Hot and buttery puff pastry cups filled with fresh crab and melted cheddar.
Yes, it’s crab season right now and I’ve been taking advantage of it as often as I can. Kerry and I love to have cold cracked crab with sour dough bread and a great bottle of wine. I don’t even need cocktail sauce for dipping. I just love to pull out that sweet meat and enjoy the simplicity of it.
The other day my grocery store had huge two pounders on sale, so I bought four of them. Kerry and I went to town on a couple of them doing our usual cracking and picking, but I felt like turning some of it into Big Bang Bites.
I already had a box of puff pastry cups in the freezer, so I thought a hot dish would be a nice treat for our cold rainy days. And I mean flooding rains everyday. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the endless storms we’re having in California. It’s enough to make you crabby!
I used to make this appetizer when we lived in San Francisco, where we often had some kind of crab snack or meal down at the wharf. It’s so simple, which is good, because it allows the flavor of the crab to be the star. In the photo, I didn’t go crazy with the cheddar topping, but I know some of you just love cheese, so go ahead and be heavy handed if you must.
These appies really need to be eaten hot, so get the wine out before you pop these into the oven. A smooth chardonnay or pinot grigio would pair well with this.
12 puff pastry cups (I used Pepperidge Farm)
1 cup crab meat
2 T mayo
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
pinch of ginger powder
1 T grated parmesan cheese
dash of white pepper
salt to taste
finely grated cheddar cheese for topping
Drain any liquid from the crab. Mix in the mayo, mustard, ginger, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Grate the cheddar on the smallest holes of your grater and set aside.
Bake the pastry cups according to the package directions. When they’re golden brown, remove from oven and fill each cavity with the crab mixture. Top with cheddar cheese and put back into the oven for a couple of minutes to warm the crab and the cheese is melted.
Serve them hot.
Recipe by Pearl
Photo by Sunny
Turn any bottle of wine into a beautiful gift, décor, or center piece with some grapes, twine, and twigs.
There are tons of wine gift bags everywhere you look, but sometimes that favorite bottle of wine needs to be dressed for a special person, that hard working host or hostess, or an event. And it really doesn’t cost that much to do. In fact, the decorations on this bottle cost less than a wine gift bag, which generally runs about two to four dollars. And this looks so much better than a bag.
I turned to the good old Dollar Store and found some wonderful bunches of grapes in different colors for a dollar a bunch. They came in purple, orange, and green. I thought the orange looked good with the dark wine and dark label, so voila.
I used two pieces of regular brown twine to tie the bunch of grapes to the bottle and tied two bows.
To get that rustic charm, I added some twigs that I found in my yard…free stuff…and attached them with a glue gun. How did we ever get along without a glue gun?
There’s a nut glued to the centers of the twine bow, which I stole from my potpourri bowl. I wanted to attach a small pine cone because it’s winter, but it was raining outside, so my potpourri bowl gave up a nut.
Like I always say, use your imagination when it comes to embellishing. Find things around the house, in your yard, in your craft stash, or in bargain bins.
This bottle of wine came from one our wine clubs. We had to go there to pick up our wines, so I took this decorated bottle with me. The manager loved it and used it as decoration on their wine bar. Of course, she gave me another bottle of wine to swap out, so everyone was happy.
You can dress up your wine bottles to use as center pieces, too! A couple of votive candles around the base and you'll have a very creative looking table.
Design by Pearl
Photo by Sunny
A unique and amazing combination of sweet round slices of raisin bread paired with chicken salad.
In the previous post, I shared my recipe for Hobo Bread, a sweet and simple raisin bread baked in tin cans. You can check out the recipe by clicking on Recipes at the top of the page, or scroll to the previous post. It's delicious by itself or toasted with butter, and fun to eat just because of its shape.
But you can add this bread to your party palette by pairing it with chicken salad. It might sound like an odd combination, but trust me…don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Whenever I’ve made this for a party or picnic, most people look at it and say, “hmmm.” Then when taste it, they say, “mmmm.” It’s that good…complex, different, and it works.
