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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

Long time, no post, huh? I know I keep saying this but if you can just hang with me a little longer I promise that I will be back to posting 3-4 recipes a week. Promise.

Now, the occasion for this post…I’m participating in my very first virtual baby shower! A group of food bloggers are celebrating the upcoming arrival of Josie’s baby boy! I couldn’t be more excited for her. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know how much I love Josie and her blog, Pink Parsley. We’ve never met in person but for some reason I just know that we would be such good friends if we were close to each other. Josie  lives in the Atlanta area so I’m hoping we can finally meet sometime very soon when I’m down there visiting my parents.

Since I’m a fellow Georgia girl, I wanted to make a Southern-themed recipe for the virtual shower. I actually grew up about 45 minutes from Vidalia, Georgia so when I spotted this Baked Vidalia Onion Dip in my Southern Living Cookbook, I knew it was the perfect thing! You can’t have a party without a dip, right?

The dip was so easy to assemble and I know it would be a crowd-pleaser at any get together (especially with football season coming up!). Since you sautee the onions first, it really tones down the onion bite and really brings out the sweetness in  them.

The original recipe did not call for a breadcrumb topping but I thought it would be a nice addition. We enjoyed the dip with crackers but you could also try tortilla chips. Play around with the cheese mixture – I used a combination of cheddar and an Italian blend but I think it would be especially delicious with pepper jack or Swiss.

Big thanks to Annie for organizing the virtual baby shower! Please check out her blog to see all of the amazing things that everyone contributed!

Baked Vidalia Onion Dip
(Recipe adapted from The Southern Living Cookbook)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
3 Vidalia onions, diced
2 cups cheese (cheddar, swiss, jack, a mixture, etc)
1 cup mayonnaise (light is okay)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
Dash cayenne pepper, optional for a little added heat
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup panko tossed with 1 tablespoon melted butter (for topping, optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a two-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add onions and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

In a separate bowl, stir together sauteed onions and garlic and rest of ingredients. Top with panko/melted butter mixture, if desired. Bake for 25 minutes and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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Before I even get started on the recipe portion of this post, let’s talk about the current status of Bakin’ and Eggs. I am the first to admit that my posts have been few and far between. My schedule has been so insanely busy lately that I just haven’t had time to get in the kitchen and cook new recipes to blog about. We’ve been turning to a lot of old favorites and quick meals that while healthy and delicious, aren’t really blog-worthy. Perhaps the most sad of all is how little time I have had to bake lately. I really miss it. What time I do have, I’ve been putting towards updating my healthy living blog, Peanut Butter Runner.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. If you’ll just stick with me, I promise that I will resume to posting 3-5 recipes per week again soon. I am so ready to get back in the kitchen.

Now, on to the dip. I’m not the best when it comes to appetizer ideas. Give me a cheese plate and I’m a happy girl. We had friends over for dinner last night and I wanted to serve an easy, healthy, make-ahead appetizer. I thought of making hummus but while I still love to eat it, I’m a little over serving it to guests. I found this recipe for White Bean Dip from Giada and thought that it sounded like a great alternative to hummus.

The dip was so super simple to make and ready in under five minutes. It’s just a puree of white beans, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. If you wanted to mix it up, I think that it would also be great with basil instead of parsley. I served it with mixed veggies and pita chips. It was a perfect make-ahead summer appetizer!

White Bean Dip
(Recipe source Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients:
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 garlic cloves (depending on how much punch you want to pack!), peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parsley in a food processor or blender. Pulse or blend until the mixture is pretty smooth but still has some texture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a small bowl and garnish with fresh herbs.

Yield: 6 servings

 

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I came across this recipe in the August issue of Cuisine at Home and immediately added it to the following week’s dinner menu. I had a variety of cherry tomatoes from my brother in law’s garden and basil growing in my herb garden. A perfect combination!

These were extremely easy to put together and created a pretty impressive side dish. The flavor was fabulous – what’s not to love about homegrown tomatoes, goat cheese and basil? I went on and on to Brandon at dinner that these would be the perfect thing to make for dinner guests. I also think you could cut the puff pastry a bit smaller for an impressive appetizer. I served my tarts with sautéed grouper and a salad but these could easily be a meatless main course alongside a big salad.

