Category: Appetizer

Beef Queso Dip

It has been suggested that I make something gluten-free (“GF”). My sister partakes in the diet, as do several friends. If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know that I’m a gluten fan. I don’t always eat it, but it’s never a conscious thing.

I should go back through and re-tag things as GF–start a new category for those of you who really want to get down on it. Since I certainly don’t specialize, I do follow several blogs who do, or at least do way more often than me. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Edible Perspective

With Style and Grace

Grok Grub

Oh She Glows

Eat Life Whole

The Year in Food

And just because I don’t want to disappoint, this gem was made for New Years. It’s also conveniently GF. Coincidence? I think not. I’d really prefer to call this “straight to your ass” dip or “what New Years resolutions?” dip, but it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. I have a ridiculous soft spot for Velveeta. I have a hard time calling it cheese when it’s shelf stable and in the candy aisle, but I have zero qualms downing its melty goodness. It’s its preferred form [I have it on good authority that it makes great fishing bait in its solid form]. I grew up on Velveeta mac. I have been known to melt cubes of it in chili. This, however, is best of both worlds.

It would be great for whatever football game you’re watching, or a party where you want to watch everyone stare at it with a side eye, not wanting to be the one digging into a vat full of cheese. Don’t worry, you won’t bringing any home. People eventually give in to temptation. This bowl was practically clean when I left the NYE party. Now that is embracing the new year.

Inspiration: Damn Delicious

Ingredients

  • 16oz Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 16oz ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chile verde
  • 1/2 cup roasted green chiles
  • 14oz (or one can) diced tomatoes
  • 4oz Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Olive oil
  • Cilantro
  • Crudités, chips, or sliced baguette for serving

Preparation

Brown the ground beef with the cumin and chili powder in a splash of olive oil in a large skillet with high walls or a Dutch oven. Drain and set aside. Add the cubes of Velveeta to the same pan, stirring often until it melts. It’ll burn if you don’t stir it. No one wants burnt Velveeta. Add the chile verde salsa, green chilies and tomatoes. Don’t drain the tomatoes. You want the liquid to help thin out the dip. Stir to combine. Add the the Monterey Jack cheese and ground beef. Stir until all cheese is melted. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro before serving. Serve warm. It may thicken too much as it cools. Reheat as necessary to maintain the liquid cheesy goodness.

Grilled Feta with Tomato Salsa

It’s totally grilling season — or at minimum, eat outside season. I have a small balcony off the second floor of the house. It’s completely covered in shade by the time noon rolls around, so it has to be a warm day to feel remotely comfortable [if you’re me, anyway; I’m always cold]. I try to get out there as much as possible, even if it means running all bundled up to the grill to flip things and to get back inside. I’m hardcore.

This has been on my to-do list since I got my hands on The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook, and finally and the tomatoes are started to look better at the store fridge. Who doesn’t want to eat 8oz of feta in a single sitting? I mean, c’mon [I split it with Andrew, promise]. It’s like this was practically made for me. Grilling the feta, which is really nestled inside a foil packet with the rest of the goodies, just gets it warm and toasty. It holds its shape despite being super hot and soft [I’m sure there is a joke in here somewhere]. The foil method makes for tricky plating between the heat and all the juices.

I ended up just opening it and digging right in with light rye crackers. I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want to try my hand at hot foil and trying to slide the contents into a bowl. If you want, you should definitely try Smitten Kitchen’s method in the oven. Way less mess, but way less grill involved. I paired this with some tandoori marinated chicken thighs from the fridge mostly because I needed something quick and easy to go on the grill, and because it’s delicious. I like good things, what can I say?

What are you grilling lately?

Inspiration: The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 8oz block of feta cheese, drained
  • 1 container of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • fresh cracked pepper

Preparation

Preheat your grill to a medium heat; you’ll want it around 400°. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, olive oil, and some cracked pepper. Set aside.

Get a large piece of tinfoil, and place the brick of feta cheese in the middle of it. Pour the tomato mixture on top of the cheese. Fold up the the foil into a packet so it doesn’t leak all over. Put it straight on the grill for 15 minutes. Smell the deliciousness.

