All posts tagged appetizers

Zucchini Fritters with Soy Dipping Sauce

Published January 4, 2014 by jenmatteson

I mentioned a few posts back that I lead a cooking-dinner party for a group of women a  few weeks ago.  I led the girls in cooking a meal, starting with these zucchini fritters.  I fell in love with these fritters the first time I test made them.  The ladies really liked them; so much so, they sorta forgot we had the rest of the meal to make and took a break to feast on these babies.

Zucchini Fritters with Soy Dipping Sauce

I even made these as an appetizer for my family’s Christmas dinner – and even my picky family, including my mom, liked them!  Not only are they good, but they are a great way to get your serving of vegetables in.  Plus, I have another way to use up the copious amounts zucchini that grows in my garden each summer.  YAY!

Zucchini Fritters with Soy Dipping Sauce

The fritters are simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and served along side a soy dipping sauce.  While I liked the soy dipping sauce, I thought they fritters were great on their own as well!  They are pretty hot when they come out of the pan, and cool off quickly, so I wouldn’t suggest these for a party, maybe a seated dinner would be best as they aren’t quite as good when they’re room temperature.

Zucchini Fritters with Soy Dipping Sauce

Zucchini Fritters with Soy Dipping Sauce

Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 4-6


For the soy dipping sauce:
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp sugar
crushed red pepper

For the fritters:
3 ½ lb zucchini, grated
½ tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 tbsp cornstarch
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup vegetable oil


1. Make soy dipping sauce: Mix vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and red pepper in small bowl until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.

2. Make fritters: Place zucchini in colander set in the sink and toss with ½ tsp salt.  Let stand 10 minutes, and then wring zucchini dry in kitchen towel.  Place zucchini in large bowl and mix in egg, flour, chives and cornstarch; season with salt and pepper.

3. Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium heat.  Working in two batches, drop ¼ cupfuls of zucchini mixture into skillet, flattening slightly; cook until golden brown and crisp; about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer fritters to a paper-towel lined plate; season with salt.  Serve with soy dipping sauce.

DO AHEAD: Fritters can be made 30 minutes ahead and kept warm in 200⁰ oven.

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.

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.

Ladies Wine Workout

Published November 16, 2012 by jenmatteson

In the past, I’ve always had a handful of ladies over for wine tasting, but this time, I decided to just have my two besties.  Not only does that make finding a date that works much easier, but that will give us a good chance to catch up.

We’ve all been friends since middle school, and though we’ve definitely gone our separate ways in many aspects of our lives, I am still very close to each of them at heart!  I thought a small intimate tasting would give us a chance to catch up with few distractions.

This tasting was a little different from others that I’ve hosted.  In reading my very favorite magazine, Food and Wine, there was an article titled “Wine-Tasting Workout: Train Yourself to be a Better Wine Taster”.  While my general rule of thumb for tasting wine is ‘if it tastes good to me, then it’s good’, I’m always open to refining my palate and expanding my tasting vocabulary.

This particular article focused on six key things that wine pros are evaluating when judging a bottle of wine: body, tannins, acidity, sweetness, aromas and flavors, and oak.  Because each exercise called for at least three different wines (that would be over 18 bottles), I narrowed it down to three exercises (tannins, body, oak) and two wines from each, making a more manageable 6 bottles for the three of us.  All six workouts would be an excellent tasting activity for a large group.  And don’t worry about any “wine snobs” in your group.  I guarantee that they’ll be able to learn something from these exercises!

Food and Wine tends to suggest wines that I cannot find in my local wine shops, so instead of getting the exact label, I focused on the region and grape to get something pretty similar to what they recommend. I listed F&W’s suggestions as well as the wines that we tasted.

In the end, I think we all learned more about wine tasting and how to better describe flavors.  We’ll have to follow-up on the other three categories that we didn’t get to try this time.  This night may or may not have ended in a dance party (including a guitar from Rock Band), so I’m thinking the 6 bottles we had was plenty (and no, we didn’t finish them all – just the reds 😉 ).

Of course we couldn’t have a wine tasting without some snacks!  During the tasting, we snacked on zucchini fries, sweet potato fries with chipotle in adobo dipping sauce, and an antipasto platter.  After the tasting, we headed into the kitchen to make some pizzas (pesto chicken with caramelized onions, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic hummus, and pepperoni with veggies and mariana).  For dessert, we indulged in a delicious peanut butter pie.

Wine-Tasting Workout


What defines body in wine?  In my opinion, body is one of the more simple qualities in wine to pick out.  “Body is the sense of weight or richness or heaviness, and even the feeling of viscosity that a wine leaves in your mouth,” says Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.  Typically, a wine with more body has more alcohol and comes from warmer climates.  This is because the grapes have more sugar to be converted into alcohol.

How does body affect pairing?  When pairing wines and food, it’s essential to match body with body, so the wine is not too heavy or too light for the dish.


4 glasses
1/4 cup of each skim milk, 2% milk, whole milk, and heavy cream

Directions: Taste each milk in ascending order of richness, beginning with skim and ending with the cream.  Consider the texture in your mouth; the skim milk will dissipate quickly, while the cream will coat your tongue.  Next, taste wines from lightest to full-bodied.

Food and Wine Suggestions:
1. Northern Italian Pinot Grigio: 2011 Tiefenbrunner
2. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: 2011 Kim Crawford Marlborough
3. White Burgundy: 2010 Domaine Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc
4. Barrel-fermented Chardonnay: 2010 Rodney Strong Sonoma County

1. Valpolicella: 2011 Tedeschi Lucchine
2. California Pinot Noir: 2010 Dutton Goldfield Azaya Ranch Vineyard
3. Chianti Classico: 2009 La Maialina
4. Zinfandel: 2010 Ridge East Bench

We tried:
1. 2011 Riff Pinot Grigio  
2. 2010 Rodney Strong Chardonnay from Sonoma County

Our findings: I have to admit that we all felt pretty silly sipping different kinds of milk out of shot glasses, but when we switched the wine, we really could tell the difference in body.  The Chardonnay was closest to the whole milk, not quite a cream, and the Pinot was similar to the skim.  Crazy!


What are tannins?  Tannins are compounds in grape skin, seeds and stems that contribute to the structure, complexity, texture, and ageability.  Tannins can create a drying, slightly bitter sensation in the mouth.

How do tannins affect pairings?  A more tannic wine will pair nicely with rich foods and meat dishes.  Tannins cut through fat, and in turn, the fat softens tannins and make them more approachable.


3 mugs
3 black tea bags
hot water

Directions: Pour 8 ounces of hot water into each of the mugs.  Place one tea bag in each mug and start a timer.  After 2 minutes, remove the tea bag from first mug.  After 4 minutes, remove the tea bag from the second mug.  After 8 minutes, remove the tea bag from third mug.  Let tea cool.

Taste the tea in increasing steep-time order, swishing the liquid around in your mouth before swallowing.  Notice how the teas become more astringent as the steeping time increases.  Next, taste wines in increasing tannin order.

Food ane Wine Suggestions:
1. Beaujolais: 2010 Potel Aviron Côte de Brouilly
2. California Merlot: 2009 Simi Sonoma County Merlot
3. Bordeaux: 2010 Château Bellevue Bordeaux Supérieur

We tried:
1. 2010 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Red Burgandy
2. 2010 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux

Our findings:  I’ve always felt that tannins were difficult to judge, and mostly because no one could really describe to me what they tasted like.  The steep time in the teas really defined what a non-tannic and tannic wine tastes like.  The Beaujolais was so smooth and left almost no residual dry taste in your mouth, where the Bordeaux was heavily tannic and comparable to the tea steeped for 8 minutes.


What does it mean for a wine to be oaked? When oak barrels are used in winemaking, they develop their toasty, caramelly, vanilla flavors from being fire-charred.  The barrels can be toasted to different levels, depending on the winemakers preference, and can be used to hold the wine during fermentation and/or aging.  Older oak seems to have a more subtle affect on a wine’s tannins, structure, and overall flavor.

How does oak affect pairings?  In general, oaky wines don’t pair well with most food because it can overwhelm the food’s flavors.  However, bold-flavored grilled dishes can be a nice match as the char from the grill mellows the wine’s oakiness and highlights the vibrant, juicy fruit flavors.



Directions: Skewer a marshmallow and roast it over a flame on a gas stove until it’s charred.  Oakiness in reds leave the impression of campfire smoke or the smell of a burnt marshmallow.  Next, taste wines in order of unoaked to oaky.

Food and Wine Suggestions:
1. Sicilian Frappato: 2011 Tami
2. Chianti Classico: 2009 Rocca delle Macìe
3. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: 2009 Groth

We tried:
1. 2010 Coltibuono Chianti Classico
2. 2009 Pine Ridge Forefront Cabernet Sauvignon

Our findings: Oak is another aroma/flavor that wasn’t very clear to me.  After charring our mallows, smelling, then smelling the wine, the “campfire” smell really came through in the Cabernet.  The Chianti had very little oakiness, so you could still smell it a tiny bit.

Potato Slabs

Published October 15, 2012 by jenmatteson

I love super simple appetizers that are easy to make, easy to eat and delicious. I saw these potato slabs at A Taste of Home Cooking, and thought, how simple! Plus, I almost always have all these ingredients in my kitchen. Bonus! This will make for a quick appetizer for last-minute or pop-in guests.

Nate requested that I use the ripple blade on the mandolin instead of the straight edge, and I obliged. They were definitely no thinner than 1/4″ thick, which the recipe calls for, but mine cooked much faster than the suggested cooking time. The original recipe calls for 30 minutes on one side, 15 on the other, then 10 minutes with the toppings. After about 15 minutes on the first side, my potatoes were crisp. I flipped them right away, topped them with the cheese and bacon, and cooked for only another 5 minutes and they were done. Done done. I tried to only serve those that were extremely well done, but they were so well liked that I ended up having to serve them all. I guess they were good 😉 Next time will be better though. I suggest 10-12 minutes on one side, 10-12 on the other, then just enough time to melt the cheese.

Potato Slabs

Source: A Taste of Home Cooking
Servings: 4


2 large baking potatoes, sliced thin (1/4″-inch)
salt and pepper
1/3 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, sliced


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place potatoes on foil-lined and greased baking sheet in one layer. Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika on each side.

2. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until tops begin to brown, but not crisp. Remove from oven, flip, and cook for another 10-12 minutes, until potatoes begin to brown and become crisp but not burnt.

3. Remove from oven and top each with cheese and bacon. Return to oven just until cheese is melted, less than 5 minutes. Remove from oven and top with green onions. Serve with sour cream, hot sauce, and/or salsa.

Buffalo Chicken Wonton Cups

Published June 24, 2012 by jenmatteson

The first time I had buffalo chicken wontons was at a bar in Minneapolis after a beer festival.  Of course, at the time, they tasted AMAZING, because what wouldn’t after a few brews?  But, I had become obsessed and had to recreate them at home.  I’ve been “into” cooking for quite some time, but this is one of the first times I can remember thinking I had to, and could, recreate something that I had in a restaurant.  I lived alone at the time, so I was my only judge.  I thought they were pretty good, seeing as though I’d never worked with wonton wrappers before, I made up the recipe, and I baked them.  However, I was my only judge.  They didn’t look very pretty, but they sure tasted great.

Finally, I made them for a Viking playoff party (you can tell this was a few years ago, because the last time they were in the playoffs was 2010, when the Saints took a cheap shot at golden boy, Brett Favre.  No, I’m not bitter 😉 ), and everyone seemed to love them.  Nate adores them.  So, needless to say, I’ve made buffalo chicken wontons quite a few times over the last three years.  This was the first time I’ve attempted to make them in muffin tins, making for a much prettier presentation, and no risk of your wonton bursting while cooking, and all the delicious goodness leaking out.

I’m thinking they went over pretty well at the party we went to.  As they came out of the oven, everyone was asking what they were and commenting on how good they looked.  Before I knew it, there was only two left on the tray, so my guess is that yes, they were a hit!  I really liked the addition of the raw green onions after cooking. It really gave these a fresh flavor with an unexpected crunch.

These are pretty similar to crack dip, however, I don’t use any shredded cheese, just cream cheese.  I also used chicken I baked and shredded as a opposed to using canned chicken.  Buffalo chicken wonton cups are quick and easy to throw together in a flash, great for any party or even date night home with your sweetie.

Buffalo Chicken Wonton Cups

Source: Pigzilla Original
Servings: 36 wonton cups


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup red pepper sauce (I like Franks Red Hot) – more or less to taste
3 green onions, chopped
36 wonton wrappers


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Season each side of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, combine chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder.   Sprinkle each side of both chicken breasts with mixture.  Bake until cooked through, about 22-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine red pepper sauce and cream cheese until smooth.  Once chicken is cooled, shred with two forks, and add chicken to cream cheese mixture.  Add green onions, leaving a few for garnishing, and mix until well combined.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place wonton wrappers in mini muffin tin.  Scoop 1-2 tbsp of cream cheese mixture into each wonton – they should be filled just about to the top of the tin, not the wonton wrapper.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until wontons are crisp.  Remove from oven and turn off heat.  Give a quick spray with cooking spray, and return to warm oven for 1-2 minutes.

* Note, the cooking spray part is optional, but I like it because the wonton wrappers tend to have a floury coating on them, so they don’t look pretty.  If you spray with cooking spray before baking, the wontons will get too crisp on the top, but not on the bottom.  Spraying after cooking gets rid of the floury excess and gives them an appetizing shine.

4. Garnish with additional green onions.  Serve and enjoy!

Ladies Wine Exchange

Published June 4, 2012 by jenmatteson

As you might have noticed, I just posted a ton of recipes from my ladies wine exchange.  It was a wonderful evening of wine and women, and of course some great snacks!    Here’s a sneak peek at my table setting.

The flowers were a nice surprise from Nate’s mom’s garden.  Gorgeous, and they matched my spring color theme quite well.  Thanks, Marsha!!  Here’s a cute picture of Leah with my new piggy serving dish from Nate’s mother as well.  So cute!

I had some other “would have been cute” pictures of the ladies drinking wine, but unfortunately, I was afraid to change the settings on my camara (so I can use the manual setting for my food pics), and none of them turned out.  Next time.  And there will be a next time.  Let me know if you want an invitation 🙂

The wine exchange included tons of great food.  Starting with antipasti, bread and crackers, veggies with cilantro-dill vegetable dip, roasted garlic hummus, bruschetta, caramelized onion dip, Thai turkey meatballs with Asian dipping sauce, smoked salmon and dill egg salad sammies, Bethenny Frankel’s crab cakes with chipotle mayonnaise, salted caramel cheesecake bites, red velvet sandwich cookies, and place settings/favors with milk and dark chocolate toffee.  I think everyone was satisfied.  Even some hubbies came over after the tasting to get a few bites 😉

The wine exchange worked like this: Everyone brought two bottles of their favorite wine (two of the same bottles).  We blind tasted each bottle, and scored them based on our own tastes.  I think our tastes varied quite a bit, which made for trying several kinds of wine.  Whoever brought the wine that had the most total points, got to pick which wine they wanted to bring home first.  Second place got second pick, and so on and so forth.  This way, we all get to leave with a bottle of wine!  I’m not going to lie and say some of those didn’t get opened as the night carried on 😉

We started with a rose champagne blend, Gruet Brut Rose Methode Champenoise, which was recommended to me by someone at the wine shop.  I was a little skeptical, but we were going to start the party with bubbles anyway, so I figured why not make them pink since it’s a ladies party.  It was really good!  I’m not a fan of sweet wines, and this was nice and dry, with rich fruity flavors of strawberry and cherries.  Then we started the blind tasting.  Here is how each wine scored:

1. Tarima Monastrell 2009 (my wine – woot woot!!)

This was a great spicy spanish wine, with tastes similar to a Tempranillo.  Here is an expert review: ” This is the first vintage of this wine; the 2009 Tarima is 100% Monastrell sourced from 25-35 year old vines and raised in stainless steel with less stirring.  Medium crimson-colored, the nose reveals fragrant blueberries and underbrush.  Firm on the palate with plenty of savory fruit, it is meant for drinking over the next 3 years.”

Tied for #2. Alamos Malbec 2010 (brought by Leah)

Malbec is definitely one of my favorite wines, and for me, this one actually scored higher than the number one wine, but barely!  Here is a note from the winemaker: “The Alamos Malbec has dark, blackish purple color. The nose shows ripe black fruits, black pepper spice and floral notes. The mouthfeel is full yet soft and supple, with black raspberry and currant flavors mingled with notes of sweet spice and a touch of leather. The finish is long and persistent with soft, sweet tannins.”

Tied for #2. Cline Cashmere 2010 (brought by Kim)

Blends are a generally a great balance between several different grapes, with a smooth finish, and this one did not disappoint.  Cashmere is a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, and Grenache. It was a favorite of many of the ladies, as it tied with the Malbec for number two.  Here are some winemaker’s notes: “Cashmere is a very flavorful, smooth wine offering big cherry, raspberry and chocolate notes with hints of cracked black pepper and plum.”

4. Radio Boca Tempranillo 2010 (brought by Kristin)

This wine is actually one of our household favorites.  Nate picked it out as his favorite when we did a tasting for wines under $10.  Again, I love the spice of a Tempranillo, so all of the red wines were fabulous, in my opinion.  And what can be better than a great wine for under $10?  Here is a excerpt from their website: “The Tempranillo in Radio Boca grows mostly on the mountainside, on head pruned vines 25-50 years old. Altitude with attitude. The soils vary from dark miocene to chalky lime. Balmy days, brisk nights.”

5. Pavao Vinho Verde 2011 (brought by Emily)

This was a nice refreshing sparkling wine, although Vinho Verdes are not technically bubbly enough to be considered a “sparkling wine”.  I’m more of a red wine person, but I’m finding more and more whites that I enjoy.  This was certainly a good one.  It has a very nice fresh, crisp taste, without being overly sweet.  A note about Vinho Verdes: “The tell-tale sign of a vinho verde vineyard is not just its diminutive size, but its upwards orientation: the density of viticulture here is such that most farmers train their vines on high pergolas, and even telephone poles.”

6. Gainy Vineyard Riesling 2010 (brought by Elise)

Unfortunately for Elise, the majority of us were not big fans of the wine she brought.  Not being a fan of sweet wines, this one definitely wasn’t for me, but there is no right or wrong in wine tasting – whatever tastes good to you is good!  A note from the winemaker: “This 2010 Limited Selection Riesling displays wonderfully fresh aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle complemented by fresh apple, pear, nectarine and apricot. On the palate, the wine is full and lush, with mouth-watering flavors of honeyed peach, ripe apple, pineapple and nectarine tart that linger into a long mineral-and-spice finish. This wine will enhance any meal featuring fish, pork, fowl or spicy Asian. Still youthful, this wine will drink beautifully by late summer. Enjoy it over the next 1-2 years.”

We ended the tasting with a white port I picked up while I was in Sonoma last April.  I had been waiting for the perfect time to break this out!  It was White Aero Port from Anaba Wines.  Leah and I were really the only ones who enjoyed this wine, which I suppose for both of us, it was to our benefit, as everyone else wanted to share their pour.  This is unlike any port I’ve ever had, and has more of a brandy smell than sweet dessert wine (maybe that’s why I like it so much 😉 ).  Here is a note from the winemaker: “This medium-to-full bodied port-style dessert wine begins with wonderful aromas of geranium, orange blossoms, white peach and lychee fruit. A soft, silky entry on the palate expresses flavors of lemon curd, baked bread, oily nuts and tangy golden raisins.”

