. I didn’t think so at all. I’ve made this with both thyme and rosemary, and also with only thyme. Fantastic both ways. But feel free to adjust salt, pepper, and other herbs according to taste.

Baked Fontina

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That? (p. 97)

also on Food Network

Serves 4-6 (or ~12 with multiple appetizers)


  • 1 1/2 lb. Italian Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, rind removed and cut into 1-in. dice
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

Ensure a rack is 5-inches below the broiler. Preheat broiler.

Spread cheese evenly across a 12-in. cast iron pan. Drizzle on olive oil. Combine garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sprinkle over cheese. Sprinkle salt and pepper over cheese.

Place under broiler for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted, bubbling, and beginning to brown.

Serve hot, right out of the pan with a warm, crusty baguette.

Posted in Appetizers, Barefoot Contessa | 2 Comments »

Crack Dip

Posted by booksncooks on February 16, 2011

This would have been a great recipe to post a couple of weeks ago for Superbowl, but I’m a bit slow in blog updates (couple of tough weeks at work and getting over my annual winter cold). I have seen recipes for Buffalo Chicken Dip, aka Crack Dip, on a lot of different blogs, but hadn’t made it until a few weeks ago. This dip tastes exactly like buffalo chicken wings – a bit spicy with the cool taste of blue cheese mixed in – but without the hassle of eating wings (so messy and annoying to pick the meat off the little bones).

Note that several other blogs call for cheddar, mozzarella, or other cheese. Frank’s calls for blue cheese inside the dip and mozzarella on top. Do whatever you prefer or have on hand.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (aka Crack Dip)

Heavily adapted from Frank’s Hot Sauce

Yields 4 Cups


  • 1-8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. blue cheese salad dressing
  • 1/2 c. hot sauce
  • 1/4 c. minced celery
  • 3/4 c. crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or, leftover chicken from roast chicken)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Mix in salad dressing, hot sauce, celery, 1/2 c. of blue cheese, and chicken. Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle top with the remaining blue cheese.

Bake 20 minutes, until mixture is warm throughout.

Serve hot – either in the baking dish or transfer to a crock pot. Serve with tortilla chips and/or celery sticks.

Posted in Appetizers, Dips & Spreads | Leave a Comment »

Stuffed Endives

Posted by booksncooks on January 15, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a blog called Good Things Catered. I stumbled upon the blog shortly after I started blogging myself. I was still trying to figure out the best way for me to save recipes to try (I was using word documents while now I do googlereader). This initial fumbling to save recipes ended up saving this recipe, because in fall of 2010, Good Things Catered disappeared without notice or explanation. Therefore, the origins of this recipe are unknown – either a GTC creation or from somewhere else.

Now, since GTC posted this recipe, I’ve been dying to try it. I love that it’s a nice, light appetizer and something different from the usual veggies and dip. It took me a long time and many stores to find the endives (I ended up finding them at an Asian market near my house), but the hunt was well worth it. I loved the way the sweet fruit and walnuts mixed with the sharp goat cheese.

I made two changes to the recipe below. I used an herbed goat cheese and omitted the chives. Secondly, I used a vanilla balsamic vinegar from Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium instead of the honey balsamic reduction, simply because I had it on hand and was excited to try it. Love it! If you’re a foodie and live or visit Maryland, I recommend a trip to this little shop in Frederick.

Endives Stuffed with Candied Walnuts, Mandarin Oranges, & Goat Cheese
With a Honey Balsamic Reduction

Adopted from Stuffed Endives with Honey Balsamic Reduction
on Good Things Catered blog

Yields 24-30 Endive Boats

Ingredients for the Endive Boat:

  • 2 heads endive
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1/4 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1-2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 oz. goat cheese (aka chevre)

Ingredients for the Honey Balsamic Reduction:

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. orange juice
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 12 fresh chives, minced

Make the Candied Walnuts: Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread walnuts atop foil; toss with honey; and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 10-12 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes to prevent burning, until walnuts are browned. Let cool.

Make the Balsamic Reduction: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture has reduced and thickened. Set aside to cool (reduction should reach a molasses-like consistency).

Assemble the Endive Boats: Remove leaves from endive heads and place on serving platter. In each leaf, place 1 mandarin orange (I cut them in half), some of the chopped candied walnuts, and some of the crumbled goat cheese. Using a spoon, drizzle the balsamic reduction over each leaf. Top with a sprinkle of chives and freshly ground black pepper.

Posted in Appetizers | Leave a Comment »

Rosemary Cashews

Posted by booksncooks on December 22, 2010

Every year, we invite a lot of people to our annual holiday party. It’s a great time. Everyone tends to wander the houses between the living room and kitchen upstairs, and the pool room and second living room downstairs. While I set most of the food in our dining room, I always make sure there is something downstairs – usually little bowls of nuts on the bar tables in the pool room, and a mini appetizer and dessert tray in the second living room. These rosemary cashews were perfect. Sweet with just a slight kick, they’re delicious served warm or at room temperature.

Note that the recipe on Food Network’s website is different from the one found in Barefoot in Paris – it has different quantities of several of the ingredients as well as a different baking temperature. I used the recipe from Barefoot in Paris.

Rosemary Cashews

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris (p. 36)

Makes 3 cups


  • 1 lb. unsalted cashews
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Place nuts on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes, stirring nuts halfway through.

Combine rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl.

In a large bowl (or serving dish if serving immediately), sprinkle above mix and drizzle butter over nuts, tossing as you go. I do recommend sprinkling and tossing the nuts to make sure they’re evenly seasoned. Stir well until nuts are covered in the spices.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted in Appetizers, Barefoot Contessa, Food Network, Snacks | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Chicken Cobb Pizza

Posted by booksncooks on September 26, 2010

Did you ever have a meal at a friend’s house, and instantly, the meal became one of your favorites? It’s that dish you immediately try to work into your weekly menu, and immediately start nagging your friend for the recipe… For me, this Chicken Cobb Pizza went straight into the favorites list, from the moment I tried it at K’s house. I’ve made it a couple of times since then, and have begged K to make it when we get together (including for “lunch” at 9am, 10 miles into our Sunday morning walks).

This pizza is pretty healthy in general (the original Pampered Chef recipe, using 1-10 oz. can chicken, says that two squares of this pizza is only 300 calories), but can be made even better for you with reduced-fat versions of the ingredients and even more veggies.

Thanks to K for sharing this great recipe!

Chicken Cobb Pizza

Adapted from Pampered Chef’s Clubhouse Chicken Squares

Serves 4-6


  • 2-8 oz. pkg. crescent rolls
  • 1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped (or 1 tsp. Pampered Chef All-Purpose Dill Mix or dried dill)
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, chopped/diced
  • 1/2 small cucumber, seeded and chopped/diced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices bacon or turkey bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled

Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 375F.

Unroll one of package of crescent rolls on a baking sheet, with the longest sides of the dough running the length of the pan. With your fingers, seal in the perforations. Press the sides to form a crust.Repeat on a second baking sheet with the second roll of crescent rolls.

Back 12-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.

Make the “Sauce”: In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, mayo, garlic and dill. If the cream cheese isn’t soft enough to mix thoroughly, throw in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.

Assemble the Pizza: When the crust is cooled, spread the dill mixture on top of each crust. Layer chicken, bacon, veggies, and cheese.

Note for preparing in advance: The “sauce” can be made in advance. If it sits overnight, it will be come very garlicky. Also, if put together far in advance, the shredded cheese tends to dry out. Sprinkle cheese on pizza as close to serving as possible.

Posted in Appetizers, Game Day, Poultry | Leave a Comment »

Grilled Herb Shrimp

Posted by booksncooks on May 28, 2010

As the temperature goes up, I spend less time cooking and the hubby spends more time grilling. We’ll grill just about anything – meat, seafood, veggies, fruit – and are always looking for new recipes to try out. We ended up bringing these shrimp over a friend’s house a couple of weeks ago and they were a huge hit! We had these as part of the main dish, with burgers, but they would also be great as a hot, room temperature, or cold appetizer, or in a salad.

Thanks to Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen for choosing such a nice light dish for this month’s Barefoot Bloggers.

Grilled Herb Shrimp

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa‘s Barefoot Contessa Parties!

Serves 2-3 as a main dish


  • 1 lb large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined (see note)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, small-diced
  • 1/8 c. minced fresh parsley
  • 1/8 c. minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp.  Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp.  kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 c. good olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

If grilling on skewers, don’t forget to soak any wood skewers in water for 30 minutes. These can also be grilled in a grill basket.

Combine all ingredients except shrimp and set aside.

Skewer the shrimp, using 3-4 shrimp per skewer. (I removed the tails, but feel free to leave tails on.) Pour marinade on shrimp and allow to marinade for 1 hour at room temperature, or covered in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Heat grill on medium heat, and brush grill with oil to prevent shrimp and herbs from sticking.

Grill shrimp, bout 90 seconds per side. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature

Posted in Appetizers, Barefoot Contessa, Seafood | 1 Comment »

Toast Points

Posted by booksncooks on May 17, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I hosted what is becoming our annual wine and cheese party (menu to follow). The party is a blast – everyone brings a bottle or wine or a favorite cheese, and everyone gets to try a sampling of everything.

Anyway, slightly bored with the usual crackers and fresh bread for serving, these toast points are a nice change, and super easy to make. While I ate both soft and hard cheeses on the, they’re especially great for soft, spreadable cheeses such as goat cheese.

Toast Points

From Books n’ Cooks

Makes 16 triangles


  • 4+ slices of sandwich bread (white, wheat, or your choice!)
  • 2+ Tbs. butter, melted
  • Kosher salt
  • Desired dried or fresh herbs

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat broiler on oven.

Trim crust from bread. Cut each slice into 4 triangles or squares. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Brush each piece of bread with a little butter. Sprinkle with salt and herbs.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.

Flip each piece, butter, and add salt/herbs. Cook for another minute, until the second side is browned.

Enjoy with your favorite cheese or crostini topping.

Posted in Appetizers | Leave a Comment »