SECRET RECIPE CLUB: LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO

When I was 13 years old I could not WAIT to turn 18. It took forever, but as you may have noticed, I made it. Now that I feel like setting the brakes on time, days pass flying by, turn into weeks, months, so here we are at the end of May, and I find myself with quite a few years added to those eighteen. Unreal. Anyway, the last Monday of May brings with it the formidable joy of Reveal Day from The Secret Recipe Club.  If you don’t already know about it, a food blogger is paired with another one in secret, has about a month to pick a recipe and cook from it, then the whole group blogs about their chosen dish at the exact same time.  Nothing is cooler than this, you must admit. I was paired this month with Life on Food, hosted by Emily, a 31-year-old woman with stunning blue eyes and a food blog that is a stalker’s dream! She’s been blogging since 2008, and her index of recipes is quite extensive. At first I decided to make something sweet, and almost settled on her Blackberry Oat  Muffins.  But then, I flirted with Carrot Cake Pancakes and with Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.  Not sure what happened to my sweet tooth, but the outcome was nevertheless perfect:  a fantastic dish of juicy meatballs laying on top of toasted orzo. Life on Food means life is good!

LambMeatballs

LAMB MEATBALLS WITH TOASTED ORZO
(slightly modified from Life on Food)

1 quart chicken stock
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
Milk, for soaking
1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced, plus 2 tsp zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup orzo
3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Heat the oven to 400 degrees . In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock over low heat; keep warm. In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb and egg. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread and crumble the bread into the meat. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, onion, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Drizzle with olive oil; mix. Roll the mixture into 20 meatballs and arrange on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in a few ladles of the warm stock and allow it to absorb before adding more. Keep adding stock a little at a time and cook until the orzo is al dente.

Stir in the spinach to heat through in the last-minute of cooking. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and feta. Serve the orzo in shallow bowls. Top with the meatballs and remaining 1/4 cup parsley.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: In the opening paragraph of her post on this recipe, Emily says… I plan my meals, snacks, grocery lists days in advance.  I don’t want to be unprepared. Currently I have only about 2 cups worth of flour. I want to make muffins that require 3 cups. I am stressed.  That gave me such a big smile, because I am exactly the same way. With the added quirk of often forgetting what I have hidden deep inside in the pantry, so I “think” I have only a cup of flour, but two unopened bags will be found when I bring yet another from the store. I never fail to amaze myself.

This was a great meal, my main change was to use a gluten-free bread which I had in the freezer begging to be used up. The bread was made with almond flour and some ground nuts, I thought it would go nicely with the lamb meatballs, and indeed it worked well.  The toasted orzo was super creamy, more like a risotto with all the starch of the pasta as part of the sauce.  It did not take that long to cook, we like our orzo very al dente. 

Emily, I hope you had a great time with your assignment!  And, as usual, I invite my readers to go poke a blue frog. Said frog will take you to a collection of goodies made by my fellow friends on The Secret Recipe Club for today’s reveal day…

ONE YEAR AGO: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Superman

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GINGERSNAPS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS

It’s shocking but we are arriving at the end of April. Hard not to use a beaten up expression like “time flies”. It simply does. But, birds are singing, owls are making a ton of noise in the middle of the night, sun is shinning, and I am a happy camper, having stored all my sweaters, coats, and boots far away from my sight. As usual, the last Monday of the month brings with it Reveal Day: a showcase of posts made by food bloggers who participate of The Secret Recipe Club, and are paired in secret.  My assignment was the blog by Julie, Confessions of a Cooking Diva.  Don’t you love that name? Made me wish I had named my blog The Drama Queen Cooks…. Tongue in cheek, of course. As regular readers know, I am a level-headed, composed, unflappable individual. Julie is originally from Idaho but lives in Utah with a cuddly cat and a basset hound, a type of dog I find very cool with its incredibly sharp sense of smell. Julie shares with me a deep fear of baking, but admits that nothing scares her more than spiders. I’d have to settle for cockroaches as my number one fear, but we are basically virtual sisters.  I assembled quite a few recipes on my list of possibilities, like her One Pot Green Chile Mac & Cheese… her Caribbean Jerk Salmon Tacos… her Turkey Sausage….her Black Bean Burgers…. and her Apple-Pecan Cheesecake… But, my love for spices spoke loudly, so here I am to share with you an AMAZING recipe for cookies that marry a traditional gingersnap with chunks of white chocolate. Heaven. Pure heaven in cookie shape.

