Monthly Archives: April 2016

Kansas City Barbecue

No doubt about it, we Americans take our barbecue seriously and will fight to protect it. Regional U.S. locations have their favorites, and at some point have drawn battle lines to defend the title: Home of the Best Barbecue. Some years ago, the longstanding barbecue rivalry between Kansas City and Memphis turned downright ugly. Tempers flared; accusations flew. Charges of cheating in the contest aimed to settle the feud festered. This self-proclaimed labeling is not only the boast of cities, but extends to barbecue restaurants and backyards as well. With little goading, any BBQ eatery will rise up, greasy tongs snapping, to guard its reputation. Criticize the tough, dry ribs your buddy chars up at his annual backyard barbecue and prepare to duck hot coals.

All BBQers claim to have some secret ingredient, special cooking method, or exotic mops and rubs. As a true do-it-yourself barbecue aficionado who has stolen peeks into smoke-filled pits belonging to friends and relatives, and as one born and raised in Kansas City, lived in Texas, and traveled to Memphis (all bitter barbecue battlegrounds), I’ve found that most have a few tricks in common. Following are some of these so-called secret ingredients to help you make your next barbecue the best in town.

First, few self-respecting KC BBQers will entertain the thought of precooking meats before barbecuing. Boiling meat removes the fat and oils essential to the taste and texture. During boiling, flavor is lost to the water. Baking meat first offers no alternative. The juices, oils, and taste either goes into the garbage with the aluminum foil or ends up reduced to a hard brown crust on the bottom of the roasting pan. Cleaning the ribs properly before smoking is key to the meat sliding off the bones tenderness, while keeping all the delectable flavor and juices intact. Reaching this euphoric state of barbecue utopia requires only a few hours of cooking and smoking depending on the thickness of the meat.

Ribs are easiest to clean straight from the package. Before washing, dry the entire slab with paper towels then place it meat side down on the kitchen counter. The underside bones are covered with a thin whitish-gray film. Start lengthwise at one end lifting and peeling this skin away from you until you have raised a strip large enough to grip. Use a dishtowel or paper towel to peel it away if it proves too slippery to hang onto with bare hands. A good portion of the membrane will often rip off in one large strip and sound like tearing paper as it’s removed. If left on, by the time this sinewy cover is tender, the meat is dry and tasteless.

Many pros omit the cayenne pepper in the rib rub if they use cayenne in the sauce. The good ones never use liquid smoke in barbecue sauce. Liquid smoke leaves a heavy, metallic aftertaste that can’t come close to duplicating the velvety undertones of real smoke. Instead, invest in a good smoker, ideally one that has a water pan and uses both gas and wood like the commercial pits. Then use wood chunks or wood chips of your choice. You can either soak the chips in water or use them dry. Either way, the smoke will taste the same. Wet wood burns slower, but a couple hours of thick smoke pluming over the neighborhood might send your neighbors scurrying to call the fire department. Unlike meats cooked with charcoal, meat cooked solely with wood will retain its smoky flavor even after it’s frozen.

Hole-in the-wall Kansas City BBQ joints, the shacks in rundown neighborhoods with bad attitudes that serve exquisite barbecue, smoke their sauce. Open a pit and you’ll come eyeball to eyeball with a sinister-looking, greasy black cauldron. Its life is spent inside this smoky hell crouched in a corner burping sauce. Copy this technique by pouring your sauce in a wide kettle or pan, and then smoke it alone on a covered grill for a few hours or while the meats cook. Stir occasionally.

Many BBQ restaurants buy smoked spices to season their sauces. Cattleman’s Artisanal Smoked Spices are sold almost exclusively to restaurants – never directly to the public. http://www.adrianascaravan.com is a good link for do-it-yourselfers to purchase Cattleman’s smoked spices. Cattleman’s blends a smoked Kansas City style rib rub and BBQ seasoning, which you can buy from Adrianas. Order spice for enough sauce to fill several clean bottles. Cap, and then save in the refrigerator for the day a hankering for barbecue hits you and you can’t/won’t fire up the grill. The sauce not only retains its smoky flavor, but also keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator.

A tasty, wonderfully offbeat way to prepare ribs I picked up from my mother: When using the grill is impractical, cut a slab of ribs into individual sections, season, dredge in flour, and then deep fry until fully cooked and golden. Serve drenched with smoky, warm sauce, or dunk each rib as you eat. No juice or flavor loss here.

If you like pepper heat, but hate breathing fire at first bite, add cayenne pepper to the sauce during the last few minutes of cooking. Cayenne added at this stage delays the sting and lets the spicy flavors woo your palate before the heat creeps in.

Bon Appetite!

How to Make Tamales

Tamales have been a favorite Mexican dish for many years, and have been enjoyed by many different Nationalities. I love this recipe, and I hope you do too. The flavor of this type of food blends with the other ingredients so well, and brings forth a burst of flavor when you take that first bite.

Ingredients

6 teaspoons lard or vegetable oil
teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of ground cumin
6 oz masa hernia
teaspoon baking powder
1 cup of beef, chicken or vegetables stock
4 oz cooked corn mixed with a little grated cheese and chopped green chili
8-10 corn husks or several banana leaves, cut into 12 inch strips

If using corn husks, soak them in hot water to cover for at least 3 hours, or overnight. If using banana leaves, warm them by placing them over an open flame for just a few seconds, to make them pliable

To make the Tamale dough, beat the lard or shortening until fluffy, then beat is the salt, sugar, cumin, masa harina, and baking powder until mixture resembles tiny crumbs

Add the stock very gradually, in several batches, beating until mixture becomes fluffy and resembles whipped cream

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the tamale mixture on either a soaked and drained corn husk, or a piece of pliable heated banana leaf

Fill with the flavored corn. Fold the sides of the husks or leaves over the filling to totally enclose. Wrap the parcels individually in squares of aluminum foil, and arrange in a steamer.

Fill the bottom of the steamer with hot water, cover, and bring to a boil Cook for approximately forty to sixty minutes, taking care to top up the water in the bottom of the steamer. Remove from the heat and serve with shredded lettuce and salsa.

The cuisine of Mexico is a diverse and extraordinary cuisine, a complex layering of cultures, starting with the ancient Indian civilizations and built upon by the Spanish conquest as well as other European influences. Another fact that may interest you, is that over this ancient cuisine of indigenous foods and techniques lies a veneer of Spanish propriety and European tradition, as well as the imports from Spain; wheat (for those flour tortillas and the crusty bread rolls, bolilos), domesticated animals whose milk added cheese to the menu, and the pig! With its abundant fat, frying became possible, adding a new dimension
to the cooking methods.

This recipe serves six to eight people.

I hope you love this recipe as much as my family does; we are always looking to try out new recipes that I come across when I am thumbing through a magazine, or a copy of the Readers Digest.

Cooking Corned Beef Easy Corned Beef and Cabbage Slow Cooking Corned Beef and

The traditional St. Patrick’s Day feast for our family was Corned Beef and Cabbage. My mother would work her magic on the stove top and turn out a meal for a king. Each St. Patrick’s day, my mother would put on a huge pot of boiling water and add her Corned Beef. She would lovingly check it many times during the day to make sure the water wasn’t boiling away and the heat was adjusted just right for evenly cooking the meat. Her patience was rewarded with a tasty fare. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit my mother’s patience or skill for cooking, so making a traditional Irish meal on St. Patrick’s Day was a challenge for me. That was until I learned the value of using my slow cooker when making Corned Beef and Cabbage. Now we have this Irish feast a couple of times a year.

Everything needed to make a tasty meal is included in the package. Corned Beef brisket and seasoning. Choosing the cabbage is not an overwhelming decision, simply choose 2 heads of cabbage which when chopped will fit perfectly in the slow cooker along with the meat.

