Archive for August, 2008

Our good friend Jenn throws amazing parties – for watching 24, celebrating a birthday, or simply enjoying the weekend. She always has amazing food,

from Old Bay seasoned shrimp cocktail to pork tenderloin sandwiches, pepper jelly and cream cheese dip to brie and toast. One of her most popular dishes is Spinach and Artichoke Dip, a delicious and creamy combination that will make any evening a party! Here’s her recipe:

  • 2 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed really dry
  • 2 14 oz. cans artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 6 large garlic cloves, pressed
Drain spinach, press between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Beat cream cheese until smooth in large bowl.

By hand, add the rest of the ingredients. Add mayonnaise. Add the spinach, artichokes, garlic and Parmesan cheese, stirring well. Spoon into a 9×13 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake uncovered at 375 for 25 minutes. Serve with assorted crackers, bagel chips, tortilla chips or breadsticks.


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A friend of mine has been bringing me fresh tomatoes from her garden, and Jared and I love making a quick side dish by roasting them in the oven with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. The Washington Post had an entire portion of its food section dedicated to tomatoes a few weeks ago, and we tried Pasta With Fresh Tomato, Roasted Garlic, and Brie (serves 4-6 people):

  • 12-16 oz. dried whole-grain thin spaghetti, such as Barilla brand
  • 6-7 large Roma tomatoes or 2 pints of assorted cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 head roasted garlic
  • 6 oz. brie, preferably at room temperature
  • 1/4-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, coarsely chop the tomatoes and place in a large serving bowl. Stack the basil leaves neatly, then roll them tight and cut into very thin shreds; add to the bowl. Squeeze about half of the cloves from a head of roasted garlic, or add about 1 1/2 tbs. of roasted garlic and mix well. Tear the brie into chunks, discarding the rind, if desired, and add to the bowl, along with the oil to taste, salt, if desired, and pepper to taste. Toss to combine, placing the bowl of sauce on a warm surface of the stove top.

Drain the pasta thoroughly and add to the sauce; toss until the brie has melted. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss lightly to combine. Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls and serve with more of the cheese for passing at the table.

This dish is delicious, light, and refreshing. I especially loved the flavor of the garlic, which brushed with a little olive oil, wrapped in foil, and roasted in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes. I’m excited to try this method of roasting garlic (a new concept to me) to spread on toasted bread, add to homemade pizza, and many other things!

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Who would’ve thought my new favorite muffin recipe would be on the back of a Splenda bag? The thing I love about these muffins is that the base is the most important part – even the vanilla flavoring by itself would be delicious – it’s sweet like a cupcake but light enough for breakfast. Tonight I added about a third of a cup of cinnamon chips and three mashed bananas. I’ve also tried bananas with chocolate chips. The original recipe suggests trying a cup of blueberries, although other small pieces of fruit would work just as well.

  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 10-12 muffin cups with paper liners. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Beat together margarine, Splenda, and honey with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Alternately stir in flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in berries. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin cups and bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Nutritional Facts (per serving): 190 calories, 5g fat, 1g fiber, 4g protein

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Tonight’s meal took longer than 30 minutes, but it sure was worth it! I made Charred Tomato Soup With Stromboli (p. 194, 365: No Repeats by Rachael Ray). Charring the tomatoes and onions under the broiler before pureeing them into a chunky soup gave the dish a really smoky flavor that Jared and I both loved. The recipe called for a cup of heavy cream to thicken it, but I used fat-free half-and-half instead. Although we saved some calories, it did make the soup a little more watery than I would have planned. If I make this again (and I plan to!) I will probably use a little less chicken stock to account for the difference.

The best part of the meal, in my opinion, was the stromboli. I’m not a big fan of proscuitto – not only do I find it difficult to locate at the grocery store, I find the flavor to be a bit salty for my taste. Instead, I substituted turkey pepperoni, and the result added a bit of spice that I really enjoyed. Rachael Ray suggested making the stromboli into a breadstick-like form, but I had some trouble rolling out the refrigerated pizza dough (note to self – allow dough to come to room temperature before rolling next time). Instead I cut the dough into four pieces and rolled them into crescent-like rolls. The results were fantastic! They turned out golden and just chewy enough to melt in your mouth after soaking them in the soup.

This recipe reminds me of one of my favorite new meals, Tomato Bisque – a recipe I actually got from the Contemporary Resort at Disney World when I attended training there in April. What a fantastic, creamy dish! I’ll have to post that recipe soon. Bon appetit! Here’s the recipe:

  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 small red onion, cut into chunks
  • 2 tbs EVOO
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1 tbs flour or cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 12 slices proscuitto di parma (I used turkey pepperoni)
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 tbs sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used fat-free half-and-half)
  • 20 fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn

Preheat the broiler to high.

Arrange the plum tomato halves skin side down, with the onions on a rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle EVOO on the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 4 minutes, flip and continue to broil for 3 minutes, or until the tomatoes and onions are slightly charred. Lower the oven setting to 400 degrees.

Dust your hands and the dough lightly with flour or cornmeal and unroll the dough out onto a work surface. Stretch out the dough, gently spreading its rectangle shape. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces: working across the dough cut it in half and cut each half in half again. Cover each piece of dough with 2 tbs of pesto.

Fold 3 slices of the prosciutto and 1 slice of the provolone to fit each pesto-covered piece of dough, then roll each piece on an angle from corner to corner, making a long roll that is thicker in the middle and thinner on each end. Brush the rolls with EVOO, then mix the sesame seeds, dried italian seasoning and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes in a small cup. Sprinkle and pat the mixture onto the stromboli, place in the oven, and bake until evenly golden, 12 to 14 minutes.

Place the tomatoes and onions in a blender or food processor, and puree until somewhat smooth.

Preheat a soup pot over medium high heat, add the 2 tbs of EVOO, add the garlic and the remaining 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. Saute the garlic for a minute, then add the pureed veggies and the chicken stock. When the soup comes to a bubble, add the cream, then season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 8 to 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, turn off the soup and stir in the basil. Adjust the salt and pepper. Serve the soup alongside the pesto and stromboli, dipping them into the soup as you eat them.

Makes 4 servings.

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Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love for the cooking competition Top Chef on Bravo. I’ve been a faithful fan for the past two seasons, and I still love watching the reruns – the challenges they give the contestants are exciting, well thought out, and give a new perspective on the obstacles chefs face daily in the restaurant business.

Although I wanted Richard to be the ultimate winner of the competition, one of my favorite chefs on this season was Spike. Yes, he had an attitude, but he was fun to watch and made interesting dishes, often a fusion of Asian-inspired and American-style ingredients. Imagine my excitement when I learned Spike was opening a restaurant in DC!

Good Stuff Eatery has been a hit since the moment its doors opened to the public. Often the lines run out the door and down the street – everyone seems to want to try it! When Jared and I were finally able to visit a few weeks ago, we weren’t disappointed. We only waited in line about half an hour, and the food was fantastic! I had “Colletti’s Smokehouse,” a hamburger with chipotle barbeque sauce, applewood-smoked bacon, onion rings, and cheddar cheese. Jared had the “Spike’s 5-Napkin,” an oddly delicious burger with maple bacon, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg on top. Spike wasn’t kidding when he said the burger required a lot of napkins! We also tried the “village fries” – topped with fresh rosemary and thyme – and tasted our friends’ onion rings, which were lightly fried but not greasy. We didn’t get a chance to try the shakes, but rumor has it they’re just as impressive as the rest of the food. Another perk was the unusual mayonnaise combinations provided along with the standard ketchup and mustard: sriracha, Old Bay, mango,

The best part about the experience was the fact that Spike works behind the counter! He was there, flipping burgers and interacting with customers. It was exciting to see him up close and personal!

I look forward to going back to try different dishes, including the wedge salad with homemade cornbread, the Milky Way shake, the “Good Stuff Melt” (with Muenster cheese and carmelized onions), and the “Vegetarians are People Too ‘Shroom Burger” (portobello mushroom tops stuffed with cheese and flash fried). A friend of mine loves Good Stuff so much, he started a blog dedicated to it!

Good Stuff Eatery is located on Capitol Hill, at Pennsylvania Avenue and 3rd St. SE. Prices range from 6-9 dollars per burger. Click here for a recent review from the food section of The Washington Post.

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