Makes 2 cups
A cucumber cup is both container and garnish. The cool, crisp texture makes a perfect counterpoint to an icy aperitif. Don't use seedless cucumbers, which are too thin. Make sure the cucumber is very cold. Fill with sake, Pimm's Cup, vermouth, ice cold vodka or a chilled juice such as tomato or cranberry.
1 medium cucumber
Wash the cucumber and slice off the ends evenly. Use a vegetable peeler or stripper to make narrow stripes the length of the cucumber.
Cut the cucumber in half crosswise and stand each half on end. Use a melon baller or tiny scoop to remove the seeds and pulp of each cup, leaving a 1/4-inch wall on the sides. Be careful not to scoop a hole in the sides or bottom.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Per serving: 20 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 3 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber
Makes about 4 per 1-pound loaf
Fill these with egg, tuna, crab or shrimp salad, deviled ham, scrambled eggs or whatever you fancy. The yield depends on size of the loaf of bread. This is a good way to use day-old bread. You may butter the inside of the bread cubes before baking.
1- to 2-pound firm, unsliced loaf of bread (sourdough, rosemary, rye or plain)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using a sharp bread knife, remove all the crust and cut the bread into 4-inch cubes (you may make them taller and narrower if you prefer). Stand each cube on end and, using a paring knife, cut around the inside of the top, about 1/4-inch from the edge. Cut almost to the bottom, but not through the bottom. Use your fingers to pull out the center of the bread boxes. Discard the centers or save them for bread crumbs.
Set the boxes upright on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary for even browning. Remove from the oven. These can be filled right away, or let them cool first. Serve within a few hours of preparation.
Per serving: 155 calories, 5 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 345 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber
Cheesy Mashed Potato Bowls
Makes six 3-inch cups
Fill with buttered peas, steamed asparagus, sugar snaps, scrambled eggs, creamed chicken or ham, or anything (which is nearly everything) that tastes good with mashed potatoes.
11/2 cups plain mashed potatoes
3/4 cup grated cheese, such as sharp cheddar or Gruyere
1 egg yolk
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Using a muffin tin, coat 6 cups with nonstick spray oil, or use a nonstick cupcake or mini-Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes, cheese and egg yolk, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the mixture among the 6 cups and press it to the sides of the muffin tin or cupcake pan or mini-Bundt pan, creating small bowls. Leave the tops jagged if you like, or press them smooth.
Bake about 25 minutes. Let cool a few minutes, then run a small spatula or paring knife around the edges before removing the bowls from the pan. Fill and serve while hot.
If made ahead of time and brought to room temperature, these cups can be reheated on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 6 minutes.
Per serving: 120 calories, 5 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 51 mg cholesterol, 3 g saturated fat, 300 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber
Parmesan and Almond Crisps
Makes four 4-inch bowls
These crisps are quite fragile, so handle them gently. Fill with any mixture of greens tossed in a light vinaigrette.
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (do not use finely grated cheese)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pan liner. Have ready four custard-size cups.
In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese and almonds. Using one-quarter of the mixture at a time, sprinkle a circle of cheese in 1 quadrant of the baking sheet, making a circle that is 6 inches across. Do the same with the remaining cheese, making 4 circles total. If your baking sheet is not large enough to accommodate 4 circles, use 2 baking sheets.
Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven, and using a spatula, lift off the circles while they are still hot and pliable and drape them over upside-down custard-size cups, pressing the sides down a bit to create shallow bowls. Let cool and firm completely before inverting and filling. They can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week.
Per serving: 143 calories, 8 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 3 g saturated fat, 233 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber
Eggroll Wrapper Cups
Fill with stir-fried or steamed vegetables, garlic shrimp, edamame or wasabi peas.
12 eggroll wrappers*
Sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Using a muffin pan with 12 medium-size cups, coat cups and the spaces around them with nonstick spray oil or use a nonstick muffin pan.
Press 1 eggroll wrapper into each cup, letting it extend over the sides. If using salt or sesame seeds or both, spray the inside of the cups with nonstick spray oil and sprinkle lightly with the salt or sesame seeds, if desired.
Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until the corners have browned and the cups are crisp. Let cool, then remove and fill. The cups may be stored unfilled, carefully, in an airtight container, for up to 2 days.
*NOTE: Eggroll wrappers are available in the produce section or dairy aisle of most supermarkets. Wonton wrappers can be substituted. If using wonton, allow 2 per cup, pressing 1 wrapper into each cup on an angle and letting 1 of the points extend about 1 inch over the side. Brush the bottom -- the flat base -- of each wrapper with water. Press a second wrapper over the first, letting one of its corners extend out on the opposite side, and making sure the overlap creates a complete cup with no holes. Spray and sprinkle as desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.
Per serving: 47 calories, 2 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 91 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber
Makes 10 crepes
Don't make these on a humid day, because they will wilt. Fill with mousse, fresh berries or ice cream, or try them with a savory filling such as creamed spinach or chicken.
One 4.5-ounce package ready-made crepes*
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Have ready a baking sheet and 2 or 3 empty 15-ounce cans that have been washed and dried.
Set 2 or 3 cans on a baking sheet and drape a crepe over each one, letting the sides hang down. Bake for 2 to 21/2 minutes, until very brown. Let cool. Lift tulipes off the cans and invert. Reuse cans for remaining tulipes.
Fill tulipes just before serving. Store carefully, in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
*NOTES: Ready-made crepes are available in the produce section at some Harris Teeter stores.
Per serving: 146 calories, 6 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 103 mg cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat, 184 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber
Makes about six 3-inch boxes
Fill with fruit, sorbet, smoothies or whatever you desire. Edges can be cut straight or zigzagged. Yield depends on the size of the watermelon. Purchase melon halves so you can see if their flesh is cracked.
2 large seedless watermelon halves
Stand each melon half on its flat side and use a large knife to slice off the skin and white rind. Cut the melon into vertical, rectangular blocks about 3 inches tall and 2 inches across, avoiding spots in the melon that are cracked.
Use a melon baller or very small scoop to remove the flesh from the centers of the blocks. Be careful not to scoop holes in the sides or bottoms. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Per serving: 54 calories, 1 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 3 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber
Little Chocolate Boxes
Take your pick of flavors for this: dark, milk or mint chocolate squares. Fill with mousse, berries, chocolates or something else sweet and special.
Two dozen .375-ounce, flat chocolate squares, such as Ghirardelli
About 1/4 cup prepared dark chocolate frosting, or homemade frosting that is firm and dries hard
Set 1 chocolate square, plain side up, on parchment paper or wax paper. This will be the bottom of the first box. Spread a small amount of frosting or icing along the outside edges of the square. On a second square, spread frosting or icing on two opposing edges. Press this square, plain side facing out, into place to make one side of the box. Use 3 more squares and some frosting or icing to create the remaining 3 sides of the box, pressing each piece into place firmly.
Make the other 3 boxes in the same way. Set aside to let the frosting or icing harden. Just before serving, fill each box and set its top in place. Store boxes in an airtight container, in a cool place, for up to 3 days.
Per serving: 390 calories, 3 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 28 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 17 g saturated fat, 25 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber
Recipes tested by Lisa Cherkasky; e-mail questions to email@example.com