Use caution when removing the hot packet. Eat with chips/crackers of choice.

Pretzel Tots

I clearly have been eating a lot of carbs lately.

They’re my favorite food group next to vegetables [I’m not joking]. I used to buy loaves of fresh French bread, bring it home, and eat it in a sitting. I guess that’s kind of like how I’m taking single slices of Dave’s Killer Sprouted Good Seed Bread to work to eat a snack. Plain. Untoasted. I definitely got the, “What ARE you eating?” at one point this week. You’d think after nearly nine years, they’d be used to my quirks by now.

Pretzel anything is also kind of a weakness. If it’s got a pretzel bun, I’m probably ordering it. I’ve had more than my fair share of crappy concession ones. I don’t want that weird sludgy cheese sauce either. Ew.

I’ve had these carb delights bookmarked ever since Adrianna at A Cozy Kitchen posted them. It marries together two of my favorite things—pretzels and tots. They both sustain my love for mustard, too. They’re both vehicles for each other. Following the recipe to a tee, you think you’re making a lot, but you’re wrong. They disappear really, really quickly.  Too fast really. You’ll eat what you’re given, and then wish for more. Dipping them in mustard really isn’t optional.

Since I followed the recipe exactly, you should really just pop over here.

Artichoke-Olive Tapanade

Eileen at Ham Pie Sandwiches and her husband came through Portland this weekend, so of course we went out for dinner and drinks. It was a really awesome surprise on all accounts. She’s just as awesome in person, if not more so because she brought me a sack of lemons from her tree. I always accept bribes. Always. I clung to the bag for dear life throughout the evening. No one was stealing my lemons. No one.

We ended up eating at Grüner because everyone loves German food. Even if you think you don’t, you do. Trust me. If you went here, you’d find something you’d love. I hadn’t ever been to dinner there before, but I’ve loved lunch every time I’ve gone. Happy hour was kind of meh, but I’m not really a happy hour kind of person anyway. Because we took zero photos, as usual [the lighting was terrible, I swear], you can pretend you’re looking at a nice glass of gamay and their jägerschnitzel dish — breaded veal cutlets in a chanterelle and hedgehog mushroom cream sauce, mustard seed spätzle, and spiced red cabbage. De-freakin’-licious. It’s a good thing I had social obligations or I probably would have inhaled it in about three minutes.

Drinks were had next door at their bar, Kask. All I can say is Negroni Flip. Think Negroni creamsicle thanks to traditional Negroni ingredients + a whole egg. It was out of this world.

Seriously such a fun evening out.

In other news, I hope you enjoyed any hand egg festivities you took part in. I went to my parents’ house for their food, not for the football. I couldn’t have cared less. If you showed  empty handed, I highly suggest you keep these ingredients around for the impromptu appetizer to take somewhere or if you’re having people over. I took it to a friend’s house for dinner last weekend, and it was perfect for smothering on baguette or crackers. I used to leftovers on toast with a fried egg. Since the artichokes cut down on the saltiness of the olives, it’s not too overpowering. It’s subtle, but still rich and decadent.

Inspiration: The Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup large green olives, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • 15oz can of artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Preparation

Peel and smash the garlic clove. Toss everything into a food processor or blender, streaming the oil in at the end. Process until it’s all a nice uniform consistency. Serve immediately or store in the fridge until needed.

Apricots with Goat Cheese and Almonds

Welcome to 2013!

The foundations for the southeast Asia trip have been started, I finally upgraded my phone, and I made and eaten a whole lot of awesome today. I. Am. Pumped. Oh, and it was sunny. It didn’t get above freezing, but that is absolutely beside the point. To see sun on the first of January, it’s a beautiful thing. Vitamin D is a total commodity at this point.

So these are goodies I brought to Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was just low-maintenance sandwich, cheese, crackers, and dips/chips kinds of stuff. That way no one has to slave over the stove two days in a row. I love it. It’s why I brought the salad and these apricots. We’ve turned Christmas day into a Mexican feast instead of Thanksgiving – Part II. Cue the coconut custard pie [which I’ll post soon!]. It’s like flan, but y’know, not. I can’t help but bring something new to the table most years while everyone else brings the usual goods. It’s an excuse to make new things. Speaking of, things I didn’t get to make but wanted to: Superfood Haute Chocolate, Chocolate Dipped Spicy Gingersnaps, Coconut Chai Coffee Cake, and Roasted Red Pepper & Bacon Goat Cheese Truffles. Someday. There is seriously too much food, so little time [which is exactly how I feel about travel].

So about these apricots — they’re supposed to be made with marcona almonds, which are a softer, sweeter, Spanish variety than the ones you’re used to seeing/eating, but they were out of them at both stores I went to. I substituted regular ones, and while good, I would highly suggest going out of your way for marcona. I can only imagine how absolutely perfect they would be with the creamy tang of goat cheese, and the sweetness of the apricot and honey. Regular almonds are pretty dang crunchy. I’m pretty sure I ate most of them that night, but that’s nothing new. It’s why I bring things like this to parties. I eat them like it is my job. Because it is. Sorta.

Inspiration: Shutterbean

Ingredients

  • dried apricots
  • marcona almonds
  • 4oz goat cheese, room temperature so it’s easily spreadable
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • raw honey to drizzle

Preparation

Make sure you have enough apricots as you do almonds. I had 30. Tracy at Shutterbean had 40. There is more than enough goat cheese for these amounts. Mix the basil into the goat cheese. Pipe little balls of the cheese onto the apricots with an icing bag [or make one!]. Top each with an almond. Make a mess Drizzle with the honey within an hour of serving.

Brie and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

I didn’t have a smoothie for breakfast this morning. It’s sort of freaking me out. I’ve been drinking smoothies almost non-stop since I bought my beloved Vitamix, but I didn’t get a chance to go to the store yesterday.

I dug around in the fridge [the actual one in the kitchen] and the pantry this morning in a mild panic. I’m pretty sure I was growing hungrier by the minute, as if that’s fair. Thanks body. Thanks for helping me out by thinking you’re going to starve. I found enough stuff to make the most boring oatmeal of all time, but I’m eating that for lunch. That’s kind of overkill, right?

I ended up reheating a chunk of black bread that was still in the freezer since January. This is why I don’t freeze things. I completely forget about them for 10 months. It was freezer burn free much to my surprise, and really, really good, too. A chunk of that, a couple small slices of Parmesan cheese, and a few Kalamata olives. How European. Ha. It’s been about two hours and I’m not starving…yet. I still feel weird without a smoothie. Security blanket much? That and I keep tasting Kalamata olives. Pairs perfect with mediocre office coffee, right?

This dip isn’t really about making anything. It’s about stirring things together. Perfect for when you’re running out the door to a friend’s house to watch a game. I do love an excuse to buy a baguette.

Ingredients

  • 5-6oz brie, allow to warm to room temperature
  • 2-3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato tapenade [you can make your own, but I bought some]
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Preparation

Cut off as much of the rind on the brie as possible. Mix the now soft cheese into your serving container. I like to get it to a soft pliable consistency before adding the tapenade. It spreads better that way. Add the tapenade and chopped basil. Stir well. It keeps well in the fridge, but allow to come to room temperature before serving. It’s soft and spreadable that way. Perfect for that baguette!

Avocado Hummus

My friend Jenny and I have a long standing tradition of going on a ‘not a date’ once a month or so when our schedule allows to catch up and pick a restaurant on the never-ending list of awesome spots on the city that we haven’t tried yet. It’s a win-win, and we rarely have a bad meal.

Tonight we made a stop at Olympic Provisions, at their NW location. It’s touted as rustic European-inspired fare. You know I’m all about that. I wish I would have taken photos. I really should start carrying my camera around more. I eat way too much good stuff on a regular basis. I started with a glass of Cantine Tintero Rosso from…you guessed it…Italy. You guys, I’m hooked. I can’t be stopped. This was a beautiful blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. It was by far one of the best reds by the glass I’ve had from a restaurant. Most places usually head toward a Chianti or a Sangiovese, which aren’t bad, but I definitely prefer any of the others. We split a bunch of things because that’s what we do. So glad that our tastes are similar.

Italian Board – Salami Cacciatore, Finocchiona, Nola, Sopressata, with mortadella, Riobiola tre latti, giardinera pickle

Spinach, bacon vinaigrette, strawberries, blue cheese

Ribeye, creamed new potatoes, onions and greens, gremolata

It was unreal how good all this stuff was. I couldn’t find fault in anything, except maybe ordering too much as usual. That’s not their fault. It’s mine. They make their own salami, and that Italian board was to die for. I could eat meat, cheese, and pickles all day. No problem.

And avocado hummus. I could eat that all day, too [Awesome transition for the win!].

This was a last minute ‘lets-bring-something-tasty-to-a-dinner-gathering-that-isn’t-a-bottle-of-wine-even-though-that’s-coming-too.’ It was pretty much devoured, which always makes me feel good.

Easy. Healthy. Hummus. I’m into it.

Inspiration: A Cozy Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas [garbanzo beans], drained and rinsed
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • paprika

Preparation

  1. Place garlic cloves, chickpeas, lemon zest, lemon juice, and tahini in a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth. I had to add a little bit of olive oil to get it going.
  3. Add avocados.
  4. Salt to taste.
  5. Spoon into serving dish.
  6. Drizzle with more olive oil.
  7. Sprinkle with paprika.
  8. Serve with chips, crackers, veggies.
  9. Try not to spill an entire box of toothpicks on the ground. They’re not as fun to pick up as you’d think.

Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

http://www.flickr.com/photos/_hoot/6914795099/in/photostream/

We’ve already discussed my love of stuffed mushrooms. I mean, does it get much better than bacon, jalapeno, and brie? Probably not.

Mushrooms

There is, however, a way to make it slightly more nutritious and just as delicious. Is it better? No. Is it different? Yep, and it’s not a bad thing. I made these back when I made the awesome cheese and herb straws. I was having a ladies clothing swap party. It was pretty much a bust since only two people were able to make it, but that meant more food for us [and I scored a couple new-to-me tops].

The stuffing for these is totally a chunky pesto-esque concoction. It still has cheese in it, don’t worry. There was way too much stuffing left over, so it made a great dip/spread for some rye crackers. Or just eat it with a spoon. That’s totally acceptable. I wouldn’t think twice.

Use your food processor if you have one. You’ll thank me later.

Inspiration: Clean Green Simple

Ingredients

  • 24 crimini mushrooms
  • Balsamic vinegar for brushing
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups kale
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 ounce parmesan, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Place the caps on a baking sheet.
  3. Liberally brush the mushrooms with balsamic vinegar.
  4. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in your food processor.
  5. Blend until finely chopped.
  6. Scoop heaping spoonfuls into each mushroom cap.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes until mushrooms care cooked through and there are juices leaking.
  8. Top with remaining diced red pepper if you wish.

Cheese and Herb Straws

I had the day off [Thank you, Presidents], and have the house to myself. It was a weird day. This hasn’t happened in a long time.

I cleaned the shower.

Yeah, I am the epitome of excitement. I can’t be stopped.

I headed toward normal kinds of excitement for the rest of the day—wandering the streets waiting for the impending rain storm, coveting an entire shop of succulents and terrariums, eating a biscuit topped with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, and apple butter, manhandling bottles of spices, inhaling the scent of books and spending an obscene amount of time in the young adult section, sucking down a cappuccino in the presence of an amazing owl painting, playing in the rain with Roma, watching Smoke Signals, mindlessly eating all the leftover cheese and herb straws and stuffed mushroom filling for dinner, and bending to the brink of exhaustion at a yin yoga class.

I’m currently half asleep in bed with toothpicks propping my eyelids open. No joke. This is what happens when left to my own devices.

We’ll just pretend I didn’t eat an entire sheet of puff pastry. Is that kind of like gorging on a pint of ice cream?

Inspiration: Joy the Baker

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, unthawed
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • Hot sauce, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parment or a silpat.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. You want about a 10×12″ rectangle.
  3. Whisk the egg, a splash of water, and hot sauce in a bowl. Brush it on the entire surface of puff pastry.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese, shallot, and thyme.
  5. Use the rolling pin to press the toppings into the pastry. Your hands work, too.
  6. Using a pizza cutter [or knife], cut the pastry into 1/2″ strips.
  7. Taking both ends in each of your hands, twist up the dough. It’s forgiving. The more twists the better it looks.
  8. Place twists on prepared baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Bacon and Jalapeno Stuffed Mushrooms

I love being invited parties or small get-togethers if you will [and I will]. It’s not because it fills a need for validation [but it might…a little], it’s because I love an excuse to make something. I feel weird about showing up empty handed as it is, and who doesn’t like something to munch on [that isn’t a bag of chips? Cheater!]? I try to always bring something I like because if there is any left over, I won’t be bummed if it comes back home with me. Plus, it assures that there will be something there that I like. And if it gives you a reason to dust off the Merry Christmas platter that’s been sitting in your garage because you have no where to put it? Even better [I washed it first. I promise].

So I made these stuffed mushrooms. Of course I love stuffed mushrooms. So did everyone else, apparently, because I only had one before the tray was devoured in the first 30(ish) minutes we were there. That’s not to say I didn’t devour all of the leftover stuffing and brie that just so happened to stick to my fingers [such a troubled life I lead]. These come together ridiculously easy. I made them so close to the time we left that I had plenty of time to go pretty myself up while they were baking [sprinting down stairs in heels to make sure to pull them out of the oven in time isn’t something I suggest, though]. I kind of feel if you’re feeling tasked while making stuffed mushrooms you should just walk away. They’re just mushrooms! It shouldn’t be a production. If you have a food processor, it’s even easier. Mincing all the stuffing takes .57 seconds. It’s glorious. I also found that New Seasons carries “ends and pieces” of bacon for cheap. That’s perfect for when I don’t want strips, and only want a small amount. I pulsed the bacon in the food processor after cooking it and it was a nice, evenly ground texture. I put brie in the bottom, but it definitely wasn’t necessary [who am I kidding? It was totally necessary]. I would have loved to put something punchy like gorgonzola in there, but I know not everyone is a fan. That’s for another day.

Inspiration: Whole Foods

Ingredients

  • 24 crimini mushrooms, washed and patted dry
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 wedge of brie

Preparation

  1. Pop the stems out of the mushroom caps. Set the caps aside and put the stems in a food processor.
  2. Cook the bacon, removing to a plate with a paper towel to soak up the grease. Don’t clean out the pan.
  3. Cut the onion into wedges and put it in the food processor.
  4. Chop the jalapeno roughly and put it in the food processor.
  5. Pulse a few times until the mixture is finely minced.
  6. Add the mixture to the bacon grease and cook on medium until the onion starts to turn translucent.
  7. Meanwhile, pulse the bacon in the food processor when it’s cool enough to touch.
  8. Add the onion mixture to the bacon. Pulse a couple times to mix.
  9. Preheat oven to 375º and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment.
  10. Arrange the caps on the baking sheet.
  11. Using a knife [good luck] or your fingers, place a small bit of brie in the bottom of each mushroom cap.
  12. Lick your fingers.
  13. Wash your hands.
  14. Use your fingers to spoon the bacon stuffing onto the tops of the brie. If you have any left over, feel free to shovel it in. It tastes amazing.
  15. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the mushrooms are browned and cooked through.
  16. Allow to cool before placing on a tray. The brie and bacon grease can ooze out a little bit. It’s not pretty [but it’s really delicious].
  17. Enjoy. Assuming you get to eat one.