Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Roasted Garlic Flatbread & Red Pepper, Walnut and Tahini Dip

As a hostess, I really try to make all my guests comfortable.  If I know something about someone, like a dietary restriction or something, I'll quietly make an accommodation for them whenever possible.  When I threw Dave a birthday party in December, I knew two of our guests didn't like scallions so I made half the potato skins with and half without so they could enjoy all the appetizers.  So when I offered to throw Cindy's baby shower, I saw the opportunity to make a vegan dish or two for her sister, Chris.  Having never paid attention to this before, I looked forward to finding a vegan recipe.  I actually stumbled upon two recipes that I wanted to make and then realized that they were also vegan.  Win!  The flatbread is delicious, with a strong garlic flavor and a nice texture between crunchy and chewy while the dip has great depth of flavor, both nutty and sweet with a slight kick of heat the gently comes on.  Paired together, this was a great dish that everyone enjoyed and Chris really appreciated.

I found the flatbread via the Secret Recipe Club when Kristi of Veggie Converter posted it on our reveal day.  I immediately pinned it and couldn't wait to try it out, thinking it might make a good option for the shower buffet.  Then I found a pin from Gluten Free Confessions for a huge variety of dips that included Real Simple magazine's recipe for the red pepper, walnut and tahini dip.  I was considering making hummus, but I was intrigued by the walnuts paired with the peppers so I decided to give this a whirl.  Both recipes were very easy to make.  I started the flatbread dough in the stand mixer but ended up hand-kneading to get the consistency I wanted. And the dip was super simple in the food processor.  Together or separate, both of these recipes are worth trying for your next get together.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ham & Swiss Mini Frittatas

I love these things.  This recipe has been in my repertoire for almost a decade. They are perfect breakfast option for a brunch when you have time to prepare or make them in advance (like I did this time for the baby shower) and warm them up before serving.  Ham and Swiss pair wonderfully with the scrambled eggs and scallions are a great addition to eggs.  These are light and fluffy but full of flavor and got rave reviews from the shower guests.  One guest even popped back into the kitchen to snag one on her way out while I was cleaning up!  I expected people to take desserts home, but this appetizer was apparently a big win if people are grabbing one for the road!

This recipe comes from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Get Real Meals, but I adapted it slightly for the shower.  I used 50% more ingredients, turkey ham instead of ham (because that's what I had), shredded Swiss instead of deli (to allow more melty cheese throughout the small, bite-sized pieces), used scallions instead of chives (because I like the flavor a little better and had them on hand for other recipes), omitted the hot sauce (this time--I think because I forgot) and made them in a mini muffin tin rather than a standard to keep with the bite-sized theme.  It's the first time I made them mini and they were perfect.  I like the slightly browned edge and the burst of ham and cheese flavor you get when you pop it in your mouth.  I've made these with cheddar, broccoli and spinach as well--try any combination you like with your eggs.  To make them standard size, use 2/3 of the ingredients and bake for 10-12 minutes. These frittatas freeze wonderfully and you can reheat them from frozen in the microwave or the oven.   Super easy to make ahead, whip up a batch on Sunday morning, pop them in the freezer and have enough for a quick and healthy breakfast all week long.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crispy Quinoa Bites

Guess what?

Cindy's having a baby!

I was so thrilled to hear that one of my closest friends was expecting that I immediately decided I was going to throw her a baby shower.  Cindy is such a dear and has done many wonderful things for me, including being a very important source of laughter and sanity throughout our friendship, especially when I was planning Dave's and my wedding.  So it was an honor to host Cindy and 30(!) of her friends and family in my home for a lovely afternoon of laughter, well wishes for a happy and beautiful baby girl, and of course, great food.  Over the next few weeks, I'll share the various recipes I used and treats I made, as well as a few party planning tips, to pull off an at-home shower, starting with this tasty appetizer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Aren't they cute?  And they are super tasty.  I love the nutty oatmeal paired with the chocolate.  These mini muffins are a wonderful breakfast treat I made for a meeting at work.  They are soft on the inside and a little crust on the outside, for a perfect muffin.  I like to think oatmeal is a good for you grain, so it cancels out the chocolate (don't you love that kind of logic?).  These were very easy to make and anytime I can whip up a tiny version of something that packs just as much flavor, I jump on it.

