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Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!


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Gorgonzola Veggie Dip

IMG_8873I like Gorgonzola cheese – and found this dip recipe in a Health Magazine.  I read the ingredients and thought to myself that I should really try making a dip like this one.  It is delicious with fresh bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, celery or carrot sticks.  The beauty is: only 130 calories per 1/4 cup serving.  You could easily use fresh herbs to this dip instead of dried.  This dip is a winner in my book.

Gorgonzola Veggie Dip

Yields 8 (1/4 cup servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz) container Philadelphia reduced fat garden vegetable cream cheese
  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 4 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry dill weed
  • 1 tsp freeze dried chives

Instructions:

Microwave the cream cheese for about 30 seconds on high (be sure to remove the lid and foil seal first).  Combine all the ingredients together and stir with a rubber spatula until it is combined.

Serve 1/4 cup of Gorgonzola Veggie Dip with fresh veggies for dipping.

Approximately 130 calories per serving of dip.

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Quick Appetizer and Dessert

I was recently asked to contribute appetizers and a dessert for a function at our church.  I love to cook, and was of course happy to help.  I was a bit of a procrastinator though in planning, so I made 2 simple appetizers and a simple dessert.

The first easy to make appetizer was a platter of skewered cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella balls and basil leaves.  A drizzle of balsamic vinegar would put i over the  top, but because my appetizer would sit in the refrigerator for 3 hours before the event, I left the vinegar off.

I  found sandwich picks at Smart and Final that were nearly 3 inches in length – longer than toothpicks which is perfect for this appetizer. Here is what you need:

Tomato Kabobs

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  • 3 inch skewers or sandwich picks
  • cherry tomatoes, washed
  • cherry sized mozzarella balls (I used Mozzarella Fresca by Galbani)
  • whole basil leaves

To assemble: Place one cherry tomato on the skewer, followed by a mozzarella ball, then a leaf of basil and another cherry tomato. Place along edge of a round platter and layer until you like the look.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar just before serving if desired.

 

Cucumber Sandwiches

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This is so easy! Cut the crusts of a white bread that you like.  Spread one side of the bread slices with a purchased garlic spread and top with thinly sliced cucumber slices.  Top with second piece of bread that also has the garlic spread.  Slice diagonally.  Serve. That’s it!

Dessert:

Purchased pound cake cut into rounds (or squares) to fit inside your dessert dishes.  I found small 5 oz clear dessert dishes and made 24 desserts for the event.

It does take a little time to assemble and chill, but look beautiful for a short list of ingredients.

Strawberry Dessert

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  • 1 pound cake, thawed and sliced into thin slices
  • fresh strawberries, washed and sliced into 4 pieces (arranged along edge of dessert dish, cut side out)
  • Jell-o (large box) lemon flavor
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 (16 oz) Cool Whip, thawed
  • Whipped Cream (from can)

First cut the sliced pound cake into rounds that fit inside your dessert dish (you need 2 per dessert).  Place one of the pound cake pieces in the bottom of the dessert dish.  Line the sides of the dish with sliced of strawberries (cut side facing out) – my dishes  were small, so I only fit 4 slices in each.  Use more or less as needed.

Prepare the jell-o.  Mix 2 cups boiling water into a bowl with the lemon flavored jell-o.  Whisk to combine. Place the bowl of jell-o into the refrigerator for 25 minutes.  The jell-o will still be warm when you remove it from the refrigerator.  Whisk in the thawed cool whip.  Ladle 1/4 cup of the mixture into the center of the dessert dishes, try not to disturb the strawberries.  Use more to cover the tips of the strawberries.  Cover with saran wrap and chill for about 1 hour.  Remove the desserts from the refrigerator.  Remove the saran wrap and place a second round of pound cake on the jell-o.  Top each dessert  with whipped cream just before serving.

Enjoy!

 

 


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Kale Chips

IMG_7009I am sorry, it is a green leafy vegetable and I want nothing of it… right? That is what you are thinking!  That is what I thought, but I had so many of my foodie friends making them and raving about them so I had to see what it was all about!  Guess what?  They are good! No, I should say addictive!  I have to play keep-away from my 10 year old son!  He may love them even more than I do!  I baked them in batches, and before the next batch was done, the previous ones were gone!  I may need a 12 step program for these.  I over salted the very first batch, but they were still good, less salt on  the second batch I made and they were better.  The third and fourth batches I added a quality balsamic vinegar before baking them.  They were not bad, but I think the pure salt method is the way to go.  The ingredient list is overwhelming – oh wait 3 ingredients.  I think even my husband can handle that!

