TWO APPETIZERS FOR THOSE WHO LIKE IT HOT

These appetizers would be great for a tapas party or to share with guests before a Tex-Mex meal.  They are very simple to prepare and both can be assembled in advance. Conveniently, both recipes are baked at the same temperature, 375 F.   When your guests arrive, stick the dishes in the oven, and they will be done by the time everyone is settling down, getting ready to enjoy the evening. I cannot decide which one I liked more, but chorizo has been a favorite ingredient these days, so maybe I lean towards the stuffed mushrooms as the winner. The recipe I’m sharing with you today came from Melissa’s blog,  “I Breathe I am Hungry“, which is a great site for those into low-carb and gluten-free nutrition. Even though I don’t fall into any strict category, whenever I  host a dinner party I like to include options that are lower in carbs, especially when it comes to appetizers because carbo-loading before a full meal seems a bit excessive.  The second recipe I won’t be sharing with you, but you can get it by ordering Melissa’s e-book The Gluten-Free Low Carber, which is a fantastic source of recipes, many of them not available in her blog.  Remember that  even if you do not own an iPad or Kindle, e-books can be assessed from your laptop.

ChorizoStuffedMushroomsCHORIZO, SPINACH & MANCHEGO STUFFED MUSHROOMS
(very slightly modified from I Breathe I am Hungry)

12 – 15 button mushrooms
6 ounces (about 3 links) chorizo
1 shallot, chopped
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese (or sharp Cheddar)
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
salt to taste (you will need very little)

Remove chorizo from its casing and saute in a medium frying pan for a few minutes. Add the chopped shallot and cook for about 3 minutes until translucent. Meanwhile, clean off the mushrooms and remove the stems. Place the caps on a large plate and microwave for 2 minutes to soften.

Add the cream cheese, shredded cheese, and baby spinach leaves to the chorizo mixture. Stir well and cook for a minute or two until the spinach wilts. Remove from the heat. Stuff the mushrooms with about a tablespoon each of the filling. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 375 F oven for about 10 minutes. Longer if you like your mushrooms really soft. Remove and cool for a few minutes before eating.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: These are addictive. Now, Melissa herself warned about how hot they are once baked. Be careful and give them a little time to cool down before you bite into these babies. If you are serving them to company, I suggest offering small appetizer forks, so your guests can cut them in half with the fork.  It is hard to keep your composure if you bite into these and find out that the center feels like molten lava on your tongue. Please, don’t ask me how I know… (sigh)

And now the second appetizer: a Jalapeno Popper dip, creamy, spicy, truly delicious!

JalapenoDip

Of course, you could send the low-carb for a walk and dive into this dip with crackers, toasted baguette rounds, and tortilla chips.  But if that’s not acceptable think about slicing jicama very thinly and using the slices as a chip.  Whatever rocks your boat.

For the full recipe get Melissa’s e-book, The Gluten-Free Low Carber. I highly recommend it!   Her recipes are very creative, and even if you don’t worry about carbs and gluten, you will find plenty of stuff to drool over. Some of my favorites: Spaghetti Squash Carbonara (a happy accident in her kitchen). three versions of Flax Crackers, Buffalo Balls (don’t worry, it calls for ground chicken… ), Ham and Spinach Calzones (yes, gluten-free, very interesting dough using cream cheese), Faux-lafel with Tahini Sauce (creative twist on a classic) and of course I absolutely must make her Brazilian Chicken Pies. She also offers recipes for gluten-free pie and pizza crust, as well as low-carb ketchup, barbecue sauces, and salad dressings.

ONE YEAR AGO: Baked Ricotta, Take Two

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Uncanned

THREE YEARS AGO: Pork Ragu

FOUR YEARS AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celery and Apple Salad

 

GUEST POST FOR COOKIE MONDAYS: LINZER COOKIES

I am so excited because Prudy, the gorgeous hostess of the blog Butter, Basil, and Breadcrumbs invited me to write a guest blog post on her series entitled “Cookie Mondays”.   If you don’t know Prudy’s site, stop what you’re doing and pay her a visit right now!  One of the things I love about her blog is that she shares bits about herself that are incredibly fun to read, and often quite touching and profound.  There will always be a great recipe going along with it, but it’s definitely not just about recipes.  For instance, in a post about fruit sushi, she tells this story about having lunch with her boss when she did not know him very well. I quote:  “Have you ever tried to eat a whole chicken with chopsticks?”  Priceless… Another example, in a post about filled donuts, she shares her experience with the dreaded senior discount (I can totally relate! Me? Old?  You must be kiddin’ me!). One more: imagine a post about peas and carrots that makes you consider a choice between becoming fluent in all languages or able to play any musical instrument… Yeah, only Prudy can pull that one ;-)

Anyway, I am honored to be part of the list of lucky bloggers invited to compose a post for her site, and it’s my turn to invite you to read about our adventure making Linzer Cookies! Our adventure, you might ask? Yes, this was a project Phil and I tackled together on a chilly Sunday morning. Fun, fun, fun… and mighty tasty!

Now, without further ado, click here for the full post.

cutting

TUSCAN GRILLED CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE SKEWERS

Talk about being slow to blog about stuff.  This recipe was made last August, so it will appeal a lot more now to the lucky folks who live in places such as Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, are enjoying the best time of their lives, aka SUMMER!  I was slow to blog, but even slower to give it a try, as the recipe is from Fine Cooking, year 2006.  Eight years and a few months ago.

You will need to prepare in advance a delicious rosemary-infused olive oil, and there will be leftovers. I confess that this was probably the reason why I dragged my foot for so long before making this recipe. I am not big on preparing infused oils and sauces and dressings that can be used later. They sit in the fridge making me feel guilty as the days go by and their expiration date approaches.  Still this rosemary concoction would be great in a simple spaghetti aglio & olio or drizzled over your favorite pizza topping.  Very flavorful stuff, the smell as it simmers will make you wanna dance. Not a dancer? It will make you wanna sing. Not a singer either? I will settle for a smile. Make it a big one, though.

Tuscan Chicken Sausage Skewers

TUSCAN GRILLED CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE SKEWERS
(from Fine Cooking magazine, issue #80)

2-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut in half
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. Rosemary-Garlic Oil (recipe follows)
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 2-inch pieces
24 large fresh sage leaves

Up to a day ahead and at least a couple of hours before serving, toss the chicken in a medium bowl with 2 Tbs. of the infused oil, the fresh rosemary, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

Heat a grill to medium heat. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup oil into two small bowls (one for grilling and one for serving, if desired). Alternately thread three pieces of sausage, three pieces of chicken, and four sage leaves onto each of six 12-inch metal skewers.

Grill the skewers, covered, until one side is browned and has good grill marks, about 4 min. Brush with some of the rosemary-garlic oil, flip, and cook the other side until it, too, has good grill marks, about 4 min. Brush with more oil and flip again. Continue cooking, flipping, and brushing with oil until the sausage and chicken are both cooked through, about 10 min. more.

Let cool for a couple of minutes and then arrange on a platter, and serve with additional oil, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

RosemaryOil
ROSEMARY-GARLIC OIL
(slightly modified from Fine Cooking magazine, issue #80)

1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 sprigs fresh rosemary

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic starts to bubble steadily, 3 to 4 min. Add the rosemary, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a clean glass jar or other storage container, cover, and refrigerate. Use within five days.

ENJOY!

to print the infused oil recipe, click here

skewers

Comments:  This was a pretty nice recipe! I did not baste the skewers often while grilling, only once, but that did not hurt them a bit. Vegetarians forgive me, but the mixture of chicken with sausage is a winner, and the sage leaves add a lot of flavor and visual appeal.  If you want to add veggies to the skewers, I think eggplant cubes could work well, they would stand to the cooking and be done more or less at the same time as the meat. Of course, onion would be another great option. Something to consider when summer is finally back bringing with it my beloved flip-flops, shorts, and t-shirts. By now I am even looking forward to golf…   ;-)

Note added after publication: I was kindly reminded by my readers in Florida that they are currently all happy under a 70 F sunny weather.  It is a bit like sticking the knife and twisting, so yes, go ahead Floridians, and make this recipe.  Think about me as you do it, and send me some of your warm weather ASAP.

ONE YEAR AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

TWO YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

THREE YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

FOUR YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

FIVE YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

 

 

KEN FORKISH’S WARM SPOT SOURDOUGH

First bread post of 2015!  Not the first bake of the year, because this was made for Phil’s birthday on the last week of December. He chose the whole menu, which consisted of oysters on the half-shell as a first course, and clam chowder as the main dish. Also according to his request, no dessert to keep things moderate.  Perfect for me.  The bread was all that bowl of chowdah needed to shine in its creamy glory!

Warm Spot Sourdough1

WARM SPOT SOURDOUGH

I am not going to share the full recipe (from Ken Forkish’s book Flour Water Salt Yeast), but you can find it online with a visit to Karen’s site. And don’t just limit yourself to that recipe,  look around and be amazed by her talent. Just a recent example: she tackled Pretzel Rolls, the traditional Laugenbrötchen. That is on my mile-long list of things to try this year. Now, back to my sourdough…

A little walk through the method… The bread takes three days to prepare, but don’t let that intimidate you. It is worth your time. The interesting twist in the recipe is keeping your sourdough starter at a higher temperature of fermentation, around 85 F. During the winter that can be a challenge, but I am the lucky owner of a bread proofing box. Problem solved. Because the starter ferments at a higher temperature you will need to refresh it more often than usual, but as I mentioned in my previous sourdough post, Ken is particularly helpful in laying out a nice schedule for each of his recipes.

After the bulk fermentation, in which I gave four folding cycles to the dough, the bread is shaped, and retarded in the fridge overnight. From the fridge it goes straight into the hot oven, no need to bring it to room temperature.

One of the things I did differently in this bake was to flour my banetton, cover it with plastic wrap (Saran Wrap type), flour the plastic and place the shaped dough for its final proof, seam side UP (going against Ken’s usual method).  Next morning, I inverted the bread on parchment paper, slashed the surface and baked it with my normal method of steam (Dutch oven covered with a wet lid).  Ken likes to allow his breads to open naturally, so he proofs the shaped loaf with the seam side down, then simply inverts it on the baking sheet without slashing. I did this on my first time making this recipe a couple of months ago, and even though the bread tasted as good as this one, it failed to open in a more dramatic way.  Take a look:

FirstLoaf

Maybe it is just a matter of personal preference, but I rather help the bread open in a more defined way.  One more remark before I go: I liked the use of the plastic wrap because it gave me extra confidence removing the bread from the banetton. I’ve had too many situations of dough sticking and compromising the shape of the loaf in the end.  I suspect my skills to shape the loaf and generate enough surface tension need improvement. Until then, I will be using this trick, and if you had problems with dough sticking give it a try…

The bread had good oven spring, the crust was just the way we love it!

CrumbCRUMB SHOT

So there we have it, another birthday celebration, with good music, juicy oysters, delicious bread, and a warming bowl of soup, all in the comfort of our home!  Life is good…

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO: Bran Muffins, Rainbows, and a wonderful surprise!

TWO YEARS AGO: Cider-Marinated Pork Kebabs

THREE YEARS AGO: Golden Age Granola

FOUR  YEARS AGO: Mushroom Souffle for Two

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stollen

CREMINI MUSHROOM MEATLOAF

As Anne Burrell often puts it: brown food tastes good. I fully agree, but it is a nightmare for food bloggers. Why? Taking a good picture is quite tricky. Granted, photography is not one of my fortes, but I am aware that even those who know their way around a camera need to work a little harder when faced with beef stews, chocolate brownies, and – case in point – meatloaf.  This one maybe even trickier as the beef is mixed with cremini mushrooms. Double decker brown for you!  Still, no matter the quality of the photos, I had to share this recipe because it is totally worth it. The mushrooms not only provide extra moisture to the meat loaf, but they add that enticing umami-ness.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine which is one of my favorite sources for weeknight recipes. Never too rich, always packing great flavor.

Cremini Meat Loaf

CREMINI MUSHROOM MEAT LOAF
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 pound cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup almond flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces ground sirloin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/4 cup ketchup, divided
.
Heat oven to 375°.
.
Place the mushrooms in a food processor; process until minced. Do it in two batches if necessary.
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Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add minced shallot; sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add mushrooms; cook 7 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms begin to brown. Add sherry; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in thyme. Cool slightly.
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Combine mushroom mixture, almond flour, and next 4 ingredients (through egg), mixing until well combined. Shape mixture into a free-form loaf on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven; brush with half of ketchup. Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°. Remove from oven; brush with remaining ketchup, if desired. Cut into 8 slices.
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served

One of the changes I made in the recipe from Cooking Light was using almond flour instead of Panko. If you prefer a more traditional take, go for breadcrumbs, same amount.  I served the meatloaf with mashed cauliflower and spinach, a recipe that I blogged about not too long ago. This was a simple, but delicious meal. You can prepare the mushroom mixture in advance, even a couple of days earlier to speed up dinner preparation. One of the best things of this meal: leftovers. My lunch next day was a couple of slices of meat loaf with a hard-boiled egg, and an avocado. The type of lunch that doesn’t make me sluggish during the afternoon. Love it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Roast Chicken with Clementines

TWO YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

THREE YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH TOASTED ALMONDS

This soup was quite a revelation for me, because it tasted amazing even though it called for very few, humble ingredients. No need to search for black truffles in a jar to make it, although I must say the flavor was so complex that I wondered if truffles had been hanging out around that broccoli at harvest time. Nah…. Just my overly vivid imagination.  The inspiration came once more from Mike, the man behind The Iron You. I’ve been a reader of his blog for only a few months, but that is long enough to realize his taste in food matches ours quite well. On a side note, for those into special nutrition, this concoction is paleo-friendly and low-carb.

unnamed-3

CREAMY BROCCOLI SOUP WITH TOASTED ALMONDS
(modified from The Iron You)

1 ½ lbs broccoli cut into florets
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 leek stalk, thinly sliced
3 small celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fine grain salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (13.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk
dash of ground nutmeg
slivered almonds slightly browned in olive oil
.
Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, celery, garlic, a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring every now and then, until softened, about 7 minutes.

Add broccoli florets, broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the broccoli florets are tender, about 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, give a good stir and cook for further 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and mix well.
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Transfer the soup to a blender and puree in batches, or use an immersion blender if you prefer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, maybe a little more nutmeg. If the soup is too thick add a bit of water; if instead it’s too thin cook until it reaches the desired consistency.
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Serve warm with sautéed almonds on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For some reason I don’t make soups that often, but whenever I do, I feel quite virtuous…  I prepared this particular recipe early in the morning and had it for lunch after running. It was a bright sunny day, but quite cold, maybe 40 F with a little wind.  The soup was like a warm hug, soothing and energizing at the same time. I highly recommend it after a workout. There’s something about the creaminess offered by the coconut milk that will make you feel on top of the world.  Vivid imagination, you say? ;-)

Mike, thanks for the constant culinary inspiration!

ONE YEAR AGO: Cheddar and Fennel Seed Crackers 

TWO YEARS AGO: A Festive Pomegranate Dessert

THREE YEARS AGO: My First Award!

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Message from WordPress

FIVE YEARS AGO: Turkish Chicken Kebabs