Saturday, February 11, 2012

Big Game Appetizers

I love watching the SuperBowl. But some how every year, I never manage to watch it because I am cooking away in the kitchen. Well this year I was determined to watch the game--I especially love the commercials! So I had (key word here) my menu all planned out until I talked to the hubby about it. After I  gave him the run down of my menu he said "Sounds yummy. So who's coming over?" I was like "What do you mean? It's just going to be us two." Yeah, that didn't go over to well. He limited my menu down to just two appetizers and one dessert. What a party pooper! :)

So although I missed the first quarter of the big game because I was cooking away, I did sit comfortably with my spinach dip and beer battered onion rings in front of the TV for the second quarter. This spinach dip came out amazing and the onion rings were delicious. Thankfully I only made one onion instead of the two the recipe called for because that would have been way too much food. And to complete the spread, we made some yummy margaritas. It was perfect.

Then during the third quarter I served my famous ribs with roasted mini potatoes and a side salad. That's not too bad--I did make veggies! I will post this recipe soon. Enjoy!

p.s. my favorite commercial during the big game was the M&Ms when he wiggled it! Too cute.

Hot Spinach Dip
Adapted by Martha Stewart

2 teaspoons olive oil
PAM non-stick spray
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bag of frozen spinach
1/2 cup 1% low fat milk
6 ounces reduced-fat bar cream cheese
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
5 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
3/4 cup shredded mozzarellaS
alt and ground pepper
Toasted bread, carrots or anything you want to dip


Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook frozen spinach as directed and squeeze any access water out of it. Set the spinach aside. 

Then in a Dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic until lightly browned. Add spinach and mix well. Put this spinach mixture in a separate bowl and set aside. 

Then in the same pot over high heat, add milk. 

Then whisk in cream cheese until melted, this will only take a couple of minutes. 

Now mix in the spinach onion mixture to the milk mixture along with the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 1/4 cup cheese. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper. 

Pour into a baking dish that has been sprayed with PAM. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over top.
Bake until dip is bubbly and the cheese over the top has melted, about 5-10 minutes. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Beer Battered Onion Rings
Adapted by Martha Stewart

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup Heineken or other beer
1 large egg
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Vegetable oil, for frying (about 4 cups)
1 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, separated into rings
Course salt
1 lemon


Combine flour, salt, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. 

Whisk in buttermilk, beer, egg, and lemon zest, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper on middle rack of the oven.  You will be tossing batches of the onion rings onto this sheet to keep warm until finished. In a deep pot, preheat oil. Once oil is hot, dip a few slices of onion in batter, turning to coat and gently drop into oil. Cook, turning once until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer rings to paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Transfer onions to the baking sheet to keep warm. Repeat with remaining onions and adjust heat as needed to avoid burning onion rings. Serve with lemon wedges.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I had taken an amateur bread baking course last year at the French Culinary Institute and it was excellent! We made over 20 different types of breads throughout the course and Challah was one of them. This recipe in Fine Cooking's Breads magazine was a little different as it didn't use half as many egg yolks. However, the end result was still delicious. It was funny because when I let the dough rise after mixing, it didn't rise in the 2 hours indicated in the recipe. It took more like 4! Not sure if my house was too cold at the time but I have to say,  I started to get a little discouraged that it wasn't rising. But after about 3.5 hours, it finally did its thing.

Although the braiding part was a little tricky--I had to unbraid it twice and start over--it really looked great. Here is a great video on braiding challah--which I unfortunately found after I made my loaf.

I am starting to learn that my oven bakes bread really fast and browns my bread in a third of the time that the recipe calls for. So keep an eye on your bread and if you see it browning too much, throw some foil loosely over top of it. This bread will surely impress the family. Enjoy!

Note: Next time I make this bread, I am going to brush some warm honey on top of it right when it comes out of the oven. To give it just a bit more sweetness. Also any leftover bread makes wonderful french toast!

Adapted by Fine Cooking's Breads magazine
Makes one very large loaf

2 tsp. instant yeast
16 3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed (I use regular all-purpose flour and it works great. Secret I learned from FIC professor)
1/4 cup warm water
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. table salt

For the glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Directions: In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the flour. Add the warm water, stir, and let this sit until it puffs up, about 15-to 20-minutes. Add the eggs, oil, honey, and salt; stir until well combined. The dough will look lumpy which is normal. Add the rest of the flour and mix the dough in the bowl until it all combines. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. The dough should feel very firm and will be hard to knead. If it’s soft and sticky, add more flour until it’s very firm. Transfer the dough to a large, clean container and cover it well.

Let it rise until doubled in bulk and very soft to the touch, about 2 hours or more, depending on the room temperature. If you room is cold, it will take the dough longer to rise. If your room is too warm, it will rise quickly. Line an insulated baking sheet with parchment. If you don’t have an insulated sheet, stack two sheets together (this keeps the bottom of the bread from overbrowning during baking).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle a little more flour over it. Spread and flatten the dough a bit, but don’t worry about punching it down.

Cut it into six equal pieces. Set aside the dough pieces, cover them lightly with plastic, and brush all the flour off the work surface. Have a small bowl of water handy.

Using no flour, roll a piece of dough with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick (don’t worry about making a rectangle; an amoeba-type shape is fine). The dough may stick to the work surface; this is all right—just nudge it gently with a dough scraper.

Tightly roll up the sheet to form a strand. Roll the strand back and forth between your hands until it’s thin, very even, and 12 to 15 inches long. At the ends of the strand, angle the outer edge of your hands into the work surface as you’re rolling to make the ends pointy and the strand thicker in the middle (This will help you get a football-shaped loaf). The strand needs to grip the work surface slightly during this rolling; the “grab” will help as you roll. If the strand is too slick, very lightly dampen it with water to help it grip the work surface better. Repeat the rolling out, rolling up, and elongating steps with the remaining five pieces of dough, rolling them out to the same length. Lightly sprinkle all the strands with flour to prevent them from sticking to one another during proofing. Arrange the strands parallel to one another. At one end, gather and pinch the strands very tightly together. Weight the end with a heavy canister (I used my large olive oil container) to keep the braid from moving. Lightly tap each end of the loaf with your palms to tuck it under the loaf.

1. Move the second-to-the-right strand to the far-left position.

2. Move the far-right strand left over two strands, to the center position (spread the strands apart to make room).

3. Move the new second-to-the-left strand over to the far right position.

4. Move the far-left strand (the same strand you moved in step 1) over two strands to the center position. Now repeat the steps until you have no dough to braid.

Transfer the braid to the lined baking sheet and cover it loosely but thoroughly with plastic wrap. Let proof until doubled in bulk and the loaf remains indented when lightly pressed, about 2 hours, depending on room temperature. (If in doubt, let the dough proof more rather than less.)

Let's bake: Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Just before baking, brush the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if you'd like.

With a thin wooden skewer, poke the bread deeply all over (the holes will prevent air pockets and help the bread keep its shape during baking). Bake for 15-20 minutes. Rotate the challah 180 degrees and bake until the bread is a dark, burnished brown, about another 15 minutes. (If the challah is browning too rapidly cover it loosely with foil and let it finish baking. Don’t remove the loaf too soon, as you’ll risk underbaking.) Let cool on a rack.