August 24, 2011

Asparagus and Parmesan Cream Pastry

I LOVE asparagus. I could eat asparagus and melted cheese all day. So when I found a recipe for Asparagus and Parmesan Cream Pastries, I knew I had to make it for dinner. The recipe is very easy to make, and it's great for a light dinner.

You start by mixing together the cream cheese spread. This consists of grated Parmesan, chopped basil leaves, lemon juice, and of course cream cheese. This spread is SO delicious when paired with the asparagus. It's creamy, light, and the freshness of the basil and light taste of the lemon juice made it a perfect match!

While the dough is thawing, wash and cut the asparagus to fit the size of the pastry sheets. The asparagus should be a little shorter than the sheet, and have room on all four sides to the dough and puff up around it.

The recipe says to cut the dough into four equal rectangles, but my pastry sheet came folded into three rectangles, so I decided to rip them apart and just use them like that. Once you have the rectangles of dough ready, spread the cream cheese mixture over the top, and place four asparagus spears into the mixture, making sure to alternate directions! Sprinkle the tops with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil.

It only takes about 18-22 minutes to bake these, so once they turn a nice crispy golden brown, go ahead and take them out of the oven. Once they cool for a few minutes, transfer them to a cutting board and cut them in half the short way so you end up with 6 squares.

This was a great dinner, and very easy to make! They are a little rich, but we all ended up eating two pieces each. The only thing I would change for next time is that I would cut the asparagus every inch or so, then lay it all out in a line like the asparagus would appear normally. This is because when we would bite into the square, one whole asparagus spear would come off! And although the dough was nice and flaky, I ended up brushing off some of the bottom, as it was a lot to eat!

If you love asparagus, try this out and tell me how it goes! Enjoy, my fellow bakers!

August 11, 2011

My oh my, I'm on a roll here! Check out my Baked Potato Skins!

For dinner last night I made Baked Potato Skins. They were very easy to make, and such a delicious dinner! First you start by baking four potatoes. And, okay, here's the thing. The recipe says "4 large baking potatoes." So I thought, hey, we have potatoes downstairs! But they were very small. And looking at the picture on the website, the potatoes are pretty big. So I thought I'd go to the store and find a bag that had bigger potatoes. Well, that didn't really work out. And then BAM! I turned around and saw a sign that said "Baking Potatoes." Who knew there was a difference? Well I guess there is a difference, because these potatoes were HUGE! Just the perfect size for this recipe. And you buy them separate. So I packed up four big baking potatoes in a bag, and strolled away happily. Okay, end story.

You first bake the potatoes in the oven for about 1 hr - 1 1/2 hrs. Let them cool a little bit, then cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 of an inch of potato shell on the inside, and SAVE the part you just scooped out! And here's why: In the morning you can make delicious home-made hash browns with the potato insides you saved! Just heat a skillet with olive oil, throw in the potatoes, brown them on both sides, add some salt and pepper, and voila! Easy peasy hash browns for breakfast! YUM!

Then you will make a little mixture that you brush on both sides of the potatoes. Combine olive oil, parmesan cheese, sea salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper in a tiny dish. Use a brush to spread the mixture over the potatoes. Bake at 475 for 7 minutes, turn and bake for 7 more minutes until crispy and golden brown.

You then sprinkle bacon (we didn't use sister is a vegetarian) and cheddar cheese inside each potato skin and bake for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

I didn't get a picture of the final product. My sister came home late from work, so she told me to wait to make dinner. We didn't get to eat until 7:00, so we were all starving! We gobbled them all up before I had a chance to take a pic. But you get the idea: Potato skins with melted cheese, topped with sour cream and freshly chopped green onions. Yeah, pretty successful dinner if you ask me.

Side note: The recipe says it serves 8, but for a hungry family of 4, we each ended up eating two potato skins. Which, when you think about it, equals one full potato. So really, I would say this recipe serves 4. But if you are serving this at a party as appetizers, then yes, I would assume each person would only eat one.

Mediterranean Greek Salad: A Wonderful Side Dish!

