Summertime always seems so busy with graduation parties, weddings, family reunions, potlucks and picnics. The list goes on.
And what seems to be a common denominator with summertime fun? Yep. You guessed it. Food.
But when it's hot and humid, the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven or cook over the stove. So when Chelsey suggested recipes for a potluck, I put my thinking cap on and came up with something easy, fairly healthy and that didn't require heat of any kind-my kind of recipe!
This particular appetizer can be modified in many ways. The idea behind it is similar to that of veggie pizza made with baked crescent rolls, except my recipe is in a wrap form. And did I mention, no oven heat required?
I used a 12-ounce bag of pre-shredded vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and red cabbage, but as I mentioned, any veggies of your liking can be used in this recipe as well as the "dip" mixture. I used whipped cream cheese and added my own seasonings, but you could use ranch dressing, Greek yogurt or hummus-whatever is to your liking.
For the wrap part, I used a favorite flatbread called Flatout, which comes in many flavors. For these veggie wraps, I used garden spinach, but again, use corn or flour tortillas if you wish. It's a matter of preference.
Whatever plans or activities you have left for the remainder of summer, I hope you enjoy good food, good friends and plenty of laughs.
- 12-ounce bag of shredded vegetables, or chopped veggies of your choosing
- 8-ounce plain whipped cream cheese
- 2 4.25-ounce cans chopped black olives
- 2 cups reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered ranch dressing
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dill weed
- 6 garden spinach Flatouts
In a bowl, mix the ranch, garlic powder and dill weed with the cream cheese.
Add the chopped black olives and mix well.
Add the veggies and stir.
Lastly, add the shredded cheese and mix well again.
Place a large spoonful of the veggie/cream cheese mixture onto the flatbread and spread evenly.
Roll tightly and then wrap in foil or cling wrap.
Repeat until the wraps and mixture are gone.
Refrigerate for at least two hours.
Cut wraps into 5-6 slices and serve immediately.
For me, potlucks are an opportunity to break out appetizer dishes you might not otherwise find the time to make.
Sure, we order appetizers at restaurants without a second thought, but when was the last time you made one as part of a family dinner? Often, these bite-sized dishes tend to require more assembly than a main dish, and can almost seem excessive unless entertaining or sharing with others.
I have good news: the recipe I developed for today's column is actually quite easy to make, and would be right at home as either part of a potluck spread, or as a light lunch or dinner with a side of rice.
Jerk chicken satisfies my love of spicy food, while also hitting both sweet and sour notes with the inclusion of brown sugar and lime juice. Traditionally, Scotch bonnet chiles accompany many Jamaican dishes, but they definitely have a kick. I went for the even spicier habanero, but other chile peppers could stand in depending on your preference. Combined with the fresh taste of mango and cilantro and the crunch of cabbage, these delicate butter lettuce leaves burst with mouthwatering flavor.
With my well-stocked spice cupboard, it didn't require much of a trip to the grocery store, either-but if you're nervous about the number of ingredients in the sauce, try this recipe with a commercially produced sauce instead. For a fun twist, leave the individual ingredients separate next to a plate of leaves and allow guests to assemble themselves.
As we experience the fleeting heat of summer, try adding this nod to the tropics to the next potluck or backyard barbecue!
JERK CHICKEN LETTUCE BITES
- 1 pound chicken breasts, marinated
- 1 mango, pitted and diced
- 1 10-ounce bag shredded cabbage
- 2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
- Cilantro sprigs to taste
For the marinade/sauce:
Adapted from "The Best Jamaican Jerk Sauce" on Islands.com.
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 1-inch chunk fresh ginger
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 Scotch bonnet, habanero or other chile peppers
- 8 allspice berries, smashed
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste
Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender.
In a shallow dish, rub some of the jerk sauce on the chicken breasts and allow to marinate at least one hour to overnight in the refrigerator, reserving the rest of the sauce to add to taste.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Remove chicken from marinade and bake in a glass baking dish for about 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Once chicken has cooled slightly, shred it using a fork.
Add additional jerk sauce as desired and allow to come to room temperature.
To assemble bites:
Place a heaping tablespoon or two of shredded chicken on the inner half of a butter lettuce leaf, topping with a tablespoon mango, a sprinkle of cabbage and one or two cilantro sprigs.
Roll once, fold in outer edge and continue rolling.
Repeat until no more filling ingredients and/or lettuce leaves.