Lemon Garlic White Bean Dip & Pita Chips

Need an appetizer idea for Superbowl Sunday? This smooth Lemon Garlic White Bean dip whips up quickly in the food processor (or blender) and packs a whollop of flavor due to the soft cannelli beans, the garlic and lemon, and of course the hot peppers.

Lemon Garlic White Bean Dip

White bean dip flavored with garlic, lemon, and a kick from pimientos (or jalapenos)

You can serve the dip with chips or crackers, but I prefer to use pita crisps, which you can make easily and for far less than the cost of a bag of chips. Just cut pitas into wedges, brush with a bit of oil, and season with your choice of flavors. Bake for a few minutes. That’s it! Easy peasy.

Oh, one more tidbit about the dip: it tastes fantastic spread onto toast and suffices quite nicely as a quick snack between meals.

Lemon Garlic White Bean Dip

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 (15 ounce) cans cannelli beans, drained and rinsed (cannelli beans also go by Northern Beans or white beans)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or finely grated
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest (from one medium-large lemon)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimiento (I used 1/2 of a pickled jalapeno instead, finely diced + 1/2 tsp. of the jalapeno pickling juice)
  • 2 tbsp. minced parsley leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I used Himalayan Pink salt)
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a food processor, combine beans, garlic, zest, lemon juice, and oil; blend until very smooth.
  2. Place in a small bowl, then stir in pimientos, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  3. Serve at room temperature with pita crisps, tortilla chips, or crackers.

SOURCE: 200 Appetizers by Donna Kelly and Sandra Hoopes

Pita Chips

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package pita bread (about 8 pitas), white or wheat
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper into a small bowl. Stir to thoroughly  mix. Using pastry brush, spread mixture onto both sides of each pita.
  2. Stack pita bread, then use a large knife to cut pitas into 6-8 wedges. Arrange wedges in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, though!

Honey Mustard Pretzel Crunch

Superbowl mania–not my thing. Food? Yes. So allow me to share a superb Superbowl munchie with you: Honey Mustard Pretzel Crunch.

Honey Mustard Pretzel Snack Mix

Honey Mustard Pretzel Snack Mix with a touch of heat from chile powder

Last summer I attended a food fest to launch the Hatch Chile Cookbook from Melissa’s Produce, and this snack mix graced the tables laden with bowls and platters of goodies that each included some form of Hatch chiles. It scores big points for yum factor and even more points for its addictive quality. It contains honey mustard pretzels, smoked almonds, and the not-so-overpowering surprise kick of chile. Somehow it all works, and it works amazingly well.

Butter and honey both flavor and bind all those yum factors together along with a quick bake in the oven. Don’t fret about the sticky state after you pull it out of the oven; once it cools, the initial stickiness disappears. Do fret, though, about making enough as your guests will gobble it down very quickly (as did the guests at a recent book club meeting)!

Since this snack mix requires both honey mustard pretzels (did you know you can buy those at the bulk bins at Sprouts?) and smoked almonds, it amounts to a splurge but a deliciously worthy one.

Honey Mustard Pretzel Snack Mix

Honey Mustard Pretzel Crunch

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 (12-ounce) packages honey mustard and onion flavor pretzel pieces (I used 18 ounces and reduced the amount of almonds to compensate)
  • 3 (6-ounce) cans smoked almonds (I used 12 ounces rather than 18 ounces)
  • 2 tbsp. chile powder (I used Melissa’s Hatch Chile Powder)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a couple baking sheets (I used two 10X15 inch sheets) with parchment paper (or lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking oil).
  2. Combine honey and butter in a small saucepan; heat over low flame until butter melts, stirring to blend. Alternatively, combine butter and honey in a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 15-30 second increments until butter melts, then stir between each microwave heating interval.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, almonds, and chile powder. Add honey and butter mixture; mix well. Spread the pretzels/almonds in a single layer on the baking sheets; bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Allow snack mix to cool completely. Break into chunks and transfer to a serving bowl.

SOURCE: Hatch Chile Cookbook from Melissa’s Produce

Mashed Cauliflower (truly imitates Mashed Potatoes!)

In addition to taking longer than I thought to get this Mashed Cauliflower post up, it has also taken me awhile to get around to trying this recipe in the first place…like several years!

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower mimics mashed potatoes in flavor and appearance–really!

So glad I did finally try it, though. It tastes as great as everyone has said. Truly, it tastes like mashed potatoes, its claim to fame.

You can dress it simply, with just a pat of butter and some salt and pepper. Or you can add yummy ingredients such as cream cheese, sour cream, cheddar cheese, assorted herbs and spices… I added a touch of parsley to jazz up the appearance. If I’d had chives, I would have tried that instead.

Upon first bite, I didn’t think it paralleled mashed potatoes. However, after keeping it warm in the oven for about an hour and then tasting it again with the Beef Wellington dinner extravaganza, I forgot that cauliflower served as the star of the dish. And hubby thought it was mashed taters until I told him it was actually cauliflower!

So, if you haven’t tried these yet, please do! If you love smooth and buttery mashed taters, this mashed cauliflower will surprise the heck out of you because it genuinely resembles mashed potatoes, both in appearance and flavor.

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (probably about 1 cup)
  • 2-3 ounces (about 1/4 cup) cream cheese (depends on how much tangy flavor you like)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut cauliflower into florets, rinse under cold water, then steam them, along with garlic cloves, using your favorite steaming method (steam basket in a saucepan over heat, microwave, or steam in about an inch of water or broth). Steam until tender.
  2. After draining cauliflower and while the florets are still hot, place in the bowl of a food processor along with garlic cloves. Puree until smooth.
  3. Add Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, butter, and parsley. Puree until all ingredients are blended.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: If not serving immediately, you can either store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for a couple days and heat in the oven when ready to eat. Or, cover with foil and place in the oven at low temperature to keep warm for about an hour.

SOURCE: Maria’s compilation

Beef Wellington (Classic Style)

Hubby and I spend each New Year’s Eve quietly at home, enjoying an elegant homemade dinner. This year, I opted to try Beef Wellington, a recipe I had clipped from the Jan. 2011 Fine Cooking magazine.

Beef Wellington

Beef tenderloin wrapped in chicken pâté/duxelles, crepes, and puff pastry

It just looked so yummy in the magazine: juicy red beef enveloped in flaky puff pastry crust. I knew one day I would try it.

Beef Wellington

Isn’t the baked Beef Wellington gorgeous all wrapped up in puff pastry?

Well, it’s more than just beef wrapped in puff pastry. It’s actually quite an involved recipe that takes several steps of prep (some which can be done in advance) and requires a lot of expense. See why I saved it for New Year’s Eve dinner? It’s definitely a splurge, both in cost and time.

Let me briefly explain Beef Wellington: a tender slab of center-cut beef tenderloin enveloped in a mixture of liver pâté and cooked, minced mushrooms spread onto crepes that are wrapped around the beef, which is then all wrapped into a puff pastry dough.

The pâté/mushroom mixture releases some fat into the meat as well as some savory flavor. The crepes help absorb the meat juice and keep the puff pastry crisp. It’s baked until the meat is rare,  then it is sliced and served with a savory and sweet Madeira sauce.

So, it involves buying an expensive piece of center-cut beef tenderloin, which I purchased at a local butcher shop.

I made my own beef broth, but you can easily purchase broth instead. The broth is used to make the Madeira sauce, which is poured over the cooked slices of Wellington (or you can serve the sauce in small dishes and use it for dipping, I suppose). The homemade broth can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to a couple months.

Next, I bought pricey Portobello mushrooms to make duxelles (duck-SO), which is a mixture of finely minced mushrooms, shallots, and herbs sautéed in butter and used as a stuffing or in sauces (see link for more uses). This step can be made ahead of time as well, refrigerated for a few days or frozen up to a couple months in advance.

Duxelles

Duxelles–not the most photogenic food, but the minced and cooked Portobello sure add savory depth to dishes

Then, I made chicken liver pâté. Chicken livers are inexpensive, the pâté is easy to make, and it actually tastes very savory spread on crackers or baguette slices. This, too, can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated (not sure if it can be frozen). It later gets mixed with the duxelles to form the pasty mixture that is spread onto the crepes and wrapped around the beef tenderloin.

Chicken Liver Pate

Chicken Liver Pate–tastes a lot more appetizing than it looks!

I made my own crepes, which can be a bit tricky. I’m not sure if crepes can be purchased frozen, but that would save some time. The crepes can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge.

Crepes

Crepes all ready for the duxelles/pâté spread

Beef Wellington

Dotting the pâté/duxelles mixture to make spreading it over the crepes easier

Beef Wellington

Place browned and cooled tenderloin onto crepes spread with pâté/duxelles, and wrap crepes snugly around tenderloin

Beef Wellington

See those extra crepes on the end? Cut them off; otherwise, you’ll get bug chunks of baked dough on the ends like I did!

You can make your own puff pastry, but I opted to purchase it instead–much easier and quicker.

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington getting wrapped in puff pastry

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington snuggly wrapped in puff pastry and ready for baking

You’ll need a bottle of Madeira wine to make the sauce.

Beef Wellington

See the Madeira sauce in the background?

It takes a lot to make this, but it’s well worth it, especially if you want to impress some guests.

Let’s recap quickly: beef tenderloin, duxelles, liver pâté, crepes, puff pastry, and Madeira…and time.

Throughout the process, I thought, “This is the only time I’m going to go through the effort to make all this.” However, now that we’ve tasted it and savored it for leftovers for two nights, I would certainly make it again, and the steps don’t seem as daunting now that I’ve made it.

What made the whole experience even more fun, though, is that I pulled out my fine china (rarely used), set up a lovely table, and had everything ready to serve the minute hubby walked in the door from work. I even got semi dressed up to celebrate the new year (and the excitement of hubby having started a new job right before Christmas, a career change that required two years of schooling and lots of interviewing these past few months). All in all, the entire meal was a smashing success!

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington–layers of savory goodness

By the way, I served the Beef Wellington with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mashed Cauliflower.

RECIPE:

Rather than  type up the entire lengthy recipe, I found a link to it on Fine Cooking’s website along with a video. Truly, it’s not as daunting as it all appears, and it’s well worth the effort if you are game for trying something new and on the gourmet side of cooking.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (and the book Food Matters)

Despite all the sweet treats I share on the blog, hubby and I actually do eat fairly healthy a good portion of the time. Case in point, these roasted brussels sprouts, seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

If you remember last year around this time, I shared a Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad, which served as my initiation into liking brussels sprouts. Prior to that, hubby had only steamed them, which simply releases their atrocious sulfurous compounds and ruins the taste. Yuck!

But roasted? Totally a different story, folks! They get a bit charred on the outside yet transform into tenderness inside, and no stinky sulfurous release, either. Yay! The generous sprinkling of sea salt along with pepper and olive oil enhance the flavor, too. I LOVE ‘em this way. So simple yet so scrumptious.

Now for Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. I spent the past couple days reading this book by Mark Bittman. Yes, it’s been around since 2002, but I’m a busy gal, okay? The basic premise of the book is to eat like food matters. I love that idea. I need to remember that what I put into my body matters.

Bittman suggests eating lots of plant foods, as close to their natural state as possible, as well as veggies, beans, fruits, and whole grains. He calls this sane eating vs. the insanity of eating excessive animal products, refined carbs, and junk food (and he provides tons of research to support the negative effects of insane eating, both on the individual and on the environment).

Now, the book isn’t about a specific diet but simply about changing our habits to eating like food matters. He writes, “…deny nothing; enjoy everything, but eat plants first and most” (65). Two-thirds of the book then provides recipes and ideas for eating like food matters.

In the past few years, I actually have practiced what Bittman advises, so his book simply reinforces a style I have embraced already. I really enjoyed the basic premise, though, and will reiterate it once more to close: eat like food matters. Let that guide you as you move forth into 2014. And consider starting soon with these roasted brussels sprouts. Cheers to a healthy new year!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Yield: 2 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (or more) of sea salt (I used Maldon sea salt)
  • sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off the stem ends of the brussels sprouts. Pull off any yellow and spotted outer leaves. Cut brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and place on sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, then spread out on pan. Generously sprinkle with salt and lightly sprinkle with pepper.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn sprouts over; bake another 10-15 minutes until crisp on outside yet tender on inside.
  4. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and dust with parmesan cheese.

Note: I baked the sprouts an hour before serving, so I covered the pan with foil and placed back into the oven, heat as low as possible, to keep them warm.

SOURCE: slightly adapted from Food Network, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

2013’s Most Popular Posts

Hubby and I prefer to stay home for a quiet and calm New Year’s Eve. We celebrate by cooking something special, usually lobster. However, two years ago I saved a recipe for Beef Wellington, and this year I’m finally going to try it. Hence, I’ve spent the entire day in the kitchen prepping. If all goes well tonight, I’ll share the recipe later this week.

Anyway, I decided to rest my weary feet a bit and catch up on some emails. Lo and behold, I received my annual report of the most popular posts for 2013 (all sweet treats, by the way), so I thought I’d quickly share them. A couple of the most-searched posts go back to 2011 and 2012!

Wishing each and every one of you a very healthy, happy, and peaceful 2014.

Most popular posts of 2013:

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake

Kahlua Cheesecake: graham cracker crust, ganache layer, velvety Kahlua-flavored cheescake, sour-cream layer, and drizzled ganache topping. Can you say decadent?

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Oreo Cheesecake Bites (2012): Still popular a year later, and rightfully so. These little babies pack a ton of chocolate-y flavor amidst tangy cheesecake. And oh-so-easy to make, too.

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake

Ho Ho Cake: This light and airy layered cake garners a lot of oohs and aahs from its recipients. Very yummilicious cake.

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake

Magic Custard Cake: Magic indeed as three layers appear from one batter!

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread (2011): Still going strong two years later, this pull-apart bread is simply fun with layers of dough stacked so they pull apart easily after baking. Drizzle with lots of glaze for a glorious treat.