Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

cocktail shrimpI am a sucker for a good shrimp cocktail. I also, would admit that I can be a bit of a shrimp cocktail snob. Shrimps are a touchy thing. You can buy them all cooked and chilled. You can buy them cooked and frozen, aka thaw and serve. You can buy fresh shrimp. Or you can buy frozen fresh shrimp. Most people can be a little fearful of making them from fresh shrimp. After today, you will be very comfortable making them from fresh or fresh frozen thawed shrimp. Its nothing to be afraid of. Until you have them from fresh you really can’t know what a good shrimp cocktail is. The ones you buy in a ring, all cooked, are usually very small, salty and soggy. YUCK! The ones that you thaw and cook have a totally different taste and texture and they are phenomenal if they are cooked properly. Never peel the shells off before cooking, it will make the shrimp rubbery and dry.

Shrimps are measured by count. They will say U31-35 count, U26-30 count, U 16/25, U13-15 count, or U12, U8, U4 and many more. The smaller the number the bigger the shrimp. To me anything smaller than a 26 count shrimp is not for shrimp cocktails. It goes like this, U mean Unit and the number means how many per pound. So, if you buy U13-15, this is 13 to 15 shrimp to a pound and so on. This is a perfect shrimp for shrimp cocktail and my shrimp of choice.

They also cook very quickly. Your water needs to be boiling, and you need a bowl of ice and water to submerge them into after they are cooked to stop the cooking. Depending on the size shrimp you are cooking they take between 2-4 minutes, literally. The perfect cocktail shrimp 13/15 and 16/25 are going to take exactly 3 minutes. But it is all based on your shrimp size. Once they begin to curl and firm up and are no longer opaque in color, they need to be pulled and quickly iced. Transfer to an ice bath to chill and then they can be peeled and cleaned within minutes. Cleaning is simply slicing open the rounded side of the shrimp and pulling out the dark vein. The whole process from a thawed shrimp to the finished product is like 15 minutes. You will taste the difference and never go back to those other soggy and salty shrimp.

6 qt pot of boiling water 2/3 full of water
6 qt bowl of ice and water
16  shrimps size 16/25 per pound or bigger
1 c. ketchup
1 tbsp horseradish
lemon wedges
pretty dish for serving

When shrimps are completely thawed place in boiling water
cook exactly 3 minutes
drain in sink in a colander
cocktail shrimp colander







transfer immediately to ice bath
let chill for 5 minutes
peel and clean

Cocktail Sauce:
mix together the ketchup and horseradish and a squeeze of lemon, stir and place in a martini glass.
Using a pretty platter or dish, place the glass in the middle with your dipping sauce in it. Line the dish with frilly lettuce, shredded lettuce or kale, whatever you want,
Arrange the shrimp around the dipping sauce and chill until ready to serve. Hang a few shrimp on the glass for more or a dramatic presentation. Shrimps should be well chilled when served. Enjoy!
cocktail shrimp 2

Crab and Lobster Wontons

crab wontonsThis past few weeks Soft shell Maine Lobsters have been on sale for 3.99 a pound. That’s a really great deal. All the stores have had them all cooked and ready to go for 3.50 to 4.00 per lobster. I bought a few, shelled them, chopped them and then wanted to come up with a way to use the meat. There was all of the usual suspects, lobster rolls and salads, alfredo and scampi. But then I thought of wontons. I love bite size foods, and I had canned Crabmeat in my fridge, so I made a cream cheese stuffing. Just lobster or just crab would have been fine, I had both so I used both. If you don’t have a fry daddy, just put a couple inches of vegetable oil in a fry pan or a pot and bring it up to 350 degrees.

Crab and Lobster Wontons

Vegetable oil for frying heated to 350 degrees
1 pkg. egg roll wrappers
1 8oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
cream together and add:
1 cup minced lobster
1 cup crabmeat
1/2 cup crushed ritz crackers
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp old bay seasoning
mix well, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary

To make the wontons…

Have a cup of water handy to dip your fingers in to moisten the wrapper.
Pull one wrapper out of package and cut from corner to corner. You will have two triangles.
Wet the edge of the triangle all the way around the wonton dough with your finger.
Put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Try not to get the filling on the wet edges, the moistened dough will stick together like glue on the edges. This is important because when frying they will not open up. Make sure the edges are good and sealed, you may have to squeeze them together for a few seconds to seal. Fill the second one. You can usually fry two at a time. Let cook on one side for 15 seconds or so and flip over. When the wonton looks golden, remove from the oil and place on paper towel. Repeat the process of filling and making more wontons until you have used up all the filling. You will use almost the whole package of wrappers. Serve with Duck Sauce. Make 20 or so.

Festivites and Lite Bites for the 4th!

3 appsFor the 4th of July, we were lucky enough to get 4 days off. We began our long weekend at the Bangor Waterfront Pavillion at a Phish concert. The concert was amazing and we got to spend the evening with our kids their spouses and friends. The weekend consisted of some work, lots of fishing and swimming, lots of relaxing, lots of visiting and lots of eating. We were invited to set off some additional fireworks at my daughters bonfire, so I opted to bring some snacks. I decided to bring what could be reheated and easily eaten. One of Brian’s favorites is those sausage and pepper subs you get at any fair or festival. So, I made a bite size version of those that I popped in the oven for 5 minutes and served. I also put together a bowl of Swedish meatballs. And, thirdly I made some steak, sausage and mushroom skewers that reheated in the microwave for 1 minute. They all went over very well and I will most definitely make these appetizers again and again.
sausage and steak sausage and peppers 1two apps
Mini Sausage and Peppers

Sausage, grilled and sliced into 1/4 ” slices
onions, cut into 1″ squares
Peppers, cut into 1′ squares
sautee onions and peppers in 4 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper until tender
1 long baguette cut into 1″ slices and buttered and grilled on both sides
provolone cheese cut into pieces big enough to cover the bread

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
mix together

on a oven safe pan lay all the grilled bread on the pan
spread each piece with a little bit of the dijon mayo
place a piece of provolone cheese
lay 2 slices of sausage
stick a 3″ skewer through the sausage and bread
take an onion and a pepper and slide it down over the toothpick so its sitting on top.
and additional liquid from the onions can be drizzled over all the breads
Wrap in Saran Wrap and refrigerate. When ready, remove Saran Wrap and bake 5 min on 375 degrees and serve.

Swedish Meatballs

Thaw out store bought meatballs or use homemade
1 c. brown gravy
1/2 c. sour cream

toss and bake 15 minutes on 400 degrees, add toothpicks and serve

Steak and Sausage skewers

3″ toothpicks
broil mushrooms in butter and cut in half
grill  steak seasoned with salt and pepper
grill sausage, slice into 1/2 ” slices

cut into bite size pieces and skewer
before serving, microwave 1 minute and serve

Homemade Hummus!

hummusIt’s really hard to find organic Hummus. At the same time it’s extremely easy to make hummus, organic hummus that is. I have mentioned before that one of my favorite brands is Eden foods. Eden sells canned organic garbanzo beans or chickpeas and all of their cans are BPA free. By making your own you can control the salt and put any flavors you like in the hummus. It’s high in fiber and so good for you. My favorite way to eat it is by mixing it with guacamole. I mix a bowl of avocado and lemon, fresh tomato, salt, pepper and cilantro and add a huge scoop of hummus. Yummmmmmy! I had left over grilled eggplant in my fridge, so I made eggplant and spinach hummus. But you can add whatever you like. There are many ways to flavor it. We always drizzle the top with good olive oil and sprinkle some Hungarian paprika on top. You can dip with toasted pita wedges or crackers, whatever you like will work. Just a note about olives, they can add a lot of salt to your hummus. If you plan to use olives, don’t add any salt until the end. Have fun creating!

