Grilled Pineapple Guacamole

Grilled Pineapple Guacamole Compressed

Inspiration: You simply can’t have too much guacamole in our house. That much is a fact. And while we love our standard guacamole recipe best, it’s always fun experimenting and throwing some new flavors into the mix (like pumpkin seeds or tomatillos). I have quite a list of add-ins that I’d like to try – bacon, bleu cheese, and goat cheese, to name a few – but grilled pineapple seemed the perfect summery add-in for our Fourth of July dinner when we were throwing some steaks on the grill.

What We Loved: This guacamole is really an interesting treat. It is completely and totally characterized by the sweet pineapple. Each bite, whether you get a bunch of the pineapple chunks or none at all, is defined by a slightly charred sweetness. It’s a really interesting and refreshing flavor, and certainly a different and unique spin on standard guacamole. Delicious, refreshing, and so very summer.

Tips: We ate this guacamole with tortilla chips as a treat, but I’m thinking that it would be fabulous atop grilled chicken, paired with some sunny side up eggs, stuffed into an omelet, or even just eaten as a side dish with a spoon.

Grilled Pineapple Guacamole
Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Christina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love

2-3 slices of cored and peeled fresh pineapple
3 small ripe avocados
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, ribbed, and minced
Juice from 1/2 lime
Kosher salt, to taste

1. Place the pineapple on the grill, and cook until slightly charred on both sides. Remove from the grill, allow to cool, and dice.

2. Pit the avocados, scoop the flesh into a bowl, and mash with a fork.

3. Mix in the onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, salt, and pineapple chunks. Reserve a few pineapple chunks to add on top for garnish. Serve.

Armadillo Eggs

Armadillo Eggs

Inspiration: I just had to check out a recipe entitled armadillo eggs. I don’t know if these are a common thing to most people, but for us, they were completely unheard of and intriguing. One of my favorite things about cooking has always been discovering new dishes – I just love that there is an endless variety out there of new and exciting foods to try. This little recipe fit right into that category and had the added bonus of being full of Mexican flavors. Yes.

What We Loved: To be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of things here not to love. A cream cheese and cheddar mixture stuffed into jalapenos, wrapped in sausage, and dipped in salsa? I think that about covers it. We loved the rich and savory flavors of the sausage paired with the gooey cheese center and the crisp crunch of the jalapeno. Topping these little bites off with a great salsa (we used Frontera Guajillo salsa, which we really love) and some fresh cilantro was the finishing touch. So many great Mexican flavors all wrapped up together.

Tips: These are meant to be an appetizer, but we actually ate them as our main dish for Cinco de Mayo this year served alongside homemade guacamole and homemade refried beans. They worked wonderfully that way, but I also think that they would be great on a big party tray with a variety of salsas for serving.

Armadillo Eggs
Source: Homesick Texan

This recipe will make 24 armadillo eggs.

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt, to taste
6 medium-sized jalapeños
2 pounds sausage

1. Mix the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic, cilantro, and cumin together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt.

2. Remove the stems from the jalapenos. Cut each jalapeno in half lengthwise, and scoop out the ribs and seeds. Cut each jalapeno half in half again horizontally, resulting in each full jalapeno being cut into quarters.

3. Stuff each jalapeno piece with a spoonful of the cheese mixture.

4. Flatten a circle of sausage in the palm of your hand, and place a stuffed jalapeno piece in the center (it’s easiest to place it cheese-side down). Fold the sausage up and around the jalapeno, forming an egg shape.

5. Bake the eggs at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through.

6. Serve with salsa.

Chipotle Cilantro Deviled Eggs

Inspiration: Eggs are awesome. I’ve been eating scrambled eggs or omelets for lunch several times a week lately, and I’m planning to whip up some hard-boiled eggs to have around for breakfasts every now and then, too. Frittatas are a great and easy supper to serve when the fridge needs some cleaning out (you can throw pretty much anything into them), and I love to serve deviled eggs as a fun side when we’re having a Southern-inspired meal for supper. Such a versatile and nutritious ingredient!

