Category Archives: Ample Appetizers

Comfort quesadillas

So here I have the easiest of recipes for you. So easy the ingredient list consists of you opening your fridge and taking a gander at just what is hiding (and perhaps languishing) in there. These are my go-to comfort food, especially when it’s a solo dinner, and they are so crammed full of all those favorite veg that I always, always over buy. In my mind everything can go into a quesadilla fresh mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes – heck yeah. Maybe you found that jar of banana peppers you’ve been meaning to use up, or those green chilies looking for a vehicle to your tum, or maybe its those last two delish olives taking up all that space. Yup, they all belong in there too. And I suppose, you could even throw some meat in there. You know, if you had to.

As a comfort food, they can’t be beat. Easy, delish, and the avocado on top will melt away the worst of days. And I’m putting that to the test. Someone made a rather large mistake, certainly not the end of the world, but I am a pretty harsh critic when it comes to this gal. But you know, I did find out I’ve got an audience. A big one. So there’s that, right?

That said, at least I have tons of fun to distract myself from all of that (and before you start gnashing your teeth wondering, “what the heck did you do, Jess?!” It was a typo. A small typo. But on a big stage). But yeah, fun! Next week marks the start of my summer hours. Yeah, you read that right, summer hours! So that’s pretty rad. But even more immediate is getting to watch my brother cross the finish line at Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday and then another trip to the bear bar! Yeah, bears. In real life.

In the meantime, let’s go comfort ourselves with quesadillas. Quesadillas oozing with cheese and dripping with salsa. Yeah. That.


Comfort quesadillas from thePenandthePan

Comfort quesadillas

per quesadilla
1 tortilla (the size is up to you, how much comfort are you feeling?)
¼ cup or less shredded cheese
assorted vegetables, raw or cooked
butter for tortilla

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Butter one side of your tortilla and place in pan. Add vegetables to one side of tortilla. Sprinkle cheese over entire tortilla.

Just as cheese starts to melt, fold tortilla in half. Continue to cook, flipping frequently, until both sides are lightly browned.


Smashed potatoes from Closet Cooking

You know what’s amazing and awesome and about to happen to this very gal?! Getting to see your favorite band, in your favorite venue, with your favorite sibling! I’ll be real honest here, I can’t focus on a whole lot else right now. Tomorrow immediately after work, I’m hopping in the car for a solo camera venture across the state, landing in Minneapolis just in time for dinner with friends and then a night full of ROCK! All that excitement to be followed on Saturday by lunching with some favorite ladies, a little retail therapy, and another scenic route home. Just me, visits with rad people, and exactly zero pressure.

It did cross my mind to stay for a second day, but on the way into work this week, I looked around at all the peeps coming to vacation in this town, and I thought, “Huh, do I really want to miss out on a fine weekend afternoon in what will surely be the shortest of summers?” The answer was an emphatic no. That coupled with the fact that the ever talented Himself is willing to work on my car on Sunday, and it’s a def no-brainer, not a single moment wasted away from my north woods paradise.

That said, I’m crazy excited to go, and have exactly zero interest in planning elaborate meals this week. So, because I’m a grown up, it’s appetizers for dinner! Boom! Cause I can. I love this recipe because you can fancy it up for your friends, or do what I did and use leftover bits and pieces languishing in my sad fridge. Intentional ingredients, happy accidents with leftovers, either way, these little bites are so yummy. Think a potato skin with more potato and less grease and guilt.

I’ve copied over the original recipe from Closet Cooking in case you’re ready to wow your friends, but if you just want a little comfort snack, you’ll get the gist of it and adapt away.


Smashed potatoes from thePenandthePan

Smashed potatoes from Closet Cooking

1 pound new potatoes (about 1-1 1/2 inches across), washed
2 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 strips bacon (optional)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup sour cream
2 green onions, sliced

Bring the potatoes and enough water to cover them by an inch to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until a fork can easily be pushed into them, about 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes, before draining them.

Place the potatoes on a greased baking sheet and ‘smash’ them by pressing down on them with something like a potato masher, the bottom of a glass or bowl, etc.

Brush the potatoes with oil, season with salt and pepper and bake them on the top shelf of a preheated 450F oven until golden brown and crispy on top, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile cook and crumble the bacon.

Sprinkle the cheddar onto the potatoes and optionally broil for a minute to melt the cheese.

Top with the sour cream, bacon and green onions and enjoy as a side or as an appetizer!

Option: You can cook and smash the potatoes a day ahead of time.

Samosa wonton cups

You guys! I just want to go outside so badly. Me and everyone else in this town. It’s been rainy and cold, and we just can’t take it any more. Well, ok, there are some things about the rain that are sorta ok. There are few things that smell nearly as amazing as rain in the wet and muddy pines.

Problem is, while I could totally handle the cold in February, it’s April (imagine me saying that last part in the whiniest voice you ever heard). Now I just want to be outside. The birds and animals are all returning despite the cold, and I want to enjoy it too.

Just check out this wolf we spotted on the way to work on Monday. Granted, I don’t want to run into this dude outside, but with zero woodscraft, he’d hear me coming and be gone long before I reached him.

