Cooking with Alison

Archive for the ‘Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks’ Category

White Wine, Garlic, and Butter Steamed Clams Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Fish / Seafood on July 11, 2016 at am


My parents love seafood, so whenever I cook for a special occasion, I always include a shellfish dish. I love these buttery and garlicky clams for a starter coarse. They’re ridiculously easy to make.

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Favourite Peperonata Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Sides and Sauces on April 2, 2016 at am

I was first introduced to peperonata at a restaurant that used it as a topping for bruschetta. I then learned that peperonata is either served as a side dish or with sliced bread. I adapted an authentic, Italian (Sicilian) recipe to recreate the version that I had at the restaurant, so that I could serve it on top of toasted baguette slices for a party. If you prefer a more authentic version, cut the bell peppers into large chunks, add tomatoes, simmer longer, and allow it to be more liquidy.


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Mini Chicken and Waffles Hors D’Oeuvres

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on March 19, 2016 at am


John loves deep fried chicken with waffles. I love deep fried chicken, probably more than any other food in the world, and I like eating waffles every now and then for dessert, but I didn’t like them in combination until I made mini chicken (soft bones) and waffles drizzled with maple syrup. These one-bite hors d’oeuvres make sense to me, because they are easier to eat than the regular sized version, they have the perfect ratio of meat to waffle, they have a great balance of sweet and savoury, and the waffles stay crispy for longer. I was inspired to make these when I spotted Eggo Minis at the grocery store. I usually try to avoid processed foods, but I couldn’t help myself. They’re adorable! Top them with tiny scoops of ice cream (use a melon baller), chocolate or strawberry sauce, and toppings (e.g. mini oreos, crushed nuts, whipped cream, sprinkles) and you’ve got an even more adorable dessert. [Confession: When I first started living on my own, I would eat Eggos for dinner. I’ve eaten a LOT of Eggos in my lifetime. Looks like I’ll be picking up where I left off. ;)]

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The Absolute Best Brand of Pickles, Gherkins, Cornichons

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Reviews, Sides and Sauces on February 25, 2016 at am


Please believe me when I say that these are the absolute best store-bought pickles on the market. Burgenland’s Gurken Prinz pickles/gherkins/cornichons have the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Note that these are smaller than dill pickles and larger than most gherkins/cornichons. Years ago, I tried one for the first time at a friend of a friend’s house party. After taking one bite, I looked at him with wide eyes and said, with urgency, “Who made these pickles and where can I buy them???”. I never forgot them and recognized the brand immediately, even years after that party. I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted them at Costco. I looked for these pickles in countless independent and specialty grocery stores… of course Costco had them. All good things come from Costco. 😉 I really hope you get the chance to try them, and if you know a better brand, be sure to let me know!



Korean Lettuce Wraps with BBQ Beef or Pork

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Meat and Eggs on August 2, 2015 at pm

One of the hors d’oeuvres that I made for John’s housewarming was Korean BBQ beef in lettuce cups.  I used my Korean kalbi (BBQ short ribs) marinade on thin slices of prime rib, but lean pork would work well too (see the kalbi recipe here).  The sweet and savoury marinade contrasted nicely with the sour and spicy kimchi.  These were flavourful, easy to eat, easy to make, carbohydrate-free, and everyone’s favourite of the items that I made.  If you wanted to serve these as an entree for a sit down meal, serve the beef with white rice on the side and allow your guests to assemble their own lettuce wraps.


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Basic Hummus Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on June 1, 2015 at am

Let me count the ways that I love hummus:  It’s healthy, easy to make, cost efficient and you can eat it with pretty much anything you have on hand.  You can spread it on a sandwich, wrap, and baguette slices for crostini, or you can serve it with dippers (ie. vegetables, crackers, pita, bagel chips (see recipe here), bread sticks, etc.).  It’s perfect for entertaining, because it can be made in advance and it makes a great vegetarian / vegan option.

I’ve compared hummus made with fresh garlic, roasted garlic, and garlic infused oil.  Garlic lovers will enjoy the roasted garlic and garlic infused oil in hummus, so instructions have been provided for both.  This is my favourite basic hummus recipe.  Enjoy it plain or experiment with different variations.  For example, you could add fresh parsley, or cilantro, and/or dill.  Also, I use limes instead of lemons when I have them on hand.  See my sun dried tomato hummus recipe here and my cilantro lime hummus recipe here.

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California Hand Roll Recipe (and a great way to serve them)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Other Asian Foods, Rice and Noodle Dishes, Seafood on March 28, 2015 at am

My family and I LOVE Japanese sushi. In fact, sushi is my all-time favourite food. California rolls are, by no means, our favourite roll, but they are the ones that we make at home the most often, because the ingredients are affordable and easy to prep. The first time I made California maki for my family, I couldn’t make the rolls quickly enough to keep up with the rate at which they were eating them. I finished that dinner feeling rushed, exhausted, and hungry! So I stopped making sushi for a long time after that. Luckily, one life-altering day, my then-boyfriend’s mom made us dinner by serving all of the ingredients for California rolls and allowing us to assemble our own hand rolls at the dinner table. It was genius! It had never occurred to me to make hand rolls before, because my family Never orders them from the restaurants! The best part is that the cook only has to prepare the individual components, which requires minimal cooking – perfect for weeknight and summer-time dinners. The guests have fun assembling their own hand rolls to their own taste. I’ve since done this countless times for myself, my family, and guests. It’s also makes for a great and easy food station at larger parties. If you don’t like artificial crab meat, I’ve done this using smoked salmon instead.

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Best Chinese Abalone Recipe (Slow Cooker)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Seafood on February 12, 2015 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 7)

Abalone is a luxury shellfish that is often served at Chinese weddings and other celebrations. Although preparation of abalone starts several days in advance, it is surprisingly easy to make, as long as you have a slow cooker. In fact, I like my mom’s abalone much much more than the ones I’ve had in high-end Chinese restaurants. I’ve shared her recipe below, just in time for Chinese New Year.


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Mini Herbed Polenta Rounds

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on December 12, 2014 at am

Mini polenta rounds are a great base for a large range of meaty or meat-less hors d’oeuvres.  They’re also cost effective and easy to make for a large crowd.  For my dad’s surprise 60th birthday party, I topped these mini herbed polenta rounds with sauteed cremini mushrooms tossed in balsamic cream.  They were one of the party favourites.




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Baked Brie and Apricot Jam Crostini

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on November 26, 2014 at am

I served warm brie and apricot jam crostini at my dad’s 60th birthday party and they were a huge hit.  Switch things up a bit by using a different flavoured jam or fruit butter.  For example, peach jam would have the same beautiful orange colour, any berry jam would work beautifully, blackcurrant jam would be amazing, apple butter would be comforting in the fall, and cranberry sauce (see recipe here) would be perfect for the winter holidays.  These are incredibly easy to make for a large crowd.  The key to making these delicious is using the perfect ratio of jam to brie cheese.  Don’t hold back with the jam, as it’ll make your crostini look prettier too.



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Romanian Cabbage Rolls – The Only Cabbage Rolls I Eat

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, How-To, Other Dishes, Red Meat and Eggs, Sides and Sauces on September 26, 2014 at am


I never understood why people like cabbage rolls until my friend Joana made Romanian cabbage rolls.  This is the same friend that changed my mind about polenta, by the way (see my soft polenta recipes here).  I am so so grateful that Joana introduced me to Romanian cabbage rolls, because I am in love with them!  They are truly the best cabbage rolls that I have ever tasted.  The main difference between Romanian cabbage rolls and other cabbage rolls is that the Romanian ones are made with pickled cabbage.  You can find vacuum sealed whole heads of pickled cabbage in European grocery stores.  Joana’s recipe is also great because she uses a blend of different types of meat.  Although they are easy to make, I don’t make them often, because rolling all of those cabbage rolls can be time-consuming.  I hope you won’t be discouraged, because this recipe makes a very large batch that happens to be freezer-friendly.  With the colder weather moving in, I knew that I couldn’t put off making these any longer.  These are great to make for pot lucks or when feeding a crowd, because they can be served warm or cold.

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How to Make a Healthy Sour Cream Substitute

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, How-To, Sides and Sauces on September 15, 2014 at am

Sour cream is one of my favourite condiments, but I feel guilty buying it for two reasons:  1.  it’s unhealthy and high in calories, and 2. I often end up wasting food, because I have trouble using up an entire container before the expiration date.  So you can imagine my excitement when I watched chef Rocco DiSpirito share his healthy sour cream substitute on tv a few years ago.  It only requires 2 ingredients:  cottage cheese and white vinegar/lemon juice.  I have to admit, I was very doubtful that anything could even come close to tasting like sour cream.  When I first tried it, I was expecting to be as disappointed as the first time I ever tried vegan cheese, but it was amazingly similar to sour cream.  You just need to have the equipment to get the texture completely smooth (I used a mini food processor). You can make as little or as much as you want and you don’t have to feel guilty eating it.

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