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TasteSpotting: Food Is Amazing

Hello Friends,

I apologize profusely for the radio-silence of the last week. Some things were going on that just made me go “hmmm” and hunker down to think. I promise you, though, that will be made up for this week!!!

I have found a new site that I am absolutely in love with, possibly even more so than Pinterest (I know!!!!). TasteSpotting. Memorize this name!!!! No, seriously.

Be forewarned, upon finding this site you will cease being productive. For at least 2 days. Maybe more.

You will also be very hungry. Non-stop. For at least 2 days as well. Maybe more, again!

Here is a snapshot of a Tastespotting search for “honey wheat”, whereupon I was trying to find a honey wheat bread recipe, or something equally yummy and inspiring:

tastespotting taste spotting honey wheat searches food foodie

Tastespotting View of “Honey Wheat” Hits

So one thing that I like better here than on Pinterest is the fact that when you click on a picture it takes you directly to the website (usually a blog) from which the item originates. I like this better because it allows only 1-click instead of up-to-15 (max for me!) to get to the “how do I make this?!?!!!!” instructions. I so far have seen only 1 picture lead to a photograph-only link, and considering how much I’ve been clicking, that is a good percentage for Tastespotting! 😉

So go explore and let me know what you think of this humdinger of a food-fan-dream site!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Quick, Simple, Fancy Appetizers

Hello Cooking Friends,

I don’t know about you, but I love quick and simple appetizers that everyone thinks took you forever to make, and are super complicated.

Baked Asparagus Citrus Habañero

Citrus Habañero Asparagus

I have two standbys that I used this weekend for a bring-appetizers-to-share event. I would like to share with you because I got so many “how did you make this?!?!” comments this weekend. I am going to share multiple variations for both just to be fair to all palates!

#1) ‘Fancy’ Asparagus

What you need: 1 bunch of asparagus, flavored olive oils, flavored balsamic vinegars, and various spices, as desired.

Preheat your oven to 350, and spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray (I prefer aluminum ones to bake-and-take-and-toss when I’m going somewhere not at a house).

Keep the rubber bands on your asparagus and rinse the stems in cold water for a few seconds. Then, using a very sharp and long knife (i.e. not a paring knife), cut the bottom 1 inch off the asparagus stems. This is key to taste and keeping the rubber bands on is key to sanity. It also lets you cut your asparagus to mostly equal length quite simply!

So now we have our rinsed, prepped asparagus, remove the rubber bands and dump the stems into your pan (layers are perfectly fine). Over top of this you will drizzle and sprinkle your olive oils and spices. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until they’re to your desired tenderness (18) or crispness (12). I usually do about 15 minutes, to get it right in the middle!

A) Citrus-Habañero: pour about 3 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil evenly over your asparagus. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of Citrus Habañero Olive Oil evenly over top you asparagus. Bake.

B) Peppery Citrus: mix together 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper Olive Oil, and pour over top the asparagus. Using a peppermill or grinder, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of fresh ground pepper over top the asparagus. Bake.

C) Garlicky Mushroom & Fig: mix together 2 teaspoons each Garlic Mushroom Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dill weed, and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Pour over asparagus evenly. Bake.

D) Butter & Bacon: sprinkle about 2 teaspoons worth of Bacon!Bacon! over top, evenly. Pour 2 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil evenly over asparagus & bacon. Bake.

E) Garden Veggie: sprinkle about 2 teaspoons each worth of Garden Veggie and Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto mixes evenly over asparagus. Pour 2 tablespoons of Butter Olive Oil, OR pour 1 tablespoon melted butter plus 1 teaspoon Sun-dried Tomato Parmesan & Garlic Olive Oil, evenly over asparagus & spices. Bake.

**Note, 2 tablespoons butter olive oil is equivalent to just under 1/4 cup melted (unsalted) butter.

#2) Rumaki

BBQ Barbeque Rumaki Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

BBQ Rumaki

What you need: toothpicks, 1 package bacon, 2 cans diced & drained water chestnuts, sauce as desired.

Preheat oven to 350, and either line a cookie sheet with foil or use an 11×7 pan – spray either one with cooking spray.

