Category Archives: Appetizers

Hot and Spicy Nachos with a Cool Cilantro Sauce

As my test anxiety was building this week, I developed a very intense need for nachos.

A need for nachos.  Not just your average, “oh, I want nachos”, but a need for nachos.  You can’t ignore those kind of things.  When your body tells you that chips, beans, cheese, and chili powder must be in your belly in 15 minutes or you might die, you listen.

Just like when my body tells me I need to watch Christmas movies even though it’s the middle of June.  I listen and I listen well–and I’m currently watching The Family Stone.  (Please don’t judge me–times of high stress make me do weird things).

But back to the nachos.  I wanted to use up some more of my cilantro, so I decided to spice up my nachos and then cool it back down with a yogurt sauce.  Sound good?

And if you don’t like yogurt sauce, or if the smell/taste/look of cilantro makes you die a little bit inside (hi Fritz!), then you can just skip it.  Fritz enjoyed the nachos quite nicely without it.

Hot and Spicy Nachos with a Cool Cilantro Sauce

  • 8 small corn tortillas, sliced into quarters (or corn chips)
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1/4-1/2 C jalapeno slices (depending on how much you love your spice!)
  • 1/4-1/2 C Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/2 lemon (about 2 T lemon juice)
  • 1/4 C plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • small bunch cilantro (about 2-3 T chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and arrange your corn chips.  Since I had tortillas in the freezer, I microwaved them for a few seconds, sliced ’em in quarters with a pizza roller, sprinkled with a little salt, and baked them until they were crispy, about 15 minutes.  Obviously you can skip this step if you have some chips handy.

These were vegetarian chips, so I used an entire can of refried beans, but you could easily use half or less and add some meat to make them more hearty.  Once the chips are crisp, add the beans on top.  (By the way, I’ve made refried beans from scratch before, and they didn’t quite taste as yummy as the good ol’ canned version.  Reason why?  Third ingredient on the canned kind is lard.  Yeah.  Maybe not so good.)

Sprinkle with jalapenos and cheese.  Be generous.  With both.

Sprinkle on the spices and pop in the oven for a few minutes until the beans are warmed and the cheese melted.

Meanwhile, process the yogurt, cilantro, and lemon juice (lime would probably be even better if you had it!) until smooth.  Drizzle over the top and enjoy!

We both love, love, loved this dinner treat of nachos.  I definitely would have eaten these with some spicy salsa on the side, but we didn’t have any and there was no way my tummy was allowing me to hold off on the nachos.

Experiment with the spices–if you are the hot and spicy type, some cayenne might be just the thing you need.  And if you haven’t already jumped on the smoked paprika bandwagon, now is the time.

Really.  That stuff is good.

In other good and exciting news, we got our fourth CSA box yesterday!  Check out the goods for this week:

I’ve had a lot of variety in my green monsters lately–using kale, chard, and beet greens instead of only plain ol’ spinach.  For those new readers, I am a first-time CSA user from Golden Earthworm Organic Farm on Long Island–read more about their CSA program here.

Plan for tomorrow–up early for the gym, then a doctor’s appointment and spending a large majority of the day reading (for pleasure!) and definitely baking!  I feel like I haven’t baked anything in ages and I absolutely miss having it around. 

Have a great night!

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Filed under Appetizers, Snacks, Vegetarian

Vietnamese Spring (Is Near!) Rolls

Wow.  If 54 degrees and sunny isn’t enough to remind me that spring is almost here, than I don’t know what is.  Days like today make it possible for me to trudge through those last few gray, rainy, slushy months without despairing.  Plus, I love being able to crack the windows just a bit so I can breathe in some fresh air throughout the day.

And my recipe for today is spring rolls!  Is that perfect or what?  Fritz and I made these little gems together as part of our Valentine’s day dinner, and I’m so excited to share the recipe.  It’s not nearly as complex as I thought, and by baking them instead of deep-frying, they are good for you as well as delicious.  Perfection.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid) 

  •  1/2 lb ground pork
  • 4 oz peeled shrimp, finely chopped (about 3/4 C)
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C shredded carrot
  • 1 oz cellophane noodles (a little over 1/2 C)
  • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T Vietnamese fish sauce
  • spring roll wrappers (we used about 20)

Before starting, take out 1 oz of the cellophane noodles and soak them in warm water for about 20 minutes.  When they’re ready, drain them and cut into 1″ lengths with scissors.

Fritz and I ran out to the grocery store to get all the ingredients, and when we looked at the meat prices, there was a sale on pork chops and not on ground pork.  So what’s a girl to do?

Luckily, this particular girl has parents who recently bought her the meat grinder attachment for her KitchenAid for no reason other than that they love her (I probably would have bought pork chops to grind even if they were more expensive just to try the thing out)!  It’s just an added benefit that it was cheaper and I got to cut off the extra fat and have truly lean ground pork.