 For dinner last night, I decided to make a salad side dish. But I didn't want just an ordinary lettuce and ranch salad. I opted out for a fancy Mediterranean Greek Salad, comprised of cucumbers, Roma tomatoes, red onion, and crumbled feta (oh...and black olives, but I decided to leave those out! I wish I liked olives!)

I started out by cutting the vegetables up in order and adding them to the mixing bowl as I went. I first chopped up 3 cucumbers, then added 1 1/2 cups feta cheese. Next, I added the Roma tomatoes. If you aren't familiar with Roma tomatoes, they are about the size of a kiwi, so I had to guess how many would make up 3 cups worth. I ended up buying 9 Roma tomatoes, and it worked out just perfectly! About 3 tomatoes makes up 1 cup.

I know that a lot of the juice in the tomatoes comes from the middle part where all the seeds are, and I didn't want a pile of tomato juice sitting at the bottom of the bowl, so I took out a lot of the juice/seeds before adding it to the bowl. This way it doesn't make the salad really soggy and overly tomato-y.

Then you add 1/3 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes. These come in a jar, and luckily we had some in the refrigerator! You also want to use the juice (about 2 Tablespoons) to go into the salad. This will be kind of like the dressing/oil, but healthier! Add the red onion, and chill about an hour before serving. (That's just my preference.)

This salad was a perfect side dish for any summer meal! Although my family isn't too fond of olives or tomatoes, we really enjoyed all the flavors. In the end, (since we are big fans of cucumbers!), we decided we could have cut back on the tomatoes (maybe use 2 cups next time). But I would highly recommend this refreshing salad to anyone!

On a final note, I would like to add a comment from my mom regarding the salad: "It's so GREEK-Y!"

August 10, 2011

California Grilled Veggie Sandwich

Yesterday I decided to trek on over to the grocery store and pick up some ingredients for dinner. I found a delicious recipes on called a California Grilled Veggie Sandwich. I also picked up some ingredients for a few other dinners I will be making this week. Needless to say, with all the vegetables all these recipes required, I think the cashier was getting pretty annoyed with me. I had about 12 separate bags filled with different veggies, and she had to...wait for it...manually enter in all the codes...I KNOW! I think a couple times she looked up at me like, "Are you serious!?"

I was really excited for this sandwich. It got 5 stars, AND it was the number one most popular summer recipe on the website. So I just had to see what all the hubbub was about. You start out by making the dressing, which is made up of mayo, minced garlic, and lemon juice. Very tasty indeed!

Then you cut up all the veggies! I didn't see a yellow squash at the store, so I substituted it for eggplant. Otherwise, I found all the other ingredients just fine: Red bell peppers, zucchini, and red onion.

Mmm...look at all those colors! Normally I'm not too fond of onion, but when it's grilled, I think it's actually quite tasty! Some of the reviewers on the website also added mushrooms in there...but I'm not a big fan of those either.

Then you just rub-a-dub-dub the veggies in olive oil and place them on the grill! I was actually afraid that the zucchini and peppers would fall through, so I laid out a rectangular sheet of tin foil, spread some olive oil over it, then added the vegetables on top. Also this way you won't have to continuously watch the vegetables. Just check the sides after 5 or so minutes, and flip!

When the veggies were almost done on the grill, I cut the focaccia bread in half (it's a circular bread...or at least mine was. So you cut it like you would cut a giant hamburger bun). Then you spread the already made dressing over the bottom half of the bread, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of feta cheese over that.

I went back to the grill, put all the vegetables on the place (except the eggplant...I put it on the grill to get some nice grill marks on it), then put both the top and bottom part of the bread on the grill to toast it up and melt the cheese. Be careful! Feta cheese takes a little bit longer to melt, and mine didn't even melt fully before the bottom of the bread started to burn. I toasted the top of the bread for a shorter amount of time, turned down the heat, and left the bottom half to melt the cheese.

YOU GUYS. This sandwich is sooo good! And no, you don't eat it like that...we cut it up into quarters and it was so filling! The dressing is the perfect tanginess, but also subtle. The cheese, although not super melty, went perfectly with all the vegetables. And, OH, the vegetables! Grilled to perfection. All of this sandwiched between toasted, italian-seasoned focaccia bread. This recipe is one that you must try! And we didn't even miss the meat. : )