Witchy Kale Hummus with Tomato Garlic “Snake” Sticks

Halloween and October is always a fun time for me, and I love to get fun with the spooky theming of the holiday. While last year Amanda and I made something sinfully sweet to celebrate the day, this year we wanted to go “Spooky savory.” Amanda went incredibly brave with a scarily unfamiliar protein to our kitchens, but I decided to go a different route. I’m not sure if I would have had the access to such a disparate delicacy, but I certainly did not have the enthusiasm or fortitude to seek it out. Instead, this dish is a much more accessible in terms of grocery availability and friendliness of flavors to all palates.

This white bean and kale hummus is as easy to make as it is crowd-pleasing. The green color, while also packing a nutritional punch throughout the year, is easy to incorporate into an Halloween party plans as a very appropriate, on theme, munchie. The breadstick snakes, while a bit more time consuming, really accent this dip with both visual and flavorful contributions. The tomato and herbs in the bread, while also making these “snakes” more colorful, pair excellently with the lemony-garlic flavors of the hummus. Whether you’re dressed as Frankenstein or Wonder Woman, this appetizer is sure to keep the horrors of “Hanger” away.

White Bean Hummus:

  • 1 can of great northern beans rinsed and drained
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • juice from one lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 1/2 cups packed kale (stalks removed–about 3 stalks)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Hummus Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until the kale is incorporated to your liking, and the mixture is smooth. I did mine for at least 5 minutes, so settle in.
  2. If you like room-temperature hummus, this is ready to serve immediately. However, I prefer mine chilled and allowed it to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Could be made up to 3 days in advance and will last in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Serve with “Snake” sticks or any hummus accompaniment of your choice.

Snake Breadsticks Ingredients

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • Black sesame seeds for eye garnish
  • 1 egg+1 tsp water

Snake Bread Stick Instructions:

  1. Add the lukewarm water and the yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Allow the yeast to sit with the water for 2-3 minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  2. Add the flour on top of the yeast/water. then the salt (be sure it does not touch the yeast), tomato paste, garlic powder, basil, and rosemary. Turn the mixer to low speed for 1-2 minutes everything is mixed together. Then, mix on medium speed for 4-6 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.
  4. After those 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 300°F and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 25 equal portions and roll into long strips. Make one end taper slightly to form the tail and keep the other end wide and flatten slightly to form the face. Repeat with all portions and place on a baking sheet in your preferred pose (slithering waves, coils, etc).
  5. Whisk the egg and water together in a small bowl and brush the egg wash over the prepared breadsticks. Add two black sesame seeds to the snake faces to form the eyes after the egg wash is applied.
  6. Bake at 300°F for 50 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy with the Witchy Hummus or as a spooky accompaniment to any dinner.

Wine Pairing: With the Mediterranean flavors of both the hummus and the bread, a refreshing Sangiovese would be a nice choice, but if you want to go all out, check out this “I’m Ready for Fall” cocktail that would be a great addition to any Halloween party.

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Balsamic Marinated Grilled Zucchini

Since I had my little grill out already for the Greek Chicken Burger, zucchini seemed like a great side dish. Plus, zucchini just looks so great with those gorgeous grill marks. These are a quick veggie option for any meal, though, and can easily be cooked on the stovetop if you don’t feel like firing up and outside equipment.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 Zucchini
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp of Italian herb mix or any herbs you’d prefer.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions: 

  1. Slice the zucchini at an angle so you have long, even slices.
  2. In a shallow dish or bowl, add the sliced zucchini and all other ingredients Mix with your hands so that all of the zucchini is covered.
  3. Allow to sit for 20 minutes to marinate.
  4. Cook in a pan or on the grill over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve with the Greek Chicken Burger or any other tasty summery dish you’d like! Enjoy!

 

Herb Saffron Rice

While couscous is a traditional and delicious accompaniment to the wonderful Beef and Beet Tajine recipe Amanda and I recently tried, I decided to make some flavorful rice to go along with it this time.  I think it’s fairly clear that Amanda and I are fans of rice in general but this rice really is a showstopper.

The herbs used in this recipe are customizable to your tastes, although I’d probably stick within the leafy, more subtle family with this one. You might not want to use Basil or rosemary but Dill, parsley and cilantro (coriander leaves) would probably be delicious in your own preferred ratios. I received a hydroponic garden for Christmas and have been working on growing my herbs for a little while so this was the first dish in which I was able to use bits of my own plants in my food, so I used a lot of parsley and a bit of dill as well to equal the below measurement. I found this probably to be a little too exciting and should get out more. It was yummy though!

I absolutely love my rice cooker and I don’t know if I could live without it. However, I think it’s been established that not everyone enjoys grains as frequently as I do, so I have provided the stovetop method as well below. The stovetop method may actually produce better results since you’ll be able to control when you’re adding ingredients but either way, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious base for your tajine dinner or any other meal for sure.

  • 2 cups basmati or Jasmine Rice
  • Pinch of Saffron (about 15 threads)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or even better, ghee
  • 1/2 onion minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups vegetable or broth
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh herbs, I chose curled parsley and dill
  • salt

Stovetop Method:

  1. Rinse your rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Add the pinch of saffron to the 1/2 of water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add oil/ghee to a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Ad the minced onion and garlic to the saucepan and saute until the onions are semi-translucent and the smell is fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir for about 1 minutes to bring out the flavor of the rice.
  6. Add the saffron water, broth, herbs and a heavy pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  7. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed (don’t check on it before the 20 minute mark though).
  8. Fluff (gently) with a fork and serve with extra herbs if desired.

Rice Cooker Method:

  1. Rinse your rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Add the pinch of saffron to the 1/2 of water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add oil/ghee to either a pan or if your cooker has a “brown/saute” option, add it directly to the pot.
  4. Saute the minced onion and garlic in the oil until semi-translucent and the smell is fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir for a few moments to bring out the flavor. If this step is done outside the cooker, transfer the rice, onion and garlic to the rice cooker.
  6. Add the saffron water, broth, herbs and a heavy pinch of salt to the cooker and start the cooking.
  7. Once your rice cooker has indicated it is finished, give everything a good (but gentle) fluffing and it is ready to serve warm.

 

Salad Rolls with a Trio of Dipping Sauces

I remember one of the first times I thought I might be becoming an adult (I mean, still not 100%), it was after a particularly indulgent weekend full of gastronomic delights. It was at that point when I had the spontaneous thought: “Man, I really just want a vegetable.” That was a completely new feeling to me as anyone who knew my former eating habits could probably verify. Nowadays, it doesn’t take much to get that feeling again and I take pride in it. However, after weeks of the holiday season, hosting, attending parties (some people, not necessarily me), and partaking in all the scrumptious treats of the holiday season, it’s nice to get back to the routine of healthy meals for a little while.

This week, Amanda and I wanted to share our go-to veggie filled recipes when we need a little nutritional pick-me-up. While I try to make pretty healthy meals on the regular, when I’m really feeling disgusting and bloated and a little too deep-fried, a nice salad roll is my favorite. They are light, basically a salad burrito and if you fill them full of veggies and lean protein, a little dipping sauce might not hurt if you don’t go overboard.

The beauty of these rolls are in their customizability. You can add anything you like and dip into anything you like. I have seen spring and summer rolls filled with everything from cooked shrimp and vermicelli noodles to mangoes and strawberries. If you keep these rice wrappers on hand, you can easily scoop up some leftovers you have in your fridge and let your imagination go wild. Below, I wanted to share the version I gravitate towards as well as a few dipping sauce options:

Spicy Pineapple Dipping Sauce

  • 3/4 cup pineapple puree
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp of sliced greens of green onions for garnish

To Make:

  • If you don’t have pineapple puree, blend together about 1 cup pineapple chunks (canned is fine) until smooth.
  • Whisk together all ingredients minus the green onions until combined.
  • Top with green onion slices.

Sesame Ginger Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated, fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1-2 green onions, chopped

To Make:

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until well mixed and enjoy.

Peanut Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grated, fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes

To Make:

  • Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined (the peanut butter might fight you for a second but it will come around) and it is ready to enjoy.

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My Salad Roll Ingredients:

  • Rice Paper Wrappers
  •  Butter Lettuce
  • Cooked Chicken
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Avocado
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • (But the possibilities are endless so go wild)

To Assemble: 

  • Gather and slice all your ingredients mise-en-place style so you aren’t fumbling for anything. I like my vegetables and proteins (although shrimp can probably stay whole) to be cut into strip for easier eating.Make sure you have a large bowl of clean, cool, water big enough to submerge the entirety of your wrapper at one time, and a flat, clean surface to build your roll.
  • Dip one rice paper wrapper into the water and allow to sit for 10-15 seconds.
  • Remove from the water, and try to shake off and excess. Transfer to your surface for assembly.
  • Place a small amount of your ingredients about 1/3  of the way up from the bottom of the roll not surpassing the halfway mark of the wrapper. Try to fill in as much free space as possible but be careful not to overstuff.
  • Once you have added all of your ingredients, fold the bottom third over your ingredients and then fold in the sides. Then roll the rest up just like a burrito. As you can see in my picture above, the rolling might not always be perfect, but try to keep it as contained as you can.
  • Enjoy immediately as a whole meal or as an appetizer with your choice of dipping sauces.

Wine Pairing: I know we’re trying to be healthy here, but come on. Sometimes you can have both right? While it would depend on your dipping sauce selection, I can’t help but feel that a light Rose might be a nice selection to the summery feel of this dish–which may also match with the peanut sauce nicely. Happy cooking!

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Vindaloo Spiced Breakfast Tacos

As you know, Amanda and I recently took a little run-cation to Nashville where we enjoyed the best experiences the city had to offer and of course the best food. I quite enjoy researching a new town and seeing what restaurant I would be sorry to miss while visiting. When I came across the Chauhan Ale & Masala House in my research I knew I was in love. If you’ve seen these posts, you definitely know that we both have a favorite place in our hearts for both Indian cuisine as well as brunch, and this place does….BOTH!? I had to go. Not even realizing this restaurant is co-owned by the James Beard Award winner Maneet Chauhan, we made our reservation as soon as we could for a nice, lazy Sunday brunch to help our legs heal from the beating the previous morning. While choosing just one thing from the menu was difficult, I chose the Breakfast Parantha Taco and it was absolutely wonderful. It was a flaky Malaysian paratha flatbread with vindaloo sausage, scrambled eggs, provel cheese, kachumber and mango-mint chutney. My only regret is that I could not enjoy more dishes from this restaurant but I knew I wanted to take this idea of a dish home with me.

Paratha/Parantha is an Indian flatbread that does seem some variation across regions. I did make my own for this recipe since I like to go as little store-bought as possible for these posts at least in initial tests. I used a recipe from my favorite cookbook, Hot Bread Kitchen (check them out–they’re pretty cool), and let me tell you–these were unbelievably delicious. However, making them involved a lot of brushing with butter (see previous sentence about deliciousness), folding, rolling, and more brushing, then folding, rolling, then brushing, then cooking–it was a lot. I was pretty exhausted when i finished the batch. So, if you’re a flatbread expert, have at it (I mean, I don’t regret the results)! Otherwise, grab some tortillas.

You’ll notice I did not make my own mango-mint chutney but I have included recipes below for Kachumber (which is delicious on its own) as well as an Indian spiced sausage, which I found to be the real star. Now, there are scrambled eggs involved with this one but I have not included a recipe. While I prefer my scrambled eggs Gordon Ramsay style, not everyone does (much to my embarrassment when I tried to make Amanda these style eggs while visiting). It seems as though every chef has a slightly different technique for “perfect scrambled eggs” so you go with the technique most suited to you whether that be creamy, fluffy or any texture in between. Once you have all these elements ready, you can’t go wrong with a delicious taco and an extremely enjoyable brunch. Enjoy!

Kachumber Salad Topping:

  • 1/2 medium cucumber, seeded
  • 1/2 beefsteak tomato, seeded
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1-2 small green Serrano chiles, seeded
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste

To Make:

  • Dice the cucumber, tomato, onion and chiles as evenly as possible. Roughly chop the cilantro leaves.
  • Combine all ingredients including everything you just chopped so beautifully into a small bowl and allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • Then this is ready to serve on its own as a salad, but also the delicious topping for our breakfast.

Vindaloo Breakfast Sausage Crumbles

  • 1 lb ground sausage meat of your choice
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1sp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste

To make: 

  • Combine all spices except for salt and pepper in a small bowl so it is easier to add to the meat.
  • Place meat into a small skillet/saucepan and pour in spice mix. Brown the meat and ensure the spices are well combined while cooking (your kitchen will smell amazing).
  • Salt and pepper to your liking and once everything is evenly browned the sausage is ready to top your taco!

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Other Taco Fixin’s:

  • Scrambled Eggs to your liking (seems like every chef has an opinion these days on the perfect way to cook)
  • Flour tortillas (or paratha if you can get/make it)
  • Crumbled feta or shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Assembly: 

  • Although I think this part probably self-explanatory and customizable, here’s what I like: I like to add about 2 eggs worth of scrambled eggs on top of my tortilla, top with about 2 tablespoons of sausage, 2 big tablespoons of kachumber and top with cheese.
  • You will have leftover toppings unless you’re cooking for a brunch party (jealous!), so I’d recommend looking into making some freezer burritos for later enjoyment. It’s pretty easy–assemble, roll, wrap well with plastic wrap in a freezer bag and freeze. To reheat, remove plastic wrap and wrap in a paper towel. Then, microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.

Wine pairing: Well, if we’re doing brunch, have a mimosa! Although any aromatic white wine would also be good–and what I had when I had this for dinner.

Roasted Acorn Squash Bowl with Mushroom Risotto

Happy Thanksgiving! This holiday weekend has been full of much needed rest, family time, and good food! Our Thanksgiving meal tradition is turkey and canned cranberry sauce (as in the can-shaped cranberry sauce). Yum!

I’ve never made risotto, despite Merideth and I’s religious watching of Gordon Ramsay shows, and this seemed like a fun way to dress up Thanksgiving dinner! Risotto isn’t so much difficult as it is tedious a little, and this took about 30 minutes of active work to complete. However- it is probably one of my favorite dishes so far, and is so rich it could stand as a meal on its own. The squash bowl made the dish extra fun and savory!

For this, I used powdered porcini mushrooms from The Spice House of Chicago, and could be substituted for chopped mushrooms in the saute stage. This ingredient is optional, but I really enjoyed the depth of flavor the mushrooms added.

Ingredients

Squash Bowl

1 acorn squash, halved and with seeds removed

2 tbs butter

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tbs bourbon or whiskey (optional)

Risotto

1 small onion

3 cloves garlic

1 tbs powdered porcini mushrooms or 1/2 cup porcini mushrooms, chopped (optional)

3 tbs butter

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine (I have used Grüner Veltliner or Chardonnay)

6-8 cups chicken broth

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Squash Bowl

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in microwave and combine with brown sugar and bourbon.
  3. Brush butter mixture onto inside of squash and cook for 45-60 minutes, or until flesh can be pierced with fork.
  4. Once cooked, set aside.

Risotto

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan. Once melted, add chopped onions and minced garlic, as well as mushrooms or mushroom powder (if using). Cook until fragrant and onions become translucent.
  2. Warm chicken broth in separate saucepan.
  3. Stir rice into butter mixture, coating rice thoroughly. Cook rice for 3-5 minutes, or until edges of rice become translucent.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of wine to saucepan and stir to deglaze pan. Simmer until wine is absorbed.
  5. Add chicken broth one ladle at a time to rice, simmering and waiting until liquid is absorbed before adding more broth. Adding the broth gradually is key!
  6. Taste rice after about half of the broth has been added for proper consistency. Risotto should be the consistency of thick porridge, and broth will be absorbed more slowly.
  7. Add one final ladle of broth and the parmesan cheese to the risotto and stire until melted.
  8. Serve immediately in roasted acorn squash bowls.

Pao de Queijo aka Brazilian Cheesy Bread

Between the summer festivities in August, the upcoming Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World this fall (more on that later) and my own visits to a Brazilian steakhouse this summer, Amanda and I have been in a Brazilian state of mind for sure. While Brazil has a lot of traditional and interesting dishes to offer, these delightful little cheesy puffs of deliciousness pretty much could not be skipped in our eyes. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of going to a Brazilian Steakhouse, these are usually on the table. While I usually try not to distract myself from the prize at any Churrascaria (aka the poles of meat floating around the restaurant ready to be sliced just for me and grabbed by my spiffy  meat tongs), these are not to be missed.

I read an amusing quote years ago somewhere in the caverns of the internet that went something to the effect of “I treat recipes like I treat science fiction novels. When I finish reading one, I think ‘Well, that’s never going to happen!’.” This is generally my thought when I read any recipe with special ingredients  that I’d have to take a special trip to the grocery store to locate and then to find out it was never stocked there in the first place. While Amanda and I probably have ingredients on this blog that might not be in everyone’s kitchen, I like to keep things on the generally simpler side maybe with a few substitutions here and there if and ingredient is completely out of the question. When I saw Tapioca flour/starch was needed, I hoped there was some way around it. I will say though, it seems to be worth it to just bite the bullet and get some. The chewiness and texture of the start is unique in my experience and while I’m sure someone out there could provide an alternative, I recommend trying it. It should be noted that this also makes these little beauties gluten-free, which I know is so trendy.

As a disclaimer, I’m sure that my method of putting these ingredients together is not traditional. Amanda utilized a different (probably more correct) method involving heating and cooling and then baking and quite frankly that sounds like a lot to me (see science fiction quote). This really could not have been simpler, and makes an excellent last minute side dish if you’re ever in need (and already have that tapioca). The most difficult thing was probably cleaning the food processor. Without further ado, I present:

To recreate Merideth’s attempt at Pao de Queijo, you will need:

  • 1 2/3 cups tapioca flour*
  • 1 cup grated queso fresco**
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup of milk (I used skim milk, but I’m sure it can only be improved with more fat)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly greased muffin tin(s). This makes about 24ish puffs so you can do it in batches or all at once depending on your tin supply.

*Hint: At my grocery store, this was located with the baking goods next to the potato starch, and not the specialty gluten-free section. I have since seen it in this section as well though, so check both if you have them.

**Queso Fresco is fairly mild and 1 cup is certainly upping the ratio from initial attempts because I love the cheesy taste (and does anyone else hate measuring grated cheese? Just dump it in!). However, if you want maybe a bit sharper taste or if your grocery store isn’t the best with its cheese selection, you could use a combination of mozzarella and parmesan (or just parmesan) to equal about 2/3 cup. 

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees as you are putting everything else together.
  • Dump everything into a food processor and pulse until everything is smooth and blended. This created more of a batter than a dough, so this is where those greased muffin tins come in handy.
  • Fill each tin about 2/3-3/4 full and bake in the fully preheated oven for 20 minutes or until it puffs up and starts to develop brown spots.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool to a non-mouth-burning temperature but be sure to enjoy warm.

If you do not have a food processor, you can go Amanda’s route and heat the milk, oil and salt until combined, then remove from the heat and add the cheese and flour until combined. Then, wait for the mixture to cool a bit. Add the egg and spoon into your muffin tins continuing instructions above.

Wine Pairing: Moscato pairs really well with these treats, as the sweetness balances the cheese while still keeping with the lightness of this snack. Of course, you’re probably making yourself a steak to go with these so you could always just pair a nice red Cabernet and see what happens. Enjoy!img_0827

 

Summer Dishes: Zucchini Fries

Continuing the summery theme, there is no vegetable that I enjoy more with the summer months more than summer squash, particularly zucchini. Something about it is so light and delicious, even when hot it’s somehow refreshing. I adore how versatile zucchini is–whether spiralized to create noodles, shredded into hashbrown type patties, or just sliced and roasted, I’m willing to try zucchini in all forms. So, with this versatile, summery vegetable I knew it had to make it’s way onto my plate. Since this was an accompaniment to the sweet potato and black bean burger, why not baked zucchini fries? Still somewhat nutritious while also providing a satisfying crunch to the meal. Also, definitely easy to make:

You will need:

1-2 zucchini’s cut into fry-like strips

3/4 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups panko bread crumbs

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp italian seasoning

Black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400

Set out three bowls and fill the first with flour, the second with the beaten eggs and the third with the panko and spices.

Dip a few zucchini strips into the flour, then the eggs, and then the panko and set  on a baking sheet. If you have a rack to elevate the fries above the pan, that would be ideal.

Repeat this process with all remaining zucchini strips and arrange on baking sheet so as much air can move between them as possible.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until panko begins to turn brown.