Tag Archives: appetizer

Cheese In The Face

I’m a spectator for all seasons.  Football takes me from fall through the winter.  Hockey gets me from winter to spring.  Baseball gets me from spring to fall.  We just caught a game at Yankee Stadium with friends last weekend, and we have tickets to see the New Britain Rock Cats play baseball this weekend.  The Connecticut Whale are fun to watch, and we love that tickets to see our local college’s women’s hockey team are a bargain at two dollars a game.  No matter what sporting event we take the kids to see, I suspect they’re not really there for the on-field or on-ice action.  Last summer after five innings of baseball, the thing that most excited O was a controversial race between mascots dressed as a doughnut and an iced coffee. The iced coffee knocked over the doughnut, Tonya Harding style, and O’s account was akin to something you’d see on CNN.  Then there are the concession requests.  The kiddos become bottomless pits when there are vendors milling about yelling “Peanuts! Popcorn!”  We do try to limit the amount of junk food we buy when we’re at these sporting events but a guilty pleasure here and there always makes it to our seats.  O gravitates toward popcorn, which he shovels in by the handful like he’ll never have popcorn again.  M’s number one request at any sporting event (or pretty much on a daily basis) is nachos.  She is like a moth to a flame when she sees that  neon orange cheese product squirted all over tortilla chips.  Even better when the cheese is on the side for dipping, but she doesn’t get fussy about presentation.  It’s not a sporting event for M unless there’s a boat of nachos.

I wondered if nacho cheese sauce at home could possibly compare to a stadium’s neon orange liquid cheese product, and if I could make it without a ton of work or resorting to that popular “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”  Turns out, the answer is “yes.”  This won’t help when we’re out at a ballgame this summer, but when a nacho craving hits while we’re at home we have an easy solution.  Five ingredients, a little stirring, and you have a smooth and delicious topping for pretty much anything.  I don’t recommend low or reduced fat cheese for this, because it doesn’t melt like its full-fat counterpart.  I also recommend shredding or grating the cheese yourself (as I do for any recipe calling for grated or shredded cheese) because pre-shredded cheese has stabilizers in it that keep it from melting the same way as when you shred your own.  The original recipe calls for pepper Jack cheese, but I used just cheddar to keep it as close to that bright orange stuff M stares at wide-eyed as they pour it onto her chips.  I used some corn tortillas that I had after making chicken taquitos and baked them into tortilla chips for dipping.  It could also be used to top a baked potato, poured over hot dogs, or to kill a craving for some cheese fries.  I may have created a monster . . . .

nacho cheese sauce

Nacho Cheese Sauce


  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (or 4 oz. cheddar and 4 oz. pepper Jack)
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk, divided (I used 2% and it worked great)
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce (more or less to taste)
  • pinch of salt


In a medium saucepan, combine the shredded cheese and cornstarch, tossing to evenly coat.

Stir in 1 C. of the evaporated milk and turn the heat to medium-low.

Stir in the salt and hot sauce.

Cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened, smooth, and bubbling.

Stir in additional evaporated milk as desired for a thinner consistency.

Makes about 2 cups.

Source: slightly adapted from Kitchen Simplicity, originally from Serious Eats

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes


We started a small container garden last weekend and I’m equal parts nervous and excited about this.  For starters, the last time I engaged in any major gardening was when I followed my dad around the yard and into our back yard garden as a child.  I’ve grown herbs from kits and sadly they wound up becoming an abandoned mess on the kitchen counter.  In my defense, I was in graduate school and working full-time and remembering to water and feed myself was a project most days.  That apartment was also suitable for vampire living, not one room seemed to get a big amount of sunlight and moving my little herb tower outside wasn’t an option.  S0, as we picked out herb seedlings and seed packets last weekend I was determined to keep it small and keep it simple.  Now, I’m hovering over two tomato plants, four herb plants, a pepper plant, and sixteen little peat pots that I’m hoping will sprout seedlings for green beans, yellow squash, and pickling cucumbers.

Because all of that didn’t blow my “keep it small” strategy out of the water, I decided to test out the concept that you can grow food from kitchen scraps so there’s also a pot with garlic cloves (that sprouted, yay!), onion ends, and scallions.  The scallions grow wild all around the edges of our yard, and Lane always thought they would be bitter so he just mowed them down year after year.  When I heard this, and that those little scallions grow back just in time to be mowed down again, I knew this was the crop for me.  I pulled the scallions up with their bulbs and roots, cut off the tops (leaving about three inches of scallion and the roots), and plunked the ends into a cup of water.  I’ll never have to buy scallions again, two days later I had new growth.  Then, it occurred to me that maybe I should heed Lane’s warning about the bitterness and actually taste them.  They taste exactly like any scallions I’ve ever purchased or eaten anywhere.  While Lane ran off to let the neighbors know that they will also never need to buy scallions again, I started planning what I would do with my bounty of wild scallions.

Scallion pancakes were my first thought.  I love ordering these at Chinese restaurants and we were just discussing them over some great Thai food on date night so this seemed obvious.  I have made them before, so I knew that scallion pancakes are ridiculously easy to make at home.  In my quest to keep it semi-healthy around here, I wanted to see if I could get around frying them in oil and still have a tasty reproduction of the restaurant staple.  I was probably way more excited than anyone should be about scallions already, but I was even more excited when I cooked these in a non-stick skillet with a spray of olive oil (from a Misto sprayer) instead of frying each one in oil and they were every bit as awesome.  If you don’t have an oil sprayer, I have some solutions.  Any clean spray bottle can be used (please don’t use a bottle that held bathroom cleaner last week though), or non-stick cooking spray, or brushing the olive oil onto the pancake with a pastry brush are all great alternatives.  The dough is simple to make and easy to work with and even though the steps seem numerous, they are quick steps so you’ll have tasty scallion pancakes in about as much time as it would take to order them and wait for delivery.  With a simple soy sauce ginger dipping sauce, these were better than the ones I usually drool over at the restaurant.

chinese scallion pancake

Scallion Pancakes


for the pancakes:

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C. warm water
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
  • salt
  • olive oil (I used a Misto to spray it, cooking spray or brushing it on would also work)

for the dipping sauce:

  • 1/4 C. light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)


To make the dough using a food processor, put the flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade.

Turn the food processor on and stream the warm water in, running the food processor until the water is incorporated.

Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl or onto a clean work surface and knead the dough until smooth.  The dough will be firm and smooth, not sticky, when fully kneaded.

OR, make the dough without a food processor by mixing the flour and 1/4 C. of the water in a large mixing bowl.

Stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, then knead until the dough is firm and barely sticky.

Once the dough is made, knead it about 20 times and then cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball.

Work with 1 ball of dough at a time and keep all others covered with a damp towel.

Roll each ball of dough out on a well-floured work surface into a thin circle about 1/16 of an inch thick.

Sprinkle salt evenly over the pancake (I used about 1/2 tsp. of salt per pancake, use more or less to taste but they should be fairly salty).

Sprinkle 1-2 tsp. of scallions over the pancake.

Roll the pancake up from one end, like a jelly roll.

Curl the roll up into a spiral like a snake and pinch the end to the roll so they stay closed.

Press the coil using the palm of your hand to flatten it, then use a rolling pin to roll the pancake out to 1/8 of an inch thick.

Spray a skillet generously with olive oil (or non-stick cooking spray) or brush both sides of the pancake with olive oil, and heat the skillet over medium heat until hot.

Place the pancake into the skillet and cook until the bottom is crisp and starts to brown.

Flip the pancake, spraying or brushing on more oil as needed and cook until cooked through and starting to brown.

Remove the pancake from the heat and serve immediately, or place it onto a baking sheet in a warm oven to keep warm until all pancakes are ready to serve.

To make the dipping sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.

To serve, cut each pancake into four wedges using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors and serve with dipping sauce on the side.

Makes 8 pancakes, 32 wedges.

Source: pancakes adapted from Use Real Butter; sauce from Ming Tsai


Filed under Recipes

Academy Award

The 85th Academy Awards air tonight from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and before I settle in to catch all of the red carpet action, I want to share a round-up of the film-inspired recipes I’ve shared over the previous twelve days.  It wouldn’t be a round-up without some Oscar trivia:

Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is the youngest actress ever nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role, taking the distinction from actress Keisha Castle-Hughes who was nominated at thirteen for her role in Whale Rider.  She competes against Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), who at eighty-five is the oldest nominee in the category.

The youngest actor ever nominated is Justin Henry, who at eight years old was nominated for his role as Billy Kramer in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.

Silver Linings Playbook is the first film since the 1981 film Reds to earn nominations in all four acting categories as well as Best Director and Best Picture.

Les Miserables is the first musical nominated for Best Picture since Chicago in 2002, and prior to Chicago no musical had been nominated in the Best Picture category since Oliver! in 1969.

Composer John Williams, nominated this year for his work on Lincoln, still holds the record for the living person with the most nominations at forty-eight.  Next in line is Woody Allen with twenty-three.

Three of this year’s Best Actor nominees: Bradley Cooper, Denzel Washington, and Hugh Jackman, have previously been named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.

For this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature, I selected four movies that have been nominated for but did not win Oscars, four films that have won at least one Oscar, and four films hoping to win an Oscar this year.

salisbury steak

Pleasantville, Salisbury Steak

ihop sweet crepes

I Am Sam, Crepes

chef salad

When Harry Met Sally, Chef Salad (with oil and vinegar on the side!)

roasted chicken salad

My Week With Marilyn, Roasted Chicken Salad

banana ripple ice cream

The Aviator, Banana Ripple Ice Cream

cream puff

Marie Antoinette, Cream Puffs

chicago deep dish

Chicago, Deep Dish Pizza

chicken lyonnaise

Titanic, Chicken Lyonnaise

lemon butter pollock

Moonrise Kingdom, Lemon Butter Pollock

french bread

Les Miserables, French Bread

crabby snacks

Silver Linings Playbook, Crabby Snacks

mary lincoln apple bread pudding

Lincoln, Mary Lincoln’s Apple Bread Pudding

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

Silver Lining

The third film in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature that is nominated for an Academy Award this year is Silver Linings Playbook.  After spending some time in a mental hospital in the aftermath of his actions upon discovering Nikki (Brea Bee)’s adultery, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves in with his parents Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver).  While struggling with his bipolar disorder, Pat is desperate to show Nikki that he has his life together and reconcile. He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a widow who is aspiring to compete in an upcoming dance competition.  The two form a friendship and agree to help each other meet their goals.  Silver Linings Playbook is nominated for eight Oscars: Best Directing (David O. Russell), Best Editing, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Cooper), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (De Niro), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Lawrence), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Weaver), Best Writing- Material Previously Produced or Published, and Best Picture.

silver linings playbook dinner

Food gets a lot of mention in this film.  Early on Pat tells us that Sunday used to be his favorite day; Dolores would make lasagna and he’d watch the Philadelphia Eagles game with his father.  At the end of the film, Dolores is teaching Pat’s friend Danny (Chris Tucker) how she makes her braciole.  In the scene above, Pat orders Raisin Bran at a diner so that it’s not a date, and throughout the movie Dolores announces she’s making “crabbies and homemades.”  “Homemades” are homemade egg noodles, while “crabbies” refers to a snack or appetizer combining cheese and crab on an English muffin.  Director David O. Russell was invited to the home of Mrs. Cappalletti, mother of football player John Cappalletti, who offered him crabbies and homemades leading Russell to believe that these are common snacks in a Philadelphia home.  Bradley Cooper, who grew up in Philadelphia, told Russell he had never heard of either but they were included in the film just the same.

I’m glad they were.  While I have yet to attempt making my own egg noodles, I was excited to make some English muffins and top them with crab and cheese.  I decided to move past my reservations about using cheese spread and canned crab when I decided that authenticity was important, and that these are a retro appetizer hailing from the 1950’s when processed food was all the rage.  In the future, I’d mix some softened cream cheese with shredded cheddar and I’m sure that would work very well here.  I did make English muffins at home for these, but it isn’t necessary at all.  These are meant to be a quick appetizer or snack, so if you have some store-bought English muffins hanging around, this is a great way to use them.  Thinly sliced scallions make a great topping for these instead of, or in addition to, chopped parsley.  With a salad, a few of these aren’t a bad lunch, either.

crabby snacks

Crabby Snacks


  • 6 English muffins, split
  • 1 5 oz. jar cheese spread (such as Kraft Old English), room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • two dashes hot sauce (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 6 oz. can crab meat, drained, flaked
  • 2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning


Toast the English muffins.

Heat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese spread, butter, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder, black pepper, and crab meat.  Stir to thoroughly combine.

Spread 1-2 Tbsp. of the crab mixture evenly on the toasted surface of each English muffin half.

Sprinkle the Old Bay seasoning evenly over the tops of each English muffin half.

Bake the topped English muffin halves for 10-15 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and bubbly.

Remove from oven and sprinkle the parsley evenly over the tops.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before using a sharp, serrated knife to cut each English muffin half into quarters.

Makes 48 crabby snacks.

Source:  adapted from Ask Your Neighbor

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

New Year’s Eve at Home

As 2012 comes to a close tonight, I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends at home tonight.  I’ve enjoyed New Year’s Eve a number of ways in the past- sometimes visiting friends, sometimes hosting parties at home, and sometimes hanging out on the couch eating Chinese food and waiting to see the ball drop on tv.  This year, we’re enjoying the evening at home with M and O, and a dear friend of mine and her two girls.  I won’t be making fancy things, or coming up with signature drinks.  Instead, we’ll have some kid-friendly snacks (snacks as a meal are a New Year’s Eve guilty pleasure tradition for me), maybe in our pajamas, and see which of the grown-ups is snoring first.

I had a good year here at Diana’s Dishes, and it seemed fitting to celebrate that as I look forward to a better one in 2013.  A lot of posts were competing for popularity on here, but these are the top ten as determined by my readers.

soft pretzel#10 Soft Pretzels

I made these for day 6 of my Summer Olympics feature, showing foods from countries that have hosted the Summer Games.  These soft pretzels, for Munich, are easier than they look and incredibly delicious.

cannoli cupcake

#9  Cannoli Cupcakes

What happens when the birthday girl loves cannolis and the baker can’t find her cannoli forms?  These cannoli cupcakes, which made a delicious dessert for M’s eighth birthday.

barbecue sauce

#8  Homemade Barbecue Sauce

I made a huge batch of this and put it in jars for both of my dads, and for Lane as a Father’s Day gift and it met with rave reviews. Definitely man-approved.

monster cookies (1280x856)

#7 One Bowl Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chcolate Chip M&M Cookies

We had absolutely no trouble working our way quickly through four dozen of these easy one-bowl cookies.


#6  Basic Belgian Waffles

Ditch the boxed mix and make fresh waffles.  These are amazing with fruit and whipped cream or butter and syrup.  Make a big batch and freeze them for another day!

arroz con pollo

#5 Cheater’s Arroz con Pollo

An amazingly easy chicken and rice dish, simplifying a classic.


#4 French Onion Stuffed Mushrooms

There are hardly words for how delicious these are.  Oh, and if you were wondering how “Lane” got his nickname, this would be an entertaining post to read.


#3  Milk Chocolate Whisky Marshmallow Candied Bacon Bark

There are hardly words for how absolutely amazing this stuff is.  I made it for a New Year’s Eve party last year, and a year later, we’re still talking about it.

smores bars

#2  S’mores Bars

When I ask if I can bring anything to a party, the answer now is almost always “yes, those amazing s’mores bars.”  Every bit as delicious as traditional s’mores, but without the open flame and sticks.

honey ginger chicken wing

# 1  Honey Ginger Baked Chicken Wings

Great for a snack anytime, super for a party and easy on your waistline since they’re baked, not fried.  Isn’t the Super Bowl coming up?

