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Thursday, October 27, 2011

{Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip}

This is the last of the three appetizer recipes for my Easy Thanksgiving Menu.

Since I have been forbidden from sharing our family Shrimp Spread recipe, I am sharing another easy favorite.  Alton Brown's Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip is one of the simplest recipes and the best part - no need to use the oven.  This is very helpful on Thanksgiving when it seems like everything you make needs a spot!  The recipe instead uses the microwave, but my little secret....

My small Crock Pot!  This little guy is the perfect size for dips and spreads!


The best part is that you can whip everything up, let it heat while you cook (or enjoy a few glasses of wine) and serve it in the Crock Pot to keep it warm.

The recipe can be found here at FoodNetwork.com, but I have also listed it below.

Ingredients
1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
11/2 cups thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
6 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Directions
Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 cup of water until tender and drain. Discard liquid. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft. Stir in rest of ingredients and serve hot.

I would suggest prepping the ingredients the day before or the morning of and storing them in the dish of the Crock Pot in the fridge.  A couple of hours before you are ready to serve, put it on high and stir well before serving.  Delicious with an assortment of bread and crackers.

This recipe is also great for potlucks because you can make it, transport in the Crock Pot and plug back it back in to make sure it is nice and warm without being underfoot of the hostess or other guests.

{Enjoy!}

Monday, October 24, 2011

{Devilishly Delicious Deviled Eggs}

I wanted to make something really classic for Thanksgiving.  I thought Deviled Eggs would play this part while offering an appetizer that was a little hardier without being too filling.  This was very important for Matt who would otherwise be snacking from the pantry prior to dinner.

My Deviled Egg Math - This recipe starts with 7 eggs, which makes 14 halves, which makes enough to fill my egg plate that has 12 spots, plus one to taste test for seasoning and one because I have a friend named Lea who is a Deviled Egg sneak (before the paprika is sprinkled, of course.)


Two important tips when making hard boiled eggs.  One, don't use super fresh eggs because they don't peel well.  Two, always start with your eggs in cold water so they cook evenly.

Start with your eggs in cold water and turn your heat to medium-high.  You can add a little vinegar if you like.  I have heard it helps them peel easier and I am all about that!


Let the water come to a slow boil for about a minute



Then turn off the heat, cover with a lid, and let sit for 10 minutes.


After the ten minutes, move your eggs to an ice bath until they are completely cooled.


Carefully crack, peel, and cut your eggs in half.
Put your yolks into a bowl with plenty of room for smashing and mixing.
Notice how the eggs are nicely yellow with no green.  This is from cooking them slowly and not overcooking.  I find that this method gives the best texture.


At this point add your fixings.
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tblsp mayonnaise
1 tsp ground mustard
1 heaping Tblsp relish (I like sweet)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
a dash of tumeric
(The tumeric gives an earthy, slightly gingery flavor that adds a little something extra)


Now mash and mix.


I like to add a dash or two of hot sauce, but this is optional.


Today I am piping my filling, but you can just as easily dollop with a spoon.
I am using a pastry bag, but you can also put the filling into a plastic bag and snip off the end.

A couple of tips - 
Put the bag over a glass to hold it still while you fill (You would think I was making green eggs and ham with that little rhyme)
Choose a tip (or cut a whole) that is large enough to pipe the filling.  It is a bit thick and you also have to account for the relish pieces.


Squeeze from the back slightly until all of the air is out and pipe away!


The almost finished product.  Now, to sprinkle, or not to sprinkle.
Lea doesn't like paprika so I am getting creative.

There was a little cayenne pepper mishap a few years ago so check the label twice.


A little foil tent will keep a couple safe for her.



And they are finished.  Either serve right away or you can chill for later.


If you do want to chill them without smushing them, feel free to cover them with foil, aka intergalactic spaceship.

I put tooth picks on a few of the outer eggs and put a little foil ball on top to keep them from poking through the foil.


Then cover and chill. 


Final tip:  When I made these for Thanksgiving, I made the eggs a couple days before and finished prepping them the morning of.  This helped me spread out some of the work.

{Enjoy!}

Sunday, October 23, 2011

{Roasted Rosemary Cashews}

These. Were. Fabulous.


Ina Garten nailed this recipe.  I made these for an appetizer for Thanksgiving since they could easily be prepped ahead and ended up making them as a Christmas gift for work.  Everyone asked for the recipe.


The recipe can be found here on the Food Network site.


{Photo from FoodNetwork.com}

I was amazed by how the simple ingredients created such an amazing mix of sweet and savory with just a touch of heat.  I did back down the cayenne just a touch (to about 1/4 teaspoon) because some of my friends and family are so sensitive to heat.  Surprisingly, the rosemary was not at all overpowering.

I made mine ahead and they were just as good.  Or at least to the people who ate them because they didn't know that they were even better when I was sneaking them straight from the oven.  I promise, both will be great though.

You really must try them, but trust me...Make extra, because you will want to eat them...all.

Ingredients
1 1/4 pounds cashew nuts
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm.

Note: After reading the comments and reviews, I opted to toss the nuts with the melted butter first and then add the other ingredients so they would stick better.

{Enjoy!}

Saturday, October 22, 2011

{Easiest Thanksgiving Menu}

Thanksgiving is just over a month away!  Its time to start menu planning.  I hope to impart some inspiration for a stress free feast!




Last year was my first year hosting Thanksgiving.  My first time making Thanksgiving dinner was actually in middle school when my mom had purchased all the fixings and then decided we would go to a relative's instead.  She still wanted the leftovers and told me to have at it.  By the time she came home I managed to have everything done and the kitchen cleaned.


After hearing everyone tell me how stressful Thanksgiving can be, how much of a chore it is and how you spend your entire day in the kitchen (not really a bad idea to me), I decided I was going to put together a menu that I could prep throughout the days prior as time permitted so I could enjoy the day of.  So I guess it was either out of spite or pure genius!


As I picked through recipes, I decided on a menu that ended up working out perfectly.  I will post the full recipes throughout the next couple of weeks with a final post at the end to layout the schedule of prep.  For now, here is the menu:


Appetizers
Ina Garten's Rosemary Roasted Cashews - These were fabulous before dinner and as a holiday gift at work
Classic Deviled Eggs
Shrimp Spread I have been forbidden from ever sharing this family recipe so I will swap it out for another simple favorite...
Alton Brown's Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip


Dinner
Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey - There is a reason why there are 3,417 reviews on the Food Network site for this recipe
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Fall Vegetables
Crock Pot's Orange-Spiced Sweet Potatoes
Autumn Apple Stuffing
Homemade Gravy
Alton Brown's Cranberry Sauce


Dessert
Piping Hot Apple Crisp with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream


As a bonus, I will also post a little something to do with the leftovers!

Friday, October 21, 2011

{Chipotle Sliders}

I have found one of the best burger recipes!  Rachel Ray has a delicious recipe for what she calls Texas Hold-Ums Mini Chipotle Beef Burgers with Warm Fire Roasted Garlic Ketchup.  It's a bit of a mouthful so I just call them Chipotle Sliders.

{Photo from FoodNetwork.com}

The burgers have half a grated onion mixed into the meat which helps to keep them juicy (without being overly onion-y).  There is also chipotle peppers in the mix - one of my favorite ingredient as you can tell from my salsa recipe.  The homemade, roasted tomato ketchup really creates an amazing finish!  

My twist - I love making them with the sweet little King's Hawaiian rolls.  I can buy 24 of them from Costco for what you would pay for a small package at the grocery store.

I just made these the other night and I'm already craving them again...


There is also a video posted here from her show.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


(PS - Although they have chipotles, its not a spicy recipe.  You really just get the smokey flavor.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

{Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins}

Boss' Day was Monday so I thought I would make some yummy, homemade treats.

One of my favorite recipes to make for breakfast or brunch is Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins from The Food Network.  They are super easy and delicious.  

If you have some leftover, they are amazing when popped in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.  The little chocolate chips melt all over again!  Delish!

I found perfect boxes at Michael's that hold three muffins (great serving size - two to be enjoyed with morning coffee and an extra for an afternoon snack).  

I decided to make a unique card that I saw on pinterest and can be found here.  Luckily it was pretty self-explanatory because the blog was in French!

While the focus of this blog is on FOOD, if my good friend Lauren at allthingshomie.blogspot.com can post a breakfast sandwich recipe, I figure I'm ok.


I blew up a balloon and wrote a message and then deflated the balloon.


Then I printed a hexagon shape as a template and glued them together with a little pocket, added a little circle with "Excuse me, I needs some Air" that I printed and used the cutest little clothes pins to attach the pieces.  So cheap and easy!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

{Cheese Fondue}

One of my girlfriends and my favorite things to do for a Girls Night is homemade fondue. Our love for obsession for fondue began when we went to a very nice restaurant a couple of years ago for a Birthday. It was delicious, but pretty pricey. I had made fondue once years before and we knew we could easily master it.

Our go-to is always cheese fondue. Who doesn't love a big vat of cheese, right? IF we leave enough room, we have chocolate fondue for dessert. This particular night, we stuffed ourselves on the cheese and faded into a food coma before we could make the chocolate so I will have to post that another time.

It may seem intimidating, but fondue is actually very easy to make at home. Once you have a good core recipe, you can change it to make any kind that you like.

This recipe is a basic cheddar recipe and uses milk for the liquid. To change the recipe, you can add other flavoring items, alter the type of liquid used (for example, beer or white wine) or mix up the cheese used.

Here is the base recipe that can be altered to your liking.

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 cup milk
2 cups cheddar cheese

Start with all of the ingredients in the pan except the cheese. Mix them together well and heat over medium heat.



Heat until the butter melts and it just begins to simmer.


At this point you can start adding your shredded cheese.


Add the cheese a handful at a time and stir until the cheese is completely melted.


When the cheese has melted completely, pour into your preheated fondue pot. That's it! Can you believe how easy that is?


We like to serve our cheese fondue with carrots, apples, celery, tortilla chips, French bread and most importantly, homemade pizza dough (I will post the super easy recipe that I make in my KitchenAid mixer).



We were so busy digging in that we forgot to look up when I set the camera timer the first time!



Finally, some examples of variations...

My favorite variation is using beer (good old red, white, and blue Budweiser works just fine) and adding fresh garlic and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

We also made a Mexican version recently that was quite tasty. Use beer as the liquid and substitute salsa for the butter.

My friends and I love our fondue nights! It is such a fun, social meal that is great for a get together or a date night at home. {Enjoy!}

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

{Baked Caesar Artichokes}

Last week, I got together with a few friends for a Girls' Night In.  We decided to go with our favorite (cheese fondue - which I will post soon) but also decided to have artichokes as well.  These are two of my favorite things!

Although I love eating artichokes, they can be somewhat of a pain to make and take a fairly long time to cook.  I used to boil them, but they always felt soggy and lacked flavor.  Steaming kept the artichokes from getting soggy, but seemed to take longer.  I love them grilled, but it is difficult to get them cooked all the way so it becomes a two step process to par cook them before you put them on the grill.

Fortunately, last summer I came a cross a new way to prepare them and I don't think I will ever go back.  The original process is for baking them, but it also works great on the top rack of the grill when I don't want to heat up the house.  There are a few key reasons I like this method:
  • It works amazing for large amounts of artichokes because you don't have to worry about having multiple large pots
  • They are completely prepped so there is little work for your guests to eat them (including cleaning the choke)
  • You can add additional seasoning, sauces, and dressings to them to make them even tastier
Here is a sneak peak so you can see what I mean...



So here is how you make them.  Start with your artichokes.  Depending on size, you may want a whole or half per person.  These were fairly large and we were stuffing ourselves with fondue so we each had a half.

Tip: When you buy artichokes, you don't want them to be dried out.  You can check them by giving them a squeeze...they should squeak a little.


Cut the stems off,


and the tops.


Next, cut them in half.


This is probably the trickiest part.  Use a small, thin knife and cut along the bottom of the choke to get all of the little hairs out.  You will want to cut deep enough to get the choke out without cutting too many of the leaves.  When you have a good slice, grab the inner leaves that are not very meaty (mostly the purple ones you see in this picture) and rip it all out.


Drizzle with about a teaspoon of oil (I like olive oil, but my friend Lauren was out so we used veggie oil),


and season with salt and pepper.  At this point, I sometimes add chopped garlic and that is the complete recipe.  I am skipping that step this time because I am going to show you how to make delicious Caesar artichokes instead.


Next, wrap the artichokes with two sheets of foil.  I wrap the artichoke,


flip it over and wrap with the other sheet.


You will want to get it wrapped tight without any holes so the artichokes steam.


Into the oven they go.  I bake them at 400 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or so.  Since I am making the Caesar artichokes, I will take them out with 10 minutes remaining to add the last ingredients.  


 Now for the Caesar part of the recipe.  I love this step because it makes them taste great and you can actually skip serving a dip with them.

Pull the artichokes out of the oven and pull back the foil.  You will need to rewrap them so don't damage the foil.

I usually do a couple at a time so they are not sitting out too long.

Drizzle the artichokes with some Caesar dressing.  I use a couple of tablespoons per artichoke.


Next, sprinkle on some chopped garlic,


and shave some Parmesan or Romano cheese on top.


Wrap them up and place them back in the oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.  


It is a good idea to test them and take note of how close they are to being done when you are adding the final ingredients.  If they are on the firm side, I will make sure to leave them in for a little longer .


Time for the unveiling.  These will be hot so be careful when you unwrap.


I love how the dressing mixes with the fresh garlic and the cheese is melty and delicious!


This really is such a simple way to make artichokes.  It works so well for a large group of people and it is wonderful to lessen the work of your guests by removing the choke.  They can also be prepped ahead of time.


I hope you will give them a try and let me know what you think!  Enjoy!