Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Feta, Artichoke Hearts, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

D&D_1854So we had an abundance of feta cheese at the office – it is a long story, but I decided to make something of it. For Easter I thought a pasta salad would be good, but something light and fresh. So here is what I did. Another non-recipe recipe, but there it is.

8 ozs Orzo, al dente
1/2 pound asparagus, blanched until bright green (30 second – 1 minute) and the cooled, cut into 1 inch pieces
16 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and diced, or frozen
1/2 8.5 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut, drained*
2 Tbs minced chives
Feta crumbles from the office – not sure how much, but just make it look good with the color contrast

Vinaigrette –
juice and zest of one lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup minced chives
salt/pepper to taste**

While the orzo is cooking, mix together vinaigrette ingredients in a decent sized serving bowl.  Once orzo is drained, add the hot pasta to the vinaigrette. Let the orzo soak up all that flavor. All that lemon.

Mix in all the other pasta salad ingredients and serve at room temperature.

What could be easier? I am not entirely sure especially since I had it all on hand – thanks work for the feta. Have to take the perks when you get them.

I feel proud of this – I mixed a lot of things together and it really worked.  Thank you Nigella for the vinaigrette recipe.

*I usually use dried tomatoes that I rehydrate in hot water, but this time oil-packed made more sense to me.

** I hate this expression. Do people not really know to taste things and season them with salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe add more acid with some lemon or vinegar. Now I am being that food person that everyone says I am. Sigh.

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


Sour Cream Cornbread Muffins

I finally decided to make my favorite cornbread recipe into muffins, and I’ll be damned if it did not work out amazingly. I just took my favorite cornbread recipe that I always make for chili and tried to make it in muffin form. I am happy to say it worked really really well. Super happy – yep. dd_1789

1 cup self-rising corn meal*
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 small can of creamed corn – Publix brand is great – like most Publix brands
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients well.  Line a 12-well muffin tin with foil liners and spray with cooking spray. Fill cups 3/4 full – or basically just make them all even so the baking time is the same. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Do the toothpick thing just in case you are wondering.

* 3/4 cup cornmeal + 3 Tbs
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

So this past week I have eaten really moist cornbread muffins for breakfast**. Split in half and put in the toaster oven and heat up and make a little crunchy. And then just go all in with the ridiculously rich European butter – that is some serious good eats. Might be better than biscuits for breakfast but that is almost blasphemy for a good Southern girl to say. Well ….

**Before, I just cut pieces of cornbread and brought them in. But then there was the problem of running out of cornbread for leftover chili, so I went all in – a pan of cornbread and then cornbread muffins – pretty good solution. And more cornbread for me. I didn’t even share this with the office. I think I just might be terrible, no, just selfish.

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

 

Chex Mix or something like it – round 1

My mom, (here we go again), always made chex mix for Christmas Eve. No idea why really. Actually that is kind of strange – Christmas was always banana nut bread, magic bars, M&M cookies, vanilla taffy, and chex mix, oh, and then the very strange cheese ball that I always made. Once again I mention that. Strange.

Take away story: yes, do let your eleven year-old run Christmas Eve. It makes for some great stories. But not necessarily great cheese balls. Just saying.

dd_1737

This is so not my mom’s recipe, but mine since I decided to make it for Christmas Eve this year. That said, this is an experiment and I want to see what I like and what I want to change. I think my “part 2” will be for the Super Bowl. Yep.

4 cups Crispix Cereal
8 ozs lightly salted cashews
1 cup pretzels twists
1 cups of bagel chips and/or pita chips
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, bruised – not too mashed
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
4 sprigs thyme
1/4 tsp ground garlic
1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
good pinch kosher salt

In a heavy bottomed pot over low heat, melt butter with garlic, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, ground garlic, Herbs de Provence. Let simmer super low while preheating oven to 250 degrees.

Remove thyme and garlic clove. Add Crispix, cashews, pretzels, and bagel chips to a heavy-duty foil lined baking pan. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and mix well to combine and let soak in just a bit, 2 – 3 minutes. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes and if you are like me adding just a bit more Worcestershire sauce each time. Spread on paper towels to cool and then store in an zip top bag. I plan to make it dinner several times this week. I mean it is cereal for dinner, right?

Modified from : www.halfbakedharvest.com/moms-secret-Christmas-eve-Chex-mix

Guess I’m not the only person who had a mom that made this for Christmas Eve. Cool.

 

Lemon Crisps

I do not even have an excuse to make another lemon cookie. Nope, none at all. So there it is.  I am doing it again. These were really good. This is a new-to-me recipe and I just could not help myself. Indeed. Sometimes I just make cookies for me and eat, like 2, and then share them. It may not make much sense, but baking, and cooking, is just experimental for me. Once I’ve tried the result, I can make a decision about what to change and adjust. Or whether to abandon the whole idea – done that several times. But not this time. dd_1608

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 Tbs lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbs lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Cream together butter and sugar and then add egg, juice, zest, and vanilla. Sift in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Drop by 1 1/2 tsp onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake 10 – 12 minutes until lightly golden brown around the edges.

Let cool on sheet one minute before moving to cooling rack.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Lemon Glaze
4 Tbs lemon juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Beat together and drizzle over cooled cookies.

Source: http://whisk-kid.com/2009/08/inner-child-lemon-cookies.html

Best Pecan Sandies, um, ever

These pecan sandies are just that – sandy. I am just not sure that another version could take their place – nope, but I have a couple of other recipes for pecan sandies just to try. And prove to myself that these are, by far and away, the best. I have no doubt about it.dd_1607

16 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla, but pretty much as you want
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans, chopped – Renfroe’s to be sure.
Sanding sugar, for rolling

In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and 1/3 cup sugar and salt until light and fluffy.^ Add in vanilla, once again, as much as you would like. Add flour and mix, scraping the bowl down as you go. Add the pecans and mix until incorporated. Divide dough in half and form into two inch thick logs. Wrap tightly in cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Working with one log at a time, cut the dough into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake 25 – 30 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden on the edges, making sure to rotate pans half way through.# Let cool on sheet for one minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I think slice and bake cookies are dead simple, and they are. And I will say it once again, this is my go-to recipe for pecan sandies.

^ what, exactly, does that mean. Really? Not sure.

# something you should always do