One Year Ago: Summer Corn Dip (this stuff is so addictive! I’m making it for a party this week!)

Tomato Tarts with Goat Cheese and Basil
(Recipe source Cuisine at Home, August 2010)

Ingredients:

2 sheets puff pastry (a frozen 17.3 ounce box)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
2 ounces herb flavored goat cheese
2 tablespoons milk
16 cherry tomatoes or varying colors (optional), halved
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Directions:

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut one puff pastry sheet into four even squares. Place squares on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cut remaining sheet into eight strips about 3/4 inch wide and then cut the strips in half crosswise (to create 16 total).

Place four strips around the edge of each pastry square, overlapping the corners (see photo above). Lightly brush edges with egg mixture and bake until puffed and brown, 22-24 minutes.

Whisk together goat cheese and milk. Divide cheese mixture among centers of baked tarts, spreading with a spatula and pressing very lightly to slightly deflate the centers. Top cheese mixture with tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Return tarts to oven and bake another 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 tarts

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I can’t even tell you how many times Brandon has asked me to make fried green tomatoes. And it’s not that I don’t love fried green tomatoes, I just don’t fry foods at home. I finally caved when Brandon came home with green tomatoes from his brother’s garden and presented me with this recipe from his Garden and Gun magazine. (Note, if you haven’t read Garden and Gun you must pick up a copy. It is a great magazine!)

I decided to go all out and top them with pimento cheese. Fried green tomatoes topped with pimento cheese were one of the passed hors d’oeuvres at our wedding and were a huge hit.

I was really surprised by how easy these were to make. I fried them in my cast iron skillet. It was relatively painless and didn’t leave the house smelling “fried.” I was very pleased with the final result – the tomatoes were perfectly crispy on the outside and had a great texture on the inside. The pimento cheese topping really took them up another notch!

I admit that I am planning on making these again soon for fried green tomato BLT’s and I can’t wait! Take advantage of tomato season and give these a try!

One Year Ago: Tomato Pie (one of my ALL TIME favorites!!!)

Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento Cheese
(Recipe source Garden and Gun for tomatoes and Bakin’ and Eggs for pimento cheese)

Ingredients:

FOR THE TOMATOES
4 to 6 green tomatoes, sliced
2 cups buttermilk (not fat free)
2 large eggs
2 cups White Lily (self-rising) flour mixed
1 cup stone-ground (medium) cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Generous pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups canola oil mixed with
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (I just used canola oil!)

FOR THE PIMENTO CHEESE
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pimentos (or chopped roasted red peppers)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch garlic powder (if desired)

Directions:

FOR THE TOMATOES
Place sliced tomatoes in colander. Salt lightly, and let sit for about 5 minutes to help draw out moisture. Rinse under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.

Prepare wash by mixing buttermilk and eggs. Prepare dredge by mixing flour, cornmeal, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Working one at a time, completely coat each tomato slice in the wash and then in the dredge, gently shaking off excess.

In a cast-iron skillet over high heat, bring butter and canola oil to 350 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Reduce heat to stabilize. Working a few slices at a time, fry the tomatoes until golden brown, turning only once (about 3 to 4 minutes total). Transfer each batch to drain on brown paper bags or paper towels.

FOR THE PIMENTO CHEESE
Mix together cheese, mayo, pimentos, cayenne, salt, pepper and garlic powder if using. Stir together and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 first course or side dish servings

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I saw a beautiful bunch of beets with the greens still attached at the farmer’s market this weekend. They were definitely coming home with me. I’ve been wanting to roast beets and experiment with beet greens for a while now. I’ve been so inspired  by everyone’s CSA boxes full of interesting ingredients!

I was searching for a recipe that used both the beets and the greens. I found this Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges and Beet Greens from Bon Appetit on Epicurious and knew it was something I could work with. I made a few modifications to the recipe – I left out the garlic, caramelized the onions, reduced the amount of oil and vinegar in the dressing and added goat cheese. The results were fabulous. I loved this dish and all the flavors in it. The added plus was that it was pretty healthy – the beet greens are loaded with nutrients.

Unfortunately, my husband was not such a big fan. I will honestly say that he tried really hard to like it but he’s just not a fan of beets. Sad for me because I would love to make this again.

And now I have a ton of leftover roasted beets to use! Please let me know if you have any suggestions on favorite beet recipes.

One year ago: Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges, Goat Cheese and Beet Greens
(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2004)

Ingredients:

6 medium beets with beet greens attached
1 large orange
1 small sweet onion, cut through root end into thin wedges
1/8 cup red wine vinegar (add more, up to 1/3 cup, to taste)
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil (add more, up to 1/4 cup, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim greens from beets. Cut off and discard stems. Coarsely chop leaves and reserve. Wrap each beet in foil and place directly on oven rack. Roast until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour 30 minutes (mine smaller beets tool about an hour and the larger ones closer to 90 minutes). Cool and peel beets – you might want to wear gloves to avoid staining your hands. Cut each beet into eight wedges and place in a medium bowl.

Cook onions in a heavy skillet (I used cast iron) with olive oil, salt and pepper over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until golden and soft.

Cook beet greens in large saucepan of boiling water just until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Squeeze greens to remove excess water. Add greens to bowl with beets. Peel and remove white pith from oranges. Working over another bowl and using small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release segments. Add orange segments and onion to bowl with beet mixture. Whisk vinegar, oil and orange peel in small bowl to blend and add to beet mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour (mine only stood for about 20 minutes). Top with crumbled goat cheese and serve.

Yield: 4-6 first course/side dish servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 64

My most sincere apologies for the lack of updates over the last couple weeks. We closed on our first home and have been moving. Life is a little crazy right now! We LOVE our new house and are having so much fun getting everything unpacked and organized. The house hunting process was long with a lot of ups and downs but we really feel like we ended up with the perfect first home! Pictures of my new kitchen to come very soon.

I made this mushroom appetizer before we moved out of our apartment. It was also from the July 1946 issue of Gourmet (check out my previous post – Veal (or Pork) Scallopine – also from the 1946 magazine). They were a fun appetizer – Brandon loved them!

Promise I have tons of good stuff coming at you guys over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Mushroom Smetana
(Recipe source Gourmet, July 1946)

*Note – this is word-for-word how the original recipe was written. Crazy how different recipes were written then!

One fairly fancy hot whet which I dug into in the Shanghai-that-was is so good that we list it here. Never a gourmet-purist yet who didn’t want the recipes, once he tasted it. I call it Mushrooms Smetana – mushrooms with sour cream sauce – as did the Russian princess who was our dance partner for that night…Slice 1/2 pound of fairly small mushrooms fairly thin. Brown gently in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Mince one fairly large onion (we seem to be using a lot of “fairly’s” in this one!) and cook gently in another 1/2 tablespoon butter. (Original recipe said to do them separate, but I put them all together.) Now, turn in enough beef boullion or consomme to make quite moist, but not quite enough to cover. Simmer until mushrooms are tender. Work in 1 tablespoon of flour smooth with a little hot juice, put in pan and season with salt and cayenne to taste. Add 1 scant cup of sour cream (now buyable from any good town dairy); simmer up for 5 minutes. Serve hot on little squares of thin crisp toast. We add 1 tablespoon sherry just before serving.


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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 53

I didn’t get a great photo of this salad…it was late and dark and we were hungry…but it’s really delicious. I don’t think a salad can get any better than warm melty goat cheese atop a bed of baby greens with a simple vinaigrette. The warm goat cheese rounds are so easy to make and definitely worth the extra effort. This salad is an easy way to kick up a date night or company dinner another notch!

After our late night Sunday (we didn’t get home until 3:45 a.m.!), it’s taken a while to get caught up this week. I decided to take Monday as a rest day in an effort not to push my tired body too hard. I ran a quick 1.5 mile sprint on the treadmill and taught BodyPump on Tuesday. I went suuuppperrr heavy on my weights and as a result my lower body is really sore! Sometimes it just feels good to push it! This morning I went to a hot vinyasa yoga class before work and took Sullie for a 3 mile jog after work. The weather was beautiful. I think it was 75 degrees today. I can’t wait until this weather is here to stay. I am so much more motivated to run when the days are longer and the weather is nice.

Let’s talk quickly about early morning yoga classes. When I first started practicing, morning classes were a huge struggle. My balance was off and my focus just wasn’t there. Over time, I have become more accustomed to practicing in the morning and I can’t believe the difference in my energy level when I get a good class in before work. I don’t know if it’s the backbends or what but I feel so great and energetic for the rest of the day. And I can compare this to the mornings I teach BodyPump – completely different energy levels. So that’s my interesting tidbit for the day!

Also, just wanted to throw out to you guys that I am ALWAYS open to feedback and suggestions. Please let me know how you’re feeling about the new fitness spin in the posts. I’m still figuring out how I really want to blog about fitness and nutrition – I don’t know if it will be an evolution of this blog or a new blog? Let me know your thoughts!

And one more note…I have 12 recipes left to make for 68 Days of Gourmet and I’m looking for inspiration! Leave a comment or send me an email at bakinandeggs (at) gmail (dot) com if you have suggestions or something you’d like to see. It would be most appreciated :)

One Year Ago: Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers (still one of our favorites – we love this dinner!)

Baby Greens with Warm Goat Cheese
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook, published in Gourmet January 2002)

Ingredients:

1 large egg white
2 teaspoon water
4-6 (1/3-inch-thick) rounds soft mild goat cheese, cut from a cold log (use dental floss for easy cutting)
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs (preferably Japanese panko)
2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cups mesclun (mixed baby salad greens – about 2 ounces)

Directions:

Whisk together egg white and water. Dip cheese rounds in egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in bread crumbs, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill 15 minutes.

Whisk together vinegar, salt, mustard, sugar and a pinch of pepper in a small salad bowl. Add 2 tablespoon oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté cheese until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Remove cheese rounds from pan.

Add greens to dressing and toss gently to coat. Top with warm goat cheese rounds.

Yield: 2 servings

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A break from 68 Days of Gourmet to recap my fun-filled culinary weekend in Atlanta! Several months ago we bought tickets to see Muse and Silversun Pickups in Atlanta. We decided that since we knew so far ahead of time that we were going to be in Atlanta that we should make reservations to eat at Woodfire Grill. It’s the restaurant where Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie is co-owner and executive chef.

My parents moved to Atlanta last year and when I visited last summer they took me to Woodfire for dinner. I came home and told Brandon it was one of my top five meals ever and couldn’t wait to take him there. I was so surprised and excited to see last fall that Kevin was a contestant on Top Chef. We watched and rooted him on all season. Even though he didn’t win in the end, I think it’s fair to say that he’s the true winner in all the fan’s hearts! So needless to say, since Kevin enjoyed great success on Top Chef, it’s next to impossible to get a reservation at Woodfire – especially on the weekends. We made our reservations three months in advance!

Our dinner was phenomenal – the food and service was truly outstanding. We were greeted right when we walked in the door and shown to our table. I was excited to find that I had a view of the open kitchen. Our server was extremely knowledgable and friendly and made some great wine suggestions over the course of the night. We chose to do the five-course chef’s tasting dinner. Kevin had decided to go with a Southern theme for the tasting so all of our dishes had a little bit of a down-home feel.

A very quick overview of what we remember from the courses (I should have taken notes – and FYI – Brandon forbid me to take pictures).

First Course
Chef’s take on shrimp and grits – rock shrimp over a grit cake

Second Course
Fried oysters over what I would describe as a cauliflower risotto served with a hot sauce and garnished with watercress

Intermezzo
Horseradish/black truffle deviled egg

Third Course
Veal sweetbreads, a little slice of perfectly cooked lamb, collard greens and a boiled peanut sauce. This was the shining star of the night. Each element of the dish went together and complimented the others perfectly

Fourth Course
Pork belly, slice of pork tenderloin with some sort of vegetable hash. I’m fuzzy on the details here but the pork belly was delicious!

Fifth Course
Curried chocolate molten cake, curried ice cream and a crispy peanut wafer. The curry with the chocolate was interesting…at first you just tasted the chocolate then you really got the curry taste in the finish

After dinner we were able to chat with Kevin for a minute and snag a picture. Of course, I was totally losing my voice over the course of the night and could barely talk by the time we met Kevin – boo! He is so nice and I am so amazed by his talents given he his only 27 years old! So jealous! :)

And I’m sure you’re thinking this post is over now but no…I have more for you! My friend Michelle ended up having a kitchen shower the same weekend in Atlanta. Love when things work out like that! When I arrived at the shower I was so surprised to learn we were having a cooking demonstration! So up my alley!

Chef Natalie in action

The shower hostess hired Chef Natalie Vallo to demonstrate brunch-themed dishes for us. She demoed mini quiches (recipe and picture below), savory palmiers and bistro mustard vinaigrette. It was such a nice change of pace from your typical shower and I loved that Chef Natalie focused on seasonal, sustainable ingredients. If you live in the Atlanta area you should definitely check out her website! She offers all kinds of services ranging from personal chef to special needs diets to cooking demonstrations.

The bride-to-be (right) enjoying the shower and cooking demo

So if you’ve made it to the end of this marathon post, I reward you with the recipe for mini quiches that Chef Natalie made for us Saturday! Sure to be a hit at any brunch!

One year ago: Buffalo Sloppy Joes

Mini Quiche and Easy Food Processor Pie Crust
(Recipe source Chef Natalie Vallo of Food Optimist)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

FOR THE PIE CRUST
3 tablespoons ice water (plus more if needed)
1 stick butter, frozen and cut into tablespoons
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

FOR THE QUICHE
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
A bit of freshly ground nutmeg
A sprinkle of kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Fillings of your choice (no more than three) – we had roasted red peppers, sauteed spinach and goat cheese

Directions:

FOR THE PIE CRUST
Add flour, frozen cut butter and salt to bowl of large food processor (at least 9-cup). Hold down and pulse for 10 seconds. Add the 3 tablespoons of ice water and hold down and pulse for 7 seconds. Mixture should resemble cornmeal so if it does at this point move to the next step. If not, add water one tablespoon at a time and pulse for 3 second intervals until you get the cornmeal texture. Be very careful not to overwork the dough.

Gather dough and wrap in plastic wrap for at least 2 hours. Roll out and use as needed. For mini quiches you should be able to fill 12 muffin tins with one pie crust recipe.

You will want to prebake the crust a little for the quiches. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust in tins and line with parchment paper and fill with dry beans. Bake at 375 degrees until crust appears pale and dry, about 10 minutes.

FOR THE QUICHE
Combine everything from egg through pepper in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Place quiche filling the the bottom of the prebaked crusts and pour egg mixture over filling until about 2/3 full. Place the muffin tin on a baking sheet before placing in the oven. Bake for 375 degrees until quiche is set, about 15-20 minutes. Quiche should be about the consistency of jello when you shake. Let cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature – it will finish cooking.

Yield: 12 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 43

It’s funny how certain recipes get really popular in the food blogging world. I saw these Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites on Pink Parsley a couple months ago and thought they looked fun. Then I noticed the original recipe was from Gourmet – even better! I thought these would be a kid and adult friendly snack at my niece’s second birthday party a couple weeks ago. Since seeing the recipe on Josie’s blog, they’ve been popping up everywhere. So for my food blogger readers – I apologize if you’ve seen this one several times already.

I am sorry that I’ve been so slack with the blog this week. I’ve had a lot going on and no time to sit down at night to update. We have friends coming to stay with us tonight so I’ve been a busy bee trying to get our tiny apartment presentable and ready for guests. Also, we’ve been dealing with house hunting drama. Thought we finally found something we were excited about making an offer on this week but it didn’t work out. I am seriously sick of looking at houses! It’s been a long process.

It’s been a pretty lackluster week on the fitness front too. More rest days than I’ve had in a long time – which maybe isn’t a bad thing considering the injury and general soreness I’ve had the last several weeks. I taught BodyPump Monday, hot vinyasa yoga Tuesday, rest day Wednesday and taught BodyPump last night. Today is looking like a rest day too. I set my alarm to go to yoga this morning but we didn’t make it to bed until midnight last night (so late for us) so I was not ready to get up at 5:45 a.m. Hoping to get some good yoga classes in this weekend and test my leg out with an easy run.

