Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

The kids have been sick recently – moreso than I’d care to admit. Rice Kernel had an ear infection and pneumonia and Claire had a terrible cold.  Rice Kernel is a pretty easy-going, energy-filled sick patient so he’s the easy part.  But my little one? She doesn’t sleep well when her nose is drippy and her throat coarse, and that makes for many blurry nights and days for the rest of us.  I’d go so far as to say this has been the most difficult stretch of parenthood since Claire’s birth – it was easier with a newborn.  Thankfully, I think we’re slowly getting over it…. and there’s nothing like a comforting meal when appetites return.  A healthier, flavorful meatball baked to perfection with a light coating of Rice Kernel’s favorite Italian-spiced Japanese panko breadcrumbs.  Who says fusion doesn’t work?

Meatball recipe here.



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Rice Kernel only wants fish and chicken that is coated and pan fried these days.  He doesn’t like baked proteins; he doesn’t even like deep fried proteins.  (My in-laws have introduced him to McDonalds.)  Breaded homemade fish or chicken, sausage, or steak.  Those are his favorites.  I don’t typically offer much of a choice, but on this particular day my Dad was around.  And my healthnut Dad also asked for something encrusted.  Low on panko, I thought about a nut crust.  Instead I spied sesame and cornmeal next to each other.  Together they provide a wonderful textured crust that is a fragrant change from our usual panko topping.

Sesame- and Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Tenders

6-8 chicken tenders 
1/3 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons Sesame seeds
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 egg, beaten


  1. Add cornmeal and sesame seeds to plate or shallow baking dish. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Crack egg in a separate bowl.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Dredge in egg, then cover generously with the cornmeal mixture, coating evenly on all sides.
  4. Add oil to non-stick skillet or large sauté pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot, pan sear chicken on both sides until golden, about 3-4 minutes per side.

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It’s that time of year – plenty of zucchini in our garden.  Here, we’ve grated zucchini into lean bison meat, which add so much moisture and flavor with minimal extra calories.  You can stir them into marinara and serve over pasta for a traditional meal, or prepare them ahead of time as an appetizer.

Zucchini Meatballs, adapted from Livewell 360


20 oz package of ground bison (or beef or turkey breast)
2 medium zucchini, grated
1/4 onion, grated
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. If you have a cooling rack, spray it with cooking oil and place it on top of a half sheet pan. If you don’t have a cooling rack, spray the top of the sheet pan with cooking oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the grated zucchini, grated onion, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, pepper and turkey. Mix well.
  4. Scoop small palm-size portions, shape them into balls, and place them on the cooling rack in rows. Continue until all of the mixture has been used.
  5. You should have about 3 dozen meatballs.
  6. Cook in oven for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through.

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Perfect Guacamole

It took me a long time to appreciate the avocado.  It wasn’t something my parents bought and, growing up on Long Island in the 1980s and early 1990s, avocados weren’t exactly plentiful at the market.  Guacamole?  I don’t think I ever tried the rich, buttery, savory condiment until we moved to California.  But, suddenly, it was everywhere.  Throughout my high school and college years, the guacamole I ate always came packaged or from a restaurant.  Personally, I was daunted by the appearance of the fruit and had no idea how simple guacamole is to prepare.  These days, I’m still surprised to see so many people opting for pre-packaged versions when a homemade bowl is infintely more delectable.  This is the perfect, most simple guacamole recipe.  One that even Rice Kernel can prepare.  (And then dig his face into.)

Recipe here.

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something different.)  “No, like with something else in it.”  Here was my (easy) answer tonight.  (And one that was, fortunately, well-received.)

Scallion Meatballs with Ginger-Soy Glaze, from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably Japanese or reduced sodium
1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine), or 1/2 cup sake with 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup peeled, chopped ginger (I used half and it tasted like plenty to me; adjust to your preference)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 whole black peppercorns

1 pound ground turkey, chicken or beef (original recipe calls for turkey)
4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
Half bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) (the cilantro-averse can use flat-leaf parsley)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sesame oil, toasted if you can find it
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

Make sauce: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to a medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes, though this took me a bit longer to reduce it until it was syrupy enough that I thought it would coat, and not just dribble off the meatballs. You can keep it on a back burner, stirring it frequently, while browning the meatballs in the next step. Once it has reduced to your satisfaction, strain through a sieve.

Make meatballs: Mix turkey, scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce and several grindings of black pepper in a bowl. I like mixing meatballs with a fork; it seems to work the ingredients into each other well. Roll tablespoon-sized knobs of the mixture into balls. The mixture is pretty soft; I find it easiest to roll — eh, more like toss the meatballs from palm to palm until they’re roundish — meatballs with damp hands.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, generously cover bottom of pan with vegetable oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, place meatballs in pan and cook, turning, until browned all over and cooked inside, about 8 minutes per batch. Arrange on a platter (a heated one will keep them warm longer), spoon a little sauce over each meatball, and serve with toothpicks. Alternatively, you can serve the glaze on the side, to dip the meatballs.

Do ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until needed. If needed, you can rewarm or keep the meatballs warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

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Spanikopita Chicken Meatballs, adapted from Rachel Ray


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for liberal drizzling
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 pound ground chicken
2 tsp grill seasoning (recommended: McCormick Montreal Seasoning)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh mint, chopped finely
2 tbsp basil, chopped finely


  1. In a bowl combine onion and garlic. Separate the spinach as you add it to garlic and onion. Add feta, herbs, chicken and grill seasoning to the bowl and a liberal drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Mix the meat with veggies and feta and form 18 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs. (I flattened mine for quicker cooking.)
  2. Place the meatballs on a nonstick cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes until they are golden and juices run clear. For more flavor and color, pan-fry the meatballs stovetop until golden brown.

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We love the shrimp guy.  At Costco.  Yup, Costco.  The warehouse store always has amazing fresh shrimp.  This is key in our house.  We’ll eat dried chicken and beef that’s been killed twice.  But mushy shrimp?  That’s a toughie.  We were at Costco last night so tonight was going to be shrimp night.

Fast, flavorful and figure-friendly.  This dish is also versatile: serve over rice, grits, or pasta, roll up in taco form or stuff in bread as a sandwich.  It can also be served warm or at room temperature as an appetizer.

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp


2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or scallion


  1. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add oil or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic and cayenne, if using, and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons water, the lemon juice and parsley; stir to coat the shrimp with the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve over rice, pasta or grits.

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