Cobb Salad Dip

How do you do New Years Eve? I have a great fresh and filling dip for you to bring to a party or to your next football party. I always avoided going out to bars on NYE. It seems like it has to be such a plan. It is overpriced and crowded.
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I’m too old for that. Last year we moved and watched the ball drop from our new house. Most years Mr. J and I had been able to walk over to our friends’ annual party. This year it is a bit further but I’m excited.

Ingredients:

12 oz plain Greek yogurt (or half Greek yogurt/half sour cream)
1 pkg ranch dressing mix
1 cucumber, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
6 oz gouda, chopped
2 eggs, hardboiled, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 box of wheat thins

Directions:

Mix yogurt and ranch dressing mix until combined. Let chill for a few hours (or overnight) before serving.
Chop veggies into small bite size pieces.
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Spread ranch onto a platter or plate.
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Top with chopped veggies, eggs, cheese, and bacon (I was out of bacon and used pepperoni).
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Serve with crackers for dipping.
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I like this one because it is fresh and crisp and has all my favorites in one place. The Greek yogurt adds such a good  tang while being packed with protein and calcium. This dip is the perfect party way to eat some veggies.

Cobb Salad Dip is convenient to chop the veggies and whip up the ranch dip then assemble on site. It is one of the easiest ones to prep in advance and pack it to go.

Best of Both Worlds: Cocoa Eggnog

I hadn’t ever made homemade hot chocolate before and I can’t believe how easy it is! Four simple ingredients and I was on my way. Then I wondered what would happen if I replaced the milk with eggnog? Ohh wow. It was amazing. What a simple way to add some serious flavor to your drink!
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Ingredients:

1/4 cup Sweet’N Low
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup baking cocoa
2 cups eggnog

Directions:

Heat Sweet’N Low, water, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat.
cocoa_nog_sugar_590_390Add cocoa and cook until all the lumps are smoothed out.
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Add eggnog and stir.
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Cook until heated through.
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It was so decadent and rich. I loved the chocolate flavor with the eggnog.
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This was probably about 435,687,289 calories, but the Sweet’N Low helps to shed a few. I love cutting a few calories when it doesn’t affect the flavor.

Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: I was selected to receive samples of Sweet ‘N Low as part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program. The product samples were completely complimentary but my experience, thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Spoiler alert: the soup isn’t life changing. It is good enough. Maybe yours will be better. The flavors were great, it was perfect for a chilly day- I just wish I had a better blender. If you have a good blender, whip up this soup. (literally). I was itching for soup to complete my fall list. It is a good one to celebrate Boxing Day.
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Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower
2 tbs good olive oil
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped garlic
salt & pepper

Directions:

Cut the florets off the head of cauliflower and roast in a 400-degree oven coated liberally in olive oil, salt and pepper.
cauliflower_soup_raw_590_390Turn occasionally every 20 minutes. Cook for 40 minutes at 400-degrees.
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Add milk, sour cream, Parmesan, and garlic to a blender or food processor.
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Blend until smooth. (mine was less than silky textured)
Add salt and pepper to taste.
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My blending was kind of a catastrophe. I tried my food processor, my smoothie machine, and an immersion blender. My smoothie machine is a Magic Bullet and has been kicking since about 2004? It was my best option here. I just couldn’t do much at a time. It does not chop or dice like advertised. It can puree really well though!

My food processor and blender is one machine and has severely let me down. The blender part doesn’t work well. It whirls and doesn’t seem to do much. The food processor has been great (for the few months I’ve had it) but was dribbling and didn’t even make it smooth.

The immersion is just an attachment to my hand mixer so I don’t expect much…rightly so.

I make frozen fruit & yogurt smoothies verrrrry often to know the liquid ratio is often important, the fill level affects it, and manually scraping the sides or stirring it can help greatly. I was very frustrated and thought it would have looked lovely if it was smoother.

It tasted good. I drizzled a little truffle oil on top since that can make anything better. I served some crunchy toasts on the side for dipping. We liked it, but I wasn’t satisfied with the consistency.

I learned that my tools were inadequate in this circumstance but that Mr. J will make the best of any dinner, despite how frustrated or disappointed I get. It was also a great reminder that roasted cauliflower is reallllly good and I should just make that sometimes. Maybe I’ll redeem myself with another soup. I love pumpkin & black bean. Loaded baked potato could be fun with toppings. Corn chowder is fun. Hmmm. The wheels are churning.

Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve! I love all eves! My birthday eve is exciting! My hometown celebrates Independence Day eve as to not outshine the big city’s fireworks on the real day. Thanksgiving eve was always a relief in school days.

I don’t have a real post for you. Maybeeee I’ll be back to it for Boxing day. If not, this’ll have to tide you over.

Here are my favorite gift-able foods in case you forgot anyone who has been nice. 

Bacon Jam - Make a double batch. Trust me.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Jam
Grown Up Caramel Corn would look lovely gifted in a glass jar.
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BBQ Peanuts again are addicting and would survive nicely in a cellophane bag tied with ribbon. No other wrapping needed!
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Napkins with homemade napkin rings are a fun gift. You can buy the napkins and the craft is hugely simplified.
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Or these coasters couldn’t be easier (or cheaper) and the supplies come from a hardwear store which won’t be overrun with holiday shoppers ;) Use wrapping paper if you don’t have scrapbook paper on hand.
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Any culinary gifts on your list to Santa this year?

New Orleans Eats Recap

Mr. J and I just got back from New Orleans for the first time. From New Orleans, Mr. J and I got on a cruise to the Caribbean  Perfect 1 year anniversary celebration (if I do say so myself). I was psyched for the food in New Orleans. Some pretty reputable sources suggested all sorts of restaurants and I’d never been to New Orleans before. I loved it. I thought it was a cute city that definitely had its own vibe and culture. I love cities that have personality.
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The food was fantastic. We stayed right down town at a hotel I scored a huuuuge deal with a friends and family discount. I earned it after taking about 134,543,467,874 calls from a sales rep at work. We went to Mardi Gras World to see how the floats are made, we went to all the tourist hot-spots, we went to the Louisiana History Museum to learn more about Hurricane Katrina, Mr. J got to get a couple of photos his dad took years ago from the same vantage point. It was a really great time.

Of course we went to Cafe du Monde. We actually made it early to beat the crowds. Early by our vacation-running-around-on-speed, standards actually means before they’ve even opened the patio seating. Like before they go from 10 tables to 40 tables.
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Looooved the coffee. Obviously the beignets were delicious as well. Man, I need more chicory coffee in my life!
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We had a super local feeling dinner one night too. We went to Pierre Maspero. We chose it because a) it was in walking distance and we were hungry/tired. b) it had a better balanced menu with choices for both of us c) it was priced that wasn’t going to give me heart palpitations after a 10-day vacay. d) the building has been around since the 1700s which is always a perk for me.

We started with some fried green tomatoes. It came topped with grilled shrimp! It was really good and I could have eaten that for my meal alone. The Mr. J had been eyeing a fried alligator appetizer he spotted on the online menu but that sadly wasn’t on the menu when we got there.
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I got fried catfish that came with crawfish cornbread, rice, and white beans. It was tons more food than I needed. I couldn’t finish any of it. I didn’t even waste time on the rice.
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Mr. J got the Fettuccine Corn Maque Choux. It had blackened chicken over corn, peppers, ham, and cream sauced fettuccine. He loved it.
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It was a great meal in a super cute spot.

We went to the Wine Institute of New Orleans and I loved it. It was an opportunity to try all different wines.
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We filled a card with a set amount (after reading that tip from others to avoid the priciest tasting ever). It was really fun and we tasted and enjoyed a ton of wines. It was a fun happy hour for us as a precursor to a later dinner.
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I liked that a wine connoisseur wasn’t waiting for me to have a reaction to a particular wine and that we could chose our own size pour. It was really fun. We went as a chance to drink a few different ones. I would love to have this in my neighborhood to try a wine on the spot, buy it, and bring it home.

Some sights & tastes of the Caribbean is to come! Stay Tuned!

Stuffed Crust Pizza

I don’t know why Pizza is associated with Friday. I think Monday deserves pizza just as much! I was racking my brain to figure out what kind of pizza I hadn’t ever tried. Ahh ha! Stuffed Crust!
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Ingredients:
Pizza dough
3-4 string cheese sticks (I used a provolone mozzarella mix)
1 cup marinara sauce (I use Pastene Kitchen Ready Tomatoes)
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
8 oz shredded mozzarella

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if using a pizza stone, preheat it as well).
Spread pizza dough out onto the pan/stone. Make sure it is spread very thin, it will fold in and become an inch smaller.
Cut cheese sticks into small pieces and spread them around the edge.
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Fold the edge over, closing the cheese inside. Crimp with a fork. Be sure the cheese is fully surrounded by the dough. Roll cheese so it is surrounded 1.5-2 times. (unlike mine)
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Bake 10 minutes until doughy edges begin to crisp.
Spread sauce, spices, and shredded cheese on top.
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Return to the oven baking for another 10-20 minutes. Remove when cheese is melted and crust has crisped.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

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I had some oozing sections. I covered those spots with sauce and cheese. I think making sure the cheese stuffing is wrapped around more than once to ensure it won’t bust through the seams.