Doesn’t really matter how you make your chicken salad. Just use your favorite recipe. Mine is very simple. It’s diced chicken, mayo, sweet pickle relish, a pinch of green onions, salt and pepper. Sometimes I might add some finely diced celery, instead of the green onions, if I happen to have some. But you don’t want to get too complicated with the chicken salad because the bread wants to stand out, too. And the bread is really the star for this appetizer.
So give this a try. I think you’re going to like this one. It's also a great lunch bag meal if you brown bag it to work. A nice change from the plain old chicken salad sandwich. And remember, the Hobo Bread freezes well.
Recipe by Pearl
Photo by Sunny
A simple raisin bread baked in tin cans and sliced into little rounds of sweetness.
This recipe comes from my mom’s very old hand written recipe card that is now brown with age. I remember her pulling that card out of her metal recipe box to make this bread when my sisters and I were kids. She always baked this raisin bread in Campbell Soup cans. Thus, the idea of Hobo Bread came about. Or, so the story goes.
I remember asking my mom if that’s the way hobos made their bread. She said, yes, that’s why they saved their soup cans. But what about an oven, I asked. They’d bake it over an open fire, she said. As kids, we loved stories like that, and we believed them. But we also loved that this bread baked in a can produced clever little rounds of sweetness.
Your kids will love helping you make this bread because of the fun element. And the little slices are perfect for little hands. Pop them into the toaster oven and smear them with some butter or peanut butter for breakfast. Put them in lunch boxes for a sweet treat. Or, as an appetizer, top them with chicken salad. That will be featured in my next post.
I didn’t use Campbell Soup cans because these days, the cans have an inner lip due to the pop-top opening. That would prevent the bread from sliding out of the can. I used the tins from canned clams because of the size of the opening, which measures 2 and 5/8 inches in diameter. Any small can about that size will do, but try to keep the diameter of the opening close to that. Otherwise, be sure to adjust your baking time. This bread also freezes well. Freeze it whole, wrapped and in a freezer zip lock bag.
So, start saving those cans and have some fun making this bread with the kids. They'll love it.
Makes 4 cans
4 tin cans
1 cup raisins
2 T butter
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
Combine the raisins, butter, and boiling water. Set aside until cool.
In another bowl, beat the egg. Mix in the sugar and vanilla. Stir in the cooled raisin mixture.
Add the flour, baking soda, and pinch of salt.
Spray or grease the tins. Divide the batter into the four cans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Bread is done when a barbecue stick comes out clean.
Wait 10 minutes before removing bread. It should slide out easily. Slice and enjoy. Or freeze whole.
Recipe by Pearl's Mom
Photo by Sunny
Wrap some candy in cellophane, tissue and ribbon
for a fabulous Valentine’s party favor your guests will love.
Happy Valentines Day!
I hope you all get to do something fun on this special day with your sweetie, family or friends. Kerry and I will go to lunch, share a nice bottle of wine, and just enjoy the quiet company of each other.
When the kids were little, they had their designated day of celebration to have a tea party with friends. Because Sunny came first, she chose to have her tea party on Valentines Day each year. Lindsay’s tea party was on Easter. It was a dress up event for each of them, so all the little girls would attend in their party attire. Lindsay, on the other hand, always like to have boys also attend her tea parties, so it was the cutest sight to see them come in shirts and ties!
These tea parties were very precious and deserved fabulous décor with all the little touches to make them a day to remember. Party favors are a way to make any party stand out and a great way to make your guests feel special, too.
For this Valentines Party Favor, I wrapped soft peppermint sticks because I liked the shape it would produce. But you can use any kind of candy to get the same effect. If you want a more structured look, you could use toilet paper rolls to hold the candy. If that bothers you…because well, it’s a tp roll and not very classy…you can save the cardboard from your paper towels and cut them down to size.
Cellophane Party Favor Bags
Small flowers from any craft store
I didn’t do a tutorial on this post because it’s kind of self-explanatory. The cellophane is a favor bag with the closed end cut off, then cut in half length-wise. So one bag will wrap two favors. White tissue is used so you don’t see the candy and it gives a solid background to the design on the cellophane. Roll it together, tie with ribbon, and embellish with a flower using a glue gun.
For other events, change the cellophane according to your theme, or use plain cellophane. You can also use colored tissue. Secure the ends with ribbons, raffia, rustic string, or just about anything that can be tied in a bow. Embellish with whatever follows your theme…flowers, leaves, charms, or stuff you find in your arts and craft bin. I’m talking to you gals out there who buy things on clearance and save them for later use. You know…like me!
You are only limited by your imagination, so get creative with this one!
Design by Pearl
Photo by Sunny
Little pizza rolls made with puff pastry oozing with mozzarella, bacon, fresh basil, and tomatoes.
Its been raining every day around here, so there isn’t much to do. I caught up with reading the magazines stacked next to my bed, organized my closets, and read two novels in one week. It’s been really cold, too, so it’s a good time to get in the kitchen and turn on the oven.
These pizza rolls are a version of the basic margherita pizza which is made with mozzarella, fresh basil and tomatoes. I added bacon just because. That’s a good reason, right?
What I like about this appie is that they’re light and airy. Sometimes you don’t want an appetizer before dinner that’s going to fill you up…or your guests. I know if I’ve spent a lot of time preparing something fancy, or maybe a dinner that has a few courses, I want my guests to enjoy dinner. I don’t want them to pick at their meal because they’ve filled up on nuts, chips and dip, cheese and crackers, or trays of meaty appetizers.
So these little swirls of puff pastry pizza are perfect with a glass of wine before dinner and just enough of a tease to spur everyone’s appetite. And because they’re made with puff pastry, instead of heavy pizza dough, they’re light and delicate. You don’t have to eat just one!
Of course, if you’re doing a small plates meal, these are a great addition because you can bake a bunch of them and have more in the fridge for a second round of hot rolls in 15 minutes.
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1 T water
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese
½ cup roma tomato, small dice
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, loosely packed
3 pieces of medium crisp bacon, chopped
Stir egg and water in a bowl and set aside.
Unfold the sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface with a short end facing you. Brush with the egg mixture.
Top with the mozzarella, parmesan, basil, tomatoes, and bacon. Leave about a one-inch border at the short end away from you. This will help to seal the dough when you roll it.
Roll the sheet into a jelly roll, starting from the shorter edge near you. Cut into 15 slices with a sharp knife. Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
Recipe by Pearl
Photo by Sunny
Party mints tied into festive bundles made of
colored tissue with streamer ends.
Earlier this month, my grand niece celebrated her first birthday. One of the sweets her guests were treated to were these coconut mints tied up into colorful bundles made of colored tissue paper with streamer ends. They were so adorable, I wanted to share them with you. Thank you Sydney!
The coconut mints were dainty pieces of candy, but for Big Bang Bites, well of course, I used bigger candy. With Valentines next month, I thought something red and white would be nice. So, my little bundles are made with those soft mint candy pillows that you can find just about anywhere. I love those soft mints. I think I ate most of them while I was putting this entry together. Then I picked up a pack of tissue paper from the Dollar Store, where I can never just spend a dollar. I'm sure you're all guilty of that, too.
You can use just about any kind of hard candy, except sticky ones for obvious reasons, and any color of tissue paper. Put them on the table by each person’s plate, scatter them all over the table, arrange them on a buffet, place them on a platter, in a big glass bowl, or send them home with your guest in favor bags. It’s a great idea for kids’ parties or adult events.
Individual candies - not anything sticky because of the tissue paper
Colored tissue paper
Cut the tissue paper into pieces measuring 4 inches by 9 inches. Stack a few sheets together and cut the streamer ends 4 inches deep. Try to cut the streamers into thin strips. Perfection does not matter. Once you wrap the candies, you can’t tell if some are thicker, thinner, or crooked.
Place the candy in the middle of the short end without the streamers. Roll it up to the streamer ends. Fold one side over the candy. Then fold the other end over the candy. Twist the streamer ends to hold the folded candy in place. Voila!
Now you have two options. You can leave the streamers straight. Or, you can crumple the streamer ends. It’s whatever you prefer.
Photo By Sunny
Creamy mashed potato bites baked and filled with cheddar, bacon and chives.
Happy 2017 everyone! Here’s wishing you all a healthy and auspicious year blessed with contentment, creativity, and calm.
I haven’t done anything with the blog in months because Gale and I have been going through some changes. We will no longer be sharing the blog, so I will be flying solo from now on. It was a big decision, but we’re both okay with it. However, my daughter, Sunny, will be joining me as my photographer. Yay for me! I am technologically challenged, so having her do the shots and getting it ready for the blog will be a blessing.
My kids always tell me I’m a dinosaur, so any help I can get, I jump on it. Lindsay even gave me a journal for Christmas that’s titled Old School Laptop. Very funny. But, you get the picture.
So, here are my little potatoes. Aren’t they cute? I was making these little bites last summer for patio meals and everyone loved them. I’d make them ahead of time and pop them into the oven when we were ready to eat, so they are perfect for parties or lunch with the ladies. And my three year old grandkids like them because they’re bite-size even for them.
I’ve seen these made elsewhere, but I’ve simplified them a bit. A lot of recipes tell you to bake or boil the potatoes. I always just microwave them, which is really fast, so that’s what this recipe calls for. It works, so why not?
I use the really small red and white potatoes. They’re the size of walnuts. Sometimes grocers call them creamers. I like them because they’re bite-size. If you can’t find these, you can use the larger ones that are the size of golf balls or kiwis. You just have to adjust the recipe by adding more milk, cheese, bacon, and chives. It’s not rocket science, so you could even add some sour cream if you want it creamier. My kids don’t like sour cream…what?...so I make them without it and serve it on the side for those of us who might want a dollop of it.
These would be great for Super Bowl Sunday with a side of wings, so have fun with them!
7 red and white potatoes – the size of walnuts
olive oil to coat the potatoes
2 pieces of crispy bacon, chopped
5 T whole milk
2 T grated cheddar
1 T chopped chives
salt to taste
2 T grated parmesan
Prick the potatoes in a couple of places to let the steam out. Coat the potatoes with olive oil. Microwave for 2 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. If they’re not done, shift them around and microwave another minute or so.
While they’re still warm, cut them in half. Use a small melon baller and scoop out the flesh into a bowl, leaving enough of a rim behind to create little boats. Scoop out all the flesh from just one of the potatoes. You will now have 12 halves. If necessary, you can shave a bit off the bottom to keep them from wobbling.
Add the bacon bits, milk, cheddar, and chives to the potato flesh and mash with a fork. Add salt to taste and a bit more milk if it needs to be creamier. You can also add some sour cream if you prefer.
Scoop the mixture back into the potato boats and sprinkle with parmesan. Place them on a baking sheet and warm in the oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes. They can also be placed in the fridge until you’re ready to warm them.
Recipe by Pearl
Photo by Sunny
Super moist banana muffin smothered with a sweet and crunchy walnut crumble topping.
Trust me, after you try my banana muffins, you won’t need any other recipe. They’re so moist, you don’t even need a glass of milk to wash it down.
I’ve been using this recipe for decades. Geez. That makes me feel so old when I can use decades as a measuring stick. It came from an old long lost bread book that I used when I was in college, so it’s actually a recipe for banana bread. But, the batter is so fluffy that it makes great muffins, too. And along the way, I’ve made some changes like adding the walnut crumble. You can also nix the crumble and add chopped walnuts to the batter, if you please. So, go ahead and use this recipe either way…sliced bread or yummy muffins.
One thing to remember when you’re making banana muffins or bread. Use really ripe bananas, please! You want them to be speckled with brown spots. That’s when you’ll get the most banana flavor. Do not use them if they’re green on the ends. Be patient and wait for the speckles.
The muffins in the photos are medium sized, so that’s what the recipe is timed for. But I’ve also made really big muffins…the kind you buy at Starbucks or the gas station. So, whether you use a regular cupcake tin, or you make the jumbos, adjust your time accordingly.
Most banana breads or muffins are dark. That’s what happens when you use bananas in baking. But when you bite into these, you’ll notice that they’re light in color. That’s because of the lemon juice in the recipe. It keeps the bananas from turning brown.
Makes 18 to 24
1 cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (about 4-6)
2 T lemon juice
¾ cup shortening
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup milk
3½ cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Combine ingredients for the crumble and set aside.
Mash the bananas with a potato masher until smooth. Add lemon juice. Blend and set aside.
Cream shortening and sugar with electric mixer at medium speed. Add eggs and beat until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Combine the dry ingredients and add to the mixture alternately with the milk, blending well after each addition. Fold in the bananas by hand.
Fill medium size muffin cups about 2/3 full. Sprinkle with walnut crumble. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. For regular cupcake size muffins, reduce bake time.
Note: This will also make 2 8X4-inch loaves of bread. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Test with toothpick. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Best if wrapped and stored overnight before slicing.
Recipe by Pearl
Chilled shrimp wrapped in sweet snow peas and drizzled with a tangy miso dressing.
It’s snowing in my garden! With a bounty of snow peas, that is. I planted a lot of vines this year and our long cool spring blessed me with drifts of sweet snow peas.
Refreshing in salads and a guarantee winner in stir fry…my favorite way to use them along with some shrimp and water chestnuts…sweet snow peas are quite versatile. It’s kind of hot to have ramen for a summer’s night dinner, but lightly blanched and served on top of the noodles, its sweetness pairs well with the saltiness of the broth, too.
But we’re all about bites, so I wanted to do some kind of appetizer with it. Shrimp is such a great partner for snow peas, so I think you’ll like my Pea Wrapped Shrimp with Miso Drizzle. I’ve got a lot of great flavors playing off each other. The sweetness of the snow peas and sweet succulent flavor of the chilled shrimp are nicely balanced with the acidity of some lemon juice in the nutty miso paste. Kind of an Asian fusion dish.
Note: Miso has a strong flavor, but if you want more than a drizzle, you can make a little more and serve it on the side as shown in the picture here.
One thing you might notice in the picture is that my shrimp is straight. Shrimp naturally curls into a round when you cook it. But, you don’t want that because you wouldn’t be able to wrap a snow pea around it. The trick? Use a toothpick inserted into the raw shrimp before boiling it. Then pull the toothpick out while it’s cooling down. Straight shrimp!
In a couple of weeks, I’m going to a friend’s barbecue and she asked me to bring an appie. I might have to take this one, especially because it’s so easy, looks so pretty, and I can make it way ahead of time and fridge it.
So, while snow peas are around in the market, take advantage of this delightful veggie.
18 snow peas
18 toothpicks for cooking
18 toothpicks or fancy picks for serving
2 T white miso
4 tsp. lemon juice
1½ tsp. sugar
2 tsp. mayo
Insert toothpicks into the raw shrimp lengthwise, leaving the ends showing, so you can pull them out later. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add shrimp. Cook just until the shrimp turn pink, a couple of minutes. Drain and set aside. When the shrimp is cool enough to handle, remove the toothpicks.
Note: It’s harder to pull out the toothpicks when the shrimp becomes cold.
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add the snow peas. Blanch for only a minute. You want them crunchy, not cooked. Drain and immerse the peas in cold water to stop the cooking.
Wrap a snow pea around each shrimp, secure with a toothpick or fancy pick and line them up on your server. Chill in fridge.
Combine the white miso, lemon juice, sugar and mayo. Drizzle over the shrimp when ready to serve. You can garnish with black sesame seeds for some contrast and nutty flavor.
Recipe by Pearl