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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vacation Party Food Part 1: Wine Tasting and Finger Food

Because there's too much to say in just one blog post!

Vacation is over and I couldn't be happier.  Don't get me wrong- I absolutely loved spending the last week with my family, the Officer and her family, and friends, old and new.  However, somewhere between Michigan and Texas, I contracted the black plague, or some similar form of illness, and so spent the entire past week feeling pretty miserable.  Wouldn't you know, the day I had to fly out of Texas was the first day I started feeling better.

Anyhow, let's start at the beginning.  Last Sunday, my sister hosted a wine tasting party at her house.  I had volunteered to help make party food because, well, that's what I do.  Mary put together some delicious-looking cheese and cracker plates, caprese-style nibbles, meatballs (both animal and vegan versions), as well as a trio of dips: olive tapenade, roasted red pepper spread, and hummus.  No lie, this was a pretty impressive spread.

My contribution to this smorgasbord was a platter of delightful little tea sandwiches.  I must admit, they were amazing and delicious and adorable!

I'll share the recipe in a sec, but first, I must confess that not everything I create is gold. I had also attempted a phyllo-strawberry-chocolate dessert which ended in disaster and probably ruined Mary's cookie sheet.  Sorry, sister!

In my first attempt, I rolled the strawberries in phyllo to create "cigars."  They fell apart when I tried to take them out of the pan.  In my second attempt, I made little rectangular "packages" out of the dough.  But still, the juice from the strawberries oozed out the corners and made a sticky mess.  On top of that, I used way too much chocolate [only I could screw up a chocolate recipe!] so that, while the desserts were still edible, they were entirely too sweet for me.

Umm, yeah.  So!  Moving on...

The tea sandwiches were super easy to put together, but impressive.  I would consider these an excellent party food option for any occasion.

A couple of notes:  I used store-bought garlic hummus, but decided that it needed even more garlic, so I stirred in some chopped garlic.  This step is optional, of course, and I will note that in the recipe.  Also, feel free to use any veggies you like.  Cucumber and tomato are more traditional, but zucchini, bell pepper, or summer squash would be just as lovely.  And lastly, white bread makes these sammies authentic, but if you prefer a hearty, whole grain bread, change it up as you see fit.  I won't judge.

1 loaf good quality white bread (or bread of choice, up to you)
1 ripe avocado
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dill
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
8 oz tub garlic hummus (you won't use all of it, but I don't know that it comes in a smaller size)
1/2 tsp chopped garlic, optional
3-4 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 medium cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch slices

In a small mixing bowl, scoop out the avocado flesh  and mash with a fork until only small lumps remain.  Stir in lemon juice, dill, and garlic, and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If desired, stir chopped garlic into tub of hummus.

To assemble the sandwiches:  Take out 2 slices of bread.  Spread avocado mixture on one slice and hummus on other slice.  Arrange 4 slices each of the tomato and cucumber on one slice of bread.  Top with remaining slice of bread.  Cut sandwich in half twice, creating 4 squares.  Stick each quarter with a toothpick to keep sandwiches from falling apart.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Stay tuned for yet another blog post this week!  Vacation Party Food Part 2: Wedding Funness in Texas!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Officer's Gettin' Hitched!!!

Yee- haw!

OK, yeah, so I don't have a recipe to share this week.  That's because I only cooked once, and it wasn't anything spectacular [while red cabbage is delicious and healthy, it makes soup turn a funny, rather un-photogenic color].  Also, I've been busy packing for my vacation!  I'll be spending the next week in San Antonio with the Officer, helping with prep for the wedding and offering my bridesmaid services for the ceremony.

So no recipe this week, however, I may have several next week!  Before flying off to Texas, I'll be spending a couple of days with my sister.  She's hosting a wine tasting party on Sunday, and I'll be helping with the party food.  Also, the Officer and I are planning a "girl's night" next week, and I know I'll be trying out some new recipes on her.  I mean, just look at all the deliciousness we whipped up the last time I stayed with her:

                                                                So much awesome.

So stay tuned for a couple new recipes, maybe some photos of Texas, and complete ridiculousness as always next week.

In the meantime,  Look out Texas, here I come!!!

                                          An Officer and A Vegan.  Aren't we cute?!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gluten-Free Popeye Pasta

Because you can't go wrong with cartoon-inspired dinner recipes!

The "Healthy Recipe" contest ends in a couple of days, and I wanted to get just one last entry in before it closed.  Now, before any of you accuse me of selling out to the gluten-free trend, I had a reason for making this dish GF.  Umm, my reason was that, besides the pasta, all of my ingredients were already gluten-free, so why not?  Actually, since it's free of gluten, dairy, and eggs, this is a very allergy-friendly dish!

I liked the idea of making a Popeye-inspired pasta dish, using spinach and olive oil as main ingredients.  For being as simple as it is, this recipe was surprisingly flavorful and super easy to make.  I used GF pasta made from corn and veggies, like spinach and red bell pepper.  As with the last pasta recipe, if you're not following a GF diet, use whatever pasta you'd like.  And if you are GF, but can't find veggie pasta, use brown rice, quinoa, or other GF noodles.

It should be noted that, seeing as the sauce is made almost entirely from olive oil, this entree is certainly not fat-free, and not even low-fat.  But it is packed with nutrients like iron, potassium, calcium, lots of vitamins, and antioxidants, thanks to the spinach.  I used frozen spinach because it was cheaper and easier to give a specific measurement, but fresh baby spinach would be lovely as well.  Just add it as directed in the recipe, but only cook until the leaves are just wilted.

 1 lb gluten-free pasta
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1 lemon (just under 1/4 cup)
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water pressed out
1/4 cup sliced black olives
Salt and pepper

 In a large pot, bring water to boil and cook pasta according to directions on package.
In a large skillet, saute onion, garlic, and pepper on medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add olive oil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice, spinach, and olives, and cook for 5 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
When pasta has finished cooking, drain and return to pot.  Add the veggies and sauce to the pasta.  Stir to combine, add more salt and pepper as needed, and drizzle with extra olive oil, if desired.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Super Sloppy Joes

Because I only cooked once this week.  It is what it is.

I made these sloppy sammies Tuesday, not intending to put them on the blog, because it was more of a "just throw a bunch of stuff together" kind of dish than a well-planned recipe idea.  I had a half a package of mushrooms that needed to be used like, now, some leftover frozen onion and pepper from the goulash a couple of weeks ago, bread (have I mentioned that I work in a bread store?  I always have bread) and randomly, for whatever reason, a can of sloppy joe sauce.  I'm thinking maybe I bought it for a recipe contest a while back...?  Regardless, sloppy joes were destined to be made.

I've made lentil sloppy joes in the past, using brown lentils and a sauce from scratch.  But, in true AO&AV style, I used red lentils, because that's what I had on-hand, and a pre-made sauce because, well, I had some.  And also because it was convenient.

These were deliciously sloppy and done in about 20 minutes.  I've included the recipe below, but bear in mind that I didn't intend to share this recipe with y'all, so I just kind of made up some of the measurements.  Use them as a guideline rather than a hard rule.

1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
4 oz mushrooms, diced
15 oz can sloppy joe sauce
2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
Salt and pepper

In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine lentils with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down a smidge to get a rolling boil, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occassionally. 
*Keep in mind that red lentils become soft and mushy the longer you cook them.  The trick here is to almost undercook the lentils so that they still keep their shape.  Basically, once the majority of the water is absorbed, you can remove the lentils from the heat.
So, while that's happening...
In a separate medium-ish pan, saute onion and pepper for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Add lentils and sauce, and stir to mix well.  Add in the relish, cumin, and chile powder and stir to combine.  Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.