Pan Fried Ravioli Appetizer

Diva Entertains Crisp Ravioli

About 15 years ago I tried a recipe for pan-fried ravioli that was such a disappointment that I swore that I would, from then on, stay clear of it.  And so was the case until I saw a recent recipe for it in Cooking Light.  The attraction?  The ravioli was first dipped in an egg and water mixture (so that the next layer would have something to adhere to) and then dipped into a panko-Parmesan mixture which would help the ravioli create a crisp, flavorful crust without deep frying.  (Not that deep fried ravioli isn’t delicious – but I’m leaving that to restaurant kitchens).

Panko is a dried, flaky bread crumb used extensively in Japanese cooking that has also risen in popularity here.  It makes for a wonderfully crisp crust.  It is found in the Asian section of most supermarkets.

There’s really only one key to success:  You will need to cook the ravioli in 2 batches.  Make sure, after the first batch, you take a wadded up paper towel and wipe the pan free of any (browned) panko-Parmesan crumbs.  Otherwise they will continue to cook and burn and ruin your next batch.  So wipe clean and then add more olive oil before you pan fry the final batch.  Wipe out the pan once again before you start cooking the tomato topping.

Also, the recipe calls for making a quick tomato sauce by sauteing grape tomatoes in the same pan used to cook the ravioli once they have been removed.  If grape tomatoes are pricey or aren’t available, you can also use a can of diced tomatoes, preferably one that is seasoned with onions and/or basil.  Simply drain the liquid from the can and then heat up the contents in the pan for a few minutes.  Once hot, spoon over the ravioli.

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Parmesan Crusted Chicken

This delicious, baked breaded chicken recipe is a staple in our home.  Although in our house. it goes by the name of “Jerry’s Scrumptious Chicken”.  Jerry is my husband and he’s the one that tinkered with ingredients and their amounts until he got it just right.

The secret to this recipe is: 1) Pound the chicken pieces quite thin before breading and baking.  That way the chicken pieces will all cook evenly, and 2) Cook in a very hot oven, 425 F, for 10 minutes.  They will not only be done but they will be incredibly moist and flavorful.

Leftovers are wonderful!  My husband often re-crisps with a little olive oil in a hot skillet – absolutely scrumptious!

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Homemade Cheddar Cheese Crackers (Sort Of)

I absolutely love this homemade cracker recipe!  It’s embarrassingly easy to make yet the results tastes like  sophisticated cheddar cheese crackers.  And they keep for weeks in a air-tight container.  They remind me of cheese straws, however, with more of a crunch.  But I need to use the term ‘homemade’ a tad loosely since these start with store bought saltines.

After topping the saltines with shredded cheese, I sprinkled a bit of crushed red pepper flakes on top and then popped them in the oven.  You should, however, feel free to season them as you’d like .  A friend uses McCormicks’ Smoky Sweet Pepper Spice Blend when she makes them (unfortunately my supermarket doesn’t carry this brand so I couldn’t try it.  She recommends using 2 tsp).

This recipe is adapted from www.oregon.live and they adapted it from an original Shirley Corriher recipe .  Corriher is well known in food circles – she’s a biochemist and one of the leading authorities on food science.  It kind of makes sense that she figured out the surprising cooking method for this delicious cheese cracker recipe.

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Black and White Cookies Recipe

Perhaps my all-time favorite cookies are the famous New York Black and Whites!  Part cake, part cookie.  And two glazes – can’t beat that.  They are wonderful eaten immediately or they can be frozen with great results.

The simple keys to success here are: 1) you’ll want to lightly grease your hands when shaping the cookies, otherwise the dough is too sticky to work with.  You can do it with a bit of softened butter or you can actually spray your hands with non-stick cooking spray (yep – that’s what I did). 2) When applying the two glazes apply the white (vanilla) half first.  Chocolate easily covers the white but not so much the other way around.  So you’ll have a much cleaner, professional looking cookie if you start with the white glaze.

Black and White Cookies (adapted from “The All American Cookie Book” by Nancy Baggett)

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Curried Lentil Soup with Chickpeas and Quinoa

I thought I would offer up a very ‘good-for-you’ recipe after all the indulging we’ve done the last few weeks!  But healthy doesn’t mean that it can’t taste great.  This soup is full of flavor!  And don’t let the long list of ingredients throw you off; once you are through chopping the onion, carrot and celery (and only 1/2 cup of each), the recipe comes together very quickly.

A couple of notes.  This recipe calls for red lentils.  They are smaller than the typical lentils you find in the grocery store (depends on where you shop) and cook quicker.  If you are using a different lentil you will need to adjust (lengthen) the cooking time.  A taste test will let you know when it is ready.

If you’ve never used quinoa, its a grain that is packed with protein – among the highest concentration among all grains.  Also, the recipe calls for 1 Tbsp. of a chili sauce such as sambal oelek (check your international/Asian aisle at your grocery store) but if spicy isn’t your thing, leave it out.  Or bring the amount down to 1 tsp.

Finally – left overs will most likely absorb a good amount of the liquid in the pot.  Simply add some chicken stock to the pot when you reheat if you would like it to be more brothy (personally, I like eating the leftover more as a thick ‘stew’).

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