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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tailgate Treats & Eats: Fresh "Pickles"

Okay, food fans, been a long day so I'm going to toss you something SUPER SIMPLE (but simply tasty too).

I love cucumbers.  I love vinegar.  I love them even better together.

Fresh "Pickles"

2 small cucumbers
1-1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp herb or spice

Peel and slice the cucumbers.

You want the slices to be thin enough to lay on a burger or chicken filet sandwich but thick enough to hold it's own.  I peel the cucumbers because the peel can be rather bitter.

Put the slices in a glass jar and pour the vinegar over.

I used a combination of white vinegar and white balsamic vinegar because I like the slighty sweet edge that white balsamic has.

Sprinkle in your herb or spice and mix well.

I used dill weed, but you could add crushed coridander seed or fresh ginger slices too.  Experiment and see what you come up with.

Cover and store in the fridge for at least 12 hours. 

The "pickles" will tart and crunchy, with a nice fresh taste to them.  Great for snacking or sandwich enhancement.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tailgate Treats & Eats: Mini Cheeseballs

I was going to call these "Wee Winky" Cheeseballs but figured "Mini" Cheeseballs would result in less mockery when you tell your eaters about them.

They can be made a day in advance and then be ready to pop on a cracker (or sandwich between two) and chomp away on once the pre-party gets started.

Mini Pepper Jack Cheeseballs
makes 12-15 balls

1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
3 oz. cream cheese
2 tsp white wine
1 tbsp chives, minced

For rolling: red peppers, chives or roast almonds, chopped small

With a fork in a bowl, mash together the pepper jack and cream cheese until it forms a paste.

Add in the white wine and stir.  Then fold in the chives.

Using a teaspoon, roll the mixture by hand into small balls.

Roll the balls in red peppers, chives and/or roast almonds and then place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set.

Mini Cheddar Cheeseballs
makes 12-15 balls

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp white onion, minced

For rolling: pecans or walnuts, chopped small

Follow same procedure as above.

When ready, serve with your favorite crackers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tailgate Treats and Eats: P-A-C Muffins

Okay, this may be pushing tailgate boundaries a bit, but I've been told that for noon time games there a tendency to lean toward the brunch side of foods, grilling out bacon, flapjacks, sausage in that vein (and because I had some peaches leftover and they are in still season), I though muffins would be a tailgate amenable food.  Easy to make, transport, and eat, and who says beer and muffins can't be friends?

Ooooh, side note, wouldn't Jennifer's Spicy Sausage-Cheese Muffins be great for tailgating too!?!  Beer + sausage + cheese + bread.  Just saying.  (  

But in the meantime, try these on for size.

Peach Almond Cinnamon Muffins

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh peaches, chopped
1/4 almonds, chopped

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream sugar and butter together until well blended.

Add in 1/3 of the dry mixture, and blend together with sugar and butter.

Using a wooden spoon (or spatula), alternately mix in milk and the rest of the dry ingredients (milk-dry-milk-dry).

Once all the flour is moistened, fold in peaches and almonds.

Line a muffin pan with cupcake holders and fill 2/3 full with batter.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from pan and set on rack to cool.


You can substitute 1 cup of another fruit for the chopped peaches (blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, apple).

You can substitute 1/4 cup of another nut for the chopped almonds (pecans, walnuts, pistachios).

If you want to add a little extra sweet to the muffins, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar when you take them out of the oven.  Just one thing to note, if you brush the muffin tops, they will be a little squiggy on top the next day, don't taste any different, just a little squiggy.

You can find the flower petal cupcake holders pretty much any where they sell baking supplies (Michael's, AC Moore, WalMart).  I love them because they made taking the muffins out of the hot muffin tin VERY easy, just lift and move.  Plus they are super cute.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tailgate Treats & Eats: Summer Layer Dip

Alrighty, let's get this tailgate party started.  Thought I'd start out with something "simple", chips and layered dip, but with a late summer Southern twist.

Got most of the important ingredients at the Farmer's Market because peaches are currently in season while tomatoes and peppers are found everywhere too.  Also included some of my new favorite onions -- walla wallas -- to add another layer of sweetness to the mix. 

The dip is both filling and easy to serve.  Makes a nice snack companion for adult beverages while you're waiting for the grill to heat up.

Summer Layer Dip

2 small bell peppers, chopped and sauteed (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp chili oil
1 can red kidney beans, drained and mashed
1/2 tsp cumin
1 peach, peeled and rough chopped (about 1 cup)
4 small tomatoes, rough chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
cheddar cheese, shredded
lettuce, shredded
corn chips

Chop up the peppers and lightly saute them in the chili oil.  Cook them until they are slightly soft but still have some crunch to them.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Drain the kidney beans and mash them with a fork or pastry blender into a rough paste.  Mix in the cumin and spread the paste in the bottom of a 8 x 8" container.

Sprinkle the sauteed peppers on top.

Rough chop the peaches then layer on top of the peppers.

Rough chop the tomatoes, fine chop the onions, mince the cilantro and mix together.  Sprinkle the mix over the peaches in the container.

Next sprinkle with shredded cheese, then lettuce, a tidge more cheese and it's done.

Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Can be served chilled or room/parking lot temp.  Use corn chips to scoop and nosh. 


All the ingredient amounts are just suggested, you can manipulate them to suit your own tastes and preferences.  I like it because it tastes light and fresh, but will still fill you up.

I made enough for an 8 x 8" because, well, otherwise I'd be eating it for days.  You can easily double all the ingredients and make enough to fill a 9 x 13" for a larger party.

I like multigrain chips with this, but they do tend to get brreaky.  Substituting some sturdy scoops or rounds would work well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Let the Tailgating Begin!

So as we're rolling up into football season, we're also hitting primetime for that long-standing, pre-sport tradition known as tailgating.  Now I can't remember the last time I tailgated (if actually ever), but I am pulling together a braintrust of tailgate aficionados from different parts of the country to help guide me through the whats and wherefores of asphalt eating.

Tailgating is so second nature to major sporting events (and some non-sporting events) that I don't think anyone ever thinks about how it all started.  Did a little digging around to see what I could find out.

There's a great little write-up by Matthew Van Cura (Aug 2009 -- talking about The Original Tailgaters.  To summarize, tailgating was a product of early College Football games among the Ivy League in the North, where fans would gather to feast together before and after a game.  With the advent of the civil war, it became more of a showcasing issue where fans would bring culinary dishes that reflected their side of choice (N v. S, the ultimate rivalry).  It kind of grew from there.

Now there are a couple of things that all tailgates have in common -- alcoholic beverages, grilled food, family/friends, and a sport to watch -- but there is a crazy wide variety in the factors that will determine what kind of tailgate you have.  Things like what time of day the game is (noon v. late afternoon v. evening) or what time in the season it takes place (late summer v. fall v. winter) that will determine whether or not you're looking at brunch or lunch or linner or dinner or hot foods or cold dishes.  Even what part of the country you are in will make a difference!  I never gave much thought to these things but thanks to my pals Ryan, Tom, and Brian, I do now.
So over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to try to bring you some tailgate-friendly recipes and ideas as suggested and sanctioned by my Tailgate Braintrust.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ravioli a Panna con Piselli e Pancetta

I've had this panna (cream sauce) recipe forever, so long that I don't even remember where I got it from, but it's in my oldest, most food-stained, hand-written cookbook which means it's good.  But I didn't want it to just be good so I decided to take it and make it even better for you.

It's pretty simple...not low-cal...but taste-tastic!  I was inspired by the Philadelphia Cream Cheese sauces that are now out on the market.  Added some cream cheese to my original recipe to give it more body and a little richer taste.  Threw in some wee green peas, some crispy bacon action, tossed it on my current favorite ravioli (a food girl likes to change her mind), and voila dinner! 

Buon appetito!

Ravioli a Panna con Piselli e Pancetta
Ravioli in Cream Sauce with Peas and Bacon

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
1 tsp flour
1/4 cup half-n-half (or other light cream)
4 tbsp (2 oz) cream cheese
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
garlic salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
ravioli (pre-made)

Prepare ravioli like you usually would.  You can use whatever type of pasta you'd like for this dish, but ravioli or tortellini make a nice companion for the sauce.

Melt butter over medium heat. 

When butter is melted, whisk in flour and half-n-half, blend well.  Reduce heat to low.

Add in cream cheese and whisk until blended.

If sauce separated (butter refuses to get along with cream cheese), then whisk briskly (trying saying that five times fast) until they blend together.  Remove from heat while you prepare the other ingredients.

not friends
now friends

Meanwhile, fry up the bacon strips in a nearby skillet.  Once they have reached a nice crispy state, remove from skillet, allow to drain on a paper towel, then chop into small bits.

Add bacon bits and thawed green peas to the sauce, mix well. I popped my frozen peas in the microwave for 40 seconds on high to thaw them.  Drain if necessary.

Add in fresh cracked black pepper and a dash or two of garlic salt to taste. The bacon will provide a good deal of salt to the mix already, but adjust to suit your taste.

Once the ravioli is ready, pour you sauce over and coat well.  Serve up a dish, sprinkle with parm and you're all set.


My current favorite ravioli is Chicken with Ricotta.

I used turkey bacon (for allergy reasons), but you can use pork bacon or pretend bacon or whatever you'd like.

You could also add garlic or finely chopped sauteed onions to the sauce.  I like my food pretty simple actually, but either (or both) would make a great addition to the mix.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good and Good For You -- Green Peas

So little but with such big delicious taste.

Next to fresh green beans, green peas are my favorite veggie. I’ve been on a big pea kick lately thought I’d do a little research see if there was more to them than just cute, tempting, and tasty.

