Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bring on the picnics and potlucks!

I can hardly believe it! We started the first summer session just a month ago, and here we are at the end of it! Then I will have about a week off to tend to some pressing concerns around the house and in the garden, and maybe even catch up on some long overdue BLOGGING? ;-)

In the meantime, I'll share some pics and recipes from the employee picnic/potluck that we had at school on Thursday (=the new Friday, especially during the summer). It was a simply GORGEOUS day for it, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves out on the veranda overlooking stunning Lake Champlain in all its glory! And the eats weren't bad either!

As for me, I decided at the last minute to attend, so I wanted to make something tasty and unique, but something quick that, preferably, had to be assembled more than prepared. In browsing some potluck dishes online, I came across a clever idea for a layered dip, much like the ubiquitous Mexican version that we all know and love, but this one would be made with Mediterranean ingredients. And though you may make it all from scratch, I confess that I turned to my old friend Cedar's for a little help.

Layered Mediterranean Dip

1 1/4 cups prepared hummus (I used
Cedar's roasted red pepper variety)
3/4 cup tzatziki (again, I used
Cedar's cucumber and garlic variety)
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 (large) onion, peeled and chopped
1 ripe avocado, seeded and chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
6 oz. crumbled feta cheese (plain or flavored)
1/2 cup sliced black olives (preferably, kalamata)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

In the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish, spread hummus evenly. Then top with tzatziki and level with a spatula. Refrigerate these layers until you finish cutting and chopping the next few ingredients.

Gently toss the chopped tomatoes, onion, avocado, with the lemon juice, cumin, and salt and pepper. Retrieve the baking dish from the fridge and spoon the veggie mixture on top. Smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle feta cheese evenly over that layer, and then top with sliced black olives. Finish with a generous sprinkling of fresh parsley, and serve with toasted pita chips*.

*I like
Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips (with just a little sea salt) that I found at Sam's Club, where I also found the Cedar's products that I used in the dip.

Though there were a lot of yummy dishes at the summer potluck at school, one of the things that I particularly liked were these little appetizers that looked sort of like mini-quiches and that were prepared by Jenny, the woman who runs our copy center at the college and who organized the potluck. They were called Swiss, Bacon, and Tomato Bites, and I wheedled the recipe out of her by promising to turn my fall course packets in early. (Tee hee.) Jenny tells me that this recipe originally comes from The Pampered Chef, but that she has tweaked it, basically by adding more of everything (which can't be a bad thing). Though I have yet to make them myself, they seem pretty easy, and I can attest that they look elegant and taste terrific! I'm sorry that I didn't take a picture, but by the time I arrived (about fifteen minutes late, as is my way), they were almost gone, and I ate the last one! So you'll just have to make some for yourself to see what they look like. And whether you make the Swiss, Bacon, and Tomato Bites or the Mediterranean Layered Dip, they are sure to be hits at your next picnic or potluck!

Swiss, Bacon, and Tomato Bites

1 can 10 oz. Pillsbury Flaky Biscuits
6 slices cooked bacon, finely chopped
4 oz. swiss cheese, finely chopped
1 tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon basil, finely chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each biscuit into 4 and roll into balls. (Sometimes for a fancier edge, Jenny separates the biscuit by layers). Lightly spray each cup with nonstick cooking spray. Place each into a mini muffin tin and press into the cups.

Mix bacon, tomato, swiss cheese, mayo and basil and place a little over a teaspoon into each cup. Be careful not to overfill or it will melt over edge and stick to the pan.

Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

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