Blooming Tomato

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Why should onions have all the fun?!

Forget the Blooming Onion (though it is undeniably delicious), because this summer the Blooming Tomato is taking over!

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I’m always looking to do something new with veggies—to transform them into something special.

And sometimes just cutting a veggie in a different way can accomplish that goal...

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This tomato becomes the centerpiece of a salad, and suddenly the salad is an experience—not just some veggies tossed together on a plate.

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The trick is to cut it into wedges while leaving the bottom center intact.

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Then top it as you like!

I’m going with Caesar dressing, lettuce, bacon, croutons—and to make it really special, some crab.

And just imagine this with some summer heirloom tomatoes!

Oh man, get ready for a lot of Blooming Tomatoes on my Instagram!

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Blooming Tomato

servings: 1; makes 1 salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 bacon strip
  • 1 large tomato
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Caesar dressing
  • 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup croutons, cut into small pieces
  • Crab meat (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp—6 to 7 minutes, turning once. Then transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain.
  2. While the bacon cooks, remove the tomato’s stem and place it stem-side-up on a cutting board. Then cut the tomato into 8 wedges making all of your cuts on the stem side and leaving the bottom intact (first cut the tomato in half one way without cutting all the way through, then cut it in half the other way without cutting all the way through, and finally cut each quarter in half without cutting all the way through—for 8 even wedges).
  3. Next, sprinkle the cut tomato with the salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing over the tomato, fill it with the shredded lettuce, and top it with the croutons and crab meat (if desired). Finally, when the bacon has finished cooking, remove it from the pan, crumble it over the blooming tomato, and serve.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Charred Tomato Garlic Bread

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I love bread.

And by that, I mean:

I. LOVE. BREAD.

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And if you have a fresh loaf of bread, according to me (or you!), of course it’s good all on it’s own.

But let me tell you how it gets even better...

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It's so simple to char the bread in a grill pan with a little olive oil—on high heat.

It will get mouth-wateringly crusty on the outside, while still remaining soft and chewy on the inside.

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And when it’s crisp and browned, take it off of the grill pan and rub it with cut garlic and tomato.

This infuses those flavors ever-so-delicately—and just so incredibly perfectly!—into the bread.

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Sprinkle this amazing bread with salt and another drizzle of olive oil, and you have definitely transported that fresh loaf of bread to a whole new level.

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Charred Tomato Garlic Bread

servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • One 8 X 5-inch loaf ciabatta bread (or other crusty bread)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 medium tomato, halved
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Cut the loaf of bread in half length-wise and drizzle all sides of it with the olive oil. Place the bread crust side-down on the pan, and cook until grill marks appear and the bread is crusty—2 to 3 minutes. Flip the bread over, then press it down to ensure good contact with the pan; continue to cook until grill marks appear and the bread is charred in spots—2 to 3 minutes more.
  2. Remove the bread from the heat and and rub the cut side with the cut side of the garlic, going over the bread a few times. Then rub the bread with the cut side of the tomato, squeezing the juice out of the tomato and onto the bread as you do so.
  3. Sprinkle the cut side of the bread with the salt and a little extra olive oil. Serve hot and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

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On The Wendy Williams Show I showed everyone how to make a dish that will be your go-to this spring and summer, BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing.

Yes, the dressing is actually made with lettuce!

Combined with the classic flavors of a BLT sandwich (minus the bread), it's the perfect dish to ring in Spring!

BLT Pasta Salad with Romaine Lettuce Dressing

servings: 4 to 6 servings, with about 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  • 2 romaine hearts, halved
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

BLT Pasta Salad:

  • 1 pound short-cut pasta
  • 4 strips extra thick-cut bacon
  • 2 cups Romaine Lettuce Dressing
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach or chopped romaine
  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Romaine Lettuce Dressing:

  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Then brush the 4 lettuce halves on the cut side with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Grill the lettuce cut-side-down until it is slightly charred and wilted—about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lettuce from the grill pan, coarsely chop it and discard the stems.
  2. Combine the lettuce, remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. If all of the lettuce does not fit at one time, puree a portion of it, adding more as you do, until it is all in the food processor. Once it has all been pureed, set it aside for later.

BLT Pasta Salad:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions. Then drain it, rinse it under cold water, and set it aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crispy—about 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels. Once it is cool enough to handle, coarsely chop it; this should give you about 1½ cups of bacon pieces. Set the bacon aside for later.
  3. Toss the pasta with the Romaine Lettuce Dressing, spinach or romaine, grape tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, onion, salt, and pepper. Top it with the bacon and serve!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Cauliflower Chive Risotto

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My goal is a simple one—to always make veggies YUMMY!

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I like to show people just how delicious and versatile veggies can be.

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Sure you can roast them and add some seasonings, which will always make them tastier than if they were steamed.

But let’s take it a step further...

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Let’s add cauliflower to a creamy risotto...

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This gives the dish great texture, and makes you feel like a rock star after your second helping—because you’ve had a days worth of veggies!

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Veggies don't just add nutrition to any dish; they also make the dish taste better!

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And I don’t know about you, but this is the way I like to eat my veggies.

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Cauliflower Chive Risotto

servings: 4; makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • ½ small head cauliflower (about 8 ounces), or 2 cups prepared cauliflower rice
  • 32-ounce box vegetable stock (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1¼ cups grated parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives, more for a garnish
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Roughly chop the cauliflower, then add it to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it has a coarse, rice-like texture (this should give you about 2 cups), then set it aside.
  2. Next add the vegetable stock to a small saucepan over low heat. While the vegetable stock warms, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent—3 to 5 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and continue cooking until it is just toasted—3 to 5 minutes. Then add the wine and stir continuously until it is fully absorbed.
  3. Gradually add the warmed stock to the vegetable and rice mixture, ½ to ¾ cup at a time, stirring very often and waiting until it is fully absorbed before adding more. The more you stir, the creamier your risotto will become. Continue until the rice is just tender and still al dente—20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower along with ½ to ¾ cup more stock and cook, stirring, until the stock is fully absorbed—about 5 minutes. Then add another ½ cup of stock and repeat. Taste the cauliflower; if it is still a bit raw, add a little more stock and cook for a couple minutes more (note, you may not end up using all of the stock).
  5. Add the parmesan, chives, black pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired. Continue to cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the ingredients are well-combined. Add the salt in small amounts to taste (depending on the saltiness of your cheese and stock, you may need more or less than the 1½ teaspoons). Garnish with the additional chives and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Broccoli Tater Tots

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Does anyone really want to eat their broccoli steamed?

Sitting there, waterlogged and sad on the side of the plate?

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I don’t know about you, but broccoli tater tots seem like a MUCH more exciting way to eat this green veggie!

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Sure, these tots take a minute or so longer than steaming up some florets, but I’ve streamlined the process for you.

And they're the perfect food to store in the freezer, so yes, you can have tots ANYTIME!

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To make them, just mix together finely chopped broccoli (stems and all!), throw in some eggs, seasonings, a touch of cheese and flour...

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Form them into whatever shapes you like and let them roll around in a flurry of panko and crushed tortilla chips...

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Then bake them up into crunchy perfection!

You'll never look at broccoli the same way!

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Broccoli Tater Tots

servings: 36 tater tots

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup crushed yellow corn tortilla chips
  • ¾ cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large bunch broccoli (about 1½ pounds), entire stem + florets coarsely chopped + rinsed
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese (about 3½ ounces)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add the corn chips to the food processor and pulse until the chip pieces are close to the size of panko breadcrumbs (this should make about 1 cup). If you don’t have a food processor you can also place the chips in a Ziploc bag and smash them with a pan or rolling pin. Then transfer the corn chip pieces to a medium-sized bowl along with the panko and paprika and mix these ingredients well.
  2. Clean the bowl of the food processor, then place the broccoli inside and pulse until it is coarse and grain-like in texture (you should have about 4 cups of this broccoli “rice”).
  3. Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl with the parmesan, flour, eggs, salt, garlic powder, and pepper and mix together to combine.
  4. Using your hands, roll the broccoli mixture and pack it tightly by the tablespoon into tater tot (or other desired) shapes approximately 1 inch wide and 2 inches long. Roll each tot in the corn chip breading mixture, reshaping afterwards if necessary.
  5. Place the formed broccoli tots on a nonstick baking pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. Spray the tots lightly with nonstick olive oil spray and bake them until browned—about 20 minutes.

Notes:

  • Freezer Instructions: Place cooked and cooled tots on a baking sheet or plate in a single layer. Let freeze completely; once frozen place them in a plastic food storage bag. To reheat, place in a 425°F oven on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

When I knew I was bringing soups to The Wendy Williams Show, butternut squash soup was obviously at the top of the list.

