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Rosemary Potato Pizza

21 Oct

This pizza has been haunting me for months and months–it combines so many of my favorite things, how am I supposed to resist it??  This is definitely a meal idea you want to keep on hand because it’s fast, delicious, and uses ingredients that you’ll likely already have (and if not, it’s just a quick run to Trader Joe’s).  I’m not sure which part I like best–the rosemary (my favorite herb), the mozzarella (which is light and not too much), the creamy potatoes or the crispy chewy crust.

This was also the first time I tried a secret trick to get a crispy pizza crust without a pizza stone…and wouldn’t ya know, it worked!  By putting the baking sheet into the oven ahead of time, while the oven is heating up, it helps the bottom of the crust crisp up while the top bakes normally–it was perfect!  I admit I didn’t make the crust dough myself, but I think sometimes it’s more important to get healthy, stress-free food into you than making EVERYthing handmade and, besides, Trader Joe’s refrigerated pizza dough is delicious!

Rosemary Potato Pizza
Adapted from Stone Soup via Elephantine

  • refrigerated pre-made pizza crust (Trader Joe’s suggested – you’ll find it near the pre-made salads, it should make about 3 decent sized pizzas or 4 slightly smaller pizzas)
  • 1 small-medium red potato per pizza
  • 1 sprig rosemary per pizza
  • 1-2 small balls of fresh mozzarella (the kind floating in water)
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt for sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 and place a lightly oiled baking sheet in oven as it warms
  2. Divide the dough into the number of pizzas you want and gently stretch dough into thin rounds, leave on counter workspace while you prepare the other ingredients
  3. Slice the potatoes extremely thinly (this is another job the mandolin slicer came in very handy for) and slice the mozzarella balls as thinly as they can go, likely 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick.
  4. Once the oven is preheated, using oven mitts, take the hot baking sheet out of the oven and place on a safe surface.  Transfer the dough rounds to the hot baking sheet (you may have to bake in batches) and brush olive oil over the raw dough.  Arrange the potato slices in a single layer, slightly overlapping, sprinkle rosemary leaves over the pizza, arrange the mozzarella bits and drizzle with a second round of olive oil.
  5. Put sheet with pizzas back into oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese and crust are just starting to brown.
  6. Sprinkle with salt to taste.  Enjoy hot out of the oven!
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Homemade Fruit Leather

19 Oct

Fall in Southern California is a little hard to find sometimes, but I certainly found it while camping in Sequoia National Park this weekend!  It was just cool enough that I needed to wear a jacket while hiking and there were hints of snow on the mountain tops.  The trees there are mostly conifers, which meant we didn’t get beautiful orange and red Fall foliage, but it did smell just like Christmas was around the corner and that was good enough for me!

While preparing for the camping trip, I was considering different snacks to bring for the hike: homemade granola?  just hope that fruit stayed intact in our backpacks?  and then I came across homemade fruit leather on Pinterest and I was sold (especially because the Boyfriend was out of town and he LOVES fruit leather and I knew he’d love the surprise).

This recipe can be made to accommodate almost any fruit you can think of.  I was headed for strawberries but went with raspberries because they were on sale at the grocery store and my brain has already started thinking up crazy cool combinations (cinnamon-peach-blueberry would be fantastic!)  I must admit, I thought these were the sweetest raspberries I’d ever tasted and thus decided to forego the sugar…which turned out to be a poor decision because it meant that these leathers were EXTREMELY tart (I think I may have used extra lemon juice on accident as well…).  That said, plenty of people loved them, so it really will have to be up to your own judgement how sweet you want to make these–just taste the puree before drying and know that sweetness is concentrated once the leather is dry.  These are super simple to make and, while it SEEMS like they would be time consuming, it’s really hands-off for the most part, so I’m sticking by my “these are super easy” statement.

I can say for sure that these certainly didn’t take as long to dry as other people suggested, which surprised me a little, but I think if you just keep a close eye on it, you’ll be fine.  I just stacked the strips in a plastic baggie and threw them in my backpack and they didn’t stick together at all–no powder coating needed AND no sticky fingers after eating, so I was pretty delighted with how they turned out. 