Fritz made me promise not to post a picture of the meat grinder in action, because it looks really gross (think: the demon barber of Fleet Street).  It literally took three minutes to set up, grind the meat, and take it back apart.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  Combine the ground pork, shrimp, onion, garlic, shallots, carrot, noodles, pepper, and fish sauce into a bowl and mix.

Now it’s time to set up your rolling station.

You need a dish that can fit the spring roll wrappers, filled with an inch or two of warm water.  Lay a damp dish towel flat on the table, and cover a baking sheet with another damp towel.  You’ll roll the wrappers on the first towel.  The wrappers are very fragile when wet, so you have to move carefully and cover the finished rolls with the second towel while you make more.

With dry hands (you don’t want the others to start sticking together), pick up a spring roll wrapper and hold it under the water until it softens, a few seconds.  Gently lay the wrapper on the damp towel, and spoon a generous tablespoonful of filling in a 2″ line on the side closest you.  Fold the closest edge over the filling, then the right and left sides, and roll it up tightly.

Place seam-side down on a baking sheet and cover with the damp towel.  Repeat until you run out of filling.

Preheat the oven to 350, and bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes, until browned.  Flip over about halfway through.

Arrange these beauties on a plate, and try not to dive in immediately.  If you have some leftover sauces from the last time you had Chinese take-out. this might be a good time to use ’em.

I love cooking on the weekend, because you get beautiful daylight-colored photos…not to mention there’s no rush to get dinner on the table because you just had school and now you have to get to the gym or go grocery shopping or–yes.  Weekend cooking is the best.

Have a beautiful day!  I hope this warm air inspires you as much as it does me.

As a side note, my lovely friend Breanna is running NYC’s Half-Marathon on a Team for Kids fighting childhood obesity.  It’s coming up soon, and if you have any spare cash lying around, she could use the fundraising help.  I am very passionate about this cause myself and whole-heartedly encourage you to donate if you can.  Every dollar helps! Click here to donate on her page.

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Valentine’s Day Fruit Dip…or Dressing?

Today a beautiful thing happened. 

I had a free moment to reorganize some of my kitchen cupboards.  Like I said, it’s a beautiful thing.

But before I talk about that I’m going to share with you a recipe for a fruit dip that I made in the spirit of Valentine’s day.  Well, it was intended to be a dip, but it turned out runnier than I wanted–and today I discovered the perfect use for it: a dressing for a quick and beautiful fruit salad.  It definitely wasn’t what I expected, but I took what I had and looked for the best in it–and it turned out better than my original idea.  Kind of like a relationship, right?  And to think, I learned all that without marriage counseling.

My idea was to make a yogurt dip to be used in lieu of chocolate fondue for a healthier (and pinker) V-tine’s day treat.  This could still be accomplished beautifully with a little recipe-tweaking.  Don’t worry, I’ll let you know what to do.

Valentine’s Day Fruit Dressing

  • 1 C plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 C milk (I may have used a bit less)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1-2 T brown sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
  • 3 strawberries, hulls removed

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.  I suggest adding the milk at the end, and slowly, so you can decide the consistency you like.  If you want to stick with the fruit dip idea, ditch the milk entirely.  You can also add some red food coloring if you want it to be pinker.

This truly tastes amazing.  The vanilla and brown sugar are the perfect complement to any fruit, without overpowering the natural flavors.  And the tanginess of the yogurt!  Don’t even get me started.  I made an impromptu fruit salad today of apple, banana, and strawberry, and drizzled this over in a sudden stroke of genius.  It was so delicious that it didn’t even occur to me to take a picture before I inhaled the entire bowl.  Perfect for the Valentine’s day sweet tooth without ruining my eating for the day.

So onto the cabinets!  They looked so nice and organized (and might I say crammed with ingredients) that I took pictures–and then I thought I’d share.  You know…just in case you’re interested.

This is our processed-food-and-non-perishable-cooking-ingredients cabinet.  Top shelf are mostly breakfast foods and snacks–two things in there that don’t belong there anymore are the Carnation Instant Breakfasts (I’m a big-breakfast girl now) and Bisquick (which should be in the fridge…oops).  However, I refuse to throw away food and I’ll use the breakfast shakes in smoothies or try to hide them in Fritz’s dinner somehow.  The middle shelf is all the canned stuff/pasta/rice noodles/pectin (in case I have a sudden urge to make jelly)/and spring roll wrappers that are just waiting for our Valentine’s day dinner-making date.  And of course, Grape Nuts courtesy of my dad.  I’m obsessed with eating 1/4 C in my plain Greek yogurt with a banana for breakfast.  The bottom shelf is my favorite–fun grains, rices, beans, and other exciting things to cook with. New on this shelf is some fun Chinese black rice Mom found in a specialty store that I’ll need to do some experimenting with.