Gingersnaps White Choc Chips

GINGERSNAPS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS
(from Confessions of a Cooking Diva)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup molasses
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 + 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1+1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1+1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs
3+1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄2 bag of white chocolate chips (I used 3/4 bag)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by spraying them with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Mix in the molasses, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt and spices until well combined.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Slowly add in the flour, half a cup at a time. Mix well. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Scoop the dough into balls and roll them in sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minutes. Then allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click

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Comments: Recently I read a book I’ve had for a long time but stayed sitting on a shelf, patiently waiting for me.  It is called BOUCHON BAKERY, a masterpiece of a pastry book, written by Thomas Keller & Sébastien Rouxel. My only criticism is its coffee table format, not very user-friendly.  But if you don’t mind that, it is well worth getting. The book goes well beyond recipes. In fact, it offers a deeper view of what it takes to start and maintain a bakery of the level of Bouchon. A lot of merit goes for the man in charge, Sébastien Rouxel, and his almost compulsive attention to detail. In Sébastien’s opinion, you cannot be a good pastry baker unless you are neat and organized, to the point that your bench is spotless clean at the end of the day, and as clean as humanly possible while you work.  As he says, being neat and organized doesn’t start when you get to work, it starts when you wake up.  That is quite a statement!  So, let’s say that I was under the spell of the book when I worked on this assignment.  My kitchen looked very professional, all ingredients lined up, detailed prep work.  I am afraid it won’t last, but it felt great…

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As to the cookies, they are FABULOUS. It is important not to over-bake them, so 10 to 11 minutes and you are done. I baked them mid-afternoon on a Sunday and took them to the department next morning. They were still soft, with a bit of moisture and chew, which is the way I like a cookie. If you prefer a more snappy creature, bake longer.  The white chocolate goes very well with all those fragrant spices, that made our kitchen very inviting.  Too inviting, maybe?

BuckBegger

 The ball can wait. I rather fetch a cookie!

 Julie, it was nice to “meet” you through this month’s adventure, our students and colleagues in the department sure appreciate your recipe very much, and so did I!  Have a great Reveal Day! And, if I may offer you a little gift, here it is. Print it and stick it on your fridge in case you need it.

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As usual, my readers are all invited to dive into the collection of delicious recipes featured by my fellow virtual friends from Group D of  The Secret Recipe Club by clicking on the cutest blue frog in the world, right at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

TWO YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

 

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MINI-QUICHES WITH DUXELLES AND BABY BROCCOLI

It seems like FOREVER since we’ve had a Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, but finally here we are, having the greatest time together…  My assigned blog for the first month of 2015 has such a cute name, makes me smile:  A Calculated Whisk… Becky, the cook behind the blog is a teacher of English to young Spanish-speaking kids, and next year will be starting to work on her master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology. Impressive!  Her site focuses on Paleo-friendly recipes, but is  not restricted to them. For those interested in the Paleo life-style,  I recommend reading her series of posts starting in January 1st, 2014, in which she shares her experience doing the Whole30 thing and blogging daily about it. That is endurance on several levels!  ;-)   Becky has two incredibly cute cats, Cupcake (a butter-addict) and Furpaws (prefers to hang inside the kitchen sink hoping for a sip of water straight from the faucet).  I say we pet lovers have our share of idiosyncratic creatures to deal with…    I am quite fond of Paleo recipes because they are usually moderate in carbs and high in protein, which is my preferred way to eat, so I had no problem finding stuff in her blog that pleased me. In fact, I intend to enjoy in the near future her Chicken Meatballs with Garlic Kale Marinara, her Chickpea Mushroom Spread (this one not Paleo), her Pumpkin and Pecorino Souffle (pretty intriguing gluten-free version), and her Spicy Cocoa Chili.  But this recipe won my heart to share with you today: Mini-Quiches with Duxelles and Broccoli.  As I expected, they were cute and absolutely delicious!

Mini-Quiches2

MINI-QUICHES WITH DUXELLES AND BROCCOLI
(slightly adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

makes 12 mini-quiches

for the duxelles:
2 tablespoons ghee
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup minced mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

for the mini quiches:
2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
4 whole eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 cup coconut milk, full fat
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil, for greasing the pan

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 12-cup muffin pan with olive oil.

To make the duxelles, melt the ghee in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of it is gone, about 10 minutes. Season the duxelles liberally with salt and pepper, then set aside on a plate to cool.

Return the skillet to medium and add the chopped broccoli. Cook, stirring frequently, until bright green and crisp tender, about five minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Stir in the duxelles and broccoli. Divide the mixture among the 12 greased muffin cups, filling each one about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until just set in the middle.

Gently run a knife around the edge of each quiche, and carefully scoop them out with a spoon. Enjoy hot or warm. Leftover quiches can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheated.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I turned this recipe into a Neolithic version by adding feta cheese, my apologies to all modern cave men out there.  But some pieces of leftover feta were staring at me from the fridge JUST as I was grabbing the eggs, and they actually screamed when left behind: “Please, take us, take us!”. I could not ignore them, I’m sure Becky will forgive me for the tweak.  Those of you on a strict Paleo kick, simply omit the feta, but adjust the salt accordingly.

These were so tasty and convenient both as a side-dish at dinner or as a snack. Of course, you can think of all types of goodies to add to the mixture, keeping it Paleo with diced roasted butternut squash, shredded zucchini, or stretching a bit its limits with a little Roquefort or other yummy cheese.  However, this version joining broccoli with mushrooms is going to be hard to beat.

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Becky, as soon as this post is public, I am going to subscribe to your blog, as I don’t want to miss any of your future recipes. I truly enjoyed secretively exploring your site, and look forward to more…

As usual, my readers are all invited to go poke a blue frog. There is one waiting for you at the end of the post, and once poked, you will be able to see what all my fellow Secreters have been up to in the first month of 2015! And if you are curious about who had my blog, take a look at this beautiful post by Tara.  She made brigadeiros!  Clever girl!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa and Sweet Potato Cakes

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Bolo de Fuba’ Cremoso

THREE YEARS AGO: Citrus-crusted Tilapia Filets

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, not just for Hippies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GREEN RICE

THREE YEARS AS A MEMBER OF THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB!

Last Monday of the month. You probably expect me to whine about the cold, but guess what?  As you read this post, I should  be far, far away in Brazil, enjoying balmy temperatures, wearing shorts, t-shirts, and recharging my batteries to face the frigid months ahead.  But the last Monday means fun, because it’s Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club! I was paired with the blog “A Day in the Life on the Farm“, hosted by Wendy. Her story is fascinating: she and her husband were police officers in a large city (which of course meant a ton of trouble in their hands…), but when they retired they moved to a tiny little town of 4,000 people, and bought a house on 12 acres of land.  They raise meat chickens, turkeys, and pigs, and Wendy – to fight her empty nest syndrome  –  decided to host foreign students in their place.  Now she works part-time for the World Heritage, placing students into homes for a year of schooling here in the US.  Being in academia and therefore often exposed to the troubles that foreign students face (plus, I was one myself), I know how important this type of work can be.  Please, stop by her about page and read more about their life on the farm, and how on top of everything she also takes care of her Mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. She actually devotes a section in her blog to talk about it, under Life with Mom. Beautiful, touching, and at times funny.

We had so much going on this past month, that I needed to jump on my assignment right away.  The recipe I set my eyes on was a drool-inducing dessert, a Caramelized Almond Apple Upside Down Cake. But, I decided against it.  Why? With Thanksgiving saying hello, then the holidays, a lot of heavy food will be popping everywhere.  I did not want to start early with the excesses, so this cake shall wait. Sorry, folks, but better safe than sorry.  Then, I almost went with her cute Pretzel Dogs. Finally it was a tough decision between Zucchini Enchiladas, or Green Rice.  As you can see, I went green.  Green is good for you, and this was one of the most flavorful rice dishes I’ve made.

Green Rice

GREEN RICE
(very slightly modified from A Day in the Life on the Farm)

2 poblano chile peppers
1 green pepper (I used half a Serrano)
1 cup long grain rice
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 cups chicken stock
1/2  teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil (I used grapeseed)
1 small shallot, minced
Dry roast the peppers in a griddle pan (or on a grill), turning frequently so the skins blacken but the flesh doesn’t burn.  Place in a strong plastic bag, seal and set aside for 20 minutes
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Put the rice in a heat proof bowl, pour in boiling water to cover and let stand 20 minutes.
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Drain the rice, rinse well under cold water and drain again.  Remove the peppers from the bag and peel off the skins.  Remove any stems, then slit the peppers and scrape out seeds with a sharp knife.
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Put the peppers in a food processor, strip the leaves from the cilantro and parsley and add to peppers.  Pour in half the chicken stock and process until smooth.  Add remaining stock and puree again.
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Heat oil in a saucepan, add the rice and minced shallot and fry for 5 minutes over med heat until the rice is golden and the shallot is translucent.  Add the salt, stir in the green puree, lower heat, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed  and the rice is just tender. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
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ENJOY!
to print the recipe, click here
 
Comments:  Lately I’ve been quite smitten with poblano peppers.  Very little heat, but so much flavor! Our stove did a great job charring them, I don’t think I was ever able to get such a beautiful blackened skin with almost no effort.   Using a paper towel to remove the charred skin was also a great move, a tip I got from watching Marcela Valladolid in her show Mexican Made Easy.  I never liked the idea of rinsing the peppers because there’s quite a bit of flavor loss if you do that.  The paper towels removed just the skin and I could leave little bits here and there for an extra smoky flavor.   Aren’t they cute?

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Adding boiling water to the rice and waiting for 20 minutes was also something I had never done, and I liked the texture of the finished product.  If you are a cilantro-hater, this rice is not for you, its flavor is obviously very prominent.  You could substitute spinach.

GreenRiceServed
This was a delicious dinner!  Green rice, simple roasted carrots, and for our protein a few slices of center-cut pork chops, cooked sous-vide, and finished off on the grill.   Life is good!

Wendy, I hope you had a great time this month with your assignment!  It was wonderful to browse through your site, I read all your posts about your Mom, and am still in awe of your ability to do so much Everyday in your Life on the Farm… 

For my readers: if you want to see what my fellow Secret Friends cooked up this month, give a little click on the blue frog at the end of this post.   Normally Groups C and D would take a break in the month of December, but apparently me and Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious whined so much about withdrawal syndrome, that The Secret Recipe Club will have a little surprise reserved for both groups.  It will be awesome, so stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: Potato-Crusted Italian Mini-Quiches

TWO YEARS AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

THREE YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

FOUR YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: TACO SALAD

This is the last Monday of August.  We are about to say goodbye to Summer, and I cannot stand the thought of it.  Only Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club can bring me some joy under the circumstances. My assignment this month was Flying on Jess Fuel, and I had a blast stalking it and making a list of possibilities to blog about today.  Jess met her husband Nick at a Mexican restaurant, and apparently he went nuts over her jalapeno-eating skills. What a great way to fall in love! They lived in many different places while Nick went to flying school for the Navy, including Enid, a location quite close to Norman, our former home in Oklahoma.

