Cranberry-Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip

cranberry-cream-cheese

My sister brought this dip to a little family get together a couple years ago, and I just thought it was so incredible. Bright and beautiful, with interesting flavor. Kind-of the perfect foil to the many heavy party dips that usually accompany winter. So, I woke up early in January thinking about it, and happily found it quite easily. I was surprised that there was so much sugar (1 cup!!!) and decided to start with less and see how I liked it. I actually love it with less sugar–I’ll continue to take it down from what I now do at 1/3 c. and see if I can get it even lower, but for now, I love this dip. Really. I’ve made it three times in the last three weeks, and can just sit and enjoy it with a spoon, and even no cream cheese, all by myself. I’ve slightly adapted this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

Cranberry-Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip
  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries (I’ve used frozen, which bleed a little, but taste fine)
  • 4-5 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/3 c. sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 t. cumin
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 2 (8 ounces each) packages cream cheese, light or regular, softened [I use less, just to make a thin layer at the bottom of the dish, or none at all]
  • Crackers or Tortilla Chips, for serving

  1. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor or blender until coarsely chopped (alternately, you can do this task by hand). Add the green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, sugar, cumin, lemon juice and salt and pulse until the ingredients are well combined and finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a covered bowl or tupperware and refrigerate for 4 hours (or up to overnight) so the flavors have time to develop and the cranberries lose a bit of their tartness.
  2. When ready to serve, spread the cream cheese in an even layer on a serving plate or 9-inch pie dish. Top with the cranberry-jalapeno mixture, spreading evenly over the top of the cream cheese.
  3. Refrigerate for up to an hour before serving. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.
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Honeyed Apricot Flatbread with Rosemary

Apricot Flatbread 2

It’s truly summer. Lots of time away, running our five kids to swim, play, hike, visit cousins and squeezing in a vacation or two. So, I’m missing my normal kitchen time just a little. As part of my hopes to reconnect (with my kitchen), I started a sponge for ciabatta last night. Unfortunately, I was thinking about the timing today very well, and since we had a crazy day of violin lessons, meeting with middle school counselors, celebrating the birth of my cousin’s baby, and swimming, there was no chance for the ciabatta to become ciabatta. So, instead, I turned it into flatbreads to serve along with a fresh tomato soup, and then starting digging through the fridge for toppings. I did a couple with cheese and pepperoni for the kids, two with fresh figs and goat cheese, and then I tried something new, needing to use all the apricots on my counter (obviously, I just used a couple, but the rest are now happily stored in my freezer). I think I will do this one again, perhaps with plums or peaches next time. This idea is a riff from a memorable appetizer in Lisbon many years ago where I had the marriage of honey and rosemary and cheese for the first time. Still beloved!  So, here’s a little idea, if you need one, for a fun, and a little bit sweet, summer meal.

Honeyed Apricot Flatbread with Rosemary

pizza dough (any kind, but here’s my favorite)
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
4-5 fresh apricots (or peaches or plums), sliced in half and pitted
2 T. honey
a handful of rosemary

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with a pizza stone, if you have one placed in the lower half of the oven.

After the pizza dough has had its final rise, shape it by stretching into a circle or oblong and place on parchment paper. Top with ricotta, dolloping it and then lightly spreading it. Then, place apricots on top, with the skins on the bottom. Drizzle honey over the entire flatbread, then sprinkle rosemary and a little bit of salt.

Using a pizza peel, place the flatbread on the pizza stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until browned on top and bottom. Remove to a rack to let it cool for at least ten minutes before serving.

Apricot Flatbread 1

Rosemary Glazed Nuts

Rosemary Glazed Nuts

So, I always want  to have friends over because I love my friends and want to have them over, but sometimes it’s also a great excuse to spend the week reading through my favorite cookbooks, getting all sorts of fantasy menus planned. When the real day comes, though, everything gets simplified, and I’m happy just to have the main dishes covered, but the one thing I always try to have at hand is a bowl of addicting nuts.  These rosemary nuts, in particular, only get made when we have company coming, because my husband and I should not be the only people eating them. They are just too terrific, even though they would be lovely to have around all the time. This recipe comes from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That? — a book that really encourages us all to simplify the dinner party and do it more often. Totally on board with that.