Green peas have been harvested and consumed since ancient times.  Before the advent of canning, they were were eaten fresh in the spring or dried and used later in soups (or eaten on their crunchy own).  It was only after people started canning them that they became available year-round.

As it turns out, peas are a superfood (get those bad boys a cape!). And what can they do for you?


Peas are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, and a couple of vitamin Bs to boot.
They are very high in lutein, which combined with their high zeaxanthin content, means they are good for the health of your eyes.
Peas are very high in protein so very good for those with vegetarian lifestyle (plus they are "meaty" and very filling).
They are low in fat but high in soluble fiber which is good for helping to lower cholestrol.
As it turns out, because frozen peas are usually frozen within hours of having been harvested, they often contain more vitamins and nutrients than fresh peas that have been left in their pods for several days.
Its best to store fresh green peas in the refrigerator, but you should use them almost immediately. The sugar content in peas will turn to starch if keep at room temperature for too long.
Snow peas and snap peas (or sugarsnap peas) are related to green peas in that all are legumes with pods, but snow pea and snap peapods are edible.
Have a yummy pasta dish in mind for this weekend with a big helping of peas in the mix so will be sharing that with you on Sunday. (I think I'm drooling already.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Spicy Sausage-Cheese Muffins

I wanted muffins today.  But not just any muffins, I wanted to make my friend Jennifer's famous Spicy Sausage-Cheese Muffins.  These muffins are famous among our group not only for their magically delicious taste, cheddar cheezy goodness, and spicy sausage muffiness, but also because, well...Jennifer doesn't cook (her kitchen is just a pretty place to store the fridge).

This is her one and only recipe, but let me tell you, if you're only going to have one recipe, this is the one to have.  Jennifer very generously agreed to let me share it with you and so now, here, in her own words...

Jennifer's Famous Spicy Sausage-Cheese Muffins

1 pound sausage (I use Neese's "hot" sausage, cause it's yummy!)
3 cups baking mix (I use Jiffy, cause that's what grandma uses)
1 and 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 can of cheddar cheese soup
3/4 cup water

Cook and drain grease from sausage, let cool.

Combine sausage, baking mix and grated cheddar cheese in large mixing bowl.

Mix cheddar cheese soup with water, and then add to the dry mixture.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease muffin pan, and fill muffin cups to the top with the delicious sausage-cheese goodness.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool, and bring to office for greedy, I mean grateful, co-workers.


Recipe made 19 muffins (or 1-1/2 dozen + a taste tester).

Spicy sausage is recommended but for those who aren't keen on spicy, you can use your favorite non-spicy sausage too.

In order to get the sausage small enough to mix in, I used a pastry cutter to chop the pieces smaller after it was cooked.

I used Jiffy mix, but you can use Bisquik too if that's what you have one hand.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Koolin' Off with Kahlua

And yet another couple blasts from the past (though this time not from the so-distant past).  Though I'd try out a few recipes from my "Kahlua®: Eat, Drink and Be Merry. A Guide to Food & Entertaining" (1997).

Summer is definitely the time to experiment with exotic beverages and here are a couple of Kahlua combos I'd never thought to put together before.  Please be assured that all of them have been taste-tested and k2-approved. (Please excuse any typos from this point forward.)

Kahlua Kookaracha
(in the tall thin shot glass)

3/4 oz. Kahlua
1/4 oz. Two Fingers Tequila

Fill shot glass with Kahlua and tequila. Garnish glass with gummy worms.  Bombs away! (Their words, not mine.)

I didn't have Two Fingers on hand so substituted Hornito Agave Tequila.  I don't think it matters what brand you use (this was a promo books so there was probably some inter-brand back-scratching going on).  Just pick your fave and run with it. Oh, and I forwent the worms (yes, Ducky, "forwent") because...well, ick.  It seemed to work just fine without them.

Kahlua Sunset
(in the black and gold shot glass)

1/2 oz. Kahlua
1 1/2 oz. run
6 oz. orange juice

Pour over crushed ice.

Okay you've probably realized that the glass in the photo is not 8 oz., but I wanted to use this glass for the photo, oh, and I didn't have ice because I don't keep ice in the freezer.  I don't like cubed ice, I like crushed ice and my fridge doesn't make it...but this would be great with crushed ice...if I had any (I really love crushed ice).  As always, I used Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum.  This was my favorite of the three.

Kahlua Colorado Bulldog
(in the long-stemmed cocktail glass)

1 1/2 oz. Kahlua
4 oz. cream

Pour Kahlua and cream over ice. Add a splash of cola. Stir briefly. Wild!

Again, didn't use the right sized glass when photographing (had drank the other part to make it fit) or ice (see sad story above) and I don't know what this drink has to do with Colorado or Bulldogs, but it's really GOOD!  I used heavy cream and Coke for mixing it up and though I wasn't sure about the cream-cola combo, it ended up tasting like a fizzy White Russion (and I do love me some White Russians, almost as much as crushed ice).