Tag Archives | Appetizer



Y’all, I have been posting nothing but JUNK for the past few weeks. Junk, junk, junk. Don’t get me wrong. That junk is DELICIOUS, but it’s junk food, I’m not going to lie. I don’t eat junk all the time. I promise. So even though it’s not exactly health food, I’m going with something a little better this time. At least it’ll be real food and not just baked goods (which are still my favorite topic. It runs through my veins, I can’t help it).

You know what I love? Potatoes. Who doesn’t, amiright? Mash ‘em, fry ‘em, bake ‘em, scallop ‘em—I love them all, except for those au gratin ones (ML + cheese = yuck. Sorry.). My father instilled a love of potato pancakes in me when I was young. I don’t quite know why. It’s not a family tradition or anything, but we are Polish so I’m just going to assume the connection stems from there. Though we didn’t make them that often (probably only once or twice, really), I remember grating a bunch of potatoes with our metal box grater and it was a total labor-intensive mess. But you know what? These days I have a food processor and that food processor has a disk that grates things. Hallelujah!


This potato/zucchini mash-up version has been circulating in my brain for awhile, but I just never made them a reality. (I mean, as much as I love potato pancakes, how often do I really need to eat them?) It also seemed like the perfect opportunity to throw some kale in there. I’ll admit, we’re still pretty unexperienced with it comes to kale. I’m intrigued by kale. I want to like kale. And it’s not that I don’t like it, but I just don’t know what to do with it. When you buy it you just get SO MUCH and we’re always like “Sooo…what do we do with the rest of this kale?” It only goes so far in salads. Hiding it in other foods seems perfect. I went easy on the amount since this was my first trial, but I’ll cover that more in the notes. Secondly, there’s beer in the “batter.” I actually got the idea from Martha Stewart. I couldn’t remember if potato pancakes required a lot or a little flour, so I wanted to scout out some other recipes for research. Martha Stewart adds a little beer, which helps to make a mixture like this a little lighter. So you know what I said? “Why the heck not?!”


I went light on the amount of kale. I used 1 1/2 cups (torn into small pieces) in my recipe because I didn't know how it would affect the taste. It barely affects the potato-y-ness (yes, that is a technical term). You could easily bump it to 2 cups. Healthy stuff! Ka-pow!
This recipe is not gluten-free, but I believe it easily could be. Instead of using AP flour, replace it with another gluten-free flour of your choice (buckwheat, chick pea, you tell me). Instead of beer, use club soda. All the recipe really needs is a little bubbly carbonation.
Remember my garlic-infused olive oil and butter mixture? From the Pizza Baklava? That's what I used to lightly fry these little gems. Seems like a good use, no? If you want to make it, then knock yourself out. If not, then using vegetable oil is a-ok, too.
I made my pancakes in the 3-4" range. You could definitely make them smaller for a cute party appetizer with applesauce and sour cream as dips. The quantities of ingredients in this recipe are very easy to manipulate (i.e.: double, cut in half, etc). Making smaller pancakes would also be super fun for kids!


Yields: 15 – 3″ pancakes

• 1/2 zucchini, peeled
• 1 russet potato, peeled
• 1 1/2 – 2 cups small pieces Tuscan kale (use lesser if you’re nervous, more if you seriously <3 the kale)
• 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled
• 1 egg, beaten
• 2 TBSP flour
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1 oz beer (Yes, seriously just 1 oz. But that just means you get to drink more!)

• 1 oz club soda or carbonated drink (check out Orangina’s offering)
• garlic-infused olive oil/butter mixture or vegetable oil for cooking
• sour cream and/or applesauce – optional – for serving

1. Tend to the kale. Remove the leaves from the thick ribs. Set aside.

2. When the zucchini, potato, and onion are all peeled, divide into two piles: the grate pile and whiz pile. You will grate the zucchini and potato in the food processor. As for the onion and kale, you’ll just whiz those into little pieces, also in the food processor. This is why the food processor is your best friend for this recipe.


