Eggplant and Summer Squash Stacks

Summer is not over yet, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to some of my favorite seasonal produce. If you are like me and want to savor these flavors as long as you can, fire up the grill and celebrate these last couple of weeks before we welcome fall. Eggplant is a great match for summer squash stacked between layers of melted fresh mozzarella and homemade pesto. Enjoy as an appetizer or pair with a simple salad and a glass of your favorite white wine for an easy dinner outdoors as you watch the sunset.

Ingredients:
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 small eggplants, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
2 medium summer squash, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons pesto
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, add garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, creating a grilling sauce for the produce.
  2. Arrange eggplant and squash on a large plate or platter and brush both sides evenly with the grilling sauce.
  3. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Grill vegetables until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and move produce to a working surface.
  4. Create eggplant and summer squash stacks by spreading a thin layer of pesto on a slice of eggplant and topping with a slice of summer squash and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers and top with an extra squash or eggplant slice.
  5. Place eggplant and summer squash stacks back on the grill for a couple of minutes, until cheese melts. Remove from grill and serve.

Barbecue Pork Potato Skins and Nachos

These appetizers with pulled pork are game day favorites in my hometown of Memphis, Tenn., and they are about as popular as Elvis around my old stomping grounds. For my take on this southern classic, I recommend a tangy and slightly sweet sauce. I keep my pantry well stocked with my favorite barbecue sauces so I am ready for any good sports event throughout the year or a summer get together. Using leftover pork that has been smoked and pulled the day before, makes this a quick recipe you can whip up during halftime or for a meal with friends.

Barbecue Pork Potato Skin Ingredients:
7 to 8 small Yukon gold potatoes
2 cups pulled pork
¼ cup barbecue sauce
½ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
hot and sweet jalapeño pepper slices
Light sour cream for serving

Barbecue Pork Nacho Ingredients:
4 ounces tortilla chips
2 cups pulled pork
½ cup barbecue sauce, divided
¼ cup yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 extra small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
hot and sweet jalapeño pepper slices
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce potatoes a few times with a fork and bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove potatoes, leaving oven on. Let potatoes cool enough to touch and cut each in half. Scoop out a small amount of potato, leaving a divot like space in the potato halves.
  3. In a small bowl, toss 2 cups of pulled pork with barbecue sauce and stir to evenly coat. Place potatoes on a baking dish and add equal amount of pork to potato halves and top with two types of cheddar cheese and 1 jalapeño pepper slice.
  4. On another baking dish, arrange tortilla chips across the pan and top with pork. Drizzle half of the barbecue sauce over the pork and chips and top with cheddar cheese, onion slices and jalapeño slices. Drizzle the remaining sauce on top of the nachos.
  5. Bake potatoes and nachos for 7 to 10 minutes, until cheese has melted. Top potatoes with sour cream and nachos with diced avocado before serving.

Bacon and Apple Peanut Butter Dip

The inspiration for this dish came from Old Bourbon County Kitchen, a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky that serves a honey bourbon and sugar glazed bacon appetizer with peanut butter. My version is lighter, but still captures the wonderful combination of bacon and peanut butter. I know it sounds a little odd, but once you have tasted it you will forget all about peanut butter’s famous sidekick—jelly. Peanut butter and bacon is the new duo in town.

This appetizer is a perfect pairing with your favorite Kentucky bourbon. It brings out the whiskey’s sweet notes of vanilla, caramel and honey. Cheers to good bourbon, an appetizer your friends will love and adventurous food combinations.

Ingredients:
1 pound center cut bacon, cooked
1 large apple, sliced
2 tablespoons peanut butter
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon skim milk

Directions:

  1. In a blender or food process, combine peanut butter, Greek yogurt, honey, vanilla and milk. Blend or process until smooth.
  2. Serve immediately with bacon and apple slices or refrigerating until ready to serve.

BKT Bites

Move over lettuce, sautéed kale is a new match for crispy bacon and juicy tomato slices. Served over toasted baguette slices, my BKT Bites make a hardy appetizer or light dinner. It’s an easy dish to make with two summer favorites from your farm share or local Farmers’ Market. This dish pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Oregon. Just make this simple recipe, open a bottle of vino and you are ready to entertain.

Ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for serving
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ whole grain baguette, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
10 slices bacon, cooked to desired level of crispy

Directions:

  1. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat broiler to high. Broil for about one to two minutes per side, until lightly browned on the edges.
  3. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar. Spread balsamic mayonnaise on baguette slices and top with bacon, kale and tomatoes. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on top of the tomato slices and serve.

Servings: 4

Sweet Potato and Kohlrabi “Fries” with Creamy Garlic Sauce

Oh, how American’s love French fries, myself included included. The crispy, greasy, fried potato is the perfect burger companion. For a healthy alternative that is just as satisfying, I’ve created an oven-baked version with sweet potato and kohlrabi and a creamy garlic sauce for dipping. The sweetness of the potato is a perfect balance for kohlrabi, which has a slight bitter taste. Enjoy as an appetizer or pair with a hamburger or your favorite sandwich for healthy pub grub at home.

Ingredients:
1 large sweet potato
1 large kohlrabi bulb
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 cloves minced garlic

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel sweet potato and kohlrabi and cut into fry shaped strips.
  2. Place sweet potato and kohlrabi strips in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat.
  3. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and flip with a spatula. Continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile, add yogurt, mustard and garlic in a small bowl and stir to combine, creating a creamy garlic sauce for serving.

Servings: 4

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toast

If you know a local mushroom farmer or grow your own mushrooms, you are so lucky and I am a little jealous. I created this recipe when I had access to weekly fresh mushrooms at a Farmers’ Market when we lived in Wisconsin. Most Saturdays I would make this recipe as soon as I got home from the market and serve it with a fried egg for breakfast or side salad for lunch. I couldn’t wait to eat these mushrooms and this simple and quick dish made it possible to get them on my plate in about 15 minutes. The recipe quantities below make this a great appetizer for a small group, but just trim the amount back if you want to enjoy this as a meal for one or two.

Ingredients:
14 inch baguette
8 ounces shiitake or white button mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Turn oven broil setting to low heat. Slice bread into about 16 pieces and place on a baking sheet. Set aside while preparing mushrooms.
  2. Remove stems from the mushrooms and gently wash the tops before thinly slicing. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for about four minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking for another 4 to 6 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Add thyme, salt and pepper to the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat.
  3. Broil baguette slides on each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with equal amounts of mushrooms and goat cheese and continue broiling for another 2 minutes until cheese is warm. Serve immediately.

Servings: 8 (2 slices as appetizer)

Black Bean Hummus

Keep canned beans in your pantry and garlic and lemon in the fridge to make this a go-to dish when you want a delicious homemade snack. It is so easy to make and tastes much better than the store-bought variety. Serve it with carrots, celery, tortilla chips or whatever you like to dip. Make it a meal by spreading hummus in a wrap or on a slice of bread topped with your favorite roasted vegetables.

Ingredients:
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain beans.
  2. Fit a food processor with the steel blade. Add all ingredients in the food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Servings: 4

GRILLED HAWAIIAN BITES WITH TANGY MUSTARD AND CREAMY BBQ SAUCES

Grilling intensifies the delicious flavor of pineapple, adding an extra burst of caramelized sweetness. The deli ham and grilled bell pepper complement the sweet fruit, turning this appetizer into a sweet and salty snack on a stick. This is a great appetizer for game day, especially if you’re a Green Bay Packer fan and want to add a little green and gold to your plate. Leftovers make a wonderful salad topping, just add lettuce and your favorite dressing.

Ingredients:
1 medium pineapple
4 medium or 3 large bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
toothpicks
4 tablespoons mayonnaise, divided
4 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt, divided
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce

Directions:

  1. Trim and core pineapple, and slice into four large sections. Remove stem and seeds from the bell peppers and cut each into two halves. On a large platter, brush both sides of pineapple and bell pepper with olive oil.
  2. Heat a gas grill or prepare a charcoal grill to medium heat. Place pineapple and pepper on the grill and cook for four to five minutes per side, until produce is tender with lightly browned grill marks. Remove from grill and set aside until cool enough to touch.
  3. Lay ham flat on a cutting board and cut into 1 inch strips. Starting at one end, roll each piece into a tight roll. Cut pineapple and pepper into bite-size pieces.
  4. Prepare tangy mustard sauce by combining 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, yogurt and dijon mustard in a small bowl and stirring until well combined. Similarly, combine and stir the remaining mayonnaise and yogurt with the BBQ sauce to create the creamy BBQ sauce.
  5. Thread toothpicks with bell pepper, ham and pineapple. Serve with two dipping sauces.

Rosemary Roasted Radishes with Bacon

Radishes are a root vegetable you may not think of roasting, but be prepared to kick the potato, carrot, turnip and your other favorite root vegetables aside. I think radishes are meant to be roasted, which brings out a sweetness that mellows their peppery heat. Serve this earthy dish as an appetizer or side.

Ingredients
1 bunch watermelon radishes or red radishes, cut into thin slices
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon course sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place radishes in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary. Toss to evenly coat.
  2. Place radishes on a medium baking sheet and cook for about 20 minute, stirring occasionally.
  3. Top radishes with crumbled bacon and serve.


WATERMELON, TOMATO AND BURRATA CHEESE

When I think of summer, watermelon and tomatoes immediately come to mind. They are two of my favorite seasonal foods and they compliment each other nicely in this appetizer with creamy and decadent burrata cheese. The outer layer of this cheese is fresh mozzarella, and when you slice it in half you will discover a luscious, creamy center made of mozzarella soaked in cream. It is the perfect cheese to pair with this summertime appetizer. This is a great last-minute dish for entertaining guests or taking to a potluck. Cheers to fresh and easy dishes and enjoying the final days of summer!

Ingredients:
burrata cheese
½ seedless watermelon, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze

Directions:

  1. Place burrata on a large serving platter, layering slices of watermelon and tomatoes around the cheese.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.