Showing posts with label appetizers & snacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label appetizers & snacks. Show all posts

10 March 2017

Sweet & Spicy Slow Cooker Party Meatballs

To celebrate recently changing jobs (still a librarian, but now happier and better paid) and salute the coworkers (now friends) who have put up with me for ten years, I threw a party. And what's a goodbye party without slow cooker meatballs? I wouldn't know ... I made meatballs.

These bite-size balls of sweet, fiery savoriness are based on MyRecipes' "Chipotle-Barbecue Meatballs." I used more adobo than the original recipe called for and less barbecue sauce and preserves, because I was concerned the meatballs would be too sweet, otherwise. I also added garlic and garnished the finished dish with chopped scallions, because every savory dish needs alliums!


These meatballs are definitely spicy! And it's a sneaky heat, too. Pop one in your mouth and you'll be thinking "Nice texture. A little sweet. Ohh, garlic" chewchewchew and then there's a bloom of heat at the back of your throat that is surprising, but not painful. And you'll try another to see if it has the safe effect. And another.

Or, at least, that's what my guests did! I'm really glad I made two bags, because there wasn't much leftover.


Sweet & Spicy Slow Cooker Party Meatballs

Yield: MANY

Ingredients

  • 16 barbecue sauce [Stubb's "Sweet Heat"]
  • 6 oz cherry preserves [Bonne Maman]
  • 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotle can
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated minced garlic [McCormick]
  • 2 (32-oz.) packages frozen bite-size meatballs [Trader Joe's]
  • 3 scallions, green parts only, sliced thinly

Instructions

  1. Brush slow cooker insert with olive oil or spritz with cooking spray. Add meatballs to bottom of insert.
  2. Combine barbecue sauce, chipotle peppers, and adobo in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add garlic to sauce, pour over meatballs.
  3. Cover and cok on Low for 6 hrs, stirring twice. Set to Warm and serve when desired straight from the pot, sprinkled with sliced scallions. The sauce will thicken as it sits, so give it a stir every once in a while to redistribute it through the pot.

17 November 2016

Improv Challenge: Nuts & Caramel

I really wanted to make something sophisticated with November's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients -- nuts and caramel -- but after I burnt three fingers by pouring hot, burnt caramel over them while trying to clean up from a complete millionaire's bar FAIL, I realized I was going to have to go back to beginner's level caramel.


Folks, I give you "Pretzel Delights." Versions of these treats can be found all over Pinterest and are one of those dishes you don't really need a recipe for, so much as a basic technique:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Arrange as many pretzels as desired on sheet.
  4. Top each pretzel with one unwrapped chocolate-covered caramel candy.
  5. Bake 2½-3 minutes or until candy begins to soften, but not melt (it will start to look shiny).
  6. Remove from oven and top with your preferred nut.
  7. Allow to cool completely or eat slightly warm (the choice is yours).

I tried this technique out with milk chocolate Rolo, dark chocolate and sea salt caramel Dove Promises, and Toffifay (aka Toffifee). I used salted, roasted hazelnuts with the Rolo and unsalted, roasted cashews with the Dove Promises.


While I thought the Dove Promises fit best on the square pretzels I used, I found the ratio of hazelnut to Rolo to be more pleasing and will probably stick with that combination if I make these again.

As for the Toffifay ... Toffifay was a nonstarter. I don't know what's in the caramel that makes the Toffifay's outer shell, but that stuff would not soften -- not even after 5 minutes in the oven -- so I gave up.

I do suggest you go ahead and try this out on your own (or with your kids!). Because you're using ingredients that will keep just fine almost indefinitely, you can limit yourself to a half dozen at a time and make them whenever (however) you like.


For anyone new to my blog, Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.

improv cooking challenge logo (aqua rolling pin, spatula, fork, whisk suspended from rack)



20 August 2015

Improv Challenge: Tomatoes & Herbs

Ahhh, tomatoes and herbs for August's Improv Challenge. What could be more fitting? My garden tomatoes are coming right along and my herbs are prolific, to say the least. In creating this month's recipe I tried to keep it as simple as possible to let the tomatoes and herbs really shine through. (Also, I had a lot of tomatoes ripen all at once and Something Had To Be Done).


