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Category Archives: appetizers

Cheesy Cauliflower Bites


Marissa Moore posted this recipe on Instagram and I’ve made it several times. Everyone loves it! It’s tasty, easy and fun to eat. It’s also a very forgiving recipe. It works out well with varying proportions of cauliflower and cheese. You like things more cheesy, add more cheese. You like things less cheesy, add less. 

Prep time is less than 5 minutes plus 15 minutes baking time. It’s hard to make anything faster! You can quickly put them together just before serving or make them a day or two ahead and then reheat in the microwave.

Here’s what you need. I like Turkish oregano, but season with whatever you like.

Combine all ingredients


Mix all ingredients till just combined


These get puffy in the oven after 10-15 minutes. Don’t bake them longer or they will collapse.


Cheesy Cauliflower Bites!

  • In a medium bowl combine these ingredients with a spoon:

10 oz package Birds Eye Riced Cauliflower (about 2.5 cups)

8 oz package grated cheddar or Mexican cheese  (about 2 cups)

2 eggs

1 tablespoon oregano

  • Spray a vegetable oil into mini muffin tins for 24 or so
  • Fill each muffin tin to the top
  • You may sprinkle a little extra cheese on top if you like. Try shaved Parmesan or whatever you like
  • Bake at 350 for 15 minutes
  • Run a knife around the edges of each muffin and pop out of their containers. 
  • Voila!

Use 1/2 the amount of cheese if you want. Keep all the other ingredients the same. Your number of muffins will be less. They are more like a crustless quiche or tiny frittata.

Have fun and let me know how it goes!

Feta Cheese Ball Pops 


My family loves cheese balls which are usually cheddar, blue and cream cheese rolled in walnuts and spread on crackers. 

This recipe has a Middle Eastern edge to it made with feta cheese and a Greek cream cheese and yogurt blend, rolled in cashews and drizzled with honey and sprinkled with flaked sea salt.  Plus these are individual bites stuck on a pretzel stick. Like a cake pop!

  • First thing is to blend with a hand or stand mixer

8 ounces of softened cream cheese or Greek cream cheese and yogurt, which contains less fat and has a tang to it!

8 ounces feta cheese, softened

  • Roll into bite size balls with your hands and place on a wax paper or parchment paper covered flat pan
  • Chill in the frig for 1 hour. The balls should keep their shape. If they are soft, place them in the freezer 15 minutes.
  • This recipe can be prepared in advance up to this point. The rest should be done just before serving or the nuts may get soggy.

Raw unsalted cashews have a real nutty flavor I crave!

If you have a source of home grown honey as I do, that’s the best! You’ll get the flavors of the local plants the bees polinate! Thank you Peachie Martin!

Flaked sea salt from Cypress is what I use. I purchase it at our local Mercato Di O & V, an olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt shop in Midland MI. This salt adds a little crunch and potent flavor.

Any brand of pretzel sticks will do. Just a bit of gluten here.

  • Roll the balls in

1 and 1/2 cups chopped raw unsalted cashews

  • Place on your serving platter
  • Drizzle heavily with 

1/4 – 1/2 cup honey

  • Sprinkle with

1/2 – 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt

  • Skewer each ball with

A 2 and a 1/2 inch pretzel stick

Voila! Finger food is the preferred party food!

Goat Cheese and Cashews with Honey and Lemon Salt


This mix of fresh favors was made with memories of Turkey and Sicily. Snack food, dessert, lunch….

  • Goats milk feta cheese is centered on a platter.
  •  Then my addicting raw unsalted cashews are poured around it. 
  • Local Michigan honey from my friend Peachie Martin is then drizzled over the cheese and nuts, as much as you like in a few layers.
  • Sprinkle over it all a sea salt. Mine is from the salt pans of western Sicily which was mixed with dried bits of lemon. These salt pans and windmills of western Sicily, north of Marsala were one of our most favorite memories of travel. Part of the tour were the Phoenician islands, a salt tasting and the windmill museum.

We stayed in Erice, a hill town high above the Trapani region. With our car we took day trips to Segusta and Selinunte, the Greek ruins and to the ancient tuna fishing village Castellammare del Golfo and nearby Scopello. Took a boat tour of the Egadi Islands and had private tours of a cheese manufacturing facility and their local sheep farm and milking barn! Look for more video and pics under “travel” here at NinaintheKitchen.

Chorizo and Goat Cheese Lollipops: Xupa Xup

Lollipops of Chorizo Filled with Goat Cheese & Quince Paste

Lollipops of Chorizo Filled with Goat Cheese & Quince Paste

Visiting my daughter Diana in Portland Oregon we were introduced to this fun tapas served at a Barcelona style tapas bar called Ataula, located in the Alphabet District of NW Portland.  This very relaxed low key town presents the most amazing food. This one I could recreate.

