Feta Dip

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Dips are just the best. A dinner of dip(s) a great, easy (and usually oven-less) summer dinner, and that is exactly what I did with this feta dip. I had eaten some feta dip at a get together a few weeks ago, and ever since I have been hell-bent on re-creating it at home.

This dip was particularly great outside on a hot day with a margarita. A highly recommended combination. Or any dip with a margarita.

If you will now excuse me, I have a whole bowl of it in the fridge just calling my name for dinner. And it’s all for me since I am the only feta-lover in this household.

FETA DIP

INGREDIENTS

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces feta cheese, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat olive oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In a bowl, break up feta cheese into small pieces (you can also use a food processor as well). Mix in cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise until combined. Stir in garlic olive oil, chives, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. Let sit in fridge at least 1 hour, preferably overnight to let the flavors develop. Serve chilled or at room temperature with Pita chips or vegetables.

Recipe from Cinnamon Freud.

Pizza Quesadilla

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There have been multiple reasons for my radio silence for the past few months (!?). I was eating out more often, was busier with work, got a puppy that demands 99.9% of my attention at all times, and while I was still cooking, it was nothing that I considered “blog worthy.”

So, my cooking has changed. I still like to cook from scratch as much as I can (cheaper and healthier!), but I am definitely into faster meals now, and I am really into cheese in my meals even more so than before. So that’s where this pizza quesadilla comes in. The picture ain’t a beauty, and that’s because I snapped it with my iPhone in my horribly lit kitchen on my ugly countertop (before I burnt the countertop though at least), but this is a genius idea.

Pizza quesadillas are more quesadilla than pizza, but it is great. I find it more filing than the typical quesadilla fare, but still super simple to make!

Pizza Quesadilla
Barely adapted from Buzzfeed

Ingredients

2 tortillas
Tomato sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Additional toppings as desired (onion, pepperoni, peppers, sausage, olives, etc.)
Oil

Directions

Preheat broiler.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Spread on tortilla one lightly with tomato sauce and sprinkle mozzarella on top. Add any other desired ingredients. Coat pan lightly with oil and place tortilla in pan. Place another tortilla on top and press.

Cook until tortilla is lightly brown, about 5 minutes, and carefully flip the tortilla. Cook for 5 additional minutes, or until other side is golden brown. Transfer quesadilla to a baking sheet. Lightly spread tomato sauce on top of quesadilla and add any desired toppings, including cheese. Broil for 2-4 minutes, until crispy.

Where to eat in Lubbock

“I took three 25s in the side and ended up at Northshore Psychiatric Hospital in Lubbock, Texas, which is kind of funny in its own rite. Psych ward in Lubbock, Texas.”

– True Detective

Oh, Lubbock. You have (stole?) four years of my life. I won’t lie I was resistant to move there. The view flying in of empty, desolate, dusty fields is scary and may lead to an existential crisis if you are moving here, but you’ve grown on me Lubbock (enough that I proposed moving back here later in life to which the bf said wth?).

Leaving has made me nostalgic, so if you ever end up in Lubbock, here are some places to eat. And if you ever end up in a psych ward in Lubbock, they are not as bad as stated in True Detective- I’ve worked there.

Thai Pepper…surprisingly good thai food for a west Texas town

Pie bar…deconstructed pie. An ingenious invention.

And plenty of TexMex…enough said.

And In-And-Out is coming. Right as I am leaving. Sigh.

Cinnamon Freud is leaving Texas…

It’s been a great 26 years Texas (well, it’s been okay at least. You have saved me from having to drive in the snow and provided great Tex-Mex food, but the heat has been a bit much), but I am off to Missouri!

As the last year of my PhD program, we are required to do an internship, and with how our internship system is set up, we can end up anywhere in the country essentially (it’s like residency for med school).  So this is part of the reason for radio silence around here: the business of normal grad school + the application process. I travelled all over the U.S., going all the way to Minnesota and experiencing below 0 temps for the first time to all the way to Seattle for some overcast days. I ate a lot of really good food and learned how to eat alone (an interesting experience). And I took a lot of selfies.

So at the end of the whole process, I ended up in Missouri in the St. Louis area! So we (+ a new puppy now too) are out to Missouri. I am excited to be close to a big city again and to experience a real autumn! Close to lots of good grocery stores (hello Trader Joe’s) and lots of new restaurants to try.

So this foodie/grad student is ready to conquer more food and work to being a student no more!

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Cake Batter Dip

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There is a magical place in the panhandle of Texas.  It’s a small place, just right off a typical street, but it is where the sun is always shining  and happiness is abound.  Angels descend and brush their wings against the magical whisks and spoons of a dessert place.

One of my favorite places in town (besides my bed) is a pie bar where you basically get to eat a delicious reconstructed pie in a glass with crumbly crusts, whipped mouse fillings, and lots of toppings.  It’s magical.  It’s delicious.  I try to limit myself from walking through those doors as much as possible because once I am in, I cannot physically stop myself from chowing down.  Nor do I want to.

I have often pondered how they work their magic on that pie filling.  Now I have found a way, if purely by accident.  This cake dip is full of cake batter flavor, light, and decadent all at once.  You will fall in love with your first bite.

This dip is really as easy as it looks.  And as dangerous as it looks too- once you start, you will have a hard time stopping. Luckily, it is a little bit lighter with Greek yogurt. Plus, protein- so it’s basically a pretty good meal.

I am off to go make more of this now, please do the same.

CAKE BATTER DIP

Barely Adapted from Ari’s Menu

INGREDIENTS
16 ounces Greek yogurt
12 ounces whipped cream (Cool Whip perfectly acceptable)
2 cups yellow cake mix
Sprinkles, for topping

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl combine Greek yogurt, whipped cream, and cake mix.  Fold together until just combined.  Stir in sprinkles if desired.  Serve with pretzels, vanilla wafers, fruit, or Ritz crackers (my personal favorite).

Fig and Walnut Empanadas

2-17 Fig and Walnut Empanadas

Food cravings- I get them all the time. Sometimes I crave a salad, or some veggies, and that is great- my body thirsts for nutrition when I deprive it too long. And sometimes I just need some chocolate, red meat, or salty potato chips. Fine too, a little snacking and indulgence never hurt anyone. But the worst cravings are when I crave food I ate in another city. I’m looking at you, beaver tails

Well, practically every time I head home to Houston, I stop at this amazing empanada place. In fact, last trip, it was the first stop in town. I was grouchy and “witchy” after a long drive home, but all that grumpiness melted away as we stopped and I took my first bite into my empanada.

But what’s a girl to do when she is grumpy at home with no empanadas to listen the mood? Well, make her own! The emapanda dough I use is quick to whip up, only takes a little chill time the refrigerator, and is very easy to work with. Cheese and fig may seem weird, but think of it as a warm cheese plate wrapped in pastry dough. It just works. Then dollop some of your favorite fillings, bake, and devour.

FIG AND WALNUT EMPANADAS
Inspired by Marini’s Empanada House

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:

1/2 cup water
5 ounces butter
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Empanadas:
3/4 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup chopped walnits
3-5 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

In a small saucepan combine water and butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

In a bowl combine flour and salt. Slowly pour in butter mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a wet, oily paste forms. Pour dough onto a sheet of cling wrap. Wrap cling wrap around dough, forming into a disk. Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2 hours.

For the Empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Divide the dough into 20-25 small equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 4-5 inch circle. Place about 2 teaspoons of fig preserves in the center of each piece of dough. Sprinkle walnuts and mozzarella cheese on top. Fold over the dough tightly, forming a half moon shape. Crimp closed with a fork.

Place on lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

**To reheat, I have found the empanadas still get a crispy shell when you bake as directed above, let cool and store at room temperature, and reheat for 5-7 minutes at 400°F.

Makes 20-25 empanadas.

Huevos Motuleños

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I can get tired of eating the same food over and over. Not other people though it seems. My sister typically rotates between cooking 1-3 meals for herself, and my boyfriend literally asks to eat pizza for dinner every other day.

But I need variety in life. Except when it comes to Tex-Mex. I could eat chips and queso, enchiladas, nachos, and tacos all week long. Pair it with a frozen margarita and that’s even better. There is so much variety even within Tex Mex that I can be satisfied, but the familiar base of cheese, spicy sauces, and salsa is the best.

When I saw this recipe on The Chew, I knew I had to make it. Now, this is not a quick 30 minute dinner. It has several steps and involves frying, which means you got to clean up oil (Ugh. The worst). But the flavor is great- crunchy, spicy, creamy, and rich. It is a great homemade meal when you want to cook something special for your Tex-Mex.

HUEVOS MOTULEÑOS
Adapted from Mario Batali at The Chew

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound Chorizo (not in casings)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 cups refried beans
1 plaintain & 1/2 cup light brown sugar, optional
6-8 small flour tortillas
Canola oil, for deep frying
3-4 eggs
Avocado, sliced
Cojita cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Coat a large skillet in olive oil. Heat over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Season slightly with salt and pepper. Stir in Chorizo and cook until browned, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Remove and drain excess oil from mixture.

For optional plaintains: Slice plaintains. Coat plantain slices in brown sugar. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat coated well with olive oil. Fry plantain slices until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour 1/2-1 inch of oil into a skillet. Heat over medium heat until oil is approximately 300°F. Place tortillas in oil one at a time and fry each side until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. Set aside and keep warm (can be kept warm in a 200°F oven but keep your eye on them to make sure they don’t burn).

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Crack eggs individually into pan (be careful not to over crowd eggs- work in batches if needed) and fry eggs for 1-2 minutes. Flip eggs (carefully to avoid breaking yolks) and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

To assemble Huevos Motuleños:

Place a fried flour tortilla on a plate. Spread refried beans on top. Spoon chorizo filling on top. Sprinkle cojita cheese and avocado slices on top. Top with additional fried tortilla, if desired. Top with fried egg. Serve with fried plantains, if using.

Carmelized Onion, Tomato, and Goat Cheese Tartlets

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Ina Garten was the lady who first helped me realize that homemade food can be just as delicious, if not more so, than eating out. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love eating out. I can never resist the temptation to hit up my favorite spot for local margaritas and chips, and no homemade popcorn tastes as good and artery clogging as movie theater popcorn. But in my teenage years, Ina Garten’s recipes showed me I can cook, and it can taste good.

I first made these tarts when my friends and I back home got together for weekly cooking nights the summer after our freshman year in college. We went through many of Ina’s recipes (hello roasted potato and leek soup) that I have made multiple times since. These tarts were also part of my first dinner I made entirely by myself for my parents and my aunt.

These tarts are pretty simple but involve a few steps to prep. But they turn out great. I made mine a smaller side to serve as a side dish this time, but they are great when you make ’em bigger and serve as a meal with salad or soup.

CARMELIZED ONION, TOMATO, AND GOAT CHEESE TARTLETS
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

2 onions, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
2-4 ounces goat cheese
Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tomatoes, sliced
Herbs de Provence

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F. Prepare baking sheets.

In pan, combine olive oil and onions. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Stir in white wine, thyme, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.

Roll out sheet of puff pastry slightly. Cut into small tart-size squares (about 1 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inch). Place on prepared baking sheets. Spoon onion mixture evenly across tarts. Place tomato slices on top. Crumble goat cheese and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for 20-15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Sprinkle herbs de Provence on top. Serve warm.