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Quick, Simple, Fancy Appetizers

Hello Cooking Friends,

I don’t know about you, but I love quick and simple appetizers that everyone thinks took you forever to make, and are super complicated.

Baked Asparagus Citrus Habañero

Citrus Habañero Asparagus

I have two standbys that I used this weekend for a bring-appetizers-to-share event. I would like to share with you because I got so many “how did you make this?!?!” comments this weekend. I am going to share multiple variations for both just to be fair to all palates!

#1) ‘Fancy’ Asparagus

What you need: 1 bunch of asparagus, flavored olive oils, flavored balsamic vinegars, and various spices, as desired.

Preheat your oven to 350, and spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray (I prefer aluminum ones to bake-and-take-and-toss when I’m going somewhere not at a house).

Keep the rubber bands on your asparagus and rinse the stems in cold water for a few seconds. Then, using a very sharp and long knife (i.e. not a paring knife), cut the bottom 1 inch off the asparagus stems. This is key to taste and keeping the rubber bands on is key to sanity. It also lets you cut your asparagus to mostly equal length quite simply!

So now we have our rinsed, prepped asparagus, remove the rubber bands and dump the stems into your pan (layers are perfectly fine). Over top of this you will drizzle and sprinkle your olive oils and spices. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until they’re to your desired tenderness (18) or crispness (12). I usually do about 15 minutes, to get it right in the middle!

A) Citrus-Habañero: pour about 3 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil evenly over your asparagus. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of Citrus Habañero Olive Oil evenly over top you asparagus. Bake.

B) Peppery Citrus: mix together 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper Olive Oil, and pour over top the asparagus. Using a peppermill or grinder, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of fresh ground pepper over top the asparagus. Bake.

C) Garlicky Mushroom & Fig: mix together 2 teaspoons each Garlic Mushroom Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dill weed, and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Pour over asparagus evenly. Bake.

D) Butter & Bacon: sprinkle about 2 teaspoons worth of Bacon!Bacon! over top, evenly. Pour 2 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil evenly over asparagus & bacon. Bake.

E) Garden Veggie: sprinkle about 2 teaspoons each worth of Garden Veggie and Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto mixes evenly over asparagus. Pour 2 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil, OR pour 1 tablespoon melted butter plus 1 teaspoon Sun-dried Tomato Parmesan & Garlic Olive Oil, evenly over asparagus & spices. Bake.

**Note, 2 tablespoons butter olive oil is equivalent to just under 1/4 cup melted (unsalted) butter.

#2) Rumaki

BBQ Barbeque Rumaki Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

BBQ Rumaki

What you need: toothpicks, 1 package bacon, 2 cans diced & drained water chestnuts, sauce as desired.

Preheat oven to 350, and either line a cookie sheet with foil or use an 11×7 pan – spray either one with cooking spray.

The basics of what you will do: cut your bacon strips into thirds, and then wrap 1 of these strips around 1 diced water chestnut. Stick a toothpick through starting where the wrap ends, and going through the water chestnut to the other side. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bacon is to your taste (crisp or soft). This does 2 things for you: 1) this keeps the bacon from getting messy and going everywhere while baking, and 2) creates an instant ‘serving’ option for guests to enjoy these without getting more utensils dirty!

So here are some ways to flavor the rumaki!

A) BBQ Rumaki: Take a barbeque sauce of your choice, I used the Laurel Gray Crazy ‘Bout Butts BBQ Sauce, and pour about 1/4 cup into the bottom of your pan. Place your tooth-picked rumaki into the pan in rows, and then drizzle another 1/8 cup of the sauce over top of the rumaki. Bake.

B) Ginger-Soy Rumaki: Place your tooth-picked rumaki in the pan in rows. Meanwhile, mix together 1/8 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Butter Olive Oil (or 2 tbspn melted butter), dash of cumin, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger. For the ginger, if you happen to have pickled ginger on hand, you could substitute either 1 teaspoon of the pickled liquid OR 2 teaspoons of blended pickled ginger (solids only) for the ground ginger. Mix this well. Pour over rumaki and bake.

C) Garden Veggie Rumaki: Place your tooth-picked rumaki in the pan in rows. Sprinkle Garden Veggie and 2 tablespoons Garlic Mushroom Olive Oil over the asparagus, evenly. Bake.

So I sincerely hope that you enjoyed these, and if you try them, please let me know which version you tried (even if it’s your own) and how you liked them!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Brunch Stuffed French Toast

Hiya Yummy-Brunch Fans,

I did a brunch with some friends awhile ago, and we all pitched in and brought something ‘to pass’. There were only 4 of us, so we kept it simple. Mimosas, Crab Quiche and Stuffed French Toast. I made Stuffed French Toast because it’s a go-to recipe I have used for years, and it is one of my favorite brunch items to make. It’s simple, delicious, and pretty cheap to make too. All three of these are great things in a recipe!

Cooking Light’s Stuffed French  Toast recipe is a stand-by staple that you can make without feeling all the guilt that usually comes (for me at least) along with making something so decadently delicious. I rarely alter this at all, though I do have a couple things I change, more for personal taste than anything, though!

Ingredients to Serve 8-16 people (depending on how hungry everyone is):
16 slices cinnamon-raisin bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
Cooking spray
3 cups 1% low-fat milk
2 cups egg substitute, divided
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 teaspoons fresh-ground cinnamon, divided
1/8 cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened

Directions:
1) In one 13×9 cake pan, or 2 8×8 cake pans, sprayed with cooking spray, arrange 8 pieces of cinnamon raisin bread evenly along the bottom of the pan(s).
2) Combine 3 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups egg substitute, 1 cup half-and-half, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Pour half of milk mixture over bread in dish(es).
3) Combine 1/2 cup egg substitute, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, 1 tspn nutmeg, 1/2 tspn allspice, 1 1/2 tspn cinnamon, and cream cheeses in a food processor or blender, or you can mix by hand if you want some good exercise; process or mix until smooth.
4) Pour cream cheese mixture over moist bread in dish(es). Top with remaining 8 pieces of cinnamon-raisin bread. Pour remaining milk mixture over bread, spreading evenly.
5) Cover and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight.
6) Uncover, place in cold oven, set oven to 350°, and then set the oven timer (where it turns your oven off afterwards) for 55 minutes. Let bake completely, and let sit in cooling oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
7) Mix remaining 1/8 cup sugar with 1 1/2 tspn cinnamon until fully incorporated, then sprinkle evenly over tops of stuffed french toast. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving or covering.

Note: This works beautifully if you are wanting to take a dish to pass, because you can slice the bread and literally come out with stuffed french toast sandwiches to serve everyone easily! Whole or half sandwiches, they slice easy and serve very prettily!

Glaring Changes:
– I obviously add in the cinnamon and allspice, you don’t need to do that.
– I fully intend to make the next one with a reduced fat flavored cream cheese, in lieu of the 1/3-less fat cream cheese, to add some flavor. Then top with sliced flavor-of-choice fruit or veggies. We shall see how that turns out!
– I have before sprinkled the top instead of cinnamon-sugar, with powdered sugar, or a sugar-cocoa powder mix. Both are just as delicious.
– When layering my bread, I don’t stack it like in the CL picture, because I realized (finally) that laying them flat makes easy-to-cut sandwiches as a result! SO, you can layer it, but I recommend you use a loaf of 24 pieces of bread instead, and use 12 on top-and-bottom instead of the 8 I used! Just so you know!

Enjoy this wonderful and simple brunch with sides of fruit, tea, mimosas or bloody mary’s!

Craft You Later,
Beth

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