Wolf_Deer River-2

Can’t really blame this guy for coming around, though, check out all these deer (look closely, my friends). We’ve been seeing crazy amounts (16 at a time!) in the field across the way. Yayyy nature!

Deer a-grazing

Oh well, this time indoors hasn’t been put to good use. Just check out these samosa wonton cups I made. This appetizer isn’t really a wonton and it isn’t really a samosa. But what it is, is super crazy delicious, and it’s my blog, so I’m calling them samosa wontons. So there.

There are a lot of steps, but they’re super easy. Though, you can also make the filling and wonton cups ahead of time. Just wait to fill the cups until ready to serve. Either way they’re delish!


Samosa wonton cups

Samosa wonton cups

24 wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced to ½ inch
½ tablespoon olive oil
⅓ cup onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
½ cup fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 350º. Separate wonton wrappers and place in ungreased mini muffin to create a cup. Bake unfilled wrappers for 5 minutes. Set aside

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil potato pieces until just tender, no more than 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a saute pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook an additional two minutes more.

In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mint, garam masala, and cayenne pepper. Add potatoes, onion mixture, and peas.

Fill each wonton with potato mixture. Bake at 350º for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped clinatro. Serve hot.

Ginger veggie & pretzel dip

Helllllooooooooo! Did you miss me invisible friends? I feel like I’ve crawled back from the brink of death over here. I had the nasty tummy virus that’s been making the rounds. I couldn’t keep food down, let alone write about it.

But not to worry, little chickadees, I am back and dare I say it it, better than ever. I’ve been floating around in a pretty rad state of well being for the past couple of days. I can’t point to exactly why this is, but I sure ain’t gonna argue. Having survived the *hardest* winter, I’ll readily bask in this general sense of awesome

Course, it’s certainly not hurting things that I’m typing this in the greenhouse, soaking in the last of the late afternoon sun, and enjoying a tasty glass of chardonnay. Except for one nagging little item, an awful disinterest in food. Not really what you’re looking for in a food blogger, right? Ever since I crawled out of that fever soaked bed, all I want to eat are raw fresh veggies. So, good thing I discovered this tasty, ginger-laden, veggie dip.

I had mentioned that when we were down visiting friends and fam, we were absolutely showered with gifts. One of which was a fantastic array of cookbooks from my mother in law. I’ve barely made a dent in paging through the bounty, but when I saw this recipe, I had to drop everything to make it.

It’s the perfect dip everything dip – pretzels, wheat-thins, carrots, and my all-time favorite, cucumbers! I made the dip with Himself in mind, who will inhale ginger anything any day of the week, and he really liked it, but this gal could not get enough of it. The tang of the ginger really enhances the veggies, and has a surprising kick. This isn’t your everyday boring veggie dip. But I bet it quickly turns into your go-to veggie dip!


Ginger dip for veg and pretzels

Ginger veggie & pretzel dip

Adapted from the Breakfast in Cairo, Dinner in Rome cookbook

½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons freshly grated and chopped ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (optional)
¼ teaspoon curry powder, plus more for serving

Mix together all ingredients in bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Serve sprinkled with additional curry powder and fresh vegetables or pretzels.

Tomato, bacon, and cream cheese cups

Well, kids we’ve reached that point of cabin fever. Stay tuned to see, will Jessica lose her marbles and dive headfirst into a snowy creek? Will Himself go stir crazy and run screaming through the woods? Only time will tell. So far, we’ve managed to not snipe at each other too terribly, though it may be a near thing, as we run low on things to keep us entertained…

No matter where I am, come the end of January, I am thoroughly sick of winter. Course, every year, February rolls around with stuff to do, like Himself’s birthday and the dreaded V-day with it’s expectations of grandeur, and then before I know it, March is in sight. March may still be snowy and cold, but you can feel that sun powering up as the days get longer and longer.

What’s different, up here is not the cold. C’mon guys, cold is cold. But there’s this gorgeous stretch of woods that my legs just ache to walk through, wildlife that begs to be photographed, and all the chores that come along with a neglected property. Seeing that day after day, and we’re just itching to get out and enjoy it. You can just bet that the minute that thermometer creeps above freezing, or heck even above 20, we’re racing to get the outdoor gear on and head OUTSIDE!

You know what else February brings? Of course you do! It’s the Super Bowl. Now it’s been a good long while since a favorite team of mine made it to the big game, but football is football. Not to mention all the goodies that go along with the big game. These wee tomato cups are just the thing to serve. Tomato, bacon, a hint of pesto and cheese all wrapped up in a crispy shell, YUM! Bonus points: this appetizer can be prepped ahead of time. Just prepare the wonton wrappers and the stuffing. Then when all your guests arrive, fill the cups, pop them in the oven, and then sit back and enjoy the accolades.


Tomato Cups

Tomato bacon cream cheese cups

24 wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I opted for tomato & basil, but plain or chive & onion would also work well)
2 teaspoons pesto
¼ cup chopped red onion
⅓ cup crumbled bacon or bacon bits
½ – 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
½ cup mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate wonton wrappers and place in ungreased mini muffin to create a cup. Bake unfilled wrappers for 5 minutes.