For some reason, I usually pick sweets for my Secret Recipe assignments, but this time I took the road less traveled and went with her Taco Salad, considering that Mexican food would be a fun way to celebrate the way they met.  I find it amusing that some recipes that I order in restaurants on a regular basis are never part of my own cooking at home. Taco Salad is one of those.  For the most part, Tex-Mex restaurants offer dishes over-loaded with cheese, and served with a humongous portion of rice, beans, plus a few flour tortillas for good measure.  Taco Salad is my default request to avoid feeling like a bloated whale as I leave the restaurant.  I made just a few changes in her recipe, and decided to pump up the presentation by making my own tortilla bowls.  Now, that was a ton of fun, but some unexpected problems were encountered.  As I was frantically trying to figure out which cups would be appropriate to shape the tortillas, one of my custard cups fell from the cabinet and crashed on the granite (yes, glass flew everywhere), but not without first hitting my head. OUCH!  And, going on with my usual modus operandi in the kitchen, I burned myself not once, but twice baking those tortilla bowls.  Sometimes I even amaze myself… However, I can tell you it was all worth it!  This recipe rocks, my friends….

TacoSalad

JESS’ TACO SALAD
(slightly modified from Flying on Jess Fuel)

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 lb ground beef
2 tablespoons bulk taco seasoning mix (or 1 packet)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large head romaine, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Black kalamata olives, chopped (to taste)
Shredded Mexican blend cheese (to taste

To make the dressing, combine sour cream, yogurt and salsa in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the oil on a skillet and cook the meat for a few minutes. Season with salt (in case your taco seasoning doesn’t have salt already), then add either a packet of store-bought taco seasoning or 2 Tbs of a bulk product such as Penzey’s. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the amount of water recommended by the mix, and cook further just to thicken it slightly. Add the beans to the pan in the last 2 minutes of cooking.

If serving cold, let the meat and bean mixture cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, place half the lettuce, half the tomatoes, half the scallions and half the olives. Top with half the dressing. Top with the meat and bean mixture (you can reserve a little bit for decorating the top, if you want to be fancy). Sprinkle half the cheese on top. Add the rest of the veggies, dressing, and cheese (and meat mix if you reserved some). You can also serve it warm, adding the cold ingredients to the hot meat/beans mixture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Here you can see some photos of my burning adventure with tortilla cups. You can do this in several ways, but I recommend the muffin tin + custard cup combo.  Using the two custard cups nested together requires that they both fit just right not to tear the tortilla, and also makes it a lot harder to remove the top cup to brown the tortilla in the final moments of baking.

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MAKING TACO BOWLS:  Warm a corn tortilla very quickly over an open flame on your stove (I heard you can also use the microwave, but I haven’t tried it).  Spray both sides of the warm tortilla very lightly with canola or olive oil spray.  Immediately place in the muffin tin (or over a custard cup), and place another container on top to keep the shape.  Bake in a 375 F for about 15 minutes, removing the custard cup in the final 5 minutes. Let cool over a rack.

We loved this recipe!  Actually, Phil was raving about it non-stop, and begging me to make it again, and do it soon.  The tortilla cups make it very festive, but the taco stands on its own without any problem, it is fresh, bright, the dressing mixing sour cream and salsa was incredibly tasty!  I used a home-made salsa given to us by Mr. and Mrs. K (thank you, guys!), and it had just the right amount of heat.  Use any store-bought salsa you are fond of, or make your own if you have a chance.

Jess, I loved being assigned to your blog!  This has been one super busy month for us, but I made sure to compose this post within one week of getting the email notification. I fell in love with this recipe right away, and you can bet this will be in a regular rotation in our Bewitching Kitchen! 

To my readers: if you want to see what the other members of my group cooked up this month, poke the blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Semolina Sourdough Boule 

TWO YEARS AGO: Forgive me, for I have sinned

THREE YEARS AGOCracked Wheat Sandwich Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Au Revoir, my Bewitching Kitchen

FIVE YEARS AGO:  French Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MINI-CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES

August is already knocking at the door, this year is flying by.  But before a new month starts, there’s always the excitement of the last Monday of the month, with Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club. For those who are new to this concept, bloggers are paired in secret, have a few weeks to stalk their assigned site, and everyone in the club blogs about their recipe on the exact same day and time. Nothing cooler than that, you must admit…  This month I was paired with Colie’s Kitchen.  Nicole, who hosts the site, is a full-time college student, with a full-time life of organized chaos.”  Ha!  I can totally relate…  She is married and a “bonus mom”, what a great expression, much better than step mom,  I guess I can relate to that too.  I had quite a few options selected as possibilities for my assignment, like her Lasagna Rolls, her Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins (great idea!),  her Oh My God Macaroon Pie, and her Cauliflower Cheddar Fritters.  But, as is often the case with The Secret Recipe, I took the sweet path, and ended up with these super cute single bite (ok, a couple of bites) desserts…

MiniCheesecakeBits

 

MINI CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES
(from Colie’s Kitchen)

3 Packages of Neufchatel, softened
1 + 1/4 cups sugar
1 (8 ounce) container of dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
28 Oreo cookies halves, removing the cream center
28 cupcake tins/liners

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until blended. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until fully mixed.

Beat in cocoa and flour. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until well blended.

Remove Oreo filling with a butter knife and add one half of a Oreo to each cupcake tin. Fill each tin with one large spoon full of cheesecake filling until you have filled all 28 then go back and top off each tin with any extra filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours. Store covered in refrigerator or in the freezer.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I cannot tell you how much fun I had making this recipe! The toughest part was discarding the filling of the Oreo cookies. Part of me wanted to throw caution to the wind and behave like my former self of decades ago: shamelessly open the Oreos, scrape them clean, and try to sneak the cookie halves to the trash can without my Mom realizing. That never had a happy ending.  At most, I could get by with a couple of cookies, then pay a price for my behavior. Waste not. Ever. Do you know how many kids in the world went to bed hungry last night?  Apparently, I did not. (sigh)

The idea of using Oreos as a base for these cheesecake bites is a strike of genius!  Perfect size for cupcake liners. Because the recipe made so many and I only have one muffin baking pan, I got the disposable aluminum pans at the grocery store, and was quite pleased by how well they worked.  No difference in quality of baking, although in the name of full disclosure, I confess that I dropped one of the disposable pans while taking them out of the oven.  Huge big mess, coupled with language even more colorful than the cupcake liners. I am glad there are no hidden cameras in our home…

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If you follow my blog, you know that I never add the caloric content of any of my recipes for the simple reason that I don’t pay attention to it. But, since Nicole provided that info, I will share it with you: one of these babies has only 134 calories, which, as far as dessert is concerned, sounds pretty moderate to me.  Keep in mind this interesting linear fit, though. It can be cruel to your waistline.

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Nicole, thanks for such a cute recipe that was very appreciated by our colleagues at the department…  I hope you had as much fun as I did with my assignment this month.

As usual, if any of my readers would like to see all assignments for my group, click on the blue amphibian at the end of this post, and enjoy the ride through the blogosphere…

ONE YEAR AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

THREE YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

FIVE YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: QUINOA FRIED RICE

Did you miss my Bewitching party? Click here to enter the giveaway… 

The month of June brought with it a ton of activities. School is out, so a lot more work in the lab, my blog turned 5 years old, and the World Cup of Indescribable Ordeal is on.  I used to root for one country only, but now two teams make me shout expletives at referees and goal keepers, as well as scream instructions to the players, fuming like a mad woman because they simply  do not listen. But, let’s leave soccer behind and concentrate on things that don’t have the potential to induce a fatal coronary.  Like Reveal Day of  The Secret Recipe Club, always a pleasure, always something I look forward to. This month I got one of the most entertaining food blogs ever!  Starting with its name, 84th and 3rd. Here’s what JJ, an American living in Sydney has to say about it:

84th & 3rd is an ordinary corner, not particularly remarkable, in the most remarkable city in the world. But it was only meters from that corner that a seed was planted, a dream of doing something that she loves and being able to share it with others. 84thand3rd.com is that something.

She divulges just enough to perk my curiosity, and make me want to be there right now. In fact, Australia is one place I long to visit, and hope that one day our adventures will take us there. When I got my assignment, I thought about taking a quick look at the site, but instead I literally had to drag myself away from the computer, because I could not stop reading. Just to give you a small taste of her writing style, here’s a paragraph from one of her posts, in which she talks about her partner…

.… When I met RJ he used to eat at least 4 slices of white bread a day. Not necessarily as part of a meal mind you, but just because. Toast for breakfast, toast before dinner [no matter what or when dinner was], bread with dinner. Sliced, white, from a plastic bag, every time. It appalled me just a bit – as did putting ketchup/tomato sauce on beef stew but we’ll save that one for later… *waves at RJ* hi mate, yes, I’m talking about you again –

 Isn’t she a hoot?  She also describes herself as someone who “Practices yoga to stay calm[ish], runs to stay sane[ish], and does both to eat cake”… I must say I detect some similarities here, although I would substitute bread for cake.  ;-) So, after spending a lot of time amusing myself with her stories and recipes, I assembled a list of possibilities for this month’s assignment.  Here they are:  Mushroom-quinoa meatballs with Rustic Pasta Sauce, Strawberry Cucumber Coconut-water Slushy,  Rocket Parsley Pepita Pesto,  Spiced Pear & Red Wine Chocolate Cake, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde, and this chocolate tarte that I swear I am making before the month of July is over. Yeah, public commitment, you guys and girls better be ready for it… But now it’s time to reveal the recipe that crossed the finish line of this month’s culinary marathon…

Quinoa Fried Rice
QUINOA FRIED RICE
(slightly modified from 84th & 3rd)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled (I used red quinoa)
a little olive oil
4 slices ginger, sliced into thin strips
1 small Serrano chili, finely diced
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, minced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
large handful green beans, cut into small lengths
2 medium zucchini, diced
3 scallions ,white and light green part only, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Add a small splash of olive oil to the hot pan. Fry ginger and garlic for 30 sec stirring constantly, add chili and cilantro and fry for a further 30 sec.

Add bell pepper and beans, toss or stir for a couple of minutes. Add zucchini and green onions and toss for a couple of minutes more.

Push veggies to edges to make a hole in the center. Drizzle in 2 tsp sesame oil, wait for it to heat up and dump in quinoa. Stir in center of pan for 30 seconds then toss with veggies to mix everything together.

Drizzle in tamari and toss to combine. Serve with extra scallions, and cilantro.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Ingredients
Comments: This was absolutely delicious!  As you can read on her original post, this is the type of recipe you can use to clean up your fridge of all those veggies that wave at you when you open it, begging for attention. It is also a perfect use for leftover quinoa, although I cooked some earlier in the day just to have this side dish as our dinner. Asparagus would work great, but really any veggie could work, even chunks of roasted butternut squash, or eggplant.   Just keep the soy, the sesame oil at the end, and don’t leave out the fresh ginger.

Zucchini-side
I close this post with another excerpt from JJ, which expresses exactly how I feel about blogging.

“Blogging is an interesting beast. It is a person sitting in front of a computer expressing things in pictures and words, terribly solitary from the outside peering in… or so you’d think. But when you look a bit closer you realise that many of those people sitting at their computers have formed little communities. Sometimes online, sometimes in person, generally with people they never would have met otherwise, and it really doesn’t matter how the community works or where it came from but simply that it is there.”
(JJ, from 84th & 3rd)

That’s it, folks.  Could not have said it better!  JJ, it was great to receive your blog as my assignment this  month, I will be following you from now on, looking forward to your adventures! As usual, if you want to check what my fellow secret bloggers cooked up this month, poke the frog below. She is cute and loves attention…

ONE YEAR AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette
TWO YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars
THREE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini
FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto
FIVE YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes