hmp: small plates (part two)

Here it is, part two of our small plates dinner.  I have to say, Todd and I are feeling quite proud of the outcome.  The food was delicious and we were also feeling good about making everything ourselves.  There’s something really satisfying about putting together a meal from scratch.

Now, without further ado, I present to you our menu:

Green Bean Bacon Bundles

Black Bean Hummus with Homemade Pita Chips

BBQ Pulled Pork Empanadas with Salsa Verde

Mini White Bean Quinoa Burgers

Apricot Bites

Baked Churros with Dulce de Leche

*Since we followed most of the recipes exactly, I’m only posting the original recipes here.  All others are linked so you can try them too!

First up, Green Bean Bacon Bundles.  I was planning to make something with asparagus but when I saw these on How Sweet It Is, I knew I had to make them.  Green beans are the one vegetable that I absolutely love and with bacon, butter and brown sugar?  Winning combination.

Todd put those together, they look good, don’t they?

He also made one of his specialties, Black Bean Hummus with Homemade Pita Chips.  I once came home from work and Todd had made this exact same dish as an appetizer.  Ten minuets later, the hummus was almost gone and the pita chips suffered a similar fate.  The hummus has a little kick to it and the pita chips are so good freshly crisped in the oven.

We love pulled pork but wanted to put a different twise on it so Todd made our tried and true BBQ Pulled Pork recipe and then I got to work turning it into empanadas. 

Since we had a lot going on in the kitchen (as you can see) I opted to use refrigerated pie crusts dough instead of making my own.  Empanadas are so easy and delicious, you just take the dough and stuff them with whatever you one.  Some of my favorites are stuffed with sweet corn, que ricas!

The empanadas were baked at 375° for about 20-25 minutes then topped with homemade Salsa Verde.  I love pulled pork – I had quite a bit while I was stuffing the empanadas and these came out quite delicious.  I always love things wrapped in bread and empanadas are a real favorite.

Now the Mini White Bean Quinoa Burgers are my own recipe inspired by an incredibly delicious  burger I had last week at The Green Well.

Mini White Quinoa Burgers

1 can (16 oz.) Great Northern Beans

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup quinoa, uncooked

1/3 cup plain bread crumbs

5 tablespoons liquid egg whites

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Olive oil

In a small pan, bring 1/2 cup water to boil, add quinoa.  Cook for 12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff, let stand for 15 minutes.  Open beans, then drain and rinse in a strainer. Place beans in a large bowl and mash.  When beans are well mashed, leaving only a few whole beans, add quinoa, bread crumbs, liquid egg whites and spices.  When the mixture is well combined, form small (approx. 2″) patties.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  When hot, add patties and cook, covered, about 5 minutes or until the bottoms are brown.  Flip patties and repeat until both sides are brown and the patties are cooked through.

Serve patties on “buns” – we used a drinking glass to make mini buns out of regular whole wheat bread, toasted.  Top as you please.  We chose homemade BBQ sauce and sharp white cheddar.

Of course we also had the Apricot Bites and Churros that I told you about in part one of the small plates post.

Yup, the apricot bites were tangy and delicious and the churros were just as good tonight as they were in the test batch.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our small plates dinner as much as we did preparing and eating it!

What do you love to serve for guests?

hmp: small plates (part one)

When I woke up from my second nap yesterday Todd and I got to work prepping some dishes for tonight’s dinner with my parents and brother.  Since we’ll have just less than an hour and a half after work before they come over we thought it would be a good idea to do what we could ahead of time.

As we were planning the menu for tonight’s meal we tossed around a few different ideas: barbecue, all appetizers, tapas.  Finally we settled on a fusion of all three, a small plates dinner.

Small plates are one of my favorite things because I hate making decisions.  I’m always torn when ordering at restaurants then I make my selection at the last second, as the waitress’ patience is wearing thin.  I’m excited to offer my family a variety of options this evening.