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, pesto, red onion, bacon, and jalapeno, if desired. Mix well. Add cheeses and stir until combined. Fill baked wonton wrappers ¾ full cream cheese mixture. Bake filled wontons at 350 degrees for 7 – 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with halved cherry tomatoes immediately. Let cool slightly before serving.

Makes 24 cream cheese cups.

Note: the wontons and filling can be prepared ahead of time. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Do not fill wonton wrappers until ready to bake.

Jalapeno cream cheese bread

I know, I know everyone is sick of hearing about the weather, so I’ll only mention this is passing. Remember how I was the most excited because there was supposed to be a pretty strong meteor shower on my birthday? Well, we missed it. Between the absolute cold and the cloudy skies, there was no chance to brave the elements with a camera. But tonight, we’re hoping for better news. There’s a strong magnetic storm watch forecasted, which means my very favorites – the Northern Lights! Keep your fingers crossed for me, my little chickadees. While, it’s still supposed to be co-o-old, Himself and I are willing to venture outside in this case.

And speaking of mention things here, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned resolutions. While I’m not quite ready to conquer my resolution of mastering pie crusts, I am ready to make some sense of my recipe mess. I have a habit, learned from my mom, of clipping tasty recipes and setting them aside to deal with later. Recipes from the taste section, from food magazines, from newsletters, and most recently from our local food co-op, they’ve all found their way into a cupboard or drawer only to languish there awaiting some sort of organization. I even have a pile of my mom’s clippings. Le sigh. Imagine if you will, those old cartoons where someone would open a stuffed full closet only to find themselves up to their eyeballs in clutter. Yup, that’s me, awash in a sea of recipes.

If ever you came to my house, you’d be pretty impressed at the tidiness (or diagnosing me with OCD). Except when it comes to these dang recipes. Well folks, that organization is going to start now. I don’t expect it to be done anytime soon. I mean, last year’s organization goal was to get my families pictures scanned, organized, and burned to DVDs for the rest of the fam. I really pushed it with that one, finishing on January 1. But I’m still riding high on how good it felt to get that project done, so there’s hope (and such terrible weather, I hardly want to venture out of doors…).

Now this cheese bread recipe is one of the aforementioned clippings. Don’t let this one languish in your cupboards, you need to be making this now. It combines two of my very favoritest things – jalapeno cream cheese poppers and bread. If you happened to be a big fan of football (I remain sorely disappointed in the sport this season, due to a certain team’s dismal performance), this is the perfect dish to serve. If you plan on bringing this to someone else’s place for the big event, simply top the bread and wrap in foil for transporting, then finish it off in their oven. Now, this makes a huge serving of appetizers, so you could also portion out the topping and only bake a reasonable amount


Jalapeno cream cheese bread

Jalapeno cream cheese bread

Adapted from Northern Star Foods Co-Op recipe collection

1 loaf french bread, cut in half lengthwise
1 -8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 whole jalapeno, seeded and diced
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons diced green chilies
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons taco seasoning (I’m still recommending Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming)
2 cups shredded cheese, cheddar or a Mexican blend will work well

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the bread on a baking sheet, with the cut side up.

In a bowl, mix together cream cheese, jalapeno, onion, chilies, mayonnaise and taco seasoning, until smooth. Mix in shredded cheese. Divide mixture in half and spread over each side of the bread.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned on the edges. Turn on broiler, keeping an eye on the bread, until cheese mixture bubbles. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Greek turkey meatballs

Ok, don’t freak out, but I went and put cinnamon in your meatballs. You’re gonna like it, I promise. Even better, I just gave you a meatball recipe you can change into burgers and wow everyone at the next cook out. You’re welcome.Greek meatballs

All kidding aside, this is an easy meal to throw together. It’s fresh and simple. And simple is what I need these days. Bonus points, no special equipment required. Since my kitchen now consists of paper plates, one cookie sheet, one mixing bowl, one knife, plastic utensils, two wine glasses, and two regular cups, it’s a good thing this comes together simply.

When it comes to chopping up teeny, tiny capers, the idea was no one wants a big ol’ bite of capers in the meatball. What you’re looking for is all the flavors to meld together. So grab your tablespoon of capers, smoosh ‘em, and roughly chop.

This will likely be the last regular post for a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for pictures, but closing is next week, and the big move happens Saturday and Sunday. The journey is just beginning!

Greek turkey meatballs

1 lb ground turkey
½ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup sundried tomatoes
1 Tbsp roughly chopped capers (you could also substitute chopped kalamata olives)
1 ½ Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
½ Tbsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients into one big bowl. Don’t be squeamish, get in there with your hands and mix it all up. Form into small balls for appetizers, bigger if that’s your game.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Makes 32 appetizer sized meatballs.

Let cool just enough to handle. For appetizers, slice cucumber and place meatball on top, securing with a toothpick.

For a meatball sandwich, chop cucumber roughly, smear pita with hummus, and place 3 – 4 meatballs in each pita.


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