Thursday, March 30, 2017

Red Pepper and Herb Cheese Spread

The versatility of roasted red bell peppers never ceases to amaze me. My pantry is seldom without one or two jars (Usually more!), and, weekly, if not more often, I find myself digging into one. 

This week I was in the mood for a nice cheese spread. I love keeping it on hand, not just for spreading onto crackers, but also for filling celery, piping into pitted and drained black olives, and stirring into deviled egg filling. So, wanting something both replete with red peppers and lots of herb-y taste, I came up with this red pepper and herb cheese spread. 

You are going to love it, and you're going to love me even more when I show you the wonderful ways in which I used it. Be sure to come back tomorrow for a delicious lunch idea, and then check in on "Sip Some Soup Sunday" to see what I did with it then. In the meantime, gather your ingredients, and set to work.
Red Pepper and Herb Cheese Spread

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 medium garlic glove, minced
1 whole pepper from a jar of Melissa’s Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers, chopped
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
 Pinch of salt

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the butter and cheese.  If it is truly at room temperature, it will blend together quickly and be very creamy.  Add garlic and red pepper; blend.  Add all remaining ingredients and mix well.  Turn out into a lidded container large enough to hold the cheese, and store it in the refrigerator.  This will keep for two weeks.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cheesy Garlic Pizza Sticks

​After I did my post on Tomato Bisque, a number of you contacted me, curious to know about the cheesy deliciousness that I served alongside the soup.

I call them Cheesy Garlic Pizza Sticks. It's a recipe that I made up on the fly. I wanted something full of cheesy goodness to nosh on alongside the soup; melted cheese and tomato soup always go so well together. My plan was that the soup was going to be a meal, so I knew I needed something to make it a bit heartier.

I had some pizza dough in the refrigerator (A can of Pillsbury brand pizza dough that I'd bought with something in mind, then completely forgot what that something was.), that was about to expire, so I popped it open, spread it out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and went to work. I softened a bit of butter and smeared it over the top, then I added some garlic powder, garlic salt, and Italian seasoning, and then topped everything with layers of cheese, sprinkling a little dry parsley over the top for color. I used a pizza cutter to cut it into long strips, and then cut those strips in half. I slid it into the oven while I was warming the soup, and by the time the soup was ready, so were the little cheese garlic sticks.

They were so good that I could've made an entire meal out of them. Sometimes you just have to get creative.
Cheesy Garlic Pizza Sticks

1 tube Pillsbury refrigerated pizza doughthin
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment (I use this kind.), and roll out pizza dough to fit baking sheet.

Spread softened butter over the top and sprinkle on the remaining ingredients in the order listed.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is slightly browned. Cut garlic sticks to desired size with pizza cutter.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Thinking of April Tablescape

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is taking great pity on poor April the giraffe.
Honestly, the press really should leave her alone.
For those of you who’ve produced offspring, you know how uncomfortable those last weeks of a pregnancy can be.

Would you want someone gawking at you the way everyone's been gawking at her?

No wonder she hasn't delivered her calf yet. She's probably a nervous wreck!
Because I've been thinking a lot about her, I decided to set a table in her honor.
I didn't realize that I had nearly as many giraffe things as it turned out that I did, so it was fun to put this together.
I've had my giraffe collection of items for quite some time now, many of which are no longer available, but if you like what you see and would like to create your own exotic table, you can get the look here:

Green Cabbage Leaf Majolica Pottery Dinner Plate

2 Piece Giraffe and Zebra Shaker Set

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Brio Tuscan Grille's TOMATO BISQUE

No matter the season, when it comes to comfort food, soup in particular, nothing satisfies like tomato soup. It was probably one of the first soups most of us experienced. It was creamy and warm and comforting and flavorful, and that soup eating experience stayed with us our entire lives. Now, as an adult, there is no more soup in a can for me, I make my own. 

