Artichoke Parmesan Pesto

Here’s a quick appetizer you can have on hand for unexpected guests. I have frozen this both when directed as well as the completely finished pesto (with the Parmesan), and it is good both ways. I serve this in a bowl, and let everyone help themselves, but you can also pre-spread the pesto onto toast or bread.

I’m hoping for leftovers, as I’d love to try this mixed in pasta with a little olive oil and red pepper flakes, or stuffed in a chicken breast. If you beat me to it, be sure to let me know how you liked it!

Artichoke Parmesan Pesto

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients (Before Freezing):

  • 1-8 oz. pack of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 1 c. fresh parsley
  • 1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. olive oil

More Ingredients (After Freezing):

  • 2/3 grated Parmesan
  • bread or cracker of your choice…. for grilling, toasting, or serving plain

Pre-Freezer Directions:

In a food processor, chop the artichokes, parsley, walnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, scraping the sides as necessary. With the food processor in, add the olive oil.

If freezing, transfer to an airtight container (or pre-portion into an ice cube tray and wrap tightly with plastic wrap). Freeze for up to 1 month.

Post-Freezer Directions:

Thaw pesto.

Mix in Parmesan cheese (2 tsp. per ice cube if you’re freezing it that way).

Serve as part of a platter of dips, breads, and crackers (including homemade pita toasts), and allowed everyone to help themselves. If you prefer, toast some bread, spread the pesto, and serve.

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Homemade Onion Dip

Caramelized onions infuse a traditional sour cream & mayonnaise combo to create a sweet homemade onion dip, a delicious accompaniment for fresh vegetables or salted potato chips.

Caramelized onions infuse a traditional sour cream & mayonnaise combo to create a sweet homemade onion dip, a delicious accompaniment for fresh vegetables or salted potato chips.

Want to know a secret? While mixing up a packet of seasoning is a quick way to make onion dip, there’s a better option. Homemade onion dip is way better and it’s not hard. It takes about 30 minutes of prep and cook time and BAM! You have a flavorful and sweeter dip, and guess what? You know every single ingredient that goes into it!

Caramelized onions infuse a traditional sour cream & mayonnaise combo to create a sweet homemade onion dip, a delicious accompaniment for fresh vegetables or salted potato chips.

See, I had always had onion dip that came from a packet, or some store-bought version, and I was never a bit fan. It was just too… oniony. Too processed. And then a friend brought a homemade version to our house one day and I totally changed my tune. This is sweet and fresh. I couldn’t stop eating it.

Caramelized onions infuse a traditional sour cream & mayonnaise combo to create a sweet homemade onion dip, a delicious accompaniment for fresh vegetables or salted potato chips.

An added bonus is that this dip is definitely a recipe to make ahead. The longer it sits, the longer the flavors infuse into the sour cream and mayo. Serve with veggies, crackers, or chips.

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Caramelized onions infuse a traditional sour cream & mayonnaise combo to create a sweet homemade onion dip, a delicious accompaniment for fresh vegetables or salted potato chips.

Homemade Onion Dip

Caramelized onions infuse a traditional sour cream & mayonnaise combo to create a sweet homemade onion dip, a delicious accompaniment for fresh vegetables or salted potato chips.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 10
Calories 211 kcal
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. diced onions about 2 onions
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper preferably white
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a medium pan.
  2. Add onions and salt, cooking until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Onions will be a deep brown.
  3. Set aside to cool.
  4. Once cooled, mix together all ingredients. Just before serving, stir and transfer to a serving bowl.

Recipe Notes

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of dip. That's 10-1/4 cup servings, or 20-2 Tbs. servings.

If desired, you may reserve a tablespoon of caramelized onions to garnish the dip just before serving.

This recipe was adapted from Alton Brown.

Caramelized onions infuse a traditional sour cream & mayonnaise combo to create a sweet homemade onion dip, a delicious accompaniment for fresh vegetables or salted potato chips.

This post, one of the first on the blog, was updated with new photos and updated formatting in 2018. The old photos didn’t do the dip justice, trust me.

Mixed Spiced Nuts

These nuts are great for munching. I love the rosemary flavor combined with the sweet brown sugar. Quick and easy to make, these nuts can be made up to a week ahead of time.

