Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spinach Appetizers, with Cupcakes?

Several of you asked in comments and e-mails about the menu from the gathering I described in my Tablescape Thursday post. I suppose I should confess that much of the meal was catered. I made the cupcakes and a spinach/feta cheese appetizer. The rest came from a local restaurant/caterer. Since there were people here from as far away as Boston and Martha's Vineyard, it seemed appropriate to offer local cuisine - West Tennessee barbecued pork (with turkey for the "no red meat" guests). The menu was "pulled pork" (not chopped!), vinegar cole slaw, potato salad, and baked beans.

Here's information about Cajun Cookers:

Who are the World Champion Cajun Cookers?

Darrell Hicks, the man behind the apron and the pit, has fed groups as small as five and as large as 13,000. The Sam Walton Family, Wal~Mart Inc., MLB, NFL, Fed Ex, Anheiser Bush, John Deere & Co., The Indy 500, The Brickyard 400, Bass Pro Shops, and various State and Local Governments are just a few of the clients Hicks and his firm have prepared food for over the years.

"We stay booked with catering jobs at least three days a week." "Whether we do an inside or outside catering, our food has the same quality all the time. Our reputation with numerous Fortune 500 companies speaks for itself."

The main focus is to exceed our customers expectations with all aspects of our business. "It is something we take personally every day of the week. Customer service is as important to Cajun Cookers as the taste of our food."

The menu at Cajun Cookers includes everything but filler. Every item is of World Champion quality. We start with the best products available. Our ribs, pulled pork, brisket, loin, bacon wrapped chicken, and smoked turkey are chosen because of quality, appearance, and taste.

We proudly boast that all of our recipes are straight from the heart-nothing out of chef school.

Darrell Hicks

Spinach and Feta Cheese Appetizers

• 1 - 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove all excess water
• 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
• 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
• 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters (or 2 large eggs if cholesterol is not a concern)
• 2 Tbsp. shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 1 tsp. finely minced garlic
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 30 mini fillo (phyllo) shells (2 packages)

I left off the minced garlic and salt and added two tablespoons of finely chopped red onion and some black pepper (a fairly generous amount – I didn’t measure).

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the first seven ingredients (through the salt).
3. Place mini fillo shells on two ungreased cookie sheets. Spoon filling into shells. Bake 15 to 18 minutes. Serve immediately.

This recipe makes 30 spinach and feta cup appetizers.

Per serving (2 appetizers): 73 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 4 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 3 g protein, 46% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 5% calcium, 5% iron

The spice cupcakes are from a mix. The brand is Duncan Hines (the only spice mix I could find). Spice cake must be less popular these days -- years ago, I remember it being one of the standard flavors. I substituted buttermilk for the water called for in the directions and added an extra egg and a package of vanilla pudding mix.

is a link to a Cupcake Project blog post about caramel icing the way my mother used to make hers. I was in a hurry (as usual), so I caramalized white sugar and butter in a mason jar in the microwave, added some dark brown sugar, unsalted butter, confectioners sugar, and enough buttermilk to moisten it enough to make it spreadable. It came out a little on the soft side, but I prefer that to being difficult to spread. Sorry -- I know that's not a recipe (no measurements, etc.), but that's how I made it. I suppose it turned out OK; there were lots of compliments.

I used my vintage white KitchenAid mixer to make the cupcakes and the icing. It easily handled two cake mixes in one batch.

My mixers came from local estate sales. I contacted KitchenAid's customer service department to inquire about purchasing owner's manuals (which include recipes) for them. The friendly rep I spoke with said she'd mail them to me at no charge! Two very nice spiral-bound manuals arrived within just a few days. That speaks well for KitchenAid's committment to customer service, doesn't it?

Before I received the manuals, I spent some time viewing KitchenAid instructional videos on youtube. Among the more unusual ones I found was this one from Jolene Sugarbaker (The Trailer Park Queen):

I had to know more about Jolene after hearing "her" voice on the KA video. It turns out that she has an online cooking show and offers countless recipes that use affordable ingredients and a common sense approach to entertaining on a budget. The following video offers three examples of the sort of recipes she regularly cooks up in the Trailer Park Test Kitchen. It's about twenty minutes long. You could stop after the first recipe (for baby food beef pate) ... but I think you'll want to learn about making SOS and corn chip pecanless pie! Enjoy ...

I'm linking to Foodie Friday at
Designs by Gollum. Check out all the great recipes and tutorials!


  1. Oh, thank you for the Spinach and feta appetizer recipe. These are right up my alley. I think I will make them for a Christmas party this year. Well, I will have to make a batch first just for me to, you know, make sure they are okay. Oh, and I think I will make them for a card party we are having in a couple of weeks. Okay, I will probably want to make these often!LOL

  2. The Spinach and Feta Cheese appetizers look delicious. I may try these very soon. Three friends and I are doing a Christmas dinner party together the first week in Dec. for a large group. I was asked to do the apps. and desserts so this will definitely be one of my apps. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    Carolyn/A Southerners Notebook

  3. I have to go back to see the tablescape but I was interested to learn that you can count cooking and baking in with all of your other talents!! I have to try the Spinach and Feta Cheese appetizers...I love those little shells. They make everything look so elegant!

    My sister worked for Whirlpool and KitchenAid for many, many years. I have all KitchenAid appliances (including the mixer) which were discounted. They really have always come through for me {the appliances and the company}, glad you got to experience that firsthand.


  4. I laughed out loud watching the Jolene video. I was nearly on the floor listening to her description of the "pecanless" pecan pie. Thanks for a great laugh today. Oh, and I enjoyed the rest of your blog post (as always), your appetizers look delicious, but I have a fear of phyllo.

  5. Hi Bill,
    that was very clever to order a menue from a catering service. It is much nicer for the guests to have a relaxed host than one who is nervous about the menue and exhausted about preparing such a huge party. I think, there was left enough work for you by decorating and tablescape. Your Spinach and Feta Cheese appetizers look yummy.
    Greetings, Johanna

  6. Loved your tablescape! What a cute little candy corn favor. We do all our trick or treating on Sat. if it is Sun. and I was suprised we didn't have any on Sun.

    I can't wait to see your pecanless pie or I guess it is Jolene's next week. She reminds me a little of Paula Dean ( don't tell Paula I said that!) Very very funny.

  7. Thanks for the recipes...I love spice cake...but I use a maple frosting. This was something I learned when I lived in PA....mmmmmm!The spinach-feta appetizers are really delicious! My DIL makes these.

    Jolene sounds like an interesting character...
    Jane (artfully graced)

  8. Nice recipes, I lake it!

    Kisses and happy weekend.

  9. I finally discovered the wonders and joys of good caterers only 3 years ago --- it can make entertaining a crowd a breeze compared to cooking it all yourself, and it's GOOD.
    And when I add up what I spend on a typical gathering for 40 or so, catering can come out to be less expensive.

    Love the appetizer, and I've got to visit Miss Trailerpark -- she looks great!

  10. Hi Bill

    What a great idea to use the ready made filo cases, I will have to try your recipe as an appetiser for Christmas drinks nibbles, will they go ok with a lovely cup of tea, only joking I already have two bottles of non alcoholic mulled wine, for me as a teetotaller and my pregnant daughter.!!!

    Have a lovely weekend, probably visiting antiques malls or estate sales. Do you know how much that lovely old cover went for a few weeks back?

    Jackie in Surrey, UK

  11. The menu sounds so good. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    Have a great weekend.

  12. I will visit miss Trailerpark when I have more time but want to say THANK YOU for the app. recipe! I will definitely be making these!!!!!!! Have a great weekend, Bill! XO, Pinky

  13. Bill...Thank you for sharing "not chopped" when talking about southern pulled pork!! Just pulled out my crock pot this week to cook a pork roast for pulled pork....yum! Those cupcakes with candy corn toppers are simple too cute! A tip a friend shared to make "grown-up" spiced cake or gingerbread was a add a bit of cayenne pepper...scary right...but so good!
    As always....enjoy what you do!

  14. I don't think I would try Jolene's recipe any time soon but his video starts off pretty funny. I liked the part where the trailer is all pink.

    Your spinach n cheese looks absolutely delicious! I love the combe. It sounds like it's pretty easy to make too. I'll have to include that in my Holiday cooking.

    Hope you're having a great day.

  15. I will most certainly be giving those spinach-feta taste treats a try soon! They are easy enough and look wonderful! It'll be like that old Rice Krispies Treats commercial where the Mom just throws a little flour on her face and lets on that it was such a chore to make the Rice Krispies! Your recipe is totally simple and quick, but it will look like I slaved! I love it! :-)

  16. Hi Bill... I came here just to check any new beautiful setting, but got a great recipe, sure it will be as great as your tables are...

    Hope you would like to pay a little visit to me at
    Love Farah

  17. Bill, your commentary and photos are, as always, fabulous. What a little piece of heaven it is to visit you.