You will note my "recipe" provides no specific amounts for any of the ingredients. This is because it is all simply a matter of preference and pan size. I used a broiler pan which fit about eight diced plum and globe tomatoes. Lots of garlic and thyme, because I love them. A bit less oregano, because I find a little goes a long way.

I used Wave Hill Bread's caramelized garlic bread to make my toast as it has whole roasted garlic cloves baked right in and is just DELICIOUS. If you can't find something similar at your bakery, any crusty loaf will do.

Creamy Tomato Toast

Yield: Many servings

Ingredients

  • Garden tomatoes
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh thyme
  • Garlic cloves, pressed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sliced crusty loaf
  • Soft, spreadable goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Gently toss together the chopped tomatoes, fresh oregano, thyme, and pressed garlic in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast until the tomatoes are soft and oozy, about 2 hours.
  4. Remove pan from the oven. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. (If using later, warm before spreading on toast).
  5. Switch oven to broil.
  6. Brush bread slices with olive oil.
  7. Broil bread for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Remove bread from oven, spread each slice with goat cheese, top with tomato goo, and garnish with additional herbs.


If you plan to serve these as an appetizer, just use slices from a thin, narrow loaf like a ficelle. The Wave Hill loaf I used is suitable for sandwiches and I find two creamy tomato toasts served like an open-face sandwich with a small salad or bowl of soup makes for a thoroughly satisfying lunch ... although, to be fair, I've also just ripped chunks of bread off the loaf and used them to scoop the tomatoes up straight from the pan into my mouth. It's best with the cheese, but sometimes I can't wait for the sweet, herby tomatoes to get in my belly.



07 June 2014

Cooking With My Love: Crunchy Garbanzo Beans

Bopping around the grocery store together one weekend, The Husband asked if we had any garbanzo beans at home. I stopped dead, confused, because this is not the sort of inquiry I would expect from The Husband. "Do we have any cherry Coke? Do we have any Seriously Sharp? Do we have any microwaveable tomato soups?" Those are expected queries. Garbanzo beans ... what? Why?

Turns out one of his coworkers shared a link to a recipe for "Roasted Chickpeas," saying it was an easy and delicious snack everyone likes. And hence the perfectly reasonable question about garbanzo beans. Of course, it took us nearly a month to get ourselves together and roast the beans, but we finally did it ... and no-one shouted or got a bit stabby or told the other s/he was doing it wrong. A success, really.

The Husband skillfully stirs the beans.
Ingredients: 1 can drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 scant tsp garlic powder, 1 scant tsp salt.

Verdict: "Dunno. Garlic's not a strong as I thought it would be and I can taste the 'Cajun-style blackening'. I thought they would be crunchier."

We took the garbanzo beans out of the oven after eight minutes and a bunch had already burnt. Those that remained did not seem evenly roasted -- some were quite crunchy and dark gold while others were pale gold and still a bit squishy inside. I'm guessing we should have roasted the garbanzos at a lower temperature and stirred the pan after four minutes.

Roasty-toasty blackened beans :(
Will we make them again? Yes, but we'll use Alton Brown's recipe for "Roasted Chickpeas" because Alton has yet to fail me.

20 February 2014

Improv Challenge: Bread & Butter

I first made this one Monday night when I realized that, while I was the only one home for supper, a bottle of moscato and movie did not supper make. But throw in some bread and cheese and it's an elegant evening at home? Why, yes. So, when I saw February's Improv Challenge ingredients were bread and butter, I knew I had to write this dish up and share it with the world.

Honey & Herb Crostini

The buttery, crunchy bread. The creamy, slightly tart cheese. The sweetness of the honey. The heat of the pepper. The subtle, earthy thyme. Just fabulous. I've made this for myself three times since and, each time I make it, I am amused by just how tasty buttery toast and cheese can be!

I suspect fresh lavender, tarragon, and dill would work well in place of the thyme and I look forward to making many versions of this dish in the spring ... when my garden is not covered in a mound of ice and snow. Blech.

