Monday, July 13, 2015

Jalapeno Popper Dip

I don't know about you, but jalapeno poppers are one of my favorite snacks.  The only problem is that they can be kind of a pain to make...  Enter this dip.  It has all the flavors, serves a crowd, reheats well, and is so good I could eat it with a spoon all by itself.  I've made this as written below, and I've also made it using reduced fat cream cheese, mayo, and cheddar.  I think I actually prefer the reduced fat version, since it's not so heavy as to turn quickly into a meal substitute!!  Either way, this dip is delish, and your guests, guys and gals alike, will love it!!

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
4-ounce can diced jalapeƱos
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cups Panko
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fritos and chopped veggies, for dipping

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar, chilies, peppers and 1/4 cup Parmesan until blended. Spoon into an ungreased 1-1/2-qt. baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the panko, oil and remaining Parmesan. Sprinkle over cheese mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 min. or until golden brown.

Serve hot, with Fritos and veggies for dipping!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Devils on Horseback

This dish is the perfect starter for just about any type of get-together.  It's classic, yet simple.  It's different, but not so exotic people are afraid of it.  The ingredients are pretty easy to find in any grocery, and the dish comes together in about 15 minutes, making it the perfect solution for a last-minute hors d'oeuvre!  It tastes good warm or at room temperature, and even slightly chilled.  And I promise these little bites of deliciousness will be gobbled up in no time at all!!

24 pecan halves
24 pitted dates
8 slices bacon, cut into thirds
1-1 1/2 cups mango chutney

Preheat the oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Insert a pecan half into each date.  Wrap with bacon, and place, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until bacon is crisp, 10-12 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel.  Serve with mango chutney for dipping.

Recipe adapted from The Comfort Table, by Katie Lee.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Month: Bunco Night!

I live in the suburbs, drive an SUV, and I play Bunco. Every month, my Bunco group gets together for a couple of hours of ladies-only, no kids (or husbands) girl time fun. We roll the dice, drink wine, catch up, and laugh the evening away. With twelve ladies in the group, we all chip in each month. The hostess provides dessert and paper goods. Each of the remaining ladies contribute either a bottle of wine or an hors d'oeuvre to share.  I try to always mix up what I bring, opting to stay away from familiar chips and dips if I can help it.  This month, I'll be sharing a few of my recent contributions, and hope to inspire you in the next dish you bring to share at a game night, pot luck, or book club get together!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate Ganache

Everyone loves dessert and these rich chocolatey bars are no different.  First of all, they boast my personal favorite flavor combo of peanut butter and chocolate.  Secondly, they're wonderfully decadent whether served at room temperature, chilled, or slightly warmed with a big glass of cold milk.  They're easy to put together and even easier to pack up, making them the perfect "non brownie" dessert to complete a meal for a neighbor in need...or maybe your husband who claims the whole tray so he can have treats at the office all week!

1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup syrup
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
12 ounces milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

Cream peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add syrup, eggs, and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until just combined.  Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake bars until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.  Let cool completely, about 1 hour, before topping.

To make the ganache topping, heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming.  Add chocolate chips and whisk until smooth.  Remove from heat and pour over bars.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.  Let ganache set up for about an hour before cutting into bars.

To make it travel-ready:  Simply bake these yummy bars in a foil pan.  No muss, no fuss!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Greek Salad

My mom and I went to Athens for my 16th Birthday.  I'm fairly certain we ate Greek Salad for every single meal...and I'm not complaining.  Ever since, I've been a huge fan of the stuff.  In Greece, the salads were simple bowls of large chunks of the produce.  Huge wedges of tomato, large chunks of cucumber, and whole olives.  And ever since I've been on the hunt for the perfect Greek vinaigrette recipe.  This one comes pretty close, though I never make it the same way twice.  Just continue to taste and adjust according to your preference.  You'll have enough dressing for a few salads, so just store in the fridge!

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
minced fresh mint, optional
1 heart of romaine, torn
1 cucumber, halved and sliced into half-moons
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/3 - 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple onion
12 ounces feta cheese, crumbled into large chunks
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and drained

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt, and vinegar.  Taste and adjust the flavors to your preference.  Add in some fresh mint if you like, but I prefer it without.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Combine the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, cheese, and olives.   Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

To make it travel-ready:  Pour the dressing in a pint-sized mason jar.  Just shake it well before dressing your salad.  Lettuce can be transported in gallon-sized zip-lock bags.  Depending on how close your delivery is to meal time, you can either put the veggies and cheese in the same bag as the lettuce, or use smaller separate bags to keep veggies fresh and prevent mushiness.  Using grape tomatoes, rather than dicing a roma (or other variety) will prevent them from getting soft before serving.

Recipe adapted from Delicious Salad Meals by Dot Vartan.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chicken Tetrazzini

This is a classic casserole that everyone's mama's mama has been making since the dawn of time.  It's easy to throw together for a weeknight supper, can be made in advance, freezes (and travels) well, and can be doubled, tripled, or halved to feed whatever size army you have around your table!  Another little bonus I've learned about casseroles?  They may not be the prettiest, especially in photographs, but because they usually involve cheese, you can sneak in tons of veggies for those picky toddlers in your life.  Believe me.  I know!  Oh, and this is even better the next day...hello leftovers!

2 sticks butter
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cups chicken stock
12 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
2 cups bite-sized pieces cooked chicken (I poach 2 or 3 boneless skinless breasts)
12 ounces vermicelli, or other long noodle
grated parmesan for sprinkling
 paprika for sprinkling

Melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan.  Add the bouillon and mash into the melted butter.  Add the onion, celery, and mushrooms.  Saute until vegetables are light brown.  Add 2 cups of the stock and the Velveeta.  Cook until the cheese is melted.  Stir in the chicken.  Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 300.  Cook the pasta until just al dente; drain.  Add the chicken mixture and 1/2 cup of the remaining stock and mix well.  Spoon into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with parmesan and paprika.  Bake 10 minutes.  Pour the last 1/2 cup stock over the top and bake an additional 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Serves 8.

To make it travel-ready:  Bake the casserole in a foil disposable baking dish with a plastic lid.  This way, you can easily write the reheating instructions on the lid with a permanent marker...or tape a note to the top of the pan too.  Your neighbor will appreciate that she doesn't need to wash and return your bakeware, so she can save the meal for later if she's already stocked from other well-meaning friends.

Recipe adapted from My Mama Made That, by the Junior League of Hampton Roads.

Monday, June 1, 2015

This Month: Meals on Wheels

Growing up military, my mama taught me to always look out for my friends and neighbors.  She's from the midwest, too, so hospitality runs deep in her veins.  Anytime a neighbor was sick, a friend had had a baby, or someone had lost a loved one, Mama was the first person to head to the grocery, pick up a bunch of throw-away foil containers, and pack up a meal for a family in need.  And she didn't just stop at a dish of lasagna or a basket of muffins.  Mama made the whole meal!  It was delivered completely cooked with instructions on how to reheat.  My husband's in the military too, and we've lived 3000 miles away from family, so I know how it feels to feel helpless and need someone to look out for you.  I know what it's like to have a newborn plus a toddler and no family around, freshly home from the hospital and wondering how you'll get food on the table.  Or right after a foot surgery when hopping on one foot and hobbling on crutches just don't mix with cooking.  Or when you've just moved and nothing's unpacked and there's no food in the fridge.  Here's an easy meal you can whip up and deliver to anyone who might need it.  The bonus is that everything doubles easily, so you can make dinner for your own family at the same time!

A Bottle of Wine