Homemade Granola

Homemade Granola. In keeping with my “eating healthier” trend, I finally decided to start to make my own homemade granola. I really don’t know why I never tried to make it myself.

Homemade Granola over Yogurt with a Drizzle of Honey is a healthy breakfast! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Homemade Granola over Yogurt with a Drizzle of Honey is a healthy breakfast! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

For years I’ve loved Michele’s Granola which is locally sourced in my area in Baltimore, Maryland, and makes some of the tastiest granolas ever. And Whole Foods Market carries a number of 365 brand granolas as well as some bulk and pre-made options. So I was thinking that it is so easy just to purchase a good quality granola rather than make it. But boy, was I wrong about that!

Michele's seasonal Apple Quinoa Granola (Photo Credit: Michele's Granola)

Michele’s seasonal Apple Quinoa Granola (Photo Credit: Michele’s Granola)

I saw a recipe on Epicurious.com for Cherry and Coconut Granola with Yogurt. That was my first test of making granola at home. The granola came out quite a bit more toasty than expected. The dried cherries were pretty chewy. And the recipe left out a key step to combine the dry ingredients before combining them with the previously combined wet ingredients, something I never understand about published recipes especially with so many paid eyes reviewing them. (Of course, if you find me doing that, please let me know, as I’m usually the only eyes reviewing my recipes prior to publication!!)

The Cherry and Coconut Granola recipe on Epicurious.com uses rolled oats, chopped almonds, unsweetened flaked coconut, sesame seeds and chopped dried cherries as its dry ingredients. To that, it adds melted coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt to make a sort of syrup of wet ingredients. Mix it all together, place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and bake and stir until golden brown. When baked, remove from the oven and let the granola cool. Store in an airtight container.

No matter how I felt about the final product, my husband loved it. The granola disappeared pretty quickly, served along with Mesquite honey and organic plain yogurt for his breakfasts.

Mix together the dry and wet ingredients (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Mix together the dry and wet ingredients (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Since that first batch of granola, I’ve tried a few different ingredient pairings, more or less sweetener and oil, and a bit of tweaking to the baking process. I love to take a recipe and then make my own modifications based on the way that I cook and on my personal preferences for ingredients. And you should, too.

First of all, decide what ingredient combinations that you like. The second time that I made the Epicurious recipe, I added finely chopped dried apricots and shelled pistachios. That was a big hit. Stirring in some cacao nibs or mini morsels add a chocolatey flavor to the granola.

The baked granola is ready to cool (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The baked granola is ready to cool (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Additionally, I cut back slightly on the amount of coconut oil in the recipe. And I lowered the temperature of my oven for the baking process since my oven runs hotter than most ovens. Also, when the granola had finished baking, I then stirred in the dried fruits before it cooled. It seemed that the dried fruits got too chewy and caramelized during the baking process.

The baked granola is cooling (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The baked granola is cooling (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Once the granola has its dried fruits stirred in, and it’s ready to begin to cool, take a spatula and sort of pack it together to form a firm “patty” of granola. This will give you some chunks after the granola cools and you can break it up to store or eat it. Skip the patting down step if you like to sprinkle your granola and don’t like chunks. This granola will remain fresh and crunchy in an air-tight container for up to a week, if it lasts that long. It won’t last that long in my house.

Serve your homemade granola with your favorite yogurt and honey (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Serve your homemade granola with your favorite yogurt and honey (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Here are some granola flavor suggestions for the nuts and dried fruits and other mix-ins:

Hawaiian: Macadamia nuts, dried pineapple, dried mango, banana chips

Cherry Cashew: Cashew nuts, dried cherries

Blueberry Madness: Walnuts, dried blueberries, carob chips

Apricot Gold: Pistachio nuts, dried apricots

Choco-Nut: Almonds, cocoa nibs or mini-chocolate chips (stirred in after cooking)

Sunflower Cranberry Pear: Sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, dried pears

Figgy Almond: Almonds, dried figs

Spicy Aztec: Peanuts, cocoa nibs or mini-chocolate chips (stirred in after cooking), chili powder, dash of cayenne pepper

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Homemade Granola

Ingredients:

3 c rolled oats (not the quick cook kind)
1 c nuts, chopped if larger than 1/4 inch in size
1 c unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 c sesame seeds

