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Eclecticisms: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Layered Basil-Roasted Red Pepper Spread

I confess. I'm a bit of a recipe snob. Totally guilty of it. If a recipe comes off a box, there is almost no chance in hell I'll try it. "Why is that?", you ask? I have no idea. Maybe because they usually call for ingredients that are pre-made and I feel it's cheating. Maybe I feel that I need something more "original". Who knows.

That being said, there are actually a lot of great recipes on boxes that I'm missing out on! This one didn't come from a box, but rather I tried it at someone's house at least a year ago and loved it so much, I asked for the recipe. I expected some gourmet chef to be behind this crazy-delicious dip, but nope, it's Nabisco. (OK- maybe there is a gourmet chef behind it, but still.... it's Nabisco!)

Is this blog just oooooozing snobbery? I hope not!

Here are the instructions on how to recreate this amazing dip. Give it a try and serve it to your friends... I guarantee you'll impress them!

*Slight variation- I increased the basil

1/4 cup roasted red peppers
pitted black olives, chopped
1 tub (12 oz.) Cream Cheese (Or, one brick and something to use as a mold.)
1/3 cup lightly packed  fresh basil
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp. Sliced Almonds, toasted

Using the pulse setting on a food processor, thoroughly combine the basil, garlic and cream cheese. Line a clean mold (or cream cheese tub) with plastic wrap and fill with the cream cheese half way.

Mix together the olives and red peppers and add on top of the cream cheese layer.

Top with remaining cream cheese, pressing into the mold so it's nice firm.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Top with sliced almonds if desired, and servce with crackers (or veggies!).

I'm already thinking about the many possibilities this recipe holds! You can blend the cream cheese with pineapple and use mangoes for the center layer, or blend the cream cheese with kalamata olives and use sun-dried tomatoes as the center layer? Split up the ingredients so there are two layer? The options are endless!

Happy eating!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

Here's the best feel-good story I've seen in awhile. Animals never cease to amaze me!

Bonus TT feature! I saw this in the paper a couple of years ago and it almost brought me to tears. I'm so proud of this little guy!

Officials at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo say the 10-year-old spurred tortoise has begun mating since being fitted with a custom skateboard to overcome paralysis of her hind legs.
The 55-pound turtle is unable to move herself forward with her front legs alone. So the zoo's staff built her a metal board with two wheels that can be strapped to her stomach.

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, June 27, 2011


Just a quick "Welcome" note to all my new followers! I see there are several of you, and I am SO excited to have you here! Please, feel free to let me know if you have any requests or suggestions on my blog content, as I want to keep it as interesting, helpful and fun as possible!

Keep an eye out for Tickled Tuesday tomorrow... it's a good one!
He can't wait for Tickled Tuesday!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Featured Veggie: Portabella Mushrooms

Portabellas are a perfect meat substitute in many cases, and taste great in pasta dishes, on sandwiches or just about any other way you can think of preparing them. On the off chance you've never tried them, portabellas have a richer flavor than regular white button mushrooms do and are easy to find in just about any grocery store. They are second to shitake mushrooms in my book, but they're a bit more versatile and cheaper, so they're still a major win.

Portabellas are often referred to and spelled as "Portabellos", but the Mushroom Council (yes, there is such a thing), states that the "a" spelling is actually correct. These mushrooms are simply larger versions of the crimini mushroom, older by only several days. Portabellas keep best in paper bags in the fridge.

Nutrition info:

1 serving of a portabella (86 g/1 cup) has only 22 calories, ZERO fat, 1g Fiber and 2 g protein. According to , they are also a good source of Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Iron, Magnesium and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Selenium.

Here's another recipe I tried that was cut out of a magazine oh, 8 years ago or so. I'm such a slacker. I got this out of either Cooking Light or VegTimes magazine (not sure which!) and made a few minor adjustments.

Ginger-Sesame Glazed Portobello Steaks

4 garlic cloves, mashed
1 tbsp peeled and minced ginger
2 tbsp tahini
1/2 c  soy sauce
1/3 c toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp  white wine
4 large portobella mushroom caps
1 tbsp sesame oil (for frying mushrooms)

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, tahini, sesame oil, brown sugar and wine. Stir well.

Add the mushroom caps, turning to coat them in the marinade, and allow to sit for 30 minutes, turning once or twice. I suggest trimming the stems off completely, so the mushrooms sit in the pan flat. Don't toss them though! Cook them on the side.

Heat the sesame oil (may use peanut oil) in a large pan and add the mushrooms. cook until tender and browned, about 6 minutes on each side. You may serve as-is, or slice the mushrooms into 1/4" thick pieces.

You may heat the reserved marinade and serve over some basmati rice as a perfect side dish. I also had some delicious lentils on the side.

Happy cooking!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

If you have a sense of humor like mine (sarcastic, a bit dark and slightly twisted), you'd thoroughly enjoy The Perry Bible Fellowship comics. Here's one of my favorites for today's Tickled Tuesday feature.

I can only dream that one day, my children will be as determined to reach their goals.

Happy Tuesday!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lentils with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Feta

Remember when I said I e-mail myself links to recipes all the time and have a treasure trove of ones I never got around to trying? Well, years ago I used to get VegTimes and Cooking Light, and would cut out the recipes I liked, saving them in a notebook. I went through some of those and found this lentil recipe which turned out delicious, and was pretty simple to make.

I found the original recipe in CookingLight, but here's a link with the same recipe, along with nutrition info.


1 1/2 Cups dried lentils (picked and rinsed)
1/4 Cup sun-dried tomatoes (I used a bit more), packed in oil
1 Tbs oil from tomatoes
2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Tbs white wine vinegar (I used rice vinegar instead)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 Cup crumbled feta cheese

In a large pot of water, add salt and lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, allowing to simmer until soft, or about 20 minutes.

While the lentils cook, mix remaining ingredients (except the feta) together in a small bowl.

When the lentils are ready, drain and rinse them. In a serving bowl (or directly in the pot, if large enough), toss in the tomato mixture.

Finally, add the feta.

This recipe is a great side dish and would taste great cold- perfect for a summer picnic or BBQ.

Happy eating!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

This video has always made me laugh. There are plenty of gussied-up versions, but I still think the original is unbeatable. Even if you 've seen it already, it's worth another look.

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes

Ever since I took my cake decorating class, I've been wanting to do more decorating. I was going to show Sara some of the fun techniques I learned and since I didn't want to make two cakes, we made cupcakes instead. I broke about every rule I learned in class but still got some practice in and we had a lot of fun.

This Martha Stewart strawberry cupcake recipe called for a Strawberry Meringue buttercream, but I went with the swiss meringue buttercream instead, since we wanted to color the icing. They were very good, but a tad too sweet for me. (As you might remember, I'm a salt and butter kind of gal.)

Strawberry Cupcakes


2 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 Cup unsalted butter
2 1/4 Cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs + 1 egg white
1 Cup milk
2 Cups finely chopped strawberries (about 20)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with paper liners. (Recipe makes about 34 cupcakes.)

Sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In your standing mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and finally the egg white, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce speed to low and add flour in two batch, alternating with the milk, beating well until combined.

Fold in chopped strawberries.

Divide batter evenly between cups, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes (toothpick should come out clean) and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Allow cupcakes to site overnight, or cool thoroughly before icing. You should really use a crumb topping if you want to make these fancy, but we skipped that part, partially because we were afraid we didn't have enough (it turned out we had PLENTY of icing) and partly because it was 9:30 PM and we wanted to decorate them and not wait for them to chill. Oh, and our fridge is packed and a total mess. Fitting something in there wasn't exactly something I wanted to do.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream


5 large egg whites
1 Cup + 2 Tbs sugar
Pinch of salt
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in your standing mixer's bowl and put it in a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is warm and the sugar is completely dissolved. (The mixture will feel smooth between your fingers.)

Attach the bowl to your mixer with the whisk attachment, and mix on low, gradually increasing to medium-high speed. Martha says stiff, dry peaks will form, and then you will go for a more fluffy and glossy effect. you'll mix until the bowl has cooled, about 10 minutes.