Rosemary Glazed Nuts

Vegetable oil
3 c. whole roasted unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
2 c. whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 c. whole pecan halves (7 ounces)
½ c. whole almonds (3 ounces) (I always do more almonds and less cashews)
1/3 c. pure maple syrup
¼ c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
2 t. ground chipotle powder (I reduce and/or sometimes leave out for the kids’ sake)
4 T. minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush a sheet pan generously with vegetable oil. Combine the cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder on the sheet pan. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of salt and toss again.

Spread the nuts in one layer. Roast the nuts for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large metal spatula, until the nuts are glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 more teaspoons of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of rosemary.

Toss well and set aside at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking as they cool. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or cool completely and store in airtight containers at room temperature.

Pick-Your-Own Handmade Potato Chips

Handmade Potato Chips
I was reading through a sweet little recipe book on making common snacks and grocery items from scratch when I found a recipe for potato chips. Now, why this has never occurred to me before, I have no idea, but it shot off in my brain as the perfect use for the mounds of potatoes in my home. So, the good news is that after last week, there is no longer a mound of potatoes in my home. The bad news is that although handmade potato chips taste WAY better and are WAY more cost effective than store-bought ones, the nutritional value is probably just about the same. So, probably not everyday food. But, you can reuse the oil for multiple fryings, which makes the purchase of peanut oil pay off, and if you’re wondering if the 2 gallon-size of peanut oil that Costco sells is worth it, it is. Absolutely.

Handmade Potato Chips

4-5 medium-sized Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes
8-10 c. peanut oil (vegetable oil will work, too, I just prefer peanut)

For seasoning you might consider:
salt & pepper, or
ranch seasoning powder (try Penzey’s!), or
barbecue rub powder, or
cheddar cheese powder (used for popcorn seasoning) or
chopped rosemary and salt

Special Equipment:
a large pot, a mandolin (or slicer on a box greater or sharp knife), an instant-read thermometer, a slotted metal spoon or spider skimmer

Heat the oil in a large kettle or pasta pot over medium-high to high heat (I put it on 8.5/10 on my electric stove).

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Using a mandolin, a slicer on a box grater (the single blade), or a knife, slice the potatoes as thin as you can get them. Immediately place them in the cold water as you continue to slice the remaining potatoes (this will prevent them from turning brown and remove a little extra starch from the surface).

Cover a baking sheet with paper towels. Once the potatoes have soaked for 10 minutes or so, drain them and spread them on the sheet to dry. Blot the extra water with a few extra towels to get the potatoes as dry as possible (this will prevent sputtering as they hit the oil).

Prepare another baking sheet with fresh paper towels. When the oil reaches 375 to 400 degrees (test with the instant read thermometer), throw about 1 c. of sliced potatoes into the oil (I usually place them in with a spider skimmer, about arm’s length away, because I don’t want any more oil burns on my hands. Yes, I have a few). Fry, stirring with a metal spoon to make them curved and crinkled (which is beautiful), until the inside of the chips are a nice golden brown. Remove with a metal slotted spoon or spider skimmer and place on prepared sheet. Wait for the oil to return to 375, and continue to fry in batches.

Season the hot potato chips with a shake of salt and pepper, a dusting of ranch or barbecue powder, or freshly cut rosemary, and eat immediately or save for an excursion to the woods. Enjoy.

Provencal Fougasse

Fougasse 2
So, I’m actually not quite sure how to pronounce this word, despite my eight years of French, but this easy-to-make bread was so fun! By adding a little garlic and herbs at the beginning, it transformed the bread, and then it baked up simply, and was such a great accompaniment to soup. In fact, it was kind-of like making breadsticks, but much simpler. So, I hope my friend Debby, who I got to share this with, and many others enjoy this recipe! This recipe comes from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking.

Provencal Fougasse

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1T. chopped fresh rosemary
1 T. chopped fresh oregano (I used 1 t. dried, since I didn’t have any fresh)
1 T. chopped fresh thyme (Ditto the oregano here)
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 package (2 1/2 t.) active dry yeast 
1 3/4 c. warm water (105-115 degrees)
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. salt
Semolina flour for dusting
 
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the garlic, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and olive oil. Bring to a simmer and cook just until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
 
 In the 5-qt bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil mixture, flour, and salt. Place the bowl on the mixer, attach the dough hook, and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes.Remove the dough from the bowl.
 
Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, 1 1/2-2 hours. 
 
Punch down the dough and turn it onto a clean work surface. Cut the dough in half with a sharp knife or a bench scraper. Shape each piece into a loose ball, cover with a dry kitchen towel, and let rest for 5 minutes.
 
Liberally dust 2 half-sheet pans or rimless baking sheets with semolina flour (or line the sheet with parchment paper). On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each portion of the dough into a rectangle with about the same dimensions as the prepared pan. Transfer each rectangle to the prepared pan, spreading it out with your hands if it shrinks when you pick up. Facing the narrow end of a rectangle, and eyeing the vertical center of it, use a sharp knife or a pizza wheel to cut 3 slits at an angle down the left side of the center, and 3 slits down the right side of the center. Gently pull on the dough to open the slits up slightly so that they widen into ovals. 
 
Cover the dough loosely with a dry kitchen towel and let the breads rise again until they double in size, 20-30 minutes.
 
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees. Bake the breads until they are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely in the pans. Store tightly wrapped in aluminum foil at room temperature for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 2 weeks. Reheat at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
Yield: 2 large flatbreads
Fougasse from WS

A Yummy Easy Spinach Dip

Spinach Dip

I’ve found myself making this recipe perhaps three times in the last two weeks! I’m just loving having it on hand to dip veggies or crackers or bread (or my finger) in. Super quick, super yummy, and super worth having around. This recipe comes from the Make- Ahead Appetizers book by America’s Test Kitchen.

Herbed Spinach Dip

10 oz frozen chopped spinach (I used about 8 cups fresh, and blanched it first)
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sour sream
2 T. chopped shallots
1 T. chopped fresh dill leaves
1/2 c. packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 t. Tabasco
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 medium red pepper, chopped (or yellow, which is what I had on hand)

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until well combined, about 1 minute. Transfer to serving bowl and chill for at least 1 hour. Really, it’s that easy!

Honeyed Rosemary Goat Cheese + Whole Grain Crackers

In Lisbon this summer, we had this divine appetizer: bubbling goat cheese straight from the oven, with honey poured over the top and rosemary sprinkled over the honey. So divine. Since I’ve been home, it’s my new favorite appetizer. I’ve also found a cracker that I really like to make (yes, I have tried a few, and they are usually disappointing). The pairing of the cheese and these crackers is quite nice, but the cheese is by far the star. Great for holiday entertaining. I got the cracker recipe from Sally Pasley Vargas’ blog, and her pictures are gorgeous.

Honeyed Rosemary Goat Cheese

1 8 oz. log good-quality goat cheese
1/4 c. honey (this is really to taste, you might prefer more if placing under the broiler)
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stem and chopped

You can make this appetizer two ways. 1) Place the goat cheese in an oven proof dish, pour the honey and top, and place 4″ away from the broiler for about five minutes (make sure your dish can handle the heat!). Remove from oven and sprinkle with rosemary and serve immediately.

Or, 2) you can heat the goat cheese (on the stove or microwave) until soft and melted, then stir in the honey and rosemary and serve more like a dip (this seemed like a better way for a larger group–the former seems better for small dinner parties).

Whole Grain Buttermilk Crackers

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown  rice flour, plus more for rolling (I grind this in my blender)
1 1/2 T. cane sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/3 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing on the dough
1 c. buttermilk
6 T. seeds such as poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, celery seeds, etc.
Sea salt
1. Whisk the 3  flours, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt in a bowl until combined. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil and buttermilk. Stir, gradually incorporating the flour into the olive oil mixture, until it forms a dough. It should be soft but not too sticky. Add additional buttermilk if it is dry.
2. Turn the dough out onto the countertop. Knead for about 20 seconds, until it is well mixed. Shape into a flat rectangle and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or as long as overnight.
3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 half sheet pans (approx 18 X 13 inches) with parchment.
4. Divide the dough into thirds. Lightly flour the counter top with brown rice flour, and flour a rolling pin. Roll one piece of dough into a large sheet that is the same size as the sheet pan and approximately 1/16-inch thick (about the thickness of a quarter.) If necessary, lift the dough and sprinkle a sparing amount of flour underneath it to keep it from sticking. If the shape isn’t working, place the flat of your hands on top of the dough to stretch it into a rectangular shape. Transfer it to the paper. Slip both hands under the paper and lift it onto the baking sheet.
5. Brush the dough with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons of the seeds and a little flaky salt. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top, and roll over the seeds with a rolling pin to embed them into the dough.  Peel off the plastic.
6. With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into thirds the long way.  Rotate the baking sheet and cut into 4 equal pieces crossways to make 12 crackers.   Trim the uneven outside edges with the pizza cutter. Leave the edges on the baking sheet for tasting. (You can cut the crackers any size you want; this cut will make large squares.) Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until the crackers are golden brown and crisp all the way through. Let cool on the pan and store in an airtight tin.
Makes 3 dozen thin crackers

