Category Archives: Appetizers

Grilled Artichoke and Yogurt Dip

Hot and bubbling, straight out of the oven - yum!

Hot and bubbling, straight out of the oven – yum!

Wow! So many possibilities to get creative with this recipe, where to start?  At the beginning, I guess…  Our friends brought us a bag of grilled artichokes as a hostess gift the other night.  They looked yummy and the next day I decided to turn them into a healthy baked dip.  I did not have time to go to the store, so in true Creative Recipe fashion, I used whatever I had on hand.  I did not have mayo, which is the classic ingredient for a baked artichoke dip, but I did have fat-free plain yogurt (not Greek style), and I was going for healthy.  Searching online, I learned that yogurt can curdle a bit if baked at too high a temperature.  Absolutely does not affect taste.   There are tricks, according to my search, such as adding cornstarch to the yogurt or baking at a lower temperature.  But I wanted a nicely browned dip, and I’m a believer in just starting somewhere and changing one ingredient or technique at a time in the quest for perfection.  So I simply started with the yogurt, no thickener, a high enough oven to brown the dish and determined to note the results.  The flavors and texture were delicious, it browned beautifully, and yes…. the yogurt did curdle slightly.  Next time, I will add a thickener such as corn starch or rice flour to the yogurt to note that difference.  You could get very creative with some sautéed spinach and/or zucchini or summer squash to really load up the veggie quotient.  Here is the first go-round on this recipe and as you would expect, quantities are eye-balled:


1 bag grilled Artichoke Hearts, chopped (6 ounce bag) – These grilled hearts are certainly worth seeking out, but you could used canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped.  There are also frozen artichoke hearts that may work, though I would recommend thawing and draining well first.


Roasted Red Peppers, chopped (hmmmm…. 1/2 cup or so?)

A few Celery tops, minced

Minced Vidalia Onion – about 2 tablespoons

Garlic – if desired (I omitted because the grilled artichokes were flavored with garlic.  If I used canned, I would add some garlic)

Fresh Lemon Juice – about 1 teaspoon

Dill Weed – 1 to 2 teaspoons, to your taste.  Basil would also be good, maybe tarragon or oregano, depending on your veggie choices.  Get creative!

Plain Non-fat Yogurt – approximately 1 cup

Cheese – I used a combination of shredded Parmesan, Goat Cheese and Feta Cheese – about 1 -1/2 cups.  Cream cheese would also melt nicely.  Get creative, but perhaps avoid cheeses that get too “oily” as they melt.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.


Place in an 8 x 8 square glass pan (I did not grease).  Top with some more Parmesan Cheese.


Bake, uncovered, approximately one hour or until browned and bubbly.


If you add veggies with a high water content such as fresh spinach or squash, I would recommend grating the squash and chopping the spinach.  Then sauté in a small amount of olive oil until the liquids that naturally leach out evaporate.  That way you will not have a watery dip.

Maybe some bread crumbs (gluten free or Panko) or potato chip crumbs would be good on top?  Just brainstorming…

This would be a great topping for a baked potato bar or veggie burgers – try the Quinoa and Black Bean Veggie Burger.  What creative ideas and variations do you have?

Grilled artichoke yogurt dip is a zesty, cheesy topping for these burgers.

Grilled artichoke yogurt dip is a zesty, cheesy topping for these burgers.



Quinoa Salad with a Hint of Orange

Believe it or not, this was my first effort using quinoa.  I just kept slicing and dicing and mixing and tasting and the end result was pretty good.  Our neighbors were grilling some lamb with mint jelly for a sunset party and I thought this might make a nice side dish.  I garnished the finished salad with crumbled feta cheese and served some extra cheese on the side, which added a nice creaminess and a bit of salt to each bite.   Leftovers were delicious used the next day as an hors d’oeuvres scooped up on pita chips.  I’m documenting from memory here so I can try again with photos when I next have the time.


1 cup Quinoa

2 cups Water

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook five minutes.  Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Fluff and cool.  Toss in a large bowl with the salad ingredients and dressing below.