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But knowing Wendy is vegan, I really had to rethink the classic recipe. 

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Without using chicken stock or cream—both of which can add so much flavor to soups!—I had to extract as much flavor as possible from my ingredients, while finding other ways to give the soup a creamy texture.

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I discovered roasting the squash was vital, as it really intensified the sweet taste of the squash.

And pairing the roasted squash with apple made it even better.

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A handful of cashews later, and my soup was even creamier and more velvety in texture than it would have been if I had added a cup of cream!

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In the end what I’ve really created is just a better soup—that also just happens to be vegan.

Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

servings: 6; makes about 16 cups of soup

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup:

  • 1 large butternut squash (3 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 red apples (about 1 pound), peeled + coarsely chopped, some reserved for a garnish
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping:

  • 3 cups one-inch cubes sourdough bread (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole pecans (about 4 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 leaves fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed + finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Peel the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Use a soupspoon to scoop out the seeds and discard them. Cut the squash into ½-inch-thick slices and then into ½-inch chunks. Place them in a medium bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Toss to coat; then spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until tender—about 50 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it is tender and browned in spots—about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
  3. Add the stock, apple, cashews, and 1 teaspoon of the salt to the pot and cook for 50 minutes. When the squash has finished cooking, remove it from the oven, add it to the pot with the stock, and cook the soup for 10-20 minutes more until the cashews are very soft.
  4. Transfer the soup to a blender and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, the ginger, nutmeg, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper. Blend until combined and then transfer the soup to serving bowls. Top with breadcrumbs, diced apple, and enjoy!

Topping:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the bread cubes on a (parchment-lined? No, nothing) baking sheet and cook them in the oven until they are dried out and toasty—about 5 minutes. Then transfer them to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until small bread crumbs form. Add the pecans and continue pulsing until the bread crumbs are fine and the pecan pieces are about the size of a pea.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add the sage leaves and fry them until they are crisp—about one minute. Then transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving the oil in the skillet.
  3. Next, add the bread crumb mixture to the hot oil and toss until it is light brown and toasty—2-3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the parsley and salt.
  4. Top the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with the bread crumbs, fried sage, and pomegranate seeds.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Cabbage Nachos with Tomatillo Salsa

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Now that football season’s over, I find myself missing it a little. My husband and I are used to watching football every Sunday…and sometimes Thursday, Saturday, and Monday, too.

I like football, but when I think about it, what I really miss is football food.

A football game is a good excuse to whip up snacks, open some beers—or maybe some sparkling rosé—and watch TV all day.

But I guess I don’t really need an excuse. ;)

I think it’s time to get back to Sunday tailgate snacks all day! And to start, how about some Cabbage Nachos?!

Mild, crunchy cabbage adds texture and acts as a delicious glue to hold a showstopping tomatillo salsa and crispy chip together.

Since I’ve solved the problem of missing my football snacks, it’s time to settle back onto the couch. The only question now is, what to watch?!

Cabbage Nachos with Tomatillo Salsa

makes: 1 large plate of nachos

Ingredients:

  • ¾ pound tomatillos (5 to 7), husks removed
  • 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chile
  • Half a yellow onion, peeled and cut into 4 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 5 cups lightly packed shredded green cabbage (about half a head)
  • 30 large tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese (8 ounces)
  • ¼ cup pickled sliced jalapeno chiles

Directions:

  1. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Place the tomatillos, fresh jalapeno, and onions on a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and then stir to coat the vegetables. Broil until the vegetables are tender and slightly charred—7 to 10 minutes. (You may have to remove the tomatillos and jalapenos and let the onions cook for an extra minute or so.) Leave the broiler on while you do the next steps.
  2. To make the salsa, transfer the charred vegetables to a food processor or blender; add 2 teaspoons of the salt and the cilantro. Process until almost smooth.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the cabbage and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; cook until the cabbage is tender but not mushy—about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in about half the salsa until combined. You want the cabbage to be coated, but not dripping wet, so then stir in as much of the rest of the salsa as you need to get to that point.
  4. Arrange the tortilla chips in a single layer on a large oven-safe serving dish. Spread the cabbage mixture over the chips and then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Broil the nachos until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Scatter the pickled jalapenos over the top and serve right away.

Keep It Simple:

  • Tomatillos look like green tomatoes with papery skins around them, and taste like a tart apple. If you’re having trouble finding them at your store, you can use tomatoes instead—the taste will be different but similarly delicious.
  • To make this dish in less than 10 minutes, try these shortcuts: simply buy a jar of your favorite red or green salsa instead of making the tomatillo salsa. And save major time by purchasing shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix as well as shredded cheese at your market; no need to do it yourself!

Make It Meaty:

  • These nachos are currently meatless, but you can add your favorite nacho topping, including ground beef, over the whole plate—or just over half for a 50/50 appetizer.

Family Friendly:

  • Your family will never know there is a pound of cabbage sitting in these nachos. The sautéed cabbage has a really mild flavor and its job is to help the tomatillo salsa stay on the nachos to give you a flavorful hit with every bite.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Roasted Grape, Arugula + Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes

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To ensure that all of my recipes turn out perfectly for you and not like a #PinterestFail, a lovely woman, Carol, helps me double-, triple-, and quadruple-check everything so we can be sure my recipes are clear, precise, and easy to follow.

During one of our millions of conversations, she mentioned that her favorite light meal is a baked potato with olive oil, Romano cheese, and watercress…

Well once you make me hungry for something I must have it, so that night I whipped up my version: Soft and well-seasoned potato with peppery arugula and roasted grapes that are insanely good, especially when mixed with honey and goat cheese.

It’s one of the simplest meals you can make and guaranteed to be one of your absolute favorites.

Roasted Grape, Arugula + Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes

makes: 4 baked potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 Idaho potatoes, scrubbed + dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups red grapes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups lightly packed, coarsely chopped arugula
  • 4 ounces soft garlic + herb goat cheese log, crumbled
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick each potato with a fork 5 to 10 times. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil over the potatoes and sprinkle them with ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Place them in the heated oven, directly on the rack, and bake until they are soft when squeezed—45 to 60 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, toss the grapes with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper on a rimmed baking sheet or in a medium baking dish. When the potatoes have about 20 minutes baking time left, place the grapes in the oven; when the potatoes are done the grapes should be slightly shriveled and starting to burst open.
  3. Slice each potato lengthwise, cutting about three-quarters of the way down. Push the ends of each toward the middle to open up a crevice. Divide ½ teaspoon of the salt over the 4 crevices and then fluff each with a fork. Add one-quarter of the arugula to each potato and divide the remaining ½ teaspoon salt over all 4; fluff again to mix the potato flesh and the arugula (you want to try and salt the entire inside of the potato).
  4. To serve, place each potato on a plate. Divide the cheese and grapes among them, filling the crevices, and then drizzle 1 tablespoon honey over each. Eat right away!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Eggplant Zucchini Meatballs

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My stash of freezer foods for my daughter, Ivy, is one of my greatest sources of pride.

Forget a big bank account—if I have a freezer full of Banana Carrot Oat Muffins, Acorn Squash Pancakes, Cauliflower Tater Tots, and Broccoli Tater Tots, I am truly a rich woman.

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My daughter eats like me—she’s definitely a "Meat On The Side" kiddo.

And she wears her bib proudly.

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She eats every veggie under the sun (even if she doesn’t always know it!), which is incredible!

But I do want to get a little meat into her diet.

And since I know meatballs freeze really well, I went to work perfecting one for the whole family.

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And even though the goal is to add meat here, let's be real—I knew right away I wanted to bring veggies to the party.

I also wanted to make a meatball that was a little on the moist side, so it would be perfect for new eaters who don't have all their teeth yet.  

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Pureed roasted eggplant and zucchini add moisture and a depth of flavor that don't just make these meatballs more nutritious—they elevate them to a ridiculously flavorful level.

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The not-so-secret secret?

You're using vegetable puree instead of milk or any other wet element you might normally add to your favorite meatballs.

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And you end up with an awesome meatball.

Or maybe we should call it a vegemeatball.

Or a meateggieball.

Or maybe not 😉 .

