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Wednesday
Mar232011

Spicy chickpea salad

This is Week #12 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

Fresh-ingredient salads rock. They're pretty and fresh and tasty and versatile. My husband and I make a killer fresh salad that rivals this one, and I'll share it before summer arrives. By the way, where is summer? We got teased with a bit of warm weather last week, so now the cold and snow and freezing rain are even harder to swallow. I'm not convinced that summer will ever welcome us into her warm embrace.

This colorful salad helps me to believe that it might happen, though. It makes me think of lunches outside with my boys as we sit barefoot on the grass, wiping beads of sweat from our foreheads. Mmmmmmmm.

Back to my cold reality known as Minnesota.

If you, too, enjoy tricking yourself into believing it is summer when it is in fact not, make this salad! My family loved it and the entire batch was gone within 24 hours, despite the lack of warm weather.

If you want to go fresh and do as the recipe suggests, soak 1 cup of dried chickpeas in water overnight. Drain the chickpeas and bring to a boil in a large saucepan in 4 inches of water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours, or until chickpeas are tender.

If you want easy, purchase two cans of chickpeas at the grocery store.

Either way, drain the chickpeas and place them in a medium bowl.

Add:

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cup cucumber, diced (This is where I should explain that my husband is a juicing fanatic these days. Every fruit or vegetable that enters our home gets run through the juicer unless I declare that it is off limits. I opened the fridge to grab my cucumber. Juiced. So I used 2 stalks of chopped celery in its place.)

1/2 small red onion, chopped

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (The lemon I had purchased for this recipe? Juiced. Luckily its juice was fresh and still in the fridge.)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried mango powder (optional)

Salt

Mix everything together and serve chilled.

The first thing we did upon making this was throw it onto a piece of flatbread with sliced turkey and black pepper.

A piece of lettuce would have added a nice crunch, but that had probably been juiced, as well.

No mayo needed! It made a delicious, healthy dinner wrap.

The next day for lunch, I used it as a topping for my boring baked chicken and cottage cheese.

And I ate the last of it with crackers for a snack.

I can think of about 100 other things I'd like to put it in and on and in between. Or, I wouldn't mind eating it straight from the container while having a picnic lunch with my family, the beating sun making the tops of our heads hot.

Ahhhhh, a girl can dream.

Click here for a printable recipe!

Wednesday
Mar232011

Tomato-basil and olive-leek tartlets

As a Foodbuzz featured publisher, I have the honor of writing a post for a very good cause. Foodbuzz is donating $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every Top 9 Tea Party Takeover entry received on its site today. Please go to the Kelly Confidential website to donate money toward ovarian cancer research!

The challenge for this takeover is to create the perfect tea party recipe. The scene in the below photo is the closest I get to having tea parties. Do you see the "tea" magnet? I didn't even strategically place that. I saw it and knew I was meant to capture this photo.

I might serve plastic French fries, chicken and watermelon at a tea party, but perhaps not for guests over the age of 5.

My idea of the perfect tea party recipe involves a huge burst of flavor in a teeny tiny bite. Or two teeny tiny bites. I thought of some of the flavors I have fallen in love with recently and incorporated them into two delicious tartlet recipes. If a tea party is on your agenda, you will want to remove the plastic food from your table and make these! They are just what I was aiming for. Big flavor in a small package.

Both tartlets induced an "Oh dear LORD, this is good!" from my husband, my tea party companion.

Start out by defrosting 2 puff pastry sheets according to the package directions. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

While you are waiting for your pastry to defrost and your oven to heat up, combine the following ingredients in a medium bowl:

2 cups cherry and/or grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & pepper

Set aside.

Slice the white parts from 2 medium leeks.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the sliced leeks to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes, or until they are soft. Give them a little sprinkling of salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine:

Cooked leeks

1 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (I used slightly more than this due to my olive obsession)

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & pepper

On a floured surface, roll out the defrosted pastry sheets with a rolling pin until they reach a thickness of 1/8 inch.

I used 3 different sizes of tartlet tins, so I cut 3 different sizes of squares from my puff pastry sheets. Round biscuit cutters would work great, too, but I personally love the corners-hangin'-over-the-edge look.

My general size guidelines:

1.5-inch tin (all diameters measured on bottom) = 3x3-inch pastry square

2-inch tin = 4x4-inch pastry square

3-inch tin = 5x5-inch pastry square

Once the squares are cut, use a fork to create perforations over the surface of the pastry squares. Grease the tins and place the pastry squares in their respectively-sized spots. Gently press the centers of the pastries into the bottom of the tins, allowing the corners of the squares to fold over the edges.

Place the tins on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the pastries are flaky and golden in color. You will likely need to bake the tartlets in batches, unless you have an abundance of tartlet tins lying around.

Place a small cube of fresh mozzarella cheese in the center of each pastry (sizes of the cheese cubes should vary depending on the size of the tartlet).

In half of the pastries, top the mozzarella with a spoonful of the tomato-basil mixture. For bigger tartlets, make that 2 or 3 spoonfuls.

In the other half of the pastries, top the mozzarella with a spoonful of the olive-leek mixture.

Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, or until the mozzarella is gooey and you are salivating.

Top the tomato-basil tartlets with fresh basil, if desired.

Remove from tins and serve immediately. With tea, of course.

These are ridiculously tasty. Your tea party guests will be begging you to please go make more.

Printable Tomato-Basil Tartlet recipe

Printable Olive-Leek Tartlet recipe

Tuesday
Mar222011

Cookies 'n cream brownies

Cookies 'n cream is my favorite ice cream flavor in all the world. Oh, wait. Make that, my favorite ice cream flavor right alongside Ben & Jerry's Half Baked and Cherry Garcia and also the Butterfinger "tornadoes" my dad used to make for me growing up. Ok, so cookies 'n cream is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. Nonetheless, I adore it. So when I ran across this recipe (thanks, lovefromtheoven!), it took me less than a second to realize I was going to make it. ASAP.

Start by making a batch of brownies in a 9x13 pan, prepared according to the package directions.

Once the brownies have cooled, use the rim of a glass to "cut" out twelve brownie rounds. Don't toss the brownie remnants! I have an idea that I'll tell you about in a bit.

Place the brownie rounds on a serving platter or cookie sheet, and prepare a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting.

Spoon the frosting into a large ziploc bag and snip 1/4 inch from one of the corners of the bag. Squish the frosting down and through the snipped hole and cover each brownie with a layer of the frosting.

Place 12-15 Oreo cookies in a large ziploc bag and smash them. I prefer fairly big smashed cookie chunks, but if you prefer a finer cookie texture, process them in a food processor or just do a lot of smashing.

Place the crumbles on top of the frosting and enjoy!

Then grab your brownie scraps and whip together a batch of Cookies 'n Cream Brownie Chunk ice cream! And after that, eat nothing but lettuce and water for 5 days.

Click here for a printable recipe!

Tuesday
Mar222011

Cookies 'n cream brownie chunk ice cream

My relationship with ice cream is complicated. Most of the time I avoid it as if I might contract a terrible disease by being within 50 feet of it. I shun it at the grocery store, on my way down the frozen foods aisle as I head toward the edamame. Not even a glance in its direction. It's comparable to refusing to acknowledge someone after an ugly break-up. It's too tempting and scary all at once, so it's best to feign disinterest.

Then there are those times when I become weak. Weak = pregnant or supremely stressed. I not only allow ice cream back into my life, but I shower love upon it, letting it know how sorry I am to have been so cold. I truly love you, Ice Cream! I'll never leave again! But my friend has a wounded heart. I've caused too much pain, too many times.

And so it goes, this dysfunctional yet functional relationship that I love to hate. Recently I found myself in a weak state (stressed, not pregnant) and thought it would be a great idea to make my very own ice cream concoction. I call it Cookies 'n Cream Brownie Chunk Ice Cream. Could anything sound more wonderful? And it was wonderful. I'm now back in the state of ignoring my delicious companion, but our recent stint certainly was good while it lasted.

Here's what I did. I threw my brownie scraps from this recipe into a bowl along with:

3/4 of a half gallon container of vanilla ice cream

12 crumbled Oreo cookies

1/3 cup of vanilla buttercream frosting

I tried to talk myself into walking away, but I was too weak. Instead, I stirred.

And I let all of the sinful ingredients mingle with one another.

Then I scooped myself a giant bowl and indulged, momentarily free of guilt.

Thankfully, stress comes and goes. Imagine how much trouble I was in when I was pregnant. I wouldn't let my husband take a picture of the inside of our freezer because it was really. really. embarrassing.

Click here for a printable recipe!

Friday
Mar182011

Vanilla buttercream frosting

I have made more frosting this winter than during any other 5-month span in my life. Lots of cupcakes and cake and just plain old licking of spoons and fingers. Reason #489 why my baby weight is still not totally gone. I'm blaming it all on the horrendous winter we have just experienced. All I have wanted to do is stay inside and make food and eat food and then eat more and more and more.

My peppermint buttercream frosting is still my winter favorite, but can you ever really go wrong with frosting? Butter and sugar are meant to be together, especially when they are swirling around in my satisfied belly.

With an electric hand mixer, cream 1 stick of butter for 3 minutes.

Add:

3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix on low speed until light and fluffy. Add additional confectioners' sugar, if needed. Mmmmm!

Click here for a printable recipe!