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.

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.

Baked Fontina

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Oh, cheese. Glorious, glorious cheese.

Some days you really just need some bread with some warm melty cheese on top. This is a simple appetizer and/pr meal for one that will be warm and filling. Perfect for a romantic Valentine’s Day in.  Warm cheese, bread for dipping- that is true love.

BAKED FONTINA
Barely Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound fontina cheese, cut in 1 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the broiler.

Grease a 9 inch square cast iron pan. Toss cheese in pan in a somewhat equal layer. Season with salt, pepper,thyme, and garlic. Drizzle olive oil on top. Broil for 6-8 minutes, until bubbly. Let cool slightly. Serve with crusty bread family style.

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Olive and Pineapple Nachos

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Summertime means lots of snack foods.  Preferably with a nice, cold, fruity adult beverage.

When I was younger, my nachos always were cheese- just cheese.  Usually just cheddar.  Maybe a Cheddar and Monterrey Jack combo if I was feeling daring.  And every single nacho needed a decent amount of cheese on it. Eventually, I progressed into more daring topings starting with sour cream and progressing up to refried beans and pico de gallo.

Now, plain cheese nachos are boring. I will now bravely go where no other nacho has gone before (look out for my version of Thanksgiving on nachos this November).  Here we have one of my ideas of “that might be good on nachos”.  A bit of strange bedfellows but it works out well: you get savory cheesy taste, salty olives, and tangy pineapple.

OLIVE AND PINEAPPLE NACHOS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

Tortilla chips
Shredded pepper jack cheese
Spanish olives with pimentos, sliced
Pineapple, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place tortilla chips in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese on top. Top with olives and pineapple. Bake for 7-12 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Babbaganoush (Roasted Eggplant Dip)

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Spring break is…over.

I don’t know what I am going to do when I am working a real job without any of these academic breaks. A problem for future not, not present me.  Present me is just looking forward to having a week without having to teach or work.

I’ll went home to Houston for the break, and besides the joys of seeing my family, I love trying lots of new food places in Houston.  Last time I was in Houston for the winter break, mom and I went to a Lebanese restaurant and I ate some great food- including babbaganoush.

So what did I do then? Found Cook Illustrated’s recipe, put it on our Christmas Day menu , and chowed down. And I have been dreaming about eating it again ever since.

Babbaganoush is very similar to hummus but using eggplant instead of chickpeas.  Creamy roasted eggplant, tahini, and parsley pairs wonderful with pita bread or pita chips. This dip can be served cold or room temperature, so it’ll be a great dip to help cool down once the weather actually starts warming up

BABBAGANOUSH
Barely Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggplants
1-1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 cloves roasted garlic
Chopped fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS

Preheat grill over high heat for about 15 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-high heat. Place eggplants on grill and cook for 15 minutes, rotating 3 times (for 45 minutes total). Remove from grill and let cool slightly. Peel eggplant skin and remove meat from eggplant.

Place eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor. Process until smooth. Let sit at least 30 minutes before serving. Top with parsley and additional olive oil. Serve with pita bread or pita chips

Sweet and Salty Frito Snack Mix

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Oh my.

This sweet and salty frito snack mix makes me happy.  It is what it says: sweet, salty, and delicious.

You know what else makes me happy? Weekends.  Pancakes.  A good book that I can’t put down.  TV opening credits.

Let’s spend some time on that last one.  Yes, today we are going to have a conversation about television show opening credits.  Now, for me, a good set of opening credits can set a good tone for a TV show.  It makes marathoning a show so much more enjoyable.  However, I recently learned that not everyone values good opening credits.  One of my favorite opening credits is from Sons of Anarchy.  When I went home over winter break my parents were watching the show on Netflix as well, but it turns out when they watch the show on Netflix they always fast forwarded through the credits.

I watched in horror each episode as they fast forwarded past the tattoo song credits, and I found myself extrememely disappointed.  I need to hear the opening credits to get in the mood for the show (instead I had to watch in solitude afterward on my computer).  The good life is being able to watch great opening credits.

Other shows with great opening credits:  Dexter,  most HBO shows (my favorites being True Blood, Big Love, and Game of Thrones), all 90s shows like Charmed and Dawson’s Creek (I DON’T WANNA WAIT).  Oh my god there are so many good TV show credits that I could go on forever.  So instead let’s leave with this fantastic snack mix: basically a caramel coated mix of salty crunchy goodness with M&Ms on top.

Make sure to eat this snack mix while watching TV openings for maximum enjoyment.  Now we better go before I start a rant about how Dawson’s Creek on Netflix does NOT have the original song for the opening credits.  Show ruined.

SWEET AND SALTY FRITO SNACK MIX
Barely Adapted from Recipe Girl

INGREDIENTS

3-4 cups fritos (about 10 ounces)
2 cups rice chex cereal
2 cups pretzels
1 1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup candy (m&ms, mini peanut butter cups, heath pieces, etc.)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a roasting pan mix fritos, chex cereal, pretzels, and pecans.

In a small saucepan combine butter, light corn syrup, and light brown sugar over medium heat. Stir together until brown sugar and butter have melted. Bring to a hard boil and let boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Stir in salt. Pour over snack mix, stirring to evenly coat. Bake for 8 minutes, remove from oven and stir mix. Bake again for 8 minutes. Let cool completely.

Once cooled, break into pieces and stir in candy.

Brie en Croute: Improv Challenge

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Brie.

Let me count the ways in which I love thee.

I love you with fruit, on a cheese patter, on bread.

Some days my love for you can go to my head.

But you are a tempting, secret holding devil

Wrapping you with puff pastry and spreading on jelly takes you to another level.

Bow. Curtsy. Applause, applause.

I thought I liked brie before, but now that I have eaten it warm and wrapped in puff pastry, my love has reached new heights.  When I saw the challenge for this month’s Improv Challenge, so I took some wonderful brie, wrapped it in puff pastry, baked it, smeared with sweet and spicy pepper jelly, and went to town.

And then I ate it all for lunch.  And it was a good day.  A very good day.

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BRIE EN CROUTE
Barely Adapted from from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

8 ounce wheel of Brie
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg white
1/2 cup sweet pepper jelly
Crackers, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Roll puff pastry sheet into a 12 inch square. Place brie in the middle and wrap around the puff pastry, making even pleats and leaving an opening on the top of the brie. Place wrapped brie in freezer for 20 minutes.

Remove brie from freezer and brush the puff pastry with egg whites. Place brie on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Spread jelly on top of brie and let cool for 10-20 minutes (if you can wait that long). Serve with crackers.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting the challenge!  Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month.

Spinach in Puff Pastry

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I love food around the holidays since it always involves so many desserts.  And while I will happily provide you all with lots (and lots) of sweets during this month, unfortunately we do have to eat some non-dessert food in order to be socially appropriate. Sigh.

Another great thing about the holidays in the winter season is that you get to eat a lot of rich, warm food.  Casseroles (like my homemade green bean casserole), pastry, and lots of cheese.

This spinach in puff pastry dish is another winner from Ina Garten.  I have yet to eat one of her recipes that wasn’t fabulous.  And how could this dish be bad when it has cheese and puff pastry?  I am happy with just a piece of warm puff pastry so when it’s stuffed with a cheesy spinach, spanikopita-like filling, it gets even better.  Serve this with soup or a salad and you got a great lunch or dinner.

SPINACH IN PUFF PASTRY
Slightly Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
20 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
6 scallions, chopped
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, for egg wash
Kosher salt, for topping

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add onion and toss. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into bowl.

Squeeze liquid out of spinach. Add to bowl with onions. Let mixture cool slightly if needed. Stir in scallions, Gruyere, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one sheet of puff pastry to approximately 12 inches by 17 inches (an additional 2 inches on each side). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread spinach mixture evenly on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border. Brush the border with egg wash. On a lightly floured surface, roll out second sheet of puff pastry to approximately 13 by 18 inches (an additional 3 inches of each side). Place second sheet of puff pastry on top and crimp the sides with a form. Brush the top with egg wash. With a sharp knife, cut three slits on top. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

Serves 4 as a main dish, serves 12-14 as an appetizer.