I start to prepare the corned beef the night before we will be eating it. Place the beef in the slow cooker and cover with water. Add the seasoning packet at the beginning of the cooking process and set the slow cooker on the high setting. Continue to cook the beef overnight on the high heat setting.

In the morning check the water to ensure the water is still covering the corned beef. Set the cooker on the low heat setting and go about your usual daily routine. This works out great since my family has a very active lifestyle and cooking dinner in the slow cooker allows healthy meals without having to spend a great amount of time hovering over the stove.

Checking on the corned beef I do what I call the fork test. I simply prick the meat and if the meat starts to fall apart when I try to lift it with the fork then I know it is time to chop the cabbage. I cut the cabbage in six sections. These sections are added approximately 1 hour before serving. This keeps the cabbage crispy without overcooking.

When it’s time to eat I simply add parsley potato as a side dish and we have a traditional Irish meal. corned Beef and Cabbage is no longer a once a year occurrence for us . When I find Corned Beef on sale I usually pick up a couple of briskets and put the extra package of meat in the freezer. This way I have a quick alternative to hamburger or pork dishes to choose from when I’m in the middle of a hectic week.

As an alternative I leave out the cabbage and add canned white potatoes and onions to the meat but there is nothing to compare to a good Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner when the Irish side of my family emerges.

Corned Beef St Patricks Day Irish American

The best way to prepare corned beef? That is simple. Beer! Yep, soak (or I should say “marinate”) that baby in beer overnight and then simmer it in a bath of beer and water for 6-8 hours the next day. This imparts a wonderful flavor to the meat, as well as tenderizing it.

In Cooking with Beer, Lucy Saunders writes that beer flavors foods in three ways:

bitterness from the hops
sweetness from the malt, and
a “yeasty bite from the fermented brew with its tenderizing enzymes.”

All of these combine together to turn corned beef, potatoes, onions, cabbage and carrots into a fantabulously yummy dish.

The way I have prepared for the past 20 years may seem a little odd, but I cook it in an electric wok. After marinating the corned beef in a bath of beer over night, I pour the marinade into the electric wok, turn it on medium low and then place the corned beef on top. I then pour a 50/50 mix of beer and water over the meat until it is just covered. Most corned beef comes with a package of spices, and I toss this in also. I then let this simmer in the wok for about six hours. I replenish the water/beer mixture as needed.

About an hour and a half before I want to serve the dinner, I throw sliced onions, chunks of potatoes and carrots on top of the meat, cover it and let it cook and steam until they are tender.

About half an hour before serving time, I place wedges of the cabbage over the vegetables, cover it and let it finish making itself delicious. I make sure that the meat is always, just covered with the beer/water mix. I don’t let the vegetables soak in the mixtures, rather letting them cook from the steam.

I then remove the vegetables and put them in a separate bowl which I cover with a towel to keep warm and then let the brisket sit for about 30 minutes to make carving easier.
Serve this with a nice warm dark bread, so good Irish butter, and you will think you have died and gone to heaven. My kids also like to slather the meat with a coarse bitter mustard.

This dish is such a hit with my family that both of my daughters usually ask for this meal for their birthday dinners. In fact, one of my daughters wanted it served at a slumber party! Needless to say, we ordered pizza for the kids that weren’t used to this delicacy. Living in Dallas, corned beef is not very traditional, and it is not always easy to find, so in March when they are plentiful, we stock up and freeze them.

Needless to say, St. Patty’s Day is a big deal in our home even though we are not Irish!
Ironically, corned beef is not really a traditional Irish dish at all, although it has become a traditional Irish-American dish. In fact, the Irish would have been loathe to have used beef for meat purposes since they much preferred using their cows for dairy products. They would have much preferred to eat pork products, as pigs were more expendable. Beef, for the Irish, was a delicacy reserved for royalty.