Honey & Herb Crostini
Serves 1 with wine

Ingredients
1 small baguette (baton)
2 Tbsp good quality cultured butter, melted [Vermont Creamery]
4 oz tub spreadable goats' cheese [Vermont Creamery]
Fresh thyme, for garnish
1 Tbsp honey, for drizzling [Cracovia Linden Honey]
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Cut 8 thin slices from the baguette and set the rest of the baguette aside for another day.
Step 1

Brush both sides of the sliced baguette with butter and place on a baking tray.

Step 2

Broil for 2 minutes or until lightly browned, flip, and broil the other side.


Step 3

Spread each piece of bread with goats' cheese and sprinkle with pepper.
Step 4

Garnish each pieces with thyme and drizzle with honey.

Step 5

Arrange on a pretty plate and serve immediately with a bottle of moscato and episodes of The Great British Bake-Off.

Honey & Herb Crostini



27 July 2013

Nutella & Yum!

Being a good wife who pays attention to her spouse's interests, I bought The Husband a Nutella & Go! last week -- basically a half-moon-shaped plastic snack cup filled with a splodge of Nutella and a few short breadsticks for dipping. While he enjoyed it, I thought it was a bit expensive ($1.50 each!) for what it was and that we could do better. We already owned a jar of Nutella so there was really no reason to purchase Nutella by the (over-packaged) tablespoon. No, all we really needed were dippers.

Nutella & Yum!

So I bought plain breadsticks and salty pretzel crisps and we made our own Nutella & Yum!

20 April 2013

Figgy Ham Quesdilla & Flatbread

I made a delicious fig spread for March's Eating the Alphabet Challenge and, while I've found it's great on crackers with little blue cheese, I've been wondering what it would be like in a ham panini -- smoked ham, creamy havarti, peppery arugula, thick crusty bread. Trouble is, I don't have any bread in the house. Nor do I own a panini press.

But I do have tortillas and a skillet ...

Fig Havarti Ham Quesadilla

Fig Spread & Ham Quesadilla
Serves 1 or 2, depending

Ingredients
2 Tbsp neufchâtel
¼ cup havarti cheese, shredded [Boar's Head Cream Havarti]
2 Tbsp fig spread
2 thin slices black forest ham, sliced into fine ribbons [Boar's Head Lower Sodium]
1 handful arugula
2 8-inch whole wheat tortillas

Directions
Smear one tortilla with fig spread and the other with cream cheese leaving a ½-inch border around the edge.

Sprinkle one tortilla with shredded cheese, arugula, and ham. Cover with remaining tortilla.

Fig Havarti Ham Quesadilla

Lay the quesadilla in a very hot nonstick skillet. Cook on each side until the tortilla is crisp and golden (about 1 minutes for each side).

Remove from skillet and let sit 1-2 minutes. Cut into 4 wedges and serve with a small green salad dressed with (fig!) balsamic vinegar and olive or flax oil.
You can also make a fancy-pants flatbread "pizza" using most of the same ingredients -- smear fig spread around like you would tomato sauce on a flatbread and top with shredded havarti. Broil just until the cheese is melted and the flatbread is a little brown around the edges. Top with arugula, ham, a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar and season with fresh ground black pepper. A sprinkling of crumbled blue cheese wouldn't go amiss, either.

Fig, Ham, Havarti & Arugula Flatbread

This is definitely a knife-and-fork pizza ... or, if you're a barbarian like me, you can roll up the flatbread and eat it like a wrap!

26 March 2013

Sardines, My Fishy Darlings

Hungry and too lazy to go food shopping, I turned to "Sardines with Sun-Dried Tomato and Capers," a recipe I pinned weeks ago when I decided sardines and mackerel should be my new fishy BFF's as I tried to pack more healthy oils and lean protein into my diet. This has been no hardship as sardines and mackerel are delicious.

Sardines!

Ingredients: Oil-packed sardines, lemon juice, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, sriracha.

I usually buy boneless filleted sardines packed in olive oil and did not realize Wild Planet's "Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil" would be any different as the packaging said "Delicious meaty portions cleaned and scale-free." Therefore, I was quite surprised to see little fishy spines when I started mixed everything together! This made me feel a little squeamish and I at the spread very ... cautiously ... always expecting to crunch down on spiny goodness.