Salad Ingredients

Use as much or as little as you like and any variety you like, in true Creative Recipe fashion.  This is what I used:

Fresh Carrots – peeled and grated.  I used fresh unpeeled carrots because they really do taste better than the prepackaged minis.  I used the small shred on my hand grater.

Celery – very small dice

Sweet Red Bell Pepper – very small chop (I chose red for the color)

Red Onion – very fine dice

Yellow Squash – grated.  I used one small squash (tastes better than the large) and grated it with the skin on, using the large shred on my hand grater .

Radicchio – thinly sliced and chopped.  This adds a great color and a nice bitter contrast

Mandarin Oranges – 1 can, drained and chopped.  This was an after thought – or I should say after I tasted the salad.  It seemed too much on the bitter side from the radicchio, and the oranges added a nice sweetness and balanced the radicchio.


Juice of 1 small Lemon

2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard

Sugar or Honey to taste (start with 1 teaspoon and go from there)

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon dried Dill Weed

Coarsely ground Black Pepper to taste





Guacamole Freeze

avocado frozen

This guacamole was made from frozen avocado – yes, believe it or not!

I am so happy to have learned some preservation tips over the past year for avocados.  I love to eat them with almost everything but they are so difficult to buy at just the right level of ripeness.  If they don’t get used immediately they turn dark quickly.  And of course, I hate wasting food!  I read a tip that once ripe, you can store whole avocados in the refrigerator until ready to use and it really does work.  I now buy them a little on the hard side, leave them on the counter until ready to use and whatever I can’t use, I simply refrigerate (whole, uncut) until I am ready for them again.  It really works.  Then my sis experimented with another trick with great success.  She peeled and froze some ripe avocado in a baggie.  She added the seeds to the bag for extra preservation/luck, and this post demonstrates the test results – a very fast and easy guacamole!

Straight out of the freezer, the avocadoes looked fresh and green!  As they began to thaw, I thought they were perhaps beginning to turn brown, so I squeezed a bit of fresh lime juice in the bag and lightly smashed up the avocado.

avocado frozen 2

Once thawed, I removed the seeds and mushed up the avocado in the bag (no mess!)

avocado frozen 3


I added some fire-roasted salsa, mixed it up a bit in the bag and presto!  Guacamole!  Toss the bag for the easiest clean up ever.


Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times


A cherished group of friends, we have met together and adventured together for close to ten years.  At a recent reunion, we created a fabulous grilled lunch with recipes from this blog and even created a new one using grilled corn (look for that post soon, but not tonight…)  We had a lot of fun catching up, especially as Scott did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen  so we could just hang out.  Love that guy!

Clementine Mustard Grilled Shrimp


Grilled Romaine with Italian Vinaigrette

I get these fun vintage bowls out when we plant the garden and use them all summer long

I get these fun vintage bowls out when we plant the garden and use them all summer long

Grilled Corn with Tomato and Avocado (look for this in a future post)

Delicious for lunch, and used leftover corn and tomatoes to make a black bean salsa for a second party that night

Delicious for lunch, I used the leftover corn and tomatoes to make a black bean salsa for a second party that night

Grilled Corn – Perfection!

We brushed melted butter with salt and cracked black pepper on the corn before grilling

We brushed melted butter with salt and cracked black pepper on the corn before grilling

Grilled Nectarines with Honey Lime Glaze and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

We put the fruit on the grill while we ate and it was tender and syrupy in time for dessert

We put the fruit on the grill while we ate, and it was tender and gooey in time for dessert

Clementine Mustard Grilled Shrimp


A nice variation on the Pineapple Citrus Grilled Shrimp.  I mixed this up while prepping for a fun summer lunch with some old friends.  This was a bit more savory than the pineapple shrimp thanks to a dab of Dijon mustard.

Ingredients (all approximate, not much measuring going on here)

1-1/2 pounds Raw Shrimp, tails on, peeled and deveined

3 to 4 Clementine Oranges – juiced (I captured as much pulp as possible)

1 generous teaspoon Dijon Mustard

1/2 teaspoon Dried Dill (if using fresh, finely chop and use several sprigs)

1 clove minced Garlic

1 teaspoon cracked Lemon Pepper blend

Salt if desired


Mix all ingredients except the shrimp.  Skewer the shrimp.  Pour the marinade over the shrimp a few minutes before grilling.  Grill over  high heat for approximately 2 minutes, then baste, flip and grill another 1 to 2 minutes.  Grilling time will vary with heat of grill and size of shrimp.



Deviled Cauliflower

Savory flavor and a crispy crunchy coating.

Savory flavor and a crispy crunchy coating.

A twist on the Roasted Broccoflower post – a bit more involved, but still super easy.  I found some more broccoflower at the store (this time it was labeled “Green Cauliflower” so I’m going with that in this recipe) and decided to use my favorite Panko bread crumb/Parmesan cheese technique with some zippy mustard and herbs for a flavorful crispy-crunch approach.


1 small head Green Cauliflower, washed and broken apart into large florets (could substitute white cauliflower as well – I’m just lovin’ the green here)

1 generous tablespoon Dijon Mustard

Your favorite blend of herbs and seasonings – I used Litehouse brand freeze dried herbs and seasonings  (1 teaspoon basil, 1/4 teaspoon dill, 1/2 teaspoon garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon red onion.)  I used a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic and onion to a powder and then gave a light grind to the basil and dill.

1 egg

1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese (I used Kraft from the refrigerator case, not the grocery shelf)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the cauliflower approximately 3/8 inch thick and place in a gallon size plastic bag.  (Okay, true confessions – I really didn’t measure – just slice it thin, but not paper thin.  Hopefully this photo helps.)

Deviled Cauliflower slicedJPG

Beat the egg with the mustard, seasonings and herbs.

Deviled Cauliflower eggs and mustard

Pour over the cauliflower in the bag.  Seal the bag and shake well to coat the cauliflower.  Add the Panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese to the bag and shake well.

Easy clean up - just toss the bag!

Easy clean up – just toss the bag!

Gently arrange in a single layer on a baking pan.

Deviled Cauliflower ready for the oven

Bake approximately 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs and cheese are browned and the cauliflower is tender.   I did not turn it, but you can if you like.  Without turning, it was crispy brown on the bottom and a nice combination of melted cheese, crispy crumbs and some browning on top.


Ocean Spray Cranberry Party Meatballs

Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Chili Sauce and Precooked Frozen Meatballs

Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Chili Sauce and Precooked Frozen Meatballs

This post is a result of a self-inflicted food challenge with a too-easy-to-be-true happy ending.  I volunteer at our local food pantry and we had received an abundance  of Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce (maybe because the label was on upside down?).  Week after week, many clients at the food pantry marked the cranberry sauce off their food list, perhaps feeling much as I do about the stuff – something only to be suffered through at Thanksgiving, and not very pleasant – especially when eaten all by its lonesome.

The sight of all those cans of cranberry sauce got my creative side going, however, and I determined to find a tasty and easy way to use it as a recipe ingredient in hopes of encouraging people to take them.   First thing I did was turn the can around to see what was really in it.  Lo and behold! There was a recipe to make saucy meatballs – 3 ingredients and easy as can be.  So easy, I whipped them up in less than half an hour on my lunch break, then transferred to a Crock Pot and took it with me to the food pantry yesterday.  Everyone loved the dish and there was lots of fun conversation about other ways to use the sauce – smokie links, a glaze for baking ham, like a BBQ sauce for chicken, etc.  I’m including the Ocean Spray recipe here, because this is one of those really delicious, too-easy-to-be-true-but-it-is-true recipes you can throw together in an instant when you need a dish for a party or a carry-in.  The rest of the happy ending?  Everyone was excited to get their cranberry sauce!



1 14 ounce can Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce

1 12 ounce bottle Chili Sauce

3 pounds precooked frozen Meat Balls – thawed (Make sure these are precooked!).  Since I was in a hurry, I thawed them in the microwave.  I think you could also substitute cocktail wieners, smokey links, precooked ham chunks, etc.


Place the cranberry sauce and chili sauce in a pan over medium-low heat.  Watch carefully, stirring to break up the cranberry sauce.  As it melts, stir well until the two sauces are blended.  Add the meatballs and heat through, stirring often.  I then transferred to a Crock Pot (low setting).