Thursday, December 29, 2011

classic spinach dip - with a twist, of course

The best spinach dip I've ever created? Yes, it has bacon, which automatically puts this recipe in the running for "best ever" but there's just something about it that is so ... satisfying. Great combination of textures - a little crunch, some creaminess but not overdone, my newest version of spinach dip has it all.

Serve at an elegant holiday party or other special occasion, or bring along to your next al fresco dining experience with a bottle of wine and a bit of charcuterie and good cheese. Like all spinach dips, this looks beautiful served in a crusty bread bowl; this version is particularly suited to dipping with pita chips. And if you haven't tried the Archer Farms Hummus Chips with Sea Salt from Target, get a bag now. Absolutely delicious little snack, and so good with this dip!

One 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 slices hardwood-smoked thick cut bacon
4 heaping tablespoons minced water chestnuts
6 tablespoons mayonnaise (NOT "salad dressing")
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 to 3/4 dried oregano (try a little dill just to change it up sometimes)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

In a skillet, cook bacon slices until crispy and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. While bacon is cooking, squeeze out as much water as you can from the thawed chopped spinach. Mince the water chestnuts and combine with the spinach. When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces and add to spinach-water chestnut mixture.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and black pepper. Stir into spinach mixture, mixing thoroughly, and add feta cheese, breaking up any larger clumps of feta cheese. Season to taste with salt (I find that little or no salt is needed with the bacon and feta cheese).
Makes about 2 cups of spinach dip.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

chicken-lime-tortilla soup hits the spot!

Love chili? So do I, and once you've perfected "the" recipe, it's tough to change. After all, you've tweaked and pinched and sprinkled to the point where you've reached perfection; why mess with it?

For those who love chili but are past the wild experimentation stage, try a hearty, satisfying chicken tortilla soup. This one has two kinds of chicken plus white beans, southwestern-style spices and the earthy flavor of corn tortillas. Like chili, this tastes delicious the longer it simmers, and is even better the next day. Feel free to add your favorite soup veggies; this tastes great with corn kernels or diced summer squash. Tailor it to your own tastes, I know that some people do not like the flavor of cilantro but if you do, load up! Garnish with sour cream, avocado, more cilantro, a little green onion, and tortilla chips baked with a sprinkle of lime and salt. A Lonesome Road Studio exclusive...


1 medium yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lb. ground chicken

one 14.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped (reserve liquid)

3 cups leftover shredded cooked chicken (I used grilled chicken; wonderful addition!)

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons dried oregano

3 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder blend

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

one 15.5 oz. can white kidney beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed

Juice of one small lime

5 soft corn tortillas, cut into squares or strips

Directions: In a large soup pot, saute onion and garlic together in olive oil until tender. Add ground chicken and cook thoroughly, breaking up as chicken cooks. When chicken is completely cooked, add tomatoes with their reserved liquid, plus the broth, oregano, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon. Stir to combine and add leftover shredded cooked chicken. Bring to a boil then quickly reduce heat and simmer over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes but, the longer the better.

About 30 minutes before serving, add white kidney beans, juice of one lime, and the soft corn tortilla strips. Stir to blend and simmer for at least another 30 minutes, then garnish and serve.

Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings.

Can't get enough chicken tortilla soup? Check out this recipe published here last winter...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the easiest party nibble ever - cheese crisps

Crispy. Chewy. Cheesy. And incredibly easy. Party nibbles don't come easier than these cheese crisps simply made with slices of Monterey Jack cheese and a sprinkling of your favorite herb blend. That's it!

The super-simple recipe is from "Pasta & Co. By Request" by Marcella Rosene, one of the many many cookbooks residing on the Lonesome Road cookbook shelf. Published in 1991 and distributed by Sasquatch Books (gotta love that, heh), the cookbook contains tons of delectable recipes from the Pasta & Co. take-out food shop in Seattle, Washington.

I used part of an average 8 ounce rectangle-shaped block of Monterey Jack cheese, cut 1/4 inch thick slices, then cut the slices in half to make twelve small squares. I figured that the slices would spread out in the oven, so I left a lot of space around each one when placing them on the nonstick baking sheet. My spice blend of choice was Bragg Organic Sprinkle, a delicious seasoning blend of 24 herbs and spices. You can use your own favorite seasoning, or maybe just a bit of garlic salt. The cookbook suggests herbes de Provence with lavender or hot paprika but neither of these really tripped my trigger, I was looking for something very savory. Sprinkle a bit of seasoning on the cheese squares and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. The cheese will emerge browned and bubbling (yum!) from the oven. Transfer the crisps to a wire rack covered with paper towels.
There was quite a bit of greasiness left on the baking sheet and I was considering using a low-fat version of the cheese for the next batch but not sure if the quality would be the same since lower-fat cheese tends to be not quite so melty. Another idea is to substitute Pepper Jack cheese for the Monterey Jack - I'm wondering how they would taste dipped in a little hot salsa? Pretty good, I'll bet.
Enjoy these tasty little noshes at your next holiday get-together, for a Super Bowl party (I won't even mention the Green Bay Packers) or just whip up a batch to have on hand for snacking or serving along with a nice steaming hot bowl of tomato soup. Just remember to make much more than you think you will need; these will go quickly!

Friday, December 9, 2011

low and slow cooked holiday brisket

Set aside a day to enjoy the pleasures of slow food cooking; maybe while you're wrapping all of those holiday treasures, or simply relaxing and enjoying an afternoon of football. This delicious beef brisket will take up some of your sweet time cooking, but once you have the ingredients together all you have to do is enjoy the wickedly wonderful aroma... and dinner later.

This recipe was a web exclusive published in the December online version of Cowboys & Indians magazine here; and in fact, the Silver Palate cookbook from which the recipe is adapted is also perched on one of the many Lonesome Road cookbook shelves. In true fashion, I experimented with the recipe a bit as well. I used some amazing Washington state Walla Walla onions from our big garden, chopped and put up in the freezer for all those winter soups, stews, chilis and more. And I lightly sprinkled a bit of hickory Liquid Smoke on the brisket before spreading with tomato paste. Because I used the Liquid Smoke, I eliminated the salt listed in the recipe. But don't forget to grind liberal amounts of fresh black pepper on the brisket!

Jane the Dog casually waiting for a brisket to jump out of the pan.

On the Lonesome Road, this brisket was perfectly accompanied by cheesy mashed potatoes and a crisp baby spring lettuce salad. The leftover brisket tastes even better the next day and makes awesome sandwiches on a crusty roll. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

buttery, cinnamon-y holiday winter squash

As soon as the first chill in the air arrives, I begin to crave the tastes of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. Okay, maybe a little ginger, but it's not one of my favorites - small doses. And with fall and winter (and holidays') migration to more roasted and baked comfort cooking, I love this buttery, spicy, creamy winter squash creation on the side.

Very easy to prepare from frozen winter squash puree, but if you had a bumper crop of acorn and butternut squash in your garden this year, by all means use your bounty. If you use fresh squash, be sure to bake it with butter and brown sugar in the center! If simply using a frozen puree, follow my adaptation of another mouth-watering recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Prairie" by Stephen Langlois.


One 10 ounce package frozen pureed winter squash, thawed

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons milk or cream

Salt to taste

Simply heat thawed pureed squash and add butter. When butter is melted entirely, incorporate honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk or cream. Season to taste with salt.

Makes approximately 3 to 4 servings and is easily doubled.


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