Mixed Spiced Nuts

Source: Fine Cooking No. 75 (p. 90c)

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. mixed unsalted nuts (I chose peanuts, cashews, pecans, almonds and walnuts for a batch and a half)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes, until toasted (be sure to shake baking sheet to stir nuts a couple times to ensure nuts are toasted throughout).

While nuts are toasting, you’ll make the butter sauce for the nuts. While I used a small skillet, I’d recommend using a large pot so that you’ll be able to toss the nuts in the same pot, rather than a separate one.

So heat your skillet or pot over medium heat.  When hot, toast coriander and cumin until aromatic, just a few seconds. Lower heat to low and add butter, brown sugar, rosemary and cayenne. Stir until butter melts and sugar is dissolved. Keep warm.

Remove nuts from oven and add to pot of spiced butter. (If you used a skillet, add nuts to a warmed bowl, warmed to make it easier to spread the butter). Using a rubber spatula so that you can really scrape the sides of the pot, stir nuts and spiced butter until nuts are coated. Add salt to taste.

Let nuts cool completely before transferring to a serving bowl or an airtight container.

Bacon Wrapped Dates & Pineapple

Bacon, dates and pineapple come together in a quick, sweet 3-ingredient appetizer that’s hard to stop at only one. 

Bacon Wrapped Dates & Pineapple - Bacon, dates and pineapple come together in a quick, sweet 3-ingredient appetizer that's hard to stop at only one. 

A friend brought this appetizer over one night, and it has become one of my husband’s favorites (Thanks S!). I have never had dates, but this yummy bite tastes like candy – sweet and soft. And although it is best served hot, this little bite takes only a few minutes to assemble, making it easy for entertaining. We especially like to make these for game day – the guys just go crazy over them.

Note on preparation: Learn from my mistakes – Do NOT cook these on foil on a baking sheet, but on a boiler pan. I tried using foil once in the past – they didn’t get crispy and the foil ended up tearing, leaving a juicy mess in the oven – and yes, it burned and we got to listen to the smoke alarm 4 times before getting to savor these sweet treats.

 

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Bacon Wrapped Dates & Pineapple

Bacon Wrapped Dates & Pineapple

Bacon, dates and pineapple come together in a quick, sweet 3-ingredient appetizer that’s hard to stop at only one.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. bacon cut in half
  • 1 can pitted dates in the dried fruit aisle
  • 1 large can pineapple chunks
  • toothpicks optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line bottom tray of a broiler pan with foil (to make clean up easier). Add top and set aside.
  2. Lay out pieces of bacon on a cutting board or clean counter. In the center of each slice, place one date and one piece of pineapple. Wrap, securing with a toothpick if needed. Place seam-side down on a broiler pan.
  3. Bake 10-15 minutes, until bacon is crispy.
  4. Serve hot!
Bacon Wrapped Dates & Pineapple on Books n' Cooks - Bacon, dates and pineapple come together in a quick, sweet 3-ingredient appetizer that's hard to stop at only one. 

Manchego Marinated in Olive Oil & Herbs

Marinated Manchego 002-1

Manchego Marinated in Olive Oil & Herbs

Source: Fine Cooking No. 81 (p. 78)

Manchego is a wonderful Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk. Eat it plain, or marinated in olive oil and herbs, as it is here.

According to Fine Cooking, the cheese should be eaten within 3 days. The olive oil can be kept up to 10 days for sauteing and cooking.

Serves eight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil; more if needed
  • 3 large sprigs thyme
  • 2 4-inch sprigs rosemary
  • 1 small dried red chile, cut in half or thirds
  • 8 oz. manchego cheese (more aged is better), rind cut off, cut into 1/2- 3/4-inch cubes

Combine olive oil, thyme, rosemary, and chile in a small saucepan over medium heat until the oil is hot and shimmery, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Marinated Manchego 001-1

Put manchego in aanother bowl (I used my serving bowl). Pour olive oil mixture on top. (If necessary, add more oil to cover.) Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. A few hours before serving, remove dish from fridge and allow the cheese and olive oil to come to room temperature.

To serve, transfer everything to a pretty bowl, with toothpicks alongside for spearing the cheese.