8/27/14

Are You A Baller? No Worries: Just Make Curried Cheese Balls!


Sometimes cookbooks unexpectedly show up at my front door. There are worse things in the world! Most of the time I look through the books and right away decide whether I'll keep them or donate them. When I received a preview copy of Michelle Buffardi's Great Balls of Cheese cookbook, I knew I'd keep it. First of all, it is an adorable size. Second of all, it has cute photos. Thirdly, it has recipes with CHEESE! Who doesn't love cheese?

I'll admit the book sat on my coffee table for months. Finally, this past weekend I decided to make one of the recipes. It wasn't hard to choose which recipe to try first: Curried Cheese Ball called my name! Not only did it have curry (duh), but it was encrusted with one of my favorite nuts ever: pistachios!


It was also an excuse to use the newest kitchen toy I splurged on!!!



The recipe below is copied directly from the book. The only changes I made was to leave out the onion and to form the mixture into a log and then into 3 balls instead of making one giant ball. BALLS!!!

Curried Cheese Ball(s)
Serves 15 to 20 

Excerpted from Great Balls of Cheese, © 2013 by Michelle Buffardi.

Some people think they don't like curry powder; they assume it's spicy--but it's spiced, not spicy. If you have those kinds of guests at a party, just call this a cheese ball and don't mention the curry until after they've eaten a whole bunch and want to know the source of the unbelievable flavor.

Ingredients

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped dates
1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet onion
1 tablespoon mango chutney (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons mild curry powder
Pinch coarse salt
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup chopped unsalted pistachios, toasted, for coating
Crackers or crudités, for serving

Instructions
Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, cheddar, dates, onion, mango chutney, if using, curry powder, salt, and cayenne, if using, until combined. Form the mixture into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Before serving, roll the cheese ball in the pistachios to coat.

Serve with crackers or crudités.






This was a great recipe: incredibly easy to make, delicious and huge quantity! I've been eating this for breakfast with mini bagels or Wasa crackers.

Have you ever made a cheese ball???
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book free of charge but was under no obligation to blog about it and was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

8/25/14

My New Kitchen Toy Splurge & Ina Garten's Chocolate Chunk Blondies


After years of thinking about a KitchenAid stand mixer and hoping that KitchenAid will just send me one (I'm a blogger y'all....kidding...not totally), I finally did it. I SPLURGED and bought one for myself. Because if I don't treat myself, who would? This was sort of an impulsive purchase...even though I've looked at several models over the years and posted several links on my FB page getting my friends' opinions, I've never REALLY seriously thought about buying one...after all, I'm not much of a baker. But then people said it did not matter: I will just find uses for it.

Plus, they are SOOOO pretty. SOOOOOOOOOOO, earlier this month I was watching a show on QVC and they had a new model of the KitchenAid stand mixer for a great value in a zillion colors. I sort of wanted a bright yellow one, but theirs was really light, so I went with my standard favorite kitchen color: RED.

How gorgeous is it??? I'm still thinking about what to name it ;)

 
I used my stand mixer for the first time this weekend when I made Ina Garten's Chocolate Chunk Blondies from her Foolproof cookbook. I've made several recipes from this book in the past, and every single one was a success. This was no different.


Ina Garten's Chocolate Chunk Blondies from her Foolproof cookbook
Ingredients

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate chunks, such as Nestlé's


Shout out to Madecasse for sending me a sample of their wonderful pure vanilla extract. It has an intoxicating sweet scent and was a great addition to the recipe.

"The beans for this extract are hand-cultivated on the northeast coast of Madagascar.
Two-fold "Baker's Secret" formula made with 2x the beans of regular extracts."


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and with the mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Fold the walnuts and chocolate chunks in with a rubber spatula.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes exactly. Don't overbake! A toothpick may not come out clean. Cool completely in the pan and cut into bars.
 



Ta da! Clearly I could not wait until the blondies were completely cooled. They smelled too good. So I took out a chunk and ate it warm with a cold cup of milk. DIVINE. Even though I used large chocolate chips instead of chocolate chunks, they melted beautifully and made this such a decadent dessert. Also, using Kosher salt added a great contrast to the sweetness of the dessert.

This was another successful recipe by the Barefoot Contessa.


Once the blondies cooled, they became thinner and more solid. They were still awesome, but I preferred them warm and gooey.


And guess what? They are wonderful to share with friends. Cut into pieces, wrap in parchment paper and tie with a bow.


Happy Monday!!!
Other recipes I've made from Foolproof:
Ina Garten's Carrot Cake Recipe from Foolproof Cookbook
What to do with a Boneless Leg of Lamb? Ina to the rescue.
Love Chickpeas But Tired of Hummus? Ina Garten Can Help!
What to do with White Beans? Ina to the Rescue

8/20/14

Play With Your Food: Watermelon, Tomato & Cucumber Skewers


There are so many serious, heartbreaking, disappointing and just sad things happening in the world. Sometimes, the smallest things can brighten your mood, so go ahead and buy yourself flowers, or put on your favorite perfume, or eat a piece of dark chocolate, or have a mini dancing party, or play with your food! These Watermelon, Tomato & Cucumber Skewers are not going to solve all of life's heartaches, but they will make you smile. Plus, they are easy to make, fun to eat, and taste delicious!

Play With Your Food: Watermelon, Tomato & Cucumber Skewers


I used a small ♥ shaped cookie cutter, but you can simply cut your watermelon into cubes.

For the tomatoes, I used mini versions of zebra tomatoes, but you can use cherry or grape tomatoes.


I also used fresh basil!


Basically all you need to do is skewer watermelon, tomato, cucumber and basil in an appealing design. Then go ahead and drizzle the skewers with a bit of olive oil and season with kosher salt.

That's it!



If you don't like the idea of the skewers, simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl and eat with a fork.

This is a great easy to make and attractive appetizer to serve at summer parties!

8/18/14

What To Do With Eggplant: Eggplant Caponata


There are those who hate eggplant. I don't understand those people. After all, there's so much that you can do with it:
 
Last week, I decided to try something new: Eggplant Caponata. The recipe I used as a template included pine nuts, golden raisins, cinnamon and cocoa powder as the flavoring agents, and I must admit I was somewhat hesitant about how the combination of these ingredients would taste. Still, I decided to give it a try because it was a recipe Sassy Radish adapted from Mario Batali and both of these people seem credible enough to me ;)
 
What To Do With Eggplant: Eggplant Caponata
Adapted from Sassy Radish who adapted it from Mario Batali

Ingredients
olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
6 tablespoons pine nuts
6 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (or less if you don't like your food SPICY)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 small eggplants, diced into 1/4"
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons dark cocoa powder
14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
to serve: sliced toasted baguette OR smashed potatoes (smashed potatoes definitely win)



Directions
1. In a large heavy-bottomed pan heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat slightly down, add chopped onion, pine nuts, raisins, red pepper flakes and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, making sure to stir the ingredients and not to burn the garlic.
2. Add cubed eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, vinegar, water, and season with salt and pepper. You will most likely need more salt than you think. Bring the mixture to a boil.
3. Lower the heat and simmer caponata for 20 minutes.
4. Allow caponata to cool if serving as a crostini or serve steaming hot on top of smashed potatoes garnished with fresh parsley.


This recipe makes A LOT! The flavors of the dish get better the longer the dish sits in the refrigerator. I was surprised that I liked the combination of pine nuts and raisins with cinnamon and cocoa powder: it actually reminded me of the flavors you'd find in Moroccan cooking.

What do YOU make with an eggplant?

8/14/14

Summer Squash & Corn Fritters with Buttermilk Sauce


On Monday I shared a recipe for Summer Squash, Zucchini & Blue Cheese Tian. If you STILL have summer squash sitting around and want another idea for using it, I present to you Summer Squash & Corn Fritters with Buttermilk Sauce.

This recipe uses the summer bounty of summer squash and corn and is great straight out of a skillet, but can also be FROZEN! Trust me! I've tested this out for you :)


Summer Squash & Corn Fritters with Buttermilk Sauce
Makes ~ 10 fritters

Ingredients
2 summer squash, grated, and liquid discarded
kernels from 2 corn on the cob
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup panko crumbs
10 basil leaves, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil

buttermilk sauce (same one I used in the Grilled Eggplant with Cherries, Pine Nuts & Buttermilk Sauce recipe)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 garlic clove, microplane'd
pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions
1. In a bowl combine the first 7 ingredients.
2. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Using a 1/4 cup measure, form fritters and sauté in olive oil for about 5 minutes on each side.
3. In a small bowl whisk together ingredients for the buttermilk sauce.
4. Serve fritters topped with the buttermilk sauce.






I suppose these could be called pancakes, but fritters sounds so much more fun, fancy, and just better. These are great for any meal of the day.


What have you been cooking lately? Don't be a stranger! Share!

8/11/14

What to do with Summer Squash and Zucchini? Summer Squash, Zucchini & Blue Cheese Tian


Are you overwhelmed with the amount of summer squash and zucchini you are getting from your garden, CSA, famers market or grocery store? Have you already made zucchini pancakes, zucchini bread, zucchini "noodles," and zucchini soup? Do you need another idea for a creative recipe? Well, I'm here to help.

A few weeks ago I had a giant yellow summer squash and a giant zucchini in my fridge, a chunk of blue cheese and some parsley, so I created Summer Squash, Zucchini & Blue Cheese Tian. This dish received a lot of love from my instagram followers and I hope you will too love this. Serve this tian hot out of the oven as a side dish or a main course with crusty bread...it all depends on how hungry you are.

Summer Squash, Zucchini & Blue Cheese Tian
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
1 large summer squash, cut into 1/4" slices
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4" slices
olive oil
salt & pepper
1/4 cup packed parsley leaves
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/3-1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese {Note: to make crumbling the blue cheese easier, put it in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes.}
optional: chopped fresh parsley as a garnish {I meant to do this, but forgot and took all the final photos without the garnish....ooops!}


Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425F. In a bowl, coat summer squash and zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in a single layer 10-15 minutes on each side.


2. Meanwhile, in a food processor combine parsley, garlic cloves and salt and chop finely. Add panko crumbs and set aside.


3. In a baking dish, layer the roasted summer squash and zucchini rounds, slightly overlapping the vegetables.
4. Top the vegetables with the parsley/garlic/panko crumb mixture and drizzle with olive oil. Top with crumbled blue cheese and bake for 8-10 minutes. THEN broil until golden brown for a few more minutes.
5. Serve right away topped with chopped fresh parsley.



How beautiful does this look? If you are not a fan of blue cheese, feel free to use mozzarella, feta, cheddar or whichever cheese you like!


What's your go-to dish to make with summer squash and zucchini?

8/8/14

Sabra Salsa Burger with Peaches, Avocado & Sriracha Mayo


Happy Friday! It's almost the weekend!!! Hard to believe last week at this time I was in CA discovering the beauty of Yosemite after spending a few days learning about Sabra's salsa. You can read all about it in my Wednesday post.

In that post I mentioned that I teamed up with Sabra to create 3 recipes with their salsa and today I'm sharing the first one: Sabra Salsa Burger with Peaches, Avocado & Sriracha Mayo.

I decided to add salsa inside the burger patties for the following reasons:
1) salsa adds excellent flavor
2) salsa keeps the beef burgers juicy

Make sure to try this recipe this weekend and also check out Sabra's special website for their salsa line where you can find videos of farmers singing to tomatoes, coupons, sweepstakes and recipes.



Sabra Salsa Burger with Peaches, Avocado & Sriracha Mayo
Makes 4

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
1 cup Sabra's pico de gallo salsa, drained
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
olive oil
4 slices Pepper jack cheese
4 Kaiser buns, toasted
mayonnaise
sriracha
1 peach, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
serve with boiled corn on the cob

Directions
1. In a bowl mix together ground beef, drained salsa, chopped cilantro and salt and pepper. Form 4 patties making sure the middle of each is thinner than the outside: that way when the burger cook, the middle will puff up and you'll end up with flat burgers instead of having a puffed up center.
2. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet and cook the patties 3-5 minutes on each side depending on how rare you like yours to be. Right before the burger is almost done, top each with a slice of cheese, cover the skillet and cook an extra minute or so until the cheese completely melts.
3. Combine mayonnaise with sriracha to make the sauce: use whichever quantity you want.
4. Smear each side of the Kaiser rolls with the sriracha mayonnaise. Then build your burgers with the rest of the ingredients.

Here are mine!








These burgers were divine: juicy, well seasoned, messy and filling!

Disclosure: Sabra compensated me for recipe development. All opinions are my own.