Cooking with Alison

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

Creative Uses for Avocado and Tips for Making Them Even More Delicious

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Sides and Sauces on July 6, 2014 at am

I love avocados and often eat them straight out of the peel with a spoon.  Here are a few creative ways to use avocados and some tips for making them taste even better (other than just adding them to everything and anything you can think of):

  1. Be sure to try warming up your avocado (peel and pit removed) in the microwave.  I love warm avocados, especially in a sandwich, pita, or wrap.  I’ve also seen recipes where people bake avocado halves in the shell.
  2. Have you ever tasted avocado tempura (Japanese deep fried avocado)?  It’s delicious – probably in part because of the warming effect.  You could easily deep fry slices of avocado at home, by either using a tempura batter or an egg wash followed by a coating of panko crumbs.
  3. I used to eat avocados plain until my friend Aurelie told me that in France, a lot of people eat their avocados with a dollop of Dijon mustard.  I’m so glad that she told me that, because I’ve been doing it ever since.  My preferred brand of Dijon mustard is Maille.
  4. I’ve also discovered that I like eating avocados with a light drizzle of honey.  But, oddly, I don’t like the taste of honey mustard on avocados.
  5. Try using half of an avocado, still in the shell, as a carbohydrate substitute and bowl for your favourite tuna, crab, chicken, or ham salad.  See a tuna salad recipe here.  You could even place a fried egg in the avocado half.  I’ve also seen recipes where people bake avocado halves in the shell (pit removed) with eggs or cheese, etc.
  6. Use avocado to make a delicious and healthy mayonnaise substitute.
  7. Make smoothies or other types of drinks using avocados.  Don’t forget alcoholic drinks like avocado margaritas.
  8. I’ve even seen recipes for avocado soup.  Let me know if you’ve tried this and what you thought of it.
  9. Make an avocado frosting for your baked goods.  These are often vegan friendly.  The natural green colour is great for St Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas themed parties.
  10. Avocado can be used as a fat substitute in vegan baking.  John and I plan to try making black bean and avocado brownies.  If they’re really good, I’ll share the recipe.
  11. Lastly, I’ve put avocado popsicles on my list of things to try.

Just to be thorough, here are some of the ways that I use avocados in every day cooking:  in all sorts of salads, in sandwiches, as burger toppings, in wraps, in pitas, in tacos, in quesadillas, in sushi (maki rolls or hand rolls), in guacamole (see recipe here), in salsa with exotic fruits atop fish, in breakfast or egg dishes, as toppings or garnish for some soups, in fish tartare or ceviche (see recipes here), in appetizers served in wonton cups (see recipe here), etc., etc.  Let me know how you like to use avocados!

Ingredients That Freeze Beautifully

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Breads, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To, Indian, Main Course on June 1, 2014 at am

Whenever I cook with ingredients that I don’t use regularly, I almost always end up with extra ingredients that I can’t find the time or purpose for.  I hate to waste food.  So, very early on, I learned how to make the freezer my best friend.  Below I’ve shared a list of fresh and canned ingredients that freeze beautifully for months to a year, without a change in texture or taste.  Let me know if you can think of anything else!  I will add to this list as I discover new freezer friendly ingredients.  Also, I’ve posted many many freezer friendly recipes throughout the years.  Just look to the end of each recipe for freezing instructions, as applicable.

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My Absolute Favourite Fruit: Mangosteen

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To on May 22, 2014 at am

I love almost all fruit, and mangosteen is, by far, my favourite.  If you haven’t tried purple mangosteen yet, I highly recommend that you do as soon as the opportunity presents itself.  When I was in Malaysia, I ate an entire bag and every day that I’ve been back, I regret not eating more.  That was a year ago!!!  Mangosteen are grown mainly in Southeast Asia and the best ones that I’ve ever had were from Malaysia. Disappointingly, in North America, mangosteen can be quite expensive and often not very fresh.  So be sure to choose ones with a fresh and green coloured stem, because there are such things as bad and so-so mangosteen.