Start with a cuisinart or food processer fitted with the blade attachment.
Add 1 can of Eden brand organic garbanzo beans drained of half the liquid.
Add the juice of one lemon
Add 1 head of roasted garlic or 4 very finely minced garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp Cumin or turmeric is optional
1 tsp paprika is optional
Begin the processor and drizzle 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil through the feed tube while running. Before you add the oil, Now is when you would add other items, Like… I handful of spinach, 1/4 c. olives, 1/2 cup chopped roasted eggplant, 1/2 c.sundried tomatoes, 1/2 c.cooked artichoke hearts.

Scrape down the sides and taste, keep blending. Adding additional lemon or salt and pepper and even more oil if necessary… until you are happy with the flavor.
Serve with toasted pita bread.
Top with toasted pine nuts or other toasted nuts, olive oil and paprika! Enjoy your really healthy snack.

Stuffed Clams

clam shellsThese go along with my love of miniature foods. During the summer we eat a lot of Steamers and Mussels. I always bring out a bowl of hot water and as we eat, the shells go into the water. Then I tediously wash each shell and save them. I know that sounds a little obsessive compulsive, but I just love serving platters of stuffed clams at gatherings. They make such a splash and are so good. You don’t need silverware, its like eating an oyster on the half shell, which by the way, I love! So, I will give you the plain version, and the kicked up version, make the one you prefer or make both. This is the kind of recipe where using the Roasted Garlic Butter would be excellent. You do not need the clam or mussel shells, you can make little mounds and bake them. Earlier, I did a post on Asian Spoons, I said I would be posting a great use for them that is an elegant appetizer. This was one of the recipes to which I was referring to.

preheat oven to 400 degrees ~ bake 8 minutes
serve immediately

2 slices of raw bacon, chopped in small pieces
1/8 c. chopped green peppers
1/8 c/ chopped onions or shallots
1/2 stick butter
cook over med to med high heat until bacon is fully cooked and onions and peppers are tender
3-4 cloves chopped fresh garlic
cook 1 minute
1 handful of chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp honey
1-10 oz. can whole baby clams in juice, drained and juice reserved (I like CENTO brand)
1-5 oz. can chopped clams w/ juice
3/4 c. progresso Italian bread crumbs
1/2 c. crushed Ritz cracker crumbs
1/2 to 1 whole fresh squeezed lemon, add as much as you like
1/4 tsp hungarian paprika and/or tobasco sauce 3-4 shakes
Stir all ingredients together, add the reserved clam juice if necessary. Add as much more as needed to make a nice stuffing.

clam stuffing
Turn off heat… Taste and add salt if needed.
Stuff the clam shells or make small mounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake and serve! It will depend on the size of the clam shells, how many you get. If they are on the small size you will get about 30 or more.

clam spoons

A little Fancier Version…
This version will allow you to use less stuffing in each one and will give you more.
1 Tub of fresh Baby Spinach
Saute on med high heat, fresh spinach in olive oil, salt and pepper until wilted and soft. Turn off heat.
1 small container crumbled Goat Cheese, slices of swiss cheese or mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cut into shreds. Basically whatever you like for cheese use.
On top of each mound before going into the oven, put a small amount of spinach and top with cheese, bake and set on an asian spoon to serve or serve in the clam and mussel shells.

clams spinach

Broccoli Quiche Party Bites

broccoli quicheI have never served these without everyone just raving about them. Even men, apparently eat mini quiches, haha! On Christmas Eve, every year I make 48 of these little gems. Usually I make 12 crabmeat or lobster, 12 spinach and bacon, 12 broccoli, and 12 whatever else I have on hand! If you want a different kind just replace the broccoli in this recipe for any other ingredient. They are so delicious and I love when they are left over. Whatever is left at the end of the night, I always scoop them up for breakfast and snacks the following day. They reheat in the microwave in 8 seconds. I make them a lot throughout the year. They are awesome for any occasion. The worst part of making them is cutting the dough to fit in my little square pans. I cut 2.5″” circles and then shape them into a square, press them into the pans and then fill. You have to be careful not to overfill them or let the egg drip down behind the piecrust because they stick. They still come out okay they just don’t look perfect when they stick. I found these pans at Target, they work great for so many things, muffins, brownies, cupcakes, mini appetizers of all kinds. You have to have these pans. I have bought 3 of them because I make so many of these at once and it saves me lots of time.

Broccoli Quiche
Bake 15 minutes ~ preheat oven 350 degrees ~ makes 12

1 roll Already made Pie Crust, floured and rolled out very slightly thinner
you will only be able to cut out 10 circles, pick up the scrap and roll out again to achieve 12 circles.
Fit the circles into the pans making sure they have been stretched into a square shape and just make it to the top of the pan. If the piecrust gets ripped, patch with dough.
quiche in pan
1 cup of fresh steamed broccoli, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup shredded cheddar and mozzarella blend cheese
2 slice of white american cheese cut into small cubes 16 per slice

In each pie crust place a few pieces of broccoli in bottom
next take a pinch of shredded cheese and sprinkle in
divide up all of the pieces of the american cheese and sprinkle in each crust

3 xtra large eggs beaten
3/4 cup of light or all purpose cream or whole milk

Beat these in a pourable measuring cup.
Now pour just enough egg mixture into each quiche slowly, until it just comes a little below the top of the crust. It takes a second for the egg to work its way through the filling so pour slowly. Overflowing makes for tough removal of each quiche. Bake for 15 minutes, remove and cool. Serve immediately or refrigerate for use the next day. They reheat perfectly well on a flat sheet pan, pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes on 375 degrees and you’re good to go.

Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Wings

ck wingsThese wings, will make you sing! They are absolutely great! If you don’t have a fry daddy than you can use a pot. The oil should be one that can handle a high smoke point, like peanut oil. The oil should have a thermometer and oil heated no higher than 325 degrees. The wings will get very crispy and golden, because they cook for about 10 min. I cook two at a time and always zap them in a microwave for 20 seconds, just for Piece of mind. Or as you are frying them, have your oven on 300 degrees and just put them in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes before saucing them. The sauce is the key. It’s on this website under teriyaki sauce. I like it thickened into a glaze but it can be used as it is. Just make sure to stir the teriyaki sauce well before using.

Chicken Wings
Fry 10 minutes bake 10 minutes at 300.

Thawed chicken wings
1/2 cup Soy sauce
Ziploc bag
Add 1/2 c. Kikkoman Soy sauce low sodium to the bag and add wings, marinate for 1 hour. Toss frequently. Any longer will result in salty wings.
Heat the fryer up to 325 degrees
Drain the wings in the sink with a strainer
Dredge the wings in flour, shake off excess
Drop 2 wings at a time in the fryer (fryer are small and too many will lower the temp or cause a boil over)
Fry for 10 minutes transfer to cookie sheet
Repeat until all wings are fried
Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes
Glaze with teriyaki sauce and serve

1 cup teriyaki sauce (see teriyaki sauce post)
1 tbsp cornstarch
Whisk together and place in a sauce pan
Bring to a boil and thicken, after thickened turn off heat
Dip your fried wings in this sauce and serve :0)

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This recipe is in honor of my late bestie, Cindy. I miss you ! Everyone has had Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Yes, mine has been tweaked. I think you will find it less greasy and more creamy! We all really love this dip. The typical recipe for this dip calls for 1 cup each mayonnaise and parmesan cheese. Switching the mayonnaise to 1/2 cup and adding 1/2 cup of sour cream really makes all the difference.

artichoke dip

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Preheat oven to 350 degrees~Bake 20 minutes~serve with your favorite bread or cracker

1 Jar of Artichokes in seasoned oil, drain and chop
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sour Cream
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Mix all the ingredients together, transfer to a baking dish. Bake and serve!
If you want to serve an extra special dipper with it. Buy a long skinny baguette. Slice into 1/2 inch slices. Lay on a sheet pan, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and granulated garlic. (if you really want to go all out, use fresh garlic cloves instead and scrape each bread with a clove after its been toasted)
Toast in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until crispy but still soft in middle. Serve immediately.

Crabmeat Stuffed Mushrooms

crab mush w: lemonOh Yea, these are the ones! These are the mushrooms that you used to order at the restaurant, whether they were Crabmeat, Lobster, or Seafood stuffed mushrooms. Not only did you order the mushrooms with this fantastic stuffing. Sometimes for a special, I would top haddock or scallops with any one of these stuffings and sprinkle with crumbs and bake. Add spinach or asparagus and make a stuffing for a chicken breast. It’s a really versatile stuffing with many uses. You could fill fillo cups and bake for a great appetizer or bite size seafood pies. You could roll it up in flour tortillas or wonton wrappers and deep fry for a really classy and delicious appetizer. Use your imagination! The other thing that I love about this recipe is that it freezes awesome. If you only want to make 6 or eight mushrooms, place the rest in ziploc bags and freeze. Pull it out anytime you need to whip something up. That’s actually how these came to be today. You don’t have to make the jumbo mushrooms caps, but if you alter the size of the mushroom your cooking times will change. The smaller the mushroom, the more stuffed mushrooms you will yield.

Crabmeat Stuffed Mushrooms

preheat oven to 400 degrees ~ bake 12 minutes ~ 20 ++ servings

20 Large mushroom caps (stems reserved)
3 tbsp finely diced shallots or onions
3 tbsp finely diced green peppers
3 tbsp finely chopped mushroom stems
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 stick butter
juice of half lemon
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
3/4 cup crushed ritz crackers
16 oz. can crabmeat, good quality, dry packed pasteurized

1 stick melted butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
freshly shredded cheddar cheese
shredded mozzarella

In a large sauté pan, melt 1 stick butter, add your chopped mushrooms, onions, and peppers and sauté until tender on med.high heat, about 7 minutes
Stir in salt and pepper and lemon juice
Turn off heat and add cream cheese to the hot mixture, do not mix in, just cover and let sit for 10 min.
Add: Ritz cracker crumbs, and crabmeat, fold everything together. Taste, alter salt if needed.
On a cookie sheet, or in casserole dishes, lay out the mushroom caps. Stuff them generously and top with mixture of both shredded cheeses.
Dizzle with the lemon butter generously. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Garnish with lemon and parsley.

crab mushrooms

Entertaining with Appetizer Spoons

spoonsAbout 5 years ago, Brian and I went to “Portland” our favorite city in Maine. We ate dinner at The Local 188. We sat at the counter and were able to watch the chefs in action. Nothing we hadn’t seen before, if you know what I mean. However, they served a little “Chef Surprise” and it came to us on these cute and classy, white asian spoons. You know, the kind you eat miso soup with, except made of glass. I don’t even remember what was on the spoon, but it was delicious. But more importantly, those spoons! I just had to have me some spoons. So, I went home and got on the internet and proceeded to buy spoons, 3 dozens to be exact. Week after week went by and I just couldn’t figure out what to serve on them. Consequently, I never opened up the packages or used them. Low and behold, Christmas dinner this past year, I decided that I was going to use them, no matter what. SUCCESS! I made the most delightful bite of food on those spoons, two per person. It left everyone wanting more. The appetizer consisted of a cut out circle of really good toasted bread, topped with, Anne’s shrimp dip, topped with a grilled scallop, and drizzled with creamy lobster bisque. OMG! I will be posting some really good ideas, for using these adorable spoons, for your entertaining pleasure! Oh, and by the way, the whole dinner at “The Local 188” was great!