Monthly Archives: December 2012

Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Seasoned to Taste - Jalapeno and Cheddar Cheese Crackers

The older I get, the more I lean toward savory snacks and treats during the holidays. They seem a welcome reprieve after all of the sweets and sugary drinks. One thing that has become my standby for get-togethers and easy hostess gifts is savory cookies. Next year for Christmas, I will just make a medley of these shortbread crackers/cookies as gifts because they are always popular on table spreads.

Ina Garten first introduced me to her blue cheese and walnut shortbread crackers, which turned me on to savory pastry cooking.

Recently, I saw her prepare these on The Today Show (a recipe from her new cookbook, which of course I own) and knew I had to make them. Not unlike the cheese coins or cheese straws we see everywhere in The South, Ina’s Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Crackers combine sharp cheddar cheese with fresh jalapeno, smoked chipotle chili powder and crunchy fleur de sel on top.

Addictive, the crackers go perfectly with a cold beer.

I make the dough a day ahead and then just slice and bake before I need them.

As seen on The Today Show

Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Ingredients (makes about 34 crackers):

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¹⁄8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 14 tablespoons (13/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, 1/2-inch-diced
  • 5 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
  • Fleur de sel or sea salt

Place the flour, kosher salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheddar, jalapeño, and chipotle chili powder and pulse again. With the food processor running, add the ice water all at once. Continue pulsing until the mixture begins to form a ball. Dump the dough onto a floured board and roll it into a 14-inch log. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Cut the dough in 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place the crackers on the prepared sheet pan, brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown (Note: mine took about 18 minutes). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. If serving later, cool completely then store in airtight containers.

Seasoned to Taste - Jalapeno and Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Can you see the bits of jalapeno in there? So pretty and festive!

Seasoned to Taste - Jalapeno and Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Crock Pot Spicy Thai Peanut Pork

It just occurred to me that all of my Crock Pot dishes look the same. Especially the Asian ones – braised meat, thick sauces and topped with my favorite type of onion: green onions! This dish adds another layer of flavor with peanut butter, a rich and creamy finish to a deeply flavored meat.

Unlike many pork Crock Pot meals, this one uses the lean pork tenderloin, resulting in a much less greasy dish.

Warm and comforting on chilly nights like these, this meal is easy to put on in the morning while you do you last-minute holiday shopping (and other merriment).

I love how bits turn dark and extra caramelized in the slow cooker. Deeply satisfying and comforting to every one of your senses.

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Crock Pot Spicy Thai Peanut Pork

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 2 lb. boneless pork tenderloin, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 c. teriyaki sauce (I didn’t have this, so just mixed up some oyster sauce, ground ginger, soy sauce and brown sugar)
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
  • Cooked rice
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for garnish

Place pork in slow cooker. Stir teriyaki, vinegar, pepper flakes and garlic cloves in small bowl and pour over pork. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. (Note: if you want more juice, I would add some chicken stock to the mix – next time I will add at least 1-2 cups of stock along with the spices).

When cooked, remove pork and coarsely chop. Whisk peanut butter into slow cooker to combine. Stir in pork.

Serve over cooked rice, with green onions on top. Squeeze lime over to serve – the lime juice is a nice balance to the richness of the dish, so I highly recommend it.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Fried Artichoke Hearts with Yogurt Dip

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

I overheard a child say that he and his friend were going to get their sleds out and attempt to sled down a grassy hill in the rain. It was so sad. So desperate for the Christmas they see in every movie, they are willing to fall in the mud, pretending it’s snow.

I remember snow, with all its pretty detailing. I also remember the stress of going somewhere as simple as the grocery store. How stop signs and sharp turns gave me cold sweats. How it feels to scrape ice off your car with numb fingers for 15 minutes before work. How no pair of snow boots can grip the black ice between you and your car. How traveling home for the holidays means much fretting, waking early for flights that may or may not have snow delays and lots of Weather Channel obsessions. How everything smells wet and the air hurts.

