Category Archives: Appetizers

Tuesdays with Tommy: The Art of the Dinner Party, Part 1–Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Artichoke Puree

So let me first say that I did truly enjoy writing last week.  Just another avenue for my fascination with food I guess.  Also after I read the post three things came to my own critical mind that I feel I must share with anyone who is actually reading my ramblings.

1st some leniency must be taken while trying any recipe I post.  I must say that about 80% of what I make food wise is a creation of my own imagination.  Measurements are never identical and any given dish never turns out the same twice.  So I encourage you please…try what I make, but know that simple things like adjusting salt and pepper and tasting as you go are a necessity 🙂 –that is the true joy about cooking though.  It is an art, and art is in the eye (or palate in this case) of the beholder.

2nd I know that Kristen’s blog is geared towards the mindful eating of unprocessed food, which is absolutely outstanding!  However, she has given me autonomy to interpret the journey through mindful eating in my own terms.  And again, for those that read my posts, you will quickly see that my journey towards mindful eating lies in the heart of mindfully making the time to eat and drink with one’s family…and eat a lot of all sorts of rich and bad things for you (in proper portions that is) :).

3rd, while I am surely not a learned philosopher (thanks for that one Pops) I do not intend to preach too much, but thank you for letting me voice my philosophies on food, drink and family!  NOW, on to my five part miniseries…the lost art of the Dinner Party!

Growing up my family and I spent many a summer at our family farm (Happy Apple Farm) in Penrose, Colorado (quick advertising plug, family website posted here).  Besides the obvious coolness of growing up on a farm such as driving tractors and having 40 acres of land for two Banker brothers to terrorize with Red Rider BB Guns, we had the most amazing daily meals.

Days started off with a HUGE breakfast cooked by my Grandfather and Grandma, followed by a day’s work, and then finished with a magnificent dinner.  And back then, I just kind of figured that everyone had dinner in courses like we did, usually four or five course dinners that is.  Dinner was always an event that the whole family and friends that visited looked forward to.  Appetizers with cocktails at 4:00ish, with dinner to follow.  However, as I got older I quickly began to realize that other people DID NOT eat like we did.  I was able to see though how friends of the family fell in love with the way we focused on food, and the stretched out manner, in which we did it.

So the next 4-5 posts will be dedicated to what I believe is the lost art of the dinner party.  There is something grandiose about presenting courses individually and over a several hour timeframe.  My Grandmother was the best at this.  She always let us know that soup comes before the salad!!! (I am sure I’ll get plenty of opportunities to talk about my Grandma so I’ll save some).  This experience is what I am hoping more people try to pull off.  An appetizer through dessert will be provided each week with the intention that they all get put together.  Granted, any recipe can be substituted with another family favorite, the overall point however is to put together a 4-5 course meal…your friends and family will never forget it!!!

For the first course…Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Artichoke Puree.  Funny side note about this recipe that stems from what I mentioned in the beginning of this post.  I get inspiration for food from the funniest places.  While watching the Nicholas Cage movie The Family Man several years ago, there was a scene where he and his wife went out to a fancy restaurant and ordered the above-mentioned item.  I said to myself “that sounds good, can’t be that hard to make, right?”  So here it is my version of an appetizer that was simply mentioned in a movie J

Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Artichoke Puree

*Serves 4 Adults

Ingredients

8 large Sea Scallops (2 per person)

1 large can Artichoke Hearts

1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise

1/2 Lemon

Chives

1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Place all ingredients in food processor (except for chives and scallops.)  Blend until it reaches a smooth consistency.  This can be done the morning of the planned dinner.  Cover and place in refrigerator.

When ready to serve, Heat medium non-stick pan to a very hot temp (med high setting).  While the pan is heating pat dry each Scallop to remove as much water as possible.  Salt and Pepper both sides.  Add a small amount of Olive oil or butter to the pan then sear scallops approximately 1 ½-2 min per side—the goal is to get a nice dark gold crust on each side.

To plate, place a spoonful of Artichoke puree on a plate and top with two scallops per individual.  Garnish with chopped chives.  This can also be done as a main course served with risotto (the second picture shows this option).

In conclusion…no dinner party is complete without some fairly loud background music (Dean, Frank, Tony), great wine pairing (such as a  J Lohr Chardonnay with this appetizer), and most important, a toast to start the evening (which no one does any more???)…”Here’s to my friends and family, and thank you for coming over to eat my free food.”

Question: Do you ever host dinner parties?  What is one of your best dinner party memories?