Impressively packed, right?  This has been organized like this since we moved in, and it actually stays really nice for the most part.  Once in a while I need to shuffle some spices around so I don’t lose the little guys in the back.  On top of the cabinet are a few of the teas that I drink most often, for easy access.  The top shelf is beverage stuff on the left and dry baking ingredients on the right.  Middle is all my spices–which clearly I love.  I use all of them, but ranked among my most frequent are definitely cumin, thyme, and red pepper. Spices are free taste–no calories!  The bottom shelf is flours and sugars on the left, and all the wet ingredients I use–honey, PB, vinegar, jam, etc.  I’m most proud of the fact that I made a couple of the objects in the shelf–the mint jelly, vanilla extract, and a few of the spices were grown and/or prepared by yours truly.

Makes me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Superbowl Sunday: Spinach and Artichoke Hummus

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Superbowl Sunday.

Go Steelers!  Go Packers!  Go finger food!

I’m not much of a football fan…but I am definitely a die-hard snack fan–and when you make healthy snacks, then everyone wins!

I decided to combine two of my ultimate snack foods (spinach and artichoke dip and hummus) into one fantastic and somewhat healthier version.  Plus, if there’s a way to sneak vegetables into something I love to eat, then I’ll do it!  Not to mention hummus is delicious on carrot sticks, celery, tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers instead of chips, so it’s a double whammy.

Spinach and Artichoke Hummus

  • 2 C chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3-4 T tahini (4 for me…I can eat tahini straight outta the jar)
  • 2 T plain greek yogurt
  • 2-4 cloves garlic (I used 2)
  • 3-4 T lemon juice
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/8 t paprika

But that’s not it!

  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, packed in water

BAM!  This is not your ordinary hummus.

Add everything except salt, spinach, and the artichoke hearts to a food processor and process until smooth.  I suggest leaving the salt out until it’s smooth, then adding it slowly until you like the taste–everyone likes their hummus to taste different!  The first time I made it I added the salt straightaway and it was a bit salty for my taste.

Rinse the spinach and chop it into small pieces, then saute it quickly over medium heat.  Squeeze out the excess water and add to the hummus.  Chop the artichoke hearts, squeeze out the extra water, and add that too!  Mix it together, and try not to eat it all right away.

How amazing is that?

I love hummus.  I could eat that whole bowl with a spoon.  Right now.  But that’s probably not the healthiest thing ever–by the way, substituting the greek yogurt for some of the tahini is a great way to make your hummus a little bit better for you (without sacrificing the tahini completely–I could eat that with a spoon too.  Isn’t that weird?).

Enjoy!  And go get ready, because it’s almost game time.

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Meatless Monday: Spaghetti Squash and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

First, I’d like to thank my friends who said so many nice things about my blog today!  Thanks!  1) You make me blush; and 2) You make me want to blog instead of study even more!  So shall we?

A lot of people who read my blog and have witnessed my love affair with acorn squash have been telling me to make spaghetti squash.  I bought one about two weeks ago (don’t judge me–they last a long time in the fridge), and then my friend Cait made it on her blog, so I had to wait a week so I didn’t look like I was copying (just kidding!…I’m actually just lazy).  It was a long anticipated moment when I took that baby out of the oven, and it was my secret dream that I could fool Fritz into thinking he was eating man-food when he was actually eating lady-food, and we would live happily ever after with the vegetable part of our food pyramid finally growing larger than the carb and meat part.

I was so, so wrong.  Turns out neither of us really like spaghetti squash.  Bummer.

But just in case you do, I’ll post the recipe anyway.  I made it with my homemade pesto sauce that I took out of the freezer in two adorable individual serving-sized cubes.  Some people might not agree, but I like my squash to be sweet, not savory.  That combined with the weird crunchy yet wet texture of the squash itself just wasn’t my favorite.  I will try the leftover tomorrow with some cinnamon and nutmeg, and I’m fairly certain I’ll enjoy it–but it still won’t hold a candle to my first love, acorn squash (which, by the way, I called “walnut squash” as a kid).  And no, it doesn’t taste anything like spaghetti…but it does look awesome.

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 C water

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Take out all the guts (seeds and stringy stuff), and set aside.  Place the squash cut side up in a baking dish, and lightly coat the inside with olive oil.  Pour the water in the dish to keep the squash from drying out, and bake on the middle rack until soft, about an hour.

Doesn’t look like spaghetti, yet, but have no fear: take a fork and scrape it up. 

Serve in bowls with your sauce of choice; I went with pesto.  Try to fool husband.  Fail.

Okay, it wasn’t horrible.  Just not everything I was expecting and more. 

