Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Baked Brie Dip

Perfect Pairing:  Cranberry sauce

I really wish I had a better picture of this dip, a picture that did it justice.  Admittedly, it lacks color, texture, and pretty much everything else that makes a good culinary picture.  Please don’t let that deter you because it is delicious.  I have been making this for years and it never disappoints. 

Brie on its own is fabulous but it is totally transformed when it is melted into this gooey dip.  The addition of cream cheese and sour cream gives the dip a smooth texture.  Cooked onions and garlic add a savory note that is contrasted with a little brown sugar and lemon juice.  It smells so good while it is baking.
The Perfect Pairing for Baked Brie Dip is a spoonful of cranberry sauce.  I discovered this when I made this dip for an appetizer night the day after Thanksgiving and served it with leftover cranberry sauce.  The combination is, well, perfect.  I know, I overuse that word.  If it is not the day after Thanksgiving you can use the store-bought variety.  I usually serve this dip with simple crackers, apple slices, and cranberry sauce. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Roasted Garlic Bread

Perfect Pairing:  Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-Ups

So many meals just NEED to have garlic bread as an accompaniment.  A really simple garlic bread recipe is to brush slices of French bread with olive oil, toast in the oven, and then rub with a raw garlic clove.  It is amazing how much garlic flavor you get on the bread with this simple trick. 
I love the flavor of roasted garlic in this recipe.  You lose that pungent taste of raw garlic when you roast it, it almost becomes sweet.  My recipe for edamame hummus gives more detail on how to perfectly roast garlic.
The roasted garlic is mixed with softened butter, parmesan cheese, and chopped parsley.  I wrapped up the bread in foil, which keeps it pretty soft in the center.  If you are a fan of crunchy garlic bread you could lay the pieces on a pan and bake until crispy.
The Perfect Pairing for Roasted Garlic Bread is Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-Ups.  Like I mentioned above, some meals just need garlic bread, this is one of them.  There is just enough extra sauce to dip your bread.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Perfect Pairing:  Pasta Craving… on a diet

Sometimes diet food just tastes so…. diet-y.  I remember years ago a friend of mine was on the Atkins Diet, and was raving about the dessert she had just made.  I think it was a combination of ricotta cheese, artificial sweetener, and cocoa powder.  I have to say, I was not impressed.   It tasted like ricotta cheese, artificial sweetener, and cocoa powder.  I love my friend, but I think her taste buds were a bit warped by that point.
Trust me when I say that this meal does not taste diet-y at all!  It is truly scrumptious.  What puts it over the top is that it is so good for you, and low in fat and calories.  One serving (1/3 of the recipe, which is a big serving) is under 225 calories and 8 grams of fat, and also includes lots of fiber. 
This is the perfect dish for a pasta or Italian food craving when you are watching the waistline.  Another great substitute is this pizza recipe.  It is hard to find many Italian meals with those kinds of stats.
If you have never used spaghetti squash before it might be a little intimidating, but it really is simple to prepare.  The hardest part is cutting it open.  If you are really struggling with cutting it you can poke it a few times, microwave for a couple of minutes, and then try cutting it.  You can roast, boil, or steam spaghetti squash.  I always choose to steam it in the microwave in a shallow dish with a little water.  When it is cooked through it is super simple (and oddly satisfying) to shred with a fork.  It is really hot when it comes out of the microwave so I usually hold on to it with a clean towel and shred it into a bowl. 
To the squash I added freshly grated parmesan cheese and a dollop of reduced fat spreadable garlic and herb cheese (like Boursin, Rondele, or Aloutte).  If you want to cut the stats on this meal even further you can leave out the cheese, but I think it really adds a lot of flavor and texture to the squash without adding too much fat and calories. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Un-Recipe Files - Baked Potato Bar


Can you have too many versions of a stuffed baked potato?  I don’t think so, as referenced here and here.  I clearly have a thing for them right now.
I set out a baked potato bar over the Christmas holiday for my family.  Nothing was specifically purchased for this meal, we had everything on hand, and it was probably one of my favorite meals of the holiday.  The potatoes were baked using my favorite method, found here.
The cheese drawer was overflowing, so why not have a trio of cheese?  We had a couple packages of Green Giant broccoli and cheese sauce in the freezer.  I knew that would be a perfect pairing.  The stars of the bar were the random leftovers from the fridge.  You have to get creative!  The previous day we had made stuffed mushrooms and ran out of mushrooms so we were left with a mixture of sausage, cream cheese, parmesan, parsley, bread crumbs, and garlic.  I had no idea what was going to happen to that stuffing when I put it in the fridge, but I just couldn’t throw it away.  It was crazy good on potatoes.  Also leftover was some Asian Balsamic Beef Roast (that recipe will be on here soon, a winner) from the slow cooker.   Of course you have to include the basics like sour cream, bacon, and green onions.
Taking pictures was a challenge, lots of hands reaching into the shot.  DAD!  Out.
He was a bad example.
Ok, that is just too cute.  She can have whatever she wants.
Same with this little one, whatever she wants.  The curls… they slay me.
I loved seeing everyone’s creations! 
Meat and potatoes kind of guy.
Blueberries go with bacon and cheese, right?  Again, the curls.
Two very distinct versions on one plate.  I don’t agree with this potato-cutting style, but no one asked me.
Now that is a good looking potato. 
Keeping it simple and vegetarian.  I like the melted cheese.
What can be wrong with this?  Cheese… good, bacon… good
This is mine.  I can’t make up my mind on things, I want to try everything, but not all together. 
I get it from my mom.
Oh dad, that is just a mess.  Is that…. butter?  Let’s go with cheese, that’s better, right?

Baked potato bars are delicious, a great way to get rid of leftovers, and everyone gets to express themselves.  You really can’t ask for more than that from a meal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Perfect Pairing:  Parmesan Rinds

At one time in my life it just did not get any better than Olive Garden Restaurant.  I grew up in a small town with very few restaurants so Olive Garden seemed very chic and metropolitan.  I remember being in the “big city” with one of my girlfriends when we were about 15 years old.  We had been dropped off at the mall to do a little shopping and decided to have lunch at the Olive Garden.  We didn’t have credit cards at that age and only had about $14 cash between us, so we ordered the cheapest entrée on the menu so that we could enjoy the endless salad and breadsticks.  I know we had just enough money for the bill but probably not enough for the tip.  I still feel a little guilty about that!
I have not been to Olive Garden in years but I remember loving their Pasta Fagioli Soup.  That is probably why this is one my favorite soup recipes.  It is easy to make, filling, healthy, and tasty.   
The Perfect Pairing for Pasta Fagioli soup is a parmesan rind.  I always have a block of parmesan cheese in my fridge and for a long time I was throwing away the rind after using the good stuff.  Now I know they are great things to have around.  When you get down to the rind store it in a Ziploc in the freezer and save for soup.  It adds depth and great flavor.  You are probably paying for the weight of the rind, so you might as well use it.  Be sure to avoid dishing it up when ladling the soup into bowls.  The last time I made this my dad ate it thinking it was chicken.  Sorry dad.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Un-Recipe Files – Prosciutto and Pineapple Grilled Pizza


When I first started the Un-Recipe Files I warned that the pictures will probably be taken on my phone and would most likely not be beautiful.  Case in point.  So even though the picture may not show it, this is a really good pizza. 
Instead of going the traditional route with Canadian bacon I used thinly sliced prosciutto.  I love how it gets crispy while it grills and the salty flavor pairs so well with the sweet pineapple.
This is what I used:
·         Pre-made crust (like Boboli)
·         Jarred pizza sauce
·         ¼ lb of sliced prosciutto
·         1 small can of pineapple chunks
·         Fresh mozzarella and/or shredded mozzarella
I topped the crust with the sauce, prosciutto, pineapple, and cheese.  I grilled the pizza on a grill-safe pan until the bottom was crispy and the cheese melted and starting to turn golden.  You could certainly cook this up in the oven but I like the grilled flavor. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Arugula and Parmesan Stuffed Potatoes

Perfect Pairing:  Winter blues

A baked potato is hard to beat.  That is, until you stuff it with good ingredients.  Everyone loves twice baked potatoes.  A great dinner for a single girl like me is to make a baked potato and top it with Green Giant Broccoli and Cheese Sauce (only 60 calories per serving).  If I am feeling gourmet(ish) I will drain a can of spicy Ro-Tel tomatoes and stir that into the Broccoli and Cheese Sauce.  This Fajita Potato is another appetizing option.
I absolutely loved this Arugula and Parmesan Stuffed Potato.  It was light and fresh.  The peppery arugula and fresh lemon juice were just the things to counteract the winter blues that show up around this time of year. 
After the potato is baked you spoon out most of the flesh and mash it with the dressing and a good amount of parmesan cheese.  Scoop the potato back into the skin and top it off with dressed arugula and a little more freshly grated parmesan. 
The homemade dressing includes two coddled egg yolks.  Basically that means the egg (still in its shell) is dropped into boiling water for a couple of minutes.  The egg is just slightly cooked.  I know this might frighten some folks, even though it is pretty standard practice for restaurant-style Caesar dressing.  If you are not digging the undercooked egg you could use your favorite store bought Caesar or Oil and Vinegar dressing.  If you do use the store bought variety I would recommend a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to maintain some of the brightness. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Healthy Salmon with Dill

Perfect Pairing:  No time to make dinner

I found this recipe on the blog of my lovely sorority sister, Linda Wagner.  Her site is an inspiration to me as a blogger and as a healthy lifestyle enthusiast.  Her photographs are gorgeous and she gives some great tips and recipes.  Her site says that she is a skilled Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach who utilizes a holistic methodology to invigorate the mind, body, and spirit.  It is her passion to assist others in achieving their true, unlimited potential.  I think she is doing just that!  Be sure to check it out.
The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is a night when you just don’t have much time to make dinner, but still want something delicious and healthy.  There are just a few ingredients and the prep is done in minutes.  After about 15 minutes in the oven you have an amazing salmon dish! 
I bought salmon that still had the skin on and cooked it on foil.  After you mix up the yogurt sauce you spread a thick layer on the salmon and it goes straight into the oven.  When it is cooked the salmon slides right off the skin.  Throw away the foil and clean-up is done!

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