Appetizers

Aunt Susan’s Spinach (or not) Artichoke Dip

My Aunt Susan made this dip a few Christmases ago when we were visiting my mom’s side of the family in Richvale, California.  It was so delicious that I just had to get the recipe.  When she wrote it down for me I was surprised at how short the ingredient list was and how easy it was to put together.  Those are the best recipes.  Simple, easy, quick and delicious.

This dip can be made with or without the spinach.  Susan originally made this without the spinach, but I like it with.  It makes me feel like I’m being good to have the spinach in this dip.  If you use light mayo (or a mixture of plain yogurt and mayo), and low-fat mozzarella this isn’t the worst dip on the planet.  Using the spinach just adds to the flavor and adds some extra goodness.

If you decide to use spinach, you can use fresh or frozen.  I like to use fresh, but sometimes it’s not the quickest thing to do.  If you’re using frozen, thaw it completely then squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible.  To use fresh, just saute in a pan with a little olive oil and minced garlic.

You can serve it with almost anything; crackers, baguette, veggies, sourdough pieces, etc.  Just use what you like.  I like to use toasted bread for a nice contrasting crunch.  Enjoy!

Spinach (or not) Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup mayo (light, regular or half mayo half yogurt)
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, wilted
  • 1 cup grates Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
  • cayenne pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.
  2. Pour into a shallow baking dish (a 9-inch pie plate is perfect)
  3. Bake at 350°F for 45  minutes.
  4. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Basil Guacamole

Glorious guacamole.  It is one of my favorite foods not just because of its deliciousness, but because it is so very versatile.  You can enjoy it as a dip for chips, as a spread for a sandwich, in a wrap, on a taco, on fajitas and on top of a salad.  Guacamole is also good for you thanks to the avocado!  Avocados provide many essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.  High is good fats, avocados give you a great excuse to indulge in guacamole.  Now, the chips…they’re not quite so nutrient packed, but they are tasty.

This recipe is from epicurious.com.  Here is the link. The recipe recommends serving this “Italian take on the classic” guacamole with toasted ciabatta bread and crudités.  I served the guacamole with plain tortilla chips and some spicy flax seed chips that I found at World Market.  I think they’re called Sweet and Spicy Flax Seed Chips.  If you see them, you should try a bag.  I really liked how they tasted more substantial than a normal chip and had that great sweet and spicy combination.

I also bought a jar of roasted salsa from World Market.  It packed quite a punch in the heat department, but wasn’t unbearable.  We used some of it the next morning in our migas.

The guacamole was definitely different than your everyday avocado, cilantro, tomato, jalapeno, onion and lime guacamole.  The basil is detectable, as are the shallot and lemon juice.  The flavors are perfect together and I really enjoyed it.  I think it would be really tasty on the toasted ciabatta as the recipe suggested.  Next time I will try it that way, or maybe with plain pita chips.  Yum.

Basil Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 6 medium avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, diced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil plus leaves for garnish
  • ½ cup finely chopped shallots

Directions

  1. Place avocados in large bowl; add lemon juice.
  2. Using fork or potato masher, crush avocados coarsely.
  3. Mix in 1/2 cup chopped basil and shallots.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Can be made 1 hour ahead. Cover and chill.

Photos courtesy of Carrie Hartman

Mexican Layered Salad

This salad was a big hit at the Superbowl party I brought it to last weekend.  It is technically a salad, but a lot of us ate it like a dip with tortilla chips instead.  I ate mine over a little mound of crushed chips.  The chips add a nice crunch and saltiness.  The flavors in this salad are very refreshing.  It was a good complement to the heavy chili and queso at the party.  The black beans and avocados are healthy and substantial and give the salad some weight that makes it an appealing thing to even the manliest of men.  I made mine a few hours before serving and it was great; not soggy at all.  I ate some the next day after it had been sitting in the fridge all night, and it was still delicious.  The avocado was still green and creamy without any nasty, slimy, brown spots.  I really liked the dressing.  The addition of lime juice, cilantro and cumin makes the ranch dressing so much tastier.  I am thinking about mixing some more of it up just to have on hand.  Adding some minced jalapeno might be nice too.

I combined many different recipes to come up with this salad.  A lot that I looked at use chips or cornbread as a layer in the salad, but I am not a fan of soggy bread in anything besides stuffing at Thanksgiving.  So, I left the chips out, and served them on the side instead.  If you want to add chips, cruch up about 2 cups and use half as a layer in between the corn and lettuce layers.

Mexican Layered Salad
Ingredients
  • 2 – 3 heads of romaine, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 3 grated carrots
  • 3 – 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 avocados, cut into 1/4 inch chunks and tossed with about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 6 – 8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 large can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 cups shredded cheese, a combination of cheddar and monterey jack is great
  • 1 1/2 cups ranch dressing
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 – 5 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Tortilla chips for serving
Directions
  1. In a small bowl combine tomatoes and scallions.
  2. Combine romaine, cabbage and carrots in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine dressing, cumin, lime juice and cilantro.  Whisk to combine.  Set aside.
  4. In a trifle dish, layer half of the beans, then half of the corn.
  5. Top half of the lettuce mixture and press down.
  6. Top with half of the  tomato mixture, then half of the avocado.
  7. Sprinkle with half of the cheese, then drizzle with dressing.
  8. Repeat layers again, pressing down as needed.
  9. Top with cheese, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 1 hour.  Can prepare 1 day ahead.
  10. Serve with tortilla chips.