4 T coconut oil, melted
3 T honey or agave syrup
3 T maple syrup
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t salt (don’t omit the salt)

1/2 to 1 c dried fruit of your choice, chopped if larger than 1/4 inch in size
Other mix-ins such as spices, cacao nibs, carob or chocolate chips, etc.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Combine the rolled oats, nuts, flaked coconut, and sesame seeds in a large bowl.
4. In a smaller bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir until combined well.
5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix well.
6. Spread the granola mixture over the parchment paper lined baking sheet.
7. Bake the granola, stirring often, until it has turned a golden brown, about 20 – 25 minutes. Be careful not to burn or over toast the granola.
8. When the granola is baked, remove the baking sheet from the oven.
9. Stir the dried fruits into the baked granola, combining well.
10. Pat the granola into a firmer packed bar-style if you want chunks and then let it cool. Otherwise just let the granola cool.
11. When the granola has cooled, you can either serve it immediately, or store it up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, if it lasts…..

Makes about 6 cups of granola. Serve with yogurt and honey for drizzling. Sprinkle over ice cream. Or just eat by hand.

Variations: You can vary the nuts, dried fruits, and other mix-ins. You can use another oil instead of coconut oil, yet I like the flavor that the coconut oil adds to the granola. If you have nut allergies, omit the nuts.

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2015)

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Decadent Hot Chocolate

It’s a cold and frigid winter day here in Virginia. And a perfect day to make a mug of my Decadent Hot Chocolate! Earlier this week brought a few inches of snow, and today has brought temperatures in the single digits. It was five degrees when I woke up this morning with a chill factor of -2 degrees. So, let’s get started on that hot chocolate!

Decadent hot chocolate just waiting for a sip! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Decadent hot chocolate just waiting for a sip! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

History shows that hot chocolate was originally developed by the Mayans. The Europeans took the Mayans’ “drinking chocolate” and turned it into a hot chocolate beverage that is common today. I was first exposed to “European” hot chocolate when my father was stationed in Germany when I was a teenager. I was a junior high school student in an American school on a joint forces base in Ramstein, Germany. Obviously, it was to my benefit to take German language class in school. My German teacher was Frau Suffel. She was a stout German woman who had a wonderful sense of humor.

Ramstein AFB, Germany (Photo Credit: globalsecurity.org)

Ramstein AFB, Germany (Photo Credit: globalsecurity.org)

A local private German secondary school, called a Realschule had a program to “swap” German and American students for a two-week period. I was selected as one of the American kids to attend the Realschule event. At the time, I really didn’t know anyone in the American school because I was new to the area. After those two weeks, I not only had a number of new American friends, but also some new German friends as well! During the two-week Realschule visit, we took a few day trips. We hiked around the gorgeous countryside, stopping to eat lunch at German restaurants, shop in quaint German boutiques, and, of course, practice our German language skills.

My favorite hot chocolate pot and my favorite mug (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

My favorite hot chocolate pot and my favorite mug (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Each morning, I looked forward to their breakfasts before we went to class or headed out on hikes. Because this school was private, the students were boarded in a dorm-like situation with three meals provided each day. The school’s kitchen served European hot chocolate which is very chocolatey and not overly sweet unlike the overly sugared American version. One taste and I was hooked. Also, the fresh bread called “Brotchen” was served with sweet butter and apricot preserves.

Brotchen -- German bread roll  (Photo Credit: regjo.de)

Brotchen — German bread roll (Photo Credit: regjo.de)

To this day, hot chocolate and fresh bread topped with butter and apricot jam is likely my favorite breakfast besides the Duck Confit Eggs Benedict at Le Cochon Dingue in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Quebec restaurants serve European style hot chocolate. Duck confit Eggs Benedict along with a cup of European hot chocolate is just plain heaven.

The Eggs Benedict with Duck Confit at Le Cochon Dingue in Quebec City, Quebec (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The Eggs Benedict with Duck Confit at Le Cochon Dingue in Quebec City, Quebec (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Decadent thick and creamy hot chocolate at Le Cochon Dingue in Quebec City, Quebec (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Decadent thick and creamy hot chocolate at Le Cochon Dingue in Quebec City, Quebec (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

I’ve finally been able to replicate the taste of that hot chocolate at the Realschule from years ago. In keeping with our Eating Healthier plans, I don’t drink hot chocolate very often at home. When I do, it’s this one. Chocolate is made from cacao beans from the cacao tree!

My favorite chocolate to use in my decadent hot chocolate is made by Cote d’Or. It’s a dark chocolate bar with 70% cacao or cocoa beans. This chocolate bar is tasty on its own yet makes outstanding hot chocolate.

Cote d'Or 70% Cacao Bar is my favorite chocolate to use in my hot chocolate drinks (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Cote d’Or 70% Cacao Bar is my favorite chocolate to use in my hot chocolate drinks (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Just heat some milk and cream in a sauce pan over low heat. Add some of the chopped chocolate bar and some vanilla extract and whisk until the chocolate is melted.

Whisk the hot chocolate until the chocolate bar pieces melt (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Whisk the hot chocolate until the chocolate bar pieces melt (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Sweeten to taste with sugar. Pour into a mug, garnish with some optional whipped cream and chocolate shavings, and enjoy!

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Decadent Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

3/4 c milk
1/4 c heavy or whipping cream
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces
1 T sugar (more to taste)
1/4 t pure vanilla extract

Whipped cream (optional)
Chocolate shavings or sprinkles (optional)

Method:

Warm the milk and cream in a small saucepan over low heat, being careful not to boil the mixture. Whisk in the chopped chocolate, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the sugar has dissolved and the hot chocolate is hot and frothy. Serve in a mug with an optional dollop of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

Makes one cup of chocolate goodness.

Variations: Add a dash of peppermint extract instead of using the vanilla extract. Use your favorite chocolate. The sweeter the chocolate, the less sugar you need to add, depending on your taste. You can use whole milk, or 2% or 1% milk. Whatever you prefer. And you can omit the whipping cream and just add more milk or add some half-and-half for richness. Use almond milk for a different flavor. Try a Mexican chocolate for a spicier version.

Get your own Cote d’Or Chocolate:

You can make and serve your hot chocolate in this hot chocolate pot and frother!

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2015)

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Rustic Red Potato Soup

As my first posting for the New Year, I’ve been busy rustling up my favorite Rustic Red Potato Soup! Five pounds of red potatoes along with onions, celery, butter, chicken stock, and a touch of cream simmer together for a satisfying winter soup. Topped with a garnish of crumbled crispy bacon and chopped garden chives, you’ll forget it’s cold outside and dig right into this soup.

Rustic Red Potato Soup with crispy bacon and chopped chives (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Rustic Red Potato Soup with crispy bacon and chopped chives (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

When I am spending time at home on winter weekends, I really want the house to smell wonderful. Simmering my Rustic Red Potato Soup helps bring some comfort and familiarity after a long week of work.

This soup is a favorite of mine because it’s slightly pink. The skins from the red potatoes are not removed. When the soup is pureed, it has a pretty-in-pink blush tinge.

Red Potatoes grown by Knutzen Farms (Photo Credit: knutzenfarms.com)

Red Potatoes grown by Knutzen Farms (Photo Credit: knutzenfarms.com)

Start by quartering some red potatoes. Saute some onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil. Add the red potatoes and some chicken broth/stock. Simmer until the potatoes are soft. Remove the soup from the heat and puree it using a hand blender or a regular blender. Return the soup to the heat. Add some additional chicken stock to thin the rustic red potato soup to your liking. Stir in a splash of cream just before serving.

Our dog, Atticus, likes to sniff our herbs including my pot of chives.  He does not like to eat them though! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Our dog, Atticus, likes to sniff our herbs including my pot of chives. He does not like to eat them though! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Season with salt and pepper, top with chopped fresh chives and crumbled crispy bacon, and serve!

Crispy Bacon and Chives top Rustic Red Potato Soup.  Serve with Crusty Bread. (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Crispy Bacon and Chives top Rustic Red Potato Soup. Serve with Crusty Bread. (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Top with some shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream for a “loaded baked potato” style soup.

NOTE: If you’re looking for some ideas on how to eat healthier this year, check out my Eating Healthier posting from last year.