I did find this recipe from Pinterest which led me to a site that had a wonderful step by step description (link).

Kale Chips

Adapted from http://www.kitchentreaty.com/how-to-make-kale-chips/

They are all the rage!

Serves 1 if you are home alone.. otherwise share with up to 3 other people.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ground sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Wash the bunch of kale and then take scissors or a knife and cut the stem going up into the leaf out (almost the full length of the leaf).  Tear the kale leaves into 2 inch pieces.  Dry completely between paper towels, toss and dry again.. you want them as dry as possible.

Place the kale leaf pieces in a large salad bowl and pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top and toss them with your hands to get as many of the leaves as possible coated with some of the olive oil.  Place about 1/4 of the leaves (as many as will fit comfortably on  a silicone lined cookie sheet as possible, without overcrowding them)  Grind sea salt over the leaves.

Place in the oven and bake for 8 to 12 minutes.  Depending on the type of kale you used it may take more or less time.  Mine was the curly kale and took a little over 12 minutes to crisp up and wilt some. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a pretty plate.. they will look pretty there for about 30 seconds before the vultures descend upon  the kale chips and make them vanish.

Notes: Kale will end up on my grocery list a lot more in the future because of this preparation.  What a great alternative to eating salty potato chips.  It satisfies the salty craving and is better for you too!  Will I be making these treasures again? Yes I think so, but now I am going to floss and brush my teeth because I have an appliance repair guy coming to fix my dryer!

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I found some wonderful looking Heirloom green tomatoes in my local store today and had always had on my cooking bucket list to make them.  Yes, turn on the TV and watch “Fried Green Tomatoes” – in the interest of time (and preserving human life) I skipped the barbecue sauce!  I do not recommend making it anyway – it tasted funny (sorry bad line from the Cannibal who ate a clown joke)… I digress.  Fried Green Tomatoes, I discovered are NOT made with breadcrumbs! Nor are they dipped in egg first (so my good AL friend tells me – it is ALWAYS buttermilk and cornmeal), so I made them twice.  Once with breadcrumbs and once with cornmeal.  The cornmeal ones were much crisper and had a great flavor, but I have to say that the breadcrumb version was also quite edible – I don’t think the Fried Green Tomato police will knock on your door like they did mine (just don’t post it on FB!) hehe  Also for an even more authentic Southern flavor, fry in bacon grease.

Here is a picture of the beautiful Heirloom Tomatoes I found at my local market:

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Green Tomatoes

  • 3 green tomatoes (or very firm red ones if you cannot find green ones), sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • a few dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning, optional
  • Vegetable oil (or bacon grease), for frying

Preparation:

Pour the buttermilk in one small bowl and add Tabasco Sauce to season it.  Pour the cornmeal into another shallow bowl and stir in Cajun seasoning if you like the extra kick of spice.

Dip the tomato slices first in the buttermilk and then roll in cornmeal.  Place on a paper plate.

Heat vegetable oil in a non stick skillet (1/8 inch deep) over medium high heat.  When the oil is heated carefully add the breaded tomato slices to the oil, being careful not to splatter yourself.  When the tomato slice is golden brown on the one side, flip them over carefully to fry the other side to a golden brown (about 2 minutes each side).  Remove the fried tomatoes to a paper towel lined plate and allow to cool a little.  Serve with sauce (I used Ranch, but maybe you know a better sauce that is traditional with friend green tomatoes.)  Enjoy.

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Hot Buttered Pretzels

Pretzels! Yum! Enough said!

Oh wait.. you want me to blog too? Wait, I am busy eating my third buttery pretzel! I have gained 2 lbs just sitting here. There! Licking my fingers and ready to type.  I tried a recipe for pretzels last week from all recipes.  It was their top rated recipe and I was hopeful, but it did not turn out right.  The dough was dry, but to be completely honest, I cannot be sure that it was not my error, because the yeast was past its expiration date too.  The pretzels tasted okay. but I was not completely happy with the texture.. armed with fresh yeast in hand, I went on my quest to find a good pretzel recipe.  I have a nice thick cookbook from the King Arthur Flour Company and in it I discovered a recipe called Hot Buttered Pretzels. (p 229 The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook) LINK

I doubled the recipe.

Hot Buttered Pretzels

Yield: 16 palm sized pretzels

adapted from The King Arthur Flour Company Bakers Companion pg 229

Dough:

  • 5 cups all purpose unbleached flour (King Arthur Brand of course)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 3/4-2 cups warm water

Topping:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • coarse, kosher salt
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter, melted

Preparation:

In your kitchen aid stand mixer, combine the ingredients listed under dough.  Use a dough hook to knead the dough for about 5 minutes.  You may need to dust the dough with a teaspoon of flour if it is sticking to the sides of the bowl.  Scrape the dough off the dough hook and remove the hook.  Dust the dough with a pinch of flour so it does not stick to the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500F (for my oven that was a little hot and the tips of the pretzels burned, so I reduced the temperature to 475F and the results were better).  I prepared the pans with my favorite silicone mats.  These are an excellent investment as the bottoms of items I bake do not burn.  You can also line your cookie sheets with parchment paper if you do not have silicone mats.

Divide the dough into 16 equal sized balls of dough.  Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray or grease lightly with cooking oil and place the balls of dough in the dish.  Turn to coat them with the oil.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Take one small ball of dough and begin to roll it out into a 18 inch long snake.

Dissolve 2 teaspoons of sugar in the cup of water and dip the string of dough into the water and form them into a pretzel.  Place the pretzel on your cookie sheet (I could fit 8 on my large cookie sheet). Sprinkle the pretzel with a little coarse salt.  Allow to rest 10 minutes before you put them in the oven.  Bake at 500 (or 475 in my case) for 8-9 minutes, rotating the pans half way through cooking time. After removing them from the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter.  I brushed each pretzel 2 times with the butter.  You really want the buttery taste to get on the pretzel.

My family loved the result of this recipe.  I will be making them again, even though I do not bake often.  These are worth the time!  And by the way, they are better and cheaper than the ones I can get at the mall.

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Avocado-Mango Salsa Stack

Becky's Avocado Mango Salsa StackMy husband and I celebrated our 19th Anniversary in March and we went to eat at Peohe’s in San Diego.  I bought their appetizer stack, which had three layers of goodness.  The bottom layer had diced avocado, then a layer of Mango Salsa and the top layer had seasoned crab meat (Pictured below).  They had a lovely sauce drizzled around it and served them with toasted cheese toasts.  It was a meal I ate with my eyes first.  Their presentation was amazing!

I didn’t want to go quite as elaborate on the quick snack I made before I had to head out to my son’s baseball game, but I did want to make mango salsa.  I pulled out my Weber’s Big Book of Grilling and found a mango salsa recipe that I used as a guide for creating it.  The ingredients were simple: diced fresh mango, minced red onion, minced jalapeno pepper, mint, lime juice and salt. Easy enough.  After I made it, I remembered that I had fresh avocados, so I thought I would make a mini stacks and serve them with tortilla chips.  I used a simple biscuit cutter to make the forms.  Using a whole avocado per form, and slightly pressing the chopped avocado down a little, but not squishing it into a paste, just enough to have them hold together, and added a squeeze of lime juice.  Then I slid the biscuit cutter up the stack of avocado and put in my layer of mango salsa, then sliding the biscuit cutter off carefully leaving a mini tower in tact.  Two of my children loved it – the oldest preferred to eat just avocado.  I showed the picture to a friend at the baseball game and she said (in a most loving way possible): “You suck!” Apparently the only thing she had eaten that day was a bean burrito!  Sorry Erin! 🙂

Mango Salsa:

3 mangoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and white ribs removed and minced

1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped (or cilantro would be fine here)

juice of one lime

pinch of kosher salt

Preparation:

Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir. You could easily change this recipe up by adding something like red bell peppers for color.

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Pictured below:  Peohe’s Avocado, Mango, Crab stack

Peohe’s Avocado, Mango, Crab Appetizer

 


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Tomato – Parmesan Appetizer

A few years back, when we were on our cruise in Hawaii, the cafeteria of the ship offered a roasted tomato and Parmesan dish for breakfast that I loved.  I recently have been addicted to Pinterest and found a version of these nuggets there.  Here is my twist. It would be great for finger food at a brunch, breakfast, or other gathering.

Tomato-Parmesan Appetizers

  • 3 tomatoes, sliced (on thick side- about 3 slices per average tomato- 5 in the larger ones)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • oregano
  • garlic powder
  • Parmesan cheese
  • drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 450F.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Line the sheet with the tomato slices.

Season the slices of tomatoes with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a dash of oregano.  Top the tomato slices each with 1-2 teaspoons of shredded Parmesan cheese (or more if you like).  Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for about 15 minutes at 450 F.  Cool slightly and enjoy.

 

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