For more go to Ataulapdx.com. Barcelona speaks its own language, Catalyan. The Catalyan term for these lollipops is Xupa Xup.

 

Lollipops stand up in a cup of dried beans

Lollipops stand up in a cup of dried beans

Chorizo is a Spanish sausage seasoned with paprika. Have the deli slice it as thin as they can while keeping whole rounds of meat.

Chorizo Round

Chorizo Round

Sliced Paper Thin

Sliced Paper Thin

Quince Paste is a solid thick sweet jam used in Spanish cooking. It’s popular in Australia and New Zealand.  It can also be purchased in a flat rectangular form that is easy to cut into squares or slices to serve with cheese and your other international snack foods. I’d use a jam-like jar of it for this.

Quince Paste is Ready to Use in a Jam-like Jar.

Quince Paste is Ready to Use in a Jam-like Jar.

  • Spread a thin layer on one side of each slice of chorizo.
  • Place a teaspoon or so of plain natural goat cheese on the end of the lollipop stick or skewer.
  • Place the cheese and stick on one slice of chorizo.
  • Top the goat cheese with the other slice of chorizo.
  • Press rim together. The paste works like a glue with a tart sweet flavor.
  • Serve right away or within a few hours. The chorizo separates as it dries out.

Feta and Pistachio with Black Pepper: A Turkish Meze

Turkish Style Feta and Pistachio Meze

Turkish Style Feta and Pistachio Meze

Cheese at the Fethiye Market

Cheese at the Fethiye Market

Sliced Cucumbers Separate These Mezes

Sliced Cucumbers Separate These Mezes

This creamy spread for bread is another meze I discovered in Istanbul. It’s a quick dinner party appetizer too. I never saw the word feta in Turkey; only cheese. Feta means slice, so feta is probably our interpretation. Their “feta like” cheese is always white, but creamier and less tart. When I developed this recipe I added yogurt to a nice quality Bulgarian feta from our local cheese and wine shop, Eastman Party Store. Eastman’s has made the world of difference in our lives in Midland, Michigan. It has more international flair than any other local shop!
I’ve also made this with the Presidents brand feta which was great too!

You can make this as thin and creamy as you like. A spoonful maintains it’s shape, but it can definitely be spread on a slice of French like baguette. Add more yogurt if you like. Have fun with this new combination of ingredients! Use all 4 teaspoons of the black pepper! It’s the key in this recipe!

As it sits in the frig it may dry out a bit. Add more yogurt to keep it spreadable. It stores well up to a week. 

  
In a small bowl combine with a spoon until well blended.

8 ounces whole milk feta, cut into tiny squares

6 oz or about 1 1/4 cups shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

4 teaspoons black pepper 

1 cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt

Add more yogurt for a creamier consistency. Spread on Naan, a Middle Eastern flatbread

All the ingredients you’ll need. Notice the bag of shelled pistachios!

   
Feta sliced into 1/4 inch cubes 

 
Roughly chopped pistachios

   
The feta and pistachios 

 
A brand of yogurt very close to the Turkish yogurt in Istanbul 

   
The nutrition label of the whole milk Greek yogurt. 14 grams of fat is about a tablespoon per cup

  

Roasted Red Pepper and Tahini Meze

Roasted Red Pepper with Tahini, Garlic and Parsley

Roasted Red Pepper with Tahini, Garlic and Parsley

I spent 3 magnificent weeks in Turkey and Greece this summer and want to share some of the delicious mezes with you. These are small plates of foods eaten before or instead of the main dish. Similar to the Spanish style tapas, mezes are served on small plates which can be shared or eaten in any number, hot or cold.

The Roasted Red Pepper with Tahini is surprising and very tasty. Tahini is ground sesame seeds and usually is a small ingredient when making hummus, but in this meze it is more predominant. You can add these ingredients to your own taste, but here is my interpretation.

In a small bowl place:

2 cups roasted red peppers, diced (bottled and preserved in water or fresh made)

In an even smaller bowl combine:

1/2 cup tahini

1 clove garlic, minced (not too much)

1/2 cup minced flat leafed parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Add the tahini mix to the peppers and serve at room temperature. Make ahead if you need.

You can eat this plain or place it on French style bread. The Turkish bread is called Naan.  It is an oval shaped bread similar to pita or a tortilla. When it is freshly made it is presented at the table puffy and full of air. It soon collapses and can be torn to eat with your food. I am not enclosing the Naan recipe here, but someday I will try it! Here are some pics though 🙂

You can buy Naan at many grocery store delis. 

Puffy Naan, straight from the very hot oven

Puffy Naan, straight from the very hot oven

Naan ready to eat!

Naan ready to eat!

Vanessa and Michelle’s Guacamole

Chopped Jalapeno, Onion and Cilantro

Chopped Jalapeno, Onion and Cilantro


IMG_6698

Mashed Avocado


IMG_6699

Diced Plum/Roma Tomatoes


IMG_6704

Guacamole and Tortilla Chips

This recipe is well liked among my Birch Lake friends. They always request that Michelle make it for her Cuban dinners. I attempted her Cuban dinner, but I need more practice before publishing those recipes. 🙂

Place the following in a large bowl or a mortar:

1 jalapeño, halved and seeds removed, finely chopped

1/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

Combine in another bowl and mash with the potato masher or mash with the pestle in the mortar:

2 large avocados

Add mashed avocado to chopped vegetables

2 plum or Roma tomatoes which have been cut lengthwise and squeezed to remove juice and seeds.  Dice and add to the guacamole. Mix all together with a spoon.

Sprinkle with fresh squeezed lime juice to help prevent from turning brown. Mix in. Also place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the guacamole till ready to serve.

Two Pinchos

Fruit Pinchos & Caprese Salad Pinchos

Fruit Pinchos & Caprese Salad Pinchos

Fruit Skewers:

Use 4-6 in. wooden skewers

Mandarin orange slice

Red grape

Spanish Chorizo ( ¼ in)

Melon of choice

Drizzle with Mercato di O&V Cherry Infused Balsamic and

Mercato di O&V Blood Orange Oil

Caprese Salad Skewers:

Grape Tomato

½ Basil Leaf

Fresh mozzarella piece

½ Basil Leaf

Black Olive

Drizzle with Mercato di O&V Garlic Infused Oil and

Mercato di O&V Cask 18 Aged Balsamic

Peggy Finger: Mercato di O&V, 118 Rodd Sreet, Midland, MI

Tomato Rubbed Bread/Pa Amb Tomaquet/Pan con Tomato

Prepared Tomato Rubbed Bread

Prepared Tomato Rubbed Bread

IMG_6146

1 ciabatta or 8 slices coarse country white bread, preferably sourdough, about ½ pound

4 cloves garlic, halved, optional

4 small, ripe tomatoes, about 1/3 pound

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Coarse salt, such as Kosher or flaked salt

  • Grilling is optional: Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill, preheat a gas grill to high or preheat the broiler. You may prefer to use your toaster or toaster oven.
  • If using ciabatta, slice it crosswise into 4-6 pieces, then cut each piece in half horizontally before toasting
  • Place the bread on the grill rack or on a baking sheet.
  • Grill or broil, turning once, until golden broth on both sides, about 2 minutes per side
  • While the toasts are warm, rub with cut side of the garlic halves.
  • Rub the cut sides of the tomato halves on top of the toasts until only the skins are left, then discard the skins.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt
  • Pile on a platter or in a shallow bowl and serve
  • You and/or your guests may also prepare their own Pa Amb Tomaquet  at the table.
  • This is the first food brought to the table in Catalunya.

Makes 4 servings

Authentic Hummus

My friend Zeina is from Syria. This hummus was made with her expert guidance.
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans also known as chickpeas, drain and then rinse under cold running water a minute or so

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

Cayenne pepper, a Dash – 1/8 teaspoon, as desired

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup tahini/sesame paste

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water, use the cooking liquid from the garbanzos.

Serve with Arab bread, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, and/or red pepper strips.

You can garnish the hummus with olive oil, paprika, cucumber slices, pine nuts or whole chickpea. Parsley too!

The hummus taste best and have the smoothest texture if you rinse the beans in water and heat them before adding the other ingredients. 

  • Drain the garbonzos in a collander. Run cold water over them for 1 minute and toss or stir a few times.
  •  Then, place the garbonzos in a small saucepan, cover with water by 1 inch and bring to a boil. 
  • Lower heat and simmer 3 minutes. Drain, reserving some of the liquid.
  • Place the prepared garbanzos in a food processor or powerful Ninja type blender and add the remaining ingredients. Process until very smooth; at least 3 minutes. If it is too thick, add more of the garbanzo bean water.
  •  Pour the hummus into a flat bowl and swirl in a pattern with your spoon. Then drizzle in some olive oil and sprinkle with paprika or cayenne pepper. 
  •  Serve hummus with torn pieces of Arab bread, Naan, either soft or toasted and sprigs of parsley (for cleansing the breath after eating the garlicky dip). I like the crunch with fresh vegetables like carrots, cukes and red bell pepper. Your choice!

Voila!