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Artichoke Dip

I’ve been trying to study for midterms this weekend with pretty minimal success, I know I’ll get it done but before I do I think I need to whip up a few more yummy things….like this artichoke dip to snack on while studying. See? I’m only distracting myself cooking in the name of education. I think it’s the perfect snack to accompany my petrology (the study of rocks and their origins) study session on my patio.

It’s super simple to make so you never have to eat store-bought artichoke dip again. Hooray!

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Super Easy Artichoke Dip

9 oz. artichoke hearts, chopped (I use a bag of TJ’s frozen artichoke hearts for less sodium than canned)
1/2 c reduced fat mayo
1 – 1 1/4 c Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a oven-proof bowl or dish. Top with an extra handful of Parmesan cheese. Pop it in the oven and in 20 – 30 minutes you’ll have yourself a tasty appetizer. Serve with crusty bread or tortilla chips.

I don’t even like mayo, but this dip is so simple and delicious I swear it doesn’t even taste like mayo is in it! What’s not to love?

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Blood orange scones

I love blood oranges. The second I see them pop up at the market I as many as I can. I’m obsessed with the glorious crimson color of the flesh and its slightly tart flavor.

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I found myself with tons of blood oranges so I decided to make some scones!

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Blood Orange Scones adapted from here

1/3 c + 2 tbs granulated sugar
3 blood oranges, zested
3 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c unsalted butter, cold & cubed
1 c buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs melted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine 1/3 c sugar with the zest of 2 blood oranges; use your hands to mix until the zest is well incorporated into the sugar. Set aside 2 tbs of the blood orange sugar mixture. Stir in flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Add butter, using a pastry blender, fork, or hands to break up the butter and incorporate it into the dry mixture. Add buttermilk, vanilla, the zest of the remaining orange and the juice of one small blood orange. Mix all ingredients well. Knead with your hands for about 3 minutes. Part the dough in half and create 2 disks, about 1/2 inch thick and cut into 8 wedges (for smaller scones cut the 8 wedges in half diagonally). Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with the blood orange sugar that we set aside earlier. Bake for 13 minutes.

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Blood Orange Glaze:

To create the glaze, combine 3/4 c powdered sugar, the juice of 1/2 blood orange, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Mix well and pour over warm scones.

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Yum. These little morsels of goodness are going to be on a regular rotation in my house for the next few weeks. They are that good. And pretty! We like pretty.

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Butternut squash soup

It’s been awhile since I last posted. I’ve been super busy since I started my new job but I’ve still made some yummy things! Like this butternut squash soup. It’s super delicious. I learned it from my good friend, Keri, who also taught me how to make pumpkin bread. She rocks.

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It’s the perfect use of those lovely winter squashes sitting around and a cure for the winter chill.

Butternut Squash Soup

1.5 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cut into 3″ cubes
1 bulb of fennel, sliced
2-3 shallots
2 tbs olive oil
1/3 of cubed pancetta (or bacon)
2 cups of low sodium chicken broth (this is a guess…I used about half a box of broth)
1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream

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In a heavy pan cook pancetta with olive oil. Remove pancetta from pan, set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan. Add shallots, fennel, and squash to pan. Cook on medium high heat until squash is fork tender, remove from pan and place in a blender (blend in 2 batches), adding cream and half of the pancetta. Blend until smooth, serve and top with pancetta.

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Chile (Mexican Salsa)

Don’t buy pre-packaged salsas! Make your own at home!

My family has been making this every week ever since I can remember. We call it Chile, not salsa, because “salsa” just means “sauce” in Spanish….Bechamel sauce? “Salsa de bechamel.” Tomato Sauce? “Salsa de tomate.” Chocolate Sauce? “Salsa de Chocolate”….you get the picture. If we don’t have chile in the fridge, its pure panic. We immediately run off to the store (or to our garden in the summer) and stock up on serrano chiles, anaheim chiles, tomatoes, and garlic. It’s great with tortilla chips, tacos (Thanksgiving leftovers? Make TURKEY TACOS!), tostadas, burritos, grilled chicken, spanish rice, eggs, ….anything really. Plus it’s SO easy and lasts about a week in the refrigerator (though I doubt that they’ll be any left by then). My college roommates used to plow through a batch within 24 hours. Oh yeah, it’s that good.

Chile (Mexican Salsa) 

2 large tomatoes

3 or 4 garlic cloves

3-7 serrano chile peppers (depending on your spicy preferences and the heat of the chiles…some are hotter than others)

1 anaheim chile

1-2 jalapeño chiles

a large pinch of salt

a large handful of fresh cilantro

Directions:

Heat up a cast iron comal on high heat (if you don’t have a comal, use a large cast iron pan or a griddle). Cut off the stems of all the chile peppers and remove the husk off of the garlic cloves. Place all ingredients on the comal, turning all ingredients every few minutes until blistered and charred. Remove from comal,and place in a blender. Add cliantro and blend until thick and slightly chunky/almost smooth.

Remember, you can swap out these chiles for other ones. I recently discovered that Sante Fe Chile Peppers are absolutely delicious in salsas, but this recipe is just my family’s go-to. And we literally make a new batch every 5-7 days. (The chile/salsa is good for up to a week!)
You can find comals at Mexican specialty stores for less than $5.00. What’s a comal? It’s a tortilla warmer. You place your tortillas on it, they warm up and get lovely brown spots that give the tortillas some texture. It’s definitely worth investing. Because microwaved tortillas are gross. And its how you get tortillas the way they’re meant to be…and make chile.

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Keri’s Pumpkin Bread

Last year when I was studying in Santiago, Chile, I experienced fall and winter during April-July for the first time. It’s a lot of fun being in the Southern Hemisphere when you’re used to the seasons of the Northern Hemisphere. So my friend Keri and I found ourselves craving fall flavors, like pumpkin, and ended up whipping up Keri’s mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread. It more than satisfied the craving. No other pumpkin bread recipe will compare. It’s delicious.

Make it. Share it. Eat it.

Keri’s Pumpkin Bread  (makes 2 loaves)

2 c white sugar (if you want to cut down a little on the sweetness remove 1/2 c. It’s still yummy)

1/2 c brown sugar

1 c vegetable oil

3 c flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 c fresh pumpkin purée

4 eggs, beaten separately

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients together, then add wet ingredients.

Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Eat  Devour.

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Chicken Tostadas

I love chicken tostadas. Love them. Love them so much I have them once a week. They’re delicious and beyond easy to make.

I remember in college when the dining commons had chicken tostadas and none of my friends understood what they were or how to eat them. I bet you think you know what they are, right? Wrong. Those things that you buy in gringafied Mexican restaurants are an exaggerated form of real Mexican tostadas. I hate them. They suck. I’m an admitted Mexican food snob. Sorry. But hey, that’s what I’m here for – to enlighten you all and share delicious and simple food with you.

These are real tostadas:

Yummy.

Chicken Tostadas (serves 3-5 people)

10 corn tortillas

1/3 c canola oil

1 – 2  cans refried beans

1.5 lbs chicken, diced

2 tbs canola oil

salt and pepper, to taste

1 boiled potato, with skin, sliced

1 -2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced or diced

1 – 2 tomatoes, diced

cheddar cheese, to taste

freshly made salsa

Directions:

Heat 2 tbs canola oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat, add diced chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown. While you are cooking the chicken, heat 1/3 c canola oil in a small pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gently place the tortilla in the oil. When the tortilla puffs up a little, flip it over and cook the other side until golden brown. Using tongs, remove the tortilla and place on a paper towel on a plate.

Continue until all the tortillas are golden brown and crispy. By now, your chicken should be done. Heat up the refried beans in a pan – be sure to add a tablespoon of water to help them stay moist!

Now you can begin assembling your tostadas.

The first layer is beans. Then add chicken, cheese, boiled potato slices (sounds weird but it’s delicious!), tomatoes, avocado, and top it all off with a little fresh salsa.

Om nom nom.

**This is also a great way to use Thanksgiving turkey leftovers! Just switch out the chicken with turkey meat. It’ll blow your mind, I promise.

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Fresh Pumpkin Purée

So I know that buying pumpkin purée in a can at the store is convenient and all, but I truly believe that you can taste the difference between canned, store bought and fresh, homemade pumpkin pureé. And who doesn’t like knowing exactly what’s going into their food? Ok, 80% of America doesn’t…but I know I do. And you should too.

There is something magical about taking an entire pumpkin and turning it into a deliciously smooth pureé over a couple of hours. Use it to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin pie, or to spice up your oatmeal. If you can’t use all of it at once, freeze it in 2 c portions for use later. Once you make fresh pumpkin purée you’ll never go back to canned.

Fresh Pumpkin Purée

1 pumpkin (sugar, crooked neck,…really any kind of pumpkin)

1 tbs canola oil

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut up your pumpkin into chunks. Mine are always different sizes but if you are talented enough, then try to get the pieces similar in size. Remove all of the seeds and stringy bits (set aside the seeds to make roasted pumpkin seeds!). Drizzle oil on a cookie sheet, put the pumpkin pieces on the sheet, and flip them so that they are lightly covered in oil. Cover with a sheet of foil and place in the heated oven. Roast for about 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on the size of your pieces. The pumpkin is done when it is fork/knife tender. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes with the foil off then remove the skin from the meat. Using a potato masher or food processor, mash/blend the pumpkin until smooth.

Now, it’s ready to use in all kinds of delicious fall/winter dishes. Enjoy!

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