1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 bunch cherry tomatoes
2-4 cups carrot sticks
2-4 cups broccoli florets
Chop the top (near the stem) off both the yellow and red bell pepper and then scrape out the seeds and white inside with a spoon. Fill one pepper with hummus and the other with tzatziki (recipes below).
Place the filled peppers in the center of a serving dish and then assemble other veggies around the platter. Note: You may use whichever type of veggies you like, but try and choose a colorful arrangement.
(Adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe)
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained
1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves chopped
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 rounded tablespoons tahini paste
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup Kalamata olives, well drained and coarsely chopped
Pita chips or veggies for dipping
Combine chick peas, juice of lemon, oregano and parsley in a food processor. Mash garlic with a knife into a paste with some salt and then add to processor along with tahini paste. Process hummus, drizzling in olive oil, until smooth and then transfer to a bowl. Stir in olives, reserving a few for garnish. Serve with pita chips or with veggies.
(Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe)
2 (7-ounce) containers Greek yogurt
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pita chips or veggies for dipping
Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Grate the cucumber on a box grater and squeeze the grated cucumber with your hand to remove some of the liquid. Add it to the yogurt along with the sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, garlic, salt and pepper and stir until well combined. Serve with pita chips or veggies.
Kat’s 7-Layer Mexican Dip
(Shout-out and thanks to my good girlfriend in Orlando!)
1 can (16-ounce) refried beans
8 ounces sour cream
1 envelope (1-ounce packet) taco seasoning
8 ounces pre-made avocado dip
1 bag shredded iceberg lettuce
8 ounces shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 can (14.5-ounce) diced tomatoes
1 can (small 2.2-ounce) sliced black olives, drained
1st Layer: Mix refried beans and taco seasoning together and spread mixture on the bottom of a 9-by-13 baking dish.
2nd Layer: Spread a layer with avocado dip.
3rd Layer: Then another layer of sour cream.
4th Layer: Drain the diced tomatoes and evenly spread on top of sour cream.
5th Layer: Put shredded lettuce on top of tomato layer.
6th Layer: Drain olives and sprinkle on top of lettuce.
7th Layer: Next, put shredded cheese on top of lettuce and olives.
Cover then chill for 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.
Summer Fruit Skewers
Makes 15-20 skewers
Note: Use whichever fruit is your favorite
1 large bag red grapes
2 cantaloupe, cut into bite-size pieces
1 watermelon, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pineapple, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pint strawberries, stemmed
1 pint blueberries
Wash all of the fruit and drain well. Begin skewering fruit one by one – make sure the fruit is secure on the wooden stick. Assemble skewers on a platter and serve.
South Florida Smoked Fish Dip
(Adapted from a recipe on Tasty Kitchen)
8 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
8 ounces smoked whitefish, skin taken off and chopped (we used amberjack, but you could also use mackerel, trout, bluefish or kingfish)
1 whole jalapeño
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, more or less to taste
1 whole lime, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s (or Old Bay)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Puree ingredients, including the lime juice and zest, in a food processor until well blended. The more whipped the consistency, the easier to spread. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.
Maryland-Style Crab Cakes
Makes 6 Crab Cakes
1 large egg
2 ½ tablespoons mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning (or Old Bay)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely diced celery (one stalk)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pound lump crab meat (I also like using the claw meat)
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Combine the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Cajun seasoning, salt, celery and parsley in a large bowl and mix well. Check the crab meat for any hard and sharp cartilage. Add the crab meat and panko to the bowl; gently fold mixture together until just combined – make sure not to shred the crab meat. Shape into 6 crab cakes (about ½ cup each) and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium-high heat and coat with canola oil. When oil is hot, place crab cakes in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes on each side. Serve immediately with tartar sauce or a squeeze of lemon.
Easy Feta Dip
(Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
4-5 green onions, sliced thinly
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2-3 teaspoons Greek seasoning
fresh baguette, sliced thinly
On a large serving platter, drizzle olive oil until a thin layer covers the entire platter. Add the tomatoes, green onions and feta on top of the olive oil. Sprinkle with Greek seasoning to taste. With a spoon, carefully combine all of the ingredients. Serve with warm sliced baguettes for scooping up the dip.
Makes 1 cocktail
This recipe was inspired by the Cetriolo cocktail, which I sipped at Prato restaurant in Winter Park, Florida when I used to live in Orlando. I substitute the white cranberry juice with white grape juice. I even named it the “Best Summer Cocktail” in the Orlando Weekly.
2 ounces Crop organic cucumber vodka
1 teaspoon agave nectar
Splash of fresh lime juice
4-6 ounces white grape juice
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add vodka, agave nectar, lime juice and white grape juice to the shaker. Firmly shake together for 30-60 seconds and then strain into a chilled martini glass. Add one fresh basil leaf into the cocktail and then serve.
Mac ‘n Three Cheeses
(Adapted from the Classic Rachel Ray’s 30-Minute Meals cookbook)
This All-American dish is a favorite among my family and has starred in many family meal gatherings!
Salt, to taste
1 pound cavatappi pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Asiago cheese
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Put a large pot of water on to boil for pasta. When the pasta water boils, add salt then pasta. Cook until slightly undercooked – pasta will continue to cook when combined with cheese sauce. Drain.
Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in flour. Whisk in milk. Bring to a bubble. Cook to thicken milk, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cheddar, Asiago, Parmigiano Reggiano and black pepper. Stir to melt cheeses. Add pasta and combine with cheese sauce; transfer to a baking dish or casserole.
Place breadcrumbs in a bowl, add olive oil, thyme, rosemary and parsley. Stir to combine and top the pasta and cheese. Place under broiler to brown bread crumbs. Serve mac ‘n cheese as a side.
Barbecue Pulled Pork Sliders
(Adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly cookbook)
Makes 8 servings
2 pounds boneless pork top loin
1 ½ cups onions, chopped
1 cup diet cola
1 cup low-sodium barbecue sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place pork in slow cooker. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and then pour over pork. Cover, cook on high 4 to 6 hours or until meat is very tender. Shred pork and then stir back into sauce.
Serve on mini potato rolls or hamburger buns.
Classic New York-Style Cheesecake
(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
12 graham crackers (3-by-5 inch)
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
2 ½ pounds bar cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon coarse salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Make crust: Butter a 9-by-3-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers until fine crumbs form; add melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Press crumb mixture into bottom and about 1 inch up side of pan. Bake until set, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
Set a kettle of water to boil.
Make filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and juice, and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.
Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 1 3/4 hours. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight before serving.
The cheesecake is delicious on its own, but you might want to serve topped with warm honey, caramel or chocolate sauce.