Category Archives: Appetizers

Happy Holiday Cheeseball

As I hinted, I did make a terrific cheeseball over the weekend, let it sit until Monday, then dug in. I would have posted yesterday, but time escaped me again! Wrapping packages, writing my last few Christmas cards, and the next thing I know, the day is gone. Funny how that happens faster when you get older.

I took time to look for the Christmas star, aka the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction. I expected it to be brighter and maybe a little larger, although I’m sure city lights dimmed the view. If I’d been in the desert like I used to be when I lived in El Paso, Texas, I’m sure it would have popped more. Still, how the heck did the Three Kings manage to follow that light amongst all the others?

But I digress… I found this recipe on gimmedelicious.com and had to make minor adjustments to make it low carb. Of course, I added a tiny touch or two to make it mine. Use low carb crackers, bagel chips, carrots, or celery as the base to spread a little of this yummy cheese on top. Easy to make, it comes together quickly once you have the chopping done. It’s great for a family gathering or a small party. Besides that, it’s festive-looking with the red and green in and on it.
One tip, though; when it comes to chopping chives or onions, it’s easier to use kitchen scissors to cut them into small pieces.

Photo: Cranberry-pecan cheeseball

Cranberry Pecan Cheeseball

8 ounces Cream Cheese
1 cup White Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded
1/2 cup dried Sugar-reduced Cranberries chopped and divided
1 cup Pecans chopped and toasted (optional)
2 tablespoons Chives, chopped
2 tablespoon Spinach, chopped
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Set the cream cheese out to soften for about an hour. Meanwhile chop the pecans, the craisins, chives, and spinach. Shred the white cheese if needed.

Toast Pecans: Pre-heat oven to 375F. Spread the chopped pecans on a baking tray and bake for 4 to 5 minutes or until they smell toasty. Be careful not to burn them.  Set these aside and turn the oven off.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, cheddar cheese, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder together until you have a smooth mixture. Add 1/2 of the roasted pecan and 1/2 of the cranberries, then the chives. Stir together until these are mixed through the cream cheese.

Cut a large piece of plastic wrap and put the mixture in the middle.  Use a spoon or spatula to begin to shape it into a ball. Once all the cheese is pulled together, use the wrap to push it closer together and round the shape as you encase the ball in the wrap and close off the top by twisting.

Put the cheese ball in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. This will firm up the cream cheese.

Before serving, mix the remaining pecans, cranberries and spinach or chives together on a flat surface, such as a baking pan or cheese board. Unwrap the chilled ball and roll it in the pecan and cranberry mixture, coating all sides. Press the fruit and nuts into the ball if they won’t stick.

Place on a serving platter and surround with dippers. Makes about 12 servings.

Break Tradition With This Sushi Roll

 

Photo: California Roll made with cauliflower rice

I love California roll sushi. Not so crazy about raw fish, but put cooked crab or shrimp on it and I’m in. The only problem is that pesky rice exterior that holds the whole roll together! So as I was chomping down on a forbidden rice encrusted treat, I wondered if riced cauliflower would work with it. Just like that, this experiment blossomed in my mind.

I took fresh cauliflower, pulled apart the flowerets and tossed them in the food processor, pulsing until I had rice sized pieces. Then I cooked them in a pan with about 1/4 cup of water until the bits were tender and most of the water had evaporated. I put them in a bowl and placed it in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours.

When I was ready to make the sushi, I took out an ounce of cream cheese and softened it, then mixed it into the cauli-rice. From this point, I followed the recipe to make the roll. It came out great! Okay, not as pretty as a restaurant-bought one, but this was my first try at making it at home. I did buy a sushi kit that provided the bamboo rolling mat, other tools like a paddle and an avocado slicer, and a sushi knife.

Photo: Trio of sushi rolls made with cauliflower rice

Curious about options, I also tried this using riced turnips. This works well also, although the turnip retains more moisture than the cauliflower, so it’s best to drain after cooking and squeeze the excess water out in a paper or clean kitchen towel. The turnip has a tiny bite to it that actually works with the oriental flavors.