So yeah, I miss making snow angels and feeling the soft flakes on my cheeks. But the adult me is happy with mild temps and the true Christmasy spirit alive with too many cookies in the oven, too many presents under the tree and too many holiday-scented candles flickering all over the house.

I think artichokes are more of a spring-summer vegetable, but aren’t the holidays about having exotic tropical treats in the dead of winter? Plus, artichokes are so expensive, who knows the difference? I want them in the winter, when they are warm and tender and dipped into something creamy or lemony. I watched Ina Garten’s friend Mr. Zabar make these on TV and thought – surely regular artichokes are the same as baby artichokes, but with longer cooking times? Afraid not. BUT I made it work, friends.

I don’t deep-fry many things, but these called for deep-frying in olive oil, which I found too strange to resist. Wouldn’t it smoke up and overcook everything? What I found is this – it works, if watched carefully. Also, cutting artichoke hearts down to their most tender leaves and then frying them gives you crispy leaves with tender ends to dip in sauce, and soft, fragrant hearts to eat any way.

These were rich, which seems perfect for the holidays. I mixed together a quick yogurt dip, too, with lots of fresh herbs to cool and lighten things a bit.

Adapted from Food Network.

Fried Artichoke Hearts

Ingredients:

  • 3 artichokes
  • Olive oil
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Remove and discard the artichoke stems. Peel off lower leaves until you get to the tender center. Slice off the top half so that only the light green remains, then cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and remove the fuzzy part and the spiky purple petals. Cut halves in half again, so you have quarters.

Place the artichokes in a medium pot, flat side down, and add olive oil to just cover. Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring the olive oil to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a low flame and simmer for 15 minutes. Insert a knife into the lower half and if easily penetrated, it’s done.

Remove the thyme and garlic from the pot, raise the heat and fry uncovered for approximately 2 minutes, turning over the artichokes midway. They are done when brown and crispy. Remove the artichokes from the pot and place them on paper towels flat side down. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

Yogurt Dip

Mix together 1 c. Greek yogurt, 6 T mayo, and your preference of chopped fresh thyme, sage and rosemary. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into serving bow.

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

The artichokes were not easy or ladylike to eat, but it was kind of fun. Best to grab on piece, peel off the leaves for dipping then scraping with your teeth, and finish with the heart.

I would serve this at a party, easily, or as a nice snack during a football game.

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Spinach and Feta Puffs

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

Sometimes it seems all we eat during the month of December is in appetizer form. So many parties, potlucks, gatherings and get-togethers, all of which constitute a meal made in bite-sized portions.

I’ve been looking beyond my typical pesto palmiers recipe lately, but haven’t given up my appetizer stand-by: puff pastry. So I tried an idea from Bon Appetit that combines my love of spanikopita with my annoyance of phyllo dough. Solution: wrap up those Mediterranean flavors in puff pastry instead.

I made these for a neighborhood party, where they were gobbled up quickly, and I will be making them for our annual family Christmas party as well.

A great snack that you can eat with one hand but is more substantial than chips-and-dip.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Spinach and Feta Puffs

Ingredients, serves 6: (note, I doubled this)

  • 1 ten-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well (squeeze dry)
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta
  • 1/4 c. minced onion
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and cracked pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix spinach and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg and fold egg into spinach mixture.

Roll puff pastry out to a 12-inch square and cut into three strips, then cut those strips in thirds for a total of 9 small squares. Place each square in muffin tin cup, leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups, roughly 1 heaping Tablespoon per cup ( you don’t want too much). Fold dough tips over and pinch together. (Note: next time I will use cooking spray to make them easier to get out)

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

Beat remaining egg and brush over pastry. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

Bake until pastry is golden and puffed, about 25 min. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Use sharp paring knife to loosen puffs and cool to desired temperature on wire rack.

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

There you go! I have made these ahead and then just nuked them before the party so they are still a little warm. The filling is also easy to make in advance.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo