All posts in the Appetizers category

Cornmeal Fried Onion Rings with Chipotle Mayo Dipping Sauce

Published April 16, 2013 by jenmatteson

I love a good onion ring.  And I’m quite finicky about how I like them.  I don’t want them too crispy, but certainly not soggy or limp.  The outside needs to be salty with a good crunch, but the onion inside should be cooked all the way through, but still have a slight bite to it.  Furthermore, the breading must have some flavor, not just any old gooey batter or breading.  And last, I need a good dip with my onion rings.  I do not accept ketchup or marinara.  I like a spicy mayo to dip these golden rings into.

Onion Rings

That being said, I have had a hard time choosing an onion ring recipe to fulfill my 30 Before 30 item.  Last week, there was a new member on my What’s Cooking board, Courtney, so I headed over to her blog, Cook Like a Champion, to see what kind of cool stuff she had.  So many things looked amazing, but her Cornmeal Fried Onion Rings caught my eye right away.  The cayenne and thyme in the breading paired with the cornmeal sounded like a great fit for my onion ring ramifications!

Onion Rings

Turns out, they were awesome!  Not too heavy, the breading stuck to the onions, and just one large yellow onion was more than enough rings for 4 people.  Sadly, I had to keep them in the oven longer than 30 minutes (while we were waiting for Nate’s ribs to be done – post soon to come), so when I finally served them, they were cracker crumbly.  When I test made them earlier in the day, Nate basically tried to eat the entire plate in one handful after his first bit.  Even when I did get to serving them before dinner, they were gone like hot cakes.  I’ll have to make it up to my future parent’s-in-law for round two of onion rings.  Can that ever be a bad thing?  I served them with my chipotle mayo, which was the perfect dip for these rings.  A wonderful first taste of Cook Like a Champion.  Thanks Courtney!

Onion Rings

Cornmeal Fried Onion Rings with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Source: Adapted from Cook Like a Champion
Servings: 6-8


1 large yellow or spanish onion
2 cups buttermilk
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1-2 tsp hot sauce
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
4-6 cups vegetable oil or peanut oil


1. Slice of the top and root end of the onion and carefully peel off the brown skin.  Slice into 1/2 – 3/4 inch slices, and separate into rings.

2. In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and hot sauce.  Add onions to buttermilk and toss well to coat all onions.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, up to several hours.

3. In a shallow dish, combine flour, cornmeal, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, cayenne and thyme.  Whisk together so all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

4. Heat oil in large dutch oven or large pot to 350 degrees.  Meanwhile, prepare baking sheet with foil.  One at a time, remove onions from the buttermilk, and dredge in flour/cornmeal mixture.  Completely coat outside and inside of ring and tap off any excess.  Place ring on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining onions.

5. Prepare another baking sheet with paper towels and place next to oil.  Once oil is heated to 350, drop in a few onion rings at a time, making sure not to crowd the pot.  Fry until rings are golden brown, flipping over every so often.  They should take about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from oil and place on paper towel lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt immediately.  If you are not serving these right away, place in oven at 200 degrees.  They should remain crisp for about 30 minutes.  I don’t suggest any longer because mine were cracker crisp and crumbly…just a little too crispy.  Serve with chipotle mayonnaise, or other desired dipping sauce.

Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

Published February 28, 2013 by jenmatteson

While I was sorting through all of our pictures and trying organize them a bit, I came across the pictures of these fried green beans. I realized I never posted them.  So here goes…I don’t frequent many large chain restaurants, but I really do love Friday’s fried green beans.  My parent’s and I went to lunch after visiting my niece after she got her cast on, and ordered this appetizer.  It reminded me how much I like them, and how simple they (probably) are to make.  After a little research, I found a copy-cat recipe (love those) and recreated them at home for our Super Bowl Party (which only consisted of Nate and myself, plus three kitties) :p

My adorable niece, Grace, with her cast

I pan-fried these, instead of deep-frying, mostly just to conserve a little oil (and possibly a few calories).  They turned out super great; just like Friday’s!  I felt like I couldn’t get the dipping sauce perfect, but it was still tasty with the green beans.  It just wasn’t as good as Friday’s sauce.  Oh well.  It makes a ton, so I would probably cut this in half for next time, or plan to make a lot more green beans!

Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

Source: Adapted from GoodVeg
Servings: 4


For the dip:
1/2 cup bottled ranch dressing
1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp wasabi powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper

For the green beans:
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
4 cups chicken broth (I just used water)
6-8 oz fresh green beans
1 cup flour
1 cup plain breadcrumbs (I used a combination of panko and regular breadcrumbs)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
vegetable oil for frying


1. Place all dip ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until smooth, and adjust seasonings to taste.  Place in bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.  Dip will thicken as it chills.

2. Place beans in broth (or water), and boil until just tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Place in cold water to stop cooking.  Drain and pat beans dry.

3. Add flour to shallow dish.  Combine eggs and milk in another shallow dish.  In a third shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Coat beans with flour, shaking off excess, then dip one at a time into the egg mixture.  From egg mixture, tap off excess on the edge of the dish, and dip in breadcrumbs.  Roll around to evenly coat each green bean.  Transfer to platter.

4. Heat oil to 350 in a heavy skillet (or deep fryer).  Fry green beans in batches until golden brown, abou 1 1/2 minutes each. Transfer to paper towel to cool.  Serve with wasabi ranch dipping sauce.

Individual Beef Wellington

Published February 17, 2013 by jenmatteson

I’ve really had a bee in my bonnet lately about my 30 Before 30 list.  My deadline is quickly approaching, and with all the wedding planning I’ve been doing, my list has been thrown to the wayside.  But, I’m getting a move on and I have somewhat tried to plan out when I’ll be making what next.  Clearly I’ve been putting off some of the more difficult items (at least I assume they are difficult…).

Individual Beef Wellington

I had planned to make just horseradish scalloped potatoes this weekend, but while I was at the store, I noticed that top sirloin was on sale, so I picked one up to make my individual beef wellington.  I’ve only eaten this dish once, and if you’ve ever watched Hell’s Kitchen, apparently beef wellington is the most difficult thing in the entire world to make well…at least according to Chef Ramsey.  Or maybe he just likes to yell 😉  That being said, I was certainly hesitant to make this.  I’ve also never worked with puff pastry, but how hard could it be, right?

Individual Beef Wellington

Individual Beef Wellington

Mistake number one, it needs to thaw.  Dummy.  Whoops!  So my schedule was pushed back by about 40 minutes.  No biggie, except Nate and I had agreed to watch my niece and nephew for the evening, and I wanted to get dinner on and take pictures before the sun went down, which means I had to do it before they got there.  That didn’t happen.  I finished it up just after they arrived, but alas, the sun had already gone down.  I still got some pics, but not like I wanted.  I got up this morning and replated them to get something decent.  This was from last night:

Individual Beef Wellington

Oh, you want to know how they taste??  Yes, let’s get to that.  In a minute.  Duxelles is what is lines the insides of beef wellington.  I never knew exactly what this was, but turns out, it’s basically just a mixture of mushrooms, shallots and herbs.  And let me tell you, just making the duxelles filled my house with such a rich aroma, I was dying to eat it with a spoon.  But I didn’t.


Thyme Seasoning Mixture

The steak made the smell even better!  I put it in a sizzling hot pan and just seared both sides quickly.  Once it was cooled, I coated them in seasoning and let them rest.  My house smelled AMAZING!

Seared Sirlion

Once the puff pastry was thawed, it was pretty easy to work with.  I laid it out on a floured surface, and gently rolled out each piece.  They weren’t perfect or anything, but hey, whatever gets the job done.

Puff Pastry

Okay, okay.  So how did it taste?  Well, I must say I make a very good beef wellington!  Nate absolutely loved it!  I don’t think it even spent much time on his plate before it was gone and he was ready for another.  The beef was cooked just barely over medium (so certainly room for improvement), but all the seasonings with the duxelles and the flakey butter puff pastry – YUM!  These would be great for a party too.  To make as an appetizer, just cut the meat even smaller so they can be 1-2 bite sized.

Individual Beef Wellington

Individual Beef Wellington

Individual Beef Wellington

Source: Adapted from Marrying Prince Charming
Servings: 4-6


1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
6-8 large button mushrooms, roughly chopped
3 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 rosemary sprigs, leaves only
1 lb beef sirloin or tenderloin
2 sheets puff pastry
2 tbsp stone ground mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and thyme.  Set aside.

2. The bowl of a food processor, combine garlic, shallots, mushrooms, red wine, olive oil, rosemary and half of the thyme seasoning mixture.  Process until all ingredients are finely chopped and well combined.

3. Transfer mixture to a medium skillet and saute until most of the excess liquid is gone, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

4. Trim any fat from the beef and cut into 2×2 inch chunks.  Place in a bowl and toss with remaining thyme seasoning mixture until all pieces are well coated.

5. Once puff pastry is thawed and ready to work with, roll out on a lightly floured surface.  Cut puff pastry into as many pieces as you have beef pieces, making sure they are large enough to completely wrap around the beef.  Spread a thin layer of the stone ground mustard on each piece of puff pastry.  Then spread a thin layer of the duxelles on each piece, about 1 tbsp each, leaving a small border.  Place beef in the center of the puff pastry and carefully wrap.  Place on a prepared baking sheet, seam sides down.

6. Brush each wellington with egg and poke holes in the tops with a fork so they are able to vent while cooking.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until puff pastry is golden brown and flaky.

Coconut Shrimp with Two Dipping Sauces

Published January 27, 2013 by jenmatteson

Work has been insane crazy lately, which means less time for me to be in the kitchen.  Well, it’s not like I stopped cooking or anything, but we’ve just been running through old standbys, nothing new.  But, I’m back!  I have finally had a chance to get my head straight since the beginning of the year and I’m getting a move on my 30 Before 30 list.

Coconut Shrimp

Nate is out-of-town for the weekend, so Kimmy came over to keep me company (her Nate is with my Nate ice fishing).  I invited two of my other best girls to come over too, and made a ladies night of it.  I think this might be the first time we’ve gotten together to just hang, rather than do a tasting of some sort.  Not that the tastings aren’t fun, and don’t end up in debauchery anyway.  Back to the topic…so I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to make coconut shrimp – on my list!

Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce

I had to test a few before the ladies arrived because 1) I had to make sure they were delicious, and 2) it would have been too dark to get an acceptable picture – and if you remember, I want to get a bit better this year at taking pictures (without having to invest a bunch of money or space).

Apricot Rum Dipping Sauce

I went with a simple recipe I saw on Food Network along with the dipping sauce, but I came across another sauce that I also wanted to try.  Both turned out really tasty, and also a good dip for egg rolls, too!  I prefered the chili-lime dipping sauce, but the apricot rum was good, too.  The recipe actually called for orange marmalade, but I thought I’d try it out with apricot since I had that in my fridge already.  It turned out really well.  I didn’t read the directions fully, and originally just added the rum to the preserves without simmering.  Whoa!  It was strong.  After I revisited the recipe, I found my mistake and simmered the sauce for a few minutes. The shrimp was great!  Honestly, I would have liked a bit more coconut, but I liked the subtle sweetness.  The panko was a good choice to make them extra crispy.  The ladies all loved the shrimp and said they wouldn’t have changed a thing.  It was a huge success!!

Coconut Shrimp

Coconut Shrimp with Two Dipping Sauces

Source: Adapted from Food Network
Servings: 4-6


2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
2 cups bread crumbs (I used a combo of panko and regular)
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
vegetable oil, for frying


1. In a large shallow dish, combine coconut and bread crumbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place flour in shallow dish, and beat eggs in another separate shallow dish.  Set up a dredging station, starting with shrimp, flour, eggs, coconut/bread crumbs, and then an empty platter to place shrimp before frying.

2. Working one at a time, dredge shrimp into the flour, shaking off excess.  Then dip into egg mixture, scraping on side to remove any excess.  Finally, dredge in coconut mixture, ensuring the entire shrimp is covered.  Shake off any excess.  Repeat with remaining shrimp.

3. In a large deep pan or Dutch oven, pour a few inches of oil.  Heat to 350 degrees.  Fry shrimp in batches until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove and place on paper towel.  Serve with desired dipping sauce (Cilantro-Lime Chili and Apricot Rum dipping sauce recipe below).

Chili-Lime Sauce

Source: Adapted from Oishii
Servings: Makes 3/4 cup


3/4 cup Asian sweet chili sauce
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 1/2 tbsp lime juice


1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Apricot Rum Dipping Sauce

Source: Adapted from Food Network
Servings: 1/2 cup


1/2 cup apricot preserves
1-2 tbsp dark rum


1. In a small saucepan, combine both ingredients and cook over low heat.  Simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Serve.

Avocado Egg Rolls with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce

Published December 20, 2012 by jenmatteson

There is a fabulous grill and sushi restaurant near my work, and they have these amazing avocado egg rolls.  I hate getting them because you get two huge ones, and I can only imagine how many calories are in just one.  But hey, there is nothing wrong with splurging every now and again.  I decided I would attempt to try these at home to see if I could get anywhere close to the original.

Avocado Egg Rolls with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce

Avocado Egg Rolls with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce

I was fairly close, and definitely wouldn’t mind having these a few more times 😉  I’m looking forward to serving these as an appetizer for a dinner party!  The cilantro-lime dipping sauce has a little to be desired, but it was still really good with the egg rolls.  I think it might still be missing something though.  I guess I’ll have to keep practicing!

Avocado Egg Rolls with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce

Avocado Egg Rolls with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce

Source: Inspired by Kona Grill
Servings: 4 egg rolls


For the egg rolls:
4 egg roll wrappers
2 avocados, halved and thinly sliced

For the dipping sauce:
1/4 cup cilantro
juice of one lime
2 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic
3-4 tbsp olive oil


1. In a frying pan, heat 1/4 inch olive oil over high heat (vegetable oil works fine, but I didn’t have any).  Place one wonton wrapper diagonally, so a corner is pointing toward you.  Place sliced avocados in center of wrapper, in a horizontal row.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Fold up corner closest to you toward the center.  Fold in sides to meet the avocados, and then continue to roll away from you.

2. Fry egg roll over high heat, turning to brown on all sides.  About 1 minute on all sides.  Remove from oil and place on paper towel to cool.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, add cilantro, lime juice, honey and garlic.  Process until well combined.  Stream in olive oil until it meets desired consistency.  Salt to taste.

4. Slice egg rolls diagonally and serve with cilantro-lime dipping sauce.

Mini Twice Baked Potatoes

Published December 7, 2012 by jenmatteson

I recently made these for my aunt’s cookie exchange, but I’ve made them several times in the past.  They are always a hit.  The only problem is that they are super hot when they come out of the oven, so you can’t eat them right away.  But the good news is that if you are serving them for an event, they stay warm while sitting out for awhile.  Though again, I must say that they do not take long to magically disappear!

Mini Twice Baked Potatoes

These would be perfect for any party as an appetizer: birthday, holiday, tailgate, just because…you get the picture.  I’ve had this recipe for so long, I wasn’t sure where I got it from.  Thanks to Google, I think I found it’s original owner (at least, where I found it) at Pennies on a Platter.

Mini Twice Baked Potatoes

Mini Twice Baked Potatoes

Source: Adapted from Pennies on a Platter
Servings: 6


1 lb baby red potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup shredded cheddar
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup parsley, minced
salt and pepper
2 tbsp – 1/4 cup half and half
chives for garnish


1. Cut potatoes in half (lengthwise if they aren’t quite round works best).  Then slice a small bit off the end of each so the half can stand on its own.  Place potatoes in a large stockpot, fill with water, making sure to salt the water.  Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Drain potatoes and spread out on baking sheet to cool.   Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine shredded cheese, cream cheese and parsley.

3. After potatoes have cooled, scoop out insides, leaving a solid shell (a melon baller works perfectly).  Place insides into cream cheese mixture.  Once all potatoes are scooped out, mix cream cheese and potato mixture until as smooth as possible (a stand mixer works great!).  Slowly add in half and half until mixture is creamy and smooth.  Careful not to add too much or your filling will run in the oven.  Salt and pepper mixture to taste.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare baking sheet with foil and cooking spray.  Place potato shells on baking sheet.  Using a pastry bag or plastic zip-top bag with end snipped, pipe mixture into the potato shells.  Bake potatoes until heated through and just beginning to brown on top, about 10 minutes.  Garnish with chopped chives and serve.

*You can certainly make these a day ahead of time and bake them just before serving.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Published November 16, 2012 by jenmatteson

I’ve made many baking sheets full of sweet potato fries in the past, but I thought this one has been the best so far.  The dipping sauce was no joke either!  The crisp outside and soft inside is what makes these so good, and the spicy seasoning certainly didn’t hurt either.

I served these as an appetizer at my Ladies Wine Workout alongside crispy baked zucchini fries.  I wished I would have taken a better picture, but I was slightly pressed for time and needed to get everything on the table.  I would definitely serve these again!

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Source: Adapted from Cait’s Plate
Servings: 2-4


For the fries:
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1/3 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1 chipotle in adobe
1/8 tsp paprika


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet with foil and cooking spray.  Slice sweet potato into thick matchsticks.  Place potatoes into large mixing bowl and add olive oil.  Toss to coat all fries.

2. In a small bowl, combine paprika, chili powder and oregano.  Sprinkle over potatoes and mix well with hands to ensure all fries are evenly coated.

3. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes (or until they reach desired doneness) on lowest oven rack, flipping halfway through.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4. In the bowl of a food processor, combine yogurt, chipotle and paprika.  Serve fries with dipping sauce.

%d bloggers like this: