Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

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You know those moments where all seems right in the world? Where you are overwhelmed with feelings of contentment and you try to take a mental snapshot so you can refer back to it when some days are less than great? I recently experienced that. I was driving home on back roads after spending the day with my mother. It was a gorgeous day and the temperature was just right for cruising with the windows down. I had my IPod on shuffle when a song from Sam Cooke came on. Sam Cooke was one of my grandmother’s favorite singers, or so I think- she seemed to listen to his music a lot. I know most of his greatest hits and the melody that was coming out of my speakers sent me back to endless summers spent vacationing with family in Ontario, Canada. I remembered the sensation of my bare feet in the evening grass, the sound of crickets chirping throughout the night, and the smell of bacon in my grandmother’s kitchen around dinner time (my favorite time).

Of course, there was a dull ache in my stomach from the sadness of missing my grandparents; but I also had a overriding feeling of thankfulness for my wonderful childhood experiences and excitement of the memories that are still waiting to be made. I couldn’t help but smile. It was a nearly perfect blip in time.

On an unrelated note- this recipe for olive oil dipping sauce served with fresh artisan bread is a great starter for summer meals on the back porch. Fresh or dried herbs can be used and I prefer to quadruple the herb mixture and save it for use on several occasions. It’s easy and delicious.

Happy Monday, everyone!

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Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

Printable Version

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or according to your taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1. Stir together the dry spices in a small bowl. Mix in the garlic until it’s dispersed evenly.

2. Place herb mixture on a small plate. Pour olive oil over herb mixture and serve with fresh artisan bread.

Source: My Baking Addiction

Hummus

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I recently had a life-changing experience in the realm of Mediterranean food. There is a lovely gem of a restaurant in our neighborhood called The Olive Tree and Robert and I had never given it a chance up until a few months ago. I’ve always been a bit underwhelmed by the Greek food I’ve made and/or ordered at restaurants. That is, until we decided to try something different for a quick weeknight dinner. I ordered the chicken shwarama with hummus, Robert got the spicy chicken and mushroom dinner, and the rest is delicious history. I now frequently crave their hummus and pita bread after a long day at work. More so, I dare say, than pizza (!?!). The Olive Tree has made a Mediterranean convert out of me and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I decided to make a homemade version of hummus myself and was quite pleased with the outcome. While I still am forever loyal to our beloved Olive Tree, this hummus is a budget-friendly and delicious alternative. It’s also a healthy snack for this weekend’s Super Bowl.  I have to admit, though, that I don’t follow NFL football at all, but I enjoy the social aspect of the game. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Looking for other appetizer ideas for Sunday’s big game? Here are a few of my favorites:

Cajun-roasted shrimp

Baked jalapeno poppers

Buffalo chicken dip

Baked garlic fries

Hummus

Printable Version

Yield: About 2 1/2 cups hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup tahini, stirred well
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

1.Put the chickpeas, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor (or blender). Pulse for 15 to 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse for another 15 to 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice, tahini, and water. Pulse for about 20 seconds longer. Scrape down the bowl; and, with the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Serve with pita bread, vegetables, or eat straight from the bowl.

Source: Alton Brown 

Rosemary Focaccia

Oh, hey- big surprise here. I’m posting another recipe from my favorite bread book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I promise I am not gaining anything by repeatedly putting in plugs for this book. Everything I have made has been delicious and surprisingly easy to make (no-kneading!). It’s going to take a lot for me to stray from the methods in the is book.

I made this for Monday night dinner after I got home from work. I had about 2 ounces of energy left while I was making it, so I was happy to find how quickly and deliciously it came together. My brother-in-law, Kenny, gave it his seal of approval as well and he liked it well enough to accept me forcing the leftovers home with him.

This is a highly adapted recipe and I will definitely be making it again soon. Perhaps with parmesan, caramelized onions, basil, or tomatoes. The list goes on and on.

Rosemary Focaccia

Yield: The entire dough recipe is enough for 4 loaves

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (or 2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the topping(for one loaf):

  • 3/4 tsp dried rosemary leaves (or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

1. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with water in a 5 quart container or bowl.

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a wooden spoon until just combined.

3. Cover the dough (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and then collapses, about 2 hours.

4. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

5. Grab a 1lb, grapefruit-sized hunk of dough and dust liberally with flour. Flatten into a 1/2-3/4 inch thick oblong shape with your hands or a rolling pin.

6. Sprinkle with rosemary, coarse salt, and black pepper. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the surface of the dough.

7. Allow the focaccia to rest and rise for 10-20 minutes.

8. After the dough has rested, place the dough in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned.

9. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Source: Barely adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Cajun Roasted Shrimp

Oh snap! This is the second shrimp recipe that I’ve posted in two weeks. This past weekend I didn’t go grocery shopping like I normally do. I was parked on the couch Friday and early Saturday and was in, what Robert and I like to call, full sloth mode. I wandered out to the garage  freezer in an attempt to find ingredients for making dinner on Sunday and found a pot of gold… a bag of frozen gulf shrimp my parents brought us back from Alabama.

I decided to spice things up-literally- by using a simple cajun rub over the shrimp. After that, I simply roasted them in the oven Ina Garten-style; and, VOILA! a mound of sizzling shrimp lay before us on the kitchen table.

Robert adored this variation of shrimp. The mix of chili powder and cayenne pepper gave the seafood a nice kick that did a great job of clearing up one’s sinuses. Best of all, this method of preparing shrimp is gloriously simple.

Happy leap day, everyone!

Cajun Roasted Shrimp

Printable Version

Yield: 2-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2lbs jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • Fresh lemon wedges

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with spray oil. Set aside.

2. Place the peeled and deveined shrimp in a medium-sized bowl. Toss with a small amount of oil.

3. Combine the seasonings and garlic in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the shrimp and toss with your hands to coat evenly.

4. Transfer the shrimp to the cookie sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through.

5. Remove from oven and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp. Serve with cocktail sauce, if desired.

Source: Adapted from Ina Garten

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I’ve been a bit under the weather the past few days, so I haven’t done too much cooking or baking. Or much of anything, for that matter- except for maybe envying our dog, Athena’s, life as an indoor dog. ;) It’s annoying how a simple head cold can really throw off a person’s routine. Okay, complaining over.

This recipe for buffalo chicken dip is something I have made a few times and it is quickly becoming one of our favorite potluck pleasers. With big chunks of chicken and all the delicious flavors of wing sauce, this dip goes great with celery, chips, or nothing at all.

If you or someone you love is a wings fanatic, this appetizer is for you!

Happy Fat Tuesday!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Printable Version

Yield: 1 9×13 inch pan

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 12-oz bottle Frank’s Hot Wing Sauce
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup ranch dressing (store bought or homemade)
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375. Poach the chicken breasts in boiling water until cooked through. Drain, let cool and then pull meat apart with a fork.

2. In a 9×13 inch casserole dish, spread out the chicken and pour the wing sauce over. Mix well and spread out, covering the entire bottom of the dish.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese and ranch dressing.  Whisk while heating until smooth.

4. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the chicken and spread out. Bake for fifteen minutes.

5. After fifteen minutes, sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top and continue baking for another ten to fifteen minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is bubbling. Remove from oven and let sit for ten minutes. Stir and serve immediately.

Source: Eat, Live, Run

Sauteed Garlic and Lemon Shrimp

Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about fresh seafood. Not the stuff that you get at chain restaurants or the stuff you buy prepackaged at the grocery store. No siree, I am talking about the delicious, succulent seafood that is straight from the ocean with not much else added to it. My parents recently visited one of the their favorite vacation spots- Dauphin Island, Alabama. It’s right along the Gulf Coast and the fresh jumbo shrimp will bring tears of joy to your eyes.

Luckily, my parents brought along an ice chest that they could fill to the brim and bring back lots of shrimp with them to Ohio. We gladly accepted and decided the perfect time to make it was for Valentine’s Day.

I used my mom’s method of preparing shrimp, that involves oil, butter, garlic, lemon, salt and parsley. It is incredibly simple and really lets the shrimp shine. I’m daydreaming again. I think I have a problem. ;)

Sauteed Garlic Shrimp

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2lbs fresh jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4-5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, just until the shrimp turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the pan and place in a bowl.

Add a little more oil to the pan and add in the garlic along with the juice of the lemon. Saute until the garlic turns light brown, about 1 minute. Pour the contents of the pan over the shrimp. Sprinkle the parsley over the shrimp. Add salt, pepper, and lemon as desired. Eat immediately.

Crab Cakes and Lemon Aioli

Crab cakes are something that I love to order at restaurants, even if we are smack dab in the middle of Ohio. They’re a deliciously delicate savory treat that I had only made once before. That is, until I found this recipe. I was surfing the Food & Wine website and stumbled across Mrs. Duvall’s Crab Cakes, which happens to be a staff-favorite recipe that comes from a chef who grew up in Maryland. I  knew these delights were bound to be good. And boy were they. They have a perfect blend of spices that don’t outshine the crab meat and crushed crackers are the crispy and crunchy binder that bring it all together.

Even better, these crab cakes are simple to whip up and can be made into cakes the night before they need to be pan-fried. For a nice compliment to the cakes, I made a simple lemon aioli. Aioli, which is basically a doctored up mayonsaise, goes really well with seafood dishes and these crab cakes are no exception. I went with this lemon aioli version, which is very similar to one my mom prepares when she makes shrimp. If you’re a hesitant about the mayonnaise, I think you could get away with substituting plain Greek yogurt. I may have to try that next time around.

I can’t wait to make these cakes again. They would be a great appetizer or main dish to serve for an extra special meal, or just when you are feeling extra special. :)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli

Printable Version

Yield: 10 3-inch crab cakes

Ingredients

For the crab cakes:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 1 cup finely crushed soda crackers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

For the lemon aioli:

  • 3/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
  • 5-6 dashes of Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. To make the aioli, mix together the mayo, lemon juice, garlic, Tabasco, and salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, onion, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt and cayenne. Gently fold in the crabmeat and 1/4 cup of the cracker crumbs. Shape the mixture into 10 cakes about 1 inch thick. Coat the crab cakes with the remaining cracker crumbs and transfer to a large plate.
  3. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the foam subsides, add half of the crab cakes and cook over moderate heat until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain the crab cakes on paper towels, then keep warm in warmed oven. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil and cook the remaining crab cakes. Serve with lemon wedges and cold aioli.

Source: Crab Cakes- Food & Wine; Aioli- Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats

Puppy Chow

My brother-in-law, Kenny, was sick this past weekend. If there’s one thing I know about Kenny, besides the fact that he likes to purposely push my buttons, it’s that the lad loves puppy chow. Puppy chow, or sometimes called Muddy Buddies (?), is a chocolate and peanut butter Chex mix delight. It takes less than 15 minutes to throw together and it’s always a hit.

Kenny came over for dinner (and a round of Modern Warfare with Robert) and I sent him home with a bag of this mix. He seems to be on the mend and I’m chalking it up to the old puppy chow cure. ;) Love ya, Ken!

Puppy Chow

Printable Version

Yield: 18 servings

Ingredients

  • 9 cups Corn Chex cereal
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions

Pour the Corn Chex cereal into a large bowl. Set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter, stirring after every 30 seconds until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour over the cereal and gently stir until all the cereal pieces have been coated.

Transfer the cereal mixture to a large food storage plastic bag. Carefully pour the powdered sugar in the bag. Seal the bag. Shake until all the pieces are covered.

Source: General Mills Corn Chex Cereal

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

The weather in Ohio has been unseasonably warm the past week. The sun is shining. People are out walking and running around our neighborhood. You really can’t tell it’s January. I could get used to this. All the sunshine makes me excited for summertime, even if it is five months away.

During the summer my parents spend a lot of time up at their cottage on Lake Erie. It’s so much fun, especially since we have a lot of extended nearby. My aunt Molly often stops in and she seems to frequently bring some sort of hummus with her. So, when I found a can of garbanzo beans and canned roasted red peppers, I decided to make this hummus in honor of her, dreaming of the endless days of summer. It’s a flavorful, delicious and healthy dip for vegetables and baked pita chips and it would also be very tasty as a condiment on a wrap or sandwich.

I found this recipe while surfing the web and it calls for tahini, or sesame paste. I was all set to buy it at the grocery store until I saw it sitting on the shelves with a hefty price tag of $11. I quickly decided this would be a tahini-less recipe. And the hummus was still glorious.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Printable Version

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeded (I used a jarred version I already had on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides as necessary. Serve with vegetables and/or baked pita chips. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.

Source: Slightly adapted from Pinch My Salt

Pear, Brie, and Honey Crostini

Continuing with the honey theme for the week, I made Pear, Brie, and Honey Crostini in the midst of our kitchen floor remodel. That’s right! We are finally replacing the carpet in our kitchen with wood laminate flooring. After numerous spills and trudging down to the basement to get the carpet cleaner, I can’t wait to be able to simply mop up a mess instead of scrubbing fabric in vain.  What better way to start the celebration with an insanely easy, yet delicious appetizer.

This recipe is great for using up day-old bread and it’s perfect for a quick dish that will leave your guests happy. I sauteed the pears over the stove, but they would also be great grilled in the summertime. The honey does a wonderful job of caramelizing the pears and the delicate flavors of the two go great with the creamy brie and crunchy bread.

If you are looking for something special that you can whip up at the drop of a hat, this honey appetizer is for you!

I have one more honey recipe, a dessert, coming up on Sunday. Happy Weekend!

Pear, Brie, and Honey Crostini

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of bread (a baguette is best, but others work well too)
  • Brie cheese, thinly sliced and rind removed
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the bread into thin slices and place them on a large baking sheet. Place one slice of cheese on each slice. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the brie is melted.

While the baguette slices are baking, brush the pear slices with honey and saute in a sauce pan over medium heat, until golden brown.

Remove the bread from the oven. Place the pearson top of the slices and drizzle honey over top. Serve immediately.

Source: Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod