Category Archives: Appetizers

Take the Cake

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Christmas is quickly approaching!  And you know what that means!?  Party time!  Christmas parties and potlucks are some of my favorite get-togethers of the whole year, but there’s always the question of what to bring.  No one wants to be the person whose dish doesn’t get eaten. So how do you know what will be popular?  My advice, bring a classic.  Stick to the normal crowd pleasers and then dress them up in their Christmas best!  I know time is always an issue, so here are some of my favorite simple treats for potlucks that I’ve found on Pinterest. Whether you’re hosting or just attending, these are guaranteed to get gone.

However, if you’re looking for something a little fancier, keep reading.

My mom’s birthday was right before Thanksgiving, and I made her a classic chocolate cake with whipped ganache.  I found the inspiration on, you guessed it, Pinterest, and was able to easily recreate it!  The design looks elaborate but is really very simple. It would make a stunning dessert for Christmas dinner.  Here is the Pinterest picture I found.So here’s what I did.  I’ll be willing to bet most of you already have a killer chocolate cake recipe, so I won’t bore you with mine, but I would recommend jazzing it up with espresso or your favorite liquor (I used Bailey’s Irish Cream).  I filled and iced the layers with a traditional whipped ganache (also flavored with Bailey’s), and then covered it with a soft ganache. After that, I simply piped rosettes and topped them with my favorite Lindor chocolate truffles.

The tricky part was the basket in the middle.  This cake would still be spectacular without it, but it does add a very dazzling showpiece. I had never made a basket like this before and was able to get it on the first try.  It really isn’t as complicated as It looks.  I know you can do it if you have time!

You make the baskets by drizzling melted almond bark (or tempered chocolate if you’re brave) over some air-filled water balloons (I happened to have those on hand because I’m a child) and set them up in some cups.  Put those babies in the freezer to chill, then just pop the balloons.  Tips! Make sure you POP the ballon instead of letting the air slowly seep out.  I did that at first and it made the chocolate break because it was too slow.  You just gotta rip it out like a band-aid.  Also, make more than one.  Even I, being the culinary genius that I am, make lots of mistakes. 😉 I think at least two of the four that I made broke.

After you finish decorating, cut the cake with a HOT knife to get those beautiful, picture-perfect slices.

Well, there it is!  I hope you can wow your friends with this fabulous cake! Merry Christmas!

Abby Hughes

Soft Ganache
 
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This ganache is very versatile. Great for icing cakes or making into truffles. This recipe will ice one 8-inch cake.
Author:
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 16 oz.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate (or chips)
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Flavoring
Instructions
  1. Heat heavy cream to simmer in a saucepan. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth.
  5. Pour over cake while warm. If making truffles, refrigerate till firm and roll into balls. Cover with chocolate or cocoa powder.

 
Whipped Ganache
 
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Use as an icing or filling.
Author:
Recipe type: icing
Cuisine: dessert
Serves: 24 oz.
Ingredients
  • 16 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate or Chocolate Chips
  • Vanilla Flavoring
Instructions
  1. Put cream in a heavy saucepan. Heat to simmer. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
  5. Whip till stiff peaks.
  6. Use to ice cakes or as a sweet filling.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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I’ve been cooped up at home with mono for the
past three days,  so with all that free time,
I’ve cooked up quite a few recipes I’m excited
to share (avocado brownies being my favorite)!!!

But today I’m sharing homemade hummus!  I love hummus with pita chips or celery sticks and carrots.  It’s a great healthy snack and a tasty addition to a salad!  There are all different kinds of hummus flavors that I like, but I went with Roasted Red Pepper.  I think next time I’ll have to do a garlic lime hummus or taco spices maybe.  It’s really easy to put your own spin on this recipe with whatever spices and flavors you want to use.

I started with two cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), one jar of roasted red peppers, and some olive oil.  I had that in the food processor ready to blend, then I started to get creative. I had about half a cup of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil in the fridge.  That when in.  Then a couple teaspoons of garlic.  Half a cup of lemon juice.  Then I decided to turn up the heat.  So, I tossed in a jalapeño pepper and two heaping tablespoons of cayenne. Some salt and pepper to taste, and it was done!

I love to cook this way.  For something like hummus, you don’t need a recipe.  You can be spontaneous and imaginative and just get completely carried away with flavors.  The important things are chickpeas and olive oil (and in my opinion garlic), but after that, it’s your recipe!

I’m giving you the recipe for my hummus, but I hope you use it as more of a guide to creating whatever you want with the things you already have in your fridge!  That’s what makes it fun!

Thanks for reading!

Abby Hughes

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
 
This is a versatile recipe for hummus that's great for a snack, on a salad, or as an appetizer.
Author:
Recipe type: Healthy Snack or Appetizer
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Serves: approx. 24 oz.
Ingredients
  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans
  • 1 small jar of fire roasted peppers
  • ½ c. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1 to 1½ jalapenos roughly chopped with seeds
  • 2 Tbs minced garlic or 3-4 cloves
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs cayenne pepper optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Scrape the sides as necessary.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings or flavors as desired.

Parmesan Baked Tomatoes

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The frost is almost upon us!  That means it’s time to harvest the herbs!


I work at The Celtic Cup Coffee House in the small town of Tullahoma, Tennessee.  I don’t have my own herb garden, but The Celtic Cup does.  I love getting to use the fresh herbs when I bake quiches, casseroles, and savory scones.

Today I harvested all the basil for the winter months.  If you’ve never processed herbs before, you probably think it’s really complicated.  At least, that’s what I used to think.  I know there are a couple different ways to do it.  Drying herbs actually does take a while, so I prefer freezing them.  I think it preserves the flavors better, too.  It’s really a lot easier and faster than I imagined.  All you have to do is snip the entire plant, wash, pluck the leaves, and freeze  on a towel-lined sheet pan.  After about half an hour, the leaves should be stiff enough to store in a plastic freezer bag for the winter.  It’s that simple!

While we’re on the subject of basil, last week I made some delicious parmesan baked tomatoes.  I love how all the local markets are just bursting with fresh fruits and veggies from the garden this time of year.  I bought some beautiful plump red tomatoes and thought I would get creative.  All they needed was some leftover basil pesto and a hearty sprinkle of cheese.  Voila! Parmesan baked tomatoes! So fast and simple, but delicious and comforting.  They taste like pizza!  You can make them as a side dish or just a healthy snack.

I’m not religiously gluten free or anything, but I think I feel better when I stay away from bread.  So, to accompany the tomatoes, I baked some chicken and made fresh broccoli salad.  This broccoli salad was at my friend’s wedding last weekend.  It was so good I had to make it for myself.

Together it was the perfect guilt free/gluten free dinner!  It only takes about 30 minutes to make, so I hope this meal will find it’s way into your week as a tasty and stress free option!

Abby Hughes

Parmesan Baked Tomatoes
 
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A quick and tasty side dish or snack.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 12 slices
Ingredients
  • 3 ripe medium tomatoes
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 415 degrees.
  2. Thick slice the tomatoes and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan
  3. Spread about a tablespoon (more or less to taste) of basil pesto on each slice.
  4. Bake for about 8 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and broil on high until the cheese is lightly browned (about 4 minutes).
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

Broccoli Salad
 
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A light brunch or dinner side.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 medium red onion
  • ½ c. Craisins (dried cranberries)
  • ½ c. roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
Dressing
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • ¼ c. white distilled vinegar
  • ½ c. mayo
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
Instructions
  1. Chop broccoli and cauliflower into small bite-sized pieces.
  2. Small dice red onion.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, mayo, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add chopped broccoli, cauliflower, onion, craisins, and sunflower seeds.
  5. Toss to coat all ingredients.
  6. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Muffins and the Pumpkin Patch

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Who doesn't love fall?  If you don't, you can just leaf!  Okay, that pun was not my best.  But let's be honest, fall is arguably the best time of year.  It's finally cool enough to wear those cute sweaters, drink pumpkin lattes, and light cinnamon bun candles in every room! My nephew, Destin, just had his first birthday a few weeks ago, so my mom and I drove all the way to Oklahoma for his party.  Let me tell you, 12 hours is a LONG time to be in a car!  Unfortunately, my nephew probably won't remember that I was there,  so I made sure to get in the video.   Every little bit counts when you're competing for "favorite Aunt" status.My sister threw a perfectly sweet party at Parkhurst Pumpkin Patch.  We roasted smores, climbed hay bales, pet goats, and even got lost in a corn maze!  The adults had a great time, but honestly I think Destin's favorite thing was his new bouncy balls.  He's such an adorable little chunk!  Look at that face.  Yes, his cheeks are just as squishy as you are imagining them to be.We had a great week visiting with my sister, Anna.  I have to brag on her a little because she made some magazine-worthy meals while we were there.  I really enjoyed the delicious spaghetti squash pumpkin soup! Ever since that visit I've caught the disease. The fall fever.  The sweater spirit.  The pumpkin pox.  When it comes fall and winter, all I want to do is bake.  The only problem is that if I make it at my house, I'll eat everything!  So, at the coffee shop where I work, I made some acorn shaped pumpkin spice muffins with a maple glaze.  That would appease me.  I almost took some home to my family, but at the end of the day, I forgot.  The next morning I went to the gym like I normally do, and when I came home, the house smelled AMAZING!  To my surprise, when I walked in the kitchen, my dearest mother had made pumpkin muffins! She has made these muffins so many times for my brother and me.  They are my absolute favorite!  They are the perfect texture.  So moist, and delicious.  Sometimes she makes them with banana or applesauce instead of pumpkin.  I don't know which kind I like best... no wait, I do know. It's the ones with the chocolate chips! Those are my favorite. These muffins just make me feel warm inside.  Like snuggling up on the couch with a plaid blanket.  There's just something magical about them.  So, here's her recipe for pumpkin spice muffins.  I know first hand that these will make your family look forward to fall every year.  Enjoy!   Also,  you can follow my lovely mother on her blog at praiseyouinmystorm.wordpress.com Abby Hughes
Pumpkin Muffins
 
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This versatile muffin is always a hit!
Author:
Serves: 24 medium muffins
Ingredients
  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups pumpkin, bananas, or applesauce
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients.
  4. Stir flour mixture into liquid mixture just until combined.
  5. Scoop into greased muffin tins.
  6. Bake 15 minutes for mini muffins and 20 minutes for medium muffins.
Notes
Batter will keep in fridge for 4 days.
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