Category Archives: Hors D’oeuvres

Bourbon Shrimp

The groundhog was wrong about his prediction for an early spring around here.  Snow, the last week in March… really?

With another day of yucky weather keeping me inside, I decided to do a little spring cleaning, beginning with my spice cabinet. I discovered an open jar of bourbon smoked sugar that I brought back with me from my visit to GE in Louisville last spring.

As I sorted through jars of salts and spices,  my thoughts kept returning to the smoked sugar, and how it would probably be a good idea to use it up pretty soon; it was opened after all, and would expire soon.

By the time the old spices were tossed and the cabinet was back in presentable order, I had a plan in place for the bourbon smoked sugar. I would make some Bourbon Shrimp. What better way to take away the winter like chill on a cold springtime night than with a little bourbon and a little more bourbon,  right?

bourbon shrimp

Bourbon Shrimp

2 tablespoons bourbon smoked sugar (or dark brown sugar)

1 tablespoon Smoked Spanish Paprika

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 pound (u-15 count) shrimp, tails left on, shelled, deveined

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons bourbon

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Combine bourbon smoked sugar and spices in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and toss to combine thoroughly.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes on first side, flip shrimp, and cook an additional minute on second side. Reduce heat to medium low and add bourbon; cook 1 minute, scraping bottom of pan as you stir to break up browned bits on bottom of pan. Add butter and stir to combine. Transfer shrimp to a platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

4 appetizer servings


Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli



It usually takes me a week or so after Thanksgiving passes (an intermission), before I am ready to start hearing Christmas music on the radio, and get into the spirit of the season. I need the time to transition from pumpkins to holly.

I can’t just jump right in. What I can do though, is start thinking about what I want to cook during the holiday season. Menu planning is something that comes naturally for me, and it’s the getting together with family and friends over food and wine part of the season that really gets me excited about celebrating, so today I will share a recipe that I recently served as part of one of my cooking class menus. The ingredients have some Spanish influence, making them a nice addition to a tapas menu, but they also have that special holiday feel to them so sharing some of these with friends would be a very good idea.

The mussels are steamed in a wine broth,  then pulled from their shells, chopped and added to the rest of the filling ingredients: sauteed serrano ham, spinach, and béchamel sauce. Some prep work on the front end, yes. But you are able to assemble the stuffed mussels and refrigerate up to one day ahead before they are topped with garlic aioli and popped under the broiler until golden brown and bubbly.

Even the people in cooking class who thought they didn’t like mussels fell in love with these.

So as you think about inviting friends over to share a glass of wine during the weeks ahead,  I hope you will consider making these go along with your holiday cheer.

Stuffed Mussels with Serrano Ham, Spinach, & Garlic Aioli
Serves: 6
  • Aioli:
  • 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Mussels:
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 6 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 36 mussels (3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons minced ham (serrano, prosciutto, or black forest)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  1. For Aioli: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place garlic cloves in a very small baking dish. Cover garlic with oil (add enough to completely cover garlic), cover dish with foil, and bake until garlic is soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove garlic cloves with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish to cool. Place cooled garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar in the base of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Reserve.
  2. For mussels: Bring the white wine, half of the onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and mussels to a boil in a large covered saucepan over high heat. Once mussels have been cooking 3 minutes, check to see if they have begun to open. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon as they open and transfer to a platter. Cool the mussels. Reduce the cooking liquid down to 2 tablespoons. Strain and reserve the liquid. Remove the mussels from their shells and save ⅔ of their shells. Separate each of the reserved shells into 2 halves. Chop the mussels coarsely and place in a large bowl.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook the remaining onion until soft, 7 minutes. Add the spinach and ham to pan with onions, stirring until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove mixture from pan and add to bowl with chopped mussels.
  4. Preheat the broiler. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the flour and cook; stirring 2 minutes. Add the milk and reserved cooking liquid and cook until smooth and very thick. Add to the mussels and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stuff the shells with the mussel mixture. Spread the aioli on top of the mussels and place on a baking sheet. Broil until golden, 10-20 seconds. Serve immediately.
  6. servings


Make Time to Take Tea (and Stilton Cucumber Sandwiches)

Porcelain Web 720 from Scarlett Killaly on Vimeo.

Don’t ask me how I came across this video. I think it was while on a search for tea party china, or serving dishes. Kind of a random find, but I am glad I took two minutes out to watch it because I enjoyed the artistic reminder that we all need to make time in our busy lives to take tea.




hosted by 5 Star Foodie & Lazaro Cooks!

This month, in honor of the recent conclusion of the Olympic games, our 5 Star Makeover group is making time for tea in a  virtual English tea party. Keeping tradition in mind, our instructions were to  create savory and/or sweet little bites to accompany the  tea. Assorted finger sandwiches, scones, Devonshire cream, jams, and tea breads are familiar treats served during this pre-dinner (typically between 3-5pm) snack.

Cucumber sandwiches are the first things that popped into my mind (and stayed there ) when I got started on this tea post, so that’s what I stayed with.  I have changed them up a bit straying from tradition and swapping the crustless white bread for savory Stilton biscuits. The biscuits are something I really love all on their own. The dough is super easy to make in the food processor. The slice and bake “logs” my be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week before baking, or in the freezer for one month.  If you haven’t already thought about this, they are really perfect with a glass of wine. Cheese and cracker all in one bite!

I have filled the biscuits with my version of a Benedictine spread (popular in the south), which is a cucumber/onion infused cream cheese. A slice of English cucumber adds a little bit of extra crunch. Simple and not too fussy; pretty much what we are looking for in an afternoon tea snack. I hope you will take tea with us all of us on Friday and enjoy the treats.

You will find a roundup of the recipes on Lazaro Cooks! and 5 Star Foodie, and can always check out what our 5 Star Makeover Group is cooking by following our Pinterest page.

Stilton Cucumber Sandwiches

3/4 pound Stilton cheese
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a baking sheet.

Place cheese and melted butter in bowl of food processor and pulse until well blended.  Add the poppy seeds and flour and process until the ball of dough forms.

Shape the dough into two logs, each about 10-inches long. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Slice the dough into rounds about one-quarter inch thick. Place the rounds on the baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until browned on the bottom.  Cool the biscuits on a rack before serving.
Makes 50  biscuits

Benedictine Spread:
1 large cucumber
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons grated onion
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon creme fraiche

Peel cucumber and grate over a cheese cloth, catching cucumber liquid into a small bowl. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the cucumber liquid; discarding remaining liquid and cucumber pulp.  Combine with remaining ingredients in food processor.

Stilton biscuits
Benedictine spread
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced

Spoon 1/2 teaspoon Benedictine Spread on the bottom side of 1 Stilton Biscuit. Place 1-2 slices of English cucumber on spread and top with a second biscuit (bottom side down). Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Makes 25 Sandwiches