The purple fruit shown in the middle are the mangosteen

The purple outer shell is inedible.  To open a mangosteen, crush the purple shell between the palms of your hands and then pull it apart to open it.  But be very careful not to stain your clothes, because the purple dye is almost impossible to wash out.  In fact, many hotels in Southeast Asia ban their guests from bringing mangosteen into their rooms.  The white flesh on the inside of the fruit is soft, moist, juicy and refreshing and light tasting.  Also, there are large seeds within each lobe of the white flesh.


If you get the chance to try a mangosteen, let me know what you think!

Smoked Salmon on Cucumber Rounds Recipe (and a Happy Mistake)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on April 9, 2014 at am


Most people love smoked salmon, so I knew that smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres was a must-have when I was designing the menu for John’s housewarming party.  Lemon and cream cheese or mascarpone cheese are standard toppings for smoked salmon and cucumber canapés (see my smoked salmon and lemon mascarpone crostini recipe here).  I wanted to use something lighter this time, so I was planning on topping my canapés with sour cream.  But in the mad rush to get all of the food out as guests started to arrive, I accidentally piped something else onto my hors d’oeuvres.  I didn’t even realize the happy mistake until the end of the night, when I was putting everything away.  I lost count of how many of these we made, and we had none leftover.  People loved and complimented these, thinking that I had used a light and airy cheese topping.  Even I didn’t notice the swap (shame on you, palate).  It turns out, that just a small dollop of unsweetened whipped cream works absolutely beautifully (if not better than sour cream, cream cheese, and mascarpone) atop smoked salmon and cucumber.  Here’s a toast to happy accidents!  I plan to use whipped cream for these hors d’oeuvres again in the future.  Now… what am I going to do with all of the sour cream that I bought?

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Puff Pastry Tarts With Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes (2 Ways)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on April 4, 2014 at pm


For John’s housewarming party, I made three types of puff pastry tarts:  caramelized onions with gorgonzola (see recipe here), prosciutto, arugula, and cherry tomatoes with goats cheese, and arugula and cherry tomatoes with ricotta cheese, shaved parmesan, and balsamic reduction.  I love the contrast of lightly dressed, fresh greens on rich cheese and puff pastry.  I cut these tarts into small squares and served them as finger food, but they would make a great starter to a sit down meal as well.

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Like Pomelo Fruit? Then You’ll Love Oroblanco (USA) or Sweetie Grapefruits (Israel)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Asian Desserts, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To, Other Asian Foods on March 29, 2014 at am

Pomelo is a very large citrus fruit that tastes like a sweeter, milder grapefruit (photo not shown).  Not only does pomelo taste better than grapefruit, it’s also much much easier to peel and eat.  I didn’t think that it could get any better with citrus fruit, but I was proven very wrong when I discovered Israel’s sweetie grapefruit (also known as oroblanco in the USA).  When I first tasted it, I thought, this tastes even better than a pomelo, sweeter and juicier, almost like a mix of pomelo and grapefruit.  Sure enough, I later learned that the sweetie grapefruit is, in fact, a cross between the pomelo and the white grapefruit.  I really hope you’re able to find this in your local grocery store.  When picking a sweetie grapefruit, the skin should be green and should smell citrusy.  Also, the fruit should be heavy and somewhat soft when pressed.

You peel a sweetie grapefruit the same way you peel a pomelo:  Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the fruit.  Make sure that you cut all the way through the thick rind.  Then peel the rind off in large slices.  Then use your hands to pull the fruit apart so that you have two halfs with exposed flesh.  Pull each lobe of flesh away from the white pith and enjoy.

Other must try fruits include:  mangosteen (see here).



Best Beef Carpaccio Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Main Course, Red Meat and Eggs on January 28, 2014 at am


I love beef carpaccio and I order it in restaurants quite often.  But even the restaurants get it wrong, sometimes.  When John had arugula, parmigiano reggiano, and lemons leftover from his party, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to try making beef carpaccio at home.  It turns out that it is incredibly easy to make, and that the key to success lies in the quality of the meat used.  I urge you to splurge on the beef, but I won’t blame you if you don’t, because when I spent $19 at Whole Foods for a single, small, filet mignon, I felt outraged, regretful, and then outraged, again.  Until, that is, I tasted the final product.  No regrets here.  I was blown away by the deliciousness over and over again, after each bite.  I may never order beef carpaccio from a restaurant again, because the flavour of the beef that I used was dramatically better than anything I’ve ever had in a restaurant.