This recipe is from Chris at Sweet Mornings.  I love her blog because she seriously makes every morning more delicious. Donuts, muffins, yum!  I kinda want to be one of her kids--seriously they are lucky little people to get a fresh baked donut every morning.  The added yogurt to the batter helps give it the soft texture, but I imagine sour cream would work as a sub in a pinch. And a recipe that only has ingredients I always have on hand?  A definite win.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Biscotti

This is the time of year that I have weekly meetings with colleagues to go over various topics related to a project we work on each spring.  Since I'm the meeting organizer, I am also responsible for making sure everyone is well caffeinated and fed (since the meets last upward of two and half hours.  Last year I used the group as guinea pigs to test drive various recipes and figured I'd do the same this year.  It helps keep the excess sweets out of the house and my colleagues really look forward to it.  There are some new faces to the group this year, so they enjoyed learning about the homemade goodies.  And I was accused by another colleague of trying to lure more people into the group with promises of "better food" at our meetings than other groups have.  What can I say, I have my devices.

But back to these Brown Sugar Cinnamon Biscotti.  Another recipe from my newly acquired KingArthur Flour Cookie Companion, I got to use one of my other Christmas gifts--the biscotti pan--to make these tasty treats.  The biscotti pan is completely unnecessary to make these, but since I have a hard enough time cutting things in a straight line or shape even dough, I figured it'd be one way to ensure some element of evenness to the biscotti.  I'd never made biscotti before because I was intimidated by the twice-baked process, but it's actually super easy to do.  This recipe is based on an Italian-style biscotti and I used one of the cookbook's suggested flavor variations by subbing in brown sugar and adding cinnamon, and cinnamon chips. I left out the nuts because I was more interested in the cinnamon this time around.  These biscotti turned out great.  I probably could have baked them a tough longer for a slightly more crisp (and authentic) texture, but they were still perfectly dunkable for coffee and the cinnamon flavor paired nicely with the brown sugar, creating a sweet and crispy treat to keep everyone happy and awake through the meeting.  I'll definitely be making more biscotti (I've do have that pan to use), and I look forward to trying the many flavor variations, as well as attempting the softer American-style biscotti recipe.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup

It's soup weather and I find that making soup isn't nearly as hard as you'd think. Especially when you use your crock pot.  I love my crock pot and will use it often.  I've barely started sharing "real" food recipes with you and already I'm on the second crock pot meal (after my Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken).  It's just too easy to throw it all together and let it simmer away while you get other stuff done--like unpacking many boxes and cleaning out the basement (or sitting on the couch watching a Law and Order marathon).  Important stuff.  But additionally, this soup is versatile and delicious.  It can be thick and creamy or thin and chunky or somewhere in the middle.  Plus there are loads of things you can do to dress it up and give it different flavors.  I pretty much make a meal out of this soup (or many meals, as Dave isn't a fan).  The recipe makes a ton, so I shared half of this with a friend of mine--an easy meal for her and 3 teenage girls on a busy school night filled with meetings and dance classes.

Like my last crock pot recipe, I adapted my Cheesy Potato Soup from Stephanie at A Year of Slow Cooking.  She has all the crock pot answers, so I usually turn to her first when I'm looking to through something in the slow cooker.  This recipe is versatile, so I ended up adding more cheese than Stephanie had, a little less cream cheese, and then after it was cooked, I stirred in some steamed broccoli and diced ham for a satisfying soup.  Think of this Cheesy Potato Soup as a palate for which to add all those things you love about baked potatoes or loaded potato skins. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trail Mix Jumble Cookies

Ok, it's been paining me to hold out on you like this, but I'm just now getting around to using this--I can't believe I hadn't made the time but the best laid plans....  Anyway, I got the best baking swag for Christmas.  Madaline, my mother-in-law, asked Dave what I wanted, so he gave her the King Arthur Flour catalog that I had marked up.  Thinking I'd get one or two items on my list, I ended up getting them all!  Not the least of which was the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion Cookbook, something I've been coveting for a while!

