Black Pepper and Cheddar Cheese Straws

Black Pepper and Cheddar Cheese Straws

Is it time to start thinking about New Year’s yet?  Since we don’t celebrate Christmas, and Hanukah has been over for almost a month, I have spent most of my time thinking about what to make for New Year’s Eve.  I am hoping that many people are in the same boat as I am – so I am going to make your life just a little easier.  This year we will be hosting drinks and appetizers (although a friend is bringing some appetizers, which makes my job even easier) – so at least I can focus on only that.  Of course there are a million ideas running through my head, but I thought I would share with you some of my favorites in case you are looking for some ideas.  My family is obsessed with the year-end-reviews that seem to be everywhere – so here is my version.

These are some of my favorite drinks for this season  – and of course you can make any of these non-alcoholic.  Some of the recipes have my non-alcoholic versions, but if they don’t and you are stuck – feel free to send me an email:

And last but not least – my absolute favorite drink that I made all year – now, it might not be the perfect seasonal drink, but seriously I can drink this any time of year:  Summer Sunset

Now – how about some food to go with those drink?  Here are my favorite appetizers:

But don’t forget about these Black Pepper and Cheddar Cheese Straws that the girls and I made at the Pantry this holiday season.  This was my first time making crackers, and I have no idea why I have waited so long.  These were super easy, and so much fun to make.  I think the best part was letting my older daughter make creations with the scraps – she had the whole class making snails – it was pretty funny.  If you are looking to impress your friends and family this year – this is definitely one way to do so.  They were crunchy, flavorful – and all around delicious.

So, what’s on your menu?

Ingredients

  • 12 ½ ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chile flakes, ground
  • 1 pound 3 ¼ ounces pastry flour
  • 1 cup crème fraiche
  • 4 ounces parmesan, finely grated
  • 7 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • Egg white for brushing
  • Sea salt

Preparation

In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, salt, black pepper and chili flakes on medium speed for 3-4 minutes.  Lowered the speed and add the flour.  Mix until it is the consistency  of course meal.  Add the crème fraiche and cheeses, mixing until the dough just comes together.  You might need to transfer the dough to a floured surface and give it a few kneads to smooth it out.  Roll the dough to be 3/16” thick between sheets of parchment.  Place the dough into the fridge to chill until firm, at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the dough into strips that are ½” wide.  Place on a parchment lined sheet tray.  Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake until very lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

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Pigs in Sleeping Bags

Pigs in Sleeping Bags

I feel like pork is the new “in thing.”  For me, it has never lost it’s luster, but I really feel like it has been making a big comeback since this commercial: “Pork, the other white meat…”  When we were in NYC this summer we ate at Swine, definitely a place that was all about the Pig, and in Seattle they are hyping up another new restaurant focusing on that pink animal – Le Petit Cochon.  It always cracks me up when someone finds out that I am jewish, then assumes that I don’t eat pork.  I realize that my grandparents would probably not like this post very much – but I have to admit, it has a very fond place in my heart.  Come on, everything is better with bacon, even butter.

This recipe was in my pile for a very long time – after finding it in Bon Appetit.  It was one of those recipes that I knew I had to make, but I also had to find the right time to make it.  It called for Dufour puffed pastry, which just happens to be one of the most delicious puffed pastry that you can buy frozen.  I am sure that the ratio of butter to flour is ridiculous, but it is completely worth it.  So – how about some pig with that butter?  And that’s all she wrote.

This recipe is not for everyone – there are multiple steps, and you really much have a very large spatula in which to transfer these babies onto the cookie sheet – otherwise, think ahead, and place the puffed pastry on the cookie sheet before placing the filling on top.  If you do attempt this though – you will certainly not be disappointed – this was outstanding.  The girls really loved them as well – even though they were both very afraid when they saw the sauerkraut.  I served them for dinner – by cutting them in half – but you could easily slice these unto small pieces and serve them as an appetizer, as the recipe says below.