Figs with Honeyed Goat Cheese

We went to Costco yesterday and got a huge package of figs, which are in season.  I had just found this recipe at The Paleo Project and wanted to give it a try.  I made a few for a late-night treat last night.  Then today I made a few more for a post-church treat.  I have a feeling I’ll be making more tomorrow as a Labor Day treat.  And the next day as a Tuesday treat.  Then I might need to go buy some more figs.

(Although the recipe calls for black mission figs, I used the green kind, and they’re fantastic.)

Baked Black Mission Figs with Honeyed Goat Cheese

2 oz goat cheese
1 tbs + 1 tbs honey
8 black mission figs
1 tbs olive oil
16 walnut halves
sea salt

Preheat your oven to 450.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil

Wash and dry figs, slice in half length-wise, place on baking sheet

In a small bowl, whisk 1 tbs honey and 1 tbs olive oil, drizzle over figs

Bake for 7 minutes

Meanwhile, whisk 1 tbs honey and 2 oz goat cheese

Let figs cool for a few minutes, place honeyed goat cheese on each fig, garnish with walnut halves

Sprinkle with sea salt

Garlicky Breadsticks

At Halloween time, I was recipe shopping for breadsticks, and I found that the prospects were grim (Rex says no pun intended). So, I merged a few of the recipes together, and I really liked the results. I’m thinking of it now because of the upcoming Superbowl–which I’m only interested in because of the appetizers we usually eat. Back to the breadsticks, here’s the know-how:

Garlicky Breadsticks

1 recipe deep dish pizza dough
optional add-ins for the breadsticks: 1/4 c. fresh herbs and/or 1 c. parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
2-3 cloves garlic

Mix the pizza dough recipe, using any add-ins you may be interested in, and then allow to rise the first time. Instead of greasing cake pans, grease 2 lipped cookie sheets with olive oil (either brush it on, for a light application, or pour it in and swirl it around, for a heavier one). After the first rise, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and divide the dough into 16? 20? pieces (now I can’t remember, but do whatever seems appropriate to your needs), and stretch the dough into long ropes and place on the greased cookie sheet; cover with plastic. Allow to rise an additional 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mortar with a pestle, smash the garlic and salt together until the mixture forms a paste. Add the olive oil and allow it to seep while the bread rises and cooks (if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic with the side of your knife, sprinkle the salt on top, and run the knife blade back and forth over the garlic until a paste forms, then add it to a small bowl with the olive oil).

Bake the breadsticks for about 10-12 minutes, or until browned on top, one sheet at a time. Immediately out of the oven, brush the breadsticks with the garlic-infused oil, and allow to cool slightly before serving.

You can also top the breadsticks, before or after baking, with 1 c. shredded parmesan.

 

Parmesan-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon

This was a fabulous appetizer our sister Mary made last Thanksgiving that I thought I’d share. She didn’t stuff them with cheese, but I know this couldn’t hurt (in fact, I think my preference would be for goat cheese). This recipe is from epicurious.com.

Parmesan-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon

  • 18 (1- by 1/4-inch) sticks Parmigiano-Reggiano (from a 1/2-lb piece)
  • 18 pitted dates (preferably Medjool)
  • 6 bacon slices, cut crosswise into thirds

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Stuff 1 piece of cheese into each date, then wrap 1 piece of bacon around each date, securing it with a pick. Arrange dates 1 inch apart in a shallow baking pan.

Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on a paper bag or parchment. Serve immediately.