I had a wonderful time with some exceptional women.  I’m hoping to have this type of party more often, but we all get so busy, it’s hard to plan for.  I’m thankful for each of these ladies in my life, in different ways, and thankful they were able to indulge a bit with me for this event.

Thai Turkey Meatballs

Published June 4, 2012 by jenmatteson

I had several snacks planned for my wine exchange, but I wanted one more thing that was a bit more substantial, and turkey meatballs sounded perfect.  I found this recipe from the Spring 2012 issue of Real Food, a magazine from Lund’s and Byerly’s, given to my by Nate’s mother.  I couldn’t find it on the internet to link back to, but I really didn’t change much from the original recipe.

I was hoping for a lot more flavor in these meatballs.  Unfortunately, they sort of fell flat for my taste.  I normally use extra lean ground turkey, but I though I’d use just lean ground turkey, though I feel like the meat was too heavy for this recipe.  I did bake them instead of pan frying them, and maybe not frying them in the peanut oil took away a little flavor that would have otherwise been there.  If I make these again, I would certainly add chili sauce, too, but I didn’t want to this time around since I was cooking for several other people.

Thai Turkey Meatballs

Source: Lund’s and Byerly’s
Servings:  6


4 shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp Thai green curry paste
2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
Asian Dipping Sauce


1. Pour boiling water over mushrooms to cover and soak for at least 30 minutes (up to 3 hours) to soften.  Remove and discard stems and finely chop mushrooms.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle olive oil on baking sheet.  In a medium bowl, combine mushrooms, turkey, ginger, curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, egg, green onions, and cilantro.  Fry up a sample and taste.  Adjust ingredients as needed.  Mix until well combined and form into 1-inch meatballs.

3. Place meatballs on prepared baking sheet, and bake for 22-25 minutes, until completely cooked through.  Serve with Asian Dipping Sauce.

Crabby Patties

Published April 30, 2012 by jenmatteson

I don’t know any kid who doesn’t like Sponge Bob Square Pants (okay, I only know like one kid, which is my awesome nephew, Carter, and I suppose his sister, Grace, but she’s too young to like Sponge Bob yet), and if you don’t know, he makes crabby patties.  I can only assume these are wonderful crab cakes!

The reason I made these in the first place was because another Nestie and I were unable to participate in a recipe swap because we didn’t have enough posts in our blogs yet.  We decided to do our own private swap.  Basically, a swap is trying recipes of another blogger, and in this case, we just did a general swap, where we could make anything we wanted from their blog.  I love crab cakes, so immediately these stood out to me.

I made a handful of substitutions, but kept with the basic recipe.  I also added a chipotle mayo for topping, which was amazing and will be great with many other dishes, even on sandwiches!  They were a little wet for my taste (which made them difficult to handle), so I altered the recipe I’m sharing to have less Miracle Whip and a few more crackers.  The result was pure awesomeness, and the chipotle mayo just pushed it over the edge!  They were pretty big patties, so if I made them again, I’d probably make them half the size – and then eat two 😉

Crab Cakes with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Source: Just Prepare It Deliciously
Servings: 10


4 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cayanne pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
5 oz buttery crackers (I used Ritz), crushed
12 oz crab meat
olive oil
1 cup panko bread crumbs


1. In a medium bowl, mix onions, cilantro, lemon juice, cayanne pepper, dry mustard, garlic, salt and pepper, and Miracle Whip.  Fold in crab meat and add buttery crackers to mixture.

2. Form mixture into 1/2-inch thick patties, this mixture should make about 6 total.  Refrigerate patties for 30 minutes.

3. Heat olive oil over high heat in a large frying pan.  Meanwhile, dredge each side of the patties in the panko bread crumbs.  Fry patties until they turn golden brown and begin to form a crispy crust, about 4-5 minutes on each side.  Serve with Chipolte Mayonnaise.

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