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Eggplant Zucchini Meatballs

servings: 30 to 34 meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 small eggplant (about ¾ pound)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large zucchini (about ¾ pound)
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place the halves cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with ½ teaspoon of the oil and then sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper over them. Bake the eggplants until they are very soft—about 15 minutes.
  2. While the eggplant is baking, cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and drizzle them lightly with the remaining ½ teaspoon of oil and then sprinkle them with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper.
  3. Remove the eggplant from the oven and add the zucchini cut-side-up to the same baking sheet. Continue to cook the eggplant and zucchini until the zucchini can be easily pierced with a fork and the eggplant is very soft—25 to 30 minutes more. Then remove the baking sheet from the oven, but leave the oven on.
  4. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scrape the flesh of the eggplant into a food processor or blender; discard the skin. Then place the entire zucchini (including the skin) into the food processor as well. Process until pureed; this should give you about 1¾ cups of puree.
  5. Transfer the puree to a large bowl, then add the beef, breadcrumbs, parmesan, egg, rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix to combine well and then form the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls by hand and space them evenly on a prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until they are golden brown—about 30 minutes.

Notes:

  • If you wish, you can sauté the meatballs instead of baking them (if your meatballs are on the moist side, this may be a little harder to do). After forming the mixture into balls, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown on all sides—8 to 10 minutes.
  • To reheat the meatballs, bake them in an oven preheated to 400°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
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Cauliflower Tater Tots

Who doesn’t love a tater tot?

Crunchy on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside...

Simple and yet simply satisfying.

So if they're already so good, why would I mess with them and make a different version?

Because cauliflower tater tots are also delicious--that's why!

This recipe isn’t about making a healthy version of something you already love.

It’s about celebrating the tater tot with a new and equally yummy recipe.

And just so you understand how yummy, let me tell you that I have some of these stored in my freezer and the goal is to avoid consuming any more than 12 each day.

It's so hard to do!

Cauliflower Tater Tots

servings: 2 dozen tater tots

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1½ pounds), stemmed, coarsely chopped + rinsed
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (about 2½ ounces)
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup crushed yellow corn tortilla chips
  • ¾ cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is coarse and grain-like in texture (you should have about 2 cups of this cauliflower “rice”).
  2. Then transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl with the eggs and mix together to combine. Mix in the flour, parmesan, salt, garlic powder, and pepper.
  3. Add the corn chips to the food processor and pulse until the chip pieces are close to the size of panko breadcrumbs (this should make about 1 cup). If you don’t have a food processor you can also place the chips in a food storage bag and smash them with a pan or rolling pin. Then transfer the corn chip pieces to a medium-sized bowl along with the panko and paprika and mix these ingredients well.
  4. Using your hands, roll the cauliflower mixture and pack it tightly by the tablespoon into tater tot (or other desired) shapes approximately 1 inch wide and 2 inches long. Roll each tater tot in the corn chip breading mixture, reshaping afterwards if necessary.
  5. Place the formed tater tots on a nonstick baking pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. Spray the tater tots lightly with nonstick spray and bake them until browned—about 20 minutes. Serve with ketchup if desired.

Notes:

  • Freezer Instructions: Place cooked and cooled tots on a baking sheet or plate in a single layer. Let them freeze completely; once frozen place them in a plastic food storage bag. To re-heat, place in a 425°F oven on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Holiday Brie + Honey Crostini with Pistachio + Pink Peppercorns

Holiday Brie Honey Crostini with Pistachio + Pink Peppercorn_SMALL(1).jpg

I love easy appetizers!

Holiday Brie Crostini 2.jpg

And even better than just being easy, I love appetizers that are easy and ridiculously tasty.

You know the type—they're made with just a couple of ingredients but still get oohs and aahs from your guests.

Holiday Brie Crostini 3.jpg

Well, look no further for your next appetizer that fits this bill!

This one's really just about assembly...

Holiday Brie Crostini 4.jpg

Bread, brie, honey.

Bake!

Peppercorns, pistachios, more honey...

Then serve to your adoring audience!

Holiday Brie Crostini 5.jpg

The pinch of sharpness from the pink peppercorns cut through the sweet honey and creamy brie—for a perfectly gooey bite.

A bite that also happens to look like a Christmas ornament decorated in red and green!

Holiday Brie Crostini 6.jpg

Holiday Brie + Honey Crostini with Pistachios + Pink Peppercorns

servings: 8 crostini

Ingredients:

  • 8 baguette slices
  • 4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into eight ½-ounce slices
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pink peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped pistachios

Directions:

  1. Turn on the broiler, to high if you have that option. Arrange the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each of the slices with 1 piece of the brie and 1 teaspoon of the honey.
  2. Broil until the cheese is melted and brown—2 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the crostini from the oven and top each with another teaspoon of the honey, and a heavy sprinkle of both the peppercorns and pistachios.
  4. Serve immediately with a knife and fork, or simply pick up and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Holiday Brie Crostini 7.jpg
 

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Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

Sometimes you want to take things up a notch!

You want to put a little extra time and love into some special dishes that are sure to get "oohs" and "aahs" at your table.

If this is what you are looking to do, I suggest you start by simmering down some pomegranate juice into a thick molasses-type sauce.

Then make it into a honey, orange zest, and vinegar dressing that will coat your perfectly roasted carrots in a glaze of goodness.

And finally take the time to top those glistening, sticky sweet carrots with pecans, a touch of yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and parsley...

In the end you will be rewarded with a side dish that definitely takes things to the next level--offering all the flavors of a home-cooked meal, but with enough elegance for a sophisticated restaurant service.

Pomegranate Glazed Carrots

servings: 2 -3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice (see note below)
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest of ¼ orange
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a small sauce pot, bring the pomegranate juice and sugar to a simmer. Continue to simmer this mixture until it has reduced to a molasses-like consistency—about 30 minutes. You should have about 2 tablespoons of this thickened pomegranate juice.
  2. Transfer the pomegranate mixture to a medium bowl, then whisk in the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the honey, Dijon, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the orange zest.
  3. Add the carrots to a baking sheet, tossing them with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Roast them in the oven until they are tender and nicely browned on the outside—about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the carrots from the oven and toss them with the pomegranate vinaigrette, then return them to the oven for 5 minutes more.
  5. After removing the carrots from the oven, serve by drizzling them with the yogurt, then sprinkling with the pecans, pomegranate seeds, and parsley.

Notes:

  • You will want to use 100% pomegranate juice, not pomegranate juice mixed with other juices, or with added sugar. If you can't find pure pomegranate juice, you can use a blend, but your glaze will be significantly sweeter; adding a little extra vinegar may balance it out.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam + Pecans

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam_SMALL(1).jpg

Appetizers are an important part of the holiday season. 

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 2.jpg

When you're sitting around drinking bubbles and singing Christmas carols or opening presents, it's just not the same without something warm and cheesy to nibble on.

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 3.jpg

Brie is not the most loved cheese (there are people who find it slightly stinky)...

But when you bake it into an ooey-gooey mess, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist a taste (or two, or three—or eleven).

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 4.jpg

And it only gets better when you top it with homemade blackberry and apple jam, candied pecans, and pomegranate seeds!

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 5.jpg

Because although we can all agree that melty cheese is ridiculously good, when you combine it with slightly tart jam and crunchy pecans, you will NEED a second, third—and eleventh!—helping!

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 6.jpg

And let’s be honest, it’s darn cute.

It’s a present in itself!

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 7.jpg

Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam

servings: 1 brie wheel with about 1¾ cups jam, serves 8 to 10

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  • 2 cups blackberries, halved
  • 2 medium green apples, peeled + chopped into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Baked Brie:

  • 1 brie cheese wheel (16 ounces), rind on
  • 1½ cups Blackberry Apple Jam
  • ½ cup whole blackberries
  • 1 medium green apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped candied pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Blackberry Apple Jam:

  1. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the blackberries, apples, maple syrup, and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil, then a simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the fruit is purple and has broken down; the liquid should be absorbed and the mixture thick and jam-like—10 to 15 minutes.

Baked Brie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the top rind off the brie wheel and discard it. Place the brie wheel in a small, round, oven-proof dish, then place the dish on a baking sheet and cook until the cheese is melty—10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the baked brie from the oven and top it with the Blackberry Apple Jam, blackberries, apple slices, pecans, pomegranate seeds, and thyme leaves.

Notes:

  • As the brie is eaten, there will be less jam at the bottom. Feel free to add the remaining ¼ cup of jam (the amount remaining after putting the 1½ cups of jam on top of the baked brie) to the bottom bit of the brie to increase the jam-to-brie ratio.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Baked Brie with Blackberry Apple Jam 8.jpg
 

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Turkey Chorizo Hash with Brussels Sprout Slaw

I love creating Thanksgiving dishes that use holiday staples in brand new ways. And veggie sides have always kind of been my specialty…

Turkey Hash with Brussels Slaw(1).jpg

But this time around, I wanted to try something with the most classic ingredient that comes to mind when you say the word “Thanksgiving”—the turkey.

Combining turkey with sausage, and adding sweet potatoes and cranberries makes one mouth-watering dish that gives you all the fixings of your Thanksgiving table in every bite!