Which never happened. The bones broke up, mixed right in, and tasted no different than the surrounding fish mixture. Or the crunchiness of the crisp bread obscured the crunchy fish bones. Either way, it was all actually quite good and I would happily make it again for lunch.

Sardines!

If I were serving this to other people, however, I think I would probably use good quality oil-packed tuna instead of the sardines. I would also throw in some chopped pitted Niçoise olives and fresh parsley. Indeed, fresh herbs all around would make this a great summer dish.

08 February 2013

Chip Van!

The Husband gave me a van full of chips for Valentine's Day. (Yes, I know it's nearly a week away, but we seldom give each other gifts according to the calendar. It was a gift. In February. It's a Valentine). Can I just say it's the most adorable chip-filled van I've ever seen?

Chip Van!

Chip Van!

This is no ready-made assortment of chips! No, The Husband selected each individual bag -- giving me 42 single serve bags of assorted carby deliciousness. I've tried five flavors, so far:
  • Creamy Dill Pickle: My favorite flavor! Gently sour with a clean (not unctuous) creaminess and a good strong burst of dill.
  • Baby Back Ribs: Probably the weakest flavor. Very generic barbecue with no smoke or meatiness. I will still happily eat the remaining bag.
  • Kansas City Prime Steak: Salty, smoky, Worcestershire tang. The Husband says they remind him of crisps he used to get in England.
  • Heinz Ketchup: Sweetly tomato-y with a faint vinegar tang, it really does taste like Heinz ketchup.
  • Original Onion Rings: Very crisp with a toasty, oniony flavor. The Husband prefers Funyuns to these, but I think they are vastly superior as they taste more "natural."
That's the thing about these snack foods -- I know they're full of salt and chemical flavorings, but they don't taste like it. Even the "Baby Back Ribs" with their generic barbecue flavor lacks the chemical tang I associate with many barbecue flavored snack foods.

Herr's Snack Foods is offering a 25% discount on product orders over $50 placed through February 18 with coupon code "CRUNCHY" ... I think I might need to buy more "Creamy Dill Pickle." Mmm.

23 January 2013

Banana-Nutmeg Quesadillas

This recipe was my runner up for last week's Improv Challenge post. I'm pleased with how well it came out -- all crunchy, chocolaty, and banana -- and while it didn't curl my toes the way the broiled bananas did, it's well worth a post of its own.

Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas, Yum

These quesadillas were inspired by a Weight Watchers recipe for "Chocolate-Cinnamon Quesadillas." The directions are pretty much the same, but I shrank the serving size down to one and changed the ingredients a bit.
Banana-Nutmeg Quesadillas
Serves 1.

Ingredients
1 high fiber whole wheat tortilla [Maria & Ricardo's FiberRich Wheat Tortillas]
1 baby banana, sliced
Chocolate nut spread [Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread]
Nutmeg

Directions
Spread chocolate over half of the tortilla. Arrange banana slices over chocolate and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Assembling Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas 3

Fold tortilla over to cover ingredients.

Spritz a skillet with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Cook quesadilla about two minutes on each side or until tortilla is speckled with brown spots and filling melts.

Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas In The Pan

Remove from pan. Cut the quesadilla in half, sprinkle with more nutmeg, and eat.
I ate this for breakfast, but it would work perfectly well as a snack or dessert. If serving for dessert, you might want to dress the cooked quesadilla up with a dusting of chocolate powder and a splodge of fresh whipped cream.

12 January 2013

Italian Homework: Rolling Italian Dinner

I'm behind in posting -- lots of cooking and photo-taking, but not a lot of writing going on here -- so please travel back in time with me to Boxing Day as I talk to you about my Italian homework.

In order to complete the online beginners Italian cooking course I've been taking through my library, I have to cook a multi-course Italian meal using recipes from the course syllabus. Well, I wasn't really charmed with the idea of cooking a multi-course meal as I had a feeling I'd spend the greater part of the day in the kitchen cooking, only to have dishes dry out while waiting for others to cook and nothing arriving at the table at the right temperature. So I did a rolling dinner on Boxing Day. We started with stuffed mushrooms at noon, then pasta fagoile at one, chicken Parmesan and salad around two, and then ... I completely forgot about dessert. So ... I have to do it all over again! Or lie to the instructor and pretend everything happened on the same day.