Manchego Wrapped Olives

Olives.  A lot of people either love them or hate them.  I am not in either group.  I like them in certain dishes, but not others.  I like some kinds of olives, but not others.  I like some raw, and others I prefer to be baked on a pizza.  I am a mystery.  There is just no predicting which olive will please me, and which will cause me to turn up my nose in disgust.

With that little preface you are wondering, “Why did she even try this recipe?”  Well, I knew I had some olives that needed to be used, and I needed a snack that would be relatively easy and quick.  I found this recipe for olives wrapped in a cheesy dough and then baked on Allrecipes.com.  I have tried my hand at deep frying, and while it does create delicious, crunchy and greasy food, it makes my house smell and dealing with that oil is a pain.  So the baking aspect appealed to me.

I switched the cheddar cheese out for Manchego, added more seasoning to the dough, and used two kinds of stuffed olives: green olives stuffed with garlic and green olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes.  As I was writing out a shopping list I had a thought. Is it Ben who is not a huge fan of olives?  I sent him a text about what I was planning for dinner to find out.  His response was “Sounds great!”  He is such a sweet man.  Turns out he is in fact not a huge fan of olives.  But, get this…he actually LIKED them!  I guess if you wrap anything in a dough of butter, flour, Manchego cheese and paprika you can expect people to be pleased.

I liked these little bites of crispy, buttery cheesiness wrapped around the salty olive.  The only issue I faced in the preparation was getting the dough to come together.  It seemed way too crumbly.  If you just keep working, then it will become the smooth consistency you need to wrap the olives. 

Preparing these is a little time consuming since you must wrap each olive individually, but you can definitely wrap them ahead of time, chill them in the fridge, then bake them a half hour before you plan to serve them.  Since these were good even at room temperature they would be a great party food.  

Manchego Wrapped Olives

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients
  • 1/2 pound Manchego cheese, shredded
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 20 green olives, pitted, or stuffed
Directions
1. Allow cheese to sit out until it is at room temperature. In a large bowl, mix together the cheese, butter and paprika using a pastry blender. Gradually mix in flour, first using the pastry blender, then using your hands. Mix until the dough pulls together. It should form a solid ball with a smooth appearance, but have a crumbly texture when pulled apart. If dough appears too dry, add more shredded cheese.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Pinch off a small piece of dough, and cover an olive with it. Roll gently between your palms to smooth and seal the olive inside the ball. Place onto an un-greased cookie sheet and repeat with remaining dough and olives. Place the tray of covered olives into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

 

Photo courtesy of Bettycrocker.com

Artichoke Spinach Dip

My Aunt Susan gave me an incredible recipe for artichoke dip a few years ago when we were visiting relatives in Richvale, California.  I had a craving for it this week, but couldn’t find the recipe.  After making this dip I was putting some things away in the study and I miraculously found Susan’s recipe!  Life is funny that way.

This recipe is more complicated and time consuming than Susan’s, so when I need a quick dinner party appetizer I will definitely be making hers.  This recipe makes A TON of dip, has a fresher flavor than the mayo based artichoke dips a lot of people make, and re-heats really well.  This would make a great addition to a Christmas party buffet, and if you have more than one to attend you could divide the dip between 2 dishes, bring one to one party, keep the other in the fridge and use it later!  I do not think they would freeze well, but you could give it a try.  Let me know how that goes.

11-10-2009

I loved the big, yummy chunks of artichoke in this dip and the use of fresh instead of frozen spinach makes for a better flavor.  The vegetables in the dip make me feel as if I am eating something somewhat healthy.  However, this dip is really not too terrible for you, or so it seems by the ingredient list.  Milk, I used 2 %, and just 1 cup of cheese total…but then there’s the vegetable oil.  Oh well.  It’s yummy.  I served this dip with tortilla chips, but it would be good with pita chips or some whole wheat crackers.

Artichoke and Spinach Dip (courtesy of Emeril)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag fresh spinach, stemmed, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and julienned

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil and flour in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly 5 to 6 minutes for a blond roux. Whisk in the milk and bring the liquid up to a boil. Season the liquid with salt and cayenne. Simmer the liquid for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Set the sauce aside.
  3. In a saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in handfuls of spinach at a time, until all the spinach is incorporated. Add the garlic and artichoke and saute for 2 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and cayenne. Remove the vegetables from the heat and turn into a mixing bowl. Fold the cheese sauce into the vegetables. Turn the mixture into a baking pan. Bake the dip for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips or crackers.

A 60’s Evening

This past weekend was one of the best I’ve had in quite a long time.  During our time in Waco we met some of our very best friends.  There’s something about being in the trenches together that brings people closer than they would have been otherwise, and this is what I have Baylor law school to thank for!

Ben spent most of his law school days with three great guys at Baylor, and as a result I became great friends with them, their significant others, and their kids.  After graduation we moved to Amarillo along with one of the other couples, Tim and Jackie.  Jason and Carrie and their adorable girls moved to Decatur and Christian moved to Houston.  Being scattered throughout the great state of Texas makes getting together a tough endeavor.  It’s also hard to find a time that works with everyone’s schedule.  So, this weekend was a special one because everyone was able to meet up in the bustling metropolis of Decatur.  Christian brought his fiancé, so we were able to meet her, and we definitely approve.

decaturpic

One of the great things about this group is our numerous shared interests.  For Carrie H and I one of those is food!  We had many incredible dinner parties in Waco, and when we get together now we usually plan a menu for one of our meals.  This weekend, Carrie also planned great breakfasts and lunches.  She is incredible.

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Palmiers

Have you found yourself with some leftover puff pastry and asked yourself, “What am I to do with left over puff pastry?”  The answer is…make palmiers!  I love getting the huge ones at bakeries that I always knew as elephant ears.  My sister thinks they are a waste of calories, but my mom and I love them.  Crunchy, sweet, rich, and buttery.  Perfection.

palmier2

I made a sweet and a savory palmier.  These are so easy.  Roll out your puff pastry to 1/8 inch thickness.  Sprinkle your goodies on the dough and roll both ends evenly to marry in the middle.  Chill the rolled dough for 30 minutes.  Err on the side of longer chilling time to make the slicing easier.  After the dough is chilled, slice 1/4 inch pieces and place flat on a baking sheet covered in parchment or a silpat.  Bake for 10-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Cool for 5 minutes or so…then enjoy.

palmier1I think that maybe I didn’t use enough pastry, or maybe I did not roll it out thin enough.  I was hoping for more layers, and that just didn’t happen.  They still tasted divine, but not as filled with goodness as I was hoping.  I will definitely try them again, especially the savory ones.  I loved the flavor of the parmesan with the pastry and tomatoes.  They are such an impressive appetizer, and with store bought puff pastry, would be incredibly easy.  Check out this how-to if you need more detailed instructions.  I actually wish I’d watched this before I made mine!  It seems easier than rolling the dough and produces a nice crunchy cookie.  Mine were sweet and lovely, but more flaky than crunchy and caramelized like these.  Oh well.  There’s always next time!

Parmesan and Sun-dried Tomato Palmiers

  • puff pastry
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • finely chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained

Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers

  • puff pastry
  • cinnamon sugar

Follow the instructions above for forming and baking.

Daring Bakers: Puff Pastry

Once again I waited until the very last minute to complete this month’s challenge.  What kind of crazy person decides to attempt puff pastry from scratch for the first time with a time constraint?  This crazy person, that’s who.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

puff12

I printed out the recipe and read through it and the instructions for the puff pastry vols-au-vent many times to mentally prepare myself for making this daunting pastry.  I watched the episode of Baking with Julia where Michel Richard demonstrates making the pastry.  Ben and I both watched in awe.  It’s as if he could produce a smooth and beautiful puff pastry dough with his eyes closed and both hands tied behind his back while balancing some spinning plates on his head.  Really, he makes it look that easy.

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Thai Coconut Soup

My parents came up from Round Rock to visit for a day on their way to Oklahoma City.  They also came to drop off my amazing Swedish truck!  I am not quite sure where to put it yet.  It’s one of the biggest pieces in our house other than our bed and the couch which makes the options for placement a bit limited.

trunk

There is no rhyme or reason to our house.  I have some modern, some traditional, and some antique furniture and decor.  The problem is that I love certain things about all those styles.  While I dream of a house that would embarrass the homes in Dwell, I know that day will never come.  I am OK with that.  A lot of what we have has been given to me from my mom or Ben’s mom, and I can’t imagine replacing it with anything.  So, welcome to my hodge podge home.

While my mom was here we got pedicures and then went to the store to get ingredients for dinner.  One of the other things my mom brought to me was a wok that I’d bought for $7.99 at IKEA last weekend.  It’s not the best quality piece of cookware I own, but I still wanted to use it.  I decided to make a chicken stir fry and coconut soup.

stirfry

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Monster Zucchini Part II: Zucchini Fritters

With the mound of shredded zucchini I could have made 3 batches (6 loaves) of zucchini bread.  I could have done this and frozen loves, or given them to friends.  But lets face it, I just don’t have that many friends and my freezer just couldn’t take the load!

fritter3

If I would have been thinking more clearly I would have shredded half of the ginormous squash and then sliced the rest and grilled them or sauteed them to serve with the leftover mac and cheese.  We cannot change the past, so I decided to make zucchini fritters.  I looked at a few recipes.  All used shredded zucchini, at least one egg, flour, and salt and pepper.  From that base I found that the possibilities are endless.  Some recipes used Parmesan or other cheeses in the mix, some used panko or some type of bread crumbs, some used onions (scallions or red), and the seasonings that were used ranged from simple S&P to 6 different herbs in one recipe.  I mixed and matched based on what I had at home.

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