Buttermilk Cinnamon Pancakes

On the weekends I usually have some more time in the mornings to make something a little special for breakfast. Since at our house, it’s usually milk and cereal or bagel with cream cheese on weekdays, I like to give the kids a chance to make a special request on the weekends. Many times it’s homemade pancakes as it was this past Saturday. Their favorite is buttermilk cinnamon pancakes and maybe some chocolate chips as a treat.

Stack of homemade buttermilk cinnamon pancakes
Stack of homemade buttermilk cinnamon pancakes

Pancakes are a big deal at our house so when it came time to settle on our favorite recipe, we ended up with a combination of what some of my kids and my favorite flavors are. The three special ingredients are cinnamon, buttermilk and…

Continue reading “Buttermilk Cinnamon Pancakes”

Grilled Peach and Ricotta Crostini

The best fruit of this summer season in my small corner of the world has been the PEACH and this peach and ricotta crostini is my new favorite. There are still several weeks of summer left and I have a feeling you’ll be making this recipe even beyond that. Since I started my food blogging venture a bit late in the season, I’m working overtime to share some more summertime recipe before we start rolling out recipes for fall.

Let me warn you, these crostinis are addictive. I know this because as I was testing different versions with my hubby we could not stop eating them. Seriously, I almost didn’t have enough to take the pictures. Although other versions I tested were good, this one blew my mind.

Grilled peach and ricotta crostini with crispy prosciutto and sweet basil
Grilled Peach and Ricotta Crostini

In general, crostini recipes can be easily modified to serve 4-8-16 people. When you slice the baguette thin for crostinis, it can yield between 30-32, 1/2 inch slices. The ingredient quantities in the recipe I created is for 8 servings (2 crostinis per serving because you can’t just have one trust me) so that’s 16 slices in total. If you make the entire loaf just double the recipe. If not you’ll have about half of the baguette to use for something else.

I have to admit, when I met my husband and started cooking more Italian foods, I had a super hard time with ricotta cheese. It’s just one of those cheeses that is different in consistency and lacks in flavor so it has to be seasoned. Ricotta can knock a recipe out of the park or it can totally ruin it for me if it’s not prepared properly. That said, I’m so excited for you to try this grilled peach and ricotta crostini because I’m convinced this ricotta is like butter it’s that good.

Testing the recipe

The crunch of the baguette, the creamy ricotta, together with the slight saltiness of the crispy prosciutto, and the sweetness of the grilled peach… top that with fresh sweet basil and a drizzle of maple syrup….YUUUUMMM. After testing several versions by unanimous vote, this is the recipe that will definitely be on the menu for brunch. You can really make this for any occasion for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I would totally have this for dessert. Everyone will love it. As I was testing the recipe, my second favorite was drizzled with balsamic glaze. I just love love love balsamic glaze and use it in may recipes. If you decide the try it with the glaze, be careful to drizzle lightly because too much will overpower all the other flavors. This is why I chose the version with maple syrup. Maple syrup (the real thing friends, not that high fructose syrup stuff) is honestly one of those things you can never have too much of.

Toasting the baguette slices

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 8 minutes. Just set the timer. My favorite part is you don’t have to keep an eye on them because they always come out perfect. A few minutes before I put them in I brush some olive oil on them and sprinkle some coarse sea salt. I only brush the tops by the way. When they’re done set aside. This can actually be done several hours before hand if you way to get it out of the way.

Grilled peach crostini with a lemon zest and maple infused ricotta, crispy bacon and sweet basil
Toasted baguette creamy ricotta crispy prosciutto sweet peach and basil drizzled with maple syrup

It was pouring at my house when I was making this so, I decided to bring out my panini press. I made everything on my counter instead of having to fire up the grill outside. Even though the whole process only took me about 15 minutes from start to finish, the panini press was a time saver. While I was grilling the peach slices on one half, I was cooking the prosciutto on the other. Since a crostini is a type of “finger food” meant to be eaten in a couple of bites, I think a little goes a long way as far as the amount of toppings. Also, making sure that everything is chopped so the toppings don’t fall off (for the most part) when you take a bite is key.

The ricotta

Meanwhile I prepared the ricotta (whole milk ricotta is so much better for this recipe). One cup was just enough. I stirred in the zest of one lemon and 1 1/2 tbsp. of real maple syrup. If you add more, the ricotta becomes a bit liquidy. Stir in a pinch of kosher salt (it made all the difference) and that’s it.

