Roasted Tomato Salsa

I love salsa. I’ve been known to polish off a single container of salsa, by myself, in a matter of hours. Numerous dinners have been ruined by me snacking on chips and salsa. I’m the first to reach for it when we’re out at a Mexican restaurant, and I’ll normally end my meal by — you guessed it — eating more chips and salsa.

While I’ll eat salsa pretty much in any form (chunky, restaurant style, verde, black bean…), I’m incredibly picky about the quality. I like my salsa freshly made; that junk in the jars doesn’t do it for me. My favorite store-bought salsa is Garden Fresh Naturals, a Michigan-made product that was recently purchased by Campbell Soup (and I swear, Campbell people, if you mess with my salsa, we’re gonna have an issue).

When it comes to restaurant salsa, though, there’s good, there’s great, and then there’s Red Mesa. Continue reading

Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls

Do you think buffalo wings/sauce tastes better in Buffalo, NY? Is there a place (likely multiple places) that boast that they have the best wings in Buffalo, or that they are “home” to the original recipe for buffalo wings? What makes Frank’s Red Hot the most popular buffalo-flavored hot sauce on the market? (Hint: it’s not because they are located in Buffalo, NY, if that’s what you’re thinking… I checked… New Jersey! You’re welcome.)

These are the kind of thoughts I have while I make buffalo-flavored anything. My love affair with buffalo sauce is fairly recent, but now I buy Frank’s Red Hot by the jumbo bottle. Unfailingly, Boyfriend will eye the unnaturally orange substance in the grocery cart and ask, “Don’t we have some of this?” Most of the time, the answer is yes. But that’s not the point.

And now, an ode to buffalo sauce.

Oh, buffalo sauce. You mean so much to me. You make bland things taste good again. You are good on so many different things, which is why that Frank’s slogan, “I put that **** on everything,” is totally relatable (except for that time I tried to make buffalo cupcakes. That didn’t turn out so well. But I don’t blame you, buffalo sauce). You are a staple in my pantry, fridge, and backup kitchen storage shelving. My Pinterest page is full of the magic you inspire. I scoff when a search for buffalo turns up a picture of a wooly beast. Buffalo sauce… I love you.

Respect.

Ahem. Ok. Now that you’ve slogged through that nonsense, you should be fully prepared for the mind explosion I’m about to impart on you. It’s buffalo. It’s Chinese food. It’s delicious.

I like this recipe for many reasons. First, you guessed it…the buffalo sauce. Second, the rest of the ingredients are also readily available, and the recipe is fairly easy to make while appearing to others like you might have studied the delicate spring roll rolling methods of an Asian grandmother (is that racist? I really didn’t mean it to be. Asian grandmother’s are awesome!). Third: baked not fried. No oily mess. Total awesomeness. Boom, new slogan for ovens.

I promise I’m not drunk.

Buffalo Chicken Rolls
Recipe Adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner?
makes 12-14 rolls

12-14 egg roll wrappers (you can find these in the refrigerated section of your grocery store near the salads and tofu)
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken and had about a cup left over)
2/3-1 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup dry cole slaw
Small bowl of water
Nonstick cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees; spray a wire rack set on top of a cookie sheet for optimal crispness (a cookie sheet on its own will also work)
  2. In a small bowl, stir chicken and hot sauce until well coated
  3. Place one egg roll wrapper on a clean work surface so one corner is pointing toward you
  4. Begin by placing one tablespoon of the broccoli slaw on the diagonal of the bottom corner of the wrapper
  5. Place 2 tablespoons of shredded spicy chicken evenly on top of the slaw
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the blue cheese crumbles over the chicken
  7. To fold: Fold the bottom corner over the stuffing mixture so that it covers it completely, so the tip of the corner now points to the center of the square wrapper. Fold over the left corner, followed by the right, so that you now have formed an envelope. Roll the wrap upward one time, leaving the top left corner open. Wet your index finger in the small bowl of water and press to moisten the top left corner. Now fold that down on top of the filled roll, sealing it like you would an envelope.
  8. Spritz the bottom of the roll with more cooking spray and place on baking rack or cookie sheet
  9. Repeat with remaining rolls
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the rolls crisp and turn a light golden brown

 

Cheers!

Dessert Dip Recipes and a Cubicle Photo Project

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but church is going really well. I have really been enjoying going to the services each week, and everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. We are looking into membership  as well as the pre-marital (!!) process.

Another great thing that has come out of church is a group of neighbors that get together a couple times a month to eat dinner together, get to know one another better, and discuss the Bible in a very relaxed environment. Being fairly new to actively participating in religion, I still have a lot of questions, but I am learning and growing, and I think it’s been very good for Boyfriend and I, as well as our relationships with our good friends and neighbors.

Dinner for community group is potluck style. The host and hostess take care of the main dish and offer up general ideas for what others can bring (bread, salad, appetizer, dessert, etc). Group is big enough that no one couple has to make a ton of food — and we have so many great cooks in our circle that no one ever leaves hungry. We have had some seriously good meals, great company, and enlightening conversation.

This week I grabbed the desert course knowing I would have most of the afternoon Sunday to create something fabulous. I combed Pinterest and my starred blog reader items, and one thing that kept popping up were dessert dips and dessert [cream] cheese balls. I’ve wanted to try a couple of these at some point, but I just couldn’t decide which ones…so I made 4!

In order of my preference, I made lemon cheesecake, brownie batter, red velvet cake, and cookie dough dips. I adored the lemon and brownie. The red velvet was pretty thick and very rich. The cookie dough, while it was the favorite for some, just didn’t taste as good as real cookie dough (unlike the sinful  cookie dough brownies, with edible cookie dough that is to die for).

I served the dips in these cute little rectangle bowls I got from Home Goods for so cheap, alongside a big dish of graham cracker sticks, animal crackers, and Nilla wafers. They were a big hit, and no one had seen a dessert quite like mine.

In other news, I wish I could tell you all that my new job has gotten better/easier/more fantastic and I’m the happiest person ever right now, but that is not quite the case. I’m still working with my life coach, E, on exercises that will make me reaffirm my ability to do this job and stop pulling my cuticles apart due to anxiety.  One of the things I did on my own, and mentioned in a previous post, is hang some happy quotes on the wall of my cubicle. I took the decorating one step further this week and hung a clothesline-style photo display.

Why yes, I did get this idea from Pinterest... Why do you ask?

Now, when I am doing my calming breathing and tension relieving exercises, I can look up at the pictures of Boyfriend and Brady, smile, and know that I am loved.

Super cheesy, but it’s working, for now.

Cheers.

Recipe: Margarita Pizza

Last year for Christmas my mom had some of our family movies transferred to DVDs and gave them to me as a gift. Over the weekend, when we lost power due to a transformer blowing up (not literally), I had two hours of battery on the laptop and not much else to fill my time (I also realized at this point that Boyfriend and I have possibly the worst DVD collection known to man).

So I watched home movies from my childhood. And I came to a few realizations:

  1. My parents have not changed AT ALL. Yes, they have gotten older and my dad has significantly less hair, but it was hysterical to me that their demeanors have not changed in the least.
  2. I miss my grandma a lot (she passed away when I was in high school).
  3. My sister’s enthusiasm for life is spectacular, and I wish more people could be like her.
  4. We were (and still are) such a happy family. Warm fuzzies.

I was feeling very proud of my roots, so I decided to take it to the kitchen and make something Italian. Well, Italian-American.

I’ve never made my own pizza dough before, but it is seriously so simple and it tasted so good that I don’t think I will ever buy it from the store again.

I also need to mention that my mom makes pizza every Friday night. She always listens to Ann Murray while she makes her pizza. In the following recipe, the Ann Murray is optional. Further tests are needed to confirm if the addition of Ann Murray has an effect on the outcome of the pizza.

Cheers!

 

Margarita Pizza
Makes 1 large pizza
Recipes adapted from those found here and here

For the sauce:

3 large tomatoes, diced and slightly mashed
1 Tbsp of olive oil
½ Tbsp dried italian herbs
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of sugar

For the dough:

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
2 1/2 cups flour (bread if you have it, all-purpose if you don’t – I used a.p. and it was perfection)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

For toppings:

Fresh mozzarella (I used about 5 oz)
Fresh basil, julienned if you’re fancy

  1. To make the sauce, sauté garlic in a saucepan on medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute until just starting to brown.
  2. Add dried herbs, tomatoes, salt and sugar.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 10-20 minutes, or until it reaches desired thickness.
  4. To make the dough, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a medium bowl. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in flour, salt and oil and beat until smooth; let rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round.
  8. Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza pan.
  9. Spread with mozzarella and basil.
  10. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
  11. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Simple Hummus

Hummus? More like YUM-mus!

Yep, it’s going to be one of those posts.

Hummus has always been on my to-do list when it comes to recipes, but something always stopped me. More specifically, a certain ingredient always stopped me.

Seriously, who just has tahini (aka sesame seed paste) in their cupboards? What is it used for besides hummus?

Answer: nothing.

Ok, maybe some things, but nothing comes to mind, and nothing in a .05 nanosecond glance at google is telling me any different.

But I finally broke down and spent the $7 on a jar of tahini. After spilling about an eighth of it all over the counter (winning), I managed to stir it enough to measure out tablespoons that were well-mixed enough to be accurate. This is important.

I do not own a food processor. Well, I do have one, but it is one of those tiny $10 Bed Bath and Beyond clearance specials that holds approximately a cup and a half. So I used my blender. It actually turned out ok, but I imagine the final product would be a lot smoother if you have a full-sized food processor. During the Small Kitchen Appliance Shopping Extravaganza of 2010, a food processor was just not one of the things that made the cut (hint hint, FAMILY LOOKING FOR CHRISTMAS IDEAS).

I used Annie’s recipe for hummus. I was going to use the Cheeky Kitchen version, but Boyfriend and I used up all of the maple syrup on this pancake kick we have been on lately. And that s**t’s expensive, too. And it was probably better I used a simple recipe for my first attempt. And could I start any more sentences with ‘and’?

And could these pictures be any crappier? Hummus smeared up the side of the bowl, no natural light, shadows aplenty… I’m sorry. This is what happens when I try to cook after work.

So you should totally try to make hummus for the first time too. But use a food processor if you got one last Christmas. And experiment with different herbs and toppings, that’s fun, too. And try to start a lot of sentences with ‘and’ and not sound like a crazy person who can’t keep their brain on a singular track.

Seacrest out.

Recipe: Strawberry Freezer Jam

I’m obsessed with Michigan strawberries. For me, their flavor is the definition of summer in the Midwest, a flavor that is so completely different from the strawberries purchased from the grocery store, from Florida or California, or wherever they are imported from. No, sir. Bring me the small, flavorful berries that didn’t have to cross the country to get to my table.

Strawberry season is short, and I have been bookmarking every recipe I can find for the occasion. Yes, I understand that I could freeze the berries for the off-season, but really? Not as good (although maybe still better than cross-country berries… Will get back to you on that one).

In order to take true advantage of the strawberry festival happening in my kitchen, Boyfriend and I decided to make jam. I have never made jam before. I thought there was a lot of cooking and reducing and sugar and sticky involved. Turns out only two of those things are relevant when you make jam using instant pectin, which is the gelatin-like powder used to make the jam. I think some people might call this freezer jam?

Anyway, I bought eight (eight!) quarts of strawberries at the market and half of them were turned into jam later that day. Truly this was not a difficult project, and the jars will last in the freezer for a year. There is also the process known as canning that would allow an even longer shelf-life, maybe outside of the fridge, but I honestly know nothing about that.

This recipe here is straight off of the Ball (like the jars) instant pectin pouch. The only variation is that Boyfriend purred all of the berries (he doesn’t like his jam, or his women for that matter, chunky), which gave the final product a nice, smooth texture, albeit a little more runny than store-bought. But the flavor can’t compare, and the fact that I can pronounce all of the ingredients (all three of them) makes me feel a lot better about what I am putting into my body.

Cheers!

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Makes 5 8-oz jars of jam
Adapted from the back of this package

1 pkg instant pectin
1 ½ cups sugar
4 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and crushed or pureed to desired chunkiness
5 8-oz glass canning jars

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and instant pectin until well blended
  2. In a large bowl, combine the berries and the sugar-pectin mix
  3. Stir for 3 minutes
  4. Ladle (or funnel, if your berries are runny enough) jam into jars
  5. Seal with lids and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until jelled

Jam will last in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or in the freezer for up to a year.

Recipe: Blueberry Coconut Breakfast Cookies

Now that winter has (mostly) retreated, and the thought of a warm bowl of oatmeal is less satisfying and more sweat-inducing, I am turning to other forms of nourishment in the mornings. I am one of those people who eat breakfast every day, even if it is just a granola bar, a bowl of fruit, or a cookie.

Or a piece of pizza. Guilty.

But back to the cookies. Yes, you too can have cookies for breakfast! I initially felt a little guilty about consuming sweets so early in the morning, but as you will see, this “breakfast cookie” contains muffin mix as part of its base. And while muffins aren’t always a super-healthy breakfast food, at least these aren’t worse than a muffin. Plus, [dried] fruit. And oatmeal. Pretty breakfast-y.

I made a batch of these over the weekend, sent half with Boyfriend and brought the other half to work. On Friday, I consumed my final breakfast cookie, eating one each morning for a whole week. The cookie that keeps on giving. Until you eat the last one on Friday and have to plan what you are going to make this weekend to feed your face in the mornings because you wake up too late to pour yourself a bowl of cereal. And really, that stuff is not easy to eat in the car. I don’t recommend it. At all.

So go make yourself some take-to-work breakfast cookies, and focus on the fact that you are actually eating breakfast. That’s supposed to be healthy, right?

Cheers!

Coconut Blueberry Breakfast Cookies

Makes 12 large breakfast cookies
Adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

7oz box Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix (the ones that are, like, $.89)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
1 cup quick oats
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
  3. Cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy
  4. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well blended
  5. In a separate bowl, combine muffin mix, flour, baking powder, coconut, salt, and oats
  6. Slowly add to butter/sugar mixture and mix well
  7. Drop by large spoonfuls onto cookie sheets
  8. Bake cookies 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown
  9. Remove from oven; allow to cool slightly in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack until fully cooled; store in airtight container [in your desk] until ready to enjoy [every morning for at least a week]