I have a lot of good recipes for tomato soup, but this is one of my favorites. It's from Brio Tuscan Grille and was published in the Post-Dispatch years ago. Every time I make it and serve it, people go crazy. It's rich and caloric, so the best way to serve this is in a cup (or a Lotus Soup Bowl). It's a must try, so relax, put your feet up, and enjoy a delicious bowl of homemade tomato bisque on Sip Some Soup Sunday.
Makes 8 (1 cup) servings.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
2 (14 oz.) cans vegetable broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 1/4 cups canned tomato puree
1 (0.4 oz.) package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup water
4 cups heavy cream

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Whisk in chicken and vegetable broths; add bouillon, whisking until it dissolves. Bring to a boil. Whisk in tomato paste and puree. Add dry ranch dressing mix; stir until smooth. Simmer 15 minutes over low heat.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water; stir until smooth. Stir into soup. Increase heat to medium; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 4 minutes. Stir in cream; cook until hot, but do not let return to a boil.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Spicy Thai Shrimp Pasta

In the years before we were married, my future husband had a large home in the city. Because he had so much space, he offered up a room to a visiting professor from Princeton. The three of us were quite a trio, going on a lot of “dates” together because the visiting professor, Corby, didn't have a lot of other people to hang out with.

Every Saturday we would go to the historic Soulard Farmers Market in the city of St. Louis. It was always bustling, colorful, and a fun place to be. The three of us would split up, get various things, and then meet at the entrance to the market, where we would compare notes, and then go off to have lunch.

One time, Jim and I stayed together loading up on all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and fresh herb plants. When we met up with Corby at the entrance and started walking toward the car we asked him what he’d bought. He looked at us with puzzlement and said, “I bought a duck.” And then he shook his head and said, “Why did I buy a duck? I have no idea what I'm going to do with this duck.”

 The reason I tell you this story is that yesterday I bought shrimp. A lot of shrimp. I have no idea what I'm going to do with the shrimp, and, like Corby, I don't know why I bought the shrimp. I never buy fish or seafood that was always Jim's job, so somehow I guess I felt like should buy shrimp. So now, the search is on for ways in which to use it. I'll get back to you. In the meantime, I tried this recipe, and it is delicious!

Spicy Thai Shrimp Pasta
Adapted from Noble Pig

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 Melissa's serrano pepper, seeded and deveined
1 stalk Melissa's lemon grass, sliced into ¼” pieces
1 garlic clove
1 (1" piece) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb.  large shrimp, deveined, shells, tails removed and sliced lengthwise
8 oz. angel hair pasta, prepared according to package

Chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions
Sweet Red Chili Sauce
Lime wedges
 Red pepper flakes (optional)

Add all ingredients for the sauce into the bowl of a blender.  Puree until completely smooth. Set aside.

Over medium heat in a very large nonstick pan, sauté shrimp in 1 tablespoon of oil until opaque. Add reserved sauce from blender and warm over gentle heat. Stir in cooked pasta until combined.

Garnish with sliced green onion and drizzle each serving with Sweet Red Chili Sauce, if desired.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spiralized Potato Gratin

As you all know, because I've told you this before, I hate gadgets. I think they are largely unnecessary, a pain in the neck to store, and an expense that we can all do without. All of this said, I caved, and bought a spiralizer, this one. The spiralizer is unique in that it does something no other kitchen implement will do, namely turn fruit and vegetables into noodles. If you like that idea, then you may want one of these of your own.

I have to admit, I found this little device intriguing. It made short work of an onion and potato, which I spiralized immediately upon taking it out of the box. I turned these into an excellent potato casserole. It took no time at all, and is one I will certainly make again. I also decided, as I eagerly watched my onion turn into thin ribbons, that I am going to put this to good use when I make my giant vats of onion soup. And, just today, I came home with zucchini from the store, so I will be making what has come to be referred to as “zoodles,” and let you know what I think about them.

Honestly, you don't really need one of these things, but they are a good bit of fun. Here's the recipe that I used to make the casserole. Give it a try; I think the entire family is going to love this one. I mean, come on, who doesn't like onions, potatoes, and cheese?
Spiralized Potato Gratin
From The Spiralizer Cookbook

2 yellow onions, peeled and ends trimmed
5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 russet potatoes (about 3-1/2 pounds total weight), ends trimmed
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
Roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving (optional)

Cut a slit in one side of each onion, stopping near the center. Spiralize the onions using the straight blade.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and sauté until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool

Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease a 4-quart baking dish

Spiralize the potatoes using the shredder blade, stopping to break or cut the strands every 3 to 4 rotations. Transfer the potatoes to the bowl with the onions and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the salt, pepper, and two thirds of the Gruyere until well mixed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish and sprinkle the remaining Gruyere over the top. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the knife inserts easily into the center of the gratin, 20 to 30 minutes.

Let rest for five minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired, and serve.
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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beer-Steamed Potatoes

A person can learn a lot on Instagram. I am relatively new to Instagram, but over the course of the last 18 months, I've gotten lots of recipes, gardening and decorating ideas, fashion and home embellishment ideas, and made a lot of new friends.
The other day as I was scrolling through the pictures, I came across this one in Melissas Produce’s feed. These potatoes looked really good to me, and I was looking for something to have with the crockpot meatloaf (that I told you about last week), but I wasn't about to fire up the grill to make a couple of potatoes. So this caused me to wonder whether or not these could be done in the oven as easily as they could on the grill. I figured, why not?
So, with a very few adjustments to the original recipe, I lined a round casserole dish with foil, placed the ingredients inside, sealed it up, and baked it for 400°F for about an hour.
The potatoes were absolutely delicious, and the following day made great hash browns with my morning omelet, and the day after that made excellent German potato salad.
A lot of the flavor comes from the stout that I used, in this case, Corner Kick Coffee Stout from Six Mile Bridge Brewery, but these particular potatoes from Melissa's are buttery and delicious on their own. This is an easy dish to make, and it pairs well with beef, chicken, pork, or fish. You might want to give this a try. It would certainly be a nice addition to your upcoming Easter brunch.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lunching with Leprechauns

As you know, because I have droned on and on about it for what seems like forever, I am always behind when it comes to preparing for holidays. I don't know why this is, because I am generally not a procrastinator, and tend to be fairly well organized; I guess I'm just in denial that another holiday looms ahead. Who knows, but whatever the case, I did manage to do a special table for St. Patrick's Day. I call it “Lunching with Leprechauns” because I liked the alliteration, but, truth be told, it was dinner.
This table was put together in about 30 minutes. My son, and two adorable grandchildren, were coming for dinner and I decided to make their favorite meal and set a pretty table.
I am always charmed by the fact that my offspring, and grand offspring, appreciate what I do, and don’t hesitate to comment. In fact, they're beginning to expect it, so the pressure is on when it comes to inviting family over for even the most casual of meals.
I bought the leprechaun at Pier 1 early in the season figuring that I would use it in a table setting, and then promptly forgot about it. When it fell out of the pantry and hit me on the head, it served as a reminder that I hadn't set a table yet.
The basket is one that my son had given me, and normally corrals seasonal greenery and a candle in the coffee table vignette. The tissue paper I had found in the closet in my office while in search of something else, the little shamrock plant is an annual tradition for me, and I absolutely love them.
I decided to do something other than just green, as you can see, and I ended up quite liking the combination of the two bold colors.
The placemats (both round and rectangular) are from Pier 1, the cabbage plates are Portugal Majolica, and the dinner plates are the Blanc Amelie pattern from Maison Versailles.
The napkin rings are from Pottery Barn, the napkins are a combination of a dinner napkin that I bought at Pier 1, and an adorable St. Patrick's Day cocktail napkin set that was made for me by my aunt.
The stemware is from Pier 1, and a favorite of mine, particularly during the spring and summer months.
The little St. Patrick's Day treat buckets I picked up at Michael's a number of years ago, and the green popcorn, like the shamrock plant, is an annual tradition.
The little black cauldrons were purchased months ago with the idea that I would use them on Halloween, but they ended up serving well as a little pot of gold. I initially thought I would put foil-covered chocolate coins in the pots, but I really don't like that waxy chocolate, so I decided to use Rollos instead. I love the look, but, be forewarned if you would like to do the same, you will have to buy the big bag of Rollo candies because each one of these little cauldrons held 15 of them!
To finish off the little popcorn buckets I decided to cover a Hershey bar with a reproduction of a St. Patrick's Day vintage postcard. Boys would get a boy postcard, and we girls would get one with a girl on it.
I didn't get this idea until about an hour before they were about to arrive, so quickly printed these out, trimmed them into rectangles, and wrapped them around the Hershey bar before plunging them into the buckets. Considering it didn't take long, I really like the look.
The flatware is what I have been using all winter long because I absolutely love it. I realize that it is kind of wintry, but that doesn't matter to me I like it anyway, and it is really cold here today, so it's still fitting. It came from Cabela’s.
I hope you enjoy St. Patrick's Day no matter what you do; tomorrow I'm making a traditional St. Patrick's Day lunch and taking it to my dad.

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