So, if you’re adventurous, try this California Roll recipe with either cauliflower or rice and let me know what you think.

California Rolls made with riced turnips

Low Carb California Roll

1 cup Cauliflower rice or riced turnips
1 ounce Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
4 half-sheets Nori roasted seaweed
1/2 teaspoon Sesame Seeds
4 pieces Crab Meat or 4 tablespoons of Cracked Crab.
4 thin slices Cucumber, cut in sticks
4 – 8 pieces of Avocado, cut into sticks
4-8 pieces Zucchini, cut into sticks
4 Carrot sticks, about 3-1/2 inches long, cooked and chilled

Wasabi
Sliced Ginger
Sodium-reduced Soy Sauce

Cook cauliflower rice in a small pan or skillet with 1/4 cup water, bringing to a boil, then reducing to a simmer. Stir frequently and add additional water if it evaporates too quickly. Cook about 15 minutes until done. It sound be firm, but tender to chew. Drain any excess water off. Let rice chill for 1 to 2 hours. Mix cream cheese, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds into the rice. This will help to bind the riced vegetables together.

You will need a bamboo sushi mat for rolling. Place it on a counter or cutting board and cover with plastic wrap.

Cut the vegetables for the filling and ready the crab.

Riced cauliflower with sesame seeds, cream cheese, and rice vinegar mixed in plus sliced avocado and zucchini.

Place 1/2 sheet of nori, rough side up, on the plastic wrapped sushi mat. Spread 1/4 cup riced cauliflower over the nori evenly, leaving a 1/4 inch edge free at each end. Across the narrow side, lay down the vegetables and crab next to each other.

Begin to roll the nori across the length of it, using the mat to press it firmer in the roll as you go. Rolling the mat over the top keeps it clear of the actual roll as you work.

When complete, place the sushi roll on a plate and repeat with the remaining vegetable rice, vegetables, and crab.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour to chill and set. This also softens the nori. Cut each roll into five pieces with a sharp knife.

Place on small plates with about 1/4 teaspoon wasabi and several pieces of ginger to serve.

Makes 4 servings (1 roll each).

Tasty BBQ Chicken Biscuit Rolls

Photo: BBQ Chicken Rolls

Want a low carb variation of the BBQ Chicken that tastes great and is pretty easy to do? To make these, I used Carbquick from Tova Foods. You could also use Bakesquick from Dixie Carb Counters. If you use other flours, they may not hold together as well and you’ll need to add butter and baking powder. This uses precooked rotisserie chicken, which makes it a great way to use any extra chicken.

You can order either Carbquick or Bakesquick from Netrition.com or from Amazon. It may be a little higher from Amazon, but if you have Prime, you may save on the shipping.

BBQ Chicken Biscuit Rolls

2 cups CarbQuick
1/4 cup Water
1 teaspoon Garlic and Herb Seasoning
1/2 cup G. Hughes Sugar-free BBQ sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1/3 cup Onion, finely chopped
1 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F.) Prepare a baking pan with either a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Mix the Carbquick in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup of water. Add enough that it pulls together into a ball, but don’t get it too moist. It will roll out better if it is a stiff dough. Form the dough into a 5-inch x 3-inch log, then put in on a silicone mat or wax paper covered board. Place a sheet of wax paper over the top and press it into a rectangular shape. Use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 10 inches long by 6 or so inches wide.

Put BBQ sauce in a cup and use a basting brush to spread about half of it over the top of the biscuit dough. Add the rest to the diced or shredded chicken. Spread the chicken evenly over the dough, allowing a slight edge on each side for rolling the dough. Top with chopped onions, cheese, and sprinkle on the parsley.

Roll the dough on the long side to form a roll-up. The dough may break in places, so pat it back together as you go. If it becomes difficult to roll, then pull the other side to meet the rolled side and press together to seal. Cut the roll into 8 slices.

Photo: Pan of BBQ Chicken rolls

Place slices flat with the filling up on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until they are golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Let cool about 5 minutes, then serve with a poblano ranch dressing or more BBQ sauce. Makes 4 servings of two rolls each.

