Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking


Mini Cheese Ball Bites

So this was a new appetizer for Thanksgiving  but for me it plays into my holiday thing. Holidays call for cheese balls – yes, they do, because I used to make a cheese ball when I was all of 12 years-old for our Christmas smorgasbord – my name for our Christmas Eve feast thing. I have tried to advance my cheese ball experience to go way beyond my immature 12 year-old self. I mean dried beef was involved.* Ugh.  But now that I think about it – what would it be like to try that recipe several decades later? Would it be good or would the food snob in me completely revolt. I am not sure and little scared to try to be honest. I still have that recipe, so who knows what might happen.

This recipe has lots of my favorite flavors: bleu cheese, cranberries, pecans. Those flavors are holidays to me. Especially with our local pecans, just harvested this fall – they are so sweet and totally set off the saltiness of the bleu cheese. Also, I am hard pressed to ever turn down a dried cranberry. [See: Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies]dd_1693

I do love that the base of this can be made ahead – the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry part. Then the day of, make the mini cheese bites, roll in top quality local pecans and add that little pretzel skewer. Excellent. This will also make this recipe in a regular sized cheese ball to go with bread or crackers. May have to do this for the next pot luck at work. We shall see.

8 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
4 ozs bleu cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely minced
1 1/2 cup pecans, minced
pretzel sticks

In a bowl, mix together bleu cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cranberries. Refrigerate until firm. Using a spoon, scoop into tablespoon sized balls. Refrigerate again until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecan pieces in oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow pecans to cool. Roll chilled cheese balls in pecans. Keep balls refrigerated.

Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick. 

Do Ahead: Make the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry mixture and cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, toast the pecans, roll the cheese balls in them, and add the pretzel sticks.

* Here it is for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

2016 – A Year Ago – Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

We have a relatively new Christmas Eve tradition.  Christmas Eve fondue night. It makes a lot of sense to me – an easy, quick dinner that’s best with friends. With fresh bread, apples, grapes, and cheddar fondue, I was looking for something a little savory to go with it that would bring a different flavors. This recipe has the benefit of being able to make it ahead of time and bake when your ready. dd_1702

1 16 oz package bacon, cut into thirds
1 8 oz package pitted dates
4 ozs cheese – bleu, goat, Brie – whatever sounds good, yes Brie that is what we did
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange wire baking rack on top. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Stuff each date with cheese and wrap with bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on rack, seam side down. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder and sprinkle mixture over dates.

Bake 20 – 25 minutes until bacon is crisp. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Because if you do not wait it will be very bad (serious burns).

I love any dried fruit wrapped in bacon. Or pretty much anything with bacon (See: baked beans). I was really pleased with this recipe and plan to make it again since the container of dates I bought had enough to do the recipe again.

And believe it or not, if you let the left overs sit out and get to room temperature, they are not shabby like that either. Yes, I did do that. I’m that person.

2016 – A Year Ago – Lime Sugar Cookies

 

Parmesan Walnut Crackers

I do love to make crackers. I have a cracker binder. I am guessing not many people have those. I mean a cheese cracker binder. Well, there it is. I just cannot help it, I love cheese crackers. This recipe was my winner in 2012 cracker challenge. Not my best year, but the best crackers. And I keep on making them again and again. dd_1673

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ozs freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
big pinch of fresh cayenne

Cream butter and Parmesan and mix well. Stir in flour, walnuts, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Form mixture to 1 inch logs and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days, or longer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut log into 1/4 inch slices. Place slices on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for 20 minutes until edges are golden.

Winner of the cheese cracker challenge. Yes, I do a cracker challenge quite often. So sad. And very geeky. But that is me.

I think I’ll do it in January just for fun with a new set of recipes. Might include cheese straws for this one. Or maybe not. We shall see.

Thanksgiving

So I have mostly always made my same Thanksgiving appetizer, and I have to say it really is pretty much amazing. Sweet potato biscuits with ham and horseradish cream.  Just going to say, thank you once again to JW because this was all him. He was the best caterer for UNC-Chapel Hill while I was there and I totally took the idea and ran with it.DD_0184

Even so, I wanted to find a new appetizer for this Thanksgiving. But I do think I will make my small little sweet potato biscuits with all the best things, just because I can. But maybe this year my excellent cranberry sauce will be part of this mix.  Indeed.

That said, I have been looking for Thanksgiving appetizers – they all seem to involve cranberries or Rosemary – thank you most overwhelming pinterest. Sigh. Do love some Rosemary, but isn’t there anything else?

When I was young, Thanksgiving was a huge deal at our house. The only downer part about it was being stuck at the kids’ table. Really? Ugh. I understand that my older brother and sister were a LOT older and were pretty much married by the time I was 9-ish, but I was stuck with my younger sister and nieces and nephews – it was just insulting.

One of those weird things that I remember was a glass dish that my mother would take out for Thanksgiving and put gerkins on one side and olives on the other. Olives = ick. Gerkins = loved them. Besides Bread ‘n Butter pickles, gerkins were the only pickles I ever liked.

I  can totally see that glass dish. Should have asked for it long ago and now it is too late. Let that be a lesson – do not wait –  ask for what you want from your parents because if you do not you will be forever disappointed. I know I will be giving things away very early – like my Dad’s mom did. Simplify everything.

That just got slightly strange – but on to the Thanksgiving plans. And planning is involved – lots of it.

Apparently spell check does not like the word gerkins. No, it sure doesn’t.

So we are about a week-ish out from the big day and, my friends, this is go time.

1. Make decisions on what to make and how much depending on your guest list – my list, this year, is small. But that is not a bad thing because The Boy will be joining us and that makes me very happy.

2. Develop a grocery list of what you need and when you need to buy it. And then develop the “making” list – ie. when you can/will make each thing, but do what I do … plan for a catch up day on the Wednesday before the big day. That day, with nothing planned, will save you.

3. Order your turkey from the butcher shop. And also call your favorite bakery to order Parker House Rolls – I have been doing this forever. No need to make yourself crazy at this point. They will, pretty much, be better than anything you can make – unless you are making biscuits for Thanksgiving – and in that case, I salute you.

4. Pick one, just one, no seriously just one, new recipe to try. I will try.

5. Figure out what appetizer to make. Just don’t go overboard – less is more in this case. See above.

6. Add staples (butter, eggs, heavy cream, lemons, chocolate chips, local pecans, etc.) to your regular grocery list.

7. Watch grocery ads for Thanksgiving specials. Traditional there are lots of them. Hello fresh cranberries.

8. Decide if you want girkins. Hope you do for my sake.

Amazing Roasted Mushrooms

I follow several food bloggers and one that I really admire is Kevin’s Closet Cooking. I really have an affinity for Kevin. His recipes are pretty simple, not lots of ingredients, not too many steps, but these are the kind of recipe that I like. I like that he is kind of all over the place. From one day to the next, you never know what you are going to get and for me, that is really great. A challenge, trying something different, something outside of what you normally make – yeah, I really like that.

D&D_1542It does not take lots of ingredients or lots of directions to make something that tastes really good, at least to me. None of this means I do not adjust Kevin’s ideas to my own. It is cooking and experimenting, after all.

I am a huge fan of mushrooms. That said, I do not like raw mushrooms at all. Ugh. So gross. I love to saute them. Funny how that changes the entire equation. There are so many dishes I love cooked mushrooms in. Pasta with asparagus and mushrooms with a sauce of mascarpone cheese, lemon, and lots of real (read: imported and expensive) Parmigiano-Reggiano. I make a great vegetarian pate with mushrooms – so good on toast with fresh lime juice. I could just go on and on, and I expect that I will. That is just me. You do not spend a decade as a vegetarian and not have recipes that still make you stupidly happy. Many of my recipes are on the vegetarian side. That makes me happy, but I do love a good steak every now and again. And bacon, and um, sausage … here we go again. Pretty much any version of pork.

8 ozs crimini mushrooms, washed and stem removed*
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme or not as you prefer
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggino

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray just to avoid sticking. Place cleaned mushrooms in the baking dish and spoon the butter, garlic, and thyme mixture over the mushrooms. Season with kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper.

Bake for 10 minutes.**   Remove from the oven. Add the breadcrumb Parm mixture*** and press down and bake until lightly golden – 8-10ish minutes. Garnish with chives, parsley, or scallions. And a splash of lemon juice would not go amiss.

*I cannot help it, I just remove stems from crimini and button mushrooms. Maybe not necessary, but I have always done it. You could also use button mushrooms for this recipe. I just went with what was on sale this week.

**This is one of those dishes you need to serve right out of the oven … with a little bit of cooling time so you do not burn yourself. That said, I think you could put it all together in a baking dish a day ahead and then fire up the oven for the first 10 minute part, so that makes it dinner party friendly. I did it over two days and really was wonderful.  Cover the slightly baked mushroom with foil and let them get close to room temperature before putting them in the fridge and then finishing the dish when you want the next day. I do love recipes that give me flexibility.

*** You might have extra, but I wanted to be sure I had enough and now this gives me an excellent thought – what to do with the rest. It is in the fridge for now, but the possibilities are pretty much everywhere. Maybe some kind of crostini. So Kevin, what do you think?

 

Asparagus, Red Onion, Fettuccini with orange juice, white wine, butter sauce 

Once again I fall back on one of my vegetarian recipes. I think it is summer thing, I just want much lighter food in the summer. I really do not have an actual recipe for this, I just remember making it for something like the decade that I was a vegetarian. That said, I still prefer mostly meat-less dishes with the exception of a very good rib-eye – my favorite cut – or some bbq – or well, I will likely go on a bit to long and then disprove my “mostly meat-less” idea. Either way – summer needs to be light.

D&D_1533Now that I think about it though, I do not like soup with meat in it, kind of like ever, and nor do I like pasta with meat in it very often. Maybe that is odd, but it is just the way I am.

Be that as it may, this is one of my favorite pasta recipes ever and I find it interesting that the flavors are similar to my favorite cous cous salad recipe – orange juice, red onions … that seems to be a thing, for me anyway.

So here it is  – yet another non-recipe recipe. Hope you enjoy it and I think you will.

1 softball* sized red onion, peeled, and sliced
1 bunch of pencil thin-ish asparagus, woody stems broken off, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 package Buitoni fettuccini
fresh orange juice
Splash of vegetable stock – 2 Tbs or thereabouts
187 ml decent white wine – Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio – one of the little 4 pack bottles
More butter to finish – salted, and perhaps European, yep
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggino – the good stuff, just do not play around with this, seriously.

In at least a 12 inch sauce pan, melt the butter and then dump in the red onions.  At the same time set another pot with water to boil to blanch the asparagus. You will use the same water to boil the fettuccini – easy and healthy – or something. Saute the onions until they are soft  while blanching the asparagus, but make sure to remove the asparagus when it is bright green, it will cook a bit more in the white wine orange juice sauce.

When the onions are soft, deglaze the pan with the white wine and a couple of TBS of vegetable stock, and let it cook down a bit. Then add the orange juice about a cup and a half. It will look like way too much, but do not panic. Dump the fettuccini in the asparagus water and cook it to al dente. Move the asparagus into the white wine orange sauce – you are just going to have to wing it at this point. Tasting, judging, you might need to add a little more orange juice. The big thing is to not over cook the pasta.

Add the pasta to the orange juice butter asparagus red onion sauce and let it soak up the sauce. The just to gild the lily, add a couple of TBS of really good European butter – swirl.

When serving you need the salty bite of some Parm – yes, you do.

You are welcome.

*I think recipes really need to tell you the size of an onion – um, medium means pretty much nothing if you do not know what “medium” means. So, I think we all have an idea of a softball, so that is what I am going with.