The basics of what you will do: cut your bacon strips into thirds, and then wrap 1 of these strips around 1 diced water chestnut. Stick a toothpick through starting where the wrap ends, and going through the water chestnut to the other side. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bacon is to your taste (crisp or soft). This does 2 things for you: 1) this keeps the bacon from getting messy and going everywhere while baking, and 2) creates an instant ‘serving’ option for guests to enjoy these without getting more utensils dirty!

So here are some ways to flavor the rumaki!

A) BBQ Rumaki: Take a barbeque sauce of your choice, I used the Laurel Gray Crazy ‘Bout Butts BBQ Sauce, and pour about 1/4 cup into the bottom of your pan. Place your tooth-picked rumaki into the pan in rows, and then drizzle another 1/8 cup of the sauce over top of the rumaki. Bake.

B) Ginger-Soy Rumaki: Place your tooth-picked rumaki in the pan in rows. Meanwhile, mix together 1/8 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Butter Olive Oil (or 2 tbspn melted butter), dash of cumin, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger. For the ginger, if you happen to have pickled ginger on hand, you could substitute either 1 teaspoon of the pickled liquid OR 2 teaspoons of blended pickled ginger (solids only) for the ground ginger. Mix this well. Pour over rumaki and bake.

C) Garden Veggie Rumaki: Place your tooth-picked rumaki in the pan in rows. Sprinkle Garden Veggie and 2 tablespoons Garlic Mushroom Olive Oil over the asparagus, evenly. Bake.

So I sincerely hope that you enjoyed these, and if you try them, please let me know which version you tried (even if it’s your own) and how you liked them!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Come get it while it’s hot!

So in my immediate family, if you are going to do a party with food, there is a certain rhyme to the reason. Beth (me) is the plotter, cooker & baker; my brother Drew is the sous chef (aka my workslave) & taste tester; my Dad does the meats, and is backup sous chef & taste tester; and Mom buys the groceries, then does all clean up. It is a well oiled machine. With occasional hiatuses (hiatii?) into either the insane or the hilarious.

Case in point today (Friday the 23rd). I ended up basically catering a work dinner party for my mom’s team & their families. Sans mon frère, insert sad face…

So mom & I go grocery shopping at 8:30am (on my day off mind you), and find everything on our list except Andes Baking Chips. As in Andes Mints, made into chocolate chip sized morsels of deliciousness. So we call my dad, who asks me “andes chips, what are they like potato chips or something?”. I don’t know what was more funny: a) my expression at this (mom lol’ed), b) the cashier dude trying not to comment, or c) the fact that dad was in fact serious inhis question. So like a good daughter, I not only repeated it back to him like 3 times, I also broke it down for him real simple: “andes, like the chocolate mint, in chocolate chip format, in a greenbag, in thebaking aisle, that say ‘Andes’ on them, and ‘baking chips’, too. Love you.” Apparently this got it through. At this point, pretty sure option b above was winning the match. 🙂 I love my family. We are definitely a special one, too…everywhere we go. 😉

So after the groceries are all bought, I start cooking. Mom wanders into various rooms setting up ‘the scene’ for the party, while making sure I don’t need any help. I answer these inquiries with a daughterly-loving response of “Doing fine, now out of my kitchen!” Side note: we are in my parents’ house, however I claim all ownership of the kitchenwhile here. Hey, mock if you want, but trust me, we are all happier this way… 😉 Anyways back to the food. I start making my Pizza Dip. My new favorite appetizer. Cream cheese, shreddedmozzarella & italian spices get blended together, spread evenly in a dish, topped with a jar of pizza sauce, then the remaining shredded mozz. Fridge until 5 minutes from eating then zap it for 5 minutes. Voilà, presto, it’s done.

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Easy pizza dip

So next I decide to make the Mac & Cheese. Make 1 pound of shells al dente style, and while that is going, combine (& beat) 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/4 cup milk, 12 oz ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese.

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Mac & Cheese 1

Then I add another 1/4 cup (or so) milk, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese and blend some more. It will look like this:

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Mac & Cheese 2

In a greased (Pam!) baking dish (13×9 works), pour your drained al dente noodles, then mix in really well your cheese mixture. Make sure every shell has a good amount of cheese coverage. Then top it with sliced cheese until all the dish is covered. I used CoJack cheese, andhalved the slices to distribute, since I was using an oval dish.

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Mac & Cheese 3

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Bake at 325 for about 20-25 minutes and it will look like this (and smell deliciously cheesy!):

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Baked Mac & Cheese

Next up, Imade maple-bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. Wrap bacon around whole water chestnuts, stick a toothpick in each to hold the bacon, then drizzle maple syrup on them. Bake about 30 minutes at 325. Here is the final result:

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Bacon Water Chestnuts

Next up: lemon-pepper and coconut shrimp dishes! Use raw shrimp, thawed in cold water, trust me! Peeled and de-tailed the lil’ buggers (and one stabbed me the little meanie!), rinsed them again, ghen divided into 2 groups. Half went into a boiling pot of water with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons lemon pepper. Shrimp float and are bright white & pink when they’re done. Takes about 30 minutes or so. Serve those with basic cocktail sauce (yes, I cheated on that sauce). The other half got complicated. Beat 3 eggs in one bowl, then mix well with the shrimp til they’re all coated well. In another bowl mix 1 cup Panko Crumbs with 3/4 cup coconut flakes. Bring a deepset saute pan filled with 1 inch of canola oil to ‘hot’ over medium-set heat. To test, drop a piece of coconut in, if it sizzles and starts to brown, you are good to go. Take the shrimp and coat them in the panko mix, then carefully, carefully ace in the hot oil. Let brown about 2 minutes then flip, let brown again about 2 minutes, then remove to a pan covered in paper towel. This lets the grease drain. I used 51-70 count sized shrimp, and did about 15 shrimp at a time in the pan, and roughly 5 pan-fulls. After the next batch was flipped, then I would transfer the done shrimp to aplatter from the paper towel. Seemed to time okay. Meanwhile your sauce. Mix together 1/4 cup coconut flakes, 1/3 cup orange marmalade, znd 1/4 cup french vanilla coffee creamer (liquid only). Let this sit in the fridge a few hours, it will taste so good with the coconut shrimp!

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Coconut Shrimp pan

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Coconut Shrimp!

Next on the list is Chicken Parmigiano. Dad was doing Prime Rib, too, but this was my entrée contribution. Use breast tenderloins to alleviate slicing & pounding needs… Dredge chicken in flour so fully-but-lightly coated. Place in greased pan, close together. Top with spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, with a dusting of grated parmesan on top. Bake about 40 minutes at 325.

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Chicken Parm

Next up is mashed potatoes. Microwave rinsed and speared (fork stabbed into both sides of tater) a bag of red potatoes for 25 minutes. These will be hot so be careful. In a bowl, mix/beat the potatoes with 2 sticks unsalted butter, 1/2-2/3 cup milk, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper. Best until desired consistency, I like mine thicker so useless milk.

Finally, the mixed veggies. I put about 1/8 inch of olive oil in the bottom of a baking pan, then added sliced zucchini, yellow squash and broccoli (small branches), baked for about 20-25 minutes at 300, until nice and soft. Serve as is, or you can drain thd olive oil. Oh and I did a salad too, iceberg lettuce, baby tomatoes, drained quartered artichoke hearts & cut up bsby corn (asian food section, the stalk looking corn). 🙂 Whew! Dinner for 16 (9 kids, 7 adults) is now done!

Here is the final production (done in a total of 4 hours, not counting reheats):

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Appetizers

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Dinner 1

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Dinner 2

For dessert, I actually made a chocolate cookie, then had 8 of the kids decorate them for me before we baked them. Easy peezy lemon squeezy cookie recipe, too. Melt 1 cup margarine, mix with 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 of a 3 oz package of sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix. Then add in 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Mix well. Then add in 2 cups (or so) flour, until mixture is thick and hard to stir. Shape dough into balls, flatten on cookie sheet, then decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips, and the infamous Andes baking chips! Observe the pros below!

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Sprinkle attack 1

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Sprinkle Attack 2

That is all for today, hope you enjoyed, and Happy Christmas & Merry Holidays!

Craft You Later,
Beth

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