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Rustic Red Potato Soup

Ingredients:

5 lbs red potatoes, washed, skins left on, and quartered
3 T butter or olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, sliced (can use leafy tops)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
8 c chicken broth/stock, plus more for thinning
1 c heavy cream (optional)
salt and pepper
Chopped chives, for garnish
Crumbled crispy bacon, for garnish

Special Tools:

Hand blender or regular blender

Method:

1. Prepare the potatoes and set aside.
2. Heat the butter or olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-low heat.
3. Saute the onion, celery, and carrot until the vegetables have wilted and slightly caramelized.
4. Add the potatoes and the chicken stock.
5. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for up to 2 hours. Add more liquid to keep the potatoes covered as the soup cooks.
6. Remove the stock pot from the heat. Puree the soup using a hand blender or puree in batches using a regular blender. Puree to your liking, whether smooth or a bit chunky. The soup will turn slightly pink due to the red bits of skin left on the potatoes.
7. Return the stock pot to the burner.
8. Add additional chicken broth/stock to the soup for your desired consistency.
9. Stir in the optional heavy cream.
10. Season the soup with salt and pepper, to taste.
11. Ladle the soup into soup bowls. Garnish with the chives and bacon.
12. Enjoy!

Serves 6 – 8 as a main course, 10 – 12 as a soup course. Serve with a side salad such as my Simple Cucumber Salad and some crusty bread as a main course. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream for a “loaded baked potato” flavor.

Variations: Use vegetarian broth/stock instead of chicken broth/stock. Leave out the heavy cream if you are watching your dairy or fat intake. You could add bits of diced ham to this soup instead of topping with bacon. In the summer, you can serve this soup cold with the chives and the bacon on top.

Order your own hand blender at Amazon.com:

Thanks to everyone who is following A Food Lover’s Delight! I’m headed into my third year of this blog. It’s a great place for me to keep my recipe repository, and I’m happy to share with all of you.

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2015)

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Sauteed Shrimp and Zucchini Noodles

The new year will soon be upon us after a holiday season of festive eating. My Sauteed Shrimp and Zucchini Noodles dish is very light and healthy. As a substitute for pasta, I made zucchini noodles with my new Spiralizer. Try it for a healthy start to the new year. Read my Eating Healthier posting for tips and tricks to help you maintain healthier eating this year.

Spiralizer Zucchini Noodles with Paprika-dusted Sauteed Shrimp, Tomatoes and White Beans (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Spiralizer Zucchini Noodles with Paprika-dusted Sauteed Shrimp, Tomatoes and White Beans (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Our first dinner with the new Spiralizer was so simple. Spiralized zucchini noodles (also known as “zoodles”), onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, cannellini beans, chicken stock, oregano, white wine, red pepper flakes, and paprika dusted shrimp topped with shredded Parmesan. A very light and flavorful dish, our plates were bare when we were finished with dinner.

The Paderno Spiralizer (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The Paderno Spiralizer (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The Spiralizer is great for zucchini and yellow squash noodles. Cucumbers work well also. I wasn’t as big a fan with the sweet potato “spoodles” that I made with the Spiralizer. They seemed to brown and burn a lot quicker when sauteed.

The Spiralizer makes zucchini "noodles" (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The Spiralizer makes zucchini “noodles” (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The zucchini noodles don’t take long to cook so add them in your last few minutes of cooking. Use the Spiralizer to make the zucchini noodles and set them aside. Make the sauce by sauteing some onion and garlic in olive oil. Add some diced tomatoes and oregano, some white wine and chicken stock, and then some white cannellini beans. Spice it up with a dash of red pepper flakes. While the sauce is cooking, quickly saute some peeled and deveined shrimp in butter, set aside, sprinkle with a bit of paprika, and keep warm. Add the zucchini noodles to the simmering sauce, stir, and warm through, just a few minutes. Plate the vegetables and sauce, and top with the sauteed shrimp and then some shredded Parmesan cheese.

