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Restaurant Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip
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Restaurant Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip

If there’s one recipe that I’ve been meaning to share with you guys over the past 3 years, it’s this one.   And for the most part, it’s because as many bloggers know, the problem with blogging certain recipes is that sometimes the dish needs to be served hot, before there’s any time to snap a few photos.  Take into account the time needed to adjust camera settings, fiddle with the light source, ensure all props are in place (none of these things are ever right even after test shots are taken when the food is still cooking), and essentially the dish starts getting cold by the time the photos are finished…every one of us is all too familiar with eating luke warm dinners.  But this doesn’t fly when you’ve got a room full of hungry people eying the steaming and bubbly spinach and artichoke dip that’s just emerged from the oven – we all know that.

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So in honor of the Northeast dominated Super Bowl next weekend, I decided to make the sacrifice (ha!) to remake this dip and blog about it for you because you NEED this dip at your party.  Now, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve actually watched the Superbowl (for the record, I just don’t get football), but I’m definitely all about understanding the snacks that go with it.  This old-standby dip is kicked up a few notches with a secret ingredient: alfredo sauce.  I almost couldn’t believe it the first time my friend Andrea brought this to a party and revealed her secret but it’s true!  The alfredo sauce adds to the creaminess of the dip without having to use mayonnaise and with few other ingredients and minimal effort, I can assure you that this dip will be gone in less time than a Super Bowl commercial break.

Need more Super Bowl snack ideas?  Check out the sidebar for a bunch of winning snack ideas!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
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In the midst of holiday preparation craziness, there was this soup.  Broccoli cheddar soup.  A knock-off of the famed and beloved Panera version, this version is a lighter homemade version where you control the ingredients – I love soups like this one!  I’ve made this recipe a handful of times over the past few years and I seem to make it a little differently each time, mostly just varying the milk ratio (i.e. sometimes adding a little cream in place of some of the skim milk), but it turns out fabulous each and every time.  The consistency isn’t as thick as Panera’s version but like I said, it’s on the lighter side, so if you want to thicken it up, just increase the cream-milk ratio.  The most recent time this soup appeared in our kitchen, I was in the middle of packaging up my Christmas treats over the course of a few days and because the recipe left us a fair amount of leftovers, it was so nice to be able to quickly heat up a bit for lunch.  And aside from a regular weeknight meal, in the past I’ve also made a double batch of the soup, kept it warm in the crock pot, and served it in coffee mugs as a warm appetizer during fall and winter parties.  This broccoli cheddar soup is always a big hit here and is definitely one of our favorites!

Butternut Squash Pureé
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When it comes to side dishes for weeknight dinners, I feel like I deserve a C-.  It’s sort of reminiscent of my freshman microeconomics grade whereas I do put quite a bit of effort into the work in spite of the fact that I just don’t get it.  And yes, my micro- grade was a C-, not a great way to start off a college career.  In any event, I do plan side dishes for all of my meals, buy the ingredients when necessary, but I have such a hard time pulling the trigger to get them prepared.  Usually there are pans flying around my kitchen, a cookbook stacked on top of the coffee pot since space is so limited, and maybe a few choice words shouted at the burner that will never stay hot enough (thank you glass-top stove) when I’m cooking dinner.  It’s not a pretty scene so last week when I had some leftover butternut squash from the curried butternut soup that I made, I decided to use it up right away rather than stashing it in the fridge for another time that may never arrive.

I’d like to say that I put more effort into this pureé other than boiling the squash in a sauce pan until tender but I’d be lying.  Actually, photographing the squash took longer than it did for me to prepare it once it was cooked.  I drained the squash, added a few staple ingredients, mashed it, and it was ready – ridiculously simple, really.  I love a hefty amount of freshly cracked pepper in butternut squash when it’s prepared this way, something I never lost since childhood (what kid loads up their food with pepper?), but if it doesn’t suit your tastes, cut back on it.  The way I prepared the squash here is my favorite version however, you can definitely play around with some warm spices of fall – cinnamon, cumin, curry powder – and easily make this side dish your own.  And if you want to cheat and buy the squash pre-cut from the grocery store, go for it – I did and it cut down on the painful prep of peeling a slippery squash.  It’s tough to turn my back on side dish that take 15 inactive minutes to make and I don’t think any busy person on a weeknight would either.

