Thursday, January 22, 2015

Marinated Cheese and Olives ~ Game Night Snack

This was our Thanksgiving night snack as we were all gathered around the dining table, playing Taboo, which has recently become my new favorite old game. We all enjoyed the briny-cheesy-carby goodness so much I'm thinking this may make an encore appearance as part of the 2015 Super Bowl spread.

Do you even know who's playing? I don't and honestly, I don't care. I watch football one day a year and that day is Super Bowl Sunday. And even then, I'm really only interested in the food and the half-time show. And of course, the commercials but I'm not sure they're as good as they used to be.

1 - 8 ounce pkg. cream cheese, chilled and sliced
10 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese, sliced
10 ounces Muenster cheese, sliced
1 cup green olives
1 cup black olives
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped pimiento peppers
1 medium size baguette

1. Prepare the marinade: In a small bowl, combine the white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, parsley, basil, and garlic.

2. On a round, medial size serving platter, arrange cheeses, in an alternating pattern, in a ring.

3. Place green and black knives in the center of the ring.

4. Drizzle marinade over the cheeses and olives. Sprinkle with pimento peppers.

If you are preparing this in advance, stop here. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve before moving on to the next step.

5. Slice baguette and place around the outer edge of the serving platter.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Slow Cooked Black Beans and Rice

My slow cooker quit on me over a year ago and I just never bothered to replace it. It was like the time our microwave gave out - it was convenient to have around but not necessary. Eventually I got used to it being gone but then we bought a new one and I was all excited about it.  Same thing here.

My husband decided to give me a new slow cooker for Christmas and I can't quite tell if it was out of his sensing I was beginning to miss having one around or if there may have been a bit of self-interest there. ;) Either way, we're both happy. And the first thing I made in it definitely made our youngest happy - slow cooked mac & cheese, more on that another day.

This black beans and rice dish is what I made for last night's dinner and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out! While we enjoyed this as a taco filling, it would also make an excellent side dish or filling for enchiladas.

2 - 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup long-grain white rice, uncooked
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup salsa
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 package crunchy taco shells

Suggested toppings:
cheddar, mozzarella, Pepper Jack cheeses
salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, jalapeño slices


1. Prep a medium size slow cooker with cooking spray or liner.

2. Add all ingredients and stir briefly, just to combine.

3. Cover, cook on low heat for 3 hours. 
Leave it alone - do not stir during this time or you will risk of ending up with mushy rice. 

4. When the cooking time is up, remove lid and then stir. Season to taste.

To serve:

Spoon bean and rice mixture into warm taco shells. Add favorite toppings and serve warm.




http://bit.ly/1yMPZum

http://bit.ly/thiswifecooks

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Green Beans with Pesto

Don't you love how sometimes the simplest dishes can be so tasty? Our youngest turned three yesterday so I made some of her favorites for dinner last night.  Slow cooker mac & cheese (more on that another day), honey drizzled carrot fries (another big hit) , and these pesto green beans were on the menu and she was so happy - that kid will eat anything with pesto on it! But it's got to be the good stuff - homemade or store bought fresh.  She's a definite foodie in the making already. ;)

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1 tsp. olive oil or butter
1 - 2 TBSP your favorite pesto, or to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated - optional

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add green beans.  Allow to cook 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat, drain beans, and immediately rinse with cold water.  Pat dry.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the green beans and toss to coat a minute or so, until heated through.

Remove from heat and toss with as little or as much pesto as you like.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve warm.

Or refrigerate and serve cold.  It's good either way.




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Easy Beer and Cheddar Dip

This dip is amazing with pretzels!  Don't think about the calories, just eat it!  But wait a day or so, if you can.  While the dip is good right away, it's even better the next day so it's a great make-ahead appetizer or snack.

The first time I made this, I used Guinness.  Today, I used a pale ale.  Both are good, which just goes to show, whatever you have on hand is probably fine.  Also, this is one of those recipes that can be very easily adapted to suit personal taste.

1 (8oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 of 10z. pkg. Ranch dressing mix
1/4c beer
1 1/4c Cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp. seasoned salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8c green onions, chopped

1.  Mix everything together in a small bowl and adjust seasoning to taste. 

2.  Cover and refrigerate. Give it a few hours for the flavors to really blend before serving.




Monday, December 22, 2014

3-Ingredient Gingerbread Truffles

These little make-ahead truffles just taste like Christmas to me.  It's like eating gingerbread cookie dough, but better because this "dough" is dipped in white chocolate.  And they're bite-size so you don't have to make a whole big dessert out of them, although you could.  Instead, just pop one or two or four in your mouth and move on to the rest of the holiday goodies.

Bonus:  This couldn't be any easier.  Seriously, get the kids to make these, they'll love it!

16oz. pkg. frosted gingerbread cookies, finely crushed
8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1c white melting chocolate (Ghirardelli wafers are my new favorite) 

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the crushed cookies and cream cheese until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight.

2.  Roll into 1" balls and place on parchment paper.

3.  Melt chocolate according to package instructions.

4.  Using a toothpick, dip each ball one at a time into the chocolate, turning to coat completely.  Allow excess chocolate to drip off and place truffle on the paper.

5.  Refrigerate and allow chocolate to harden prior to serving.  Store any extras in the refrigerator.





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

English Muffin Bread

Some days are just made for staying home and baking bread.  Today has been one of those days for me.

It's been cold, dark, and rainy outside ever since I was awakened by a screaming toddler before the crack of dawn.  As it turns out, the cold that seems to be going around lately has officially arrived at our house.  My littlest girl is fighting a fever but, thankfully, is able to rest.  Add to that the older boy is not having a much better day.  He left a bag with clothes and Christmas presents on the Metro and will likely not see it again, had to walk through pouring rain... on and on... you get the idea; he's having an anything-that-can-go-wrong-will kind of day.

So, with nothing I could do but comfort these two, I decided to make English muffin bread.  There's probably some deep psychological root meaning behind it like the memory of my stepmom baking homemade bread and that yeasty aroma in the air.  Maybe it comforted me in some way?  I'm sure it did; it must have....maybe I'm overanalyzing.

But, about this bread... it's perfect for toast. That's it!  When there is freezing rain coming down outside and I am homebound with sick and miserable children, I just want to sit and eat toast.  That's what I did, too, and it was everything I hoped it could be.  

2 3/4c warm water
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
1 TBSP salt
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. white sugar
5 3/4c all-purpose or bread flour
1 TBSP butter, melted (optional)

1.  In a large mixing bowl, proof the yeast by pouring in 1 cup of the warm water and the yeast.  Allow to stand for a few minutes while the yeast gets bubbly and foamy looking.

2.  Stir in the remaining water, salt, and sugar.  

3.  Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition.

4.  Cover bowl and place in a cool, dark place.  Allow dough to double in size.  I let mine sit for about an hour.

5.  Punch down the dough and divide equally into two prepared 8x4 loaf pans.  Cover again and allow to rise again, doubling in size.  I allowed another hour for this.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°

6.  Uncover and place in preheated oven.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.  If desired, brush tops with melted butter 5 minutes prior to finish.

7.  Remove from oven and turn loaves out onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.






Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies with Pomegranate and Sea Salt

I was recently gifted two fantastic ingredients - black onyx cocoa powder and vanilla bean paste.  Both of which I had never tried before so had no idea what I was missing out on.  The first thing you should know is, I will never buy plain old vanilla extract again.  The vanilla bean paste has spoiled me forever on that.  Secondly, people are not joking when they say black onyx cocoa absolutely needs to be blended into regular cocoa.  It's that rich.

The pomegranate seeds not only add a nice pop of color but also a lighter contrast in flavors to the intensity of the dark chocolate.  And just a little sprinkling of sea salt at the end brings it all together.

1/2c butter, melted
1 1/4c white sugar
1/2c cocoa powder
1/4c + 2 TBSP black onyx cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 eggs
1/3c all-purpose flour
1 pomegranate, seeded

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, both cocoa powders, salt, and vanilla paste.

3.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each.

4.  Gradually stir in the flour just until blended.

5.  Pour batter into a prepared 8x8 baking dish (batter will be thick!) and top with 1/2c of the pomegranate seeds.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with additional salt and pomegranate seeds.





Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wild Rice and Garbanzo Bean Soup

It's been wonderfully dreary and rainy here lately.  Normally, this alone is enough to get me craving a hot bowl of soup but, add in the fact that I'm fighting a stubborn cold that just won't go away, and it's pretty much guaranteed there's going to be some sort of comfort food happening here and this was exactly what I needed.

Cooking this soup, I was tempted to add a little heavy cream, mostly out of habit, but after tasting it I realized it was completely unnecessary.  The turmeric really gives a nice Indian flavor and if you're inclined to add some some sort of carb to the meal, I would suggest a garlicky naan bread.


2c herbed wild rice blend, cooked
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
1/4c yellow onion, chopped
1c carrots, diced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/8 tsp. dried turmeric
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6c vegetable broth
2 - 15oz. cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1.  In a medium size pot, heat olive oil and butter over Medium High heat.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Cook and stir 4-5 minutes, until softened.

2.  Stir in the garlic, thyme, turmeric, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir an additional 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the vegetable broth and garbanzo beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low, cover, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes.

4.  Remove cover and stir in the cooked rice.  Allow to simmer another 5-10 minutes, or until rice is heated through.  Serve warm.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Our New Favorite Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin pies have definitely evolved over the years.... I followed the recipe on the Libby's can for awhile and that was okay.  Then came a few years of folding in meringue and topping with pecans, which we all agreed was superior to the pies from the back-of-the-can days.  But then, this happened.  

I took a chance and tried out a new version of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day and the verdict was unanimous... this is THE pumpkin pie we will be having every year for the foreseeable future.

I was feeling fancy and decided to roast a sugar pumpkin rather than using canned but really, canned would work just as well here.

2c cooked pumpkin, pureed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2c heavy cream
1/2c sour cream
1c raw brown sugar
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 - unbaked, deep-dish pie crust

1.  Preheat oven to 425°  Place pie crust on a baking sheet.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, add all filling ingredients.

3.  Mix on medium speed until well blended and smooth.

4.  Pour filing into the pie crust.

5.  Bake approximately 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

6.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight; long enough for it to chill throughout.  Serve cool or room temperature.


Aren't these cutouts adorable?!
Since I used a store bought crust, I just rolled out the extra crust in the package, stamped them out with my little cutter, and placed them right over the other crust.  ;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce so much I could almost just sit and eat it all by itself.  The only time I make it though is Thanksgiving.  Maybe that's what makes it so special.  I like to prepare the sauce two days ahead of the big feast because 1) one less thing to do on Thanksgiving morning and 2) I'm convinced something magical happens with the flavors overnight.

If you're one of those people who buys the cranberry sauce in a can, stop that right now!  Once you've made the sauce with fresh cranberries, you'll never want to go back.  This is how I've made our Thanksgiving cranberry sauce for the last several years.

12oz. fresh cranberries
1c white sugar
3/4c orange juice
1/4c orange-based liqueur (I like Grand Marnier)

Note:  If you prefer to skip the liqueur, increase orange juice to 1c.

1.  In a medium size saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar, orange juice, and liqueur    Stir until sugar is dissolved.

2.  Add the cranberries.  Cook and stir until the cranberries begin to pop open.  (Mine took about 10 min.)  

3.  Remove from heat and allow to cool down a bit.

4.  Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and refrigerate at least overnight. (I like to make it 2 days in advance.)  Sauce will thicken as it cools.




Monday, November 24, 2014

As Thanksgiving Week Begins...

It's here!  Thanksgiving Week - the official buildup to the Super Bowl of all foodie holidays is upon us!  Are you excited or panicked?  Honestly, I'm a little bit of both at the moment.  Just yesterday, after wrestling the toddler down for nap, I finally got about 30 minutes of down time during which I was able to sketch out a rough plan for the big feast.

Have you seen all the recent posts about people doing "practice" Thanksgiving dinners?  Is this really a thing now?  Please tell me it's not because if it is, well, it's still not happening at my house.  Seriously, who has time for that?!

And all the planning guides that tell you to begin two weeks in advance?  Also not happening here.  Nope; everything will officially begin today (or tomorrow) with the big grocery shopping trip and we'll go from there.

But here's what I really want to know... Are you trying any new dishes this Thanksgiving?  I'll be keeping some things the same, like the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, but everything else from the sweet potatoes to the green beans, even the appetizers will be all new this year.

What can I say?  I'm feeling adventurous.  I'll let you know how it goes.  :)



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Red Beans and Quinoa

Southern-style comfort food that just happens to also be high in protein, gluten-free and vegan!  Served alongside Beer Braised Collard Greens, here, and a slice of cornbread, you've got a hearty, delicious meal:

1 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP yellow onion, chopped
1/3c green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2c vegetable broth
1c quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over Medium heat.

2.  Add the onion, green pepper, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until vegetables have softened a bit.  Add the garlic and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the thyme, kidney beans, and vegetable broth.  Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low, cover, and allow to simmer 10 minutes.

4.  Stir in the quinoa and season to taste.





Monday, November 10, 2014

Apple and Blue Cheese Crostini


I've been kicking around the idea of serving these for Thanksgiving and decided to do a test run last night.  What I love is the simplicity of the flavors and also the way you could put everything together in advance or just spread out the ingredients and let everyone build their own. Saves you a step and, really, people like build-your-own food - it's fun!

I've always loved apple and Blue cheese together but what was new to me was the addition of honey. This is what totally puts this appetizer over the top.  It's just that little kiss of sweetness against the the tanginess of the cheese.  So, what I'm saying is, if you skip the honey, it's still good but not as good as what the rest of us are eating.

If you want to get fancy, your can make your own bread (recipe here) or you can do like I did this time and grab a fresh baguette from the bakery.

1 - sweet red apple (I used a honey crisp), sliced thin
4 oz. medium-soft Blue cheese, room temperature
1 TBSP fresh rosemary
honey

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  Slice baguette into 1" slices and arrange on a baking sheet.  Toast in the oven 1-2 minutes.

3.  Layer each baguette slice with a "schmear" of cheese, a sprinkle of rosemary, and a light drizzle of honey.

Serve with a crisp white wine - perfect!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Because I had three full bags of baby spinach in the fridge that I needed to use or lose, spinach was the theme of last night's dinner.  We had a delicious spinach and tortellini soup, more on that another day, and these little mushroom bites.  They were such an easy and elegant addition to the meal and, since they're made with cottage cheese, not super heavy in calories like the cream cheese-based stuffed mushrooms I usually go for.

1 TBSP olive oil
12 baby bella mushrooms
12 mushroom stems, chopped
2 TBSP yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2c baby spinach leaves
1/2c cottage cheese
1 egg
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
1 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
2 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil.

3.  Add onion and mushroom stems.  Saute 1-2 minutes.

4.  Add spinach and allow it to cook down; 1-2 minutes.

5.  Add garlic and continue sautéing another minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.

6.  To a food processor or blender, add the cottage cheese, egg, nutmeg, black pepper, and cayenne.  Pulse a few times to combine mixture but still retain some texture.

7.  Add spinach mixture and basil.  Pulse another 3-4 times; just enough to blend.

8.  Spoon everything into the mushroom caps.  Bake 25-30 minutes.

9.  During the last 5 minutes of baking, top each mushroom with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.


Tip: Make the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds

Have you carved your pumpkins yet?  If not, get to it; it's Halloween week!   If you're ahead of the game, I hope you didn't throw out the built-in snack.

This is the one and only time of year we eat pumpkin seeds so it's important to roast them with the perfect blend of sweet and salty.  Confession: I have never gotten this quite right, until now.  I'm convinced the secret ingredient is the brown sugar.

Mr. agreed these are the best yet and seriously addictive!
 
2c pumpkin seeds
3 TBSP vegan butter, melted
3 TBSP brown sugar
3/4 tsp. sea salt + a little extra 
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin

1.  Clean the seeds by swishing them around with water in a large bowl.  Set aside to dry.

2.  Once seeds are dry, preheat oven to 250°

3.  Add seeds back to the bowl and add melted butter, brown sugar, sea salt, chili powder, and cumin; toss to coat.

4.  Pour seeds evenly into a prepared 11x13 baking dish.  Bake 90 minutes, stirring every 30 minutes.

5.  Remove from oven and season with additional salt, to taste.


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