Grilling the peaches and prosciutto

For the peaches and the prosciutto… preheat the grill to 420 degrees. Give the peaches a quick rinse in cool water. You don’t even have to peel them. Just remove the seed and slice into 1/2 inch wedges. For the next step you really do have to stand by because it happens fast. Place half prosciutto slices on the preheated grill and then do the same for the peach slices. Close the press and count to 30. Don’t peek! It’s that fast. Remove the peaches first and then the prosciutto. The first batch I made, I left on for just a bit longer and they got mushy. Place the slices on the baking sheet and then go for the second batch. Rough chop the prosciutto, this will help to give a clean bite every time. It’s that easy, you’re ready to put the crostini together.

How to put this crostini together

Baguette slice – spread 1/2 tsp. ricotta mix – pile on the prosciutto bits – top with 2-3 slices of peach and basil chiffonade – drizzle with maple = HAPPY DANCE for you tummy!

grilled peach and ricotta crostini is a must have on every brunch menu
Grilled peach crostini is a must have on every brunch menu

Ingredients

  • Baguette loaf cut into 1/2 inch slices (16 for this recipe)
  • Two ripe peaches, thin sliced wedges
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. real maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
  • 4-6 thin slices of Prosciutto Di Parma
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)
Fresh yellow peaches and sweet basil
Fresh peaches and sweet basil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with the tops with good extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt.
  3. Bake for 8 minutes. Then set aside.
  4. In a small bowl stir together the ricotta, lemon zest, maple syrup and kosher salt. Place in the fridge while preparing the peaches and prosciutto.
  5. Preheat panini grill to 420 degrees.
  6. Rinse the peaches in cold water. Remove the seed and slice into 1/2 inch wedges.
  7. Take half of the prosciutto slices and place on one side of the grill and half the peach slices on the other.
  8. Close the grill and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the peaches and spread out on a baking sheet. Then do the same for the prosciutto. The peaches are delicate when sliced thin for this recipe so keep an eye on them. You don’t want to overcook them or you’ll be making peach compote instead. Repeat with the second batch.
  9. Rough chop the prosciutto.
  10. Spread 1/2 tsp. of the ricotta mix on each baguette slice.
  11. Sprinkle on some prosciutto. Be generous 🙂
  12. Top with 2-3 slices of peach.
  13. Sprinkle the basil and drizzle with maple.
  14. Enjoy!
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Grilled Peach and Ricotta Crostini

The very best brunch, lunch or dinner appetizer for the summer!! So good you can even serve this for dessert and everyone will love it. Crispy baguette slices, creamy ricotta, salty prosciutto, sweet peaches, basil and maple syrup.

  • Author: Jennifer
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 9 minutes
  • Total Time: 29 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Appetizer, brunch, Dessert, lunch
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 Baguette loaf (cut in 1/2 slices)
  • 2 ripe peaches sliced in thin wedges
  • 1 tbsp good olive oil
  • coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 lemon (zested)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 46 thin slices Prosciutto Di Parma
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with the tops with good extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse Kosher salt.
  3. Bake for 8 minutes then set aside.
  4. In a small bowl stir together the ricotta, lemon zest, maple syrup and kosher salt. Place in the fridge while preparing the peaches and prosciutto.
  5. Preheat panini grill 420 degrees.
  6. Rinse the peaches in cold water. Remove the seed and slice into 1/2 inch wedges.
  7. Take half of the prosciutto slices and place on one side of the grill and half the peach slices on the other.
  8. Close the grill and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the peaches and spread out on a baking sheet. Then do the same for the prosciutto. The peaches are delicate when sliced thin for this recipe so keep an eye on them. You don’t want to overcook them or you’ll be making peach compote instead. Repeat with the second batch.
  9. Rough chop the prosciutto.
  10. Spread 1/2 tsp. of the ricotta mix on each baguette slice.
  11. Sprinkle on some prosciutto. Be generous 🙂
  12. Top with 2-3 slices of peach.
  13. Sprinkle the basil and drizzle with maple.
  14. Enjoy!

Notes

Try a light drizzle of balsamic glaze instead of the maple for a more savory flavor.

You can toast the bread a few hours in advance and keep at room temperature.

You can prepare the ricotta mixture up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerate in an airtight container.

If you use an outdoor bbq grill, don’t put the peach slices directly on the grill. Instead use a grill pan over the bbq to get the gill marks.

Jennifer Lopez

Mushroom Saffron Risotto

Rich and Creamy Mushroom Saffron Risotto

It’s no secret to all who know me that I absolutely LOVE RICE. It came as no surprise that a few years ago I thought my world was coming to an end. Due to some health issues, my Dr. said I had to change certain things about my diet, one of which, was eliminating rice altogether. Needless to say, from that point on, my mission was to do everything I could to get better and bring “rice” (and everything else that was taken away) back on the menu. Long story short…mission accomplished.

