Marscapone Fruit Appetizers

After spending a wonderful girlie weekend with my daughter Niki – Boston on Saturday, then she came home on Sunday to make  smoothies – I was left with an excess of fresh fruit.  The reason for all the fruit was a trip to Wegman’s, which has finally opened in our area, to buy the ingredients for batches of these nutritional oatmeal/fruit smoothies that you store in Mason jars:  http://www.theyummylife.com/recipes/browse/Smoothies

My taste test rates them as wicked good and a great way (check this out Anastasia, your kids will love these) to get some oatmeal, fruit & yogurt into your diet.  Niki made up about 8 Mason jars of smoothies, but there was plenty of fresh fruit left for me.

As for the appetizers, I love berries and have been thinking about these easy appetizer/snacks that Niki re-created after sampling a variation at Food Week in Boston.  

All you need is toasted French bread (or these tiny little toast squares).  I was ambitious yesterday and had baked a couple loaves of French bread just for this.  So easy, just toast up slices of bread, spread with Marscapone cheese, then put the fruit/berry of your choice on top.  In my case I also had a couple slivers of smoked salmon left over from my zucchini pancakes that I wasn’t about to waste.  Much as I love these with fruit, I have to say, the smoked salmon ended up being my favorite.  Experiment with different toppings – in the fall when peaches are ripe, try slivers of juicy peaches or brandy soaked pears.  Umm… last time I brandied the pears, I left them for a couple days – that would be too long.

Artichoke Dip-Transforming a recipe into a family photo

This is where I love to get creative combining a favorite recipe with a photo.  One of my favorite party dips is this artichoke dip.  It fills a casserole dish and serves lots of people.

ARTICHOKE DIP

2      Cans regular artichoke hearts (14 oz)
1      Jar marinated artichoke hearts (6 oz)
2-4   TBL minced onions
2      Large cloves garlic, minced
2      Lbs. cream cheese
3      TBL chopped fresh basil
½      Cup Parmesan cheese, grated  plus extra for sprinkling on top (good quality makes a difference)

– Cook onion & garlic in sauté pan until transparent

– Place artichoke hearts & cream cheese in mixing bowl.  Use your hands to crush the artichoke hearts into the cream cheese.  Add onion/garlic mixture, continue mixing until combined, leaving only a few chunks of artichokes remaining.

– Add basil and Parmesan cheese and combine.

– Place in oven proof baking dish. Top with small amount of butter & Parmesan cheese.

– Bake at 400 until top is golden brown. Serve with warm pita bread or toasted French bread.

Funny story about the first time I made this dip.  It was late afternoon Christmas Eve and I was busy trying to prep food for Christmas, cleaning the house, wrapping gifts & also doing the laundry.  This dip was for a party we were going to that evening.

Since I was flying around trying to put this together while doing other things the dip was sort of put together piecemeal.  When I got to the part about grating the cheese I just couldn’t find it.  I knew I’d taken it out of the fridge so I thought maybe I had it in my hand while I was going from upstairs, to the pantry, to the laundry room… I retraced my steps & actions right down to looking inside the dryer for this large block of very expensive Parmesan cheese ($26 worth of cheese to be exact).  Believe me this is critical to this recipe.  As I stood there scratching my head I realized that I hadn’t seen Lola (remember the 85 lb. of Bernese Mountain Dog?) for a while.  She is an eternal optimist so is always underfoot when there’s food around.  Hmm…. very odd that I hadn’t been stepping over this small pony/dog for a while.   I think you can see where this is going.  I found her upstairs in her typical Berner bear skin rug mode but looking very sorry and like she might have a little bit of a belly ache.  I mean let’s face it, an entire block of Parmesan?  In case there is any doubt in your mind,  yes, I found the plastic wrapping on the stairway and I was a little surprised that that didn’t go down the hatch too!

Lola, the cheese thief !!!!

I was very lucky that the store was still open & my husband was willing to make a quick dash for another block of Parmesan.  Normally this recipe is not all that expensive, but I do recommend a high quality Parmesan for the best results and if you happen to have a Berner that you keep the cheese in the fridge until it’s time to use it.

Once I’ve decided on a recipe I love, I choose a favorite photo that reminds me of a special holiday where I’ve made the dish, or possibly a photo that just seems to “go” with this recipe.  In this case, Niki and I have made this dip for Christmas Eve parties.  Niki had returned from Italy before Christmas but downtown Florence had been decorated and she took this picture of the lights in the city which I love for it’s simplicity and elegance.

After choosing a photo, I use my photo software to fade out the background, playing with different shadings.  For example, this is a 30% transparency effect of the entire canvas:

After deciding the effect of the background, I overlay the recipe on top of the photo:

After overlaying the recipe onto the photo I add it to Niki’s recipe collection in an acrylic box frame.  New pictures can be added to the front to display or you can move the recipe you are making to the front and it’s protected by the acrylic frame.  Another idea is to slide each photo/recipe into a plastic sleeve and keep in a notebook.