Seasonal, Small Bites

Sausage Stuffing Bites

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, we all are face to face with the Leftover Problem. Well have no fear, I have the perfect solution for all the leftover stuffing. These Sausage Stuffing Bites are perfect to use leftover stuffing to make! They can be used for an appetizer at your Friendsgiving celebration. You can also make them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to bake and serve them. They are perfect for parties and family gatherings during the holidays.

Ingredients

Sausage Stuffing Bites

  • 2 boxes Savory Herbs Stuffing or 2 cups leftover stuffing
  • ½ pound of hot Italian sausage
  • ½ pound of mild Italian sausage
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup of mozzarella cheese or shredded cheese cheddar
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, minced
  • 2 beaten eggs

Gravy Dipping Sauce

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
  • ¾ stick of butter
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken broth 
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt 
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, more to taste 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

Brown the sausage over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Add the garlic and cranberries, mix and cook for 5 minutes. 

While the sausage is cooking, cook the stuffing.  

Once sausage and stuffing is cooked, combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix with your hands. Do not ocean out the sausage pan, we will use the drippings for the gravy. 

Using a cookie scoop, (or hands) scoop the sausage balls onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, till they are browned on top.

While sausage stuffing bites are cooking, make the gravy dipping sauce. 

Over medium heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle on half the flour and stir so that the butter soaks it all up, then add more little by little. Stir it around and cook it for another minute or so, then pour in the broth, stirring constantly.

Cook the gravy, stirring frequently, until it thickens. (This may take a good 10 to 12 minutes.) Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and continue cooking until very thick and luscious. If it gets too thick too soon, just splash in another 1/2 cup of broth or more if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Place dipping sauce in a serving bowl and serve with Sausage Stuffing Bites

Recipes, Small Bites

Stuffed Mini Peppers

These Stuffed Mini Peppers are the perfect crowd pleasing appetizer! They’re stuffed with two kinds of cheese, bacon, and more, then baked till melty and delicious!

This recipe will make a dozen stuffed peppers, so if you’re feeding a crowd and want more than that, just double the recipe. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound mini sweet peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 ounce log goat cheese softened 
  • 2 tablespoon Mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ cup bacon crumbles, Bacon Bits work
  • 1 tablespoon Everything But the Bagel seasoning
  • 2 teaspoon Lemon zest
  • ½ Lemon, juiced 
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan 
  • 1 tablespoon Butter

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425F*.

Cut each in half, remove seeds. 

Place on a pan and spray/drizzle with the olive oil and salt and pepper. 

Baked for 8 minutes. Then let cool. 

In a large bowl, stir to combine the goat cheese, parmesan, mascarpone, garlic, bacon bits, seasoning, lemon zest and juice and black pepper.

Fill the cut peppers – you should have just enough filling to fill the peppers with a generous amount, coming slightly over the tops of the peppers.

Melt butter and stir in parmesan cheese. 

Sprinkle parmesan mixture over the top of each pepper. 

Roast the peppers for about 20-25 minutes, until the peppers are soft and the cheese is golden on the edges. 

Enjoy!

Recipes, Small Bites

Buffalo Chicken Tater Tot Nachos

Crispy tater tots with layers of spicy buffalo chicken and melted cheese, topped with ranch dressing, crumbled blue cheese and green onion.  These tater tot nachos are fully loaded and perfect as a meal or as an appetizer for sharing.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bag (2 LBS) frozen tater tots
  • 2 boneless chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 cup bacon, crumbled 
  • 1 cup plus Frank’s Red Hot Wings sauce, 1 tablespoon  for garnish
  • ½ cup blue cheese crumbles, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • ½ cup ranch dressing, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish 
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • 2 green onions, garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil.

Bake the bag of tater tots for 30 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time.

In a large bowl, Stir together the shredded chicken, bacon crumbles, ranch dressing, wing sauce and blue cheese crumbles.

In a medium bowl, Mix together the two cheeses.

Place the cooked tater tots in a cast iron skillet. Spoon half the chicken mixture on top of the tots. Sprinkle half the cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Garnish with the remaining dressing, wing sauce, green onions, and blue cheese. 

Serve immediately.

Recipes, Small Bites

Caponata

I’m excited to add one more tasty eggplant creation from Italy to my go to dishes: Caponata!

And it’s a dish from Sicily! I love learning about dishes from where my family is from. My parents and I first tried this delicious appetizer at Casa Santo Stefano restaurant in Tampa. After my first bite, I knew I had to recreate this dish. 

What is caponata?

Caponata Sicilian is one of Sicily’s essential dishes. Pronounced ka·puh·naa·tuh, it is a vegetarian eggplant salad–more like a relish, really–made of eggplant, onions, bell pepper, celery and tomatoes with briny olives and capers. Some describe caponata as the Sicilian version of ratatouille.

You’ll love the combination of savory, sweet flavors in this creamy eggplant dish with onions, tomato and olives! A great make-ahead appetizer to serve over crusty bread or drizzle over chicken or fish!

It is the perfect make-ahead appetizer as it is better the next day, but if you need to serve it on the same day, let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. 

Ingredients 

1 large eggplant 1 ¼ lb or so, cut into 1-inch cubes

Kosher salt

EVOO

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 small celery stalks thinly sliced

Black pepper

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoon capers

¼ cup Kalamata olives roughly chopped

¼ cup raisins

2 teaspoons honey or more to your liking

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Instructions 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Season the eggplant cubes with salt (if you have the time, set it aside in a colander to sweat out its bitterness for about 20 or 30 minutes, while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Pat dry with paper towel).

Place the seasoned eggplant cubes on a sheet pan, add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (about 3 tablespoons or so) and toss to coat. Roast the eggplant in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned.

Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. 

Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, tossing regularly until softened.

Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are about to burst, 3 minutes. As the tomatoes begin to burst, mash them and stir. 

Add capers, olives, raisins, honey, bay leaf and crushed pepper flakes. Pour in the vinegar and white wine. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

Stir in the roasted eggplant and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes in the sauce. 

Finish with fresh parsley. 

Recipes, Small Bites

Pizza Dip

We all love pizza! Well how about a pizza dip! Less carbs with all the same delicious flavors! This MEAT LOVERS’ pizza dip is next-level good. It is super simple to make, and everyone will love it. I used sausage, bacon, and pepperoni but use whatever types of meat and toppings you like!

Ingredients

12 oz. bacon, cut into 1″ pieces 

1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed 

1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened 

2 cup shredded mozzarella, divided 

1 cup ricotta 

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1 1/2 cup pizza sauce 

1/2 cup pepperoni slices

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375°F

In a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat, add bacon and cook until crispy, 8 minutes. Drain on a paper towel–lined plate. 

To the same skillet, add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 6 minutes. Drain fat. 

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, ricotta, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. 

Add bacon, sausage, and cream cheese mixture to skillet and stir to combine, then spread in an even layer. 

Spread pizza sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Top with pepperoni and Parmesan. 

Bake until bubbly and cheese is melty, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with baguette slices.

Recipes, Small Bites

Buffalo Chicken Pull apart Roll ups

I love a good tailgate!

These Buffalo Chicken Pull Apart  Roll-ups are just the recipe you need for game day! 

It’s a great appetizer that is made in minutes and always a hit. If you love buffalo chicken dip, these will be your new favorite. 

If you love Buffalo chicken recipes, make sure to try my Buffalo Chicken Rolls with Blue Cheese Frosting. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 lb ground italian chicken sausage
  • ½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce
  • 1 packet Ranch seasoning packet
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 ounce cream cheese
  • 8 ounce blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 tubes Pillsbury Thin Pizza Crust

INSTRUCTIONS 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Add the ground meat and sauté for 5 minutes and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Add all the ranch seasoning and stir to combine. Continue to cook the ground meat and break it down with the back of a wooden spoon until it’s fully cooked and no pink remains.

Once cooked, add ½ cup buffalo sauce and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

In the same skillet, saute the red onion and garlic. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Saute until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. 

Pour onion mixture and cooked meat in a large bowl, stir to combine. 

Add the cream cheese to the bowl and mix until well combined. 

Place parchment paper on the counter for your workspace. 

Unroll one pizza crust dough out onto the prepared parchment paper, I like to work with one at a time. 

Spread chicken mixture evenly on dough to within 1/4 inch from sides. 

Sprinkle ½ of the blue cheese and ½ of the mozzarella cheese over the chicken mixture.  

Starting with one long side, roll up dough; spread a thin layer of ranch dressing along one side to help it seal. 

Repeat with the other dough and place both in the refrigerator for one hour or overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a 9 inch springform pan.

Place seam side down on cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 8 equal slices; place cut side down in the prepared pan. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown. 

Top with green onions and a drizzle of ranch dressing and if desired, additional Buffalo sauce.

Recipes, Small Bites

Fresh Eggplant Bruschetta

Bruschetta is easily one of my all-time favorite appetizer!

It’s eggplant season! I love this pretty, versatile vegetable and coming up with new ways to use it. Once you make this bruschetta, it will become an easy go-to for using up summer tomatoes and eggplant for years to come.

If you’re looking for a more substantial meal add this as a topping to your favorite pasta!

INGREDIENTS

  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Two 1-pound eggplants, chopped
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely shredded
  • One pint cherry tomatoes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 loaf French bread, 1/2 inch slices
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. 

Add in the diced onion and eggplant and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the eggplant is tender, stirring frequently. Add in the garlic, red pepper flakes and basil leaves half way through cooking.

Add the cherry tomatoes to the eggplant. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. 

Cover the pan, wait for the tomatoes to burst for about ten minutes. Squish any whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon and let the tomatoes thicken, about 1 minute. 

Stir in the capers and stir to combine. 

Taste and add the salt & pepper if needed. 

Heat the broiler. 

Brush the bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese on both sides. 

Char the bread on both sides.

Spoon the bruschetta onto the bread and top with grated Parmesan and remaining basil leaves. Dig in!

Small Bites

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

These bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers are baked instead of fried! Who can resist fresh jalapenos stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and baked to crispy perfection? Not me, that’s for sure. This is the ultimate party snack!

The jalapenos are sliced in half and the seeds and ribs get removed. Removing the seeds and ribs removes most of the heat from the peppers; if you like it spicier, leave some of the seeds and ribs in. The peppers are stuffed with a combination of cream cheese, cheddar cheese and spices. Then wrapped in bacon before baking in the oven. 

I like to serve my bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers with a side of ranch for dipping, but honestly they’re great as-is too.

Ingredients 

  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • ½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ½ teaspoon paprika 
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 12 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
  • 12 slices bacon

Instructions 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix cream cheese, seasonings and cheese together in a bowl until evenly blended. 

Fill each jalapeno half with the cheese mixture. Put halves back together and wrap each stuffed pepper with a slice of bacon. 

Arrange bacon-wrapped peppers on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is crispy, about 15 minutes.

Recipes, Small Bites

Short Ribs Egg Rolls

Raise your hand if you love egg rolls! I sure do! Here’s a twist on your traditional egg rolls. These homemade egg rolls are filled with beef short ribs and vegetables, all wrapped up and fried to crispy perfection. The perfect make-ahead appetizer for any event!

HOW DO YOU MAKE HOMEMADE EGG ROLLS?

The filling for these egg rolls is shredded beef short ribs, shredded cabbage, carrots and some seasonings like garlic, honey and paprika. I used  a pre-shredded coleslaw mix to make life easier and cut down on prep time.

After your filling is ready, it’s time to stuff your egg roll wrappers! Egg roll wrappers are most commonly found in the refrigerated section of the produce area at most grocery stores. Most egg roll wrappers have a helpful chart on the back to show you exactly how to fold egg rolls.

I served these short rib egg rolls with a side of Spicy Mustard Barbeque sauce and Barbeque sauce. They are the perfect complements to these savory smoky eggrolls.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound beef short ribs, cooked and shredded
  • 1 bag coleslaw
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup green onions
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • Egg roll wrappers

Spicy Mustard Barbeque Dipping Sauce

  • ¾ cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch or more of cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of hot sauce

Instructions

Heat the 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and red onion then cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the coleslaw mix and green onions. Cook until cabbage is wilted, about 3-4 minutes. 

Stir in the seasonings, worchestire sauce and honey. 

Stir your shredded short rib meat,  then remove from heat.

Spoon approximately 2-3 tablespoons of filling onto each egg roll wrapper and fold according to package directions, using water to seal the edges of the wrappers as you go. 

Pour 2-3 inches of oil into a deep pot. While oil heats up, make the spicy mustard dipping sauce. 

Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Fry 3-4 egg rolls at a time, turning occasionally, until browned all over, approximately 3-5 minutes.

Drain on paper towels, then serve with spicy mustard sauce and barbecue sauce.

Spicy Mustard Barbecue sauce:

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add to a small pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool.

Recipes, Small Bites

Portobello Fries with a Lemon Garlic Aioli

The first time I had portobello fries, I was in downtown Tampa at a restaurant called Gin Joint. After my first bite I was in love and knew I had to recreate them! 

Soaked in buttermilk and lightly fried in a beer batter and then dipped in a tangy aioli… They are seriously a dream! 

You can have them as an appetizer or use as a Taco Tuesday filling, either way you will crave these! And yes, you can bake them instead of frying and they will taste just as good!

The Lemon Garlic Aioli is a magical creamy sauce with a bright lemony tang and a savory garlic flavor that you will want to dip everything in from chips to veggies to any meat.

Ingredients

Portobello Fries

  • 4 Portobello mushrooms, about 1 pound, stems and gills scraped out, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 can beer (preferably lager or pale ale)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white cornmeal
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying (about 2 ½  cups)

Lemon Aioli

  • ½ cup Mayo
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 1 zest of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped Italian parsley

Instructions

Make the aioli: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until blended. Set in the refrigerator.

Prepare the mushrooms: In a shallow pan, soak the mushroom strips in the buttermilk, about 1 hour.

Make the batter: In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, beer, flour, parmesan cheese, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and the cayenne. 

Fill a skillet with the vegetable oil; heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F or drop a crumb in and it sizzles.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter. 

One at a time, dip the mushroom strips in the batter, then carefully lower into the hot oil. (Do this in batches if necessary-do not crowd the pot.) Fry until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, turning with tongs. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. 

Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with the garlic lemon  aioli.