Some of my fondest memories as a child were dinners at my grandmas house. I’m pretty sure I got my love for food and cooking from her. Thank you grandma! I remember playing with my cousins and all of a sudden stopping to take in the amazing aroma coming from inside the house. It always amazed me how she would cook every meal to perfection with ease. Of all the wonderful dishes she made, I cannot remember a single meal which, “rice” was not included and sometimes even took center stage as the star in one of my all-time favorites “Arroz con Pollo” (creamy yellow rice with chicken, garnished with green peas and roasted red peppers). By the way, this was the only way, they could get me to eat either of the last two ingredients. I will soon share more about that dish so stay tuned.

Let’s talk about what is Risotto

Risotto is a traditional Italian creamy rice dish made with a short-grain, starchy variety of rice called Arborio. Naturally, the first time I tasted “risotto”, I fell in love. There are many types of risotto but what makes it consistent is the method of cooking, which allows the rice to release its starch and gives it that creamy-rich consistency we all crave, right (my mouth is actually watering right now). My favorites include seafood risotto, mushroom risotto, butternut squash risotto and for an easy to make yet so comforting meal Parmesan risotto.

It’s really hard for me to go to an Italian restaurant and order something other than whatever risotto special they have on or off the menu. That being said, I have been craving all kinds of comfort food lately and it’s made me go crazy in the kitchen whipping up all kinds of deliciousness which lead me to sharing my take on Mushroom Risotto with you today.

The first time I made mushroom risotto at home, I followed the recipe by Ina Garten. She has been such an inspiration to me. Many of my family’s favorites come from her cookbooks (which I own every single one). When I first made this dish, I followed her recipe to the letter and it is absolutely glorious. One day though, when I wanted to make it but couldn’t get to the market, I had to use what I had on hand and it turned out so good. This is the version I am going to share with you in this post. I hope you and your family love it as much as I do. First let’s talk about…

Is Rice and Risotto good for you

Whenever I make a rice dish and I give the left overs to my fan club (my parents and sisters) I always get “the look”. You know the one I mean. I know in many weight loss diets out there, rice in general is a no no for reasons I don’t believe to make sense for all of us. I am NOT a dietitian so I did a little research to find some kind of evidence that would advocate the health benefits of rice so I won’t feel so guilty every time I’m enjoying a bowl. On WebMD I found there actually is a diet that’s been around since 1939 and gained a new wave of popularity when the Rice Diet Solution was published. It claims you’ll lose weight by slashing calories, sodium, fat, sugar, and protein, while cleansing and detoxifying your body. That is a win win win for me. Of course the plan has restrictions and includes fresh fruits and vegetables among other things as well as exercise. To read the entire article you can go to WebMD and look up The Rice Diet. This being said and noted 😉 there are low-carb diets out there which can promote weight loss and improve health for many people. However, this may not apply to everyone. My motto will continue to be “Everything in moderation.” Now that I got that out of the way let’s talk about…

How to make risotto

There are tons of recipes out there for risotto and I’ll be sharing all my creations with you because essentially it is rice which is basically a blank canvas that you can pair with just about anything, it’s fairly easy to make and it can be a meal on its own. The process for making risotto is a labor of love but if you have 20 minutes to dedicate, I promise it’s well worth the time and effort. The base for all risottos is rice and stock. There are four basic steps.

  • The first is to heat up the stock to a simmer. This is really important as when you ladle small amounts into the risotto as it cooks you want the temperature to remain constant. I use homemade stock for this recipe, but if you don’t have any a good quality, low sodium stock will be good too.
  • Next you melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or a dutch oven. By the way, in all of my recipes whenever you see butter as an ingredient ( in case I forget to tell you later) I always use unsalted butter. If the risotto recipe calls for onions or another ingredient that needs to be sauteed, as this one does, you’ll want to do that at this point before adding the rice. Otherwise, stir in the rice making sure all the grains are coated in the butter (about a minute or two). If the recipe calls for wine, which most do, you’ll add that and cook for about two minutes. This will allow the alcohol to cook off. A rule of thumb for all recipes with wine, I only use wine that I will actually drink myself. This is so important for the final flavor of the dish. Besides most recipes only call for a small amount which leaves the rest for me to drink 🙂 If you prefer to leave it out all together, you can (it just won’t taste as good).
  • Reduce the heat. While stirring with a wooden spoon, begin to ladle in the stock. For the first time, add 2 ladles full . Allow the rice to cook (don’t touch it) for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on in to make sure it doesn’t dry up completely. Ladle about 1/2 cup or one ladle at a time, all the while stirring gently in between. Each time, cook until you see the liquid has been mostly absorbed, before adding more. You’ll continue this process for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente. You’ll know its done when the risotto looks creamy and thick from absorbing the stock. It should not be dry at all.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and any fresh herbs the recipe calls for. You’re done!

It’s as easy as that.

Dried Procini Mushrooms, Diced Pancetta, Arborio Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 lb. fresh baby bella mushrooms
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter( 1 stick)
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. saffron threads
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, preferably freshly grated

Directions

Sauted onions, pancetta and mushrooms
Stir in the stock mix a ladle at a time and stir every few minutes
  1. Place the dried procini mushrooms into a bowl with 2 cups of really hot water. Set it aside for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stems of the baby bella and chop them. Wipe the caps with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt. Slice them and set these aside.
  2. Scoop out the porcini mushrooms, pour the liquid through a strainer and into another bowl. Chop the porcini in half and remove any stems. Set the mushrooms and liquid aside separately.
  3. In a saucepan, heat up the stock and the mushroom liquid to a simmer.
  4. In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter. Saute the onions and pancetta for about 5-8 minutes until the pancetta begins to brown a bit and the onions are translucent. Add the porcinis and baby bellas and saute for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in 2 ladles full of the stock mix, saffron, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes until most of the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the stock mix 1 ladle at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, wait until most of the stock had been absorbed before adding more.
  7. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through and there is a ladle of stock left, about 20-25 minutes. The risotto should be creamy and thick from absorbing all yummy stock and not dry at all.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the final ladle of stock and the Parmesan.
  9. Serve right away and don’t forget to sprinkle some extra Parmesan.
  10. Enjoy!
Best for a comfort food craving and to add to a fall menu
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Mushroom Saffron Risotto

Creamy dreamy risotto with mushrooms and saffron

  • Author: Jennifer
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Italian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried procini mushrooms
  • 1 lb fresh baby bella mushrooms
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups liquid from mushrooms
  • 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup yellow onion (finely diced)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

Instructions

  1. Place the dried procini mushrooms into a bowl with 2 cups of really hot water. Set it aside for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stems of the baby bella and wipe the caps with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt. Slice them and set aside.
  2. Scoop out the porcini mushrooms, pour the liquid through a strainer and into another bowl. Set the mushrooms and liquid aside separately.
  3. In a saucepan, heat up the stock and the mushroom liquid to a simmer.
  4. In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter. Saute the onions and pancetta for about 5-8 minutes until the pancetta begins to brown a bit and the onions are translucent. Add the porcinis and baby bellas and saute for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in 2 ladles full of the stock mix, saffron, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes until most of the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the stock mix 1 ladle at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, wait until most of the stock had been absorbed before adding more.
  7. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through and there is a ladle of stock left, about 20-25 minutes. The risotto should be creamy and thick from absorbing all yummy stock and not dry at all.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the final ladle of stock and the Parmesan.
  9. Enjoy!

Notes

*You can omit the wine, if you prefer.

*To make this a vegetarian dish, you can leave out the pancetta.

*Serve hot and don’t forget to sprinkle some extra Parmesan cheese on top before serving.

 

Tomato Mozzarella Crostini

Crostinis are so versatile and easy to make. I have made countless different types both savory and sweet. I can’t resist making some version of a crostini at every party. They are the perfect cocktail appetizer and once you make this recipe you will know why.

Before I get to this recipe, I have to tell you there was a time when I used the words crostini and bruschetta interchangeably. To me they meant the same thing (a toasted piece of bread topped with something delicious). Although that is partially true, one day early on in my marriage, as I was so proudly passing around my delicious “bruschetta” appetizers to my guests, my mother-in-law, who is Italian, asked me if I knew the difference between the two. Honestly, it had never occurred to me. I have to share this with you in case someone ever asks you that same question, you’ll be armed with knowledge. So here’s what I found when I looked into the meaning of the two besides the fact that apparently the main difference is the type of bread.

Crostini literally means “little toasts” in Italian. They are thin round slices of toasted bread cut from a small baguette type loaf. They are typically brushed with good quality olive oil and most of the time used as a canape, topped with cheese, tomatoes, all kinds of pesto, olive tapenade…. well you get the idea. My mother-in-law maintains these are best used as croutons for soups and salads. While I love using them for that too, I love to serve them as a bite sized appetizer. Perfect for cocktail parties.