Broccoli Bacon Bites appetizer for any party

Photo: Broccoli Bacon Bites

Recently, this recipe came around on my Facebook feed as one of those tasty, simple-to-make appetizers that work well for a party. The original recipe said to fry them in fryer– you can do that if you’d like, but I wanted mine to be a little lighter and without the extra oil flavor, so I decided to bake them.

To make this low carb required only one change, swapping out regular flour for low carb flour. In my case, I used Bakesquick, but you can use whichever one you prefer, such as almond flour or CarbQuick.

While I simply dropped my batter on a parchment paper, you can also put these in mini cupcake pans with papers so they retain a more compact shape. This is a versatile recipe and you can easily swap in cauliflower for the broccoli, add peppers, or other spices to it to personalize your bites.

Broccoli Bacon Bites

1/2 cup Bacon, chopped
3 cups Broccoli, chopped (or Cauliflower)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup Water
4 Eggs
1 teaspoon Pepper
2 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
1/2 cup Low Carb Flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F.) Prepare a baking pan with parchment and spray with oil.

Put broccoli in a microwaveable bowl, add salt and water. Microwave for 3 minutes until almost tender. Drain.

In a bowl, put all the ingredients and mix together well. Use a small scoop to form balls and place each on the parchment-covered baking pan.

Cook for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to serving plate and put out a bowl of Ranch Dressing for a dipper.

Makes 40 to 45 bites. (I got 42, but some were quite a bit larger than the rest.)

Photo: Nutrition for Broccoli Bacon Bites

Variation on Hummus

Photo: Bowl of beet hummus
I would not do well on plating on the Food Network.

I’ve only eaten hummus a few times and liked it okay. The dippers were the important part to me. Recently, I saw a recipe in a Martha Stewart Living magazine for a beet-based hummus. This is great because it reduces the carbohydrates a whole bunch since chickpeas are pretty high.

So I made up a batch with a substitution in the ingredients. The original called for harissa oil, which is a hot pepper oil, and I substituted in Asian chili paste. I soon learned that the recipe crested almost four cups of hummus. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Time for me to see if it will freeze. Anyway, unless you’re making this for a party, you’ll probably want to go with a half-size version, which is the recipe below. This will make about two cups of it.

I like beets, so I am quite pleased with the flavor. I only tried the red beets but will be looking for golden beets the next time. They are roasted beforehand, so if you make an extra beet, they are delicious right out of the oven.

Beet Hummus

2 medium Beets (red or gold)
Splash Olive Oil
Pinch or two of Salt
1/4 cup Tahini
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Garlic, minced
Salt to taste
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Asian Chili Paste or Chili Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F.)

Peel and chop beets into 1-inch pieces. Line a sheet of foil with parchment paper and put beets on the parchment. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Fold the foil over the parchment and beets to make a packet and crimp the edges to seal. Roast about 1 hour until the beets are fork tender. Unwrap and let cool completely.

Photo: Beets on parchment-lined foil.
Beets are cubed and ready to be folded into a packet.

Once cooled, place the beets in a food processor with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Process to a coarse paste, about one minute, then drizzle the 2 tablespoons olive oil through the feeder shoot on the top while running the blender. Process another two minutes until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, add chili paste and mix it in, then transfer to a bowl and let it sit thirty minutes.

Before serving, grind more pepper on top. Serve with flatbread, low carb bagel chips, or cut vegetables.

Makes about 28 tablespoons.

Nutrition Information per tablespoon (based on 2 cups)
Calories: 26.2 Fat: 2.3 g Net Carbs: 0.8 g Protein: 0.5 g

Tip: The original recipe said to use parchment-lined foil, which I didn’t know was a thing. I had foil and parchment, so I just put a sheet of parchment on top of the foil. Since then, I’ve discovered Reynolds did have a line of it that was based on a Martha Stewart product. The main reason for it was to put a layer of paper between the food and the possible taste from the foil. Anyway, the parchment-lined foil has been discontinued although you can still pick up a few rolls through Amazon until the merchants run out.

Another tip: If you’d like it spicier, add a tablespoon of chili paste to about 1/3 cup of the hummus.