What We Loved: It’s hard to  beat a classic deviled egg, but sometimes something just a little bit different hits the spot, too. These taste like a tried and true deviled egg with a few fun twists – a very nice kick of smoky heat from chipotle peppers, and a fresh, herbal bite from a good handful of cilantro. Those two components balance each other really well – the cooling freshness of the cilantro against the spice of the peppers – and rather than overpowering the flavor of the deviled egg itself, the extra ingredients are merely a nice background to that classic deviled egg flavor.

Hints: Make sure to throw the cilantro into the food processor after you have pureed everything else, and then just pulse it a few times to incorporate. That way, that great fresh flavor isn’t lost in the other stronger ingredients, and you end up with nice flecks of green cilantro throughout the mixture.

Chipotle Cilantro Deviled Eggs
Source: Inspired from 20 Something Cupcakes

6 eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 tablespoon chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
Kosher salt and black pepper
Handful fresh cilantro

1. Place the eggs in a pan and cover completely with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, and let boil for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 12 minutes. Immediately remove the eggs from the water, and place them in the fridge to cool.

2. Peel the eggs, and slice each one in half. Carefully remove the eggs yolks, and place them in the bowl of your food processor.

3. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, and chipotle pepper/sauce to the food processor. Puree until smooth.

4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro, and pulse a few times until the cilantro is chopped and incorporated.

5. Refill each egg half with some of the mixture.

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Inspiration: I made this dish with Brandon in mind. He still talks about a smoked salmon spread that we had a few years ago as an appetizer one time at a fancy restaurant, so I thought I’d try to recreate something similar at home. It sure took me long enough, but I guess that’s what happens when I have more recipes on my to-try list than I’ll ever have the time to make. There is just too much good food in the world, isn’t there?

What We Loved: I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of salmon spreads (something about pureed fish just doesn’t do it for me), so I wasn’t entirely looking forward to this recipe. I knew that I’d think it was all right, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed this spread a lot. It’s creamy and cheesy, yet it has a nice, fresh salmon flavor that’s certainly the main component of the recipe (though not overpowering in the slightest). I rarely use dill because I don’t enjoy the flavor very much, but I do always find that it pairs so excellently with salmon. The fresh herbal bite really adds a nice pop of flavor in this recipe. We enjoyed this spread with cucumber slices alongside some fantastic steamed crab legs (another of Brandon’s favorite foods) for a lovely and light seafood supper.

Tips: Make sure to bring your cream cheese to room temperature before trying to puree everything in your food processor. Cold cream cheese really doesn’t allow for pureeing.

Smoked Salmon Mousse
Source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

4 oz smoked salmon
4 oz cream cheese, brought to room temperature
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth.

2. Serve with cucumber slices.

Shrimp and Bacon-Stuffed Mushrooms

Shrimp and Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

Shrimp and Bacon-Stuffed Mushrooms

Inspiration: This is one of those recipes that I’ve been making for years (I think we’ve made it as part of Brandon’s family’s Christmas Eve supper for the past three years now), yet it’s somehow never made it onto the blog. I’ve made a lot of stuffed mushrooms ever since I fell in love with mushrooms several years back, and in our opinion, nothing can hold a candle to these. They’re by far our favorite stuffed mushrooms (and I think that my brother-in-law, Brian, just might agree). With football playoffs in full swing, I thought that now would be a great time to finally post this recipe. We always love to do a fun appetizer spread for Superbowl Sunday in particular, and after looking at these pictures, I have a feeling that these will be making an appearance on our table that day for sure.

What We Loved: These mushrooms are rich, cheesy, and decadent. They’re defined by a wonderful bacon flavor that melds with the light, succulent flavor of fresh shrimp; the  rich, browned flavor of sauteed onions; and a combination of velvety cream cheese and nutty, crispy Parmesan. The result is really just a perfect, intensely rich and flavorful combination. I feel like stuffed mushrooms are one of those dishes that just call for decadence, and these mushrooms definitely deliver.

Tips: I’ve made these using several different kinds of mushrooms (white stuffing mushrooms, baby cremini mushrooms, and large portabella mushrooms), and every kind that we’ve tried so far works wonderfully. I’ve found that smaller, appetizer-sized mushrooms are our favorite, but large, dinner-sized portabellas work just fine, too. Basically, this recipe will work as whatever you’re looking for, depending on which mushrooms you use – an appetizer, a side dish, or even a main course.

Shrimp and Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms
Source: Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

About 24 ounces mushrooms (whichever kind you prefer – we like to use smaller white stuffing mushrooms or baby bellas – about 18 mushrooms total)
4 slices bacon, diced
½ Vidalia onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
About 10 large shrimp, finely diced
6 ounces cream cheese
¾ cups fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Rinse and clean the mushrooms, and cut out all of the stems. Finely chop the stems and set aside.

2. Cook the bacon in a saute pan until it renders some fat and is about halfway crisped.

3. Add the onion and the mushroom stem pieces to the pan. Season well with salt and pepper, and continue to cook until the water released from the mushrooms evaporates and the vegetables are softened and beginning to get nice and browned.

4. Add the garlic to the pan, and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the shrimp.

5. Mix in the cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.

6. Spoon the mixture into the mushrooms, and place them into a baking dish.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the filling cooks through and the mushrooms have released their moisture. If desired, turn the broiler on for a minute or two before the end of cooking to brown the top of the mushrooms.

8. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Marinated Cheese and Olives (for The Holiday Project)

Many of the best memories over the course of my life involve sharing good food and drinks with the people that I love. And when it comes to the holidays, there’s just nothing quite as heartwarming as un-bundling from the cold and settling in with family over a great cheese tray and a bottle of nice red wine. We talk, we laugh, we tell jokes, and we make great memories together over appetizers and snacks. And so for me, holiday appetizer recipes might just be my favorite of all of the special foods that we cook over the holiday season. They’re the little treats that I associate with the fondest memories and with my favorite part of the holiday season – enjoying the company of my loved ones.

Today I’m so happy and excited to participate in Stephanie’s awesome Holiday Project over at Life Tastes Like Food. Stephanie has gathered bloggers and readers alike to join in the holiday spirit and share their stories and recipes. Please head on over to her site for the marinated cheese and olives recipe (here) and to check out all of the other amazing posts.

Parmesan Crisps with Avocado and Cilantro

Inspiration: I would like to eat avocados three meals per day. A really great batch of guacamole, actually, might be my single favorite food in life.  And aside from guac, avocados are perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, either on their own or mixed into a recipe. Nearly every single time that I serve Mexican or Southwestern food, avocados are on our plates in some form. They complement nearly any grilled or sauteed meat or fish. They’re a great topping for soups and a great ingredient in salads, salsas, and omelets. And, they’re packed full of nutrients. Needless to say, I don’t need much of a push to throw anything with avocados onto the menu.

What We Loved: Nutty Parmesan cheese with creamy avocado is really just a fabulous pairing. Those two ingredients each have rich, intense flavors that complement each other so well, and the touch of fresh cilantro and sprinkle of salt and pepper on top add just the right amount of garnish and spice. These little bites are rich and decadent, yet at the same time, they’re still light and sophisticated.

Tips: We served these as a side dish to some lobster and crab cakes, but they would really be fabulous as an appetizer. One avocado will go a long way when it’s sliced so thinly, so you could make a whole tray of them to serve up. Since avocado browns so quickly, though, I would suggest making these immediately prior to serving and maybe sprinkling some lime juice on the avocado slices to help prevent browning.

Parmesan Crisps with Avocado and Cilantro
Source: Original Recipe

1 batch Parmesan crisps
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Handful fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1. Carefully top each Parmesan crisp with a few slices of avocado and a sprig of cilantro. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.