However, corned beef did become a tradition for Irish Americans. According to the History Channel, corned beef originally became a substitute for bacon in the Irish American diet in the late 1800’s on the Lower East Side of New York City. They learned about this alternative to bacon from their Jewish neighbors. Kosher diet prohibits eating pork, and thus corned beef would be a good alternative to bacon.

The process of corning beef is a form of curing that has nothing to do with corn at all. The name denotes a process of dry-curing meat using coarse “corns” of salt pellets that were rubbed into the beef to keep it from spoiling.

Today, brining has replaced the dry salt cure. But the name still sticks. Corned beef just sounds more appealing that brined or pickled beef.

Corned Beef Trivia:

In Germany, there are two canned versions of corned beef. One is called American Corned Beef and consists of finely ground corned beef and resembles Spam(T). It has a very low fat content. The other version is Deutsches Corned Beef and contains chunks of meat preserved in an aspic. Deutsches Corned Beef is also sold in slices at delicatessens, supermarket meat counters and butcher shops.

In the UK, corned beef is sold as “salt beef” and is served on bagels with mustard and pickles.

In the U.S. canned corned beef hash is a popular breakfast meat, and is especially good with poached eggs.

In any of its forms, corned beef is delicious

Tips for Cooking Chicken

Many cultures around the globe have raised and cooked chickens, leading to a wide range of recipes. Simple and complex, salty and savory, sweet and sour, crispy and crunchy, chicken can be prepared in a variety of ways.  When cooking chicken the first few things you should determine are.

The cut of chicken

Different cuts of chicken are better suited towards particular cooking methods.  Whole or bone in chicken is more fit for low and slow cooking methods such as baking or boiling, except in the case of fried chicken.  Boneless, skinless, or breasts generally take better to quicker cook times, since there is much less fat, and increased cooking times will dry out the meat.

The flavor of the chicken

A good blend of seasoning will make chicken even more delectable.  Lemon zest and black pepper for a sour and spicy dish.  Cumin, paprika, garlic, onion, salt and black pepper for savory meals.  Mix and match your own seasoning blends to fit your palate. Marinades are also nice if you are cooking leaner cuts of chicken such as breasts or boneless cuts, a simple yet delectable marinade is plain Italian dressing.  Let the chicken soak in this over night and bake or grill for a delicious and moist repast.

Once you know what you want to start cooking, you should now consider how you want to cook your chicken, below are some suggestions for preparing and cooking chicken.

Grilling

Every cut of chicken can be grilled, whether it be whole or wings, it all depends on cook times and temperature.  For whole or large pieces of bone in chicken, you want a medium low temperature, around 380 degrees, place these pieces bone side down for the first forty five minutes, then flip them, and cook for an additional twenty minutes, for a total of an hour and fifteen minutes.  For boneless or breasts, cook at a medium temperature for around 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat.  Flipping half way through.

Frying

There are two methods of frying, deep frying and pan frying.  Deep frying is quicker and results in a more even coating, while pan frying uses less oil and develops a nice brown crunchy coating. Either way you choose, you will need a breading of some sort.  To make breading, simply mix flour with seasoning, then dust it on the chicken pieces, a plastic bag really helps for this.  Be sure to know excess breading off or else it will fall into the oil.  To help the breading stick you will need a batter of some sort, this can be as simple as a beaten egg, to an entire marinade made of buttermilk and seasoning.  Be sure to coat the pieces of chicken with batter then breading.  As for oil for frying, stick with canola or peanut oil, as they have high smoke points and can tolerate the frying process.  Bring the oil to about 375 degrees and add the chicken, make sure the oil is preheated, otherwise you might end up with greasy chicken.  Add each chicken piece one at a time, making sure not to crowd the oil.  If pan frying be sure to flip several times to ensure both sides are cooked equally, generally once every 5-6 minutes.  The chicken is done once the coating is a nice golden brown and the meat inside has reached a temperature of 165 degrees.

Baking

Whether cooking an entire bird or just a few pieces of chicken, this is one of the most convenient ways of cooking.  Simply preheat your oven to 375, and add your chicken.  Breasts generally take 20-40 minutes depending on size, while whole chickens can take up to 4 hours depending on their weight.  If its bone in chicken pieces, it usually takes about an hour depending on the cut.  Your eyes and the meat thermometer are the best judges when cooking.

There are other ways of cooking chicken, such as boiling and roasting, which are also great ways to cook chicken. No matter what the method, chicken is a delicious food, whether as a main course, appetizer or ingredient, chicken can satisfy even the pickiest of eaters!

Fast and Easy Meals Cooking with Pork

It’s easy to cook fast and healthy meals with pork! There are many variations you can make from scratch that take less than 10 minutes from start to finish. Spoon over a side of rice, pasta, or roasted or mashed potatoes, add a glass of milk or juice, and just like that, you’ve got a healthy, balanced meal.

Start with half a pound of pork tenderloin, sliced into cubes or strips. That’ll be enough to serve two to three people after you’re done.

Meal #1

You’ll need a small onion (chopped), a clove of garlic (chopped), and about half a cup each of carrots and green peppers, cut into thin strips. Your seasonings are ground pepper (4 tbsp), ground ginger (1 tbsp), maple syrup (2 tbsp), and a dash of Worchester sauce. If you like things hot, throw in a finely chopped chili pepper.

Start by sauteing the onions in your choice of sesame oil, peanut oil, or canola oil. You only need a single teaspoon of oil to saute the onions.

Dust the pork strips with the ground pepper and chili pepper, then brown all the pork. After the pork is browned, toss in the maple syrup, Worchester sauce, ginger, and garlic.

Let the whole thing simmer for about half a minute. Add just a little water if you have to, to keep it from burning.

Add the carrots and peppers, toss once or twice, and you’re done!

Meal #2

To make this cheater goulash, you’ll need a small onion (chopped), a clove of garlic (chopped), and about half a cup each of diced carrots, parsnip, peppers, and celery. Your seasonings are caraway seed (1 tbsp), paprika (2 tbsp), thyme (dash), and a bay leaf. For more thickness, add about a cup of flour.

Start by sauteing the onions in a neutral oil, like canola or corn oil. When the onions are transluscent, brown the pork cubes.

Add just a little water, so that you’ve got a shallow broth going at a constant simmer. That’s about the depth you’ll want to maintain all the way through.

If you’re using flour, add just a little flour to the water at this stage and keep stirring to keep lumps from forming. You’ll keep adding a little more flour and water throughout your cooking until you’ve used it all.

Toss in your seasonings and let the pork soak them up. Then add in the veggies. Stir and let simmer for another five or so minutes, and you’re done!

The Benefits of Searing Meat Correctly

The aroma of a thick, juicy steak caramelizing on the barbecue grill summons everyone (even the neighbors) to “come and eat.” That tantalizing scent is a result of searing meat.

How to sear meat correctly

The only way to sear meat incorrectly is either to burn it or to not do it at all. Any browning short of crisp is better than no sear  on the meat.Begin the process by removing the meat from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Before you apply heat to the cut of meat, dry the surface with paper toweling to avoid a steamed flavor. Searing can be accomplished on the barbecue grill, in a frying pan, on a griddle, or even in the broiler. A newer method is to using a blow torch to brown all sides of the meat. All methods achieve the same results to varying degrees. It requires the application of high heat for a relatively short time as the first step in cooking meat. A steak or chop needs to be seared on the two sides only, while roasts and larger cuts of meat need to be seared on all surfaces.

Benefits of searing meat

There are certainly some excellent benefits to searing meat. One is the appetizing browned appearance that is created while searing meat. Another is the depth of flavor created by the caramelization and the Maillard reaction, which is a chemical reaction between a protein and a reducing sugar, producing a crust. The contrast of textures between the crusty exterior and the tender interior is a third benefit of searing meat. Then there is that tantalizing aroma that was mentioned earlier.

It has long been believed that searing meat to form a crust seals the juices within the meat. This was considered a benefit, as well. Through experimentation it has been discovered that this is not true. Two pieces of meat of the same weight are cooked, one without searing and one being seared before cooking. They are cooked to the same degree of doneness, and then weighed again. It was found that the meat which was not seared first retained slightly more moisture.

Is searing meat necessary?

Strictly speaking, it is not a requirement to sear your meat before cooking it. Cooking meat without searing it first results in grayish–brown, unappealing meat. It is also flat-tasting, unappetizing, and bland. The meat, however boring, is safe to eat and nourishing without the benefit of searing, but it sure is more interesting with the addition of the extra step. Most people who cook would like their food to be enjoyed rather than just devoured.

Coring Tomatoes Chefs Tricks

Coring tomatoes may seem like a very trivial kitchen trick to some, but in the restaurant kitchen it could mean precious dollars, and that means doing it right with as minimal waste as possible. Doing it right, however, only takes a few steps and is actually very simple to accomplish.

Start by picking off any of the left over stem or vine off the top of your tomato. Next, using a sharp and small paring knife or utility knife, hold the end of your knife between your thumb and your index finger and sink the tip of the knife just on the outside of the core of the tomato. Follow the outside of the tomato core all the way around, keeping the tip of the knife in the center of the tomato.

Upon completing the cut, you would have removed a small piece of tomato resembling the shape of a cone, including the hard and flavorless core. This cut is very similar to that of a strawberry, and can be used in the same way.

The key, of course, to making this work is always having a sharp small knife on hand, as this makes the work much more smooth and detailed, and you don’t have to deal with the grief of practically butchering a lovely tomato.

You can either use your cored tomato the way it is by slicing it for salads, sandwiches, and appetizers, or by using this other tried and true method to skin it. Tomatoes are best skinned when they are ripe and ready to eat, as an unripe tomato is very tough to separate from the skin. Tomatoes should be bright red, free of any imperfections and smell strongly of tomato favour.

Skinning a tomato is as simple as carving a small X’ in the bottom of the tomato and throwing it in some boiling water for a few seconds or until the skin on the tomato begins to show signs of peeling away from the flesh. When you have gotten to this stage, throw your fruit (or vegetable, whichever you call a tomato) and “shock” it in some ice cold water. This will stop the tomato from cooking and from getting soggy or mushy.

When it has soaked in the ice cold water for a few minutes, carefully start at the bottom ‘X’ of the tomato and peel back the skin. This trick also works well with other fruits such as peaches and plums. If you cut the tomato into quarters, you can use a small teaspoon to carefully remove any seeds and pulp from the innards of the fruit.

Now, with these few tips you shall have yourself one (or several) carefully dissected tomatoes. They are now ready to be sliced, chopped, diced, baked, roasted, cooked, and added to the dish of your choice.

Magic Bullet Product Review

The Magic Bullet-Mythical or Truly Magical?

By now, you have no doubt been folding laundry in the wee hours past midnight and stumbled upon the joyful voices praising the time-saving powers of The Magic Bullet. The infomercial boasts for only $99.99 plus $47.97 shipping and handling, you can chop, grind, mix, and puree everything from an omelet to salsa in 10 seconds. Your sleepy eyes sparkle as you dream of a world with ultra-quick dinners and no more late night laundry. You ponder whether to pick up the phone and order this miracle before you. You wonder “Magic Bullet, are you really magic?”

Magic & Myth
As promised, the Magic Bullet is a space-saving solution for your countertop or cabinet. The sleek black and silver cylinder is only about five inches in diameter, and six inches tall. The 21-piece set includes two bullet mixing cups, each five inches in diameter. The short cup is six inches tall, with the tall cup measuring nine inches.

The four included smoothie cups can be attached directly to one of two blade bases for easy clean-up. Four of the 21 pieces are cup rings, and four are lids that you can screw directly on the top of the bullet cups to store right in the fridge. The Magic Bullet includes two recipe books. With the exception of the base, all pieces are dishwasher safe.

Forget the ten second rule. While you may be able to toss cherry tomatoes straight into the bullet with no extra preparation, onions, shallots, and garlic require peeling, and some pre-chop chopping to fit into the Magic Bullet. Do not expect even grinding, chopping, or pureeing. Due to the oblong accessories and singular blade, you are not able to fill the Magic Bullet to maximum capacity and get maximum results.

The food closest to the blade will puree while the food farthest from the blade fails to chop at all. While the Magic Bullet is ideal for single meal prep, you may find yourself spending extra time loading and unloading the bullet for the ideal consistency and texture to feed a larger crowd. Be forewarned, holding the press start top for longer than 30 seconds at a time can result in burn out of the unit.

The Magic Bullet cups are the perfect size for mixing and serving excellent salsa and party dips. You can blend and serve a perfect omelet, or toss in leftover poultry and fixings for great salads. One favorite feature of the Magic Bullet is that it grinds coffee as coarse or fine as you like. However, for family size servings, consider using a food processor. If you already own one, you have the time-saving luxury of skipping a step. If not, you can purchase one for $50-$300.

The Magic Bullet is a great supplemental mixing device. Unfortunately, its magic will not save you from the late night laundry.

Add some Italian Fare to the Table

Sometimes when trying a new dish or learning to cook a new kind of food, you need a little inspiration. If you are not lucky enough to have an Italian grandmother in your home,  Giada de Laurntiis is the next best thing. It’s not that she is grandma, but she can inspire you to try everything and anything Italian.  So it’s time to take a look at some great Italian appetizers.

~ Toasted raviolis
Ravioles are like little pasta presents. You aren’t quite sure what is going to be inside until you bite into it. That is all part of the fun of this wonderful and elegant appetizer. Gather all the ravioli recipes and fill all sorts of pasta. Don’t limit yourself to cheese and beef. Stretch out to chicken, seafood, and vegies. Give them a quick deep fry, sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese while they are toasty hot and serve them with dipping sauce. Fun, elegant, sassy and surprising are all great adjectives for this appetizer.

~ Italian meatballs
While these are a very traditional appetizer there are a lot of ways to dress them up. A favorite recipe can be found on the food network. It combines two kinds of meat, cheese, herbs and is topped off with a basil leaf. They look absolutely divine and taste even better. Mix up the sauces that guests can choose from. The standard marinara sauce is good, but offer some options and the traditional meatball reached a whole new level.

~ Bruschetta
It is a simple fact that it wouldn’t be Italian if there were no bruschetta. The truth about bruschetta is that it can be topped with so many different combinations that one base can serve for many appetizers. It’s fun to use a cookie cutter to get a unique shape for the appetizer. That steps it up just a notch.

~ Kabobs
Kabobs are just fun. It is easy to give them an Italian twist. Use olives, both black olives and pimiento-stuffed olives, cheese tortellini, pepperoni slices, salami, grape tomatoes and Italian salad dressing. Cook the tortellini and rinse it in cold water. In a big resealable bag place the tortellini, olives and salad dressing. Let them marinate overnight and on the next day place them on wooden skewers and serve.

~ Quick Italian dip
This dip is easy and quick. Serve it in a hollowed out pepper and you will have a treasure. Just mix up ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 ½ cup sour cream, ½ of a diced red pepper, ½ thinly cut scallions, ¼ cup minced olives, ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley and 1 packet of dry Italian dressing mix. It’s fresh, pretty and ready to go.

A little bit of Italy is great on any table.