Friday Fun

Today you’re not getting a real post. I’ve had a wicked cold, just got back from vacay, blah blah blah. I’m choosing real life and just going with what works at the moment. A post didn’t make the cut. I have unpacked, grocery shopped, gotten a few gifts…I’ve been productive in real life (as opposed to blog life).

Instead, I’ve decorated for the holidays (check out the tree we cut ourselves!)

check out my mantle-scape while watched the original 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street.

This weekend I’ll be sure to get through my New Orleans photos & Caribbean pics. Check out Mr. J’s sneak peek at New Orleans
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I have travel posts coming up, soup, a potluck, some holiday foods, and a cookie swap. Stay tuned!

Bacon Wrapped Scallops

There aren’t enough foods wrapped in bacon. I can sense when scallops wrapped in bacon are a passed appetizer near me. It is like radar. I work the cocktail hour scouting what waiter has them near by.
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I decided I should make some myself. I think the challenge was really to get the bacon crisp and not to overcook the scallops.

Ingredients:

3-4 sea scallops per person
½ strip of bacon per scallop
toothpicks
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil

Directions:

Rinse scallops and trim any connective tissue.
Pat dry. Again, pat any excess water off.
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Wrap each half strip of bacon around each scallop and secure with a toothpick, through the center. Or try using 2 to make an X to get it going. Generously salt and pepper both sides.
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Melt butter and oil in a hot skillet.
Place scallops in, bacon side down.
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Don’t overcrowd the pan so you can rotate the scallops, crisping the bacon on each side.
At the 4th rotation, pan fry both top and bottom.

These were tricky. I made sure to (account for and) pull out each before serving. The bacon held well. If anything, they weren’t quite as crisp as I would have liked. I think the scallop maintained its integrity.
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Four scallops per person was too much. They were huge! I served them with some roasted broccoli and parmesan risotto.

I have lots of meals and a whole vacation recap ahead. I’ve been under the weather and I’m trying to vacay detox while still getting prepped for the holidays. Bear with me! I’m shooting for Monday ;)

Caesar Chicken Salad Sandwiches

This is a super quick one. I also recommend whipping part of it up in advance. I JUST got back from vacay (don’t worry, I’ll tell you ALL about it!) so this is an even more timely meal. Everything came from the freezer!
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Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts, marinated in Italian salad dressing
2 tbs mayo or Greek yogurt
1 tbs Greek dressing (or Italian dressing)
2 tbs creamy Caesar dressing

Directions:

Boil or saute chicken until fully cooked through.
When cooled, shred into chunks using 2 forks
Mix in mayo, and both salad dressings.
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, or whatever you like.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Better yet, make it the night before!

I served it on some wheat rolls I had in the freezer. This was a major freezer clean out meal. Mr. J shot a deer and it was butchered leaving us with a whole slew of venison in the freezer. The chicken, rolls, and fries were all freezer items! (The rolls may or may not be discount bakery items I sliced and froze for an occasion such as this!)

I liked it for a change of pace. It would be good on a salad or as a wrap too. Got pitas? Fill ‘em up! It was definitely a quick meal which is great with lots of other things going on. I don’t mean unpacking. That has not begun yet.
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I was messing around with the lighting. What do you think?

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas

Today I wanted to kick off a new Friday series. I’m calling this one Tonight & Take 2. I get questions about how I have all the ingredients for everything I make or how I come up with what I make.
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The reason I have an ingredient on hand is because:
a) I live to avoid grocery shopping so leftovers are planned to a T
b) using-what-I-have is my middle name
c) cooking for 2 of us means a whole package/container/item needs creativity so we aren’t eating the same thing day in and day out.

I just don’t usually share how I plan to use the other half. I might use part of the whole for a recipe but now you’re going to see how that happens. I also might make something and space out the blog posts so you think each posted item was spaced out. Aren’t you excited?!

Here are my meal planning tips here and here. Now, back to using an ingredient to make 2 totally different dishes.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients:

½ roasted butternut squash
1 cup black beans
8 oz shredded monterey jack cheese or pepper jack
1 tbs liquid smoke (optional)
1 tbs salsa
8 wheat tortillas

Directions:

Fill each tortilla with squash, black beans, and cheese.
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Roll up and top with enchilada sauce.
Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350-degrees.
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These were flavorful and I loooved the smoke flavor with the squash. The beans make it filling and balanced. Does this have you thinking about another leftover that would be good in here? Throw it in! Go crazy!

Now, these enchiladas were take 2 on a roasted butternut squash. Round one was a fall pizza with butternut squash, gouda, and bacon.
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