While I completely enjoyed every one of the things in my top ten as determined by my readers, there were a few things that were my personal favorites that didn’t make the list.  I’d like to take a moment and give these ten recipes the love they deserve, in no particular order.

high heel cupcake 2

The high heel cupcakes I made for my birthday.  Time consuming? Yes.  Worth it? Absolutely.  We’re still talking about these!


The homemade Cookie Puss ice cream cake replica I made for Lane’s birthday.  This was worth the effort, and I solved the mystery of how to make amazing ice cream cake cookie crunchies.

perry the platypus cake

The Perry the Platypus cake I made for O’s birthday.  Perry starts out as a pound cake!

fettucine alfredo

Fettucini Alfredo, for my grandmother’s 80th birthday.  It turned out to be her final birthday, and I’m glad I got a chance to make her one of her favorite dishes.


The chicken sandwich that was so good, it changed my life.

bacon roses

Roses, made out of bacon.  I’m sure no further explanation is necessary.

blue moon cupcake

Blue Moon beer cupcakes to celebrate the blue moon we had in August.  Hope you made it count!

apple crumble pieApple crumble pie we made after apple picking.  It was the first project I took on with Chef M and Chef O, and I can still hear O declaring his love for the “apple peeler machine.”

cranberry apple sangriaCranberry Apple Sangria.  This delicious (and easy) beverage saved my sanity this holiday season.

cheesecake3Classic cheesecake.  I brought this for dessert the first time I met Lane’s family and it was enjoyed by all.

Looking through the twenty posts above has provided me with a great look back at 2012, and I can’t wait to share the excitement of 2013 with all of you.  Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

Operation Chorizo

If you’re looking for an easy appetizer for any get-together, stop here.  This dip was beyond amazing.  I’m not usually a huge fan of serving dip, since it usually returns to the kitchen half eaten when it’s time to serve the meal.  That didn’t happen here.  With several appetizer choices and a huge dinner on the horizon, I had guests asking if there was any more of this chorizo dip.  I’ll admit, it’s got a little more grease to it than I thought it should at first.  Draining the chorizo after I cooked it didn’t minimize the grease factor, unfortunately.  I almost didn’t serve this because I was convinced it was a greasy, inedible mess.  It smelled so good that I had to at least try it before I cast it aside and I’m so glad I did.  Once I scooped some up with a chip, it had just the right ratio of oily to creamy and didn’t seem greasy at all.  Once my guests got to it, there wasn’t much time to ponder the ration of oily to creamy anyhow- they all had their mouths full of this chorizo dip and it’s rude to speak with your mouth full.  I can’t wait for a reason to make this again.  Like Friday, Friday is a reason, right? Or Tuesday?

chorizo dip


Chorizo and “Caramelized”* Onion Dip


  • 2 C. onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • 6 oz. chorizo sausage
  • 8 oz. package of cream cheese
  • ¼ C. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ C. chopped chives or green onions


Remove the chorizo from its casing and roughly dice it.

Cook in a medium skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, drain the grease and set aside.

In another skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion.

Add the thyme and lower the heat to medium-low and cook the onion for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions become soft and deep golden brown.

In a medium bowl add cream cheese and mayonnaise and mix well until smooth.

Add mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, green onions to the cream cheese mixture and mix well.

Gently fold in the chorizo.

Pour into a 2 cup baking dish.

Place onto a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until dip is golden and bubbly.

Garnish with additional green onion and serve with baguette slices or tortilla chips.

Makes 2 cups.

Source: adapted from Foodie Crush

*If you’re wondering why the “caramelized” is in quotation marks, it’s because the onions in this really aren’t caramelized.  Proper caramelization of onions takes about forty-five minutes from slicing to caramelized onion heaven, and these onions take about twenty.  I know it seems like I’m splitting hairs here,  but caramelized onions are a deep brown and taste sort of sweet and buttery whereas onions that have been sautéed for twenty minutes have a nice golden brown color but still taste very much like onions.  It takes about forty-five minutes (depending on onion type) for onions to release that much of their sugars and be truly caramelized.  For this dip, you definitely want your onion to be a nice golden brown and have an onion flavor so it’s not a problem that they aren’t truly caramelized.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes