Tag: party

Spicy Yogurt Dip

I bought a bag of baby carrots on sale last week.  They’re great for a quick, crunchy snack and travel well.  But I was getting a little bored of the carrots before the pound was gone.  So I borrowed a trick from my nephews and decided it would be a lot more fun to dip them.

I was inspired by this recipe which suggests toasting the spices prior to mixing them in the yogurt.  After just a minute in the frying pan, the spices were very fragrant which was a nice touch.  The dip is both spicy and delicious!  It was great with carrots, but you could also dip other vegetables or even pita bread.  I would use Greek yogurt next time to make it thicker, but otherwise wouldn’t change a thing.



Spicy Yogurt Dip

1 t coriander
1 t paprika
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t chili powder
2 dashes of cayenne
1 T lime juice
1 c. plain nonfat yogurt, regular or Greek style

Mix spices in a bowl, and place in a small preheated frying pan.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently, and then remove from pan.  Mix toasted spices, lime juice, and yogurt in a small bowl.


Spinach and Smoked Gouda Quiche

Quiche is great because it is so versatile.  You can eat it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.  It travels well, and can be enjoyed warmed or cold.  You can pair it with soup, salad, or fruit, or all three if you’re serving it to company.  So I was pretty excited when my friend and blog reader Sarah sent me this recipe for Spinach, Green Onion, and Smoked Gouda quiche along with her notes on the recipe.  Smoked Gouda is one of my very favorite cheeses, but I hardly ever have a good reason to buy it.

I made a few tweaks to the recipe based on Sarah’s feedback and what I had on hand.  First, I decided to use a Vidalia instead of green onions since the big sweet onions were on sale this week.  I also used a bit more cheese than the recipe recommended because I just couldn’t resist.  Sarah said her crust came together pretty easily, but I admit that I struggled a bit.  The mixture just seemed too crumbly at first, so I added a few extra drops of milk.  When it came time to roll the dough into a circle, I ended up with an slightly crooked oval.  I am by no means an expert at making dough, but I do know you can’t rush the process.  Take your time with each step, especially rolling it out, and remember that no one really cares what the crust looks like.  Here’s my ugly crust for all the Internet to see!



When it comes time to bake the final product, you also need to be patient.  The original recipe quotes 35 minutes; mine took around 45 minutes, and Sarah said hers took closer to 60 minutes.  But this quiche is well worth the wait!  I had a piece straight out of the oven, and loved the combination of flavors.  If you buy a bag of fresh spinach for the recipe, you’ll have some extra for a salad to accompany the quiche.  If you tackle this project on a weekend afternoon, you will have a gourmet dinner by evening.




Spinach and Smoked Gouda Quiche

6 T butter, softened
2 T nonfat milk, plus more if needed
1/4 t salt
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 c. flour
1 T canola oil
1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced thinly
3 c. fresh spinach
1 c. nonfat milk
1 c. shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/4 t black pepper
3 eggs

Place butter in a mixing bowl, and beat until fluffy.  Combine 2 T milk, salt, and egg yolk in small bowl and whisk well.  Incorporate milk mixture into butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Add flour, and beat just until combined.  Add more milk if mixture seems too crumbly.  Press dough into a small disk in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Roll out dough on a floured surface into a circle.  Place dough in a 9″-10″ pie plate.  (My Pyrex dish is somewhere between 9 1/2″ – 10″.)  Freeze for 15 minutes.  Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, until lightly brown.  Allow to cool.

Heat oil in a large frying pan.  Add sliced onions, and saute until tender and lightly brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Add spinach, and saute for 5 more minutes.  Meanwhile, combine milk, cheese, black pepper, and eggs in a large bowl.  Add onion/spinach mixture to bowl.  Pour into prepared pie crust.  Bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.

-Adapted from Cooking Light

Crockpot Baked Beans with Bacon

My favorite recipe for Baked Beans is a vegetarian one, but we were at a family party a few weeks ago and had an amazing version with bacon.  My Mom tracked down the details, and it turns out to be an old family recipe.  I hate to tinker with tradition but the original recipe used a pound of real bacon and I was convinced that you could get the same smoky flavor with much less.  I also wanted to convert it to a crockpot recipe since oven space is a precious commodity when you are cooking for a crowd.

This recipe was easy to put together, and makes a lot of baked beans.  Good thing we had that much, because they turned out to be quite a hit at the party.  In fact, there was only a large spoonful left at the end of the night.  I like using a mix of beans, but you can use whatever you happen to have on hand.  I am not ready for summer to be over, but if you must have an ‘end of summer’ BBQ, you might want to give these a try.




Crockpot Baked Beans with Bacon

12 oz. turkey bacon, such as Oscar Mayer
2 (15 oz.) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15 oz.) cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (26 oz.) jar pasta sauce
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

Cook bacon in a frying pan until crispy.  Cool slightly and crumble.  Add crumbled bacon, beans, and sauce to the crockpot and stir well.  Cook on High for 3-4 hours, then turn to Low until ready to serve.

The Great Train Cake

I feel like my blog has been one big party this summer!  We’ll get back to “regular meals” by the end of the week, I promise.  But first, I have to share the story of The Great Train Cake.

The bar for first birthday cakes was set pretty high back with these Monkey Cakes of 2010.  But of course we had to do something different for my youngest nephew.  I am not sure who came up with the idea for a train cake first, but the project was planned with many Google searches, Pinterest surfing, sketches, and long lists on legal sized paper.  But all the details aside, we had a lot of fun.  Hop aboard for the full story, or scroll to the bottom just to see an adorable baby toddler eating cake.



The Baking

My Mom used Smitten Kitchen’s Best Yellow Layer Cake recipe, and multiplied it by 1.5 to yield a 13″x9″ cake and a 9″x5″ loaf pan.  She baked another 13″x9″ cake using Hershey’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake recipe.  She used one half of Smitten Kitchen’s Two Layer Banana Cake recipe to yield another 9″x5″ loaf pan.  You might be thinking that 1) that’s a lot of math; 2) that’s a lot of baking; and 3) why did they need 3 different types of cake?  My Dad helped a bit with the math, my Mom did the baking over the course of 2 days and stored the layers in the freezer, and yes, we’re a little crazy and wanted some variety in the flavors.

The Decorating

First, we started with a cake board.  It’s important to have a sturdy surface, especially since the cake must be stored in the refrigerator.  We placed the 13″x9″ cakes side by side to form the base layer.  The majority of the cake was frosted with Smitten Kitchen’s Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, but we used canned chocolate frosting for the engine.  We colored the vanilla frosting in small bowls as we went along.

We coated the top and sides of the base layer with the vanilla frosting, and then piped on chocolate icing for the train tracks. The loaf pan of banana cake was cut to form an engine, using this Betty Crocker video as a guide.  The loaf pan of vanilla cake was cut into thirds, to form 3 train cars.  You’ll notice that only 2 of those train cars fit on the cake; sadly, one car had to be left behind in the station.



My Mom’s kitchen looked like a scene out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  We had a lot of different ideas on what to use for wheels and other train decor.  In the end, we used generic chocolate sandwich cookies for wheels.  We used Twizzlers to outline the top of the train car.  Other candy we used includes M&M’s, Junior Mints, and peach rings.


It was a hot August night, and the frosting was melting, so we put it in the refrigerator at this point.  It just fit.  The next day, we did some touch-up work with frosting, and added a “1”.



The Serving

Finally, it was time to bring out the cake and serve it.  We all sang “Happy Birthday” and he got some help blowing out the candle.  Note that my sister removed the pieces of candy which could be a choking hazard before placing the engine in front of him.


All he wanted to do was stick his fingers in the frosting, which he decided he liked.  I am not sure he even got to any cake!


The cake project was a lot of fun, and we’ll remember it for a long time!

Wagon Wheel Pizza

We had a fun weekend, complete with a train themed birthday party for my littlest nephew.  I’ll have the story of his birthday cake and some cute pictures ready tomorrow, but in the meantime, let’s start with some of the food.

Consistent with the train theme, my sister served food from the Wild West including BBQ Pork, Chicken, Wagon Wheel Macaroni & Cheese, Baked Beans (recipe coming Wednesday!), and Cole Slaw.  We also made these Wagon Wheel Pizzas which turned out to be a fun option for both the little kids and big kids.

They’re really just typical mini- bagel pizzas which use strips of red pepper for ‘spokes’.  The cheese goes underneath the topping so that they’re more visible.  It’s a great way to add some veggies in too.  We also tried this with strips of meatloaf, but the visual effect wasn’t quite as good.  The pizzas are easy to make in advance, and then you can just pop them into the oven when the train of guests arrives!



Wagon Wheel Pizzas

Tomato Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese
Red Pepper Strips

Spread a spoonful of sauce on each mini-bagel.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Place red pepper strips in a spoke fashion.  Bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes.



Chunky Blue Cheese and Yogurt Dip

Along with the Zucchini Cheddar Biscuits, I also brought this Chunky Blue Cheese and Yogurt Dip to the dinner party.  You may remember I made a Stilton Walnut Dip over the winter; I thought this version would be a bit lighter for summer.  I tend to prefer dips that have a varied texture, so I didn’t put the ingredients in a food processor and just mixed them in a bowl instead.

Although the dip tasted fairly sharp at first, the flavor quickly mellowed.  I served the dip with carrots and Triscuits, both of which complemented the taste well.  However, the dip ended up having a fairly thin consistency.  Next time I would add some sour cream or perhaps more cheese to make it thicker.  But there’s something about any blue cheese dip that always makes me go back for just one more scoop.



Chunky Blue Cheese and Yogurt Dip

1/4 c. chopped shallot
1 t minced garlic
2 T lemon juice
1 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. light mayonnaise
1/2 c. crumbled gorgonzola
1/2 t black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Allow to chill for at least 2 hours.

-Adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa

Spinach Basil Hummus

My extended family has an annual summer picnic complete with swimming and bocce, and I was assigned to bring chip and dip.  There is some seriously good food at this picnic, including several traditional recipes like my favorite Zucchini Appetizer, my Mom’s Potato Salad and Lemon Squares, and even Pizzelles.

I wanted to bring something relatively simple but flavorful.  While I am definitely not the first person to put spinach in hummus, I threw this dip together without working from a specific recipe.  I think it came out pretty well, although it had to compete with a lot of other great appetizers.  But with fresh basil, this dip would be good for any summer party.




Spinach Basil Hummus

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 (15 oz.) cans chick peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 T minced garlic
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

Puree all ingredients in a food processor.  Chill and serve.

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Ginger and Sea Salt

Sometimes it’s tough to be a food blogger.  I have to ask difficult questions like, “can brownies be too fudgey”?  Because these are the most fudge-like brownies I’ve ever made.  I used Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Chips, cocoa powder, and Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Dark Chocolate.  That’s some serious chocolate power!  These brownies not only have a rich texture, but they also have an interesting flavor with the addition of crystallized ginger and sea salt.

I was not entirely sure that I was happy with how the recipe turned out.  Of course, that didn’t stop me from bringing them to a party.  It also didn’t stop me from eating the brownie edges.  (You know, the pieces that weren’t suitable to bring to the party.)  These are not classic brownies, but rather like squares of ginger and sea salt fudge.  Once your taste buds know what to expect, they’ll be happy indeed.





Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

Oh my, I fell off the blogging wagon again, thanks for being patient.  But I am getting pretty tired of eating cereal for dinner so I better find my cooking motivation!

I made this asparagus wrapped in prosciutto for my cooking club, and it turned out pretty well.  First, I blanched the asparagus spears in boiling water for about 3 minutes, and then rinsed them in cold water.  I’d recommend reducing the cooking time to keep the asparagus a little more crunchy.

Once the asparagus was cool, I spread a thin layer of herbed cheese (like alouette) on a slice of prosciutto, and used it to wrap 3 spears.  I saw some recipes online that called for wrapping each spear individually, but that seemed time intensive.  I think this ended up being the right amount.  It was a great make-ahead appetizer, and I’ll keep this one in my annual rotation for asparagus season!


Spicy Baked Potato Fries

All this rain makes me want comfort food, and these Spicy Baked Potato Fries from Budget Bytes really fit the bill!  This is the kind of thing you’d order at the dive bar down the street (at least the dive bar down my street!)  These are still french fries after all, but I did measure the oil and used reduced fat cheddar cheese and nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  The key here is the spice mixture with lots of chili powder which gives the fries so much flavor.  Who needs a dive bar when you can make these fries, serve them with cheap beer, and crank up the music?