I don’t have a nice enough camera or enough prowess in the kitchen to make this a food blog, but I do love trying new recipes and perfecting old favorites. Sometimes I do dumb things like completely leave out the almond extract in the cherry-almond scones I finally made this morning after weeks of anticipation. Or like yesterday when I just wanted to brown the breadcrumbs on top of a quick chicken mac-and-cheese I threw together at lunchtime, but I ended up getting distracted and making panko charcoal instead. Sometimes, though, everything comes together and deliciousness ensues. Here are a few highlights from the past few weeks:
I couldn’t decide what to make for the two Super Bowl parties we were attending (it’s hard being so popular), so I ended up making three dishes to share.
1. For a little spice, I put together some of The Pioneer Woman’s Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Thingies. Don’t be scared of the raw jalapenos—the cheese cools things off and baking mellows them out a lot.
2. I firmly believe no football party is complete without plenty of Buffalo Chicken Dip, so I brought along some of that as well. Here’s how it goes:
- 2 cups chopped or pulled cooked chicken
- 1 8-oz block cream cheese (or Neufchatel, which has less fat)
- 1 12-oz bottle ranch dressing (the lite stuff works fine)
- 1 12-oz bottle Frank’s Red Hot (if you sub, be sure to use a buffalo sauce!)
Preheat the oven to 350.
Heat the cream cheese and ranch dressing over medium heat, stirring until cheese is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the chicken and Frank’s Red Hot and stir to combine thoroughly.
Pour the mixture into an 8”x8” glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is nice and bubbly.
Serve with celery sticks and thin Triscuits for dipping.
3. The real star, however, were these Reuben Meatballs that happened to catch my eye a couple of weeks before the big game. They were absolutely magical—like a Reuben sandwich in the palm of your hand. My only advice would be to buy a small bottle of Thousand Island dressing instead of making the recipe. It yields an entire vat of the stuff, and Thousand Island dressing just should not exist in such quantities. I ended up sacrificing most of it to my garbage disposal.
A Dinner Party, Dahling
A couple of weeks ago, we invited our friends Lauren and Jay over for dinner. I lost count of the bottles of wine we took care of, but I do remember the food turning out great.
For pre-dinner munching, I cut a couple of zucchini into two-inch sticks, tossed them in egg wash, then coated them in panko and baked them ‘til they were brown. (I’d add parmesan cheese to the breadcrumb mixture next time.) I served them with marinara sauce for dipping.
Dinner started with a really basic salad of mixed greens, thinly sliced red onion, and sliced grapefruit. For the main course, I served these braised short ribs, adapted at Smitten Kitchen from a Gourmet recipe. I added mushrooms to the braising mixture, used kale instead of Swiss chard, and omitted the horseradish cream altogether. It really wasn’t necessary—the dish was hardy and tender and rich and flavorful on its own. Finally, I just used my own standard mashed potatoes because a) I don’t have a food mill and b) I don’t have that much energy. (Once the potatoes are boiled to a nice, fork-tender consistency, I mash them roughly with salt, pepper, roasted garlic cloves, a hunk of butter, and if I’m feeling naughty, a big dollop of cream cheese.)
After all that AND a dreamy sopapilla cheesecake from Lauren, everybody went to bed fatter and happier that night.
Curry and Romance
Neither Kurt nor I is big on Valentine’s Day, so we decided to celebrate this year by eating a home-cooked meal—gasp!—at the dining room table instead of in front of the TV. When you’re finished swooning from all that romance, let me know because, believe it or not, there’s more!
I cooked a big steaming pan of Indian food to celebrate our love. I like to live dangerously, what can I say? So, we spent the evening making googly eyes at each other over platefuls of rich, fragrant chicken tikka masala. In case we weren’t full enough after that, we finished off the meal with gooey molten chocolate cake. To acknowledge the holiday, I made the whipped cream pink by pulsing a handful of frozen raspberries in the food processor and folding them in. It was just our speed.