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Sauteed Shrimp and Zucchini Noodles

Ingredients:

1 large zucchini, washed, ends trimmed
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz sliced mushroom caps
1 c canned or fresh diced tomatoes
1/4 t dried oregano
2 c chicken stock
1/2 c white wine
1 c cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
dash of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
12 tail-on shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails left on
1 T butter
Dusting of paprika
Shredded Parmesan for topping

Special Tools:

Spiralizer

Method:

1. Use the Spiralizer with the larger 1/4″ spiralizing “noodle” blade to make spaghetti-sized “zoodles.” The smaller “noodle” blade won’t work as well. Cut the zucchini in half, and Spiralize! Set zoodles aside.
2. In a Chef’s pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.
3. Saute the onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent.
4. Add the minced garlic and stir a few minutes.
5. Add the sliced mushroom caps and saute until the mushrooms have softened slightly.
6. Add the diced tomatoes and oregano and let cook for 3 minutes.
7. Add the chicken stock and the white wine. Let simmer 10 minutes.
8. Add the cannellini beans and red pepper flakes and cook for another 5 minutes.
9. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm.
10. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
11. Sear the shrimp in the butter, cooking them quickly and turning, 1 – 3 minutes on each side, being careful to not overcook shrimp. Remove shrimp from heat and sprinkle paprika over the shrimp. Keep warm.
12. Add the zucchini noodles to the tomato bean sauce mixture. Toss and heat through. The zucchini noodles won’t take very long to cook.
13. Divide the zucchini noodle and sauce mixture between serving bowls.
14. Divide the shrimp and arrange on top of the zucchini noodles.
15. Sprinkle shredded Parmesan over the shrimp.
16. Serve!

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as a “pasta” course. Offer with some crusty bread and a side salad if serving as a main course.

Variations: Substitute sauteed chicken tenders for the shrimp. Omit the shrimp and use vegetable stock/broth instead of chicken stock/broth for a vegetarian meal. Use seafood stock/broth instead of chicken stock/broth if you are using the shrimp for a richer sauce. Cook the shrimp in the tomato bean sauce instead of sauteing in butter.

Get your own Spiralizer at Amazon.com:

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2014)

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Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts

My Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts are a holiday treat. Bite-sized and tasty, they’ll also grace your appetizer table with a festive color and flavor combination.

Smoked White Fish Salad Mini Toasts with a Mini Cucumber Slice and Sliver of Roasted Red Bell Pepper (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Smoked White Fish Salad Mini Toasts with a Mini Cucumber Slice and Sliver of Roasted Red Bell Pepper (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

So simple, mini toasts are topped with a dollop of smoked whitefish salad spread, a mini cucumber slice, and then garnished with a sliver or two of roasted red pepper.

There are a number of prepared smoked whitefish salads available in the seafood section or refrigerated section of your local grocer. My husband bought Blue Hill Bay‘s whitefish salad at our local Costco. I usually freeze half of the smoked whitefish salad for later use.

Start with some mini toasts. Whole Foods Market sells mini toasts in regular and whole wheat versions. You could use a dark pumpernickel bread cut into squares if you prefer.

Ingredients for Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts: Smoked Whitefish Salad, Roasted Red Peppers, Mini Toasts, Mini Cucumbers (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Ingredients for Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts: Smoked Whitefish Salad, Roasted Red Peppers, Mini Toasts, Mini Cucumbers (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Add a dollop of smoked whitefish salad to each mini-toast. Slice some mini-cucumbers. They look nicer when sliced for small bite-sized appetizers and you can leave the skin on for color. And slice some roasted red pepper into slivers that you can use for a garnish on top of the mini toasts.

Assembly of Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Assembly of Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Arrange the mini toasts on a pretty platter. They’re ready to serve! You can keep them chilled in a refrigerator for up to an hour before serving. Best when served immediately.

Finished Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts ready for serving (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Finished Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts ready for serving (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Enjoy!

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

Smoked Whitefish Mini Toasts

Ingredients:

20 mini toasts
1 c whitefish salad spread
1 or 2 mini cucumbers, sliced into 20 rounds
1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slivers

Method: Spread each mini-toast with a dollop of whitefish salad spread. Top each with a cucumber round and a sliver or two of roasted red bell pepper. It’s that simple!

Makes 20 bite-sized appetizers.

Variations: Try smoked salmon spread instead of the smoked whitefish salad. Use a wedge of a cherry tomato in place of the roasted red bell pepper. Use dark pumpernickel bread squares instead of mini toasts.

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2014)

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