Here's what I have to say after making one cookie recipe from this book: holy crap, I don't think I can go back to some of my tried and true cookie recipes.

That's, like, a big deal.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chubby Hubby Rice Krispies Treats

No I can't help myself so just get over it.  Besides, these are delicious and you know you want to try them.  Seriously--chocolate, pretzels and peanut butter all rolled into an amazing little cereal treat?  Your head may say no but your heart (and tongue) say yes.  These were a "just because" kind of treat.  Or a way for me to celebrate getting the kitchen in a reasonable facsimile of "order."  Either way they were well deserved and Dave and I may or may not have finished the whole pan without sharing.  I can't remember.  If I didn't share I meant to, but, stuff happens.  Don't judge, it's not becoming.

I'm convinced that Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker is my kindred Rice Krispies Treats spirit.  She has such good ideas about how to make these simple treats completely over the top, this time using her favorite Ben and Jerry's flavor as inspiration.  I followed the recipe for the treats, adding 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the treats and instead of melting chocolate chips on top, I spread some canned chocolate frosting over them because a) I had it in the fridge and wanted to use it up and b) because I can.  Admittedly, the melted chocolate chips would probably be better with a more intense candy flavor and texture, but mine were tasty and I would do the same thing again.  If you need a quick treat for a Chubby Hubby lover, these will win you major points.  And I like to think when people taste a different type of Rice Krispies Treat, they forget that they're just cereal treats and simple to whip up, thus earning you points for "slaving away" in the kitchen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Broccoli, Ham and Cheese Quiche with Potato Crust

I have a confession: I don't usually measure when it comes to cooking "food."  For as accurate a science as I know baking is and for the number of measuring tools in my kitchen for the purpose of being precise, when it comes to making a non-pastry-cookie-cupcake-sweet-baked-delicious-yumminess, I throw caution to the wind and just eyeball my ingredients.

Most of the time this works.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Perfect Fudge

You know that old family recipe you have that no matter how many times you make it, everyone raves about it?  The recipe that you're almost embarrassed to share with anyone because of how simple it is to make yet the reaction it elicits causes you to think it should be more complicated than it actually is?  Well, this is that recipe for me.  My Mom made this fudge for years but passed the spatula to me (quite literally) when she could no longer physically stir the mixture.  And now it's one of my traditions.  This fudge isn't like the recipes you see on the back of a label.  It's the easiest recipe you'll ever come across and the texture is the creamiest, melt-in-your-mouthiest chocolatey fudge ever.  From the mom and pop homemade fudge shops in Maine to the nation-wide brand name candy makers, I have never had anything quite like this fudge.  I'm not making this up--it's that good.  Cindy goes absolutely bananas for this fudge, forgoing all other treats for a chance at this stuff.  And she doesn't even like chocolate.  She thinks this fudge tastes like solid frosting (I don't think it's quite that sweet, but I get where she's going.)

So this is my Mom's recipe passed to me and I have no idea where she got it.   But you'll want to make this for two reasons.  It's easy.  And it's delicious.  So even the newest person to the kitchen can whip this up for their Valentine and surprise him or her with homemade chocolates (which will probably be loads cheaper than the stuff in a box wrapped in cellophane from the drug store).  Using the microwave melting method, be sure to pay attention to the power level on your microwave because you don't want to burn the chocolate.  The mix gets very thick and the key is to keep stirring to incorporate all the ingredients.  It's a labor of love but totally worth it.  If you make this for your sweetie, your best friend or just yourself, you won't be sorry.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cherry Cordial Rice Krispies Treats

Yes I went there.  And they are amazing.  These were truly an inspired dessert.  Walking through Target I was drawn to the Valentine's display, specifically the many bags of pink, red and white M&Ms on sale.  There I spotted a bag of cherry flavored M&Ms.  Immediately my head thought these needed to be inside a Rice Krispies Treat.  With white chocolate.  And possibly a little more cherry flavor.  Plus, knowing Dave appreciation (and all of yours!) for my Cherry Cordial Cookies, I had a feeling these would be a huge hit.  These were a dessert for a party and everyone raved.  The pop of cherry in the marshmallow coupled with milk chocolate laced with cherry flavor and the added white chocolate makes for a sweet snack, but not in an overly sugary way, just a very adult flavor for Rice Krispies treats.

While these are based on a standard Rice Krispies recipe, they were truly inspired and are an original for me.  Why do my original recipes keep including chocolate and cherry which happen to be one of Dave's favorites, not mine?  I crushed my M&Ms because they were slightly larger than the regular milk chocolate M&Ms and I wanted them to be a consistent throughout the bars.  Unfortunately when the melted marshmallow mixture hit the chocolate, the crumbs from crushing started to melt, so I lost the pretty pink color of the marshmallow. Small price to pay because the taste was exactly what I was going for.  Whip these up for a Valentine's treat and you'll have them begging for more.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Mexican food and soup.  A veritable match made in heaven.  And this soup tastes just like the chicken enchilada soup from Chili's, which I love.  Cheesy and spicy, the flavors in this soup come together to warm you up from the inside out.  Dave and I had this for dinner and loved it, plus it was amazing for leftovers.  For a cold February night, this really hit the spot, with a smoky flavor in the chicken and nicely spiced from the jalapenos and seasonings.  Plus, any dish that allows me to eat tortilla chips for dinner is a winner in my book.

I'm obsessed with Pinterest recently (follow me!) and found this recipe from Homemade by Holman through a friend's pin.  Salivating, I printed the recipe right away knowing Dave would love it (ok, me too).  I made a small adjustment in using chicken tenders rather than chicken breast (what was on hand), used a red pepper rather than green pepper (again, on hand) and only 2 jalapenos instead of the 4-6 in the original recipe--and I'm so glad I made that adjustment.  We like our Mexican food with some heat, but any more jalapenos would have made this a two or three beer bowl of soup!  (Yes, the beer became the required beverage for this tasty dish.)  One other difference, again because of what was in my fridge, instead of cotija and pepperjack cheeses I included chipotle cheddar and colby jack.  Both were perfect options.  Enjoy this with a big bowl of tortilla chips and a nice cold beer.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Banana Cinnamon Chip Blondies

Before I get to these bars, I wanted to share some good news: I'm working in a new kitchen!  Dave and I recently moved and now I have a kitchen with more counters and a whole cabinet devoted baking ingredients.  Not to mention the double cabinet of baking equipment.  Seriously I could go on and on.  So you'll notice a few mixed pictures of the old kitchen and the new kitchen for a little while yet.

These were some seriously good bars.  A cross between a breakfast treat and a snack, Dave and I enjoyed this whole pan just the two of us (usually we try to share with friends, coworkers, or at least the dog walker).  The rich cinnamon flavor really shines against the banana and a hint of nuttiness and with a little crunch, they aren't you're typical blondie.  A pan of these would work for brunch with friends or as a gift for new neighbors.  They're really quick to pull together, so you'll want to make these for all your friends.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cake Batter Rice Krispies Treats

Why, yes, these Rice Krispies treats do taste like birthday cake.  They are seriously good.  I love having a new way to flavor the traditional treat and these are perfect birthday treats since they taste like cake.  I love the traditional yellow cake flavor with a hint of chocolate frosting smeared on top, but the idea of using different cake mixes and frosting leaves endless possibilities.  These were on hand for a party to celebrate our friend Nick's birthday and were a huge hit.  In fact, they were eaten so fast, I never got a chance to take a good picture of them cut into squares, so I had to make them again (tragic, really).  I actually made them again for my own birthday (today!) since I'm not sure Dave will be venturing into the kitchen to whip anything up.

This recipe is courtesy of Andi from The Wednesday Baker who you might remember from my first posting for the Secret Recipe Club.  When I saw these I knew I needed to make them since I kept going back to the post.  Dave couldn't wait to try him since they combined his favorite thing (cake) with his new excitement (flavored Rice Krispies Treats).  Since I was afraid of the sprinkles melting, I opted to add them to the bowl of cereal rather than add them to melted marshmallow mixture.  A nice alternative to cake, these would be good for a children's party where cake would be difficult to serve, like a pool party or something like that.  And they'd make awesome bake sale treats tied up in individual bags.