Shrimp Po’ Boys
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There have been a few times in the past couple of months where I considered canceling all of my food magazine subscriptions.  The guilt I feel about these food magazines is sometimes enough to make me not want to renew each year.  They sit in a neat stack on the shelf of my coffee table, oftentimes untouched for months, even if never opened for the first time.  I wouldn’t say that I have an unhealthy relationship with these magazines but it could be a more mutually satisfying relationship…and by that I mean that I’m really the one who should be getting more than nothing out of magazines that sit untouched and unread.

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So last week when I finally flipped through one of Bon Appétit’s early summer issues (yes, for the first time), I was stopped dead in my tracks by a photo of a sandwich.  I turned around to my menu for the upcoming week, added it to the list, and then obsessed about this sandwich for the next 3 days.  Now, I’m not one to eat-then-immediately-blog what I make but I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you, even if I only made it last night.  These shrimp po’ boys were amazing beyond my expectations.  Paired with a homemade rémoulade sauce (made with homemade pickles, I might add) and coated in a spicy Cajun dry rub, the shrimp truly shine in this sandwich.  The sandwich as a whole is full of heat, though not an overwhelming amount for a light-weight like me, and is perfectly well-balanced by the rémoulade and cool tomato, lettuce, and a couple of pickle spears on the side.  The original recipe called for batter-dipped fried shrimp and while that sounded awesome, we overindulged a little this Labor Day weekend so I lightened up the shrimp by sautéeing them instead – my changes are below.  We were both sad to see the last bites finished up but we’re already planning who we can make them for in the next few weeks – they must go on the menu again soon!  And even though it took me until August to get to June’s issue, I couldn’t be happier with this recipe…maybe I’ll reconsider my impulse to not renew this year since my faith has been furtively renewed.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
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We are in eggplant overload!  In the past 2 weeks, our little garden has yielded 7 gorgeous eggplant and by this weekend, we should have another 3 or 4 ready to harvest.  It’s insane and I hope you’re ready for some fantastic eggplant recipes in the next couple of weeks!  I think the Epsom salt we used this year has been working its magic.

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In all honesty, I’ve been wanting to share this recipe with you since last summer after having made it numerous times in the past year, but I could never get my photography world to align with the eggplant parm gods (basically, all of my earlier photos of this recipe have sucked).  In short, this is the perfect eggplant parmesan recipe where crispy edges of the baked eggplant peak through light layers of a simple homemade tomato sauce and irresistible melted mozzarella cheese.  The breaded eggplant is baked in similar fashion to these baked oven fries and while we all know that making eggplant parm tends to be a little labor-intensive on the front end, how could you go wrong with the oven doing all the hard work instead of your standing over a pan of hot oil in an already too-hot kitchen in the middle of summer?

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The last time we made this recipe, we ended up baking way too many eggplant rounds so we froze the extra cooled rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet then tossed them in a freezer bag for the next time a craving arises.  Alternatively, I feel like the baked rounds by themselves could lend themselves to a myriad of other eggplant dishes like sandwiches or panini with fresh veggies and garlic aioli, eggplant stacks with roasted red peppers and goat cheese, eggplant slices topped with a poached egg for breakfast or a light lunch…you get the idea.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

This is not a quick eggplant parmesan recipe but it is worth the wait and work in every way possible. You can absolutely use your own sauce, either homemade or jarred, but if you're up for it, try this 15-minute recipe - it's truly excellent.

Ingredients

    For the Eggplant:
  • 2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs) cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 oz)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 2 cans (14 ½ oz each) diced tomatoes (or pureed or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • For Baking:
  • 8 oz whole or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 oz)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  1. To make the eggplant: In a large bowl, toss half of the eggplant slices and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt; transfer salted eggplant to colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and salt. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on a triple layer of paper towels; cover with a triple layer of paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
  2. While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-thirds of the oven, place rimmed baking sheets on both racks, and heat oven to 425° F.
  3. In a pie plate or shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
  5. Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.
  6. To make the sauce: While eggplant bakes, process the diced tomatoes in a food processor or blender until almost smooth (if using pureed or crushed tomatoes, skip this step).
  7. Heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste.
  8. To assemble and bake: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella.
  9. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.