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Filed under Appetizers, Tuesdays with Tommy

The Best Things I Ate This Week

I don’t share everything that I eat with you guys because a) I don’t have the time, and b) I think it would get boring really fast because my breakfasts and lunches aren’t usually that exciting.  But during the week there is usually something noteworthy to write about so I thought I would start a weekly series called “The Best Things I Ate This Week”.  I was going to call it, the best thing I ate, but then I quickly realized it would be way too hard to limit it to just one thing :).

I hope you’re all having a fabulous weekend so far.  Tune in tomorrow for a weekend wrap-up and to see what yummy recipes I bookmarked this week!

And if you’d like any of the recipes of the foods you see below, leave a comment or email me and I would be happy to share :). Continue reading

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Filed under Appetizers, Breakfast, Snacks, The Best Things I Ate

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

Before I get started on tonight’s post, I want to let you all know that tomorrow we will be starting a regular series on Mind Your Bees and Trees with an awesome guest blogger so stay tuned.  I promise—you don’t want to miss it!

It’s summertime and summertime means BBQ season.  Who doesn’t love a good BBQ?  My favorite part about BBQs is, of course, all of the great food!  There are always so many great appetizers, side dishes, salads, and desserts, not to mention the meat, but honestly I’m usually much more excited about all of the other goodies.  It is a rare occasion when the meat at a BBQ wins me over.

When we go to BBQs, I almost always make a dessert (or two!).  Dessert is my specialty—a trait I inherited from my mom.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I love to bake and I love to share my baked goods with others.  As my mom always says, “the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach” :).

Since I’m not eating any processed sugar this summer, I can’t turn to my old favorites when I’m looking for something to make for a BBQ.  I told Amanda that I thought going to BBQs and not eating all of the yummy desserts would definitely be the hardest part of this challenge for me.  Well so far we have been to a few BBQs and parties this summer, and although it has been a little hard not to eat any dessert, it has not been as bad as I imagined it would be—especially when there are delicious savory goodies to munch on like the Roasted Eggplant Dip I made for a 4th of July party at our friend’s house.

The cake I made for our 4th of July party last year. It looks like it's waving in the wind because I dropped it on the floor before I frosted it! It landed right-side up, but I lost a big chunk from the middle. Oopsie!

I saw this recipe on Courtney’s blog and immediately knew I had to try it.  Giff and I pretty much love anything with eggplant in it (and I love anything with feta) so I figured it would be pretty awesome.  If you think you don’t like eggplant, then you probably haven’t had it cooked very well because eggplant is excellent when it’s cooked well.  I promise to post some more of our favorite recipes using eggplant in the future, but for now, let’s focus on this dip.

Last summer I made Ina Garten’s eggplant dip for a party and it was a huge hit.  I loved that dip so much that I was slightly worried that this new eggplant dip might not live up to the other one, but it definitely did.  Ina’s dip is pureed and although it has an excellent flavor, you can’t specifically taste the eggplant since everything is mixed together.  The eggplant and feta dip is not pureed so it’s more salsa-like.  I loved the chunky texture of the dip and it was excellent with either fresh veggies or crackers (side note: I was excited to find some crackers at the store that don’t contain sugar!).  Although I pride myself on always bringing awesome desserts to parties, I think I could get used to the savory thing too.  My dip was one of the first savory items to go so I’m going to go ahead and say that it was a hit :).

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

*Recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life

Ingredients

▪       1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound)

▪       2 tbsp lemon juice

▪       3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

▪       1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled

▪       1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

▪       1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped

▪       2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

▪       1/2 tbsp dried parsley

▪       1/4 tsp chili powder

▪       1/4 tsp cumin

▪       1/4 tsp smoked paprika

▪       1/4 tsp garlic powder

▪       1/4 tsp salt

▪       Drizzle of honey (optional)

Directions

  1. Position oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler.
  2. Line a baking pan with foil. Place eggplant in the pan and poke a few holes all over it to vent steam. Broil the eggplant, turning with tongs every 5 minutes, until the skin is charred and a knife inserted into the dense flesh near the stem goes in easily, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.
  3. Put lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and scrape the flesh into the bowl, tossing with the lemon juice to help prevent discoloring. Add oil and stir with a fork until the oil is absorbed. (It should be a little chunky.) Stir in feta, onion, bell pepper, basil, parsley, spices and salt. Taste and add honey if needed.

Question: What is your favorite thing to bring to a BBQ?  What is your favorite thing to eat at a BBQ?

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Filed under Appetizers, Vegetarian