Anyway, the recipes I did make were easy to prepare and yielded tasty dishes I'd be happy to make again (just not all in one day). I was especially pleased with the mushrooms -- I've always been intimidated by stuffed mushroom recipes as they seemed inordinately fiddly and fiddly recipes fill me with anxiety.

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms
Easy Herby Stuffed Mushrooms

Easy Pasta Fagiole
Super Garlicky Pasta Fagiole

Easy Chicken Parmesan w/ Rotini & Sauce
Naked Chicken Parmesan, Rotini & Sauce, & Salad

20 December 2012

Improv Challenge: Marshmallows & Chocolate

I made s'moraffles for December's Improv Challenge! Call them waffled s'mores or s'mored waffles if you prefer, but whatever you call them, they remain delicious. (I admit I'd had far more grandiose plans for December's Improv Challenge, but life happens and you get waffles covered in sugar).

S'moraffles
Is it breakfast? Is it dessert? It's everything!
I used a recipe from Anne at The Homeschool Daily for "Wonderful Waffles" as my s'moraffle base. Her recipe uses graham flour, which I could not find anywhere so I used whole wheat pastry flour which King Arthur Flour tells me is the same thing. Anne's waffles came out very light and fluffy -- a bit like eating a crispy pocket of air -- and that was a good thing, as a denser, heavier waffle would have made the s'moraffles too rich.

When I first conceived the notion of s'moraffles, I thought I could just sprinkle the miniature marshmallows and chocolate morsels over the graham waffle batter and waffle away. Alas, while tasty, these waffles were not pretty and had lost their light crispiness. They were also impossibly sweet when broiled with additional marshmallows and chocolate.

S'moraffles
Bad waffle :(
The next two waffles I cooked plain and then quartered, sprinkling each wedge with miniature marshmallows and chocolate morsels, and broiling them until the marshmallows were golden and the chocolate chips were a bit melty. I served them with a splodge of fresh whipped cream for dipping and they were magnificent. Crispy, light, chocolaty, sweet, and gooey. Everything a s'moraffle should be.

S'moraffles
Broil me, baby!
When could you eat these? We ate them for breakfast. Yes, we did! But they would make a fine dessert or special treat on a snowy day.
S'moraffles
Adapted from "Wonderful Waffles" at The Homeschool Daily with permission from the author

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup graham flour [whole wheat pastry flour]
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder

2 eggs
1 ¾ cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil or melted butter [oil]
1 tsp vanilla

As desired:
Miniature marshmallows
Semisweet chocolate morsels
Whipped cream

Directions
Preheat your waffle iron.

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Whisk together.

In a measuring cup or small bowl combine the 2 eggs, oil/butter, vanilla and milk. Whisk together.

Pour into dry ingredients. Stir until blended. Pour onto preheated waffle iron. Cook until golden [about 8 minutes in my waffle iron].

Quarter waffles and place on a baking sheet. Poke a miniature marshmallow into the pockets of each waffle. Scatter with chocolate morsels. Broil until the marshmallows are golden and chocolate morsels are soft and a bit melty. Serve with whipped cream for dipping.
S'moraffles
I think I'm looking at Christmas Day breakfast.
Anne's recipe makes 5-6 waffles, depending on the size of your waffle iron. If you don't want to eat that many s'moraffles you can freeze the plain waffles. Just let them cool and then pop them in a freezer bag. When you want s'moraffles, just them out of the freezer, microwave them for about 30 seconds to partially thaw, and then broil with miniature marshmallows and chocolate morsels.


23 September 2012

Italian Homework: Easy Appetizers

I’m taking an introductory Italian cooking class through an online learning service, Universal Class, offered by my public library. It’s all self-paced and I have six months to complete the course. So far, the lessons have all be about the factual rather than practical. I’ve learned a little bit about the different regions of Italy and their culinary specialties, the basic staples of an Italian kitchen, and whatnot. Some of it I already knew -- I was weaned on PBS cooking shows, you know -- but it was a good refresher and filled in some gaps.

Anyway, I’m on “Lesson 4: Easy Italian Appetizers” and finally got to cook! I had to make two appetizers -- one hot, one cold. Being lazy, I chose to go the simple route and make melon wedges wrapped in prosciutto for the cold appetizer:
Slice a melon in half. Remove and discard the seeds and cut the melon into eighths. Carefully cut the rinds away from each slice then wrap each melon slice with one slice of prosciutto. Plate prettily. Nom.

Proscuitto Wrapped Melon (Indiglow)

It was good, but a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper and drizzle of balsamic vinegar made it better! The combination of sweet-salt-spicy-sour was delicious and I wish I'd been eating this dish all summer.

For my hot appetizer, I went with roasted garlic on toast rounds, because it’s cheap and easy. Also, I love garlic. And bread. And garlic bread ...
Whack the top off 2 heads of garlic so the tops of the cloves are exposed. Place each head in the center of a square of tinfoil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Wrap foil loosely around heads, put on a cookie sheet, and bake at 450°F for 50 min. Drain the oil into a storage container (fab stuff for dipping bread or using in a salad dressing, by the way). Scoop the garlic cloves out of the head and spread on slices of toasted baguette. Nom!

Roasted Garlic w/ Garlic Bread

For this dish, I used a crusty carmelized-garlic loaf I picked up at Hill-Stead's Farmers Market. It was baked by Wave Hill Breads and was studded with cloves of roasted garlic. Combined with the roasted garlic heads, it was totes fab. Really. I served it with a hearty beef stew, but I would have been happy just eating it all on its own.

As I said, I have six months to finish the course, but I’m already itching to get it done -- not because I’m not enjoying it (I am so enjoying it!), but because I really want to sign up for “Spanish Cooking 101,” “Tex-Mex Cooking 101,” and “How to Bake Pies.” I want to make tortilla española and awesome chimichangas, and get over my fear of scratch-made pie crusts. While I am allowed to take five classes at a time, I’m not silly enough to believe I could cope with more than two and I’m currently also taking “Bird Watching 101.” Yes, bird watching. Because birds are also totes fab.

But so is pie!

20 September 2012

Waffled Quesadilla

Yes, my darlings, a quesadilla can be waffled. I am so pleased with myself for trying this and I cannot wait until October, when we enter Grilled Cheese Season proper, and I start waffling grilled cheese. Basically, I want to waffle anything that involves carbs and cheese. I'm sure I would waffle a calzone if I had the right ingredients.

To make my quesadilla, I sprayed my waffle iron with cooking spray and let it preheat as directed. I spread one white flour tortilla with the last dregs of bacon jam.

Waffled Quesadilla

Plopped it on the waffle griddle, topped it with some garlicky salsa, a bit of shredded mozzarella-cheddar blend, and the other tortilla. I closed the waffle iron, pressing down firmly, and let it cook for 3 minutes.

Waffled Quesadilla

Waffled Quesadilla

Then I removed the quesadilla and let it sit for a few minutes to cool down a little -- it was sizzling -- which gave me enough time to scrape all the escaped cheese off the griddle with a rubber spatula and nom them up.

Waffled Quesadilla

The quesadilla? It was delicious. Smoky, spicy, gooey, crispy ... delicious.

29 August 2012

Nacho, Nacho, Nom

I don't know why, but I've been craving nachos. Those horrible-for-you-drowned-in-orange-cheez-goo nachos you can get at cinemas and sporting events. I haven't actually eaten the darn things in years, but that doesn't mean my taste buds and tummy don't remember them with apparent fondness.

Knowing that what I really wanted was salty crunch and hot gooeyness, I turned to Pinterest for "healthy" nacho recipes and came upon "Nachos with Chicken and Black Beans" from the Cook This, Not That at Men's Health. There would be salty crunchiness and hot gooeyness, but also lean protein and soluble fiber.