3. Grate the zucchini and potato. Place in large bowl. If you end up with large chunks of zucchini or potato that didn’t get grated due to the physics of your food processor, no problem! Add them to the “whiz” bunch. Whiz the onion and kale in the food processor, then place them in the same bowl. Mix content together (honestly, I found my hands the most efficient way to do this).

4. Add the other ingredients: the beaten egg, flour, salt, pepper, and the beer. Mix thoroughly.

5. Heat a very large non-stick page over medium-high heat. Place 1 TBSP of oil/butter mixture OR 2 TBSP vegetable oil. When pan and oil are hot, carefully place pancake mixture in pan. A heaping tablespoon will give you a pretty solid 3.5″ pancake. Spread it out so it’s not too thick. I used my 12.5″ ScanPan for the job and fit about 5 in the pan at a time.


6. Fry each side for 3-4 minutes, or until toasty, delicious, crispy brown.

7. Remove from pan onto cookie sheet lined with paper towels to sop up the extra oil.

8. Serve immediately. If not serving immediately, then heat in the oven to bring back their crispy qualities.

After I was finished cranking them out, I gave the first bite to George. He took a second to analyze them but then cheerfully said “This is nice!” Not sure whether or not he was trying to be polite to his wife or if they’re actually legit, I took the next bite. They make the potato pancake lover in me VERY happy. And knowing that theres a lot of zucchini and some kale in here, I feel much better about eating them! We stored some in the freezer for guests next weekend (side note: I hope this freezing this works! #nervousface). I can’t wait to break them out for breakfast and serve them with a poached or sunny-side up egg. Can you imagine this with a runny egg yolk??? Oh, sweet baby Jesus that sounds divine!



It’s the end of February/beginning of March. You know what that means? Besides the fact that the weather will be a complete guessing game for the next 30 days? THE OSCARS ARE THIS SUNDAY!!! It’s like the Super Bowl of Awards Season! As usual, I have not seen a single movie. Nope, not even Frozen (though it’s on the list, just like the rest of them). Can I be honest with you? I can’t stay awake during movies. Especially if we’re watching at home. Sure, we could go to the theatre but a) that’s really expensive anymore and b) I feel like the show times never work out well with our schedule. That means watching at home, which is totally fine, but turning the lights out means my eyes close and I’m knocked out on one end of the couch, trying to convince George “No, I’m awake, I’m watching. Yuh-huh. I am.” I’d like to blame my father for this. He’s excellent at falling asleep while watching TV and movies. I inherited this skill from him. So eventually, hopefully, we’ll watch some of these fine films. In the meantime, I’ll still mark up my Oscar ballot (thank you, Kate Spade for this adorable version) and savor every moment of red carpet goodness I can get until next year.


It’s also an excellent reason to get festive, and we all know how I feel about that! Do you know where I found the recipe for this popcorn? The official Oscars website. Wild, I know. Imagine that, popcorn for a show about movies! How did I ever find it there (#sarcasm, fyi)? I was actually trying to find out if there’s an Oscars cocktail (there is, sorta). Lo and behold, I found a whole slew of party recipes on the Academy’s website. Like this popcorn. Like this delicious popcorn that’s just slightly weird, and makes people cock their heads to the side in consideration of the components, and then delights with its perfect blend of flavors. It’s just unique enough to be different, but totally approachable and tame enough for all kinds of taste buds. Isn’t that what you want in a party food? A crowd-pleaser? Ding ding ding, we have a winner! We’ve actually tweaked it just a little bit to make the flavors even better. You’re welcome.

And of course, we have a drink to accompany this popcorn. This, however, is not an Oscar-sanctioned bev. No, this is straight from our kitchen to yours. Inspired by the chile-orange combo, I thought “Hey, how about doing a classic orange cocktail, but with a twist? Like an Old Fashioned, but with tequila instead of whiskey?” It’s just crazy enough to work. Plus, thanks to the orange zest, I had a naked orange sitting around the kitchen. I mean, I could eat it… or I could make a drink with it. Alcohol wins. It always wins. We’re calling it a “new fashioned” because of the newfangled tequila twist.


Adapted from Oscars.org
Serves 2-10, depending on the likelihood of people stuffing their faces

• ¾ cup popcorn kernels
• ¼ cup canola oil
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted
• zest of 1 orange

1. In a large pot or stockpot with lid over medium-high heat, combine the popcorn, oil, sugar, chili powder, and salt. Shake constantly. (Note: The original recipe called for medium heat but I had to use high heat due to my pan’s size and structure. I didn’t feel like standing over my stove for 20 minutes to make popcorn. Use whatever heat level works for you and pay attention to your pot!)

2. When the popcorn begins to pop, lower the heat to the next level down. Continue to shake until the popping begins to slow.

3. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl—you’ll need to toss the popcorn around. Drizzle with the melted butter and orange zest and toss to coat.

4. Grab a handful and stuff your face. 🙂

TeqNewFash_022614_Details: : : FRESH CITRUS TEQUILA NEW FASHIONED : : :
Serves 2

• 4 oz good tequila
• 2 slices of an orange (I used a cara cara orange for this)
• 2 oz fresh orange juice (use the same orange above, just juice the rest)
• 1 oz (2 TBSP) simple syrup
• 4 dashes Angostura bitters
• 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters or other fancy bitters like Fee Brothers Orange or Grapefruit
• Club soda (about 4 oz)

1. In two cocktail glasses, muddle in each: 1 slice of orange and 1 TBSP simple syrup.

2. In cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour in contents from one cocktail glass. Add 2 oz tequila and 1 oz orange juice; shake shake shake! Shake the cocktail until cold, about 20 good shakes. Strain into cocktail glass filled with ce. Repeat with the other glass and remainder of ingredients. You could also combine everything into one shaker and just divide it among the two glasses in the end. It’s up to you.

3. After cocktails have been shaken and strained back into the glasses, add dashes of bitters and top with club soda. Give it a quick stir, and sip away!

So who will be tuning into the Oscars tomorrow? Who will be watching the red carpet? Lupita Nyong’o has been seriously CRUSHING the fashion scene lately so I can’t wait to see what she wears to the ball. And of course, Jennifer Lawrence. J.Law, what Dior dress will you wear and what crazy thing will you say that makes us fall in love with you all over again? Only one short day until we find out!




“Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear!

Empire Records, circa 1995

That happens to me a lot. I was in the car driving back from the grocery store the other day trying to figure out what to do about some sort of pizza snack/appetizer/mini-something-or-other. I was thinking about how to get it flaky with thin layers and then BAM! It hit me! Pizza baklava!!! It all happened so fast, I couldn’t think about anything else. I know, I know, you’re probably like “Hold the phone, ML. What are you talking about? Pizza baklava? What does that even mean??” I’ll tell you what it means. It means the delicious ingredients of pizza layered between flaky sheets of buttery phyllo dough, that’s what it means.

A few years ago I invented one of my most brilliant inventions (if I do say so myself), Buckeye Baklava. It’s not your typical baklava. No, instead it’s inspired by the beloved peanut butter and chocolate confectionary delicacy native to the exotic land of Ohio. I’ll divulge full details in a blog post another day, but the point of this little story is that embarking on the Buckeye Baklava adventure opened up a new world for me. Baklava is a vehicle that could take me to new and fascinating places. I was full of ideas! I was inspired! But you know what? I was also tired! Baklava takes awhile, man. It’s not hard but it’s definitely not fast. Especially when you’re making it by yourself. So I just never got around to doing all my fancy new baklavas. UNTIL NOW.


What I did discover is that if I rope George into the making process with me, it goes MUCH faster. Luckily, since he’s so gung-ho on whatever my baklava adventures are at the time, he’s always game to help. I can get the filling ready while he butters the phyllo layers. So of course, this pizza baklava was the perfect opportunity for some kitchen-time-togetherness. Awww, isn’t that just sweet??

So let’s talk about this. Pizza baklava version 1.0 consists of pepperoni and sausage. There’s no point in calling it “pizza” if I’m not going classic for the first test, amiright? I used cubed pepperoni chunks instead of slices to replicate the texture of the typical nut filling more closely. Some caramelized onions add a lovely sweetness to the mixture. Baklava calls for the buttering of every sheet of phyllo dough, but doesn’t this sound like a perfect opportunity for olive oil as well? How about some garlic-infused olive oil mixed with some melted butter? Can I get an AMEN! Also, let’s class it up a little bit with some fresh herbs. My sauce already had a slew of dried basil and oregano, so there was no point in duplicating that effort. Fresh, however, would be a lovely addition to the flavor as well as a garnish.

The ingredients are all pretty basic, so using good quality items is what will make a difference! I started making my own pasta sauce a few months ago so I used that for the baklava. However, store-bought will be just fine. I also had problems finding pepperoni chunks, oddly enough, so I had my deli man slice some ridiculously thick slices (1/4″) of deli-sized pepperoni. Seriously, you’d think I was making pepperoni burger patties.



Garlic-Infused Olive Oil & Butter:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half


3/4 lb (12 oz) pepperoni (in cube/chunk form)
3/4 lb (12 oz) ground italian sausage, uncooked
*Note: Amount of cooked italian sausage needed is 1/2 lb, or 8 oz
12 basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 springs of oregano, leaves chopped
3/4 cup sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese

18 sheets phyllo dough (Usually a standard sized box comes with two rolls. This would be one of those rolls.)
1 1/2 cups sauce (separate from sauce mentioned above)
2 medium shallots, chopped
2 tbsp butter
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In saucepan over medium heat, combine olive oil, butter, and garlic cloves. Bring to a very gentle simmer, then lower heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, allowing garlic cloves to infuse their flavor into the butter/oil mixture. Do not let garlic cloves burn. Strain into bowl, removing the garlic. Let cool.

2. Chop shallots, then cook over low-medium heat with 2 tbsp butter and pinch of kosher salt. Cook slowly, stirring every few minutes. You want them to become a glorious golden brown. The whole process probably takes 15-20 minutes, so in the meantime…

3. Cook the ground sausage in a skillet, chopping it to fine pieces.

4. In large bowl, combine all filling ingredients (pepperoni, cooked sausage, cheeses, fresh herbs, and sauce).

5. In 13″ x 9″ pan sprayed with non-stick spray, start layering phyllo dough. Place a layer in the pan, then brush with the garlic butter/oil mixture. Then place another layer of phyllo down, then brush with butter. On the THIRD LAYER, brush with the butter/oil and then with a thin layer of pizza sauce. Do this again until you reach the sixth layer.

** NOTE: See structural diagram below for visual! **

6. After you cover layer #6 with oil and sauce, scoop out half of the filling on top and spread over the dough evenly. Sprinkle half of mozzarella cheese on top.

7. Commence layering process. 1 – butter – 2 – butter – 3 – butter – sauce – 4 – butter – 5 – butter – 6 – butter – sauce – rest of filling – rest of mozzarella.

8. Add the last layers of phyllo! Spread top layer with—can you guess?—butter/oil mixture.

9. Grab a sharp knife (carefully, please), and cut this amazing structure into pieces. We cut 15 slices out of it, but you could easily make them smaller to yield more.


10. Bake at 350° in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, rotating half-way through.

11. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Re-cut your pieces. Let oozy greasy cheesiness calm down a bit before removing from the pan, but you do want to serve this warm! (I’m going to be really real with you though—the microwave will reheat these things just fine.)

12. Serve to a hungry crowd!