Sunday, October 30, 2011

Black Bean Dip

This is based on the recipe for Paula Deen's Monster Mash, but I don't think we should limit it to just Halloween.  This dip has a place at your party table all year long.  It's extremely easy, and it was really good!  I liked it better when it was hot instead of when it had gotten to room temperature.

I let myself feel okay about eating huge quantities of this dip because I used fat free cream cheese, shredded cheese made with 2% milk, and organic fat-free black beans.  Surely that cancels out the bag of chips we ate along with it. 

It makes quite a bit, too, so you can save any leftovers (or in my case, what wouldn't comfortably fit into the 8x8 dish), and spread it in some tortillas with shredded chicken for a delicious soft taco later in the week.

Black Bean Dip

4 oz cream cheese
2 (20.5 oz) cans refried black beans
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
2 cups (8 oz) shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
Tortilla chips, for serving

Preheat oven to 325.  Lightly spray a 2-quart baking dish.  Cut cream cheese into small cubes and place on bottom of dish.  Combine beans, tomatoes, taco seasoning, and 1 cup of the shredded cheese, and spoon into the baking dish.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Remove from oven, and stir so that the cream cheese is combined with the other ingredients.  Turn on the broiler.  Top dip with the remaining cup of shredded cheese, and broil until the cheese has melted and is slightly browned.  Serve hot with tortilla chips. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carrot Cake Cookies

Let me recreate for you a conversation I had with Erica, one of my very closest friends, during our freshman year in college.

Me: Ooh, I love carrot cake!
Erica: You look like you'd love carrot cake.
Me: Why?
Erica: I don't know...
Me: Is it because I'm a redhead?
Erica: YES!

Whatever the reason, I do love carrot cake, and I couldn't wait to make these carrot cake cookies from Everyday Cooking for Two.  And I'm happy to report that they're everything I'd hoped they would be.  And more.  With cream cheese icing.

Now, I goofed on the icing.  I was trying to make it healthier.  (As if it matters--seriously.  It's cream cheese icing.  Who am I kidding?)  I tried using 2 1/2 tablespoons of applesauce instead of 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter, so the consistency is all wrong.  There are little lumps of powdered sugar that don't look appetizing.  

But if you could taste them, you wouldn't care.  

If I were really worried about making them healthier, I would have added the 1/3 cup of raisins that the recipe calls for, but I didn't have any at the house, so I didn't; you can.  Also, the original recipe says that baby carrots had less taste than regular carrots, so I used regular carrots.  It took me almost 3 carrots to reach 3/4 cup. 

You should make these as soon as you can.  The recipe made 21 cookies for me, but it depends on the size of the cookies.  These would be awesome for a holiday treat or for an everyday treat. 

Carrot Cake Cookies

4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup grated carrot
1/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350, and spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray.  Finely shred carrots and set aside.

Make the frosting first.  Cream together softened cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the vanilla and lemon juice, and continue to mix.  Slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Refrigerate until needed.

In a large mixing bowl combine the stick of melted butter with the brown sugar, white sugar, and egg yolk. Whisk or beat together.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.  Mix together well, and slowly combine with the butter/egg mixture.  Add the shredded carrot, the oats, and the raisins.  Mix well. 

Spoon onto cookie sheets in 1"-diameter dough balls.  Flatten them slightly with your fingers.

Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes; then rotate the pans, and bake for 8 more minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.  When cooled, frost with icing. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sweet and Savory Burgers

We LOVED these burgers!  I don't eat a lot of red meat, but I couldn't get enough of these.  I think the sauce is what made them extra good.  It was really spicy just to taste it on its own, but it was perfect with the burger on both sides of the bread (and as a dipping sauce for the fries). 

This was a Southern Living recipe.  It called for chili sauce, and I wasn't positive what that meant, so I got a jar of sweet chili sauce in the Asian foods section of the grocery store.  I should also note that this is probably my first burger, ever, without cheese on it.  I didn't even miss it.  The recipe says you can top the burger with grilled pineapple slices and grilled red onion, and I'm sure that would be great, but both of us ate our burgers with the bread, the meat, and the sauce.  Simple and delicious.

The bottom line is that we'll definitely make these again.  I can't recommend them enough.

Sweet and Savory Burgers

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1.5 lbs ground chuck (80/20)
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup jalapeno jelly
Hamburger buns

Combine the first five ingredients, and pour them in a shallow dish.  Shape the ground chuck into five patties, and set the patties in the soy sauce mixture to marinate.  Make sure both sides of the patties are dipped in the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for four hours.

Combine the chili sauce and jalapeno jelly, and set aside. 

When ready, grill the burgers over medium high heat for 6-7 minutes per side, or until cooked to desired doneness.  Smear pepper jelly mixture on both sides of the bun, and garnish burger with grilled pineapple and grilled red onion, if desired. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken and Black Bean Mini Empanadas

I really liked these!  This were really good served with salsa and sour cream.  If you're going to the trouble to make them, you might as well make several sheets of them, and that's fine because they reheat beautifully.  I was able to get 11-12 empanadas per sheet of puff pastry, and I cut them into circles with a water glass.  I'm sure a biscuit cutter is more proper, but you use what you have.  Similarly, I used a beer bottle to roll the puff pastry dough into the a bigger rectangle because I didn't have a rolling pin.  I've since received one.  (Thanks, Amanda.)

To speed up the process, you can also make the filling the day ahead.  I made the filling with my favorite, Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken, but you could use any shredded or ground meat--beef, pork, turkey, or deer (if you live in my neck of the woods).  The recipe calls for a can of black beans, but I didn't even use half of it. 

This is the perfect party appetizer or tailgate food, and they're nice and filling.  You should try these! 

Chicken and Black Bean Mini Empanadas

4 sheets Puff Pastry dough
1 egg
1 Tbsp water
1/2 lb  cooked shredded salsa chicken
1 Tbsp Philadelphia Cooking Creme Southwest Blend
1 small red bell pepper, diced (I used one from a jar)
2 tsp dried minced onion flakes
1 tsp taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used the 4 cheese Mexican blend)
1/2 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Thaw the puff pastry sheets at room temperature for 40 minutes or until they're easy to handle.  Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Stir the egg and water with a fork in a small bowl.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, and combine the chicken, bell pepper, taco seasoning, and Cooking Creme until warm.  Remove from heat, and stir in the cheese and half the can of black beans. 

Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface, and roll out into a 16"x12" rectangle.  Cut into 12 (2.5") rounds.  Put 1 teaspoon of the chicken mixture on each round.  Wet the edges of the round; fold over and press the edges with a fork to seal.  Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining sheets of puff pastry.  Brush empanadas with egg wash. 

Bake for 18 minutes or until golden.  Serve with salsa and sour cream. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets

In this month's Food Network Magazine, there are recipes for different dinner pockets.  Just like Hot Pockets, these were nice and tasty, but they're better because you can control the ingredients that go into them.  In the magazine, they suggest broccoli-cheddar pockets, shredded chicken pockets, and picadillo pockets.  We went with good ol' ham and cheese. 

These were so easy because the recipe only calls for refrigerated bread dough.  The can that I had expired in April, so instead of wagering a precious sick day over a $3 can of bread dough, I opted for the two new cans of crescent rolls that I had.  I think they were even better than they'd be if I'd followed the recipe.

I'm putting the recipe like it calls for in the magazine, but if I use two cans of crescent rolls again, I'll definitely make more filling next time.  Also, change it up to make it how you like it--I always use whatever cheese we have, which usually ends up being the Mexican four-cheese blend.  If you want to splurge on some gruyere, be my guest!

Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets

1 (11oz) tube refrigerated French bread dough (or 2 cans crescent rolls)
1 cup (about 4 oz) grated cheese
1 cup (about 4 oz) deli sliced ham
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Cooking Spray
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix the cheese, ham, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne in a bowl until combined.  Squeeze the mixture together with your hands to make it compact.  Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. 

On a floured surface, roll out the dough.  (If using bread dough, cut the dough into four pieces, and roll out each piece into a 6"x8" rectangle.  If using crescent rolls, cut the dough into 8 pieces.)  Divide the filling evenly among each dough rectangle.  Fold the two shorter sides of the dough over the filling, stretching the dough to cover.  Fold the two longs ides of the dough to form a packet; pinch the edges to seal. 

Place the pockets seam-side-down on the prepared baking sheet.  Beat the egg and one tablespoon of water in a small bowl; brush the pockets with the egg wash.  Bake until golden-brown, or about 15 minutes. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cookie Empanadas

These cookies are just sinful.  What's not to love in this recipe?  The dough is made of butter, cream cheese, and flour.  Then you fill them with jelly.  Then you bake them and roll them in cinnamon and sugar.  Good grief.  Amazing.  They're especially good just out of the oven.

