Sunday, January 30, 2011

Baked Black Bean Dip

Are you ready for some football???   If you're in need of a quick and easy dish for a superbowl spread (or any other gathering), look no further.  This twist on a traditional seven-layer dip came together in minutes and after a short stint in the oven to melt the cheese, was ready to serve with tortilla chips.

I used a prepared salsa that already had onions, garlic and jalapenos, but you could always use some chopped tomatoes and lightly sauteed onions and garlic.  Adjust the heat levels to your own taste as well, adding an extra jalapeno or hefty shake of cayenne pepper.

If you don't have smoked paprika on hand, you could get the smokiness by adding in a chipotle pepper and a bit of adobo sauce when blending in the food processor.   This will bring some heat as well, so be careful when adding the cayenne!

One last note on texture.  I made this dip pretty smooth, if you're looking for a dip with a little bit goin' on, feel free to reserve some of the beans before blending together.  These can be mashed lightly with a fork and folded in by hand after the rest of the ingredients are well-mixed.  Adding some corn after blending the dip could also be a way to get some more texture.

Baked Black Bean Dip
Recipe by Shannon
Serves a crowd

2 16oz cans black beans (or 1 29oz can), rinsed and drained
1/2c Pace Mild Picante Sauce*  (or your favorite salsa)
1/2c 2% greek yogurt
1/4-1/2t cumin
1/4-1/2t smoked Spanish Paprika
dash cayenne
dash salt
juice of 1 lime
2-4oz grated cheese (I only had gruyere on hand, but cheddar or monterey jack might work better!)
scallions or herbs for garnish
tortilla chips for serving (Lime and Red Hot Blue Corn chips worked especially well)

Combine beans, salsa, greek yogurt, spices and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend until smooth and ingredients well incorporated.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  This can be prepared ahead of time, simply refrigerate and then bake when ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 400deg.  Transfer bean dip into a baking dish (I used my 1qt au gratin dish).  Top with grated cheese and bake in preheated oven 15-20min, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Garnish with chopped scallions or herbs (parsley or cilantro) if you remember ;)  Serve with tortilla chips.

*I received a sample of Pace Picante Sauce at no cost as a part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program.  Thanks for inspiring this appetizer!

Will you be watching this Sunday (either the game or the commercials)?   Favorite get-together appetizer?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Bite of the Tropics

Snow.  Again.

To distract me a bit, I thought it was time for a taste of the tropics to transport us somewhere we don't need to shovel again!   When I was home for the holidays, my mom had some dates she wanted to use.   I took it as a mission to put them to good use ;)

Sugarplums dipped in chocolate

We tried some Sugarplums, since visions of them were already dancing in our heads!   I thought the orange zest in these would pair nicely with a hint of chocolate, so we dipped them in a little semisweet chocolate ;)

Choc-Dipped Fruit-Nut Balls
I loved the combination of dried fruits in Molly's Chocolate-Dipped Fruit-Nut Balls, which look like little acorns with their semisweet chocolate hats ;)

Pecan Pumpkin Pie Bites

These Pecan Pumpkin Pie Bites were my mom's favorite!!    I'm not normally into traditional pumpkin pie, but these are little nuggets of heaven :)   Be sure to check out Lauren's recipe, the only thing we did differently is to roll them in unsweetened coconut instead of pecans!

Tropical Balls

Inspired by the bag of macadamia nuts my mom had, I came up with this version to transport us to a warmer climate...

Tropical Bites
Recipe by Shannon
Yield 20-24

heaping 1c roasted, salted macadamia nuts
2/3c dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4c unsweetened coconut
1t agave (or more)
1/2t vanilla extract
zest of 1 lime
1/2t lime juice (or more)
white chocolate, for dipping  (I used ~1/2c white choc chips)

Pulse macadamia nuts in a food processor until they have been chopped.   Add dates, coconut, 1t agave, vanilla and lime zest, then mix until mixture is well-blended.  Taste, and add lime juice (or agave) until the mixture starts to ball up.

Remove mixture from the bowl and roll into balls, ~1" in diameter.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

Melt white chocolate in a double broiler over low heat.  Dip balls in chocolate and place back on parchment-lined sheet.  Place somewhere cool (outside works, if you've got as much snow as we do ;)) until chocolate hardens, then store in the fridge in an airtight container.  Enjoy, one at a time!  Or two, I won't tell!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Butternut & Kale Lasagna

Butternut squash and kale are two of my favorite things in the winter.    I feel like I've been combining them everywhere, so don't be surprised if you see them again soon :)

I prepared the butternut squash puree and kale ahead of time, then made the pasta the day of.  If you're using homemade noodles, be sure not to roll them out too thin.   I did, and they disappeared into the lasagna.  Wasn't the end of the world, but I would've liked them a little thicker to hold up a bit more :)

Butternut & Kale Lasagna
Recipe by Shannon
Yield:  9"sq pan

2-3c roasted, pureed butternut squash*
~1T extra virgin olive oil
1 head kale, washed and destemmed, then roughly chopped
1 lg garlic clove, minced/pressed
1/2 onion, diced
1 batch homemade egg pasta, or other lasagna noodles  (check here for my recipe, I did a batch to serve 2)
1T butter
2T white whole wheat flour
1/4c porcini mushroom broth (reserved from the last time I reconstituted mushrooms, but you can use more milk)
1 1/2c milk
4oz goat cheese
1/2t salt
1/8t pepper
1/4t freshly grated nutmeg

The kale for the lasagna can be prepared a day or two ahead of time.   Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onion and kale, cover and cook for ~5min.  Remove cover and stir, continue to cook for another 5min or so until kale has wilted and onions softened.  Add garlic, stir and cook a few minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Refrigerate until preparing the lasagna.

To make the goat cheese sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk, cooking for 1-2min.  Whisk in broth and milk and cook 5-10min, until it starts to thicken.  Remove from heat and crumble in goat cheese.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and whisk until goat cheese melts into sauce.  Keep over very low heat so it doesn't thicken as you assemble the lasagna.

Start assembling the lasagna by pouring enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 9" sq pan.  Add a little sauce on the bottom of the pan and then start layering!  Two sheets of pasta to cover the bottom of the dish, spread around ~1/4c squash, a sprinkling of kale and a spoonful of sauce.  Repeat until you've used all of your ingredients (or you've filled your pan!).  Top last layer with noodles and the rest of the goat cheese sauce.

Bake in a preheated 375deg oven for ~25min, until cooked through and bubbly.  Let cool 10-15min before serving to allow lasagna to set up.

*Roasted at 350deg for 1-1 1/2 hrs, flesh scooped out and pureed in a blender or food processor.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cookie Swap v.2

Last night I hosted another post-holiday craziness cookie swap!  We ended up with a smaller group than last year, but still had a good time catching up over some delicious treats.

Smoky Tahini Peas, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms, Moroccan Chickpeas

I wanted to make a few light, savory appetizers to accompany good conversation :)  Since I had a busy week in lab, my aim was to use things I already had in my kitchen and wouldn't take too long to prepare.  I ended up with peas in a smoky tahini dressing, crab-stuffed mushrooms and Moroccan spiced chickpeas.

We had quite the sweet lineup:
     Meyer Lemon Shortbread from Jen (Tiny Urban Kitchen)
     Almond Macaroons w/Chocolate Ganache from Elina (Healthy & Sane, Russian Bites)
     my Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Roll Cookies
     Pretzel and Graham Cracker Chocolate Bars from Kerstin (Cake, Batter & Bowl)
     Lemon Ricotta Cookies from Bridget (Yogurt & Berries)
     Peanut Butter Butterscotch Rice Krispie Treats from Cara (Cara's Cravings)

Cara, Kerstin, Jen, Bridget, Elina and I

I had an awesome time with these ladies, maybe you'll be able to attend next year?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Project Baby Food

No, it's not what you think ;)   Have you noticed the string of freezer-friendly meals I've been posting?   Maybe I should've started with this post, but there was a method to my madness!  When I found out my cousin and his wife were expecting their first little one, I came up with the bright idea to prepare some food for them to have on hand when Caleb arrived.

