Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Appetizers for Dinner: White Bean Dip

I had not one but two bridal showers to attend last weekend, and while they were definitely fun, they were also full of sugar. As a result, on Monday night I felt like a nice light dinner, so I decided on crostini (fancy word for little toasts) topped with White Bean Dip and my thrown-together bruschetta (not on the same toast, though). The dip was very easy- just cannellini beans pureed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, rosemary (I subbed thyme because I didn't have rosemary), and plenty of salt and pepper. It's a nice change from hummus- nice and creamy, with some bite from the rosemary and pepper.

I liked the bean dip, but I LOVE anything that combines tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. All I did was mix them together and top my toasts, though I could eat that stuff straight. Served with a simple spinach salad, I had a light and healthy spring meal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

Another dessert that I tried out over Easter weekend was less successful. I thought Chocolate Ricotta Mousse sounded quite intriguing, so I made a half batch to try. It's from the January/February 2011 issue of Everyday Food (aka the "Light" issue), so it's healthier (or at least less bad for you) than traditional chocolate mousse. It was quite a process to make, and required a lot of equipment- food processor, double boiler, and a hand mixer. Basically you mix the ricotta and cocoa in the food processor, make a meringue-like substance with the egg whites and sugar, and then fold to combine.

My mom thought this recipe sounded questionable- and she was right, sort of. The taste was great- rich and satisfyingly chocolatey. However, the texture was the big issue with this dish. I pulsed the ricotta pretty well, and it was still... grainy. Chocolate mousse is supposed to be smooth and silky, and this definitely did not pass that test. I don't think I'll try this one again- I'll just go for the full fat version instead. That being said, we all finished our mousse and licked the bowl...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lemon Cream Pie

I went to the QC for Easter weekend, and managed to get some cooking/baking in. For Easter dinner, I contributed this yummy and light(er) Lemon Cream Pie from Cooking Light magazine. I love all things lemon, and when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to give it a try. My family agreed to be guinea pigs... and I think they were pretty happy with the results.

The main show in the pie is the lemon custard, which is a bit of a process to make- you need to be very careful cooking the eggs to make sure you don't have lemon/scrambled egg pie. It calls for lighter ingredients, such as 1/3 less fat cream cheese and skim milk to cut some of the fat and calories. Though it's a bit involved to make, I was very happy with how it turned out- it didn't taste light at all! The rest of the pie was pretty simple- just store-bought pie crust and cool whip on top! It was especially pretty with a bit of grated lemon zest as a garnish.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the pie- I'd definitely make it again. Next time, though, I think I'll try a graham cracker crust, which I tend to prefer. I'll also up the lemon quotient. I put in the amount of rind/juice called for, but it still could have been more lemony for me. If you aren't a cool whip fan, you could always use some real whipped cream instead- that would be even more delicious! I'd definitely recommend trying this one if you're a lemon and/or pie fan!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spinach Queso Dip

I got this idea for a twist on queso dip from my mom, and it's ridiculously tasty and easy. I've made it for a couple of parties recently, and it's gone over well both times. It calls for a grand total of three ingredients- Velveeta cheese, Rotel tomatoes, and frozen spinach. Basically, just heat and stir!

Once everything is melted and combined, serve with tortilla chips and enjoy! I like the think the inclusion of spinach means that there's a touch of nutrition in there too! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pasta Al Pomodoro

It's been an insane few weeks, but I finally had time to get back in the kitchen and make a real dinner tonight. I was getting really sick of takeout and boxed dinners! I read this article about whipping up great pasta in the latest issue of Bon Appetit, and I felt like I had to try it- pasta is one of my ultimate comfort foods.  Here's a shocker- pasta is even more delicious with some good cheese and a pat of butter mixed in the sauce. Who'd have thought? Though I'll probably try this technique again, I decided to start with a nice simple pasta al pomodoro.

The recipe was pretty simple- olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, red pepper flakes... oh yeah, and cheese and butter. Since I was being fancy and cooking a recipe from Bon Appetit, I decided to go all out and spring for some fresh basil. It's expensive, but man, it's tasty. The pasta turned out quite well, and I have to admit, I learned some things from the article. The butter certainly helps, but adding a good amount of pasta water also added a nice creaminess to the pasta. About half an hour after starting, I had a delicious pasta dinner!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blueberry Cookie Bars

I finished up my baking for the library spring party tonight by trying a new recipe- Blueberry Cookie Bars. How could I resist the combination of almond shortbread and blueberry preserves? (The almonds and blueberries mean that it's healthy- they're both superfoods, right?) I used Smucker's Orchard's Finest Northwoods Blueberry preserves, and I'm really glad I splurged- it was not too sweet and chock full of whole, juicy blueberries. The recipe made considerably more cookie dough than I was expecting, so I ended up using a 9 x 13 pan instead of the 9 x 9 pan that was called for. All that means is more cookies!!!

They turned out just a tad on the dry side, though I may have overbaked them since I used a bigger pan than was called for (the recipe calls for 35-40 minutes, and I gave them about 30). They were still delicious though- just the right amount of sweet. A few seconds in the microwave and a nice cup of tea make them even better!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lemon Icebox Cookies

The library spring party is later this week, so I started prepping tonight by making some Lemon Icebox Cookies. I love lemon, and these cookies are light and refreshing. They're also pretty easy, and the dough freezes well. Once you've got the dough mixed, you just roll it into a couple of logs and freeze.

You can bake an hour later or a month later- whenever you're ready for crispy lemony goodness. When you're ready to bake, the recipe suggests rolling the log in sugar and then slicing thinly. I changed it up a little though- I sprinkled the tops with some sugar for a little sparkle. Delicious!