Source

source: adapted from The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, as seen on Ezra Pound Cake

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/08/baked-eggplant-parmesan/

Road Trip: New Orleans!
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~~~Wow. Wow. WOW! Project Food Blog Round 6!!  Can I just give another shout-out to all my foodie friends?  Your continued encouragement and excitement during each round has been awesome.  I hope this post lives up to your expectations and regardless of the outcome of this round, I have to say that this one has been my favorite challenge thus far.~~~

Road trips are what we do.  We haven’t taken a week-long vacation in almost 3 years but we do love to pack up the car and drive and luckily, the Northeast has a bounty of fabulous places to drive for just a weekend.  Lake George, NY and Portland/Freeport, ME are two of our favorite weekend trips and we especially love Lake George and Adirondack State Park so much that we’ve been there 3 times in the past year alone.  The Lake George region is a quick 3 hour trip and boasts some of the most spectacular lakes and mountain peaks in the Northeast.

Unfortunately, a trip up to Lake George wasn’t in the cards for the Road Trip challenge but I put together a meal that would “travel well and still look great” and is one we could totally bring with us on our next trip to the North Country. Project Food Blog asked us to “to whip up a entree, side, drink, and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road.” We took our picnic to the local Kettletown State Park, which is just a few minutes from our house.  And let me tell you, this park is gorgeous this time of year so it was hard to resist for our picnicking spot.

Working up this menu was so much fun!  I built the whole menu around the spectacular sandwich served at Big Summer Potluck this past August, the Meatless Muffaletta, a vegetarian version of the famous New Orleans-style sandwich.  From there, I considered building a warm, fall-food picnic menu, but decided to move in a direction closer to what we would eat should we take a road trip to New Orleans.  Neither of us have been there before but it’s on our list of 10,000 places we want to visit so why not bring a little of NOLA up to CT?  Here is our Road Trip Menu:

Entrée
Meatless Muffalettas
Olive tapenade with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, mozzarella, and muenster cheeses on homemade Kaiser rolls

Side Dish
Cajun-Seasoned Potato Chips
Homemade microwaved potato chips seasoned with sea salt and Cajun seasoning

Dessert
Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce
Traditional NOLA beignets filled with fresh apples served with a luscious homemade butter-run caramel sauce for dipping

Beverage
Ginger Ale
Homemade ginger ale soda made with fresh ginger

In all honesty, I was nervous that Kyle wouldn’t like the muffaletta.  Neither of us like olives but I fell head over heels in love with this sandwich in August and since our tastes are so similar, I figured I’d try it out on him.  And it turns out that he loved it just as much as I do.  The flavors in the sandwich are very prominent exclusive of each other but they work beautifully together.  Make sure the roll you choose to use for this sandwich is a sturdy one that can hold up to the filling.  The Kaiser rolls I made this morning were absolutely perfect.  I’d never made sandwich rolls before but decided to give it a go for this challenge – why not go all out, right?!

Are you thinking, “microwaved potato chips?  Is she crazy??” Well, thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life, I stumbled across this method just this morning and to save a few minutes and a ton of calories, I decided to give these chips a go.  They were amazing!! Who would have thought that paper thin potato slices would actually crisp-up in the microwave? I mean, really…nothing gets crispy in the microwave! But it actually works!  These chips were so great sprinkled with a little sea salt and Cajun seasoning and remained crispy all day.  I made little cones with parchment paper to transport the chips and surprisingly, they didn’t spill all over the cooler during the trip!

Once I decided on the NOLA-themed menu, beignets were the natural choice for dessert but it wasn’t until I came across this apple cider recipe with butter-rum caramel sauce that I really started getting excited about the menu.  Fried dough + caramel = heaven!! Add some fresh apples to mix and you’ve got a stunning dessert to have at home or on the road.  To transport the beignets, place them in some parchment paper and staple the parchment together to create a pouch for the beignets.  Hold off on putting the powdered sugar on until you arrive at your destination.  I poured the caramel sauce into an 8oz mason jar for the trip and brought a little bowl along for dipping. Easy!!

Admittedly, drinks are not my specialty.  For the most part, I drink water all day long, every day.  I love my water but I was pretty sure water wouldn’t do for this challenge.  It was Kyle who came up with the suggestion for ginger ale and I was sold immediately.  Though it’s never the first type of soda I reach for, it’s always one that’s always refreshing when I do drink it.  After checking out a few recipes, the one I ultimately chose was spot-on.  Both the muffaletta and chips were on the salty side and this ginger ale provided the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the other parts of our lunch.  For the purpose of this road trip, I poured the simple syrup and ginger-water into a quart-size mason jar and kept the club soda separate until we were ready to pour the ginger ale.