Ok – off to get rid of this headache I have had all week.  In fact, rolling up into a sleeping bag sounds just about perfect right now – I promise to come out for bacon.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3/4 cup drained sauerkraut
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard plus more for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted, lightly crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 14-ounce package Dufour Pastry Kitchens frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preparation

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed to prevent burning, until soft,  4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally,  until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer shallot mixture to a large bowl and let cool.

Combine panko and milk in  a small bowl; let stand until milk is absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add to bowl with shallot mixture. Squeeze any excess liquid from sauerkraut; coarsely chop and add to bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and caraway seeds; season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add pork; using a fork or your hands, gently mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 14×10-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 14×3 1/3-inch strips. Transfer strips to prepared baking sheet. Using one-third of sausage filling and leaving a 1-inch border at each end, pat sausage to form a thin log of filling down the center of 1 pastry strip. Fold pastry over sausage mixture to enclose, then press pastry together to seal. Fold seam under to ensure that sausage is tightly wrapped. Repeat with remaining pastry and sausage mixture.

Cut small diagonal slits at  1 inch intervals along top of pastries (to help release steam). Brush top and sides of pastry with beaten egg; chill in freezer for about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Pastries can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil, and keep frozen.

Preheat oven to 425°. Bake pastries (if frozen, no need  to thaw) until puffed and light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; continue baking until sausage is cooked through and pastry is golden and completely puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Cut sausage rolls crosswise  into 1 inch pieces. Serve with a bowl of Dijon mustard for dipping.

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Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

This is an exciting time.  The countdown has begun to the last day of school – less than 10 days to go;  the first week of Junuary has greeted us with sunshine and warm temperatures (I swear everyone had a little extra bounce today in their steps) and asparagus is still selling at a decent price in the markets.  All year I wait for my favorite veggies to go on sale…asparagus and artichokes.  My rule of thumb for my green goddesses is to start looking after St. Patrick’s day (the green holiday), and by the time it is berry season they are gone – but at that point we are talking about berries…so onto something bigger and better. This year I have really been enjoying the asparagus. In fact, my children have also become connoisseurs.

The other week my husband went to the market with my younger daughter, and one of the items on the list was asparagus.  My husband was eyeing up the stalks, and chose what he thought was a decent bunch.  My younger daughter took one look and started lecturing him on the correct diameter of asparagus stalks.  I love it, at 7 years old, she is already an expert.

Unfortunately we have eaten so much asparagus lately, my kids have started to hold up the white flag.  I have tried to take a positive spin on that and think of it as a challenge.  What else could I do with those delicious green stalks that would make them happy?  Well, I thought about pasta with asparagus cream sauce, that was until I saw this recipe in the Parade Magazine for Asparagus Soup.  What intrigued me most about this recipe was the use of evaporated milk.  What a great addition.  I have made asparagus soup without milk or cream, but I love the creaminess that it brings.  The girls loved it too.

As asparagus season comes to a close, don’t you want to try something new?  Isn’t it time to shake things up a bit?  I know I’m ready for that.  And a sunny Junuary might just give people the energy and inspiration to do so.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup evaporated 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • parmesan cheese, grated

Preparation

Trim the woody ends from the asparagus; reserve tips of 8 spears.  Cut the remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over low heat.  Add the onion, celery and carrot; cook 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook one minute.  Add the asparagus, salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes.  Add the broth and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.  Blanch the asparagus tips in boiling water for 3 minutes.  Drain.

