Favorite Apps! (The Kind You Eat.)

I hear there's a football game on this Sunday!

I'm sure there will be a lot of Marketing Monday morning quarterbacking (heh) when it comes to the commercials, but in the meantime, let's do our homework and prepare for the big game. 

Appetizers and snacks! I'm sharing my favorites. Get excited. 

1. For the last several years I have been spreading the gospel of Buffalo Chicken Dip. Make this now and thank me later. If you need a testimonial, ask my friend Miriel. Her oldest child is actually made of 40% buffalo chicken dip thanks to my important work. Serve this with tortilla chips, carrot sticks, and celery sticks. 

Don't judge a recipe by its picture. Just know that if you enjoy wings, you will fall madly in love with this dip. Not to oversell it.

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2. Pigs in Blankets. One time, many moons ago, my husband and I hosted our first party. He went all out with super fancy cheese plates, duck prosciutto he cured himself, home-brewed beer, etc. etc. I, on the other hand, really wanted to make pigs in blankets for the first time because I had never had them. What's not to like about meat wrapped in pastry? Plus, I'd heard people love them. My husband was less enthused. He didn't think they'd go over that well. 

Guess which was the first party food to disappear, and quick? That's right. It's been nearly a decade and I still enjoy holding this story over his head.

Listen, now is not the time to get fancy. Do the Pillsbury crescent rolls and the Lil' Smokies. Though you can top them with sesame seeds or poppy seed if you wish. Serve with ketchup and mustard for dipping.

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3. Homemade hummus. It takes minutes to whip up, and tastes miles better than the store-bought stuff. This is my go-to recipe. Serve with pita chips and all manner of vegetables. My favorites are baby carrots, mini bell peppers, and thick slices of English cucumber.

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4. Rosemary roasted nuts. The recipe calls for cashews only, but for years my husband and I made a version of this with a mix of cashews and pecans and gave them out at the holidays. When I left my last job, my boss told me that he wouldn't write my recommendation until I gave him the recipe. 

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5. Since childhood, chips and dip has been one of my favorite indulgences. It was the stuff of sleepover and birthday party legend. I will forever be partial to a packet of dry onion soup mixed dumped into some sour cream, but I can attest that this grown up version, Caramelized Onion Dip, is to die for. Get yourself some good ridged chips and go to town.

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6. And finally, you can't go wrong with baked brie in puff pastry. Put raspberry or fig jam in the pastry with the brie, or serve it on the side with soft slices of baguette. This is a perennial favorite at Thanksgiving.

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What's your go-to app recipe?

Cheater Pasta e Fagioli

Listen, when I say "pasta e fagioli", I'm picturing Italian soup with beans and pasta and parm and lots of freshly ground black pepper, some kind of tomatoes, and maybe some meat. I'm not sure what the traditional version is, though I remember as a kid my beloved aunt with Italian roots serving us a broth-based soup piled high with white beans, ditalini pasta, parmesan cheese, and fresh pepper, with breaded chicken cutlets on the side. This is sort of inspired by that, and sort of inspired by what I had on hand.

I was thinking about what meals to bring to some friends who are recovering from a medical situation, and threw this together based on what I had lying around, plus a few things I snagged at the grocery store. It was super easy, relatively quick, and quite tasty. Definitely putting this in our winter rotation!

I also brought a version of  my favorite quinoa salad , to which I added a lot of my  favorite easy veggies .

I also brought a version of my favorite quinoa salad, to which I added a lot of my favorite easy veggies.

Cheater Pasta e Fagioli

(Recommend reading through the whole recipe first.)

1 large onion, diced

1 x 10 ounce container cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size

1 x 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

8 cups chicken stock (Not broth. But broth will do if it's what you have.)

2-4 cups water

8 ounces orzo pasta, uncooked

8 meatballs (Frozen is fine. I used Trader Joe's turkey meatballs from the freezer section.)

parmesan rind

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Pull your meatballs out of the freezer, and let sit on a plate covered with a paper towel. By the time you finish chopping your other vegetables, they should be thawed enough to cut easily. You want to cut them into eights: cut them in half, cut them in quarters, cut the quarters in half. This isn't rocket surgery.

Saute chopped onion and a pinch of salt in olive oil over low-medium heat until translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes and beans to the pot with the onions, and stir around for a minute or two. Add parmesan rind, stock, and 1 cup water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer 30-60 minutes to thicken a bit. Bring to a boil once more. Add orzo and meatballs. Set your timer for about 7 minutes to allow the orzo to cook. Once the orzo is cooked, you can eat or keep cooking. Read on for more.

A couple of notes:

- Once the orzo is cooked, taste the soup for seasoning. You might need a bit of salt, but keep in mind the meatballs will let some salt out as the soup sits and the flavors meld. Best to have a light hand with the salt here and add more at the table if needed.

In short: if you have time, don't salt it yet. Give it all another 30 minutes or so and see how salty it is. If you don't have time, don't salt it.

- The soup will thicken as it sits because of the orzo. A purist (my husband) would cook the orzo seaparately and add it to each bowl when serving so it never gets waterlogged. I don't mind a waterlogged orzo in this application, and I don't want to dirty more dishes. Add more water as needed to thin it out and/or balance the salt.

You can store it with the parmesan rind still in, but be careful not to scoop it into anyone's bowl.

Serve with salad, crusty bread, and a big ole glass of wine.


Mushroom Goat Cheese Pasta

Belonging to my rowing club involves (you guessed it) rowing, but also a social aspect. There are a few hundred members divided into a handful of social crews: each crew has a monthly dinner, plus an annual fundraiser that they're responsible for. My crew puts on a wine tasting every summer, and I am on the food planning committee for it. While planning the menu, the vintner we're using recommended a goat cheese and mushroom pasta to pair with one of the wines. One of the many fun and wonderful things about our monthly potluck dinners is that they're a great opportunity to test recipes for the wine tasting and get feedback.

This week I was responsible for trying my hand at the recommended pasta. I looked at many (maaaaany) goat cheese pasta recipes, and in the end, I took some techniques from different recipes and used my judgement to adapt this recipe into something very delicious.

Frankly, I was not expecting to like it. I was wrong: I loved it. It was also a hit at dinner, and we'll be serving it at our event in August. If this recipe appeals to you, I've posted it below so that you can make it too. If you don't want to make it but still want to eat it, you should come to the wine tasting, which is open to the public! More info to come on how to purchase a ticket.


Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pasta

16 ounces uncooked rigatoni or bowtie pasta or whatever pasta floats your boat

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons olive oil

20-24 ounces (depending on how your grocery store has them packaged) fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and white. Next time I'll throw some more boldly flavored ones in - shiitake, oyster, chanterelle.)

¼ cup minced shallots

2 large garlic cloves, minced (about a tablespoon)

⅓ cup white wine (All I had was rosé, and it worked just fine.)

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

4 cups baby spinach, washed & roughly (not finely!) chopped

6 ounces goat cheese

salt and pepper to taste


Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Be sure not to overcook it or it will get mushy and not hold up as well in the sauce. Drain and set aside. (If you’re worried it’s too soft, quickly rinse in cold water to stop it cooking.)

Meanwhile, work on the sauce:

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper them, and sauté until golden brown and soft, 5-10 minutes. You might want to do this in batches to get them nice and brown and build flavor. Add the garlic, shallots, and wine, and give it a few good stirs. Add the chicken stock. Let it cook 2-3 minutes. Add whipping cream. It will look pretty thin: Let it simmer about five minutes, or enough to thicken a bit. You may need to lower the heat so it doesn't scorch. Whisk in goat cheese. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Add spinach, mix it all up.

In a large pot or bowl, toss the pasta with the mushroom sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Devour.