Update on 68 Days of Gourmet: I’m on day 43 and ready to get this project wrapped up. I did some work this week planning out the rest of the recipes that I’m going to make. Trying to look back to make sure that I have a good balance of all the different recipe categories and a good mix of old and new. I still have a few recipes left to pick so let me know if there’s something you really want to see. I’m happy to take requests. :)

These Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites were a good snack for the birthday party but not something I think I will make again. This was my first time making soft pretzels and I enjoyed the process of making them. It was fun and different. But in the end I didn’t think these were worth all of the work. There just wasn’t enough ham and cheddar flavor to them and I think the dough itself could have used a little salt. I even added more ham and cheddar than the original recipe called for.  Also, I will say that they were much better warm out of the oven than served room temperature.  I’m really surprised that I didn’t love these because they did receive great reviews from the other bloggers who made them?

Promise more updates over the weekend and next week! I’ve got some good stuff planned!

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 2009)

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely chopped country ham or regular ham, divided
1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, divided
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Directions:

Stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast). In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the following steps but you can definitely just follow these directions: add 2 1/2 cups flour and the milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary (which it probably will be – this is an extremely sticky dough). Turn out dough onto a floured surface and gently knead with floured hands a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room (ideally around 80 degrees) until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours. Tip – I like to let my bread rise in the oven. I turn it on for a minute or two then switch it off and place the bread in there to rise.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and cut into four equal pieces. Working with floured hands, gently roll and stretch one piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you. Roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Make three more ropes using the same method. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if cheese oozes out a bit.

When you remove pretzels from oven, brush with butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with a honey mustard dipping sauce, if desired. (See original Jalepeno Honey Mustard in original recipe or see my favorite honey mustard here).

Yield: 4 dozen pretzel bites

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 21

I have to admit that I had a mini-meltdown during menu planning this week. I was all over the place and couldn’t make a decision. Sometimes menu planning is so simple for me – it all just comes together. Other times – not so much.  I was just really over thinking it for some reason. While we were unpacking groceries, I was rambling off the menu selections for the week. Brandon seemed pretty pleased with his options so I guess I pulled it off.

We decided to keep it simple tonight with salad and a baked potato. But not just any salad…Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs. I flagged this one in The Gourmet Cookbook because a) Brandon loves bacon and b) he thinks pretty much any food is even more delicious topped with an egg. One of his recent favorites has been a fried egg on hamburgers. Extra protein?

I actually made several changes to this recipe but it still turned out fabulously. First, we don’t love frisee – we usually pick it out of the salad mix or its left uneaten on the plate. You can’t even buy it on its own at the grocery store  where we shop and I was not going to make  a special trip for it. I had some baby arugula mix in the fridge so decided to go with that. Second, I realized I was out of red wine vinegar so I used a splash of white wine vinegar and a splash of balsamic instead. And last, I opted to use my egg poacher rather than use the written method for poaching eggs.

I will definitely be making this salad again. How can you not love this combination? And the warm bacon dressing is amazing…although I had to put it in the back of my head that it was essentially bacon grease and vinegar. This is a great easy weeknight dinner paired with soup or a baked potato. It would also be an impressive first course for a dinner party.

Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, printed in Gourmet February 1999)
Printable Recipe: Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs

Ingredients:

1/2 pound frisée (French curly endive)
6 ounces slab bacon or thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

Tear frisee into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. If using slab bacon, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Then cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4 inch thick strips (these are your lardons).

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from heat when bacon is golden and beginning to crisp. Set skillet aside.

In another skillet, place 1 inch of warm water and set aside. Fill up a 4-quart saucepan halfway with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a simmer. Break each egg into a teacup one at a time and slide into simmering liquid. Immediately push white around yolk with a slotted spoon, working gently. Egg should be oval in shape and yolk should be completely covered by white. Using the same method, add the remaining 3 eggs. Simmer eggs for about 1 1/2 minutes for runny yolks up to about 3 minutes for firmer yolks. Immediately transfer eggs to skillet of warm water.

Reheat bacon in its skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often. Add red wine vinegar and boil 5 seconds. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisée and toss with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide salad among 4 plates and top with drained poached eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

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