Chicken Nachos

The original recipe serves six as an appetizer and doesn't tell you how much chicken to use, so I tweaked the recipe to serve two as a main course, guesstimating the amount of chicken in the process.
Chicken Nachos
Inspired by Cook This, Not That

Ingredients
3 oz round tortilla chips
6 oz shredded cooked chicken [rotisserie chicken works well here]
1 cup low-sodium canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 oz shredded Cabot 75% reduced fat sharp cheddar
3 Tbsp red onion, diced
2 Tbsp lime juice
¼ cup fat-free Greek yoghurt
2 tsp dried cilantro
6 Tbsp Green Mountain Gringo roasted garlic salsa
1 oz sliced pickled jalapenos

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Combine lime juice, yoghurt, and cilantro. Set aside.

Spread chips across a baking sheet. Scatter the beans over the chips, and then top with the cheese, chicken, and onions. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes (too hot and the sour cream cream will run).

Spoon yoghurt over the nachos. Top with the salsa and jalapenos. Eat.

Serves 2 as main course.

Chicken Nachos

This dish is a bit messy to serve so, if you can, I recommend eating it straight from the pan. Shhh. I won't tell.

What did I do with the rest of the black beans? Well, some went on a green salad and the rest went on a baked sweet potato with a little salsa and fat-free Greek yoghurt.

Sweet Potato

04 August 2012

Imperfectly Delicious Oreo Cheesecake Pudding Bites

August's Crazy Cooking Challenge is cheesecake and straight away I knew I would need a recipe for a bite-size no-bake cheesecake, because ... August. August is not for baking nor is it for heavy food like cheesecake.

Happily, I found a recipe at Cooking Classy for no-bake "Oreo Cheesecake Bites" that looked like it would be perfect for the challenge. We like Oreos. We love cheesecake. We adore bite-size nibbles.

No-Bake Oreo Cheesecake Bites
So cute!

Unfortunately, I immediately ran into a big problem -- none of the grocery stores near me sold 3.4 oz packages of cheesecake flavored instant pudding mix. The closest thing I could find was 1 oz Jell-O brand sugar-free instant cheesecake pudding mix at Target.

I decided to give it a go but fudge the amount of liquid, because I worried that using the smaller box would mean a soupier filling if I used the original amounts of liquid. So, instead of 1 cup heavy cream and ¾ cup milk, I used 1 cup heavy cream and ¼ (1%) milk. This sounds logical, doesn't it? Well, it didn't work. My cheesecake filling was still very pudding like and leaving it in the freezer for 20 minutes (instead of 10) didn't noticeably improve it.

Mind you, it still tasted very good -- gooey Oreo cheesecake filling cannot taste bad as it contains both Oreos and cheesecake and those things are never bad -- and we were happy enough to eat the bites, imperfect as they might be.

Because the recipe made 30 and there are only 2 of us, I made 6 bites and stored the rest of the filling in my frosting gun in the freezer so that 1) the filling would hopefully set-up more as time went on and 2) we could make more bites whenever we pleased. If the filling doesn't set up more overnight, I'll just make cheesecake parfaits by layering the gooey filling with crushed Oreos and whipped cream.

Eek! Two days left to find another cheesecake recipe! To the library!

22 May 2012

Simple & Delicious Dessert

Kiwi & Strawberries

Strawberries and kiwi tossed together with a smidge of sugar (or Splenda, if that's how you roll). That's it. Delicious.

09 May 2012

Fast Greek-Style Dip & Salad

We threw a little shindig at work last week to celebrate our volunteers and, as always, I panicked when I saw the sign-up sheet going 'round. I never know what to bring to these things -- especially since this year, it was a "social hour" instead of a meal, which meant lots of nibble-y things instead of "sit down" food.

I knew I wanted a recipe I could throw together in the morning before work with minimal fuss that would still look good on a plate -- as if I had actually made an effort. A quick search on the Internet at lunch turned up Kraft's recipe for "10-Minute Appetizer Spread" and that seemed pretty perfect. I could make it right before work with minimal fuss, it would keep well until the "social hour," and it was savory rather than sweet (there was already a preponderance of sweets on the offing).

I modified what I thought of as the "Mediterranean" version of the recipe and it turned out really well! So well, in fact, that three people asked me for the recipe!

