Best. Appetizer. Ever.

0-1I’m not ashamed of my title. These are the best appetizers ever. So I’ll keep my post like these Prosciutto bites, quick to go!

There are plenty of prosciutto, melon and mozzarella recipes and apps out there. However, the prosciutto in most of these recipes is uncooked. Personally, I prefer prosciutto cooked and crispy.

I made these yummy little bites for a party and they were a hit! They were gone in a flash and everyone agreed they were addicting.

The saltines of the cooked prosciutto pairs perfectly with the smooth creaminess of the mozzarella and the slight sweetness of the melon. They would be good with honeydew, too.

A Delectable Endeavors original

12 strips of prosciutto

12 small cubes of cantaloupe

small container of bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)

Spray a mini-muffin pan with canola oil. Place prosciutto into the cups so they make little cups. Place them into the oven for only about 10-15 minutes, or until prosciutto is crisp.  Drain cups on a paper towel until cool. Place one small ball of mozzerella and one small piece of cantaloupe in the cup. Enjoy!

Rosemary Nuts

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I cannot express how delicious these nuts are. I started making them as a snack to bring to parties. But soon, I found myself making them all the time.

That being said, these are the perfect snack. These are a great combination of sweet, spicy, and savory. The rosemary adds a lovely herbal note. Additionally, they are super easy to make! I used a combination of almonds and pecans because they are my favorite kind of nuts, but you can use whatever combination you prefer.

It seems like this recipe is everywhere on the internet, so I chose the one I used, although you will find more similar posts all over. All those food bloggers can’t be wrong!

Adapted from The New York Times

1/2 pound pecans
1/2 pound almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (You will need a quality brand. I use The Spice House. If using fresh, use 3 tablespoons.)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake nuts until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. While nuts roast, mix butter, rosemary, sugar, cayenne and salt in a bowl. Add nuts and toss. Serve warm or cool.

Bacon Jam

I know, I know. The combination of these two words just blew your mind. After you’ve picked up the pieces of your cranium, please, take a deep breath and read the rest of IMG_20130106_141048this post.

Bacon and jam are usually separate parts of a delicious breakfast. But I have found a way to marry them together in a deliciously amazing concoction. However, I can’t take full credit for it. The internet is full of people posting recipes for bacon jam, and they vary widely. I studied many of them before coming up with my own. This is encouraging because it means that this recipe is flexible. If you don’t have *just* the right ingredient or amount of something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have your own delicious bacon jam.  It will just be a slightly different version.

Now let me abate your worries. This is not a jammy-sweet, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of food. It is bacon in a somewhat sweet, somewhat savory mixture that loosely resembles the consistency of jam. It is really more like bacon chutney. I recently made this for a BLT appetizer where I spread some on crostini with arugula and tomato a la Spoon Fork Bacon. It was a big hit! But then, people started using it in different, creative ways, like on top of scrambled eggs. Delish! So let your little bacon-obsessed brain get creative with this surprising little dish.

Bacon Jam – A Delectable Endeavors original

1/2 lb bacon, cut into small pieces (I use Trader Joe’s Classic, sliced dry rubbed)

1 Tablespoon bacon fat

1 Tablespoon butter

1 large shallot, minced

6 ounces of your favorite dark beer, scotch ales and stouts work best (I used Tyranena’s Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale)

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee (do not used flavored coffee)

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Cook bacon in a large pan on medium heat. Render the fat completely so that bacon is nice and crispy. Remove bacon from pan using a spatula, so you can save the bacon fat in the pan. Place cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain.

Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter to Tablespoon of reserved fat in the pan. Add chopped shallot and cook until translucent (this should only take a couple of minutes). Add beer, maple syrup, vinegar, and coffee to pan and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add bacon bits and thyme and mix.

Let this mixture simmer lightly for approximately 30 minutes, or until it reaches desired jam-like consistency. Like I said, this recipe is flexible, so if it gets too thick, feel free to add a little coffee or beer. If if is too loose, let it simmer a little longer.

Once cooked, let cool before putting into your favorite jar. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week (if you don’t eat it all before then). Canning will keep the jam for longer.

Roasted Mushrooms on Creamy Pasta

I do not have many dietary restrictions.  I am not against eating animals.  I like to try weird, or crazy sounding things.  And I love vegetarian food.  I regularly eat vegetarian meals.  I am no stranger to tofu (in fact, I make it regularly) and paneer is one of my favorite foods.  So, I’m not quite sure why I don’t post more of my vegetarian recipes.  One of my new year’s resolutions will be to get better at that, especially for all my vegetarian friends out there.

If you are not a fan of vegetarian food, you just haven’t had any good vegetarian food yet.  For all of you out there sneering at the idea of eating tofu or jeering at the thought of an entree that doesn’t bleed, lower those noses! Good vegetarian food is hearty and savory.  In fact, I challenge you to think of how many things you eat regularly that are already vegetarian.  I bet you would be surprised.  I like to tout eating vegetarian at least one day a week, mainly because Americans eat WAY more meat than we need or should.  Not only does this have implications for our own culture and way of life, but also for the rest of the world.  If you don’t believe me, just read some Michael Pollan.  But if you don’t care about that, eating vegetarian once or twice a week can also help your health.

At least, in theory.  But if that’s what you’re doing . . . Don’t start with this dish.  🙂

I had bought a box of baby bella mushrooms a little while ago and they were sitting in the refrigerator just waiting to go bad.  Rather than having that happen, I decided to create something delicious with them.

I have always wanted to roast mushrooms.  I never used to like them, but I’ve become more accustomed to them now (and quite fond of wild mushrooms).  I think properly roasting anything makes it taste amazing, so I thought for sure that roasting these lovely little mushrooms would bring out the earthy goodness of them.  It did.  However, there is one simple rule to preparing good roasted mushrooms.  Make sure your mushrooms are clean.  Whatever you do, do NOT submerge your mushrooms in water.  That can damage their delicate form and make them mushy when cooked.  Simply wipe them off with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Roasted Mushrooms on Creamy Pasta

For the mushrooms, adapted from the awesome Smitten Kitchen,

1 pound of your favorite mushrooms
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Toss mushrooms with capers, garlic, oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt shallow baking dish. Top with butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and golden and bubbly garlic sauce forms below, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley.

For the pasta sauce, this is a classic cream sauce with cheese that you can find right here on Delectable Endeavors!  You can add any kind of cheese you would like.  I used parmesan for this and it was lovely.

Soft Pretzel Bites

Ever since I moved to Wisconsin, my intake of beer, brats and cheese has skyrocketed.  I think it is inevitable in a place where sausages, cheese and microbrews are the pride of the land.  And it shows.  They are everywhere, fragrant and delicious.  And affordable.  So. . . darn . . . affordable.  It will be the death of me, surely.

And what goes better with beer, brats and cheese?  Pretzels, of course!  Salty, soft, warm pretzels.  These are a delicious snack for a party, of just pigging out at home with your favorite extra sharp cheddar and New Glarus ale.  That is usually what I do.  Did I mentioned I started running again?  🙂

Whether or not you plan to share these or enjoy them all yourself, I highly advise making them.  I can’t tell you from experience because my husband made them, but he made it look super easy.

No tips for this recipe, except that it sounds totally crazy to boil the bites in 2/3 cup of baking soda and water, but it works some sort of magic, because they were soft and pillowy on the inside.  I’m sure there is some sort of science behind this, but I don’t know what it is.  (message me if you know!)  And just for your enjoyment, a picture of my hubby leisurely reading The Hunger Games while he bakes these in our minuscule kitchen.

I got these from What’s Gaby Cooking

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

2 tbsp light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups warm water

5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 tsp salt

4 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

Vegetable Oil, for the bowl

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk

splash of water

coarse sea salt

Combine the yeast, brown sugar and warm water in a mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook attachment. Let it sit for 5 minutes until the yeast gets foamy.

Once foamy, add melted butter and salt to the mixture and combine by turning mixer on a low setting. Add flour while the dough hook is rotating and mix until the dough has formed a large mass.

If you want to make the dough ahead of time, store it in the refrigerator before you let it rest and raise.  You can remove it from the fridge when you are ready and let is raise at room temperature.  If you are ready to make the pretzel bites now, remove dough from bowl and let rest in an oiled bowl for an hour, covered with a kitchen towel.  It should nearly double in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a large pot with 10 cups water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the baking soda. The water WILL bubble up.  This is normal.  Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 14 inches long. Cut the rope of dough into little bite sizes pieces about 1 inch long.

Using a slotted spoon, add about 20 to the boiling water at a time. Once they rise to the top of the water, about 30 seconds, remove with your slotted spoon to a paper towel to dry. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Transfer the bites to parchment lined baking sheets or a silicone baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and a splash of water. Brush the tops of each pretzel bite with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10-16 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Cashew Chicken

After the long delay, I thought I would post my new favorite recipes in honor of the many “new” things in my life.  One of the many new things the husband and I got for our wedding was a “Quick and easy Chinese” cookbook from Crate and Barrel.  It turned out to be fantastic!

The husband loves Chinese food, but at times, it is difficult to find the good stuff.  I decided that I might as well try making some at home.  Turns out, it is actually quite easy (and better for you than take out, I’m sure).  If you are feeling intimidated about cooking Chinese food, this is a good introduction.

There is one specific ingredient in this dish that is difficult to find if you can’t find in a normal grocery store.  It is called Shaoxing cooking wine.  You can easily find it in an Asian grocery store like I did, but if you don’t have one of those near you, you can substitute dry sherry or white wine.  It isn’t quite the same, but it is pretty close.

When they say quick and easy, they really mean quick, so make sure you have all your vegetables prepped when you start cooking.  I made some slight adjustments so it isn’t the exact recipe, but slightly more flavorful.

2 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons Shaoxing wine

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

red pepper flakes to taste

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

2 teaspoons grated ginger

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 bell pepper chopped

3/4 lb boneless chicken cubed

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

3 – 4 scallions chopped

3/4 cup dry roasted cashews

Combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk to make a slurry.  Add in Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, brown sugar and salt.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan.  Add garlic, ginger and red pepper flake.  Cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add chicken to the pan to sear.  Cook chicken until nearly cooked through, then add celery and bell pepper.  Cook until celery is bright green and peppers begin to soften.  Add scallions and cook for 1 minute.

Add sauce that has been set aside and toss.  Add cashews.  Serve over rice.

Vegetable and Tortellini Soup

After the chilly late fall weather, and stuffing myself on Thanksgiving, soup sounded lovely.  I like soup.  Especially in cold weather.  It’s the nice kind of warmth I need to feel like I can brave the outdoors again tomorrow.  Since I love cooking, I can’t just BUY soup.  No, no.  I need to MAKE soup.  Luckily for me, soup is incredibly easy to make.  There are some things I have learned over the process of writing this blog and that is there are some things you should rarely buy, because they are just too easy to make.

Exhibit 1: Cranberry sauce.  I had NO idea how simple cranberry sauce was until I made it for Thanksgiving this year.  Literally, you just boil cranberries in some liquid and add some sugar.  Just like that, you’re done.  Cranberry sauce.  Why would you ever buy it?  Plus, by making it, you can add some nice touches.  For instance, I boiled mine in orange juice and brandy.  I used some spices to liven it up.  I would post the recipe, but my fiance told me it tasted like a holiday candle (in other words, awful).  I didn’t think it was so bad  . . .

Exhibit 2: Creme Brulee.  I know, it sounds fancy and French, but its really just a custard with crystallized sugar on top.  Essentially, creme brulee is only 5 ingredients and a blow torch (or a broiler, if you know MY recipe).  Remember this the next time you order a $6 vanilla bean creme brulee for dessert.

Exhibit  3: Soup.  Now, creamy, blended soups are a little more difficult and require a little bit more work and some special equipment.  However, broth-based soups are pretty simple and can often be made from leftovers!  This soup is made from veggies most people have around the house and pre-made tortellini, but you could just as easily throw together soup from some leftover turkey or chicken, canned veggies, and broth.  Pasta and rice are great for another hearty layer.

This soup is really simple and delicous for a frosty winter night.

2 Tbl butter

1/2 large onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large tomato, diced

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups of water

2 Tbl of marinara sauce (or 1 Tbl pest0)

1 package of fresh or frozen cheese tortellini

1 1/2 cup fresh spinach, washed and torn, loosely

Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Add onion.  Cook until just barely translucent.  Add garlic.  Cook until fragrant; this should only take about 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, water, and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Add marinara sauce or pesto to season.  Add tortellini.  Boil for 5 minutes, then add spinach.  Cook for 2 more minutes and serve!