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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: June 2011

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

Eric and I revel in long weekends, but then again, who doesn’t? While we mostly fill our weekends doing things around the house, visiting the farmers market and seeing friends, this upcoming long weekend will be spent mostly eating. It’s summer, so cookouts are plenty right now. We’ve got two to attend this weekend. I’m hoping we can make our poblano burgers for one and this potato salad for the other.

Potato salad is a quintessential side dish for cookouts. Sure, it’s easy to purchase from your grocery store deli, but it’s almost as easy to make it yourself. This version is tossed with homemade ranch dressing and topped with crispy bacon pieces. Eric and I first made this when we had a couple friends over for Memorial Day. It took quite a bit of willpower not to snack on this before they arrived, and I kept eating spoonfuls of it while I was photographing it. The garlic, chives and parsley add vibrance and freshness to the ranch dressing. It gives this potato salad loads more flavor than the standard plain mustard or mayonnaise base and doesn’t weigh it down. I’ll actually be using this as my go-to ranch dressing recipe from now on. As if that wasn’t good enough, the potato salad is topped with crispy bacon and green onion, adding additional layers of flavor and texture. If you’re looking for that perfect side dish to take to summer cookouts, this is it.

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
Serves 6-8

2 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 small green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup buttermilk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked crisp

Cover potatoes with 1-2 inches of cold water and add the tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, chives, parsley, green onion, garlic, lemon juice and buttermilk in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Drain potatoes and transfer to a serving bowl. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in half of the ranch dressing. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Toss with remaining ranch dressing and top with bacon and additional chives or green onion if desired. Serve cold.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip
As a child, I loved onion dip and potato chips. You know the kind I’m talking about; it comes in a tub and can be purchased at nearly any grocery store. I haven’t eaten that stuff in years, but I’ve had variations of it several times (soup mix, anyone?). While that type of dip isn’t my favorite these days, there is something that is – caramelized onions. I think I could eat them in almost anything. If you search my blog for caramelized onions, you’ll find several recipes (consider this fair warning on how bad the pictures look) from my early days of blogging. Though if you’re a recent reader, you’d never know how much I love them since I haven’t posted any recipes with them in quite some time. I made this dip for my recent 24×24 party, and it was a huge hit. It’s upscale onion dip, and people could not get enough of it.

The dip, while simple, is incredibly flavorful. The sweet, caramelized onions really shine in this dip. And while I don’t love mayonnaise on its own, it really lends a richness to this that I don’t think could be achieved with just sour cream. This dip is also convenient for summer entertaining because it doesn’t require any baking and can be served at room temperature. Since I used a baguette for the goat cheese and roasted pepper crostini, I served this dip with crackers. I think it would be even better with warm, toasty baguette or cool, fresh vegetables. Of course, I won’t judge you if you decide to serve it with your favorite potato chips. No matter what you serve with it, this dip is sure to be a hit.

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip
Makes 2 cups

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Heat the oil in a medium skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and thyme. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium serving bowl, whisk together the sour cream and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cooled onions. Top with sliced green onion and serve immediately with toasted baguette, crackers, or vegetables.

Adapted from Hors d’Oeuvre at Home with The Culinary Institute of America

General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso

When Eric and I first met, I was an all white meat chicken kind of girl. Thankfully, I outgrew that phase and have since embraced something other than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This is the first recipe I’ve made using chicken thighs, and I have to tell you: I’m sold. Eric has long loved them, so he’s pretty happy that I’ve reached the same conclusion. Thigh meat is so incredibly flavorful and tender. I’m not sure why I didn’t cook with it sooner, but I clearly should’ve listened to my friend Elly, who has mentioned several times her love of chicken thighs.

This recipe is a nicer version of standard takeout fare, but I promise you won’t be getting takeout anytime soon with this recipe in your arsenal. I know there’s probably nothing authentic about this dish, and I’m okay with that because it tastes fantastic. And while I certainly wouldn’t call it healthy, it’s definitely healthier than its takeout counterpart. Instead of being deep fried, the chicken is coated in a cornstarch mixture before being pan fried (similar to one I posted last year, but much tastier). The chicken gets crispy on the outside and stays tender and moist on the inside. Overall, the dish has a sweet-spicy flavor, with a punch of freshness from the ginger. If you like things spicier, you can always add extra Sriracha. We followed the recipe and paired this with rice and steamed broccoli, but I think it would also be fantastic with carrots or sugar snap peas mixed in.

Looking for more takeout fakeouts? Here are a few of my favorites:
Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
Vegetable Fried Rice
Sesame Chicken

General Tso

General Tso’s Chicken
Serves 4

1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 large egg white
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon Chinese chile-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Steamed broccoli and white rice, for serving

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, egg white, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and all but 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch. Add chicken and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together chicken broth, chile-garlic sauce, sugar, remaining soy sauce and cornstarch. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over high heat and add the ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about a minute. Whisk the broth mixture, then add it to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and glossy. Reduce heat to low to keep sauce warm.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil over high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken carefully, one piece at a time. Cook chicken, turning once or twice until very browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then add to sauce. Stir in green onions. Serve immediately with broccoli and rice.

Slightly adapted from Food and Wine, May 2011

Spicy Poblano Burgers with Chipotle Cream

Spicy Poblano Burgers with Chipotle Cream
If you were to ask me what I love most about summer, my answer would most definitely be grilling (or more specifically, grilled food). I love the carefree feeling that comes with summer weekends – cooking out with friends, enjoying drinks, playing games in the backyard. Summer is so leisurely and no-fuss, and I love that about it. While I’m always up for standard cookout fare, sometimes it’s fun to dress things up a bit. This burger does that but still maintains that laid-back summer feeling.

Eric and I both love poblano peppers, so I was pretty excited when I stumbled across this recipe in a stack of cooking magazines my friend Jackie gave me. What’s not to love about hamburgers that incorporate poblanos and chipotles? These burgers are slightly more involved than regular ones, but the payoff is well worth it. This recipe uses ground sirloin, which many people would consider to be too lean to make decent burgers. However, these are some the juiciest and most succulent burgers I’ve ever had. The secret is something that may surprise you – bread. If you’ve ever made meatballs, you may be familiar with the term panade, which is basically a paste made of bread and milk. That mixture is what keeps these burgers tender and moist and is the reason you can use a leaner cut of meat. The burgers are full of flavor from the roasted poblanos and spices, but the chipotle cream turns them into something magical. It is a bit spicy, but it complements the burgers so well. Eric and I made these for ourselves this time, but we’ll definitely be making these for friends next time we have a cookout.

If you’re only making two of these, the uncooked patties freeze well and just need to be thawed in the refrigerator before being grilled.

Spicy Poblano Burgers with Chipotle Cream

Get the recipe »

Corn Cakes with Goat Cheese

Corn Cakes with Goat Cheese

Corn is one of my favorite vegetables, and I buy it pretty much every week throughout summer. I savor the abundance of corn at the farmers market every weekend and dread the day when it’s no longer in season. The thing is, though, I rarely use corn as anything other than a side dish. I love grilled corn on the cob, and there are so many ways to change it up (read: compound butters), but I really wanted to showcase corn as a main course. I’ve only got one other recipe on my blog that does this, which is unacceptable for someone who loves corn the way I do.

This recipe is one of those ambiguous ones that could work for breakfast/brunch, lunch or dinner. The recommended side was deli ham crisped under a broiler. I don’t really like ham and wanted something more substantial than that anyway. Luckily for me, Eric whipped up a batch of bacon and white balsamic vinaigrette, which he tossed with baby arugula, red onion, goat cheese and bacon. It was pretty fantastic, and I liked the play on breakfast by incorporating bacon into the salad and dressing. The salad was perfect with the corn cakes, which turned out much better than I expected. I wasn’t sure how flavorful they’d be, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them. The corn really shines, which is exactly what I wanted. The zucchini adds a pop of color and an extra dimension of flavor and texture. I especially liked that there was just enough batter to hold the cakes together. The outside was browned and crunchy, and the corn kernels retained their pop. The tangy goat cheese added a nice contrast to the sweet corn and really helped tie the whole meal together. I don’t normally think of corn cakes and a tossed salad as elegant, but this was definitely close.

Corn Cakes with Goat Cheese

Corn Cakes with Goat Cheese
Serves 2

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (from 2 ears corn)
1/2 cup diced zucchini (about half of a small zucchini)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 green onion, very thinly sliced
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Goat cheese, crumbled, for serving

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add the corn and zucchini and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes before mixing in the green onion, egg and cornmeal.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop mixture into skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the bottom is nicely browned. Flip and continue cooking an additional 2-3 minutes until cakes are completely cooked through. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Everyday Food, May 2010