Bruschetta comes from the Italian word bruscare meaning “to roast over coals” Who knew? Not me. The slices are long, thick and cut from a rustic Italian or sourdough loaf. As the original meaning suggests, the bread was grilled over fire which gives it that charred effect for a crunch every bite. Traditionally the bread is rubbed with a raw garlic clove, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Ingredients

  • Baguette Loaf
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of red onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4-5 ciliegine (mozzarella balls), small dice
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

How to make the crostini

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice baguette diagonally into 1 inch thick slices and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Brush the bread with good quality extra virgin olive oil. Don’t be shy with this..make sure you get it on there all the way up to the edges.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes or until you see the edges of the bread starting to brown.
  6. Meanwhile dice the ciliegine, tomatoes and the onions. Set aside in a small bowl.
  7. Mince the garlic and add to the bowl.
  8. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and add to the mix.
  9. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
  10. Stir to combine and set aside.
  11. Allow the crostinis time to cool to the touch and top with the tomato mix.
  12. Sprinkle with fresh basil.
  13. For the final touch, drizzle the crostinis with balsamic glaze.
  14. Enjoy!

Notes

  • These are best served room temperature.
  • The tomato mix can be made up to 24 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated.
  • Drizzle the balsamic glaze once you’re ready to serve.
  • If you have any left over of the tomato mix, it will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.
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Tomato Mozzarella Crostini

Thin sliced baguette topped with my delicious twist on a pico de gallo salsa

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 18 minutes
  • Yield: 10 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Cuisine: Italian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 Baguette loaf
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red onion (small diced)
  • 23 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 45 ciliegine (mozzarella balls) (diced)
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp balsamic glaze

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice baguette diagonally 1 inch thick and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Brush the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Bake for 8 minutes or until edges begin to brown and the crostini looks golden and toasty.
  5. Dice the ciliegine, tomatoes and onions. Place in a small mixing bowl.
  6. Mince the garlic and add to the mix.
  7. Squeeze the lemon juice and pour over the mix.
  8. Sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked pepper.
  9. Stir the mix to combine.
  10. When the crostinis are cool to the touch, top with the tomato mix and sprinkle of fresh basil.
  11. For the final touch drizzle the crostinis with balsamic glaze.
  12. Enjoy!

Marinated Mozzarella Ciliegine

Marinated mozzarella

Thinking back on my childhood I can remember not liking cheese at all, not even on a burger (I’m still particular about that by the way). Boy did that change! Especially this summer, I’ve been on a rampage making every other recipe with some kind of cheese. This particular recipe happens to be one of my favs because I can literally make this in 5 minutes, it looks so pretty on the table and everyone loves mozzarella. I like to use the 16 oz. mason jar with the wide mouth. This will fit about 28 ciliegines plus the oil, herbs and spices.

Don’t let the fancy name for these Mozzarella Ciliegine (small balls of mozzarella) trick you into thinking it’s as hard to make as it might be for some of us (me included) to pronounce because it really is super easy. You can prepare this up to 2-3 days in advance and they’ll taste even better if you do. About half an hour before serving, take it out of the refrigerator. This will bring the oil back to room temperature. Ciliegine is a bite sized ball of delicious melt-in-your-mouth-fresh mozzarella. If you can’t find Ciliegine in your local market, you can use Bocconcini as well. They’re just a tad larger and I don’t think any one is going to complain about a larger bite of this deliciousness. I love to serve appetizers at all my parties whether it’s a cocktail party, dinner party or birthday party. Since I can make these ahead of time and every one always loves them, I make them often. These can be served along side most any other appetizer you make and they will be amazing! I like to prepare these in a mason jar and place them right next to a charcuterie board. I love to enjoy them with crunchy bread sticks, but they will disappear just the same if served on their own.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh ciliengine or bocconcini, drained of any liquid
  • 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, just the leaves (about 1tbsp.)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1tsp. Kosher salt or to taste
Good quality extra virgin olive oil, parsley, basil, thyme,garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, salt and pepper

Instructions

1. Remove the mozzarella balls from the container and place in a mason jar or glass bowl. I like to use the wide mouth 16 oz. size which will serve about 8 (28-30 ciliegine). Depending on the brand or package you buy, you may have some left to use in another recipe.

2. In another small bowl or measuring cup stir together all the other ingredients until well combined.

3. If preparing in a mason jar, pour the mixture over the ciliegine, close with the lid and give it a few shakes to make sure all that yummy goodness is well distributed throughout the entire jar. If preparing in a bowl stir the olive oil mixture with the ciliegine, cover with plastic wrap.

4. Let it rest on the counter for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving so the mozzarella has time to absorb the flavors of the marinade.

5. Enjoy!

Extra virgin olive oil and fresh spices with delicious mozzarella bites

How to serve these delicious bites

I like to serve these at a party with crunchy bread sticks, pita chips, or toasted baguette, but they are just as good on their own for a small snack too.

These are also a nice compliment to a platter with cured meats and veggies like roasted red peppers, artichokes, marinated olives, cornichons…this takes it to another level!