Happy Hiking!  (or Happy School Lunches…or Happy Quick Snack Break at the Office…)

Homemade Cinnamon-Vanilla Raspberry Fruit Leather
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
yields one 12″ x 16″ pan

  • 2 cups raspberries (or other chopped fruit)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 0 – 1/4 cup sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (adjust according to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (adjust according to taste)
  • vegetable oil
  1. Heat oven to lowest temperature setting possible.  My lowest setting is 180 degrees, so I just set the dial to about a 1/4″ short of the lowest temperature and hoped it would work (it did).
  2. Add fruit, water, and lemon juice to saucepan and stew for 10-15 minutes until softened.
  3. Add cinnamon and vanilla extract and let simmer for 5 more minutes.
  4. Using a stick blender or a food processor, blend fruit until smooth and let cool for a few minutes while you prepare the pan.
  5. Using a 12″x16″ rimmed baking sheet, line it with parchment paper (I used Martha Wrap, which I thought was perfect for the job) and brush prepared pan with a layer of vegetable oil.
  6. Pour the fruit puree through a sieve (it is definitely necessary for raspberries–those little seeds are tough!) over the prepared pan and spread it evenly over the pan with an offset spatula.  It’s like frosting a cake, only easier–the only goal is to make sure that you have a very thin, very even layer of fruit puree.  A bit of liquid separated out of the puree when I sieved it into the pan, but I was able to gently incorporated it back in with my offset spatula before spreading the layer even again.
  7. Carefully put the pan in the oven and walk away–it’s going to be in there for a number of hours.  Know that if you’re impatient and you poke it to see how it’s coming along, you’re likely to poke a hole in the leather, so I tested it by tilting up a corner of the parchment paper and seeing if the puree ran off the paper towards the center.
  8. I think my leather was in the oven for about 4-5 hours, but don’t quote me on that–all ovens are different and you really just need to keep an eye on things.  Many people who made fruit leather said they actually left the leather in their ovens on low all night, so I’m not sure why my oven was so fast.  About half way through the process I pulled out the leather and found it was getting a bit crispy and brittle on the edges.  Generously brush the leather with water and stick it back in the oven–this trick honestly works like a charm.  There was not a brittle edge to be found when I took the leather out for a second time, just chewy goodness!
  9. As I was about to go to bed, I decided the leather was done on top and that the underside was just a little sticky, but that all it needed was air-drying.  I carefully flipped the whole sheet of fruit leather over upside down and put it back in the pan, turned off the oven and put the leather back in to rest and dry in the oven so that it wasn’t taking up counter space.
  10. When you wake up in the morning, voila!  Homemade fruit roll-ups that you won’t cringe at when you put it in a lunchbox.  I used a pizza cutter to cut mine into strips with no problems.  Enjoy!

Maple Vanilla Nut Clusters

12 Oct

I absolutely love recipes like this: easy to make, easy to clean up, perfect to whip up for a group of friends and DELICIOUS.  I already have a spiced nut recipe that I swear by, but this recipe is a game changer.  I will definitely be turning to this one when I want something a little sweeter.  I added extra pecans to the recipe since I find it hard to believe you can have too many pecans but left the amount of glaze the same and I think it turned out fantastic.

These will be great to throw together before any Fall parties you may have coming up!  And, if you’re like me and planning your Thanksgiving menu already, these would be wonderful to make a few days ahead and have sitting on the coffee table for your guests to munch on while waiting for the big event.

Maple Vanilla Nut Clusters
Slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum

  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 3/4 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1/4 sugar
  1. Toast nuts in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes
  2. Combine water, vanilla, maple syrup and sugar
  3. Add butter and sugar mixture to toasted nuts. Continue to heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture is sticky and no longer runny (about 3 minutes)
  4. Remove from heat and spread the nuts around in the skillet.  Let sit for at least 1 hour in the pan or until cool and hardened

Lindsay, of Pinch of Yum, points out that the flavors really develop overnight, so it’s best not to chow down on it all immediately…but chow down the next day, for sure!

