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

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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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Onion Tart

My 8 year old daughter is part of a book club.  It’s amazing to see these 3rd graders get so into these books – and of course the moms get into them as well.  This is my first book club – I always heard about them, but I never had enough time – and since I really only read about food, I figured it wouldn’t be for me – unless I started my own “food book club,” but then who would I get to join me, since most of my friends laugh at the fact that I only read about food.  So, when the invitation came for my daughter to join her friends in this book club, along with the moms, I decided it was finally time.

There are a few rules we have to follow – we all take turns hosting, and the host orders the pizza.  That’s right – instead of slaving all day in the kitchen, you pick up the phone and order the pizza – DONE!  Then, everyone else brings stuff to the host’s house – appetizers, drinks, salad, dessert, fruit…and anything else people can think of.  My stand-by is the dessert – if all fails, I know I can always bring a dessert – and I am starting to feel like a dessert hogger – since we sign up in email, first come first server, and secure what we are bringing, so we don’t end up with just desserts – and nothing else except pizza.

This month I held my breath and replied appetizer.  I had no idea what I was going to bring, but I wanted to give someone else a chance for dessert.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – and even though it was very similar to pizza, I had to give it a try.  I just love onions, especially the sweet ones.  This was super easy – and it was excellent – it had a really beautiful soft onion flavor, and the crust (even though I cheated and used pre-made) was still fantastic around those onions.  I was pretty full when it was time to eat the pizza, but that meant there was more leftovers for the host – or the host’s husband…which is always appreciated, especially in my house.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2  (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, thyme, salt, and pepper; cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Roll dough out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle feta cheese in center, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border; top with onion. Sprinkle with Swiss cheese. Fold piecrust border up and over onion mixture, pleating as you go, leaving a 6-inch-wide opening. Combine egg and 2 tablespoons water; brush over dough. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool for 10 minutes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Onion Tart

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