We had a blast this afternoon on our Road Trip picnic in spite of the rain that started before we were ready to leave.  After feeling like I’ve missed my last 5 weekends because of the time I’ve spent cooking and blogging, I’m so so happy to have been able to get outside and enjoy some time with Kyle.  All of the dishes I made for this picnic couldn’t be easier for you to make and I hope you’ll give these recipes a shot the next time someone shouts ROAD TRIP!!

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Greek Panzanella + A Surprise Announcement
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Ina Garten is acquiring somewhat of a reputation for panzanella recipes.  Rest assured, a good one.  I mean, she’s got the original Panzanella from Parties!, a grilled version that I watched her make recently that looks like it’s right up my alley, and this Greek version.  Oh this Greek version.  The one I’m still dreaming about.

Admittedly, I’ve become obsessed with feta cheese in the past few months and I’ve been enjoying it in everything from salads, to roasted veggies, to pizza toppings.  So Ina’s Greek version of panzanella seemed natural exciting mouthwatering to me while I was working out the second Barefoot Bloggers recipe for this month.  And as usual, Ina didn’t let me down.  The panzanella base is the same as the original version but the addition of feta and a delightfully tangy vinaigrette are what really make this dish.  And the toasted bread.  Good lord, don’t forget about the toasted bread!  It took all my strength to hold myself to just one serving of this but the good thing is, it’s so easy to make that it will be reappearing on my menu soon enough.

And now for the surprise announcement!

Ina Garten’s cookbook publicist contacted me earlier this month to tell me that Ina would like for me to do a Q&A session with her in preparation of the release of her new cookbook Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? which is set to be released on October 26th. How COOL is that?!? My cooking idol!  The date is set for August 18th (which is an awesome early birthday gift for me since my bday is the 19th!) but I don’t have any more details right now other than the date. I of course, will share them once they are finalized.

In the time leading up to this special event, I want to hear from you.  I want to know what you’d ask Ina if you had the chance.  But hold your questions for now.  I’ll be posting weekly starting next week with new recipes from How Easy is That? (since I’ve got an advanced copy in my hot little hands) to share with you and will ask you for your questions in those posts.

So, to make sure you don’t miss these upcoming posts, you may want to connect with me via the new buttons I’ve added in the sidebar: Twitter, Smells Like Home’s Facebook page, and RSS feedJust sayin’

Summer Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons
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I realize it’s been 90+ degrees here for what seems like weeks on end.  And I realize that we haven’t turned off the air conditioning in probably close to 3 weeks.  But I couldn’t help but turn on the oven this weekend.   I missed making these Scalloped Tomatoes last month for Barefoot Bloggers and I wanted to make sure that I catch up on my missed recipes before a very special event takes place next month…which I’ll share with you as it approaches.  Yes, I’m going to leave you hanging like that.

So these Scalloped Tomatoes are unassuming.  And frankly, the name is a little odd too.  Of course you can slice tomatoes really thin but I’ve never heard of scalloping them before.  And this recipe doesn’t really do that in the traditional sense either.  But it’s one that you can whip up in 10 minutes and throw in the oven and by the time you’ve finished running around the house cleaning up, you’ve got an incredible lunch waiting for you.  Seriously incredible.  This is where the unassuming part comes in.  The simple and delicious summer tomatoes almost caramelize in the oven and blend so amazingly with the toasted croutons that you’ll almost forget that you cooked summer tomatoes (gasp!) in the middle of July (double gasp!).   And if you’re wondering about “what do I serve with it” question, I’ll say that you won’t need anything.  Kyle even commented “you don’t even miss not having meat in this dish” so it’s definitely a meal in itself. I’d advise that you not wait until the fall weather approaches before you make these tomatoes – you’ll miss tomato season and will most definitely regret not using them here.

Many, many thanks to Josie of Pink Parsley Catering for choosing this incredible dish to celebrate summer tomatoes!  The other recipe for June was Sour Cream Coffee Cake, as chosen by Gwenn of Cooking in Pajamas, which we’ve made many times in the past and while we love love love it, we didn’t have an occasion to make it again recently.

Caprese Bruschetta
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Sometimes certain dishes don’t need a recipe.  The problem with that is, sharing the ingredients and method gets complicated…trying to throw out a bunch of instructions while people think they can remember everything I say just doesn’t work.  They never do remember.  This caprese bruschetta is one of these such dishes that we’ve been making for years and I’m just now taking the time to write down the recipe for it.  It’s also one of those dishes that I’m in love with so much that I unconsciously do a little dance for when I take that first bite.  Caprese salad has always been one of our favorite summertime dishes and we make the combination a number of ways at least once a week, every week, in the summer: on a plate, with pasta and chicken, in a panzanella salad, and in a sandwich (the latter three which haven’t been posted here…yet).  I should note that we love balsamic vinegar so we go a little heavy on it – adjust the amount to your own tastes.

So if you’re looking for a fantastic side dish or appetizer for your summer bbq, like for the upcoming 4th of July, make sure you try this one out!

***If you haven’t seen Smells Like Home’s newest feature, be sure to check out Parts of the Home for some great recipe suggestions specific to different parts of the home.   Consider it a fun twist on the “featured recipes” pages you may see on other blogs.  New Parts will be making their debut throughout the rest of the summer!***

Spring Green Risotto with Grilled Herb Shrimp
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Do yourselves a favor and don’t wait as long I did to make this risotto! Seriously, I put off making this May Barefoot Bloggers recipe for an entire month because I just wasn’t thrilled with the idea of risotto surrounded by a bunch of veggies but this recipe was such a pleasant surprise.  I paired it with a highly modified version of the other BB recipe for the May, Grilled Herb Shrimp, and the shrimp really rounded out the meal.  As all of Ina’s recipes do, the full risotto recipe makes a lot (6 meal servings rather than the 4 Ina suggests) but neither of us are complaining about having leftovers for lunch for the next couple of days.  And even though the recipe name suggests that it’s a spring recipe, all of the ingredients are available year-round; they just happen to be less expensive this time of year.  Really though like I said, don’t wait to make too long to make this – you’ll regret it like I did!

Many thanks to Kimberly from Indulge and Enjoy for choosing the risotto and to Penny of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen for choosing the shrimp recipe for May’s BB choices!

Mango Pineapple Salsa
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Every time I say “salsa” I just want to shout out “SALSA!!” and then dance around a little.  I don’t know what it is about salsa but I just love it so much!  Traditional tomato-based salsa is always on our grocery list because it’s just such a healthy snack but I’m also a huge fan of fruit salsa as well…or more specifically peach salsa.  There’s something about the cool and sweet fruit paired with the savory tomato and heat from the jalapeno that is just so addicting to me.  So when my cousin (speaking of my cousin…I’m still in need of some donations for the Relay for Life team that is supporting her recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma!!) was here to visit a few weeks ago, she offered to make this mango pineapple salsa she learned to make in one of her culinary classes at Johnson and Wales University.  Game. On.

The recipe itself is a piece of cake to throw together – it’s really takes no more than chopping up a bunch of ingredients – but it should be noted that the salsa will need a day in the fridge before you serve it to allow the flavors to really come together.  So in addition to my addiction to peach salsa, I’m totally and irrevocably in love and addicted to this mango pineapple salsa!  The lime juice and red onion take the fruit to another level and the roasted corn (which you could grill instead) is a surprise ingredient that adds more flavor than you can imagine.  The recipe is completely adaptable so if you wanted to leave out the cilantro or add some chopped jalapeno, it will all work just fine.  Do yourself a favor and make this salsa now.  Or at least for your upcoming Memorial Day party!!

Zucchini and Corn Quesadillas
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When I saw this recipe posted over at Ezra Pound Cake (my co-conspirator for Barefoot Bloggers) this summer, I knew I needed to make it.  I mean, seriously…how incredible do these quesadillas look??  Well, these zucchini and corn quesadillas were out.standing. Really.  The veggies were perfectly sautéed while retaining just enough crunch to complement the soft, melted cheese.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use a nice sharp cheddar in place of the pepper Jack and it was a great choice to use here.  If you’re not looking for heat in recipe like this, be sure to use a cheese with some “umph” like sharp cheddar.  While I love Monterrey Jack, I think it would get lost in this recipe.  As a vegetarian meal, we were perfectly satisfied but if you need the meat, some grilled or sautéed chicken would probably be delicious added to the quesadillas.  I think what I’m most excited about is that you can use frozen corn if fresh corn isn’t in season and that zucchini is available year-round in the grocery stores so we won’t have to wait until next summer to eat these again!

Bruschetta with Sautéed Sweet Red Peppers and Gorgonzola
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Last month, we introduced a new challenge to the BB group: Barefoot on a Budget (BoaB) where a pricey Ina recipe is amended to fit into our budgets.  The first recipe (Lobster Cobb Salad) was chosen by majority vote and this one was the runner-up, thus becoming May’s BoaB recipe.  I would have like to have made the Lobster Cobb Salad but I really want to try it with the lobster and unfortunately, it is still fairly pricey here in New England.  Anywho, the this bruschetta was right up my alley and wouldn’t make a big dent in my wallet.

I didn’t find that I needed to change the recipe all that much in order to make it more budget-worthy and you’ll see a breakdown of the cost below.  I did halve the recipe since there are only two of us to cook for and swapped out the creamy Gorgonzola for the crumbly.  In truth, we made the bruschetta twice this week; once with crumbly Gorgonzola and once with creamy Gorgonzola (which cost $9.99/lb) and the crumbly batch appealed to us much more than the creamy.  The difference probably had more to do with the brand than the texture as the creamy was way too strong for our liking.  Either way, the recipe is fabulous, both a little sweet (the peppers) and a little salty (the cheese) at the same time, and is one that can easily be made for a larger group.

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Two years ago: Broccoli and Fontina Frittata and Oreo Cheesecake

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Tabbouleh
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So now that my Barefoot Contessa cookbook collection is complete (minus my pre-order of Back to Basics) and that my time has started to free up post-summer, I’ve been digging through Ina’s books for new recipes. I wasn’t really in search of anything specific when I came across Chicken with Tabbouleh in Barefoot Contessa Parties! but I did have some late-season tomatoes that needed to be used up before going to rot on my kitchen windowsill. And being that I’d never actually eaten tabbouleh before, I figured this would be a great new try for me.

Bulgur wheat is not an easy find the regular grocery store (at least not for me) but I did find it in Whole Foods and other than that, everything else in the recipe is easily accessible. The recipe requires a bit of chopping but no cooking at all. You boil some water, pour it over the bulgur wheat, and let it sit for an hour…which was just the amount of time I needed to get showered and dressed for work the morning I made it. It really is such a simple recipe to put together and so worth the little effort it takes. I loved this dish so much and next time will pair it with some of my favorite roasted red pepper hummus in a homemade pita…which I’ll be attempting this weekend.

 

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
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The ultimate comfort food “kicked up a notch.” Whether you prefer the blue box or your mama’s homemade recipe (like I do), most people don’t really argue about the fact that they love mac and cheese. So as we head into cooler weather, it was definitely fitting that Heather of Randomosity and the Girl would choose one of Ina’s mac and cheese recipes for her BB pick.

I haven’t tried many other homemade mac and cheese recipes other than my old (and favorite) standby but I’m always willing to give another recipe a shot. Ina’s recipe combined 2 very grown up cheeses with the deliciousness that is cheddar but since I’m still unsure if I’m allergic to blue cheese or not, I passed it over for a champagne cheddar (Yancy from a small dairy in upstate New York) that brilliantly showed up in my grocery store a few months ago. Holy crap this cheese is good. I wanted something just as sophisticated as the blue cheese and I definitely got it with this cheese.

Aside from the cheese, I made a few other modifications: skim milk, 2% cheddar, and turkey bacon. And while I really enjoyed the mac and cheese, it wasn’t “blow my mind” fabulous. Maybe it’s because of my modifications – maybe turkey bacon isn’t a great substitute for real bacon in all recipes. Maybe I cooked it a few extra minutes – it was a little on the dry side. I don’t know. Kyle wasn’t thrilled with it at all and while he finished his serving, he didn’t go back for seconds – very strange for him. Oh well. I’ve still got our old standby so I’m not upset that this one didn’t turn out as wonderful as I had hoped it would.

Thanks again to Heather for choosing this recipe and for starting our group off on a trend of cool-weather foods!