Balancing Out the Cookies

Raise your hand if your calendar is often crammed with activities. I don’t know about you, but our social calendar seems to revolve around food. In December, for example, I had three separate events centered around cookies. From cookie exchanges to cookie Fridays at the office, I was slightly overloaded on the sugar. Earlier this month, we hosted the dessert portion of a progressive dinner, and then, I decided to bake some cupcakes for our small group just because it had been a while since I’d made some.

I firmly believe that life (as far as food goes, anyway) is all about balance, so when our social life became all about dessert, I started looking for something to offset all the sweetness.

I wanted something that would be easy to put together. Bonus points if I can make it with whatever was in my pantry / fridge. I remembered Annie’s white bean dip, and I thought it’d be perfect for the occasion. Plus, it’s healthy, and it takes all of 5 minutes to make. Cutting the veggies for serving takes longer than making the dip!

And, even better, it’s a dip that Andy truly enjoyed, which is saying something.

garlicwhitebeandip

Garlic Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 15 oz. cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely minced. Add the beans, salt and water to the bowl and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the food processor running, pour the olive oil into the bean mixture and process until it is fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then process another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Taste the dip and season with pepper and salt if needed.

Serve with sliced vegetables and crackers. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From Annie’s Eats, originally from A Couple Cooks

Click here for a printable version.

Summer Snacking

Guess what day week it is!

EAA 2014 038
Yes, this is one of last year’s pictures. I haven’t made it down to the brown arch for my 2015 picture yet.

That’s right, we are smack-dab in the middle of EAA Airventure. It’s arguably the world’s largest aviation celebration/event/convention/party, and we are lucky enough to live just up the highway from the excitement. Andy and I share a love for all things aviation, and we spend as much time as we possibly can down in Oshkosh this week. (Side note – and shameless plug – for the event: Even though the airplanes are cool, the people are the real reason for going. Yesterday, we got to hear three WWII vets talk about their experiences in a B-17. Priceless.) 

Several days at an airshow means several days of packed lunches and dinners. (Yes, we could buy food there, but this is cheaper, healthier AND tastier.) Our typical airshow snacks include fresh veggies (cucumbers and green beans from our garden), cheese and crackers, fruit and whatever else sounds good when I’m packing the cooler. This year, I decided to make something new for airshow snacking.

Several years ago, I saved a recipe for a maple nut snack mix from the now-defunct Cooking for Two magazine. I don’t know why it took me so long to make this, but I’m glad I finally did. It was easy to make, and I had nearly all of the ingredients on hand. I substituted pecans for the walnuts, since that’s what was in my pantry, and I added some dried cranberries to the mix after it came out of the oven. The result was a super-addicting, sweet-salty snack that’s perfect for enjoying on the flight line (or wherever your summer adventures take you).

Maple Snack Mix

Maple Pecan Snack Mix

6 cups of rice chex cereal
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup real maple syrup
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the cereal, pretzels, pecans and sesame seeds. In a glass measuring cup (yet another use for the 2-cup Pyrex cup!), whisk together the maple syrup and butter. Pour the butter-syrup mixture over the cereal mixture and gently stir until it is completely coated.

Spread the mixture on the prepared pan and bake until crisp, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before adding the cranberries to the mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Spring 2007

Click here for printable version.

Onions & Bacon – What Could Be Better?

Let’s get something out of the way, right off the bat: I don’t make a lot of dips. It’s not that I don’t like them; it’s that I like them too much. You see, I can make dinner out of a pile of chips/bread/pretzels and whatever dip happens to be nearby (salsa, guac, hummus, spinach artichoke dip… you get the idea). So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, Andy doesn’t like dip. (Not even queso! It’s melty cheese! What’s not to love?) And while I am perfectly capable of eating an entire batch of dip, I’m also trying to be a responsible adult here and exercise some self-control.

However, a few weeks ago, I decided that I WANTED DIP. I was going to make this caramelized onion dip that had been teasing me for months. And since we had friends coming over for a movie night, I knew that I wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl myself. Andy was pretty disappointed when he discovered that the caramelized onions and the bacon were destined for dip, rather than dinner. He mourned the “waste” of such perfectly good ingredients and tried to “save” some of the onions from being smothered in sour cream. (So noble, right?)

I halved the original recipe (out of necessity – somehow, I only had a scant cup of sour cream in the fridge), which gave me a manageable amount of dip for three dip lovers and one dip hater (who did try a few bites and deem it “not terrible”). One of the best things about this dip (besides how good it tastes, both on chips and on a spoon…) is the way it makes your house smell while you’re prepping the ingredients. Onions caramelizing and bacon cooking are up there with fresh bread on my “favorite smells” list. And, like most dips, it’s easy to make, which is a good thing. Especially when the resident dip hater decides that caramelized onions and bacon make dip acceptable, which means you’ll need to make it more often. 🙂

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion & Bacon Dip 

1/2 cup caramelized onions
3 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled into pieces
2 scallions, thinly sliced, some greens reserved for garnish
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, stir the onions, bacon, sour cream, vinegar, cayenne and scallions together. Taste the dip, then season with salt and pepper as necessary. Top with reserved onion greens and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Chill the dip in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite chips (I used pita chips).

From Smells Like Home, who adapted it from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.

Click here for a printable version.

 

Why Didn’t I Think of This Before?

I didn’t plan on writing about these. In fact, they weren’t even on my mind when I put the potatoes in the oven. Potato skins (tasty as they are) are one of those things that I don’t make at home. In my mind, they’re one of those things that you order with wings when you’re out at your favorite sports bar. But then, as I was preparing my favorite potato soup, I noticed that I had a giant pile of potato skins. Lightly salted, cooked potato skins. Perfect for topping with cheese and bacon.

Why hadn’t I noticed this before? (Think of all of the missed opportunities!) 

Since I made this up on the fly, these aren’t exact measurements. Call it a guideline, rather than a recipe. I’m including my baking directions, but if you have a baking method that you prefer, by all means, use that. The goal is to have baked potatoes that are cool enough to handle so you can de-skin them. Once the potatoes are baked and skinned, it comes together very quickly. Perfect for Sunday afternoon snacking, if you ask me.

Potato Skins

 

Baked Potato Skins

5 large white potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt
shredded cheddar cheese
green onions, sliced
fresh parsley, finely chopped
bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and lightly prick them with a fork. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool until you can handle them. (I used my oven’s “time bake” feature for this. I popped the potatoes in the oven before church, set the timer, and came home to perfectly done spuds. It’s almost as good as the crockpot for hands-off effectiveness!) 

When the potatoes are cool, slice them in half and gently peel the skins away from the cooked potato. Reserve the potato for another use. (May I suggest soup?)

Arrange the potato skins in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, green onions, parsley and bacon. Broil until skins are crispy and cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

A Beth’s Blue Plate Original

Click here for a printable version.

My Kind of Pumpkin

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t go nuts over pumpkin. I don’t rush to Starbucks each September for a pumpkin spice latte. I’ve been known to bypass the pumpkin pie in favor of other goodies at Thanksgiving, and while I’ll eat a piece of pumpkin roll or a pumpkin square, I don’t hide the fact that for me, those goodies are all about the frosting/filling.

We did, however, receive a couple of pie pumpkins at the end of our CSA, and since I wasn’t ready to make pie, I roasted them (per Annie’s method) and froze the puree. I figured I’d find a use for it sooner or later! I stumbled on a muffin recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, and, in spite of my ambivalence toward most things pumpkin, I will be the first to admit that these are a keeper.

First of all, they’re incredibly easy to make. In my mind, muffins should be quick and easy. If I want a breakfast with multiple steps, I’ll make cinnamon rolls or something. Since I upped the amount of pumpkin in the recipe, I figured I could also add some oatmeal (these ARE muffins, after all, not cupcakes). They’re nice and moist (thanks to all of that pumpkin!), and they go well with the handful of mini chocolate chips that just happened to find their way into the mixing bowl. 🙂

PumpkinMuffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour (I used a combination of white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour and regular all-purpose flour)
scant 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 lb. pumpkin puree (Deb’s recipe calls for 1 1/3 cups of puree, which is what I used the first time I made these. The second time, I discovered that there was just a little left in the freezer bag, so I added it all.) 
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
cinnamon-sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners. (I got 24 mini-muffins and then another 10 or so regular-sized muffins out of one batch.) 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the pumpkin mixture and gently stir until almost combined. Pour the chocolate chips into the bowl and stir the batter a couple more times, until the chips are incorporated and the flour is all mixed into the batter.

Divide the mixture between the prepared muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds of the way full. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with cinnamon sugar. Bake until muffins test done with a toothpick, about 22 minutes. (I start checking them around 18 minutes or so.) Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then let muffins cool completely on a wire rack.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who got the recipe from the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, via Gourmet magazine

Click here for a printable version.

Good Morning Muffins

I’ve been on a muffin kick lately. Blueberry muffins. Pumpkin muffins (I added chocolate chips). Apple cider chocolate cranberry muffins.

Yep, you read that right. Apple cider. With chocolate. In muffins. Weird, right? (No weirder than some other things I’ve tried.) Who would have thought to put apple cider in muffins?! Not me, that’s for sure. But Kirsten at Farm Fresh Feasts makes a lot of muffins, so I figured she knows what she’s doing. And since apple cider is one of my favorite things, I knew I had to give them a try. Of course, I saw this recipe after apple cider season ended, which meant they went on the back burner for a few months.

Thankfully, cider season rolled around again, so I dug through my saved recipes and gave this one a whirl. My only changes were to use dried cranberries instead of cherries and regular chocolate chips instead of mini ones (all based on what was in my cupboard at the time). I thought about adding some diced apple pieces as well, but chose not to since I threw these together before work one morning and didn’t have time for extra peeling/chopping.

I love the fact that these are one-bowl muffins. And as long as you remember to soak the oats the night before, you can have fresh muffins by the time you leave for work in the morning. (Seriously… mix them up, bake them while you shower/prep for the day and then snag one – or three, whatever floats your boat – on your way out the door.) 

AppleCiderMuffins

Apple Cider Muffins with Cranberries & Chocolate Chips

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine oats, cranberries and cider. Let mixture soak until oats are well-hydrated (I soaked mine overnight). 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

Once oats are thoroughly soaked, whisk the oil, brown sugar, egg and vanilla into the oat mixture. Make a well in the middle of the wet ingredients, and then pour the dry ingredients into the well. Stir until the mixture is almost combined, then add the chocolate chips. Give the mixture another stir or two to fully combine things.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups. (I ended up filling 13 muffin cups! The frustration!) Bake for 15 minutes, or until tops are golden and muffins test done with a toothpick. Remove from pans and enjoy.

From Farm Fresh Feasts

Click here for a printable version.

Here we go, Brownies, here we go!

You know, I thought about sharing a different recipe. You know, something like chili or chowder. Or even whoopie pies. Heck, I could even write up that pie crust comparison post that’s been on my to-do list for days weeks months. But we just happen to be smack-dab-in-the-middle of football season. And since I’m all about sharing seasonal recipes whenever possible (which means I missed the boat on stuffed tomatoes this year), I’m moving this recipe to the top of the list.

Not only that, but this girl is coming off of a victory weekend, with the Ws and Ls in the right places. Which means there’s no time like the present for Dawg Pound Puppy Chow. 😀

I’d like to tell you that I made this for another party, but that would be a lie. I’d even like to tell you that I took it to work or mailed some to my friend in Iowa after her Packers beat my Browns a few weeks ago, but that would be a lie too. (I meant to, Jackie, really! It’s just that after Andy got his hands on it, all we had left were some powdered sugar crumbs. Not something I’m scooping into an envelope and sending via USPS. Just saying.)

So, to recap… it’s easy to make and easy to eat. It has one of my all-time favorite candies. It would probably mail well too… if it lasted long enough. 😀

DawgPoundPuppyChow
Dawg Pound Puppy Chow

7 cups corn or rice Chex cereal
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups brown and orange Reese’s Pieces

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips, butter and peanut butter. Stir until smooth.

Gently fold in the cereal, stirring until well-coated. Line two cookie sheets with waxed paper and evenly divide the cereal mixture between the two pans. Let cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Place 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a gallon-sized zip-top bag. Put half of the coated cereal in the bag, seal the bag and shake until the cereal is well coated. Place the coated cereal in a large bowl and repeat with the remaining powdered sugar and cereal.

Once the mixture is all coated, stir in the Reese’s Pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Chex 

Click here for a printable version.

Cooking Club Dish, Round One

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I have excellent friends. I mean, without them, there wouldn’t be trips to the Wilton tent sale, taco nights, puppy chow parties, or wine coolers. OK, maybe those things would still exist, but I wouldn’t want to experience them by myself. The world would be a much sadder place.

Here’s the latest idea, courtesy of my friend Emily: Cooking Club Nights!

Once a month, several of us girls are getting together for an evening of food and fun. The host provides the main dish and sets the theme, and everyone else brings side dishes, appetizers, desserts, drinks, etc. It gives us a chance to catch up on each other’s lives and try recipes that our husbands aren’t always interested in eating. Which is why I made bruschetta.

This wasn’t a new recipe, but it is one that I hardly ever make, simply because I’d be the only one eating it. (Wait… is this a bad thing?) It’s easy, and it uses lots of tomatoes (always a bonus). Plus, who doesn’t love toasted, garlicky bread? No one I hang out with, anyway. 😀

Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta

1 loaf of French bread, sliced into 1″ thick pieces
3 garlic cloves, two sliced in half and one minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups diced tomatoes (The original recipe calls for Romas; I used a mix of Roma and cherry tomatoes.) 
3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I broke out the good stuff for this recipe – Andy’s brother went to Italy and brought us back a bottle of olive oil!) 
1/3 cup thinly sliced basil leaves, plus more for garnish, if desired
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the sliced bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake until just golden. Flip the slices over and toast the other side. Remove from oven and rub both sides of each piece of bread with the halved garlic cloves. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and then sprinkle with grated cheese. Return the bread to the oven and cook just until the cheese has melted.

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the minced garlic, basil, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow tomato mixture to sit for five to 10 minutes for the flavors to meld before serving.

Top bread with tomato mixture and enjoy!

From the Food Network

Click here for a printable version.

Game Day “Buckeye” Chow

My friend Lacey comes up with the best ideas.Seriously. Our Sunday school class has class socials each month, and we’re always looking for something new to do. We’ve had progressive dinners, costume parties, game nights, movie nights… the list goes on. Which means that a new idea is always welcome.

Especially an idea like a puppy chow party.

Let that one sink in for a minute. A party where the entire point is to sample various kinds of puppy chow. (And visit with each other, but let’s not get bogged down in the details.) We had cake batter, snicker doodle, s’mores and peanut butter brownie puppy chows. I kept things simple and whipped up a riff on the traditional puppy chow. And since the party was the same day as the Ohio State / Wisconsin football game, I knew I had to represent my team. The solution was simple: Add red M&Ms.

And while I see it as Buckeye puppy chow all the way (even the flavors scream GO BUCKS to me), a few of my friends said that it could just as easily be Badger food. Whatever. It’s clearly scarlet and gray, not red and white.

It did get my creative juices flowing (must be all that sugar!) though. I’m already scheming up a way to make Dawg Pound Puppy Chow for the weekend that my Browns play the Packers. 😀

OSU Puppy Chow

Ohio State Puppy Chow

5 cups corn or rice chex (I used a combination.)
2 cups pretzel sticks, broken in half
12 ounces (2 cups) milk chocolate chips
2 cups red M&Ms
1 cup powdered sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, peanut butter and chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. Gently stir the cereal and pretzels into the chocolate mixture and toss until well-coated.

Line two baking sheets with waxed paper. Evenly divide the cereal mixture between the two pans and spread in an even layer. Place pans in the refrigerator and allow to chill for 20 minutes.

Pour half of the powdered sugar into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. When the cereal mixture has cooled, pour the cereal mixture from one cookie sheet into the bag. Seal the bag and shake until the cereal is fully coated. Pour the coated cereal into a large bowl, and then repeat the process with the remaining powdered sugar and cereal mixture. When the cereal is all coated, stir in the M&Ms. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy! And GO BUCKS! 🙂

From Chex 

Click here for a printable version.

Great Granola!

My previous “go-to” granola recipe was one from Epicurious called Everyday Granola. And while it was good, it wasn’t great. In fact, “everyday” may not be the best way to describe it. I’d make it every now and then, but it definitely wasn’t a regular in my kitchen.

Enter my new favorite cookbook. I made a batch of Deb’s “Big Cluster Maple Granola” shortly after receiving the book for my birthday last month, but I only got to try a little bit of it before it was gone. (I shipped some to my in-laws as a thank-you for the book, and Andy made quick work of the remainder.) I decided it to give it another shot last week and figured I’d share some of it with a friend who just had a baby. One batch should be plenty, right?

Well… let’s just say I have to go buy more oatmeal now. 🙂

Seriously. Lacey’s lucky that Andy quit double-fisting it from the pan long enough for me to pack up a bag for her. And it must have been good, since she sent me a message less than a day later to ask for the recipe. Looks like we have a new “everyday” granola here.

As you can see from my pictures, I’m still struggling with getting the “big clusters” that Deb made look SO easy. Maybe I need more egg white, maybe I stir it too much. Clusters or not, we like this.

Big Cluster Maple Walnut Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut (Deb says to use unsweetened; I just use the bag of sweetened stuff that’s in my pantry.) 
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I’m pretty sure this is what takes it over the top. You get bites of sweet with the salt mixed in. YUM.) 
1/2 cup real maple syrup (No Mrs. Butterworth here!) 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (Deb says cherries; I prefer cranberries) 

Preheat oven to 300. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a large bowl, stir the oats, coconut, walnuts, wheat germ, salt and cinnamon together. Stir in the olive oil and maple syrup, making sure everything is well coated.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until it is frothy, then pour the egg white over your granola mixture. Stir until evenly coated. Spread the mixture out on the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until mixture is dry and golden brown. Stir the granola halfway through baking, being careful to not break up the “clusters” too much. Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding the fruit to the granola. Store in an airtight container.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.