Puree soup either using an immersion blender (easiest) or in batches in a blender.  Return to the saucepan over medium heat and add evaporated milk and lemon juice.  Warm though – although don’t let simmer.  Top with tips and add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

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Emerald Asparagus Deviled Eggs

Asparagus Deviled Eggs

I love hard-boiled eggs – I love everything about them.  I love making egg salad out of them, I love making deviled eggs, and I love just eating them plain with a little bit of salt.  I always have these grandiose plans of whipping up a bunch of hard-boiled eggs over the weekend, and then I can eat them all week.  Right – like that has ever happened.  I know it is easy, but who has time for that?  I remember when I was younger, I was at a friend’s house before Easter, and we were decorating eggs.  I asked if she had hard-boiled them, and the answer was yes.  I was over the moon when she told me I could take some home after we had decorated them.  Since I didn’t celebrate Easter, I didn’t feel bad at all about digging right into them at soon as I got home.

When my husband and I moved to Seattle, one of the biggest disappointments for us moving from Denver – was the airport.  Denver had just built an amazingly modern new airport – and Seattle’s airport looked old and completely dated.  Trying to find some decent food before flying was nearly impossible.  That was before they started renovating the airport a few years ago.  Little at a time they have updated all of the terminals – and my favorite section is when you come through the main security gate.  There are all sorts of fun places to eat – mostly specialties of Seattle.  My favorite is Dish D’Lish.  I can always count on getting some good food there to bring on the plane – in particular the hard-boiled eggs that come two to a package – with a little – wait for it….BACON SALT!!!  It is just ridiculously good, and now a staple for me whenever I fly.  I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get these packaged hardboiled eggs in the store?  Fortunately Trader Joes was thinking the same thing – and now I can get them 6 to a package – and believe me, they are now a staple at our house.

The other week I was flipping through The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine, and I found this recipe from D’Lish Deviled Eggs by Kathy Casey.  This is the name of her new Deviled Eggs Cookbook that she was promoting.  I couldn’t wait to give these a try.  Two of my favorite foods all packed into one.  I made these for my daughter’s book club last weekend, and even some of the kids liked them.  I absolutely loved them – the asparagus was just a delicate flavor in the center, and I used light sour cream and light mayonnaise since that was all I had in the house.  The leftovers were the perfect treat for the rest of the week – and would you believe I never even had to hard-boil an egg?  Gotta love that…

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen hard-cooked eggs
  • 12 spears baby asparagus, bottoms trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh mint

Preparation

In a medium pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil, then add the asparagus and quickly blanch for 30 seconds. Immediately remove the asparagus from the boiling water and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well. Cut off the tips, slice the tips in half lengthwise and reserve for garnish.  Slice the stems (you should have about 1/2 cup) and purée in a food processor with the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice and salt, until smooth.

Halve the eggs lengthwise and transfer the yolks to a mixing bowl. Set the white halves on a platter, cover and refrigerate.  With a fork, mash the yolks to a smooth consistency. Add the puréed asparagus mixture and mix until smooth. (You can also do this using an electric mixer with a whip attachment.) Stir in the mint and onion. Taste and season accordingly.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain or large star tip, then pipe the mixture evenly into the egg-white halves. Or fill the eggs with a spoon, dividing the filling evenly.  Top each half with one of the reserved asparagus tips.

Makes 24

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Creamy Spinach and Feta Dip

Creamy Spinach and Feta Dip

I have to mark this day on the calendar.  It is not often that I am cooking on a Saturday (in preparation for another day), let alone posting.  To tell you the truth, it has been far too long since I have been organized enough for me to carve out part of my Saturday.  Well – I did it!!  I can’t believe I am sitting here typing while there is still light in the sky.  Amazing.

For the past few years, I really have become a “just in time” gal.  I was never like that before I had kids – life has gotten more complicated over the years, and I can never catch up.  I have to say, I hate it – I hate running from one thing to the next, barely on time, cramming as much as I can into each and every day.  Today things were different.  I planned my day very carefully, and my prize?  I am completely ready for tomorrow.  I am smiling from ear to ear.

So – the funny part of this whole thing?  I made a few appetizers to bring to our friend’s house, and I decided to set it all up outside to take pictures.  When my girls came downstairs to see what I was doing, they were completely confused.  They thought I forgot to tell them about a party we were having.   I can’t wait until they grow up and tell people about their mom the crazy food blogger.

It is not often that I post similar entries right in a row, but tomorrow is the Super Bowl, and I just finished making this for the big game, and had to share it with all of you.  Don’t get me wrong, the Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip was delicious…but that was before I tried this one from Cooking Light.  This is a much healthier option, and more of a Mediterranean taste.  Not only is this great for vegetables, it would be amazing as a sauce for grilled chicken or steak, it would be delicious with pita, the list goes on and on.  If you are in the market for a good healthy dip, look no further.

So – I am going to go clean-up the mess I made, because after all, having a party definitely can make a mess.  Good thing I was the only one that attended – that means I will have more time to relax afterwards….YEAH!!!!

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1  garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation

Place yogurt, feta cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and crushed garlic clove in a food processor; process until smooth. Spoon yogurt mixture into a medium bowl; stir in spinach, fresh dill, and black pepper. Cover and chill.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Creamy Spinach and Feta Dip

Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip

Roasted Onion Dip

I hear there is a big football game this weekend – yes, the biggest game of the year.  Pretty much the only football game I actually even remotely pay attention to – and that is really just for one reason…the food that goes along with it.  Football is a very important part of my husband’s life.  Usually next week starts his mid-winter depression, not because of the weather, but because there is no more football, and baseball hasn’t started yet.

I haven’t decided what I am making for the big game yet, although I have a lot of different ideas.  Some may be repeats of the past few weeks – this whole simplicity thing is just not working for me.  One of the ways I have been trying to simplify is with my pictures for the blog.  In these long winter days, I hardly ever have a chance to get some good light.  Even on the weekends – it is ridiculously dark here when it is raining – oh, and have I talked about the fog we have had recently?  I feel like I have been stuck inside a cloud.  Just when we thought the fog was over, it came back again yesterday.  That does not help my light cause what so ever.

So – back to the original point – simplicity.  Instead of moving the food into the office where I have a nice lamp set up to give the artificial light my pictures need, I have been trying to photograph in the kitchen.  Things have not been going so well – and it is not helping that I snap about 5 pictures, and call it good.  I have never been much for taking a ton of pictures, but usually I have to take at least about 10 to get a decent shot.  Needless to say, I have been extremely disappointed with my pictures lately, and I have to turn things around.  So – you may be seeing some updated pictures on the blog – as I throw simplicity out the window – that is when it comes to photos.

So, just in case you are looking for something to make for the big game – how about a good old fashion homemade French Onion Dip?  Remember that stuff, with the Lipton Onion Soup?  I could eat that with a spoon.  Well – here is the real deal. If you like French Onion Dip – this recipe from Bon Appetit is for you.  It is definitely different – not nearly as salty – and you can actually tasted the roasted onion and shallot flavor.  Not even a month into this resolution, and I am already backing off on simplicity – and I am making homemade French Onion Dip.  It is going to be a long year…

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds large yellow or white onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced  (about 6 ounces total)
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground  black pepper
  • 1 cup dry  white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry  vinegar
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons onion  powder

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°. Mix onions, shallots, thyme sprigs, and  oil in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast onion mixture, stirring and scraping down sides of pan  every 10 minutes, until mixture starts to break down and turn golden brown,  45–55 minutes.

Discard thyme sprigs. Add wine and vinegar; stir to scrape up  any browned bits from bottom of pan. Return onion mixture to oven. Continue  roasting, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and completely  caramelized, about 15 minutes longer. Spread onion mixture out on a rimmed  baking sheet to cool.

Transfer onion mixture to a work surface and mince. Transfer  to a medium bowl. Stir in sour cream, chives, yogurt, and onion powder. Season  with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD Dip can be made 3 days  ahead. Cover; chill. 

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip

Spinach Puffs

There are so many things to be thankful for right now – although my family and friends definitely top the list – good food is up there as well, and of course my job and my wonderful hobby, my blog.  I also want to thank my readers for being there and encouraging me to keep going.  When it is late and I am tired, and all I want to do is go to bed, it actually helps knowing that if I spend the time to post something, there is at least someone out there reading.

This year for Thanksgiving, I am redefining simplicity.  We are not hosting a bunch of people, so we are keeping it simple.  Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted green beans and delicate squash.  It wasn’t until today when I realized that I didn’t think about appetizers.  Fortunately, I have plenty of this and that in the pantry that will go perfectly with cocktails.  So, even though tomorrow should be simple, I decided that I couldn’t let the weekend go without getting trying out these Spinach Puffs I read in Bon Appetit.  I made them to go with some soup I made tonight – which was delicious (more on that in another post) – and they were a huge hit.  They were super simple, looked beautiful, and tasted amazing.  I could have eaten the spinach filling by itself – but surrounded by puffed pastry – what could be better?  They would make a great last-minute appetizer for any occasion.

I hope you are all redefining Thanksgiving in your own way – whatever that may be.  And, if you are reading this and just realized that you have no idea what you are making for your appetizer – you can thank me.  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Ingredients

  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped  spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive  oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped  dill
  • 1 teaspoon minced  garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground  black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a  17.3-ounce package), thawed, rolled out to a 12-inch square, kept chilled

Preparation

Using your hands, squeeze spinach until dry, forcing out as  much water as possible (too much water will make for a soggy filling; you should  have about 2/3 cup well-drained spinach). Mix spinach and next 5 ingredients in  a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg  to blend; fold into spinach mixture.

Cut puff pastry into 3 equal strips. Reserve 1 strip for  another use. Cut each remaining strip into 3 squares for a total of 6. Place a  square in each muffin cup, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving corners  pointing up. Divide filling among cups. Fold pastry over filling, pressing  corners together to meet in center.

DO AHEAD Spinach puffs  can be assembled 3 hours ahead. Cover puffs and chill.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Beat remaining egg to blend in a small  bowl. Brush pastry with egg wash (this will give the pastry a nice sheen). Bake  until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire  rack; let puffs cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp paring knife around pan  edges to loosen;  turn out puffs onto rack to cool slightly before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spinach Puffs

Crunchy Tandoori Chickpeas

Almost 3 1/2 years ago, my neighbor sent me a link to one of our favorite Passover treats.  This was my first look at a real food blog – not just a blog, but exactly what I had been thinking about doing.  I was impressed – but at the same time – I was motivated.  I knew I could do this myself – and after months of getting serious – I did it.  And that started First Look, Then Cook.  It has been a really fun ride – and don’t worry, it is not over yet.

I have written about my friend’s Cookbook Store before – Book Larder.  It is such a magical place – I could spend months in there pouring over the books.  She has some amazing events – but sometimes life gets a little too hectic and I miss a really important one.  That is exactly what happened this week.  Smitten Kitchen was coming to promote her new cookbook, and it completely flew by me.  Luckily for me, Lara needed some help – it was going to be the biggest cookbook event she has ever held at the store.  Boy was she right – the line to sign cookbooks circled around the block – Deb has quite a fan base, and it was so much fun to be a part of it all.  I was so impressed with Lara’s organization of the event though – people even thanked her afterwards and told her what a great experience it was – for people who waited in line for over an hour, that is quite a compliment.  It’s amazing what some cookies and coffee can do – and it didn’t hurt that the rain stayed away.  Deb was great last night – she signed every last book, after connecting with each and every person in line.  It was an excellent evening.

Deb explained last night that she enjoys making food that everyone can make, and with her tiny NYC kitchen, she has to control the number of bowls she uses.  This is a perfectly simple recipe, that anyone can make – and it is perfect for fall.  This recipe (which I adapted below) was published in Cooking Light – in their crunchy article.  That is exactly why I love these – I could eat these over potato chips any day of the week.  So here’s to simplicity – oh, and organization.  The combination of the two, made for a very good week.

Ingredients

  • 2  (15 1/2-ounce) cans organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon tandoori spice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1  garlic clove, minced

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300°.

Wrap chickpeas in a towel; lightly roll to loosen skins. Discard skins. Combine chickpeas and remaining ingredients. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 300° for 1 hour and 40 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Crunchy Tandoori Chickpeas

Creamy Ranch-Style Dill Dip

So what do you do when you have 4 oz. of cream cheese left after making this?  Well, if you are like me, it sits in the refrigerator for quite a while, until I am able to get my act together and find something to do with it.  I actually didn’t have to look that far this time.  I happened to be looking through the recipes I had piled up in the pantry, and there it was.  It was almost fate – for multiple reasons.

My husband was away, and I was making dinner for the girls and I – a play on mac-n-cheese, which I will post soon – as it was quite good.  Since my husband is not a big pasta eater, whenever he goes away, that’s on the menu at our house.  My girls LOVE their father, and do not like it when he goes away, but knowing they will have pasta for dinner makes it a little more palatable.  So, back to the story – the mac-n-cheese was in the oven, and I was wondering what I should make for a vegetable.  I opened the vegetable drawer, and the carrots were staring at me – I knew it was the easy way out, but I was tired.  So I placed them on the counter, and then decided (because this is how I do things), to clean out the refrigerator and see what I had to get rid of.  I saw the big bunch of dill that I had used for the Matzo Ball Soup the other weekend, and the cream cheese I had used for the tomato basil soup.  I was just about to close the refrigerator, when I took the buttermilk and looked at the date on the carton – that went on the counter as well.  Then it hit me – I knew I had seen a recipe for a healthy ranch dressing in Cooking Light, and I was right – the amazing part was, it used all the ingredients that went on the counter to either use up or get rid of.  It was meant to be.

This ranch dip was delicious, so much so that I ate most of it.  My younger daughter who will not eat her salad without ranch was a big fan as well, but I hate to say she prefers the bottled version.  This was thicker, and more like a dip than a dressing.  The fresh garlic really gave it a nice kick, and the fresh dill gave it a wonderful flavor.  It gives me such pleasure not to waste food, especially in such a tasty way!!

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Combine cream cheese and buttermilk in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Stir in remaining ingredients.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Creamy Ranch-Style Dip

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Deviled Eggs

When I was growing up, I loved deviled eggs – I could eat a half-dozen easily by myself, and then afterwards I would just feel ill.  It never stopped me the next time they were available though, I would down as many as I could, and the same thing would happen.  They just go down so easily, you don’t realize how filling they are.  My kids both LOVE hard-boiled eggs.  When they were little they stuck mostly to the whites, but as they have grown, they have also grown to like the yolk.  I swear that should just be part of my weekend routine to make a dozen hard-boiled eggs to keep in the refrigerator, but I really can’t cram one more thing in…

For some reason I was craving deviled eggs, and I decided that since the kids love their hard-boiled eggs so much, that they would love a little extra zing to them – especially if I decorated them nicely.  Well, this experiment didn’t go over very well with the kids.  They took one bite, and neither one of them wanted any more.  Good thing my husband and I loved them so much, and my teenage cousin who is living with us this year – there really isn’t anything she doesn’t like, so she helped us out as well.  So – feel free to try this experiment in your home, but don’t say I didn’t warn you – or maybe you will get lucky – but then you won’t get to eat them all yourself…

Ingredients

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish
  • Sliced  chives
  • Smoked Paprika

Preparation

Slice eggs lengthwise in half and spoon yolks into a bowl.  Mash yolks with a fork, then stir in the mayonnaise. Add  horse-radish and a pinch of salt. Spoon or pipe mixture into each egg white.

Garnish each egg with smoked paprika and chives.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Deviled Eggs

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