Friday, December 30, 2011

Rosemary Infused White Bean Dip

I don't know why, but I had the hardest time coming up with a cold dip to serve on New Year's Eve.  I make a mean guacamole and spinach dip, but I wanted to try something new, something seasonal, something (relatively) healthy.  After perusing numerous websites and racking my brain I came up with a hybrid of several recipes.  This rosemary infused white bean dip is hummus like in texture, but bountiful in flavor.  An added bonus:  you can make this up to two days ahead!

Ingredients  (Yields approximately 2 cups of dip)

1/4 c. of extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves of garlic, chopped 
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 of a lemon)
2 15.5 oz. cans of cannelloni (white kidney) beans
4 sprigs of rosemary
Fresh ground black pepper

1.  Pour half of the 1/4 c. of olive oil in to a saute pan.  Turn heat to medium low.
2.  Add the chopped garlic and saute until translucent and soft.
3.  Blend the garlic and olive oil mixture, the salt, lemon juice and beans to a food processor (or use an immersion blender like I did if you don't have a food processor).
4.  Pour the remaining olive oil in to the saute pan and turn the heat to medium.  Add the 3 sprigs of rosemary and saute for about 5-6 minutes turning periodically so they don't burn.
5.  Allow mixture to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary sprigs and chop 1 tsp. (or more if desired) of the leaves.
6.  Pour the rosemary olive oil over the bean dip*, and sprinkle the chopped leaves over top as garnish.

Serve cold or at room temperature with toasted pita bread, crackers, pita chips, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and/or celery.

*NOTE:  If you do plan to make this dip ahead, keep the rosemary olive oil and bean mixture separate until you serve.  The oil can be kept in the refrigerator for storage.  Just heat it up and drizzle over the bean mixture right before serving.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Eve Menu

Christmas music is no longer on the radio 24 hours a day, Santa has come and gone, gifts have been opened, food you've spent hours making has been consumed with family and friends, and you're starting to think about taking those Christmas decorations down.  Hold that thought!  New Years Eve 2012 is just a few days away.  It's time to hit the grocery store and heat up those ovens because the second cooking marathon of the holiday season is about to begin.

I'm hosting our NYE celebration with a few close friends this year so I've been carefully pondering my menu and punch recipe for the past few days.  Here's what I'll be serving; recipes to follow in the next few days as the prep begins.

Rosemary infused white bean dip 
Crab & artichoke dip
Cranberry walnut brie tartlets
Whiskey Brownies

and to drink:  Champagne Punch

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Vanishing Sugar Cookies and a very Merry Christmas to all!

I hope your shopping is done!  Every year, I can't believe how fast Christmas comes and goes.  We celebrate and cook and bake all month, and it's all gone in a day.  24 hours.  My last holiday baking blitz for this year is pictured below.  If these look familiar then you must have read my Thanksgiving post. Same recipe (doubled!), different cookie cutters and different colored sugars, but the same great taste.  My family LOVES these at Christmas and we literally consume 2 big tins worth in just a few days.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Minute Gift Ideas for the Cook or Foodie

Hanukkah started last night, Christmas Eve is three days away, and you're frantically searching for the best gift for the cook or foodie in your life. Well look no further, DishingGourmet is here to help.  Here's a list of gadgets, tools and treats that are available at your nearest mall or shopping center and guaranteed to please. Some might even still be available online with expedited shipping. Instead of sorting by price (boring!) I've created three categories:

1.  Gifts for the Cook

2.  Gifts for the Wine/Beer Drinker

3.  Gifts for Entertaining

For the Cook:

3.  KitchenAid slicer attachment
3.  Food mill
12. Apron
14. Tongs
15. Whisks
16. Pizza Stone - Emile Henry is the best. Comes in square or round shapes and is available at Williams Sonoma, Macy's and Sears.

For the Wine/Beer Drinker:
1.  New wine glasses of course - wide variety of sizes and shapes.  For a personalized look have the wine glasses engraved.
2.  Beer glasses - there are tons.  My favorites are the tulip and the snifter available anywhere but Crate & Barrel is a good bet.  Some sites offer an entire kit of tasting glasses like this one
3.  Coasters - Williams Sonoma and Bed, Bath & Beyond both have a nice selection in a variety of price ranges.
4.  Beer or wine of the month club membership.  You pay for however many months you want.
5.  Six pack of good craft beers
6.  Create your own basket of a couple of bottles of wine, corkscrew, cheese and crackers
7.  Wine rack
8.  Wine cellar - like this oneWine Enthusiast sometimes has great deals on cellars.

For Entertaining:
1.  Slate cheeseboard – also available at Williams Sonoma
Now get out there and finish that shopping!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Baking with Booze Part 1: Rum Balls

My Grandma always used to make whiskey balls for the adults for Christmas. When my brother and I were younger we tasted them out of curiosity, but at the ages of 6 and 8, respectively, we were ultimately repulsed by their spicy, slightly boozy nature. Even in my adult life, I don't like whiskey anything, but I was compelled to resurrect Grandma's tradition for some reason, perhaps because for some reason the holidays always inspire me to cook or bake with booze. I couldn't find her recipe, but my mom referred me to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" cookbook which has a fabulous Whiskey Ball recipe. I followed the recipe to a T the first time, but this only reaffirmed my dislike for whiskey.  So I gave the balls to my dad and decided to try again, this time using rum and modifying some other components of the recipe.  The result is below.  These balls are a quick, no bake, crowd-pleasing treat.  Even my fiance who doesn't consume liquor thinks they're delicious!

Rum Balls* - (Preparation time: 25 minutes; Yields:  approx. 24 balls)

1 c. vanilla wafer crumbs
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. pecans, chopped (optional)
1 c. confectioners (powdered) sugar
2 heaping Tbsp. of Hershey's cocoa powder
1/3 c. of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
1 tbsp. white Karo syrup

1.  Crush vanilla wafers until you have 1 c. of crumbs.  (see Tips #1 and #2 below)
2.  Finely chop 1 c. of walnuts
3.  Combine vanilla wafer crumbs, walnuts, pecans, cocoa and confectioners sugar.  Blend thoroughly.
4.  Add the rum and Karo syrup.
5.  Mix well and form in to 1/2-1 inch wide balls
6.  Roll the balls in powdered sugar and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

*A few tips before you start:
1.  Don't buy generic vanilla wafers. The difference in taste compared to the original "Nilla" wafer is apparent.
2.  If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, and you have the slicer attachment, use the smallest serrated insert which will grind the wafers and nuts nicely (and save you a lot of work!).
3.  Be generous with the booze.  I use Captain Morgan's Spiced rum.
4.  When rolling the balls scrape your hands with a spatula or wash them halfway through the batch otherwise the balls get sticky and gooey and lose their smooth texture.
5.  For best results, make 2 weeks ahead of when you plan to serve to give the balls time to age.  If you don't have two weeks, at least make them a couple of days before so they have time to firm up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Introducing Wine Wednesday (and Lasagna Rolls!)

When Ryan and I started dating we'd alternate cooking dinner for each other once or twice a week.  Whoever wasn't cooking was in charge of bringing a bottle of wine to pair with the meal.  We started out with one bottle per meal, and then somehow it escalated to two bottles per meal which made for some pretty hazy mornings. Once we moved in together we realized it probably wasn't in our best interest to do that every night so he came up with the idea of "Wine Wednesday". Wine Wednesday is exactly what you'd surmise. We usually have a fancier than average meal paired with a wine of our choice. It gives us something to look forward to in the middle of the frequently stressful workweeks we both experience. Below is a recipe for Lasagna Rolls, our most recent Wine Wednesday foray. We paired it with what we refer to as our "house" red, a tasty 2008 blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot called Lyeth (pronounced "Lee-th"). Mangia!

Lasagna Rolls (prep time: 30 minutes, cook time: 40 minutes)

8 lasagna noodles
1 15oz. container whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 c. part-skim mozzarella, divided
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 10 oz. package of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
1 slightly beaten egg
2 24 oz. jars of tomato sauce (in another feature I'll give a recipe for a simple sauce, but for this one, give yourself a break and use jarred sauce. My favorite is Classico's Tomato & Basil).

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2.  Combine the ricotta, 1 c. of mozzarella, 1/4 c. parmesan, crushed red pepper, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, 1/4 c. of tomato sauce, and spinach in a bowl.  Set aside.
3.  Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain.
4.  Coat the bottom of a 9x13in. or 1.75qt. glass baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce.
5.  Spread each lasagna noodle with the ricotta mixture and roll it up.
6.  Place each rolled up noodle in to the baking dish.  Cover the top of the rolls in sauce. Spread the other 1 c. of mozzarella over the top, cover with foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes or until the roll-ups are hot throughout.

7.  Serve warm with extra sauce and parmesan sprinkled on top.

Yields:  8 lasagna rolls.  Serves 4-6.

What about the Wine?! 
I always recommend a robust red when it comes to  Italian meals involving a red sauce. Lyeth (mentioned above) is a great, under $20, choice for this meal. Other suggestions include a Meritage (Robert Mondavi Reserve is a good one!) or a Sangiovese to compliment the flavors.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Post Coming!

Work gets in the way of a lot of things sometimes including blog writing!  I sincerely apologize to all 2 of my loyal readers for my lapse, but I'm back, and tomorrow's post will reveal a revolutionary concept I like to call "Wine Wednesday".  Until then, sit back, relax and have a drink in anticipation...perhaps one of these?

Rose Petal Martini

3 oz. (2 shot glasses worth) Three Olives Bubble vodka
1.5 oz. (1 shot glass) Strawberry Schnapps

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, combine the liquors and shake. Straining the ice, pour the liquid only in to a chilled martini glass and top with cold gingerale.  Use diet gingerale for a lower calorie version with the same taste.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gobble Gobble! Turkey Cookies!

Gotcha, didn't I?  They are turkey cookies, but they are not made with turkey.  These sugar cookies are a hallmark contribution of mine to Thanksgiving dinners past, present and future.  You may be wondering why I didn't highlight a pumpkin pie, pumpkin roll or pumpkin cookie recipe as my Thanksgiving post.  I'll tell you why:  because everyone makes or writes about those.  Yes, pumpkin this and that deserves a proper place at the Thanksgiving table, but sometimes it's just too much.  Pumpkin pie is a great, timeless staple.  Pumpkin rolls nauseate me because they're a dense lump of fat upon fat, and I can practically hear my arteries closing while I'm eating it (PS that's a challenge to those of you reading this...comment with a pumpkin roll recipe that's light and I'll try it out and publish it here if it lives up to the hype).  Pumpkin cookies are a refreshing change of pace, but sometimes it's nice to see something that's not orange or brown on the dessert table. Cue my Turkey Cookies!

These cookies are always a crowd pleaser, they're festive, they're tasty, they keep well, and they make for a great host/hostess gift should you need one. Make sure you set aside plenty of time though as the dough needs to chill for a few hours before baking. I usually make the dough the night before or early in the day and then bake them that evening.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mom's Apple Crisp

Yesterday I realized that apple season is drawing to a close and I have not made a single apple crisp (the horror!).  I blame the weather. We've had a particularly warm fall around here which has prevented even the faint thought of stews, roasts, soups and other cold weather foods from crossing my mind. As if on cue, last night a storm rolled in and I woke up this morning to 36 degrees of brisk, damp air.  Mind you, I don't care much for the cold, but it sure gets me motivated to cook all things fall so here comes my Mom's apple crisp recipe with just a few modifications (I couldn't help myself, plus I was one apple shy of the required amount). For a real treat, serve it fresh out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Dish!

This is it! I'm doing it. I'm writing my own food blog!  And it only took me six months to start...but they were a thoughtful six months.  When I first proposed this idea to my fiance he was, as he always is, realistic, perhaps overly realistic or at least more realistic than I wanted him to be. I was looking for him to jump right on my food blog bandwagon and share my fantasy of writing magazine articles and books, making regular TV show appearances and hob knobbing with the Martha Stewart, the Iron Chefs and others in no time. Instead he cautioned me that creating and maintaining a food blog (or any creative endeavour for that matter) takes time, energy and a certain degree of focus and seriousness. Deflated and starting to feel a bit presumptious, I began to think about what he said and embark upon my own research.