Friday, February 6, 2015

Football + Friends = Snacks

Pumpkin Puff Pastry Rolls - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

Pumpkin puree in the making.
     When you're a kid, you carve your halloween pumpkins right away. When you're older and busy, they don't get carved until January. Luckily mine were still in good condition thanks to the frigidity in our stairwell. So one night I got all three pumpkins, carved one for fun, sliced up the other two, roasted them, and made a bunch of jars of pumpkin puree. This was a first for me and resulted in some incredible puree that is clearly waaaaaay better than the canned stuff. The only possibly negative difference is that this puree I made had more water in it than I think the canned stuff does. So when it comes to baking with it, you may want to take that into consideration. I made this mistake when I went to make these pumpkin puff pastry swirls from Spache the Spatula.  These are basically like a pumpkin roll but in an buttery, flaky puff pastry crust. My issue arose when I mixed the pumpkin and cream cheese. It was supposed to be a thicker consistency so that I could spread it on the dough and roll up the whole thing. But mine was so runny that I couldn't roll the dough without it pouring out completely. I had 2 remedies. 1) As I rolled the dough, I tried to pinch the sides to keep the pumpkin in. 2) I cut the dough into little squares and made these cute little pastries instead with only a little scoop of the pumpkin cream cheese mix. All in all, every version of pumpkin roll I attempted tasted great, but was a little less pumpkin-y than I hoped because the pumpkin-cream cheese was spread more thinly across everything. You'll notice I didn't slice the pumpkin roll into inch thick pieces because I couldn't without losing a semblance of my pumpkin roll shape. These should be almost cinnamon roll shaped... not these logs I have here. 

Pumpkin Puff Pastry Rolls

Pumpkin Puff Pastry Rolls
14 oz. package puff pastry, thawed 
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
8 oz. block cream cheese
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
confectioners' sugar, to dust

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Lay the puff pastry out on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out even. 

3. In a food processor or with a hand mixer, mix together the pumpkin, cream cheese, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar until smooth. Add in the egg and combine.

4. Spread the filling over the puff pastry. Roll the dough up tightly. 

5. Using some (non-mint) dental floss, slice the roll into 1 and 1/2"-thick disks. Place onto the lined baking sheets a few inches apart.

6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the pastry is cooked and browned. Allow to cool for a few minutes before dusting with confectioners' sugar.


Feta Dip - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

Simple pita chips and feta dip.
     I'm not a huge football fan... yea... I said it, but it doesn't mean I'm not all about going to a Super Bowl party. I will always go. Why? Snacks. Always tons of snacks. And it means that I get to choose something from my list that is good for a party setting. For Stef's party I decided to make some homemade rosemary pita chips and serve it with a feta dip. I found this super fresh and simple dip on a blog called Sweet Paul. It's basically feta cheese, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. End of story. I wanted some more volume, so I added some chopped up green onions, and if I made it again, I'd do the same thing. I liked the color and the little bit of texture the green onions added. This is a nice light dip to serve to a smaller crowd I'd say, because feta is not so cheap, and once you grind it up, the volume is cut nearly in half. Still worth a shot though!

Feta Dip

7 ounces feta cheese (about 1 cup crumbled)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus more for garnish
1–2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 green onions, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes

1. Using a hand mixer or food processor, combine the feta, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, green onions, garlic, and olive oil. Taste it and add a little more lemon or olive oil if it's too salty (I kept tossing in a little of each until I was satisfied).

2. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of pepper flakes and some lemon zest. Serve with toasts or pita crisps.


Homemade Cheezits! - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

Cheezits getting all excited and puffy!

     These were also for the Super Bowl Party. I couldn't just make one thing. So many options. I decided I'd stick with this whole cheese theme and give some homemade cheezits a go. I found these on a blog I reference often called Brown Eyed Baker. A+. I give myself an A+ for these. They were amazing. Now, they didn't really crisp up as much as the kind from the box, but that's ok, and I think I'm glad they didn't. They looked beautiful in the oven getting all puffy and they smelled even better. They weren't like a cheese puff texture though. It was kind of a mix between a puff and a cracker. More like crackers with a soft inside and crispy edges. I also loved the sharpness of the cheddar I used because it gave each cracker so much flavor. The only change I made to the recipe was that I used 3/4 of the cheddar she called for and substituted the rest (plus a few other handfuls for good measure) with mozzarella that I had left over from a pizza. High five self. 

Homemade Cheezits

Cheezits before the oven.

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (or mix w/ other cheeses. I used some mozzarella too)
¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

1. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine the cheese, butter, and salt on low speed until combined. Add the flour and mix on low until pebbly. Slowly add 2 tablespoons of the water and mix until a dough forms. You may have to switch to combining manually if you're using a hand mixer.  If needed, add the additional tablespoon of water a little at a time until the dough forms. 

2. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into a very thin 10x12-inch rectangle that is around ⅛-inch thick. 

4. Using a pizza wheel, cut the rectangles into 1-inch squares. Then I used a chopstick to poke a hole in the middle to look like a real cheezit. This was purely aeshetic... I think.

5. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until puffed and browning at the edges. Immediately move the crackers to wire racks to cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Dark Chocolate Cranberry Orange Muffins - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Orange Muffins
     I'm still in use-up-everything-in-the-freezer mode from the last couple months when I've been strapped for cash. So out came the frozen cranberries I threw in there back in November when we had Friendsgiving. They were going to work perfectly for this easy recipe I had for dark chocolate cranberry orange muffins. I found this recipe on a blog called Dessert for Two, which is really cool because it provides recipes for desserts you can make that won't leave you with 10,000 cookies you're trying to give away to your coworkers. But... in this case... I wanted to give some to my coworkers so I doubled the recipe :] I'd highly recommend using a quality chocolate in these. Definitely not milk chocolate. I just chopped up a 60% dark Ghirardelli bar. I loved these muffins because they were light and not super sweet. I liked the citrus flavors from the orange and the contrasting sweet from the chocolate and sour from the cranberries. Practically refreshing!

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Orange Muffins

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
⅓ cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon fresh orange zest
¼ cup + ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
heaping ½ teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I did the 1c milk: 1 tbs lemon juice substitution)
½ cup fresh cranberries
¼ cup dark chocolate chips/chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 400 and line 6 muffin cups with liners.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the butter and sugar very well. Add the egg and orange zest, and stir until it's incorporated.

3. Next, sprinkle the flour, baking powder and salt on top. Mix and then add the buttermilk. Stir just until combined.  Finally, stir in the cranberries and dark chocolate chips.

4. Divide batter between 6 muffin liners (for medium sized muffins or 4 for large muffins) and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Sweet Corn Cheesy Jalapeno Dip

     I'm going to have to make this one again a) because it was delicious and b) because I don't have a photo. This was another "Ooo a party!" moments where I got excited and wanted to take a dish to pass. I found this bad boy on The Sunny Side of Life and was honestly never going to make it just for myself to sit home and layer on the lbs. Well, it's not all that terrible. Just a decent amount of fat. Just fat and corn. Whatever. So we're talking corn, sour cream, mayo, tons of cheeses and spices up the wazoo. I loved the salty cheese and sweet corn together. Oh man and all the creamy things holding it together. The recipe sounds simple, but I still managed to screw up the texture somehow. I think I may have cooked it too long, resulting in the cheeses to get over cooked and not gooey or stringy.  They turned out almost crumbly or gritty. It all still had great flavor, but if you look at the photo on The Sunny Side of Life, just know that if you overcook it, it will not look like that. No worries though. It'll still taste great, as long as you don't scorch it to death.  

Sweet Corn Cheesy Jalapeno Dip

2 cans sweet corn, drained
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375˚.

2. In medium bowl, mix together mayo, sour cream, and spices. Fold in corn, jalapeño peppers, onions, and 3/4 cups of blended cheese.

3. Place in greased baking dish, and top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake in preheated oven for approx. 20 min. or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.


Amsterdam Cafe - South Boston, MA

See... so much good pita, so little insides.
     This is the only new restaurant I've been to in a while. And even saying that's a stretch. We ordered food from here one day after unpacking one of the labs in the new science building. I was super pumped about trying this place because they had some unique Mediterranean dishes. I needed the protein and ordered the chicken kabob pita roll up. The pita was honestly the best part. It was real. It was like the kind of pitas my Lebanese great grandmother would support. Not the fake ones in every grocery stores. They're all lies. 
      Anyway, the flavors in the roll up were all right, but the chunks of chicken were dry, and really the only other thing besides chicken in the wrap was green peppers. Both ingredients were kind of swimming in this juice/oil that was just unnecessary. It still tasted good and I ate the whole thing (even though I had vowed to save half for after my swim so I didn't throw up in the pool), but I was hoping for something more fresh. Something with grilled chicken and grilled vegetables from a kabob. Maybe that's just my western perspective on what a chicken kabob should be from a Mediterranean place (even though it has "Amsterdam" in the title). 

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