Sunday, December 30, 2007

Extra-Special Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I can almost file this recipe under "failure," but it went okay the 2nd time around. Let me start at the beginning...

My original intent was to find Outback Steakhouse's Artichoke Dip recipe. Even though the internet is wonderful, it let me down big time and I couldn't find the recipe online anywhere.

I looked around for awhile and eventually found a recipe that sounded pretty amazing, mostly because it (1) contained Alfredo sauce and (2) did NOT contain copious amounts of mayonnaise. Don't get me wrong, I love mayonnaise under the right circumstances, but if I'm making a dip I really don't want to think about how when I'm eating it, I'm really just swallowing a gigantic blob of mayo on a chip.

In reading the reviews of the recipe I found, I noticed that some people said it was fun to use fresh spinach and also that if you followed the exact directions of the recipe, which said to "spread" ingredients in an 8x8 pan, the dip wouldn't turn out correctly. One reviewer said it was NECESSARY to put this dip into a food processor or a blender. So I chopped up a bunch of fresh spinach and threw the whole shebang into my food processor. As it blended, I started to get a very uneasy feeling. When the cream cheese had finally been blended, I was horrified to see that the dip looked alarmingly like that green jell-o fluff you can buy in the grocery store deli and I find to be absolutely disgusting. Or something pistachio-flavored. And I am supposed to bring this dip to a New Year's Eve party tomorrow night!

So my only choice was to drive to the grocery store at 9:20PM and pray that they weren't totally out of artichoke hearts so that I could have a re-do. THANKFULLY it turned out well the 2nd time. At least I think so, because I haven't baked it yet, but it's already better than the 1st time because it's a normal spinach/artichoke dip-y color. And it tastes good. The green one did too, but since people would be expecting it to taste like that green fluffy stuff...yeah. It's just better to make it again!

From with modifications by Kira


4 cloves garlic (I used 5)
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (10 ounce) container Alfredo-style pasta sauce (Bertolli's is best)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (6-cheese Italian blend)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I used the entire package)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place garlic in a small baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven 20 to 30 minutes, until soft. Remove from heat. When cool enough to touch, squeeze softened garlic from skins.

In an 8x8 inch baking dish, spread the roasted garlic, spinach, artichoke hearts, Alfredo-style pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and cream cheese.

Cover and bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until cheeses are melted and bubbly. Serve warm.

Kira's directions for step 3: Mix the cream cheese, the Alfredo sauce, and the roasted garlic until it's mostly blended. Squish the roasted garlic until it's fairly well blended with the rest. Add the shredded cheese and the Parmesan. Mix well. Then, add the artichoke hearts and the spinach and take care not to overmix. Place in baking dish and top with a little bit of grated Parmesan.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Green Bean Casserole for the 21st Century

My mom brought this recipe to Christmas and suggested that we give it a shot. It's one of those recipes that doesn't really tell you a whole lot about amounts and times and specific temperatures, which kind of wigged my mom out, but in the end it turned out to be very good! Luckily for her I'm 100% comfortable with a recipe that doesn't tell me anything. It combines that traditional comfort of the old-school green bean casserole but it adds some distinctly modern twists. No cream of mushroom soup, etc. Anyway, it's tasty and fairly easy...sounds like a holiday dinner winner to me! I added a little bit more structure to the recipe for this blog, so the version below is by no means verbatim from the source.

From Better Homes and Gardens


2 lbs fresh green beans, cut into smallish pieces
6oz fresh button or Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
6oz of goat cheese or cream cheese (or combination of both)
1 large onion, thinly sliced in rings
Dry packaged breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar


Boil green beans for 3ish minutes and drain. Add green beans, mushrooms, and pepper to a 9x13 casserole dish. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and roast in 350 oven for 10-15 minutes. While green beans etc are roasting, sauté onions in olive oil until tender. Coat with breadcrumbs so they resemble onion rings. Remove green beans etc. from oven. Add goat cheese/cream cheese and mix well to coat. Add onions on top and return to oven for 8-10 minutes or until heated through. Turn on broiler for extra browning effect.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cranberry Salsa

Although my rule is that I have to actually make something before posting, I am breaking that rule for this delightful cranberry salsa that my Aunt Joan made for Thanksgiving this year. I am GOING to make it, probably this week, but since the recipe is still in my wallet from Thanksgiving and I'm avoiding work, I will go ahead and post anyway! I have already shared this recipe with like 50 people - I actually passed it around at my YMCA Group Exercise training last week. Yikes!

This is awesome with tortilla chips and I think it would also be delightful paired with pork roast or potentially even baked chicken (depending).

From Joan Hill

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 C sugar
1 C water
2 jalapenos, diced (seeds are optional, only if you want to bring the heat)
2 bunches green onions, sliced
1 t cumin
1 T lime juice
2 T diced cilantro


Cook berries with sugar and water until skins pop. Add remaining. Mix it up until it looks like salsa. :)

UPDATE: I have now made this and I can say FOR SURE that it is ridiculously easy to make. And it's pretty! Enjoy.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I'm heeeeeeeeeere! :-)

Hello, faithful blog readers! It's funny how I stopped nagging Kira to post here every day once she invited me to become a co-poster. ;-) After three weeks, I have finally gotten so sick of eating out that I spent the evening cooking up a storm (pepper steak! soup! no-bake cookies! granola bars! zucchini muffins!) and I'd like to share one of the recipes with you.

I've been a major baby lately about the winter weather, and one of the ways I've been "coping" has been to eat soup for lunch and dinner. It's probably the least weird of my coping mechanisms, and doesn't usually get me the same kinds of looks as wearing a scarf all day at work or wearing a coat for an hour after I've gotten home does. Anyway, here is the recipe that served as the inspiration for the soup I made tonight:

Italian Wedding Soup
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Show: Everyday Italian

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
Freshly ground black pepper

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound curly endive, coarsely chopped (1 pound of escarole would be a good substitution)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Finish soup with parmesan cheese if desired.

Thank you, Giada, that sounds delicious but time-consuming. Additionally, I have zero patience for making meatballs and even if I could find escarole or endive at our yucky grocery store, I would have no interest in ingesting either. Here is the recipe as I made it tonight:

2.5 boxes chicken stock
1 box frozen spinach
1 bunch parsley
2 eggs
2 tbs parsley
2 c dry egg noodles
2/3 pkg trader joe's mini meatballs
15 cranks of the pepper grinder

In a large stockpot, bring 10 cups of chicken stock and two cups of water to a boil. For me, using 12 full cups of store-bought chicken stock would be wayyyyyyyy too salty, so if I don't have any homemade chicken stock on hand (or am too lazy to thaw it), I add water. Once, it's boiling, reduce heat to medium and add everything else and cook for about 8-9 minutes, or until noodles and meatballs are cooked. Reduce heat and add the eggs beaten with parmesan, making sure to temper the eggs first by gradually adding about 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the eggs before drizzling the eggs into the soup. If you don't, you'll end up with scrambled egg chunks in your soup and this is not very appetizing. For me, serving with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese is a must!

Enjoye! :-)