The recipe only made about 15 cookies.  I did half with apple jelly and half with strawberry preserves, and I thought the apple ones were better (but it's not like I turned down any of the strawberry ones).  The preserves leaked out of the cookies more during baking, and the jelly held up better.  You could easily switch up flavors, but the jelly was better to cook with. 

I will absolutely make these again.  These would be great Christmas cookies.  Delicious!

Cookie Empanadas

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fruit jelly
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Day/Week Before: Cream butter and cream cheese together until smoothly blended. Beat in the flour. Shape dough into a smooth ball, wrap in foil or cling wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to a week.

Day Of: Remove dough from refrigerator 30 minutes before using. Preheat oven to 375.  Shape dough into one-inch balls, then press the balls flat with the bottom of a glass on a floured surface.  Place small spoonful of jam in center of each round, moisten edges with water.  Fold round over and press edges together. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 15 to 20 minutes. Immediately roll in sugar mixed with cinnamon. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teak Dog Tuesday!

Teak went for a swim and retrieved his bumper like a champion.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These were great!   I made the filling for the caps the day before, and then I stuffed them and baked them the day I served them.  These would probably be even better if some breadcrumbs were involved, but these were excellent how they were.  I tripled the recipe below, but you can change it to suit your own needs.  You can also use whatevevr mushrooms you want, but I used baby bellas.  Yum!

Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400. 

Remove mushroom stems; set aside caps, and chop the stems.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Slowly cook and stir the chopped stems and onion until the onion is soft; remove from heat. 

Place onion caps on baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for 5-6 minutes, and remove from oven. 

In a medium bowl, stir together the mushroom stem mixture, bacon, and 1/2 cup of cheese.  Mix well.  Scoop the mixture into the mushroom caps.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted.  Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato Aioli

I made this dipping sauce last week for some grilled shrimp, and it was awesome!  It was easy to throw together, and I already had all the ingredients.  I made it the day before I needed and let it sit overnight so that the flavors could blend together.  It was delicious!

The original recipe calls for 4 crushed garlic cloves, but I only used 2, and I always use the minced garlic that I can store in the refrigerator.  I also used reduced-fat mayo and the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil--YUM.  I love sun-dried tomatoes, so I let some of the oil into the aioli besides just the tomatoes.

Like I said, we used it for shrimp, but you can use it for anything you like.  Enjoy!

Sun-dried Tomato Aioli

1 cup good-quality mayonnaise
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

In a blender or food processor, process all the ingredients until smooth.  Chill until ready to serve.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Teak Dog Tuesday!

Teak visited his friend Kate yesterday, but because Kate is bigger than Teak, she tends to knock him down a lot.  Teak gets tired of it, and you end up with before-and-after shots like these.



Monday, October 3, 2011


I love sangria.  This was my first attempt in making it myself, and it couldn't have been any easier or more delicious.  I will say this, though: I highly recommend a designated driver.  It's dangerous!  I started making this from Pioneer Woman's recipe, but I added orange juice just to have something in the pitcher that wasn't completely alcoholic.  I will definitely make this again.

It's a shame that I didn't take a picture of the pitcher when it was full, but it was beautiful. 


1 bottle red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 bottle white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1/2 cup rum
1/2 cup vodka
1/3 cup orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 orange, cut into slices
1 lemon, cut into slices
2 limes, cut into slices

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, and allow it to refrigerate overnight before serving.  Serve cold or over ice.  Have tongs out to retrieve fruit.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ultimate White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy October!  October is the birth month for me, my sister, my sweet friend Erica, and her sweet baby who is making his debut in the world right now, as I type.  This will be a great month. 

I don't eat regular chocolate, but I love white chocolate.  My favorite cookies in the world are the Subway white chocolate chip cookies (for Valentine's Day, Buck gave me a dozen cookies instead of a dozen roses, and I was not disappointed at all--no sarcasm).  These cookies were incredible!  How could they not be delicious, since they have two sticks of butter?  They're our new favorites!  You have to try these. 

Ultimate White Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 bag white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. 

Cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla and eggs.  Gradually add dry ingredients, and mix until a smooth batter forms.  Fold in white chocolate chips. 

Scoop rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets, and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.