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Quick Italian Spinach Cheese Bites

Versatile and low carb; can be cut into 80 appetizer bites, a vegetable side dish for ten, or a light vegetarian entree for eight. I freeze the baked dish in single portions for my OAMC.
9x13 pan or 2 9" pie plates

2 pounds low fat small curd cottage cheese OR ricotta
3 pounds fresh spinach, steamed, chopped and drained
OR 20 ounces frozen whole leaf spinach, thawed, chopped, well drained
2 cups (8 ounces) low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 eggs, beaten
14 ounce jar roasted red peppers, well drained, chopped
OR 1 cup chopped fresh red or yellow bell pepper, sauteed until just tender in a little olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried dill leaf
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice

I use whole leaf spinach because I think it has more flavor. Baby spinach is tender, but bland. This is one place where the plain old shakable Parmesan workd fine, though the shredded imported type is delicious.
Butter your pans and dust with a little grated Parmesan cheese. Saute the fresh bell pepper if used, and steam or saute the fresh spinach if used, or drain and chop the thawed frozen spinach. Stir together all the ingredients.
Pour into buttered 9x13 pan or 2 greased 9-inch pie plates.
Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until center is just set. Let cool to room temperature before cutting.
Cut into 60-80 bites (8x10), 10 side dish servings or 16 wedges.


100 deviled eggs

This is a very popular and inexpensive dish, good if you have more time than money.
You can hard cook and peel the eggs the day before your event if you rinse them and store them whole tightly covered with plastic wrap, but do not slice and stuff until the morning of the event. Remember a clean damp knife tears less eggs.

4 1/2- 5 dozen eggs
1 bag of ice (about 7 pounds)to cool the hard-cooked eggs
1 cup spicy mustard (for mild stuffed eggs, use all or part mayonaisse)
1/3 cup good vinegrette
OPTIONAL garnish: sweet or hot paprika, dillweed or chopped parsley, sliced olives or 1 cup chutney

Deviled eggs or stuffed eggs make fine hors douevres, each 1/2 counts as 1 piece. As part of an hors douvre tray or relish assortment, I boil 4 1/2 dozen boiled eggs to make deviled eggs for 100; some halves will tear up and not be stuff-able, finely grate these and add into the yolk mixture. It takes about 1 hour to peel this many eggs and another 1 hour 25 to 45 minutes to split and stuff them. Add another 15 minutes if you pipe the yolks into the halves with a decorative pastry bag instead of using a fork.
Leave the raw uncracked eggs out at room temp 24-48 hours before cooking, they will be easier to peel. This is especially important if the eggs are very fresh; older eggs peel more easily. If you turn the cartons over carefully so the point ends of the eggs are down while they sit, you may avoid the problem of having the yolk too close to the big end.
To prevent the green ring around the yolk, you must avoid overcooking the eggs. Here is the technique for this large amount of eggs. When ready to cook, cover the eggs completely with water to about 1 inch above the eggs. Cover the pan, bring the pan full of eggs to a boil and start checking at 10 minutes: pull one out, run under cold water, open and check for doneness. As soon as they are done, cool rapidly. Pull the pan off the fire, drain hot water, and keep filling the pan with cold tap water (or add water and a bag of ice) until the eggs are cool.
For this many yolks, I mash the yolks and then mash in the mixed mustard and vinegrette, adding extra vinegrette to get the right texture for the yolk mix.


Ham Salad Spread in Puff Shells

Can also be served as a spread with tiny slices of cocktail rye bread or pumpernickel. For a spread, offer a little bowl of good mustard.
100 small puffs

2 pounds cooked lean ham
3 eggs, hard-cooked
2 ounces onion, finely chopped
4 ounces finely diced chow chow or pickle relish
1 to 1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
OPTIONAL 1/4 cup spicy mustard
100 miniature puff shells

Grind ham coarsely. Peel eggs and chop coarsely. Combine all ingredients. Mix lightly and refrigerate ham. Stuff at the time of serving, taking out just what is needed for the platter being prepared. Fill puff shells and arrange on serving platter.



Antipasto Vegetables

A nice change from the eternal raw veggies with Ranch dressing.
Raw vegetables are brined overnight, then marinated. Keeps three weeks in the refrigerator if the tuna is omitted. Usually served chilled or room temperature.
1 gallon- 50 appetizer servings or 32 salad servings .

4 cups chopped cauliflower
4 cups pearl onions
2 cups chopped red bell peppers
2 cups chopped green bell peppers
2 cups chopped celery
2 cucumbers - peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cups carrots, thin circles or diced
2 cups fruity olive oil
2 cups distilled white vinegar, rice wine or champagne vinegar- not balsamic
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon pickling spice, wrapped in cheesecloth
1 cup black olives
1 cup pitted green olives
4 cups marinated or canned mushrooms, drained, whole preferred
OPTIONAL: 1 cup large capers, drained
OPTIONAL 1 1/2 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked OR 3 tablespoons rinsed chopped anchovies or anchovy paste
salted water for soaking, 1 tablespoon salt per gallon

In a large bowl with enough lightly salted water to cover, place the cauliflower, pearl onions, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, celery and cucumbers. Soak refrigerated 8 to 12 hours, or overnight.
In a small bowl with enough lightly salted water to cover, place the carrots. Soak 8 to 12 hours refrigerated, or overnight.
In a 6 quart Dutch oven (NOT cast iron or aluminum), place the olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste and pickling spice. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Drain and rinse the carrots, and place them in the mixture. Cook 10 minutes. Drain and rinse the vegetables in the cauliflower mixture. Add them to the saucepan. Cook 10 minutes more, or until the cauliflower is tender but crisp.
Stir black olives, green olives, mushrooms, capers and tuna into the mixture. Remove the mixture from heat. Discard the wrapped pickling spice. While still hot, transfer to sterile containers and refrigerate.


Asian-style Pork-Veggie Rice Lettuce Wraps

4 dinner servings or 12 appetizer servings

4 cups cooked rice
OR 2 cups uncooked white rice cooked in 4 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground pork (may substitute extra tofu)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 (14 ounce) package firm tofu, drained and cubed
2 carrots, shredded
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon hot chile paste
optional ingredients, such as peanuts, peppers, shrimp, steamed rice noodles, diced teriyaki chicken, scrambled egg, or bean sprouts
1 head iceberg lettuce leaves, separated
1/2 to 1 cup soy sauce and/or hoisin sauce for serving

Cook the rice or warm the cooked rice. To cook rice, in a saucepan combine the water and rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, until water is absorbed. Set aside and keep warm.

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Cook the pork, green onions, and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly brown. Add the tofu, carrots, Hoisin, and soy sauce, and any optional vaggies, stirring frequently until heated through. Remove from heat, and stir in the sesame oil and chile paste.
To serve, spoon a small amount of rice into each lettuce leaf, top with the stir-fry mixture, and drizzle with additional soy sauce or hoisin sauce. Dust with chopped peanuts. Wrap the lettuce leaf to enclose the filling.


Layered Antipasto Meat Appetizer

1 round platter about 14" in diameter: 30 appetizer servings
$60-70 at 2005 prices, so an expensive appetizer, but very popular. Can be made up the day before since the whole lettuce leaves do not wilt.

2 heads iceberg or romaine lettuce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cup (8 ounce bottle) Italian-style salad dressing
1 pound thinly sliced cooked ham
1 1/2 pounds sliced provolone cheese
1/2 pound Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/4 pound capricola sausage, sliced
1/4 pound pepperoni sausage, thinly sliced
1/4 pound prosciutto ham, thinly sliced
1/4 pound thinly sliced roast beef
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced, fresh or marinated
1 (6 ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (7 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 (6 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
3/4 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers or mild banana pepper rings, drained
1 (5 ounce) jar sliced pimento-stuffed green olives, drained
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 pound mozarella cheese, sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds hot breadsticks or fresh Italian bread, ciabata or foccacia

Wash lettuce. Remove large outer leaves from the heads of lettuce, drain on paper towels.
Arrange approximately 1/3 of the large leaves in a layer on the serving platter. Mix together the oregano and garlic powder, then sprinkle the lettuce with 1/3 of the mix and a little Italian-style salad dressing. Layer on the cooked ham and Provolone cheese.
Layer on another 1/3 of the lettuce leaves, 1/3 spice mix, sprinkles of Italian-style salad dressing, slices of Genoa salami and capricola.
The next layer has the remaining lettuce, spice mix, Italian-style salad dressing, pepperoni sausage, prosciutto and roast beef.
On top of this you will spread/layer the rest of the vegetables, making sure that all the veggies go to all the servings: mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, black olives, pepperoncini or banana peppers, and pimento-stuffed green olives. Sprinkle with more Italian-style salad dressing, as desired.
Top with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cut the mozarella into strips and layer a pattern on top that lets the vegetable colors show through. Wrap the whole platter tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until serving.
When ready to serve, cut in squares so each serving has some of all the items. You can put a toothpick through each square to help hold it together. Serve with hot Italian bread chunks or bread sticks and the remaining dressing Italian dressing on the side.