Happy Thanksgiving! ♥

Turkey Chorizo Hash with Brussels Sprout Slaw

servings: 2 to 4; makes 2 entrée portions or 4 side dish portions

Brussels Sprouts Slaw (optional):

  • 8 Brussels sprouts (about 4 ounces), shredded (about 2 cups packed)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper

Turkey Chorizo Hash:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces turkey breast, chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)
  • 3 ounces chorizo sausage, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 14 ounces), chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 2½ cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ cup cranberries
  • Brussels Sprout Slaw (optional)

Brussels Sprouts Slaw (optional):

  1. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and then crosswise to create ribbons; discard the ends.
  2. Mix the shredded sprouts with the lime juice, salt, and pepper, then allow the mixture to sit as long as possible—for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Turkey Chorizo Hash:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, chorizo, and 1 teaspoon of the salt, cooking until the meats are brown and cooked through—5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove the turkey and chorizo from the pan, but do not drain the pan; set aside the meats. To the same pan, add the sweet potato, onion, garlic, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook the veggies over medium heat until the sweet potatoes and the onion are tender and browned in spots—7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the turkey and chorizo back to the pan, then add the cranberries to the pan as well. Toss all ingredients to combine.
  4. Serve the hash with the Brussels Sprout Slaw, if desired. Enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Garlic + Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed potatoes are wonderful, am I right?!

But when you’re looking for a healthier, more nutritious option—let’s talk about mashed cauliflower!

These days, it's not uncommon to have a Thanksgiving Day guest who steers clear of gluten.

And even if you don't, we all want to cook up something that will have everyone at the Thanksgiving table seriously wanting—maybe even needing—to go back for seconds.

It just so happens that you can serve your gluten-free friends and get everyone and their brother excited about the same fabulous food. I’m talking about a mouth-watering, velvety, cheesy side dish…

mashed cauliflower!

And not only is this dish healthy and incredibly delicious, but super simple!

Start by steaming up a little cauliflower and garlic…

Puree it with some cream cheese, Parmesan, and chives… 

And you'll find your result is the creamiest, most flavorful side dish.

It’s definitely worthy of a place next to (or in place of!) your traditional mashed potatoes.

Garlic + Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

makes: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower (2 pounds), broken or cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Directions:

  1. Add the cauliflower and garlic to a large pot and fill it with just enough water so that the vegetables are covered. Simmer until the veggies are tender—about 10 minutes, then drain.
  2. Next, place the cauliflower and garlic mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cream cheese, parmesan, salt, and pepper, and pulse until the mixture is smooth, but with some small lumps. When you are finished, it should look similar to mashed potatoes.
  3. Add the chives to the mixture in the food processor and pulse only a few times—just to combine. Then remove the cauliflower mash from the food processor, place in your favorite serving dish, and enjoy!
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Sausage Stuffing Stuffed Brussels Sprouts

 

 

My family is big on Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving (along with a laundry list of other must-haves, we like to eat).

 

 

 

 

So as the one normally in charge of anything veggie, I often find myself elbow deep in Brussels sprouts come November.

 

Read More

Egg In A Squash Hole

 

 

Some chefs will tell you that presentation is everything.

 

 

 

 

Well that’s not exactly true, though yes, we eat with our eyes first, it’s really all about the taste.

 

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Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup

Srirach Chicken Soup.jpg

Chicken noodle soup is great and all, but if the stock you're using isn’t first class, well, the whole thing can end up tasting...just okay.

Srirach Chicken Soup 2.jpg

So for this recipe, I’m using veggies that will infuse the broth with a spicy, smoky flavor.

A flavor that will wake up your taste buds.

Srirach Chicken Soup 1.jpg

Roasted red peppers, fire roasted tomatoes, and sriracha—all things you can find in any grocery store these days!

These ingredients elevate what was once a basic soup to anything but.

Srirach Chicken Soup 3.jpg

But let’s be honest, I hooked you as soon as I said Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup. 😉

Sriracha Hot Chicken Soup

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 celery ribs, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Two 12-ounce jars roasted red peppers (about 4 small peppers)
  • Two 32-ounce boxes chicken or vegetable stock (8 cups)
  • One 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, more for garnish
  • 1 avocado, pit + skin removed, chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the celery, onions, carrots, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook this mixture until it is soft and fragrant—about 7 minutes.
  2. While the veggies cook, drain the roasted red peppers, then prepare by pureeing them in a food processor or blender, or finely chopping by hand.
  3. To the pot with the veggies, add the stock, pureed roasted peppers, tomatoes, sriracha (use 1 to 2 tablespoons, depending on how spicy you like things), and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring this mixture to a simmer, then cook to allow the flavors to combine—about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the egg noodles and cook until they are a couple of minutes short of al dente—about 5 minutes. Add the cooked chicken, lime juice, and parsley, then cook until the chicken is warmed through—about 3 to 5 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt if needed.
  5. To serve, top with the additional parsley along with the avocado. Enjoy with grilled bread if desired.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Srirach Chicken Soup 4.jpg

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Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

Is there really anything better than tomato soup?

Let me clarify--homemade tomato soup.

When I was younger, I was addicted to cans of the Progresso version.

I can picture myself at age 22, squeezing my way into my 2x2 foot kitchen, cracking open that blue can, and then waiting those 2 minutes for the microwave to deliver my spoils.

If only I had known how much better making my own tomato soup could be.

Like, SO much better, and requiring no skills or fancy ingredients.

And what I also couldn’t have imagined at the time was how adding tender rice to my soup would completely take it to the next level.

Or that topping it with a beautiful and refreshing three-ingredient basil yogurt drizzle would boost its amazing-factor sky-high.

But now that I know what I didn't know, let's take our tomato soup there.

We just need to sauté some garlic and onions...

Add some crushed and juiced tomatoes...

And while that all simmers, combine yogurt, basil and a little salt for a drizzle you could never find in a Progresso can.

Tomato Soup with Rice + Basil Yogurt Drizzle

servings: 8 cups of soup, with about ½ cup drizzle; serves 4

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  • One 10.6-ounce package Veetee Microwavable Thai Jasmine Rice (makes 1½ cups)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • One 46-ounce can tomato juice
  • Two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Basil Yogurt Drizzle
  • Fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, for a garnish (optional)

Basil Yogurt Drizzle:

  1. Add the yogurt, basil, and salt to a blender along with ¼ cup water and blend this mixture until it is mostly smooth. If you prefer, you can skip the blender and instead finely chop the basil, then mix it by hand with the yogurt, water, and salt until all ingredients are well combined.

Tomato Soup with Rice:

  1. Microwave the rice for 2 minutes as per the package instructions, and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Then add the onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook until the vegetables are tender and fragrant—3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato juice, diced tomatoes, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and puree it until smooth, then return it to the pot and stir in the rice and cream.
  4. To serve, divide the soup into bowls, top with the Basil Yogurt Drizzle, and sprinkle with the basil leaves if desired.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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Jack-O-Lantern Peppers with Onion + Dill Veggie Dip

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Dip Bell Peppers_SMALL(1).jpg

I love to have people over for appetizers…

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Dip Bell Peppers 1.jpg

I love to pick at snacks and sip my drink, and pick and drink...

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Dip Bell Peppers 2.jpg

And since the arrival of our twins—in the name of keeping things simpler—I’ve pulled out these pepper pumpkins whenever we’ve had baby-visiting guests.

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Dip Bell Peppers 3.jpg

They're easy and oh-so-cute, and when you fill them with a homemade veggie dip, they make the perfect fall appetizers. 

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Dip Bell Peppers 4.jpg

Just cut jack-o-lantern faces into orange peppers and fill them with a combo of Greek yogurt, mayo, dill, garlic, and sundried tomatoes.

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Dip Bell Peppers 5.jpg

And when the dip is gone, you can just devour these little pumpkins, too.

Voila! Suddenly you have no dishes!

And that is what really makes for a great party. 

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Dip Bell Peppers 6.jpg

Jack-O-Lantern Peppers with Onion + Dill Veggie Dip

servings: 4 peppers with 2 cups dip

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup packed coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh scallions
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 medium orange bell peppers with flat bottoms + intact stems

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, scallions, tomatoes, onion flakes, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and salt, then set aside.
  2. Cut straight across the tops of the peppers, then set the tops aside. Scoop out and discard the pepper seeds.
  3. Using a small, sharp paring knife, cut jack-o-lantern faces out of each pepper (such as triangle eyes and a smile with teeth).
  4. Scoop ¼ of the veggie dip (about ½ cup) into each pepper, then replace the tops.
  5. Serve with your favorite crudité platter, veggies, or crackers.

Notes:

  • The dip is best when it sits for at least 30 minutes; make it ahead of time, if possible.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
 

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