Notes

After a couple of hours in the refrigerator, the oil will solidify so don’t forget to allow time for it to come to room temperature before serving.

For the lemon zest, I like to use a peeler and cut a couple of thin slices of the zest and finely chop them. The lemony taste of the thyme and the chopped lemon zest really jump out in the great flavors of this recipe.

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Mozzarella Ciliegine

Creamy fresh mozzarella balls marinated in extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and spices

  • Author: Jennifer
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 120 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Cuisine: Italian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Mozzarella Ciliegine
  • 3/4 cup Olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 3 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
  • 3 sprigs Thyme (stems removed)
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh basil (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. Dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. Lemon zest (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Remove Ciliegine from the store bought container and place them in a glass bowl or mason jar and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl or measuring cup add all other ingredients and stir until well combined.
  3. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes and up to 2 hours if you can. The longer it sits the better it will taste.
  4. Enjoy!

15 Minute Mini Flatbread Pizzas

Mini flatbread pizzas with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce
Mini pizzas great for lunch, snack or a party appetizer

Toasted mini flat bread, mouthwatering marinara sauce and hooey gooey melted mozzarella cheese, in 15 minutes? Totally! I’m going to show you how. I’m always looking to find different and healthier ways of making my five year old the foods he loves most. I mean what kid doesn’t absolutely love pizza right? The delivery kind as well as the frozen ones are not always the best option so when I found these flatbread rounds one day at the market it was like light bulb immediately went off. These mini pizzas are a hit with children and adults a like. I have a large immediate family and sometimes there are more children than adults, so even the smallest gathering (about 25 people) requires some serious planning for me. This is one of those appetizers you will want to make time and time again because they’re so delicious and quick to make. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anyone in my family who doesn’t love this delicious homemade pizza. That’s a win-win in my book.

Mini Flatbread Pizzas

How to make the mini pizzas

Cheesy mini flatbread pizzas

Now a days there are all sorts of flat breads to choose from in most markets. If you can’t find the small personal sized ones, you can use a cookie cutter or a glass cup even, to make them any size you like. The idea is to make them small enough to be served as a “finger food” appetizer. I would make as many as you can because most people will eat 2 or 3 of these bad boys. I like to brush the flatbread with some good quality olive oil and sprinkle with garlic granules. Then I toast them in the oven for a few minutes before topping it with the marinara. This gives it excellent texture and will only adds a couple of minutes prep time , but if you’re in a pinch you can definitely leave that part out. I typically use a good-quality jarred marinara sauce but by all means, if you happen to have some left over homemade marinara sauce, this would be a great time to use it. For the cheese, I find mozzarella to be difficult to shred when its fresh, so I buy it already shredded. I do prefer the thicker over the finely shredded. It just melts more pretty when topping a pizza. A sprinkle of parsley flakes on each or finely chopped fresh kind if you have is great too. You can prepare them in advance up to this point, cover them and refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake for 5-8 minutes when ready to serve. These are best when served hot. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, you can reheat them at 400 degrees in the oven for a few of minutes.

Ingredients

  • Personal-size flatbread rounds, 12 pack
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. garlic granules
  • Marinara sauce, good quality
  • 8 oz. Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp. Parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Brush the flatbread rounds with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 5 minutes until you see the toasty brown circles appear on the slices.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
  5. Spread about 1 tbsp. of marinara sauce over each piece.
  6. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese, about 1 tbsp. on each pizza.
  7. Sprinkle with parsley.
  8. Place back in the oven for 5-8 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  9. Enjoy!

Prosciutto Mozzarella Melon Skewers

This combination of flavors is soooo delicious. It was probably a few years back that I was surfing the web for ideas on a new appetizer. It happen to be during the time that cantaloupe is in season, around January. I came across all kinds of recipes using cantaloupe in 100 different ways so I started trying out some combinations and when I got to this one, it blew my mind. I remember saying to myself, “What took you so long Jenn.” The saltiness of the prosciutto, with the creaminess of the fresh mozzarella, the sweetness of the cantaloupe and the tangy balsamic glaze…need I say more. Don’t wait until your next party to make these. Actually, if you can make them right now, “GO!” That’s how good these are and they’ll be ready in under 10 minutes. If you’re putting this together as one of your appetizers for a party, I recommend using a melon baller for a nice touch on presentation. If you don’t have one, cut the cantaloupe into small cubes trying to keep them equal in size . It’s still going to taste just as good.

Prosciutto is the Italian word for ham. It is a dry-cured meat typically served thinly sliced and so buttery-soft, it almost melts in your mouth. The curing process for this type of meat can range between 9 months and up to two years and requires a heavy amount of salt. The salt is then washed off but the meat will be left with a saltiness to it that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of cantaloupe for this recipe. The two most commonly known and best tasting types of prosciutto are the di Parma and prosciutto di San Daniele (pictures below). Both of these are cities in Italy famously known for their cured meats. Most markets have one or both of these available at the deli counter to be freshly sliced. Many markets now a days, however, also carry the less expensive option which I like to call “imitation prosciutto.” I would stay away from these all together and especially for this recipe because the flavor and texture of each the four ingredients will make a big difference in the overall result. I know you’re likely to come across the imitation prosciutto at your market, so if your only option is the pre-sliced-packaged kind, I have to warn you some can be dry and chewy. There are several different brands at my local market of pre-sliced prosciutto, of which I have tried a couple, and they are not that bad. It will be a hit or miss. The best thing I could say is just make sure the prosciutto is pink in color and and sliced paper thin. Whether you purchase the freshly sliced or the pre-sliced packaged kind, for the best quality look to make sure it says “Imported from Italy”. This is the only way you will know if it’s the real deal.

If you’ve never tasted prosciutto, ask for a sample slice of each at the deli counter before you decide. For this particular recipe I like to use di Parma because it’s a little saltier while the San Daniele is on the sweeter side. Also, ask the person at the deli counter to slice it paper thin. I don’t understand why, but it’s so hard sometimes to get it how I like it, I find myself having to tell the person at the counter at least a couple times to be on the safe side. It happened to me once when I bought about $20 worth of prosciutto only to get home and not be able to use it because it was sliced too thick. I ended up having to bake it almost crunchy and served it with breakfast. Oh one more thing, there should be a piece of parchment paper (or plastic sheet depending on the market) between each slice. Otherwise you’ll get home to find a ball of prosciutto and good luck trying to separate that mess. You’ll know it’s perfect when you hold up a slice and you could almost see through it.

Having said all of that, I know sometimes I want to make a recipe and my local market doesn’t have one the ingredients I need…so frustrating. There are ingredients that can be substituted at times, but I always say, “there is never a substitute for good-quality ingredients if you want your food to taste amazing.” Now, prosciutto is a fatty cut of meat which gives it that buttery-soft texture so if you come across a slice that is tough or crispy around the edges, I would avoid it.

Cantaloupe is typically in season in January, but most markets have melon all year round. Definitely try this recipe again when it’s in season though. I used to make this appetizer by just cutting the melon into equal sized small cubes, but once I found out about the handy little tool called a “melon baller“, I’m obsessed. This tool has totally given this appetizer such a fancy look to it. If you’ve never used one before, it’s really easy. Once you’ve rinsed the cantaloupe until cool running water, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Sink the baller into the flesh of the cantaloupe and turn 180 degrees, until you see the perfect ball. The first one never comes out perfect for me but as you do a few, you’ll get the hang of it.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cantaloupe
  • 1 lb. Fresh Mozzarella Ciliegine (if you can’t find these, you can use Bocconcini)
  • 1/2 lb. thinly sliced Prosciutto
  • Balsamic glaze

Instructions

  • Wash the cantaloupe under cool running water. Cut it in half crosswise and remove the seeds.
  • Use a melon baller to scoop as many balls as the number of skewers you want to make.
  • For each skewer, take a slice of prosciutto and fold it. Pierce through the skewer and push it toward the top.
  • Take a mozzarella ball and pierce that through the skewer. Push it up to just below the prosciutto.
  • Take a melon ball and pierce it through the skewer and push up so it’s just under the mozzarella.
  • Arrange the skewers on a platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. This can be prepared up to a day in advance, just don’t drizzle the glaze until you’re ready to serve.
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Prosciutto Mozzarella and Melon Skewers

Prosciutto Mozzarella and Cantaloupe Skewer with a balsamic glaze drizzle

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 15 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Cuisine: Italian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 Cantaloupe
  • 1 lb. Mozzarella Ciliegine
  • 1/2 lb. Prosciutto (Thinly Sliced)

Instructions

  1. Rinse the cantaloupe under cool running water.
  2. Cut the cantaloupe in half and remove the seeds.
  3. Use a melon baller to scoop out perfect balls of melon for the skewers. Place the balls in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Remove the mozzarella ciliegine from the container and give them a quick rinse under cool running water. Place in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Take one slice of the prosciutto and gently fold it. If the prosciutto slice it too large, you can carefully cut it in half. Pierce it through the skewer and push toward the top end to allow space for the mozzarella and the melon to follow.
  6. Then take a mozzarella ball and pierce it through, pushing upward to just below the prosciutto. Do the same with a melon ball until it's just under the mozzarella.
  7. Place the prepared skewers directly on a serving platter. This can be prepared up to one day prior, covered and refrigerated. Once ready to serve, drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy.

Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip

Baking dish filled with delicious spinach and artichoke dip and melted mozzarella cheese
Creamy cheesy spinach artichoke dip great for a crowd

I’ve been making this recipe for as long as I can remember and it’s one of those dishes that I get asked to make over and over again. From my five year old, who is still a picky eater, to my toughest adult critic, my husband, it’s a winner. Whether I bring it out at a cocktail party or take it to a potluck, everyone absolutely loves this dip. The list of ingredients is a bit long but you probably already have most of them in your fridge and pantry. This is one of those recipes where you only use one kitchen tool and one dish so cleanup couldn’t be easier. It takes about 5 minutes to prep or you can make it 2-3 days in advance and just keep it covered and refrigerated. All you have to do is put it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes right before serving. Make sure you sit down to have some the moment you put it down, because chances are, by the time you come back it will be GONE. You’ve been warned. If you’re lucky enough to have any leftovers, it tastes just as great the next day. If you’re sharing with more than about 6 people, you may even want to make two and be ready for people to ask you for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. package of cream cheese* at room temperature
  • 10 oz. package of frozen spinach defrosted (all the water squeezed out)
  • 14 oz. can of quartered artichokes, not marinated, liquid drained
  • 8 oz. sour cream*
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups or 6 oz. package of shredded mozzarella cheese*
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2tsp. kosher salt
  • 1tsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2tsp. cayenne pepper or if you don’t have that, 3-4 dashes of your favorite hot sauce will work too.

*I use the whole milk version of all of these ingredients. You can use “part-skim” or “lite” versions of these ingredients but when you’re making it for a party and you want to impress your guests, I have to tell you, it just won’t taste the same.

Instructions

  • Place cream cheese and sour cream into a food processor first.
  • Add the artichokes, spinach and garlic. Pulse a few times.
  • Add remaining ingredients and half of the mozzarella cheese.
  • Pulse to mix to desired consistency. (I like to leave some small chunks for texture)
  • Spread evenly onto into a baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake uncovered 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
  • Serve warm with tortilla chips. *Place tortilla chips on a baking sheet and place in the oven with the dip for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Squeeze some lime over them right out of the oven for an added burst of flavor.
  • Enjoy!
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Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip

Three cheese dip with shredded mozzarella, parmesan and cream cheese is a savory and delicious appetizer that will feed a crowd.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. cream cheese (Room temperature)
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach (Defrosted and water squeezed out)
  • 14 oz. quartered artichoke hearts (drained and rinsed)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Place cream cheese and sour cream into a food processor with a steel blade inserted.
  2. Add the artichokes, spinach and garlic. Pulse a few times
  3. Add remaining ingredients and half of the mozzarella cheese
  4. Pulse to mix to desired consistency. (I like to leave some small chunks for texture)
  5. Spread evenly onto into a baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella cheese
  6. Bake uncovered 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes
  7. Serve warm. Enjoy

Notes

We like to serve this with tortilla or pita chips. *Place tortilla chips on a baking sheet and place in the oven with the dip for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Squeeze some lime over them right out of the oven for an added burst of flavor.

It can also be served with veggies as a healthy alternative.

 

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Welcome to My New Food Blog

This is the first post on my new food blog. I am overjoyed that I finally mustard-up the courage to share my passion with all of you. For years, I’ve only kept a personal journal of my family’s favorite recipes and never really shared them with anyone. This might, at first, ruffle some feathers of family and friends who have asked me to share, sometimes relentlessly. I’m pouring all my heart and soul into this now and I figure go big or go home right? So I’m going to share with everyone all at once.

As I’m getting started, I can already see the learning curve for the website is going to be considerable, but stay tuned I promise there is more coming soon. I really hope you’ll join me on my journey as I share my love for food, my passion for cooking and the joy it brings me when I see others enjoying my creations. I love cooking everything from classic comfort foods, to traditional latin recipes, I learned from my grandma, but with my own modern twist, sweets are a must and of course I would not leave out the cocktail recipes.

My goal is to share my recipes in easy to follow step by step instructions, colorful pictures and the stories behind the scenes. I must warn you though, I am not a professional photographer. As time goes on, I’m sure we will all be noticing the improvements of my picture taking skills…hopefully. For now, the nicer pictures on the site will likely come from other sources like pexels.com or other photo sharing sites. I will take the pictures of the food and do my best to make the food look as delicious and appetizing as they taste.

You can subscribe below to get notified with new updates. I also welcome any feedback or ideas you may want to share. There’s a feedback link at the top of the page if you’d like to help. In the meantime, CHEERS to the start of Jenn’s Homemade!