But wait!  Remember when I told you to set the guts aside?  Weird, right?  No!  Because I have pumpkin guts left over from when I made my pumpkin stand for the cake pops, and that can mean one thing and one thing only:  roasted salty pumpkin seed goodness!  These are the perfect snack for study time, or movie time, or really any other time.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Pumpkin (and spaghetti squash) seeds
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • salt to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Separate the seeds and wash with cool water to remove any excess pumpkin goo, drain.  Coat baking sheet with a thin layer of olive oil, and spread the seeds evenly.

Sprinkle with salt, and place on the middle rack to bake for about 15 minutes or until golden, occasionally turning using a spatula to brown both sides.  Cool and store in a Tupperware for future snacking!

Now, before I go, I want to show you two things near and dear to my heart.  One you may have already heard of.  He’s a cat.  His name is Henry.  He is so cute.

The other is a crafty new little set up that Fritz and I concocted for some of my jewelry.  I had that terrible situation where you have too many necklaces in a box, and they start to become one giant knot of beads and string that threatens to break every time you have to detangle it.  So I thought of a magical idea involving a towel rod and shower curtain rings, and Fritz executed it:

Who knows why I am in PT school when I should obviously have my own public access TV craft show.  Dream big, my friends.

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Sassy and Spicy Hummus

I realized a few days ago that I have had tahini and a can of chickpeas in my cupboard for roughly two months and I have no idea what took me so long
to figure out that I can make hummus with those ingredients!  ‘Specially with another little friend I have hanging around just waiting to be incorporated in a recipe.
 

Remember these guys?

 

from a friend of my father's

Well, until a few days ago they looked like this:

 

But now they look like this:

So those bland chickpeas and tahini from the cupboard?–taken up about 30 notches into the sassiest and spiciest hummus you could desire.

Sassy and Spicy Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (or dried, rehydrated and cooked)
  • 1/4 C tahini
  • 1/8 C water
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 t freshly ground cumin
  • 1 t hot red pepper flakes

 

This is quick and easy: put all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Then eat it!

 

I like to eat hummus with carrots and other veggies instead of pita or chips because I don’t get enough vegetables in the day and I definitely get enough processed carbs.  I can’t even keep chips in the house because I love them so much that I will eat an entire bag during a half-hour sitcom.  Yeah, so I stick with the baby carrots.

I made some treats today that I’ll post about tomorrow.  Until then!

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Peach and Goat Cheese Bruschetta and Mulled Apple Cider

Tuesday is definitely my favorite weekday this semester–I don’t have to go to class until 2:00, but I wake up when Fritz leaves to go to school at 8:00.  That leaves me with six hours to do anything that I want.  Which is usually cook and eat.

Fritz and I went home to visit my parents (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!) this weekend, and that means that we came back with tons of groceries from New Hope Mills and fresh produce from the garden.  I made vegetable soup for dinner last night which was a big hit with Fritz despite the fact that it contains no meat (no meat!? how is a man to survive??!).  I used potatos, onion, peas, and tomatos all from the garden and you can really taste the freshness.

 

But now that it’s Tuesday (aka Laurenday), I get to make what I feel like eating while I read or watch tv before I have to go to Prosthetics and Orthoses later.  And today that was peach bruschetta and mulled apple cider.  I found this easy-as-peach recipe from Better Homes and Garden while I was visiting my parents, and I happened to have goat cheese in the fridge from when I made pizza a while ago, so I knew I’d have to make it.

Peach Bruschetta

  • 2 ripe peaches
  • 1 loaf French bread
  • 1 C crumbled goat cheese
  • honey

 

Toast slices of French bread in the oven (cut on a diagonal) and spread with softened goat cheese.  Layer slices of ripe peach (room temperature is best) and drizzle with honey.  Try not to eat all at once.

 

 

To satisfy my undying hunger for all things fall (Hey, it’s 78 degrees today! That definitely counts as fall weather) I used up the rest of a gallon of apple cider we had left over from camping. I only had enough for one serving of mulled cider so I just eyeballed the ingredients.

Mulled Apple Cider (1 serving)

  • 2 C apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • dash of ground cloves or 1-2 whole cloves
  • 1 T brown sugar

 

Warm apple cider in a saucepan over medium heat, and add cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and brown sugar.  The spices can either be added directly to the cider and strained later (this is what I did) or put into a cheesecloth and removed prior to serving.  Simmer for 20 minutes, strain and serve immediately.

 

 

A seriously delicious morning.

Before class I’ll be heading over to a friend’s new apartment for a visit (apparently she has painted her room lime green), and then tonight I have yoga to finish off the day.  I think with the leftover French bread and pile of onions from home I might have to make French onion soup later in the week (if Fritz can handle yet another soup), but I’ll throw in a steak first to keep him pacified.  Au revoir!

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