First on the menu are Apricot Bites based on a recipe from Sandy at The Reluctant Entertainer.  If you don’t read her blog, check it out.  She’s doing a series on summer entertaining right now that’s really interesting and informative.  Check it out!

 

I slightly altered the recipe, using honey goat cheese instead of goat cheese and honey.  Also, I left out the milk but that was mainly because I somehow missed the step.  My cheese spread fine with a little coaxing but I’d recommend trying them with milk for easier spreadability.

I refused to tell my family exactly what we’re having so I’ll save the photos of the finished product for later.

I also prepped the dough for dessert.  For some reason I had it in my head that dessert was going to be churros.  Churros were the only thing that would do.

If you’ve never had churros, you should try them.  For me, they bring back memories of a family vacation to Disneyworld, where they serve them in the Mexico section of Epcot Center, and of Barcelona where they’re served with the most delicious, rich, thick hot chocolate – it is the most perfect dish for a chocoholic like me.

Anyways, I decided to make churros, which are usually fried.  I was able to find a recipe for baked churros on Cooking With My Kids.  Sorry vegans, this recipe is full of eggs – do they make some kind of egg subsititute so you can enjoy the deliciousness that’s churros too?

The churro batter whipped up nice and thick and I decided that I should bake a few, just to make sure they were good enough to serve.

After baking a few churros and coating them with cinnamon sugar, I can promise you that these churros were worth making.  They were delicious, like little baked doughnut sticks.

As an added bonus, my friend Mary-Catheryn will soon be launching her own homemade dulce de leche company, Catarina.  I’ve been lucky enough to eat lots of dulce de leche in my time and this stuff is the real deal.  It is the best dulce de leche I’ve ever had stateside (and maybe abroad too).  I promise to let you know when she’s officially open for business.  You will want to buy this stuff by the boatload and slather it onto mostly everything you eat: bread, ice cream, bananas, any and everything.  The you’ll want to bake it into cookies or cupcakes and make one dish dessert with meringue drops and strawberries and top it with her dulce.  And then, since too much dulce could never be enough, you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful.

I highly recommend all of the aforementioned methods of eating Catarina dulce de leche.

Doesn’t that look tasty?

They didn’t last long.

Not long at all.

I can’t wait to share these foods with the family and I have more small plates to tell you about so stay tuned to see what’s on our menu for tonight.

Do you have a heard time choosing one thing for dinner?

What are some of your favorite dishes for entertaining?

running behind

My plan for today was to go to yoga in the morning, walk to work, walk home, have a quick dinner and then prep a few things for dinner tomorrow because my parents and brother are coming for a meal.  Here’s how my day went.

5:30 Wake up

5:54 Arrive at hot yoga class

6:00 “On your backs.” – ab work begins followed by an hour of morning yoga power

7:00 Wake up from savasana

7:20 Post-shower/pre-work nap

8:32 Almost ready to go but officially too late to walk to work

8:45 Drive to work

8:54 Punched in, let the office grind begin

1:12 Eat lackluster but delicious lunch.  Hello, Muenster!

1:30 Convince Todd that it might be a good idea for him to run to the gym, meet me at the office and walk home with me

3:45 Texts start arriving with pictures of the homemade BBQ sauce and salsa Todd has been making, belly begins to grumble again

5:30 Todd arrives at the office, flip flops in hand, to walk home with me in the glorious sun

5:32 Flip flops on, pants rolled up into shorts, walking home.

5:40 Quick stop at Nantucket Baking Co. to pick up buns for veggie burgers that will accompany Todd’s fresh batch of homemade BBQ sauce

5:41 Choose pretzels to use as buns – excitement rises, belly begins to grumble

 

6:05 Home.  Time to start cooking.

6:38 Chow time!  In just 33 minutes we’ve whipped up a pretty little meal

7:02 Dinner is over, time to write a quick blog post before starting to prep for tomorrow night’s dinner for my parents

7:05 Kitchen too hot, to bedroom to blog because it’s more comfortable in there

7:07 Eyelids heavy

7:30 Todd comes in to wake me, prep time

7:31 Snooze

9:01 Is it 7:30 yet?  I’m awake!

9:02 Realize I woke up early this morning so at least there’s an excuse for all of my tired

9:39 Done with lackluster blog post, time to prep for tomorrow’s dinner – only two hours behind schedule

The day didn’t go exactly as I planned but it’s all good.  An evening nap isn’t the worst thing in the world.  And that dinner, that was so good.  Got to love those spicy black bean burgers.  Time to prep, for real this time!

Did your day go as planned today?

Do you mind if your day doesn’t go as planned?

is fondue a fon-don’t?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, yesterday was my dad’s birthday.  In celebration we went out to dinner at The Melting Pot.  I had only been to this fun-due (ha) restaurant once before and had only had dessert there.  Yesterday, we had the full four-course fondue experience.

My parents decided on the Latin American-themed meal and we all dug into to course after course of fondue goodness.  First we had a spicy cheese fondue with bread, apples and tortilla chips to dip.  I loved the apple and cheese combo and devoured most of the apple chunks by myself.

After that was a salad course.  Not too exciting for me.  Have I ever mentioned that I’m not that into vegetables?  If I haven’t, I meant to.

The salads were followed up by the main course which I was felt much more enthusiastic about.  We had two different sauces, Coq au Vin and Mojo.  I was sitting closest to the Coq au Vin sauce but bother were delicious.  We took turns skewering and cooking filet, shrimp, chicken, pork, corn raviolis and veggies in the sauces.  They also provided us with several delicious sauces to top our main course selections with and my favorite was their Gorgonzola Port sauce, it was so good!

Of course, the most exciting part of the meal was dessert.  We chose two chocolate fondues, one with marshmallow and Oreos mixed in and the other with dulce de leche and sea salt.  You can imagine how delicious they were.  We stabbed bits of brownie, strawberries, marshmallows and Rice Krispie treats until we made sure there was no chocolate left in either pot.

I would say that out Melting Pot dinner was a huge success.  Cheers to my dad!

One topic that came up was whether or not this would be a good place for a first date.  I mentioned that it might be awkward since you basically have to eat the same thing and your meat is mingling together in a pot.  But someone made a good point that it would be a great first date spot because it’s interactive so there’s something to focus on other than the typical get-to-know-you rundown.  In the end, I agreed that it would be a good place for a date.  I like having something to do on a date so it doesn’t get awkward.  You could always have a good laugh over losing your meat or a potato in the pot, right?

So, what do you think?  Is fondue a fon-don’t on a date?

Do you prefer interactive dates when you’re getting to know someone?

What’s the most fun, interactive dinner you’ve ever had?

hmp – guacamole

While guacamole isn’t a meal in and of itself, it could be with the right chips to dip into it.  Because of that, I’m including it in the Homemade Meal Project.  Plus it’s one of those foods that’s easy to just buy off the shelf but not much harder to make at home.  The result of a homemade guacamole recipe are always delicious.

Guacamole

1 large ripe avocado (ripe avocado give when you lightly squeeze them)

1/4 cup of salsa

2 teaspoons lime juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

dash ground chipotle

dash salt

Cut avocado in half, lengthwise and twist to separate halves.  Using a spoon separate the avocado’s fruit from the peel discarding the pit.  Place in medium bowl.  Add lime juice, garlic powder, chipotle and salt.  Mash the ingredients together using a fork or spoon, mixing well.

Enjoy!

To store, cover guacamole with plastic wrap making sure that the plastic makes contact with the guacamole in order to prevent browning.

Now wasn’t that easy?

My guacamole took on a brownish tinge right away because of the salsa.  To avoid this try adding fresh tomato, onion and jalapeño instead of salsa.

Now, I mentioned that guacamole isn’t a meal all by its lonesome but don’t worry, we didn’t eat this on its own.  Stay tuned for the very first guest post on Pomelo Sunshine to hear what we had for dinner tonight.

Do you buy your guacamole or make it at home?

What do you like to top with guac?

tengo hot

At the risk of sounding elderly, today  was a scorcher!

Temperatures hovered around 90° all day and while I was after work, Todd sent me this text:

100° inside?  This was getting ridiculous.  You see, we don’t have air conditioning at all.  Our thermostat tricked us, it has a “COOL” option but if you flip it to “COOL” nothing happens.  So far we’ve been getting by with fans but 100°, now that’s hot.

Thankfully we had plans to go out on a little date and have dinner and ice cream so we left as soon as I got home from work. At dinner I ordered the salmon, a big step for me since I’m just starting to eat fish.  When I saw that it came served on a “goat cheese pool”, I was in.

After dinner we walked over to one of our favorite ice cream shops and indulged in cones of Chocolate Monster and Chocolate Chip Extreme.  That ice cream was half melted before we walked out of the shop but man, it was delicious.

When we got home our apartment was so stinking hot.  I looked at the thermometer and it read 99° – not a big improvement since we left.

I decided the only thing to do was go to bed.  Somehow, about 15 seconds after I had changed into sleep clothes, we decided that this was ridiculous and that we had to go get an air conditioner.  A minute after that we were in the car, heading to Target.

We picked out the cheapest air conditioner we could find and brought it home.  We immediately realized that it wouldn’t fit in either of our bedroom windows, too big for one, too small for the other.  Todd decided that 99* was a good reason to try it anyways.

In the end, he was right – it fit in our 20″ window even though it’s 3″ smaller than the minimum width.  We both took turns standing in front of it, soaking up the cool air.

I’m guessing that our bedroom is still about 85° but that is a heck of a lot cooler than it was.

Something tells me that our bedroom will be our new favorite room in the house, forget the living room!

Do you have air conditioning?  If not, how do you keep cool in the summer?

dinner party blondies

I’m happy to report that our very first dinner party at our new apartment was a success!  I use the word “party” loosely since it was just Todd and I and his parents but, dinner party sounds much more fun than just plain dinner.

I snapped this picture while I was preparing dinner.  I love the colors all together, so pretty!

I made Lemon Fresh Summer Pasta  with grilled chicken and served it will watermelon and bread.  Nothing too fancy but it was just right for a casual meal outside on the deck.

The night was perfect for eating outside, that magical temperature where you don’t feel warm or cool.

For dessert we had the Pink Lemonade Cookies that I baked yesterday plus a second treat that I made last night, White Chocolate Chip Blondies.

I find a lot of recipes online but when I decided to make blondies, I did something crazy: I consulted a cookbook.

The Joy of Cooking was my book of choice and the recipe was great.  Easy peasy and it turned out deliciously.

Blondies from the Joy of Cooking

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Grease an 8×8 pan.  Whisk together thoroughly:

          1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour again, 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons)

          1/4 teaspoon baking powder

          1/4 teaspoon baking soda

          1/8 teaspoon salt

In a large heavy saucepan, melt, then boil, stirring constantly, until light golden brown, about 4 minutes:

          1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Remove from heat and stir in until well-blended:

          2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

          1/4 cup sugar

Let cool until barely warm.  Stir in until well-combined:

          1 large egg

          1 large egg yolk

          1 tablespoon light corn syrup

          1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Stir in flour mixture and, if desired (I desired!):

1 cup chopped, toasted pecans, chocolate chips or 2/3 cup shredded coconut (I went with 1 cup of white chocolate chips but you could add in anything: Heath, chocolate chunks, butterscotch chips, peanut butter cups, anything you’d like!)

Scrape into pan.  Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

These blondies are so delicious, even Todd was scarfing them down!  I can’t wait to try them with different mix-ins.

Do you normally get your recipes online or from a cookbook or family recipe?