Veggie Pizza Appetizer

This time of year the calendar is packed with fun summer outings, picnics, parties and the like, and in the spirit of making it easy, most of the events on our calendar tend to be potlucks with everyone chipping in and bringing something to share.  One of my favorite go-to recipes is a veggie pizza appetizer because it’s easy to prepare, light and downright delicious.  

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The time saver in this appetizer comes from using a roll of refrigerated crescent dough, and rolling it out into one thin, solid piece of dough on a cookie sheet.  After baking and cooling, the flaky dough is topped with Chive & Onion cream cheese, cheddar cheese and a variety of chopped fresh veggies.  Let this chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving and you’ve got yourself a real winner – the dough is light and flaky, the cream cheese is cool and flavorful and the toppings add tons of flavor and crunchiness.

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Veggie Pizza Appetizer
Serves 15
A light flaky dough topped with cool cream cheese and lots of veggies is the perfect start to an outdoor meal!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 package of refrigerated crescent dough
  2. 1 package of chive and onion cream cheese, room temperature
  3. 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  4. 1 cup shredded carrots
  5. 1 cup bite-sized cauliflower
  6. 1 cup bite-sized broccoli
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, open the can of dough, lay flat on the paper and roll out into one thin, solid sheet of dough.
  3. Place in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to turn light brown.
  4. Remove from the oven and let the baked dough cool completely.
  5. Once the dough is cool, spread the cream cheese over the entire surface.
  6. Top with cheese and veggies.
  7. Chill for at least 1 hour, then cut into 3x3 inch squares for serving.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Tomato Bruschetta

Have you ever tried an item of food and once you do, wonder how you made it this long without it in your culinary life?  That’s how I feel about tomato bruschetta, oddly enough.  That’s not to say I had never tasted bruschetta but it had always been in a restaurant or not up to par with this recipe, so in my mind, it’s like I had never tasted it until this version waltzed into my life.

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A year or two ago my little family headed to my parents’ house for a day of sun, food and relaxation and my mom made this as an appetizer for us, served with crackers and slices of bread.  We were hooked (not just me – the Mr. too!).  It’s incredibly simple to make – just a bit of chopping required – and soon you’ll have tomatoes, parmesan, basil, garlic marinating in olive oil and waiting to be served on just about anything.  Anything can involve toasted bread, a baguette slice, grilled chicken breasts or a beef loin.

This dish is perfect to make ahead as it keeps in the refrigerator for at least a few days.  Feel free to experiment with the amount of oil and garlic, as well as with using grated or shredded parmesan.  

 

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Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 4
This tomato bruschetta is delicious as an appetizer dip served on crackers or slices of bread or served on top of grilled chicken or steak.
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 tomatoes, finely diced
  2. 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  3. 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  4. 10-15 basil leaves, rolled into a chiffonade and sliced thinly
  5. 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  6. 1/2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
  7. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop tomatoes, dice garlic and mix in a medium sized bowl with the parmesan, basil and olive oil. Add the salt and pepper, mixing thoroughly, then taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as necessary.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to marry.
Notes
  1. This dish keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days if kept in a sealed container.
Adapted from Pat Remes
Adapted from Pat Remes
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Sweet Potato Fries with Garlic Aioli

The Mr. and I like to take a week day off of work every few months to spend the day at the movies and going out to lunch.  While the Twin Cities has some great restaurants and a teeming list of new places worth trying, we tend to get pulled back to our favorite spot, McCormick & Schmick’s at the Westin in Edina, nearly every single time.  It’s pretty quiet during the lunch hour when we saddle up to the bar, order a custom house creation off the drink list and start our meal with a side of sweet potato fries with garlic aioli.  This is the perfect little snack of warm, salty potato with a cool, tart aioli to tide you over while you peruse the menu and enjoy the day.  This recipe is my ode to these fries – the major difference is that these are baked and not fried… still delicious, but don’t pack the same tasty just-fried punch.  (If you head to M&S and don’t find these on the menu just ask – it’s not always listed but is always available).

What in heaven’s name is aioli?  Years ago when I was bartending at the California Cafe I asked the head chef that question and he laughed in response “That’s a chef’s way of saying mayonnaise”.  Of course, the man made his mayo from scratch, but that admission helped me be less intimidated by the name.  My aioli is a crack to make, made with store-bought mayo (Hellman’s or Kraft brand) spiked with fresh lemon juice, crushed garlic cloves and a lot of cracked black pepper.  Not difficult or intimidating at all.  This is best made at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

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The most difficult part of making this treat is to slice up the potatoes (and difficult is all relative, this isn’t actually that hard) – grab your sharpest chef’s knife and you’ll be in good shape.  The trick is to trim off the top and bottom of the potato where it becomes thinner, then set the potato on its tall end, and cut once length-wise.  Lay the potato down on the edge where you just removed the rounded side then cut the potato into long slices.  Once complete, stack the potato slices together and cut match-sticks of the potato.  Depending on your personal preference for fries, now’s the time to cut really thick or thin, depending on the outcome you want.  I find that about 1/4″ squares cook nice and even.  You’re not seeking perfection in your fry size, just consistency so that things cook evenly.

Cover a large sheet pan with tin foil, spray lightly with PAM cooking spray, then spread the potatoes out into a single layer.  Without the cooking spray these puppies have a tendency to stick to the pan due to all the natural sugar in the potato. Drizzle vegetable oil over the fries and season with salt and pepper to your liking.  My liking means a lot of salt but feel free to go easy on it and be kind to your heart. 

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Toss these in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, carefully flipping them after 20 minutes.  You’re looking for the potato to soften and begin to brown, but not to darken too much. 

Once out of the oven, cool for five minutes then serve with the chilled aioli.  This is a great side dish to serve with burgers, grilled chicken breasts or meatloaf – and is versatile enough to eat year-round.  Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato Fries and Garlic Aioli
Serves 4
Baked sweet potato fries are crispy yet soft and warm on the inside, and the garlic aioli provides the perfect bite and chilled flavor.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 large sweet potatoes
  2. Vegetable Oil
  3. Salt & Cracked black pepper
  4. 1 cup mayo
  5. 1/2 lemon, juiced
  6. 2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
  7. 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  8. 1 pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl combine the mayo, lemon juice, garlic, pepper and salt. Stir thoroughly, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover a large pan with tin foil, spraying with cooking spray.
  3. Cut sweet potatoes into fries, and place on the covered pan.
  4. Drizzle with oil, and spindle with salt and pepper.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, removing to flip the fries, then returning to the oven for another 10 minutes until softened and beginning to brown.
  6. Remove the fries from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving with the chilled garlic aioli.
Notes
  1. The garlic aioli is best at least one hour ahead of serving to allow the flavors to marry.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Artichoke Dip

I don’t know when I became a big snob about artichoke dip but a few years ago I realized I had become strangely particular about what I defined as “good” artichoke dip.  That’s not to say I won’t eat any variety put in front of me, because I will, but somehow my mind became instilled with this lofty aspirational ideal of what this dip should be.

With rants like this I should have a been a philosopher.

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And so began a quest for the perfect dip.  Should it include spinach?  The Mr. and I decided no, it made it the dip too watery with all that extra liquid.  Should it include mozzarella or parmesan?  Parm, it is – less melt, more bite.  And then I got stuck determining the right ratio of cream cheese to mayo – and should I add sour cream in place of the mayo, or substitute half the mayo for sour cream?  My life is full of really difficult quandaries and decisions, can’t you see?

So, here we are people.  Years of trial (I’m not exaggerating, sadly), lots of inspiration from various online recipes, a dutiful and honest taste tester in my other half, Mr. Krentz, and we have arrived at what I think an artichoke dip should be.  The artichoke hearts are cut in two and stirred into the creamy mixture to maintain their form and texture, add some lemon juice and red pepper flakes to cut the creaminess of the dip and add some heat, and use a 50/50 ratio of cream cheese to mayo.

Enjoy this bad boy with carrots, celery, a baguette or by the spoonful – whatever makes you happy.  And if by chance you think this dip leaves something to be desired, please tell me in the comments!  I’m an open minded gal and would love to improve this appetizer if possible.

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Artichoke Dip
Serves 4
Served hot or cold, this artichoke dip hits the right balance of artichoke and creamy dip - enjoy with veggies, crackers or slices of baguette.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 can artichokes, drained thoroughly, and cut in half length-wise
  2. 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  3. 2 green onions, roughly chopped
  4. 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  5. 1/4 cup mayo
  6. 1/4 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese
  7. 1/4 lemon, juiced
  8. 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor place the garlic and green onion and pulse 10 seconds, until finely minced.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl (cream cheese, mayo, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and red pepper flakes) and pulse 10-15 seconds until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the halved artichoke hearts to the bowl and combine by hand with a spoon until incorporated into the mixture.
  5. Spread the dip in a greased 10" ceramic dish.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and bubbling.
  7. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve with carrots, celery, crackers or slices of bread.
Notes
  1. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd.
  2. This dish is great prepared in advance - once the dip is in the dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes until browned and bubbling.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Guacamole!

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I’ve gained a reputation for being a bit heavy-handed in serving Mexican food when people come over… to be fair, this isn’t a complaint but more of an observation. If it’s a popular Mexican food, I’ve probably made it for you. Tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, carne asada, Mexican chicken soup, the list goes on and on.  I find Mexican food is one of the only universally popular cuisines for all ages and palates – what’s not to like about family-centered meals that are easy to make, have a little spice, can be made ahead and are usually topped with cheese??  Additionally (and selfishly), almost all Mexican dishes are inherently gluten free or can easily be adapted to exclude gluten so not only does everyone get to enjoy a delicious meal, I can eat it as well and not feel as though the group is making a flavor sacrifice on my behalf.

Avocados are a multi-tasking vegetable – they can be used for a face mask, as baby food or for my favorite use – guacamole!  Why the exclamation mark?  Well, because this guacamole is just that good, I could eat it straight from the bowl, forget your chips for dipping. The avocado is refreshing and smooth, and with a healthy dose of fat will keep you full for quite some time (or until dinner is served) and with the addition of tomato, shallot and lime juice you get extra texture, bite and great flavors.

But, I digress.  The title of this post is “Guacamole” so lets get to it.  Any good meal starts with an appetizer, which brings me to guacamole, my standby appetizer for any Mexican meal that I serve.  Regardless of the season or the main entrĂ©e this fan favorite is easy to make, delicious and can easily be made for a gathering of 2 or 20.

Serve this guac with tortilla chips, sliced bell pepper or jicama – incredibly delicious, any way you eat it.

 

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Guacamole!
 
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Bryna Krentz
Prep time:
Total time:
This guacamole is simple to make, incredibly fresh and can be served as an appetizer or topping on your main entree!
Ingredients
  • 3 large ripe avocados
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
Instructions
  1. Slice the avocados in half, length-wise, and scoop the flesh into large bowl.
  2. Using a spoon, lightly cut the avocado to begin mashing it, being careful to not over mix or beat the avocado. You don’t want the avocado to be totally smooth, you’re looking for a slight mash while maintained some chunkiness of the avocado.
  3. Add the diced tomato, shallot, cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice to the bowl, stirring to combine, being careful to not over mix or beat the guacamole – you want this to still have some moderately sized chunks of avocado still visible. Taste for flavor, adding salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips, sliced bell peppers or jicama. Great on tacos, fajitas and nachos!