cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese

Just before Christmas, one of the moms from our 3rd grade class hosted a gingerbread house decorating party for some of her daughter’s friends.  We happened to be on the guest list and had a blast.  Not only was it fun because the kids had a ball decorating their houses with all sorts of edible sweeties, but she had a spread of real food (and beverages) for those of us who don’t find Skittles and Everlasting Gob-Stoppers nearly as interesting as we used to.

One of the appetizers she served was a goat cheese roll smothered in the most delicious cranberry sauce ever.  I begged her for the recipe.  She said, “I got it at Costco.”

Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m not a fan of Costco for a litany of reasons, and I had successfully avoided becoming a Costco member for a long, long, long time.  But then we got a dog.  And dog food is a lot cheaper at Costco.  Also, apparently I can buy Fage yogurt and 12-grain bread at a deep discount.  Not to mention, gas is 30 cents a gallon less expensive, and when you’re fueling with premium gasoline that’s a big deal.  So, now we’re Costco members.  Yippee!!

But I’m not buying prepared appetizers at Costco!  No matter how yummy they are!!

This recipe was easy enough to find and easy to put together.  On top of that, I’d put it up against the mass-produced Costco version (admittedly delicious) any day.  It was wonderful.  The cranberry sauce is tangy and lemony, yet with the warmth and savoriness of cinnamon.  It was one of my favorite appetizers on New Year’s Day.  I think it would also work as a Super Bowl party appetizer – the cranberries are pretty festive, but we’re not so far removed from the holidays that you couldn’t pull it off on game day.  Enjoy!

Cranberry-Cinnamon Goat Cheese (recipe courtesy Mission Food)

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 11 oz. log goat cheese
  • Crackers, for serving

Directions:

  1. Add cranberries, sugar, water, orange zest, and cinnamon to saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 8 to 10 minutes. The cranberries will pop, the mixture will foam and subside, and the sauce will thicken as the cranberries break down.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spread about 1/2 cup of the cranberry mixture onto the plastic wrap, a little longer and wider than the goat cheese log. Lay the goat cheese log on top of the cranberry sauce and spread more sauce over the top and sides of the goat cheese (much like frosting a cake). There should be about 1/4-inch thick layer of cranberry sauce over all the sides of the goat cheese.
  4. Wrap the plastic wrap around the cranberry-coated goat cheese log and refrigerate.
  5. Remove the goat cheese from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to allow the cheese to slightly soften and become easier to spread. Remove plastic wrap before serving!

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white bean dip with rosemary and sage

Well, hello there,  2014!!!  By my calculations, I’m only about two weeks late to the party, but, hey…life has a way of being lived sometimes and I have to admit there’s been little time for cooking AND photographing.  Just cooking, lately, and Brownie meetings to supervise, and piano lessons to patiently sit through, and puppy obedience classes to attend.  Also, believe it or not, it gets dark really early this time of year in the desert.  By 5:30, if I haven’t cooked, plated, and photographed, there’s just not enough natural light.

Ahhh, excuses, excuses, excuses.  Enough of that, on to the bean dip.

I made this for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012.  It was a huge hit with our guests and, even though it was just going to be the three of us this year (one of whom wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole), I decided to do it again for our New Year’s Day feast.  We already had too much food, but this dip is so good (and gets better with each passing day), I was happy to have the leftovers for some post-celebration snacking.  It’s low in fat, high in flavor (lots of garlic goodness), and a good source of protein and fiber from the beans.  It’s also really fast and easy to assemble.  Put it together the day before you plan to serve it for maximum flavor mingling!  (I hear there’s a big football game in the not-too-distant future).  Serve with the crackers or crudités of your choice.  Enjoy!!

White Bean Dip with Rosemary and Sage (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, Aug 2007)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh sage sprig (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with pita wedges crackers, fresh veggies. Garnish with sage sprig, if desired.

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Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip

We had some friends in from Seattle over the New Year and I needed some snacky-type appetizers for the grazing while I worked on the crab cakes.  Mostly, I think the dips and crackers were more of a distraction so no one would notice I didn’t have a clue what I was doing with my crab cakes (which turned out amazingly well for a first-time effort, I might add).  Anyway, this was one of two bean dips I made and I have to say, as much as I liked this one, it wasn’t my favorite.  It needs some tweaking, I think.

What I’d change right off the bat is the amount of olive oil.  It only calls for two tablespoons, but because the recipe uses sun-dried tomatoes packed without oil, I found it a little too dry for my taste.  So I’d either add additional EVOO, or I’d opt for sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil to increase the moisture of the dip.

I might also shop a different brand of sun-dried tomatoes.  The ones I used must have had a higher sugar content because I did find this dip to be a little on the sweet side.  Just an FYI when purchasing ingredients.

If you’re not a huge garlic fan, don’t worry.  I love garlic but was leery of using an entire head of garlic for this recipes.  Fortunately, roasting garlic has the delightful effect of mellowing the flavor and virtually eliminating what some might perceive as pungent garlic overtones.  This dip won’t leave you with embarrassing garlic breath the next day (or, maybe it did and all of us had eaten so much of it we just didn’t offend each other).

Serve with pita wedges, Calabrese crackers, or fresh sliced veggies.  Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole garlic head
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) package sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15.8-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drainedDSC_4886

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap head in foil. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes; cool for 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.
  3. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add tomatoes; cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain tomatoes in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup liquid.
  4. Place garlic pulp, tomatoes, 1/4 cup reserved liquid, oil, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

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tomato feta and basil galette

Isn’t summer all about homegrown tomatoes and garden-fresh herbs?  I mean, I’d be hard pressed to ever grow tired of tomatoes chopped into salads or drizzled with balsamic over Buffalo mozzarella, but I’m not opposed to using the season’s bounty in new and unique ways.

I pulled this recipe from the June issue of Cooking Light; enticed by the variety of savory flavors, the textures, the colors, and the opportunity to use a few garden-fresh ingredients.  The cornmeal dough is easy-peasy to whip up, rolled out nicely, and created a beautiful crust.   Despite the fact I baked it on a really hot and muggy day, the galette was refreshing even warm from the oven.  The only thing I’d suggest is cutting down on the 1/4 tsp of salt the recipe has added to the tomatoes prior to baking.  I generally don’t salt tomatoes before I eat them and I found the finished product a little on the salty side for my taste.  Other than that, it’s an elegant but rustic addition to a meal, or served as an appetizer with a glass of wine before dinner.  Enjoy!

Tomato, Feta and Basil Galette

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 pint jewel box tomatoes or multicolored pear tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup small basil leaves

Directions:

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor; process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add ice water through food chute, and process just until combined (do not form a ball). Gently press the mixture into a 4-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 425°.

3. Unwrap dough, and roll dough into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, on top of dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Fold edges of dough over tomatoes to partially cover. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, and sprinkle with basil. Cut into 8 wedges and serve.

sweet corn and black bean salad

This salad is super easy to prepare and makes a really bright, festive addition to summer meals.  It combines sweet corn, black beans, juicy tomatoes and zesty cilantro, blended with a simple rice vinegar and lime dressing.  You can serve it with tortilla chips for dipping, but it works beautifully as a side dish, too.  Somewhere in a couple of cross-country moves, I lost my original recipe.  This one is adapted from a very similar recipe from Whole Foods.  Their recipe called for red bell pepper instead of tomato.  But, since we have a garden full of ripe tomatoes, I substituted them in and, honestly, think it’s better with the tomatoes.  Personal preference, though.  Use what you like.  Enjoy!

Sweet Corn and Black Bean Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can sweet corn, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels

  •  1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

  •  2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

  •  1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  •  1 tablespoon lime juice

  •  1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  •  1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  •  1 can low sodium, organic black beans, rinsed and drained

  •  2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

  •  1/3 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Directions:

Combine corn, beans and diced tomato.  Rinse minced onions in cold water to remove some of their sharp, acidic flavor; pat dry and add to corn, bean and tomato mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to make a dressing. Add beans, corn, onion and tomato and toss until just incorporated. Cover and chill for about 2 hours. Add cilantro and toss again before serving.

cheesy zucchini and red onion flatbread

I’ve been on a bit of a zucchini kick lately.  Justifiably so, I think, since zucchini is in season and it’s cheap, not to mention really good for you, delicious, yadda yadda yadda.  A few weeks ago I was able to disguise it in cake and Kat was none the wiser.  She ate it voraciously, willingly, happily.  But this time it wasn’t nearly so inconspicuous and she poo-poo’ed it, despite the fact it’s made with pizza dough and smothered with cheese.  Really, what’s not to like?

I’d had this recipe tacked on my office bulletin board for a few months and knew it would be good (need I mention carbs and cheese, again?).  But it’s not one of those things you can just whip up unless you’re serving at least six.  I was pretty well guilt-ridden after one slice.  It’s probably best served at a party (think your book club meeting or a game day party, i.e. Michigan State v. Notre Dame this weekend), where you can have that one guilt-inducing slice, but when you go back for seconds it’ll all be gone.

Enjoy!  (And, Go Green!!)

Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread

Recipe Courtesy: Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 refrigerated pizza dough (I used the frozen Sprouts brand, but Trader Joe’s carries the same thing)
  • 3/4 c garlic and herb cheese spread (such as Alouette or Boursin), divided
  • 3/4 c finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp chopped, fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini (yellow or green), cut crosswise into 1/8 inch rounds, divided
  • Olive oil

Preparation:

Thaw frozen pizza and let rise per directions on package.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet w/parchment paper; spray with nonstick spray.  Roll out dough on parchment paper to about 12 inches.  Spread half of herb cheese over 1 long half of dough, leaving 1/2 inch border.  Sprinkle with half the parmesan and 2 tablespoons parsley. Using parchment as aid, fold plain half of dough over filled half (do not seal edges).  Spread remaining herb cheese over top; sprinkle with remaining parmesan.  Remove enough outer layers of onion to yield 2 inch diameter core; cut into 1/8 inch rounds. Arrange 1 row of zucchini down each long side of dough.  Arrange onion rounds in row on top of the zucchini.   Brush vegetables with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake bread until puffed and golden brown at edges, about 24 minutes.

This recipe is also posted at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, Tuesdays at the Table . Click over to those blogs for lots of other recipes on this Tasty Tuesday.