Creamy Mediterranean Spread

Combine 1 8 oz. package softened neufchatel cream cheese, ½ cup light mayonnaise, and 1 tablespoon Penzeys Greek seasoning blend.

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Plop into a serving dish -- I used a shallow soup bowl -- and top with ½ cup chopped seeded Campari tomatoes, ½ cup chopped unpeeled seeded English cucumber, ¼ cup chopped black olives, and ½ cup crumbled feta with garlic and herbs.

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I lay the diced seeded tomatoes and cucumbers on paper towels for about an hour before assembling the dish, hoping to get some of the water out of them. I also drained and blotted the olives very well.

As my amounts turned out differently from Kraft's (I did't want to bury the cream cheese mix in a mound of vegetables), I ended up with leftover chopped vegetables. I tossed the excess vegetables and cheese with cold diced beef leftover from Sunday dinner and a little Greek vinaigrette to make a lettuceless salad.
Easy Greek(ish) Chopped Salad

¼ cup diced seeded tomatoes
¼ cup diced seeded cucumbers
2 Tbsp black olives
2 Tbsp crumbled garlic and herb feta
4 oz diced cold roast beef
2 Tbsp Marie's Greek vinaigrette

Combine all. Toss well. Eat.

15 April 2012

Eating the Alphabet: E is for Edamame

I knew I wanted to use edamame for April's Eating the Alphabet Challenge as I like edamame a lot, but only ever eat it on its own as a snack and so thought this would be the perfect time to try using it in a "proper" recipe. I tried three recipes, but Bon Appétit's "Edamame Hummus" was clearly the best pick of the bunch.

While I liked this dip a great deal, I’m reluctant to call it hummus as it contains no chickpeas or sesame and, really, tastes nothing like any hummus I’ve ever eaten. It is very green and very refreshing, though, and I found I couldn’t stop eating it! It was like eating spring on a cracker endive whotsit.

Edamame & Pea

I halved the recipe as I was the only one who would be eating it and 6 cups seemed a bit much for one ... but maybe it wouldn’t have been as I ate 3 cups in 3 days! The dip kept well, retaining its bright green color and tasting as fresh on Wednesday as it did on Monday. I ate it with endive, as indicated in the recipe, but also with pretzel crisps and pita chips when I ran out of endive.

I’d only bought one small head of endive as I’d never eaten it before and wasn’t sure what I’d think of it. I followed the directions from "Easy French Food" for preparing endive and found it to be pretty simple, stress-free work. Alas, the endive spears were a bit meh. Crisp and slightly bitter, they didn’t seem like anything to write home about. I guess they’re just one of those things that make an excellent vehicle for other foods, but don’t stand out on their own. Oh well, the endive was only 50¢ per head so it was not an expensive disappointment! (And now I know endive doesn’t make me swoon and, surely, that’s worth knowing).
Edamame Hummus
Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 2011


Making Edamame & Pea

2 10-ounce packages frozen shelled edamame (soybeans) [1 10-ounce package]
Kosher salt [omitted]
2 10-ounce packages frozen peas ) [1 10-ounce package]
½ cup fresh lemon juice [¼ cup]
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon ground coriander [omitted]
¼ teaspoon ground cumin [½ tsp]
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling [6 Tbsp]
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro plus more for garnish [2 Tbsp]
¼ cup chopped fresh mint plus more for garnish [2 Tbsp]
Freshly ground black pepper [and salt, to taste]
Endive spears [or dip transport of choice]

Cook edamame in a large pot of boiling salted [I omitted the salt] water until tender, 3–5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Return water in pot to a boil and add peas; cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

Transfer peas to bowl with edamame; let cool. Drain well.

Working in batches, pulse edamame and peas in a food processor until a coarse purée forms, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in juice and next 3 ingredients. Gradually stir in 3/4 cup oil; mix well. Stir in 1/4 cup cilantro and 1/4 cup mint.


[I don’t understand why the directions had me do some of it in a food processor and some of it in a bowl when it seems like I could have done it all in the food processor and avoided dirtying extra equipment. I recommend whacking everything in your food processor and giving it a good whirl].

Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl; drizzle with oil and garnish with more herbs. Serve with endive spears.
Edamame & Pea