Archive for Snack

Creamy Kalamata Spread

I’m back! After a crazy year of school, I’m hoping to get this blog going again, starting with this easy spread perfect for summer picnics and potlucks. It’s based off of something sold at my local co-op, except that has feta cheese and roasted red peppers in it as well. I would encourage the enclusion of 2 tbsp of chopped roasted red pepper if you have some around, but I didn’t. I included something else to make up for feta’s saltiness that keeps the price down: some of the brine from my olives.

I brought this to a picnic today and served it with slices of baguette. It would also be great with crackers or sliced fresh vegetables. This would also be a really easy recipe to double for a larger crowd. You can also use vegan “cream cheese” to serve friends who don’t eat dairy.

Prep time: 20 min, plus some chilling time.

Servings: 4-6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz neufchatel (low fat cream cheese)
  • 10-14 pitted Kalamata olives in brine, about 1/4 cup diced
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • pepper
  1. Put the cheese in a small bowl and set aside on the counter to warm slightly. Finely dice the olives and green onion, discarding the root end of the onions. Mince the garlic.
  2. Combine all ingredients in the bowl with cheese mixing thoroughly with a fork. Add 1/4 tsp olive brine and taste. Add more brine and pepper to taste. Alternatively, for a smoother dip, combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. (I like chunks of olives, but you may not.)
Advertisements

Leave a Comment

Banana Nut Bread

I bought a few bananas a while back, and before I knew it, they were much too “ripe” for me too eat. I prefer my bananas with a hint of green or possibly a lone brown freckle. But once there are a handful, I can’t quite bring myself to eat them as is. I often take these over-ripe bananas, slice them and freeze them for use in milkshakes. However, my freezer already has enough banana slices in it, and with the cool evenings we’ve had recently, I thought it was time for some banana bread.

Super ripe bananas are key for this recipe to provide the necessary sweetness. I made mine in three small loaf pans (about six inches by three inches). This made nice rounded loaves with golden tops, but the recipe could easily be spread into four loaf pans with less in them or one larger loaf. Keep the oven temperature the same, but adjust the baking time (more for a larger loaf, less for smaller ones). This recipe is a modification of the Better Homes and Gardens one.

pretty loaves

pretty loaves

Cooking time: 15 minutes prep, 35-45 minutes baking

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas (about 3 large)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  1. Grease and flour/spray with Baker’s Joy the inside of your loaf pan(s). Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine the first six ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, mash the bananas. Add the eggs, sugar and oil and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once. Mix well, but there will be some lumps. Add the nuts and mix a few more strokes.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). If using several small loaf pans, there should be at least an inch of space at the top of the pan.
  6. Bake in the oven about 20 minutes, then rotate the pan(s). Continue baking until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, 15 to 25 minutes more, depending on the size of the loaves.
  7. Cool on a wire rack at least ten minutes. Quick breads freeze well–just be sure the loaves are completely cool before doing so. I froze one of my loaves, wrapping it first in plastic wrap, then foil.

Leave a Comment

Tzatziki

Earlier this week, I made a feast of Greek food to send off a friend who studies Classics. When I visited and studied in Greece about four years ago, I fell in love with it. The people, the landscapes, the weather, the language and most certainly the food.

I bought a Greek cookbook while I was there so I could try to replicate some of the wonderful treats myself. However, like most translated cookbooks, the recipes aren’t always perfect. Besides the sometimes odd directions, there are poorly translated ingredients and many rough estimates of measurements. Many of these recipes clearly came out of a family kitchen where the cook learned to estimate based on how he or she knew the dish should turn out. Not exactly what a non-native needs.

I’m going to try to publish a few of my re-interpretations of these recipes in the next few days. However, I start with my tzatziki recipe, which is not from the book at all, but from watching the cook in the dig house where I was working. It’s best to start on this recipe at least a day if not two before you plan on eating it so that the flavors blend. That makes this a great entertaining recipe because making this ahead of time actually improves its flavors and leaves you free to work on other items.

This refreshing dip disappeared quickly at our dinner earlier in the week. I guess I should have doubled it!

Servings: 5-6 appetizer portions

Cooking time: Active time, about an hour. Start to finish, 2 days.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain yogurt (I used non-fat), or use 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt and skip step 1
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 3-4 garlic cloves (at least two tablespoons once minced)
  • 1 lemon
  • a little salt
  1. Line a sieve with cheese cloth or coffee filters (perhaps a double layer of coffee filters), and set this over a medium bowl. You should have 1-2 inches of space between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the sieve. Scoop the yogurt into the sieve. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.
  2. After the yogurt has drained (or maybe a little while before it’s done if you’re doing this all in one day), peel the cucumbers and slice them in half lengthwise. If you’re using large cucumbers, you may want to scoop out some of the seeds from the middle. Grate the cucumbers into a fine mesh strainer. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt (1/4 tsp is fine. Not more than 1/2 tsp.) Allow the cucumbers to sit in the sink or over a bowl and drain while you do step 3.
  3. Peel and mince the garlic. Scoop the drained yogurt out of the sieve and into a bowl. Add the minced garlic, stirring well, and set aside. Discard the yogurt whey.
  4. Back to the cucumbers. Wash your hands. Scoop all the cucumber shreds into a pile on one side of the strainer. Pick up a ball of shreds with your hands, 1/4 cup worth or so. Squeeze the cucumber over the empty side of the strainer. Amazing how much water it has, no? Do this with all the cucumber shreds. Once you think you’re done, push all the little balls of cucumber back together and squeeze them some more. I usually do this one against the side of the strainer. The amount of cucumber will probably be reduced by at least a third of what it was, if not a half. Mix these shreds into the yogurt.
  5. Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the lemon halves over the yogurt mix through one hand to catch the seeds. Mix well. Taste. It might need a little more lemon or salt, but you might want to add these just before you serve it because the flavors will change during step 6.
  6. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Taste again before serving. It should be very garlicky…and delicious. Serve with pita wedges or pita chips, with some olives on the side.

Comments (2)

Southern Feast, part 1

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

A little over a week ago, I had a few friends over for a southern feast. While most of the food here is fine Texas fare, I must admit the fried green tomatoes are something I picked up from my time with my parents in Memphis.

It was impossible to do all fine southern treats in one go, so there will have to be some other feasts of southern cuisine later in the summer (besides, okra isn’t in season here yet). I’m also not going to put all the recipes here because, well mostly because I’m lazy. too lazy to type them and was too lazy to measure things at the time. I also must admit with shame that I did not make good cream gravy to accompany everything, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m terrible at timing cooking, and we were all too hungry to wait for gravy. So I provide instead our menu with links to a few recipes for some of these items, followed by one recipe.

Menu:

  • Pimento Cheese with celery sticks and crackers
  • Chicken Fried Steak
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Fried Green Tomatoes with ranch dressing
  • Homemade Biscuits with butter and honey
  • Strawberry Shortcakes
  • Minty Spiked Lemonade

Pimento Cheese

For those not familiar with pimento cheese, it’s more of a dip than a cheese. You can serve it with celery, crackers, or whatever you like. It’s served cool to room temp., not hot. Any good homemade version should not be anything like that disgusting schmear found on “pimento cheese sandwiches” cut into quarters.

Serves: about 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (real Longhorn cheddar w/ the red wax is best if available, but it’s not in Iowa and it was still fine)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 4 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine-do not use fat free)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (same as above)
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • a few pecan halves (optional)
  1. Grate the cheddar cheese while it is still cold from the fridge (don’t use prepackaged shreds. They don’t have as much moisture). Then set the cheese aside to warm to room temperature. It’s easier to mix if it’s warmer, but easier to grate cooler.
  2. Meanwhile, dice the garlic clove and drain the pimentos (and dice them if you couldn’t find a jar of diced).
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the garlic, pimentos, mayo, sour cream, mustard and spices. Then mix in the cheese. Blend well.
  4. Pack into a smaller bowl, preferably one you will use for presentation. Cover tightly and chill at least two hours, preferably overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with a few pecan halves on top, perhaps in a nice pattern. Serve with dipping items.

Leave a Comment

Watch that chip…

At your Super Bowl party today, beware: don’t double dip! A new study proves that germs really do travel from mouth to chip back to dip during double dipping. It’s akin to kissing everyone with whom you share the dip. Just another reason to put a spoon in the dip and add a little to your own plate…and encourage others to do the same.

Leave a Comment

Melty Chocolate Snack

One afternoon, I found myself really wanting a crepe with Nutella. But as Paris is thousands of miles away and I didn’t care to try to make crepes myself, I decided to be a little creative. Granted, this sweet has none of the lightness of a crepe, but it was fast and quite satisfying.

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 10 minutes or less

Ingredients:

  • 1 flour tortilla, about 10 inches (try to find tortillas made locally that aren’t too doughy)
  • 2-3 tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1-2 tsp butter
  • dashes of cayenne pepper to taste
  1. Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat (whatever you use for grilled cheese sandwiches).
  2. Heat the tortilla on one side, then flip it over. On one half of the tortilla, while it’s in the pan, spread the butter. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the buttered half, then add the cayenne pepper.
  3. Fold the other half of the tortilla on top of the toppings and give it a good squish with a spatula. When the bottom is golden, flip it over and heat from the other side, squishing again so the chocolate spreads evenly.
  4. Cut into a couple of triangles and enjoy with a glass of milk.

Leave a Comment

the weirdest sandwich you ever loved

Searching for something tasty to bring for lunch that was quick to make but tired of peanut butter, I created a tasty sandwich out of random things in my fridge. The first time I made it, I used mustard where the cream cheese is currently, and it was too much tart stuff. I also didn’t have the onion, which provides a great crunch and a nice bite. I know the list of ingredients sounds odd, but I promise the flavors balance really well.

Sorry, there’s no picture…I ate the sandwich before I could take one!

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 15 minutes or less

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices wheat bread
  • 1-2 tbsp cream cheese (I like the whipped kind because it spreads more easily)
  • 2-3 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of red onion
  • 3-4 slices of apple
  • 1 large (sandwich-sized) slice of strongly-flavored cheese (I used Swiss, but sharp cheddar would be good too)
  • a nice lettuce leaf, or spinach leaves
  • a couple tbsp bottled roasted bell peppers
  1. Spread the cream cheese on one slice of bread and the hummus on the other slice.
  2. Quarter the onion slice (small pieces make it easier to eat). Layer the onion onto the cream cheese, followed by the apple slices, then the piece of cheese.
  3. Slice the bell peppers into strips about one inch long and 1/3 inch wide. Layer these on the hummus side. Top with the lettuce, and then the other half of the sandwich (the big slice of cheese keeps the ingredients in place when you flip it).
  4. Cut sandwich diagonally for extra enjoyment. Wrap it up, and put it in your lunch box.

Comments (1)