Luckily I managed to get my act together and was able to hand off a cooler-full of goodies to the parents-to-be with a few weeks to spare.   I included print outs of the recipes, with cooking instructions and any extra ingredients highlighted.   They seemed pretty excited, and I sure hope it has come in handy amidst all the feeding and sleepless nights!

Be sure to check out the following recipes if you're ever looking to stock your freezer...
Turkey Chili w/Kale
Bean Burritos
Kale & Spinach Strata
Red Lentil Soup
Pumpkin Black Bean Enchiladas

Do you have a favorite freezer meal??

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pumkin Black Bean Enchiladas

Enchiladas are not something I grew up eating, so they're relatively new to me.  Tacos, burritos sure, but enchiladas?  Not so much.   I guess I need to make up for lost time ;)

In these enchiladas, the black bean-chipotle filling is balanced with a creamy pumpkin sauce.   They have a little kick, so dial back the chipotle if you're not into that sort of thing.  I've included directions for preparing and freezing the dish ahead of time, so it's great to make some now and have more for later ;)

Pumpkin Black Bean Enchiladas
Adapted from Bob & Everyday Food
Serves 4-6

1 15oz can pumpkin puree
2 1/2c water
2 lg garlic cloves, minced
2t salt
1/4t black pepper
1/8t ground cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1t chili powder
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2c 2% greek yogurt
1 chipotle w/1-2t adobo sauce
1/4c chopped baby leeks (or scallions)
10-12 6" corn tortillas
grated sharp cheddar cheese for the top (3/4c or so)

Add pumpkin, water, garlic and spices (salt, pepper, cayenne and chili powder) to a blender and puree until smooth.

Add 1c black beans to the bowl of a food processor, along with the yogurt and chipotle and adobo.  Process until smooth and transfer to a bowl.  Add in the rest of beans and leeks/scallions and stir to combine.

Pour 1c pumpkin sauce into baking dish (either a 9x13 dish or 1/2c into 2 smaller ones), you really just need to coat the bottom of the dish.

Wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for ~1min to soften.   Mound filling on tortillas (3-4T), one at a time, and roll up.  Place, seam side down in the baking dish.

If you're going to freeze the enchiladas to serve at a later date, cover surface with saran wrap and a layer of foil.  Pour the rest of the pumpkin sauce in a freezer-safe container and place the enchiladas and sauce in the freezer.  Don't forget to label them!

To bake unfrozen enchiladas, pour pumpkin sauce over enchiladas and top with shredded cheese.  Bake in preheated 400deg oven and bake for 25-30 min, until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbly.  Let cool a bit before serving.

To bake frozen enchiladas, thaw the pumpkin sauce in the refrigerator the night before (or thereabouts) you want the enchiladas.  When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400deg.   Remove the enchiladas from the freezer and remove plastic wrap.  pour thawed pumpkin sauce over enchiladas, cover with foil and bake for 30min.  Remove foil, top with shredded cheese and bake uncovered for another 30min, or until bubbly and cooked through.  Let cool a few minutes before serving.

Ok, so they don't quite photograph well, but they tasted delicious!!

Are you an enchilada fan?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Red Lentil Soup

If it looks like this outside your window...

... you should warm up with this red lentil soup!

Red Lentil Soup...  I need to iron my napkins!

And yes, it freezes too :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Greens Strata

I love a good breakfast dish.  And after seeing the same strata pop up on two of my favorite blogs, I knew it would be made in my kitchen...  eventually ;)

What I did discover, is that this can be frozen!  I prepped the recipe below in two baking dishes (a 9" square and 3" square), baking the smaller one right away and freezing the larger one.    Provided a portable breakfast when I needed it, and another portion to enjoy with loved ones!

Kale & Spinach Strata
adapted from Gourmet, as found on Smitten Kitchen and Eggs on Sunday
serves 8-12

A perfect blend of my two favorite greens, this strata was hearty and comforting.    A great way to start off the day, but perfect for any meal as it can be reheated!

1 10oz bag frozen spinach, thawed
1 head kale, washed
1 medium onion, diced
1T butter
1t salt, divided
1/2t black pepper, divided
1/4t freshly grated nutmeg
8c cubed bread (I used Nature's Pride Honey Wheat)
4-5oz finely grated cave-aged gruyere (~1 1/4c)
2 3/4c milk
1c egg whites (or substitute)
6 eggs
2T whole grain Dijon mustard

De-stem kale leaves and roughly chop, set aside.   Squeeze thawed spinach dry (using a dish towel or paper towels), and roughly chop.

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onion and cook for 5-10min, until it begins to soften.  Add kale, cover and cook for ~5min.  Remove cover, stir and cook another 5min.  Stir in spinach and cook a few more minutes.  Season with 1/2t salt, 1/4t pepper and nutmeg.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Spread 1/2 of the bread cubes in the bottom of the dish, followed by 1/2 spinach/kale mixture and 1/2 gruyere.   Repeat.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl (milk, eggs and whites, Dijon, 1/2t salt and 1/4t pepper).  Whisk together and pour over strata.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and chill in the fridge overnight (at least 8hrs).

When ready to bake, let strata stand at room temperature a bit (~30min).  Preheat the oven to 350deg.  Bake the strata, uncovered, in the middle of the oven for 45-55min, until puffed, golden brown and cooked through.  Let stand 5-10min before serving.

To freeze unbaked strata, cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then foil.  Freeze after chilling 8hrs, just be careful to keep it on an even surface until it has frozen!  When ready to prepare strata, bake unthawed (after removing plastic wrap and foil) at 350deg for 55-75min, until golden brown and cooked through.  Let stand 5-10min before serving.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wrap it Up

If your days have been anything like mine lately, you appreciate having easy dinner options when you get home late from work or the gym, or don't have much time/desire to cook.    Or are about to head out the door and want to grab something for lunch ;)

Luckily I came across tracy's post on freezer burritos and before I knew it I had some of my own stashed in the freezer.    The possibilities are endless here, get creative with your own combination of ingredients!!    If you end up with any leftover filling, it's easy to throw into some eggs the next morning for breakfast or keep as a snack.

Bean Burritos
adapted from Shutterbean
Yield:  ~12

1c rice
1 onion, chopped
chili powder
1 can diced tomatoes w/green chiles, drained
1-2T fresh chopped cilantro or parsley
1 can refried beans
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1 bag frozen sliced onions and tri-colored peppers
greek yogurt (mixed w/some hot sauce, if desired)
10-14 burrito-sized flour tortillas (I used TJ's Habenero Lime)

Cook rice using your favorite method-- I combined my rice, chopped onion and a hefty shake of chili powder in my rice cooker along with some water and let it go to work.

After rice is cooked rice, add drained tomatoes and chopped herbs, mix well and set aside.  Prep the rest of your ingredients, including a pile of foil squares to wrap finished burritos in.

Wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for ~1min until they are soft and pliable.  Remove one tortilla at a time and pile with fillings...  rice mix, refried beans, cheese, kidney beans, veggies and schmear of greek yogurt on the side.  Do the burrito wrap ;) (ends in, then roll up) and then wrap in foil.   Repeat until you've made all your burritos.  Label, then store in the freezer.

To reheat burritos, there are some options.  The quickest way is to unwrap the frozen burrito, wrap in a damp towel, and microwave for 2-3min on high (my microwave must run hot, as they were steamy after 2min).   If desired, crisp up the burrito in the oven or just let cool and eat.  Alternatively, place frozen, unwrapped burritos on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 450deg oven for 40min, then remove foil and continue to bake for another 5-10min until crisp.

What's your favorite kind of burrito filling??

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Few Words, Good Chili

Hearty.  Comforting.  Warming. 

Hibernate with a bowl pot of Turkey Chili with Kale, recipe from The Kitch'n.   Bonus?   It freezes well!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season!!

Slow roasted salmon

I don't have too many photos, my camera was taking some time off ;)

I enjoyed every minute home with the family, and wish I was still cuddled up by the fire.

Until I can catch up, I'm sending along wishes for a tasty 2011!!!
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