Bourbon Bacon Brownies

7 Oct

I really don’t know if much can be said about these brownies.  Bacon + Bourbon + Brownies = Mad Deliciousness.  They speak for themselves!

While I love a good BLT just as much as the next person, I have to admit that I’m not fully on the bacon train that has chugged through the foodie world (and, thankfully, seems to be on its way out), but this just seemed like a no brainer.  The brownies are soft and fudgy, the nuts are soaked in bourbon, and the bacon is a great crunchy contrast to the brownie texture.

I’ll be spending my weekend at the Hicksville Trailer Park Palace (really) for my good friend’s birthday and I think these fit the bill exactly for properly themed food.  That said, these will be great for any sort of ‘manly’ event, too–bourbon and bacon makes any fancy dessert more Y-chromosome friendly!

Bourbon Bacon Brownies
adapted from Baking Illustrated and SlashFood
Makes one 8″ x 8″ pan, approx 16 brownies

  • 1/2 a package of bacon
  • bourbon, at least a 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 5 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into quarters
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  1. Place an oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 400° F.  Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Set pecans in a small bowl and cover with bourbon, about 1/4 cup, set aside to soak.
  3. Arrange the bacon on the tin-foiled covered rimmed baking sheet and pop into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  When you take it out of the oven, transfer it to a plate lined with 3 or 4 layers of paper towels and blot dry.  The bacon will turn crispy as it cools.  Stack the bacon and slice into 1/4″ wide slices.
  4. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.  Set aside to cool.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated.
  6. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing in gently.
  7. Spoon the nuts out of the bourbon and fold nuts into batter (save bourbon for later).
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer; sprinkle bacon slices evenly all over the top of the brownie batter.
  9. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes.
  10. Pour reserved bourbon evenly over the top of the hot brownies.  It will soak into the brownies and spread deliciousness all over.
  11. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.  DIG IN!

Queso Blanco Dip

5 Oct

I know Los Angeles is supposed to be one of the best places in the States to get Mexican food, but I have to admit: my favorite Mexican restaurant ever is back in Georgia.  Frontera Mex-Mex holds so many memories of family, friends and teachers for me (The Boyfriend ate a 2 pound monster burrito there last Christmas so that he could get a free t-shirt for me.  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is) but if it wasn’t for the food, none of us would keep going back as often as we did.  One of the most popular items on the menu was their cheese dip, which was white and creamy, went perfectly with their salsa, and had jalapenos in it upon request.  Many an evening I spent trying to recreate this recipe, one which involved me, just diagnosed with bronchitis, going out into the freezing windy icy middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania winter to the Walmart close to campus to go get cheese.  That’s how amazing this stuff is: you risk death just to taste it.  The only problem is, it was practically impossible to recreate.  I tried fancy Mexican cheeses like queso fresca, because it looked white like what they had at Frontera and it was Mexican, so how could it go wrong?  Turns out queso fresca doesn’t actually melt, so that trip turned out to be a bust, only one of many busts to come.

In the end, I finally went home to Georgia for Christmas and just ASKED the staff at Frontera what was in their cheese dip.  Would you believe the greatest cheese dip in all the world from the greatest Mexican restaurant in all the world (okay, that fact is admittedly debatable) is actually made from plain old white American cheese!?  I got over that shocker of a fact quickly and just headed to the nearest store.  Note: you’ll have to go to the deli to get the white American cheese; my deli lady just sliced it into normal sandwich slices (so she could weigh it properly) and I just finely diced it when I got home instead of shredding it.

Upon tasting, I nearly passed out in front of the stove.  This was it!  And now if only I can get Frontera to ship over a burrito al carbon, I’d be a happy happy girl.  (I’m also going to be a fat girl soon–this weekend I’ve been requested to make my other, more famous and more unhealthy queso dip recipe, the one that involves Velveeta.  This recipe will make it on the blog eventually but I’ll let you work on burning off the calories in this one first, okay?)

Queso Blanco
Serves a group of about 4
Adapted from Annie’s Eats and Confessions of a Foodie Bride

  • 1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 12 oz white American cheese, shredded or chopped
  • 4 oz Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/4-3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tomato, seeded and finely diced
  1. Heat oil in pan and saute the jalapeno pepper over medium heat until softened.  CAUTION: have windows open or a fan on when you do this.  I was coughing and choking from the spicy vapors in the air and then The Boyfriend rang the doorbell and I opened the door and he started immediately choking too.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the cheeses and 1/4 cup milk to the pan.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon until almost fully melted, then add the tomato and continue stirring.
  4. Add milk until you’ve reached the desired texture.  I remember the cheese dip being pretty fluid, so I kept adding milk, but once I’d added a bit too much, it lost the creamy cheese flavor, so don’t add more than an extra half cup or so.
  5. Garnish with tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, and raw jalapeno, if you dare; watch it disappear in almost no time! (especially since it’s football season, right?)

Lemon Cheesecake Cheese Ball

24 Aug

The last of my party recipes for now and, admittedly the second cheesecake recipe in a row, but this one is a great way to have a dessert on the buffet table that takes literally minutes to throw together the night before.  And who doesn’t like cheesecake?  So I think you’ll forgive me for the cheesecake overload this week.  Also, this is a completely different take on cheesecake as it doesn’t have to be dessert–it’s not heavy at all so you can have it as a lightly sweet appetizer on the brunch table or party buffet.

Definitely make this the night before as it needs to chill in the fridge for a few hours first.  Also, make sure that when you’re crushing up the graham cracker crumbs the next day, you’re not rushing to get stuff done before guests arrive–I was (when am I not frantically running around?) and 5 minutes before my guests came, my rolling pin slipped and accidentally flung graham cracker crumbs all over the entire kitchen and the girls showed up to me frantically sweeping up the kitchen floor and counters.

Regardless of the easily avoidable mess, this recipe is practically the opposite of Monday’s recipe–instead of dark strong chocolatey coffee flavors, this one is light and refreshing and perfect for an end of the summer party.

Lemon Cheesecake Cheese Ball
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

  • 10 oz. cream cheese
  • 2½ tbsp. sugar
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 graham crackers
  1. Mix cream cheese and sugar together–though it will be more like mushing together and less like stirring.
  2. Mix in lemon zest and lemon juice
  3. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and spoon the mixture into a little heap in the center.  Fold the wrap over the mound and shape the mixture into a ball shape.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, overnight is fine and reshape if necessary when you pull it out.
  5. Crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs and roll the ball in the crumbs until evenly coated.  If necessary, take pinches of the crumbs and gently press them in to any spots that look a little bare.
  6. Serve with sliced fruits (I liked it with green apples and nectarines) and, my personal favorite, Nilla Wafers.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

12 Aug

I’m having a few friends over tonight to enjoy the beach air and a movie so this is the first of a handful of quick & easy party recipes I have stored up my sleeve for you lovely people.

On any night, my favorite bar food is roasted red pepper dip.  It’s even better as an appetizer at home because when you’re stressing about party planning, this dip takes literally minutes, minimal dishes to clean up later, and then voila!  One less thing on your mind to worry about.

This recipe in particular has just a hint of dairy in it to give it richness and a smooth texture without overdoing it, yet the roasted pepper flavor is still the star.  As you know by now, I am a garlic lover, so you may want to reduce the recipe to just one clove if you’re not so inclined to super garlicky recipes.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • one 15 oz can of white cannelini beans, drained
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend.
  3. Serve with pita chips or sliced veggies.

Even simpler than whipping this up the day of the party is whipping it up the night before! I promise you can throw this together during a commercial break on tv and go to sleep knowing it’s one less thing you have to accomplish the next day.

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