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Maple Drizzled Baked Brie Crostini with Craisins and Pecans

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on December 10, 2013 at am

I made these baked brie crostinis for John’s housewarming party and they were one of the party favourites.  They are very quick and easy to make, especially considering I was making enough to serve a large crowd.


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Macaroni and Cheese Bites (or a Delicious Baked Macaroni and Cheese)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Sides and Sauces on November 20, 2013 at am


I love macaroni and cheese and these mini macaroni and cheese bites turn a comforting pasta dish into finger food fit for any party.  These can also be made gluten free!  I used grown-up cheese and made two versions of macaroni and cheese bites for John’s housewarming party.  If you only own one mini muffin pan, which I do, these can be tedious and time-consuming to make.  But they can be made hours in advance and then reheated in the oven prior to serving.  You could also bake these in a standard muffin pan and serve them as a side dish for a sit down meal.  This recipe also happens to make the best baked macaroni and cheese dish I’ve ever had, especially cheese mixture #2.  I used the leftover ingredients to make individual baked macaroni and cheese dishes as shown in the photo below.

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Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Tart Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on November 15, 2013 at am

I made caramelized onion and gorgonzola puff pastry tarts for John’s housewarming party.  They were definitely one of the party favourites.  They were also easy to prepare in advance.  I cut them into small squares for finger food, but this tart would make a great first course, too.  If you have the time and patience, you could turn these into round hors d’oeuvres instead.  These would be cute and elegant for any event.  Simply use a small, round cookie cutter to cut out rounds of the rolled out dough, follow the recipe as written, and place the filling onto each round of dough before baking.


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How to Make Puff Pastry From Scratch, The Quick and Easy Way

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, How-To, Main Course, Other Desserts, Pies & Tarts on November 10, 2013 at am


In the past, I often used store bought, frozen puff pastry for special occasions and parties.  Although I had been planning to attempt making puff pastry from scratch for years, I put it off, because the process requires many steps and resting times.  So imagine how excited I was when I found a time-saving technique for puff pastry in The Modern Baker.  Not only is this puff pastry easy and relatively quick to make, it is freezer friendly, too.  So you can make several batches in half a day, freeze them, and have your own instant puff pastry for future uses.  This puff pastry bakes up beautifully flaky, buttery, and crisp.  I’ll probably never use store-bought puff pastry again.  When I used this dough to make cheese danishes, my dad said that they were better than the ones that he buys from a bakery. I’ve also used this successfully for savoury tarts (see recipes here and here) and beef wellington. Here are a few other recipes that use puff pastry: Hong Kong egg tarts (see recipe here), apple turnovers (see recipe here), chicken or turkey pot pie (see recipe here), and vol au vents.

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What to Cook When Daikon Radish Goes on Sale for 9 Cents per Pound

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Dim Sum, How-To, Meat and Eggs, Other Asian Foods, Rice and Noodle Dishes, Soups on October 26, 2013 at am

When white daikon radish went on sale for only 9 cents per pound, I did what I had to do – I bought pounds and pounds and pounds of it, found different ways to cook it, and ate nothing but daikon radish for two weeks.  It was awesome!  🙂  So here is a list of dishes that you can make using white daikon radish.  Let me know if you can think of more items!

  • braised beef dishes (see recipes here and here)
  • Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho tai) (see recipe here)
  • steamed cake (lo bak go) (see recipe here)
  • pickled condiment (see recipe here)
  • soup (see recipe here)
  • pan fried dish with beef

If you’ve never cooked daikon radish before, I should warn you that the cooking process releases an unpleasant odour.  But once the radish is fully cooked, the smell goes away, and the radish has a mild flavour.

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