Easy Goat Cheese Appetizer

Being on vacation as I am, I like to keep it quick and simple. And that is exactly what this snack/appetizer is.

Goat cheese is a major weakness of mine. Okay, cheese in general is a weakness of mine. But goat cheese really gets me because it’s creamy and easy to combine with either sweet or savory flavors for a fancy snacking extravaganza. Today, my mom and I were in the savory mood. We took half of a log of goat cheese (we are saving the other half to experiment with later) and rolled it into some toasted pine nuts, minced basil leaves, minced parsley, and garlic seasoning. The result: an explosion of taste that is addicting and perfect to pair with grapes, Wheat Thins, and some Sauvignon Blanc (which is exactly what we did!).

How can you resist something so easy? You can make this in the time it takes to make a grilled cheese, and it is so impressive looking and gourmet. Try it at your next cocktail party, potluck event, or whenever you’re craving some cheese.

 

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Raw Broccoli Cherry Salad

Aloha. I am in PARADISE!

I am currently on the most wonderful vacation. I guess you could say it is a vacation from my vacation. Anyways, I hope this explains why I have not been as vigilant about posting my lovely meals/recipes for everyone to enjoy. Mahalo for you patience! (Mahalo is Hawaiian for thank you)

This vacation has been so relaxing, and the perfect opportunity for my mom and I to experiment in the kitchen (which we have been doing to much success)! Here is our latest: broccoli cherry salad.

This side dish is wonderful because it is super easy to make and the combination of tastes and textures is unparalleled. Sweet, crunchy, and light in texture but heavy on flavor, it is perfect to bring to a picnic or tailgate, and you will have friends begging you for the recipe. I hope you enjoy it with your friends and family this summer!

Raw Broccoli Cherry Salad   (Serves 4-6)

6 cups broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces

1 cup raw or salted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried cherries

10 pieces bacon, chopped and cooked crispy

Homemade Salad Dressing (recipe below)

 

1. Mix together broccoli, cherries, red onion, sunflower seeds, and bacon

2. Top with dressing and combine until all ingredients are covered

 

Homemade Salad Dressing

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 lemon (for juice)

1 Tbsp mustard

2 Tbsp minced garlic

1/4 tsp salt

 

I am planning on trying a lot of new things in the kitchen while still on this vacation. I just can’t turn down a good opportunity in the kitchen when I see one!

 

 

 

Homemade Wheat Thins

You know when you get a craving for something and you just simply must have it? That was me today, with Wheat Thins. And I decided instead of driving to the store and buying a box, I should just make myself a homemade batch!

I have Christina over at Sweet Pea’s Kitchen (http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2011/08/28/homemade-wheat-thins/) to thank for this recipe! It is spot on-these Wheat Thins are the real deal! I also decided to sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on some of them and I really like how it turned out. So why buy a snack craving when you can just make it?

Regular Wheat Thins: teal bowl. Cinnamon-Sugar Wheat Thins: purple bowl. Verdict: both are incredible.

Look at all that cinnamon and sugar, it is a beautiful thing.

Midnight Pizza

There is a good reason this is called “Midnight Pizza”.

 My little brother Marco was watching TV with me last night when at 11pm he asked if we could make pizza. I never turn down an opportunity to cook or bake, so I decided to find the quickest pizza dough recipe available on the Internet. This glorious creation took only 45 minutes to make from scratch! Yep, believe it. By 11:45pm my little brother and I were enjoying this delicious, fresh, and creative pizza concoction (I went ahead and let my brother pick the toppings, meaning lots of meat, lots of cheese, and BBQ sauce).

It’s impossible not to drool while looking at this photo.

My brother Marco posing with his pizza.

Once this pizza came out of the oven, it became clear to us it was not just quick, it was good. The pizza was pretty much devoured in 20 minutes. I cannot wait to get a craving for pizza again because when I do I am definitely making another Midnight Pizza.

 

 

 

Midnight Pizza Dough (from All-Recipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour (I just used all-purpose flour)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour, salt and oil. Beat until smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round. Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza pan or baker’s peel dusted with cornmeal. Spread with desired toppings and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Meat-tastic BBQ Pizza

Toppings: BBQ sauce, tomato pasta sauce, chopped onion, sliced tomato, bacon, sliced turkey, mozzarella, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, dry sweet basil.

Kentucky Chocolate Gravy

Only I would go to a concert and come home with a new recipe to try.

My super artsy Instagram picture of Country Concert ’12

I just got back from a 3-day country concert (aptly called Country Concert 2012) that took place in Fort Loramie, Ohio. It was a great line-up and a really fun time with close friends. One of the best parts about the whole experience were the people we met. People from everywhere and anywhere gathered together to create the infectious, happy energy only found at a country concert.

Anyways, enough about the concert (I could go on and on about it). This is about chocolate gravy. I have a wonderful woman named Heather to thank for this recipe. Heather is from Kentucky and sat in front of me and my friends for this 3-day extravanganza. She made the most amazing chicken sliders that she shared with us, immediately prompting a discussion about food. As soon as she mentioned chocolate I was all ears (0f course). Evidently I looked so intrigued when she described this chocolate gravy recipe that she decided to email it to me. For that I will be forever grateful.

This chocolate gravy is thick, rich, sweet, and oh so chocolately. Everything good in the world is in this recipe. I served it with fresh, hot-from-the-oven biscuits. I am in chocolate heaven. Please, do yourself a favor and make this recipe. It is easy and so worth it!

For the biscuit:

Preheat over to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift 3 cups all-purpose flour (or a combo of whole wheat and white flour), 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tsp salt, and 3/4 Tsp cream of tartar.

Cut 3/4 cup butter into this dry mixture and mix until it forms coarse crumbs.

Look at that pretty, golden colored biscuit. It can only be made better with chocolate!

Make a hole in the middle of the mix and pour in 1 cup of milk. Mix all together with a rubber scraper. Mix until dough just forms and knead 7-8 times (be careful not to over mix, as this will make the biscuits less fluffy).

 

 

Step One: slice biscuit in half, allowing for more experimentation with the chocolate gravy, of course!

 

You can decide if you want to roll the dough out and cut circles with a cutter, I decided to form disks by hand (and made 9 of them with this recipe). Bake biscuits in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven.

And now, for the KY Chocolate Gravy:

2 cups sugar

3-4 heaping spoons cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

3-4 heaping spoons flour

2-3 cups water

Cook all ingredients over medium high heat. Bring to boil, stir frequently until thick.

Assembling the goodness:

One side of the biscuit received a generous dollop of chocolate gravy. It looked good but I knew exactly what would make it look undeniably delectable…

Fresh strawberries! Perfection.

The other side had chocolate skillfully drizzled all over it. Not as much chocolate but still divine. All in all a fantastic anytime food. This recipe will be made and consumed often.

Falafel Burgers

My mom and I have recently been trying to eat healthier. After watching the Food, Inc. documentary, we realized just how low in quality some of the food we consume can be, and meat was the specific focus of the film. Not that I am going to stop eating meat (I was actually chowing down on a hamburger during the beginning of the film), but I did decide that I wanted to support the local farmers. In addition, my mom decided to institute meatless Mondays. Enter the Falafel Burger.

I put my burger on pita bread, so that the fillings could be the stars of the show. I did not even speak during dinner because I was so focused on enjoying this culinary creation.

Lauren decided to put her falafel on a focaccia bread: perfect alternate for when we are out of burger buns and want a more “burger like feel”. Yes-my refusal to drive to the grocery store can sometimes turn into a good thing!

It was incredibly tasty, and light in flavor with the combination of fresh lettuce, tomato, cucumber sauce, among other toppings. The burger was also surprisingly filling for being meatless! My friend Lauren came over for dinner that night, and she loved the falafel burger so much that she wanted to come over the next day for round #2! I could do a meatless meal any day if it is this burger.

We served the burger with a simple pasta consisting of sauteed mushrooms, onions, and peas. Super simple, easy dinner that in total took less than an hour to make.

Falafel Burgers 

Ingredients:

1. Recipe for the burger patty and cucumber sauce: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/seans-falafel-and-cucumber-sauce/

2. Tzatziki sauce

3. Chopped lettuce and sliced or chopped tomatoes

4. Optional items: Sliced cucumbers, Sriracha

5. Pita bread, burger buns, focaccia bread (I might even try it in a tortilla or wrap next time)

It’s as simple as making the burger recipe and assembling. So satisfying, so worth it, and actually allowed me to go meatless for a meal (not an easy task I’ll let you know). Enjoy!

Strawberry Jam

I had literally just finished washing the dishes I sullied from the Nazook extravaganza (a previous post) when my dad walked through the door: with probably 5 pounds of strawberries!

My dad is the ultimate Costco guy: he LOVES the place. We get everything at Costco, my optometrist even works there! But there is one thing my dad does not buy at Costco and that is strawberries from the guy who sells them down the street from Costco. The Strawberry Man gives him a great deal for a lot of strawberries, hence my astonished expression when the strawberries were set in front of me. What ever would I do with all of these strawberries before they go bad?

My mom had the solution: homemade strawberry jam! Jam is a great way to make a fruit product that lasts, and it can also make a nice gift when made beautiful with a decorated Mason jar!

This is not even half of the amount of strawberries my dad brought home today!

Homemade Strawberry Jam

7 cups strawberries, chopped

2 cups sugar (you could add more sugar; our strawberries were just very sweet and we like our jam tart)

1 packet pectin

Directions:

1. Cut strawberries into at least quarters, then throw them into a pot

2. Turn stovetop on, let strawberries warm

Yummm…crushed strawberries

3. When fully warmed, macerate strawberries with a potato masher. Stir in sugar.

4. Add packet of pectin, stirring it fully into the mix

5. Let fruit mixture continue to warm and boil for about a minute more.

6. Take pan off of heat and ladel in clean, sanitized Mason jars (sanitize Mason jars by putting lids and jars into a pan of boiling hot water). Fill jam until there is about a half or quarter of an inch to spare from the lid.

Our hodgepodge of cute little Mason jars

7. Twist on lids (be careful with this step as you have to touch the jar and the lid: the jar will be filled with hot jam and the lid should be pretty hot from the sanitization process)

The beauty of sanitizing the Mason jars this way is that if you have a nice, dry jar when the lid is applied, the heat trapped inside creates a vacuum-like seal that preserves the jam. In fact, about 15 minutes after my mom and I sealed our jars, we could hear “pop!” noises from the kitchen as our Mason top’s tabs pressed down, sealing the jar.

Variation: because of the large amounts of strawberries at my disposal, I also opted for a strawberry/blueberry jam. I simple went 50/50 on the amount of each fruit and followed the same directions. The flavor is slightly more tart, and the color of the jam is beautiful.

Isn’t that the prettiest shade of purple you have ever seen?

So go on and get jamming! Your PB&J sandwiches will reach a whole different level of gourmet.