Fried Mozzarella Sticks

I had the peanut oil out at lunch and, after cleaning up from our meal, took a nap to dream up things to fry in it.

Cheese! And, not just any cheese, but mozzarella.

We didn’t use all the pizza sauce on Friday’s sourdough cast iron pizza so that was our dipping sauce. Below is the basic recipe:

Pizza sauce – dashes of basil and oregano plus a sprinkle of salt in a small can of plain tomato sauce, heated in a saucepan over low heat. Taste after it is warmed and add more of whatever it is missing. If there is a metallic taste from the can, consider adding in a pinch of sugar.

You can definitely season the bread crumbs – as our sauce was flavorful, I didn’t but a little cayenne would have been tasty.

As Mom said of the fried cheese, “It is like a pizza melting in my mouth!”

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

8 oz Mozzarella cheese block
1 egg
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ bread crumbs
oil for frying – I used peanut

pizza sauce or marinara sauce

Cut the cheese block in half and then each half in six equal size pieces.

Place the flour in a pie plate. Scramble the egg in a shallow dish. Spread breadcrumbs in another pie plate. Coat the cheese sticks in flour, dredge in the egg and then coat with bread crumbs. Place them on a rack above a baking sheet.

Freeze for at least an hour or up to two.

Heat about a quarter inch of peanut oil or other neutral oil in a large skillet. Bring the oil to about 375 degrees F. Fry for about a minute each side or until golden brown.

Serve with warmed pizza or marinara sauce for dipping.

Seven Layer Dip

I had some Lindsay’s Naturals ripe green olives the other day (Thanks to Helen for turning me on to them) and found them to be buttery and delicious. As I thought about them during the long dark night, I dreamed they’d be an excellent topper to a 7 layer dip.

Yes, I dream in appetizers.

The only solid rule to this dip is to use a glass dish so you can see the layers. Everything else, including order is up to you. For a bowl game, I’ve upped everything to fit into a 9×13 baking dish. This version is using a round bowl as I couldn’t find mom’s trifle dish.

For making my dip, I start by using a can of refried beans mixed with about a half cup of sour cream to make it dippable as my first two layers. As I’m in isolation with my parents, I’m only using 2/3rds of the can plus a quarter cup sour cream.

Then, I use taco meat for the next layer. I had some in the freezer from our last batch of tacos but it is a simple matter to brown a pound of ground meat and add seasonings to taste (here is my taco seasoning blend). Let cool completely (or thaw completely) before using.

I’m using frozen guacamole I thawed. Because I need to stretch it further, I mixed it with the meat before spreading that layer out.

I then did a layer of grated pepper jack and cheddar cheese. Toss on sliced grape tomatoes and, finally, sliced olives.

If you want to be pedantic and say the mixed layers don’t count as their individual parts, add a layer of lettuce after the meat but before the cheese. Add salsa as a layer and you can even add more sour cream as a layer. Or, be like my dad and cover your side with pickled jalapeño slices.

Once you’ve built it to your standards, place in the refrigerator to chill before serving with tortilla chips.

Yummy and shareable!

 

Meatloaf Stuffed Mushrooms

I found a pack of mushrooms on sale – they were larger than usual and had pretty deep caps so I knew they’d be good for stuffing. I’d also had a craving for meatloaf and decided to put it all together. I started with my basic meatloaf recipe, then stuffed the mushrooms and molded the remaining filling into a loaf.

If you’re making this for a party, use more than a single pack of mushrooms. You’ll get a smaller meatloaf but the stuffed mushrooms are worth the sacrifice.

I was out of diced tomatoes but I had a blister pack of cherry tomatoes and, after a spin in a food processor, they were perfect in the dish.

You can add the cheese after 30 minutes for a prettier presentation but I like it when it is a little crunchy, so I put it on before sliding the baking tray in the oven.

Meatloaf Stuffed Mushrooms

3/4 cup milk
2-3 slices stale bread (at least 1 1/2 cups worth when torn)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 lbs ground beef
8 ounces cheddar or pepper jack cheese, grated
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, chopped in a food processor
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces large stuffing mushrooms

Make a panade by soaking the torn pieces of bread in the milk for ten minutes.

Combine panade with all the rest of the ingredients (reserving a small handful of cheese to top the mushrooms) together in a large bowl. Mix with your hands.

Clean mushrooms and remove stem. Coat with olive oil and place on rimmed baking sheet large enough for the mushrooms and the rest of the meat loaf. Fill each mushroom with 1-2 tablespoons of meatloaf filling. Sprinkle additional cheese on top.

Form a loaf from the remaining filling and bake at 350 degrees F for 60 minutes (or until the loaf reaches an internal temp of 160 degrees). The mushrooms should be done at an hour but the meatloaf may take 75 to 90 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Olive Cheese Log

I’ve written before about a quick and easy way to make a delicious appetizer (Make at home Cheese Log). Then I got to talking with Michelle about finding cheese in my freezer and my need to make a new one, she mentioned a cousin of hers who made one with olives. As we all know, I love the combination of cheese and olives (see my Olive Cheese Bites) so I set out to make my own version.

While many folks just form these into balls, I’ve always felt the ration of nuts to cheese gets a little off as you get to the center of the ball. Therefore, I roll mine out into logs instead.

You don’t need to do what I did and use leftover cheese – this is such a great appetizer, don’t wait until you’ve collected a pound of cheese ends and cubes leftover from events. Buy a block of cheddar and some cream cheese and you’re good to go!

Do not use grated cheese as the texture won’t be right. For the green olives, I used Manzanilla olives stuffed with pimentos for an added bit of color and flavor. You can also sprinkle a little paprika on them before rolling in pecans for presentation.

These logs freeze well. Wrap well and seal in an airtight bag. Thaw in the fridge.

Olive Cheese Log

1 lb block cheddar cheese, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1 – 8 ounce package
cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
1/3 cup black olives, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Add all ingredients, except pecans, to food processor. Pulse until smooth. Remove mixture with rubber spatula onto two pieces of plastic wrap. Roll into a log shapes and chill in fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove from wrap and roll in the chopped pecans, pressing to adhere. Wrap the logs in another piece of plastic wrap.

Chill again for at least 30 minutes (or better, overnight) before serving with crackers.

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

I had a craving for peanut sauce. What better way to get the stuff to your mouth than spring rolls?

The last time I had boiled a pot of shrimp, I made a couple of snack bags of the peeled leftovers so I could have shrimp to toss into things. They were perfect little bites in the rolls.

You can use most any veg in them but I like the coolness of the mint and cucumber and the crunch of carrots. This is especially handy if you get the peanut sauce too spicy!

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon honey

Thin the peanut butter with the hot water. Whisk in remaining ingredients and then taste for seasoning. Add more hot water if it needs further thinning. Make at least 4 hours ahead and taste again for seasoning before using.

The recipe is based on the number on shrimp I had and the number of rice paper wrappers in the package, so we knew we could make eight spring rolls.

Shrimp Spring Rolls

35 small shrimp, pre-cooked
1 cucumber, seeds removed
2 carrots
half package rice noodle vermicelli
bunch of mint
package of spring roll rice paper wrappers

Prepare the vermicelli according the package directions. Slice the cucumber and carrots into matchstick sized pieces. Chiffonade the mint leaves.

Wet the rice paper wrappers in lukewarm water. Set the softened paper on a plastic cutting board. Place some rice noodles down and then a few cucumber and carrot slices beside and on top of the noodles. Sprinkle on some mint leaves. Make one tight roll. Set down the shrimp and continue to roll, folding in the ends before the final roll.

Set on a plate covered with a damp towel until ready to serve. Don’t stack as they will stick together. They are best eaten soon after rolling but can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for a couple hours if necessary.

Ham Salad Spread

You know when you’ve gotten toward the end of the ham you’ve cooked and it is too little to slice anymore? Dicing the remains and making ham salad spread is a great way to use up the rest.

I was out of stalks of celery, so I used ground celery instead. I kind of liked the added flavor without the crunch.

Use as a spread with crackers or slather between slices of toasted bread. I also stirred some into a skillet with some diced, parboiled potatoes for a quick and tasty hash.

Ham Salad Spread

2 cups cooked ham, diced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, cut into pieces
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon mustard
2 teaspoons ground dried celery

Place the ham in a food processor and pulse a couple times to chop it up. Add the eggs, cream cheese, mayo, relish, mustard and celery to the processor. Pulse until it is desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Mississippi Style Potato Logs

One of the best things about getting off the highway is finding great food on the road less travelled. In fact, some of the tastiest boudin, barbecued brisket and fried chicken I’ve eaten has come from gas stations across the South.

One of things I’ve found in Mississippi gas stations (and some local fairs like the Okatoma Festival), are potato logs. These are large wedges of baked potato, dredged in seasoned flour and deep fried. You basically get the creamy interior of a baked potato plus the crunchy skin and coating of the best French fry. All in all, they make a really awesome appetizer or side dish.

I tried several versions at home and found I like best Creole Seasoning in the flour (1 teaspoon seasoning per 1/4 cup flour – each large potato cut into 5 wedges used about 1/2 cup flour). I also found that you only need a double dip of flour (toss in flour, dredge in an egg beaten with some oil, and then dredge through the flour again). I found using breadcrumbs was unnecessary and actually a little heavy.

I used peanut oil as that is my go-to deep fry oil but you can use your choice. I fried them after I brought the oil to 325 degrees F in a cast iron skillet. Fry for about 3 minutes per side or until the crust is golden brown. After removal from the heat, drain on a brown paper bag. Salt generously.

These are delicious as they are but, if you like them with a dipping sauce, I enjoyed them with ranch dressing with a little sriracha mixed in. They had a lovely kick.

Creole Tomato and Basil Bruschetta Topping

I went to the Crescent City Farmers Market on Saturday and found some beautiful Creole tomatoes. These tomatoes have a wonderful taste because they are grown only in the River Parishes of Louisiana, so they don’t have to travel far from the field to reach my plate.

I used the new-to-me bread machine from Michelle’s mom to make the dough for some French bread. I relied on the recipe from the Fleischmann’s Bread World website. It wasn’t the prettiest loaf of bread I’ve ever made, so no pictures of it.

While the dough was rising, it was time to toss together diced tomatoes with some basil, olive oil and salt. For about two large tomatoes, you’ll need about a 1/4 cup of high quality olive oil, about 1/4 cup of fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll them like a cigar and slice thinly). Add in a few generous pinches of coarse sea salt like Fleur de Sel and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Stir and let sit for the flavors to come together.

I took the bread from the oven and, once it had cooled, I cut it into rounds. Those, I lightly brushed with olive oil and then toasted them on a grill pan (to make pretty grill marks). While still warm, I rubbed them with a raw clove of garlic. Then, I mounded on the tomato and basil mix and ate until I was fit to burst.

Oh, the taste of summer!

Shaving Cream Easter Eggs To Deviled Eggs

My sister and I played with shaving cream and food coloring to dye a couple dozen eggs. The first batch was a little light, so we went again and the eggs turned out pretty good.

We used shallow aluminum pans and filled them with shaving cream, then put drops of food coloring over the shaving cream. Then, we dragged a butter knife through the shaving cream and dye to make designs. We added the eggs and used the butter knife to cover them entirely with colored shaving cream and let them sit for twenty minutes. After rinsing and drying, we repeated to darken the designs.

We then made deviled eggs with most of them – who wants to hide eggs, when they make such a delicious dish?

My recipe for deviled eggs is totally to taste. With this dozen eggs, we used about a half cup of mayonnaise, a tablespoon of yellow mustard, a teaspoon of sweet pickle relish juice (no relish, just the juice) and salt and pepper. I smashed all the yolks before adding the condiments and stirred to combine. After tasting, I added more pepper and mayo before filling the egg whites and dusting with paprika.

Olive Cheese Bites

It is always a treat to find vintage party-food recipes in my mom’s recipe box. This particular one takes cheese straws up a notch by using a similar dough to encase pimento stuffed green olives for a briny, cheesy appetizer.

I decided these would be my game day treat for when the New Orleans Saints play the Los Angeles Rams today in the NFL Conference Championship.

I only baked half and froze the rest for the next event. Who knows – it could be for Super Bowl LIII!

Geaux, Saints!

**Author’s note**

If you use something other than extra sharp cheddar, you will need to add a bit more flour as the dough will not firm up enough.

48 to 50 small manzanilla olives (pimento stuffed green olives)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 tablespoons
8 oz (about 2 cups) extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg

Drain the olives and pat them with paper towels to dry them.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour and spices until well-mixed. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, grated cheese and softened butter. Pulse until combined. Crack the egg into the food processor and pulse until a dough forms. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

Remove the dough and work with half at a time. Break off 24 teaspoon to marble-sized pieces of the dough and flatten them into the palm of your hand, making a small disk just large enough to encase an olive. Place an olive in the center of the dough, then wrap the dough around the olive until it’s sealed. Roll it in your palms until it is smooth and ball-shaped. Place the ball on an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. Repeat until all of the dough is used, spacing the balls about an inch apart.

At this point you can bake them right away, refrigerate them for baking later or, even freeze the dough on cookie sheets, and then store them in zip top bag for baking at a later date.

If you’re baking these immediately, place the cookie sheet with the dough into a preheated 400 degree F oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, watching carefully, or until the dough is lightly browned and firm to the touch. Transfer the bites to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If frozen, allow the dough to thaw while the oven preheats. Bake them about 5 minutes longer when they’ve been frozen.