A Lovely Life Collaboration- Girlfriend Gathering Appetizer

Kelly Amendola, founder of A Lovely Life, approached me to create a menu for a Girlfriend's end of Summer dinner party. We met over coffee to discuss the menu & came up with so many fun ideas. We decided the menu should be light and airy, highlight tastes of the Central Valley, and have a healthy twist to it. 

The Menu:

Appetizer: Caprese Salad Bites

Beverage: Freshly squezed Lemonade (with a healhty twist)

Main: Summer Chicken Salad

Dessert: Mini Peach Cobblers

We met to prepare the meal. I was a little nervous about sharing the kitchen with someone since I usually work alone but I have to say I LOVED it! It was so much fun to work with someone and bounce ideas off each other. Although we had only met each other a few times before, it felt like working with a girl friend of many years. To add to the excitement, a mutual friend joined us to enjoy eating the dishes and then it really felt like a party.

To begin, the appetizer is a Caprese Salad Bite- a fun take on a traditional Italian antipasto salad. I love making my food bite size so it's easy to eat while still engaging in conversation and enjoying company. To make the container for the salad, you will need Sliced bread or Wonton Wrappers. 1st cut of the crust and roll the bread flat, you want to really use your muscle here to get them as thin as possible. For the bread, I suggest a plain wheat bread, without nuts and grains. Next you will cut approximately 2 inch circles into it, then press into a mini cupcake tin to create a little bowl. Spray with oil and bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until they crisp.

While the bread bites are in the oven, prepare the salad by chopping the tomatoes & cheese and tossing in a bowl with Olive Oil. You will also want to Chiffonade Fresh Basil to mix in with the salad as well as reserving some for a garnish on top. Let's talk a little about knife skills for a second. Make sure you are using a sharp knife, it's a good idea to sharpen your knife before each use. A dull knife is your (or your fingers) worst enemy. Next, make sure you have a good, firm grip. It is best to hold the knife where the base of the blade and the handle meet to make sure your wrist is in full control. Next, let's chat about the hand that is not holding the knife, your support hand, practice tucking your fingers under and let you thumb knuckle be the guide- this will help to prevent your fingers from getting cut. Start slowly and your speed will gradually increase. (Maybe I will do a post all about cutting, anyone interested?)

If you want to prep for your party in advance, make the salad the night before and store in an air tight container in the fridge. Before the party, make the bread "bowls" and right before your guests arrive, fill the bowls with salad, drizzle on Balsamic Glaze and garnish with fresh basil.

*Side note: I suggest every kitchen have a bottle of Trader Joe's Balsamic Glaze. There are so many ways to jazz up a recipe and decorate a plate if you have a bottle on hand. It's a must at all times!

Bruschetta Cups:


·      Sliced wheat bread or wonton wrappers (suggested to use bread with a more moldable texture like Sara Lee)

·      1/2 basket of red or yellow cherry tomatoes

·      15 small mozzarella balls in liquid

·      6 leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade

·      2 tablespoons olive oil

·      Balsamic glaze

·      Salt & Pepper, to taste


·      Roll out each slice of bread with a rolling pin. With a 2” round cookie cutter, make 24 rounds out of the bread. Place and mold rounds into a mini cupcake pan. Spray with cooking spray to form a light coat.Bake on 375 for 12 min, or lightly browned.

·      Slice the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls into 1/3 pieces. Toss together in a bowl with the olive oil. Season with Salt & Pepper to taste.

·      Once bread is baked, add the tomatoes and mozzarella equally into the bread cups. Drizzle balsamic glaze over & garnish with fresh basil.

It was so fun to have a professional photographer capture our work. I am usually trying to snap pictures between recipe steps and never gets shots like Marie did. Thank you Photography by MJD.