A few quick notes:
1) I have never, ever been able to form "peaks" with anything I make.
2) It has never mattered before.
3) It didn't matter here.

On medium-low speed, add the butter a few Tbs at a time, beating well after each addition. Once the butter has been added, mix in the vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat until the buttercream is smooth. This took us about 10 more minutes of beating. The buttercream looked like a wet cottage cheese for quite awhile which had me nervous, but we let it go and it came together quite nicely.


Dye with gel coloring and use as desired. Here are our less-than masterpieces but still fun cupcakes! (I think we spent more time laughing than anything.)

We had too much leftover icing to waste, so we mixed it all together and froze it. The color is sort of a gross desert rose, but might make a great crumb topping frosting at a later date.

Happy baking!

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Despite the record heat, rain and cold weather we've had, my rosebush bloomed and looks great! Here are some pictures, as promised.

That's the veggie patch in the background.
The colors are even more vibrant now. The flowers smell fantastic!

Happy Gardening!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cake Decorating- I'm Learning!

Icing/decorating deserts is one area I've struggled with most in the kitchen, along with rolling out pie crust. I spend all this time and energy making sure what I'm baking will turn out delicious, but usually when it comes time to make it look pretty with icing, frosting, etc., I give up after about 3 minutes in, convinced I will never, ever, be able to make my dessert look great. Drizzling frosting on has helped in the past with this (see Gingerbread Cookies), but that method just doesn't work for everything. Besides, I'm trying to improve my skills, right? Right.

Enter Give Me Some Sugar. I'm signed up for a few of those daily deals through my e-mail, and when I saw a cake decorating class on Living Social, I knew I had to take it. You're here to read my recipes, and you deserve the best, right? Right again.

This class really helped me with the basics that I wasn't aware of (who knew there was more involved than a spatula and a cake?) and taught me tricks on how to make it look pretty. I wasn't perfect, but from what Chef Alekka says, it takes years to master cake decorating (understandably). Still, I think I did a pretty good job considering just last week I was a "get that icing to stick no matter what it takes" kind of baker. As I told the girl next to me in class, my cakes were made with love and iced with anger. No longer!

Here are some pics I took, along with some great tips she gave us!
The base cake (which tasted phenomenal!)
The "Crumb layer" is a thin layer of icing applied to help hold in crumbs and allow for an even and consistat layer of frosting. Refridgerate for at least 30 minutes before frosting, after you do this step!

Reverse Shells

These were my favorite to do!

Frosted and ready for some action...

All done!
I know it isn't perfect, far from it really, but I decorated that! I have to say... I'm super proud of myself and can't wait to make another cake OR make some cupcakes.

At last, I can focus all my rage on pie crust. Hurrah!

Happy Eating!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

This week, I reached out to my friends for a Tickled Tuesday feature idea. My friend Steve sent a video of this "talking" dog. I'd seen one of her before and it's super cute! Enjoy!

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Quinoa Tabbouli Salad

A hot summer day doesn't really call for my usual favorites such as cheese and pie, but rather cool and fresh salads, refreshing iced tea and cold desserts.

I was itching to try a new recipe, and tabbouli sounded pretty perfect. Fresh and healthy, it's a great dip/salad and super easy to whip up, especially if you have a food processor. Because I decided to make this while I was driving to the store, I didn't look at any recipe and just went with what I knew was in it, and decided to add some quinoa, instead of the cracked wheat/cous cous I've seen added before in some versions.


1 Cup Quinoa (uncooked)
3 large tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
1 large onion
3 bunches parsley
Lemon Juice (I used about 1/4 of the lemon, or approx 2 Tbs)

Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions and let cool. (2 parts water, 1 part quinoa, cook like rice.)

Chop up all the veggies, or use a food processor. Don't use a food processor for the tomatoes though, or they'll end up more like a sauce.

Chopped up parsley smells sooooo good!

Mix everything together and you're done!

Happy summer cooking!

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