Recipes

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Sometimes you just need a great dip. Dane and I were hanging out one weekend and I really wanted spinach and artichoke dip. Instead of going out to a restaurant, I figured I could just figure out how to make some on my own.

I started with looking through some recipes just to get a sense of the amounts I should be working with. I saw recipes that called for cream cheese, sour cream, and mayo. None of those seemed right to me. Mayo in a spinach and artichoke dip? Not so much for me.

My favorite kind of spinach and artichoke dip always has a delicious cheesyness mixed in with the spinach and artichoke. Since I’ve made all kinds of things with cheese sauces (because I LOVE CHEESE!) I knew I could make it work. And the results were awesome!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 4-5 strips bacon, fried crisp, drained and crumbled
  • Assorted chips for dipping (pita chips, tortilla chips, bagel chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round dish (I actually used a pie plate, which worked perfectly) and set aside. I also drained the spinach, which took awhile to get all the water out. Really make sure you drain off as much water as you can. I then drained the artichoke hearts and chopped them into bite sized pieces.

In a medium pot, cook the bacon until crispy over medium-high heat. Remove the bacon and crumble once it has cooled. In the bacon fat, add the onions and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 3 minutes.


Add the flour and stir constantly, to make a roux. Cook about 3 minutes then add the milk and cream. The mixture will start to thicken, so make sure to keep stirring constantly. It should take 3-5 minutes of stirring before you feel it starting to thicken.

Add the spinach and stir in well. Then add the cheeses, artichoke hearts, and bacon, and stir together.

Remove the pot from the heat and pour into the prepared dish. Put in the oven for about 20 minutes, until bubbly (you can add more cheese on top if you want). Remove from the oven and serve hot with chips.

This does make a LOT of dip, and Dane and I didn’t get through even close to half of this. It’s the perfect amount for company though. I froze the rest that we didn’t eat, and plan to try and reheat it next time I’m feeling the need for some dip. It may or may not work, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

Hope you enjoy!

Orangeade Recipe

Who’s completely sick of winter? ME!

I was totally feeling stuck inside and done with the cold and wind when I decided to make myself a little treat that reminded me of summer and fun. Orangeade! This came about because I happened to have fresh oranges and was in a cranky mood about the weather. Nothing like a citrusy drink to pick me up, and it goes to show what you can do with things on hand and a little imagination.

Orangeade

  • 5 fresh oranges
  • 1 liter of sparkling apple or tangerine drink from Trader Joe’s OR Sprite/Sierra Mist
  • Fresh fruit for garnish (apple, orange, cherries, whatever you want)

Roll each orange before cutting it to release some of the juices. It really does make a difference with how much juice you can get out of it.

Slice each orange down the middle and squeeze each half with one hand while using your other hand as a strainer to catch any pits before they end up in the juice. You can always just strain all of the juice afterwards to if you prefer to do that.

Once you’ve squeezed all your oranges, add the sparkling juice or soda for some fizz.

Cut up your fruit and drop into the pitcher. Save some for a garnish when you serve. I used granny smith apple slices because I love the apple taste when it’s soaked in the orange juice.

And that’s it! Pretty simple and seriously made me so happy to have a nice tropical tasting drink on a dreary day. Also, totally going to make this again and add some rum or tequila over the summer for a cocktail.

Cheers!

In the Kitchen with Dad: Steamed Clams, Pasta, and Clam Sauce

My Dad is the best. Over the holidays, I decided that my Dad needed to do some culinary exploring. And I knew that he would be more than happy to do some cooking with me.

Growing up I always remember my Dad for making those big delicious meals. On a Sunday I’d get up to see that he’d already gone to the store and picked up a turkey, or a flank steak (my personal favorite, right Dad?), or the makings for a delicious summer barbeque. You know, the kinds of meals that you could just eat and eat and eat. Until you felt ready to explode. Then you’d have some more. Oh, and he makes the BEST scrambled eggs with corned beef hash. No joke.

So for Christmas, Dad got some gourmet gifts from O & Co. on Newbury Street. The ingredients for a great dinner: chili infused olive oil, basil pesto, olives, and pici pasta. He was a happy camper, and even happier when I told him this meant he had to make dinner with me, and that steamed clams would be involved.

To find clams, we ended up at about 5 different stores. We obviously decided to do this the same day the blizzard hit NY, but we were persistent, and we finally found Cherry Stone clams to use. In a blizzard. Some things in life are important.

Pasta and Clam Sauce with Steamed Clams

Ingredients for the Pasta and Clam Sauce:

  • 1 pound of pasta (recommended: fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti – we used the pici pasta, but that’s not so easy to find)
  • Olive oil
  • Chili infused olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 small cans (6.5 oz each) Snow’s Bumblebee chopped clams
  • 1/4 cup of the liquid from the steamed clams

Ingredients for the Steamed Clams:

  • Fresh Littleneck or Cherry Stone clams (we used 36 Cherry Stone clams, but use as many as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • Chile infused olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of a white wine (pick one you like)

To prepare the clams, submerge them in a large bowl with cold water. This will help any dirt come out of the clams before cooking. I let them sit for about an hour before I started cooking. Also, put on the water for the pasta to come to a boil.

In a large pot, add both olive oils for the steamed clams over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and let them cook until they turn translucent.

Drain the clams well, then transfer them to the pot. Add the white wine and cover. Let the clams steam over medium heat. Once they open fully, they will be ready to eat. This took about 25 minutes.

While the clams are steaming, add both olive oils for the sauce to a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes. Add the olives and tomatoes, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook while you wait for the pasta water to boil, stirring occasionally.

Once water is boiled, add pasta and cook according to directions.The pici pasta took at least 20 minutes to cook. It is a much thicker pasta, which needed more time than the usual fettuccine or linguine.

With about 4 minutes left on the pasta, add the chopped clams and liquid from the steamed clams to the sauce. Stir and let simmer for about another 5-10 minutes before serving.

At this point, your clams should be ready and open. Discard any that did not open.

Serve the sauce over the pasta, with the steamed clams on the side to enjoy together.

Everything was so good. The chili infused olive oil gave it just a slight kick in the back of your throat, very slight but a great flavor.

Thanks for cooking with me Daddy! He asked if we cold make it again for breakfast the next morning, so I think it’s safe to assume he liked it. I already have our next meal together planned out.

We also made some toasted bread by cutting up Italian bread, brushing both sides with olive oil, then toasting it under the broiler of the oven for about 2 minutes per side. We used the basil pesto as a spread and it was awesome.

And the best part about cooking? The unspoken rule is that if you cook, everyone else cleans. Thanks to our clean-up crew: my sister Melissa, her boyfriend George, and my little munchkin Abby, who just loves to help.

Ready for our next meal Dad?

how2heroes Video #3: Cheddar, Beer, Broccoli Soup

Time to ring in the new year with a new recipe! A few weeks ago I got a visit from the fabulous crew of how2heroes. They set up in my kitchen again, for video number 3.

And here’s the finished video!

I got rave reviews from everyone, who got to enjoy the soup once the taping was over. I get really jealous thinking about how many delicious things they must get to try at all the different shoots they go to!

Give it a try and hope you enjoy!

p.s. If you want to have a laugh at my expense, check out the 2010 how2heroes Blooper Reel!

Sugar on Snow in Vermont

Right before Christmas, Dane and I went up to Vermont to visit with Sam and Jason and their families. There’s always something to do or a new Vermonty thing to try (yes, Vermonty – it’s a word now). We’re always open to trying things, even though we’re the “city friends”.

When we first met Sam and Jason a few years ago, they told us about sugar on snow, and we’ve wanted to try it ever since. We finally got our chance! After heating maple syrup, you pour it over packed snow, which cools it and creates a soft candy consistency. There was plenty of snow up in VT, and obviously plenty of maple syrup.

Sam started with heating the maple syrup.

You should heat it slowly, because I learned that once it boils the maple syrup begins to bubble up really fast and can boil over. Learned that the hard way. Scared me when it started growing uncontrollably and I had to yank it off the burner.

Then she went outside and got some snow and packed it into a pan.

I was told you could use a candy thermometer for the syrup to watch when it gets to the right temperature. But, that’s not what Sam’s family does. Instead she takes a cold cup of water, and drops a little bit of the syrup into it. When the syrup blob hardens and sinks to the bottom, you’re ready to pour it over the snow. If you’re wondering about the temperature, I looked it up and you have to heat the syrup to 255 Fahrenheit.

Then pour it over the snow!

The maple syrup starts to harden as soon as it hits the cold snow, turning it into a soft candy texture.

Now take a fork to pull up the syrup and twirl it around like so. Jason will demonstrate.

The snow and cold was really fun to eat with the warm and gooey maple syrup. It gave it a really fun texture and the temperature difference was fun to eat together.

I learned that some places also call this Maple Taffy, and it seems pretty obvious why. The syrup becomes a taffy-like texture, complete with the stretch of taffy.

We are so happy we finally got to try this Vermonty treat! Thanks to Sam’s mom for making this for us and having us as guests again. We are pretty easy to make happy, and this was definitely a great way to do just that!

Homemade Apple Sauce

After we went apple picking we had a ton of apples, and wasted no time using them. I got home from work one evening, and Dane was in the kitchen cooking. He decided to make applesauce, which neither of us had made before. He got the idea from a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook (which I got for my bridal shower), but then just decided to wing it and make it to our tastes (he doesn’t always follow instructions well).

Apple Sauce

  • 4 or 5 apples, peeled and cored
  • about 1/4- 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut the cored apples into quarters (they cook faster that way). Add the water to a medium saucepan, and put in all the apple pieces. Over medium heat, cook the apples until they begin to break down.

This took a while, and we actually started to think they weren’t going to ever get soft, but have a little patience and they will. Use a wooden spoon to break them up once they begin to break down to your desired consistency. We like a few chunks of apples still in the sauce.

Once at the consistency you like, remove from the heat and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir it up and enjoy! You can have it warm, or chill in the refrigerator before you eat it.

all done!

Other recipes called for orange zest, lemon juice, allspice, and a variety of other things. I think the best thing about this recipe is you can really add whatever you want to flavor it the way you’d like. If you want to get crazy, you can try it with pears too. If you’re feeling sassy, maybe even add some craisins. It’s up to you! Enjoy!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

You may remember my sudden love of Stuffed Bell Peppers after I had one at Bottega di Capri a few weeks ago. I found myself really wanting on for dinner one night, and figured I had enough sense to figure out how to make them myself at home. After playing around with my recipe, I created this one which was delicious (in my humble opinion).

Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2 large green bell peppers
  • 2-3 sausage links (depending on how much you want)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice (I used Minute Rice to make my life easier)
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start out by making a sauce that you’ll use for the filling and for cooking the bell peppers. Heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and diced onion and cook until it starts to become translucent. Add the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and salt and pepper to your liking. Let simmer while you’re prepping for the filling.

Moving on to the filling now, starting with the sausage. Remove the casing from the sausage links, and break it up. I usually just use a knife to cut it up a bit. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and over medium heat. Add the sausage and let it cook. Be sure to keep an eye on it, and break it up into small pieces using a spatula while it’s cooking.

Cook the Minute Rice according to the instructions on the box to make about 2 cups of cooked rice.  Set aside for now.

Once the sausage is cooked, add it to the sauce and stir well. Take about a cup and a half of the sauce and add it to the rice. Add in the grated cheese and stir it all up!

I couldn’t help myself at this point, I had to try some. I could have stopped right here and just eaten this the way it is. But I pressed on.

Cut the top off of two bell peppers and clean out the seeds. Fill both peppers with the rice filling (you may have extra filling depending on how large your peppers are – you might even be able to squeeze a third pepper from it). Add the peppers, standing up, back to the pot of sauce to simmer covered for about 30 minutes. This will cook the peppers through to make them soft.

Serve the peppers with a little more sauce on top and enjoy! I was so happy with this meal and had it for dinner and then lunch again the next day. So good!

Enjoy!

how2heroes Video #2: Cherry Ice Cream

We were thrilled when our favorites over at how2heroes asked us to do another video for them. We set up a date and time and prepped for our second shoot, Cherry Ice Cream.

The crew came the day of the shoot and set up in our kitchen again. My favorite part was still this:

This time they let me play with it too. So fun! We’re basically movie stars.

They set up the cameras, put our mics on, and we got started with the shoot. I definitely messed up the first introduction by patting my microphone, which made a really loud noise on the camera. Oops. Once we got past that it was smooth sailing.

And without further ado, here’s the final video! We had a blast with the how2heroes crew, of course. Thanks to them for setting it up and coming out!

Burgers and Summery Strawberry Salad

Last week my wonderful friend Sam came to visit for some quality time together (and to see me model in a fashion show, who says 5’2 girls who loves food can’t be a model?). It was a beautiful weekend in Boston, with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s which totally put us in the mood for some great summer food.

While shopping Sam mentioned having once had a salad with strawberries in it that a friend made. I had my own salad with strawberries already in mind, and was so glad she had suggested it. We picked up what we needed for a delicious salad, and also got everything we’d need to make our own burgers and some corn on the cob. Perfect makings of a summery meal.

Something to note, when strawberries and corn are in season, they can be so cheap. I know I paid $4-$5 for a container of strawberries in the grocery store over the winter. Now they are about $1.50. Plus they are so yummy because they’re fresh and in season! Just another reason to buy fresh and local.

And we obviously stopped and got Sam Summer on the way home from the store. No summer grilling could be complete without it. There is nothing better than a Sam Summer on a hot day when it finally comes back out for the season.

So here’s two recipes for you. One for burgers and one for that Summery Strawberry Salad.

Burgers (makes four 1/4 lb patties)

  • 1 lb of ground beef (I used 93/7, which is leaner)
  • 2 tbsp minced onion (I used the dry kind, but you can actually chop up fresh onion)
  • Salt and pepper

This is super easy, you just can’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty (and when I say dirty, I mean covered in raw beef). Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix using your hands (or a utensil if you are completely anti putting your hands in the meat). Don’t overmix everything, it will make the meat tough, just until the onion, pepper and salt are distributed evenly.

Now roll the meat into 4 balls. I just measured using the size of my palm. Each ball should be about 1/4 of a pound if you have a pound of meat (if you are doing more, you can actually weigh the meat or just eyeball it to make sure each patty will be about the same size). Then press each ball to flatten it into about 1/2 inch thickness (or however thick you’d like your burger).

Once they are patties, they are ready to grill! Cook them up the way you like and enjoy.

Summery Strawberry Salad

  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 container of strawberries
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

While your burgers are cooking you can whip up this salad. Wash and dry the spinach (I use a salad spinner which I LOVE) and add to a large bowl. Cut up 7-10 strawberries into quarters. Add the strawberries and crumbled goat cheese (as much as you’d like) to the spinach. Toss with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. Another optional thing to add would be some candied nuts, or just nuts in general. I’ve had this salad with almonds before and it’s very good, I just forgot to buy them at the store.

Now grab your burger (which we finished with cheddar cheese), your salad, and some corn on the cob (which I cooked by just boiling it for about 10 minutes). Cheers to a delicious and fresh summer meal!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies

We have this thing at work called ‘birthday buddies’. Every person in our division was given another person (Secret Santa style, no one knows who has who) and on their birthday you get them a treat and a card for everyone to sign. I obviously love this because it means I get to bake something delicious for someone.

My co-worker, however, does not bake. She doesn’t cook either. There was little hope for her birthday buddy, so she consulted me and asked if I’d be willing to make her birthday buddy’s favorite cookies. Of course I said yes, and I knew a recipe that I could adapt to make it happen.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies (Recipe adapted from the Food Network Kitchens)

  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Granulated sugar for rolling
  • Hershey Kisses (one for each cookie you make)

Mix together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and peanut butter and stir well. Mix in the flour and baking soda. Add the flour a bit at a time to make sure the dough doesn’t get too dried out. You should be able to roll the dough into a ball without it sticking to your hands.

Roll the dough into about 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls, roll them in the granulated sugar, and place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Press the balls down to form flatter circles. I used my hands, but you can also use the back of a fork to flatten them. The cookies won’t expand much, so you can see about how big they’ll be once you do this. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

These cookies can get dry if you leave them in too long, so make sure you take them out after 15 minutes. They won’t look much darker, so you can’t necessarily go by looks to see if they get golden brown, just go by time.

Now for the fun part. Unwrap all the Kisses and insert one into the center of each cookie. You want to do this about 5 minutes after the cookies come out of the oven. After you put the Kiss in, don’t move it around. The heat from the cookies will start to melt the Kisses, but they’ll harden again once they cool.

After they cool, enjoy!

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