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Super Simple Garlic Bread Spice Mix

13 Sep

Want to make my family happy at an Italian restaurant?

Plop down that basket of garlic bread. Seriously–it’s like roadkill to vultures. As if we’re not going to have Carb-O-Rama anyway, we attack the bread like we’ve never seen food before and may never again. It’s even worse if there’s olive oil in a little dish for dipping.

I’ve tried to break this sad addiction, but nothing works. And now that my kids are well into elementary school, they know enough to have figured out that garlic bread can come with spaghetti at home, too.

The stuff in your grocer’s freezer is delicious, no doubt, and I’m not above grabbing a loaf or two if I’m making lasagna for 15 people on a holiday. It’s a time thing. But I don’t buy it just for us, because it’s disgustingly bad for us and because it takes up too much room in my freezer (this is an honest food blog, ladies and gentlemen, and there you have my confession on that one).

I’ve bought garlic bread spice mix through the mail for a long time now, mainly because the ones at the grocery store are full of salt and we get plenty of that already. The other day, though, I ran out. There was an almost-empty jar in my spice drawer and a ziti in the oven, and I will admit to you that I had a brief moment of panic before my inner Julia Child spoke up.

“Dude,” she said (Julia’s still cool), “It’s spices. How hard can it be?”

I shrugged. “Dunno. Let’s find out.”

And so I did. I took the remains of my spice jar and shook them onto a plate and got my CSI on, sifting through to see what I saw. Yellow stuff = garlic powder. Red stuff = paprika. And green stuff = Italian seasoning.

“Julia,” I said, “You still rock.”

From there, it was easy to sift together my own spices, put them into a little plastic container, and make garlic bread that was way healthier and cheaper than buying it or using a pre-made mix. I didn’t use a spice jar because my Italian seasoning is cut a little bigger than what was in the garlic bread mix I used to buy, and I didn’t think it would fit through the shaker top. So a plastic container is great–I can pinch out what I need.

Your inner Julia will be proud of this one, gang. Takes two seconds and no stove required. Ready? You need:

3 tbsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp paprika (sweet if you have a choice, but not hot)

Mix together in a resealable plastic container. To make garlic bread, slice Italian bread into one-inch-thick slices (I have used sandwich bread in a pinch, but don’t tell anybody). Lightly butter one side, sprinkle the spice mix on that, and pop it under the broiler for a minute or two butter side up, until the edges start to brown. Once that happens, pull it out. flip it over, lightly butter and spice it, and sprinkle some shredded Parmesan on top of that. Back under the broiler until the crusts brown and the cheese melt and you’re done. Don’t tell my family. You won’t stand a chance.

Super Simple Take-Along Asparagus

25 Jul

We spent the weekend at our favorite vacation spot and, as luck would have it, got a call from some very good friends about dinner; they also happened to be in town. Fun! They invited us to dinner and we quite happily accepted, and then I offered to bring a dish and was asked for a side.

No problem, right? Except that, being on vacation, I didn’t have my usual arsenal of pots and pans and Yummy Things in Jars and Bottles. Also, being a working girl, I didn’t want to run out and buy $30 worth of condiments and spices and such for one dinner party, and then haul it all back home where it would sit for awhile (being duplicates of what I already have) until I didn’t want to use it anymore. So I hopped in the car and visited the local market to see what was fresh and in season, and would avoid both one person’s soy allergy and another’s gluten sensitivity.

This was perfect. In-season asparagus, a lemon, a little cheese, and a sprinkling of oil, and I had the perfect side–allergy-friendly, truly delicious, and perfect at room temperature, so there was no pressure to make room in her oven when we got there. It was gobbled up, and I’ll definitely do it again.

You need:

A bunch or two of asparagus (I used a bunch and a half for four adults)

One lemon

A little shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese (ask the deli for a sample, or just buy a hunk and know it’ll last forever)

Olive oil spray

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking sheet with the oil.

Snap off the woody ends from the asparagus and lay it in a single layer on the baking sheet. Give it a scant shot of oil on its top side.

Cut the lemon in half, and sprinkle the asparagus with the juice of half  of it.

Put it in the oven and let it roast until it starts to caramelize and is crisp-tender. That was about 10 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye on it.

Pull it out of the oven, sprinkle it with the juice of the rest of the lemon, and sprinkle the cheese on top (it’ll melt just enough to stick to the spears…mmmmm). Let cool, package up, take along, and enjoy.

Basic Guacamole

31 May

Hi gang!

Seems like the craziness is slowing down and I’ve actually had some time to play in my kitchen, which has been a very welcome relief. Of course, I forgot to take a photo of this, but you know what guac looks like, yes? 🙂

I made this for a neighbor’s cookout yesterday, basing it loosely on Alton Brown’s guacamole recipe. Despite having less-than-stellar avocados to work with, it was pretty darned good, and gobbled up pretty quickly at the party. Best of all, it took all of seven minutes to put together, which isn’t a whole lot more than I’d spend opening a package of the grocery store stuff and stirring it up before serving.

I left my guac pretty chunky, as that’s how I like it. If you like yours on the creamier side, just whir up the avocados a bit and then add the tomatoes at the very end, when the green stuff is just shy of the consistency you like. Simple. To make this, you’ll need:

2 Haas avocados

About 1/4 cup sweet onion (I used about a quarter of a large Vidalia)

1 clove garlic, peeled

4 or 5 Campari tomatoes (use two or three plums if you can’t find the others)

A pinch of ground cumin

The juice of 1 lime

About 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Cut your tomatoes in half around their fat side (so you get a stem end and a bottom end). Gently squeeze them over your garbage can until the seeds plop out. Then finish quartering the tomatoes and set them aside.

Put your onion and garlic into a food processor and pulse until they’re finely chopped. Put the tomatoes in and give them a whirl to start chopping. Scoop the avocado out of its skin, and then add it and the rest of the ingredients and pulse to your desired consistency. Stir with a spoon to make sure the  lime juice gets all through the dip (it’ll keep the guacamole from turning brown). Transfer into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (pressing it down so the wrap actually touches the dip), and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Multi-Tasking Lemon-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

31 Mar

I have not been intentionally ignoring you guys. I promise. Work is crazy-nutso busy this week and there has been little time for kitchen playing. I’m going to make up for it today, because this recipe is a triple-duty treasure that works as a side dish, appetizer/finger food, and for breakfast (stay with me on that one).

I made this for a baby shower my bookclub held for one of our members last night. We had appetizers and desserts (Georgetown Cupcakes–mmmmm!) in potluck style. Easy and cheap for everyone, and really a lot of fun to see who made what and enjoy so many different flavors and textures. This recipe worked because you can pick up the stalks with your fingers and eat them that way, or cut them into bites and use a fork (if you’re all civilized and stuff). It’s very low fat, very high in vitamins, and quite delicious with the sweet vinegar and the sour lemon playing very nicely together.

I sprinkled these with Parmesan. I suggest you skip that. The cheese became a gloppy mess, to be quite honest, and didn’t bring much to the flavor party. I did, though, serve them with Prosciutto on the side for those who eat it (I don’t), and people seemed to enjoy the combination.

Apppetizer–check. They’re a great side dish for roasted chicken or steaks. I’d even go so far as to serve these alongside a light summer pasta dish, and they’d be great with fish too. You can, if you wish, cut the stalks into bites, roast them that way, put them into a bowl, and serve them as a traditional vegetable, or pop it in the fridge for a few hours, toss it with Parmesan at that point, and put this out as a salad–sesame seeds would be a lovely addition to that.

And breakfast. Y’all, I diced a few stalks up this morning and tossed them into a pan with some onion and a touch of butter, let them all soften, and then made an omelette with them, eggs, and a little cheese. Delish, delish, delish. Highly recommend. They’d work in a frittata too, with some onion and tomato.

Enough with the talk. Make these. They’re good. You’ll need:

About a pound of asparagus stalks, trimmed of their woody ends

The juice of one lemon

A tablespoon of Balsalmic vinegar

Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees while you spray a baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Lay the asparagus spears on the sheet. Drizzle them with the lemon juice, balsamic, and enough olive oil to coat, and toss with your hands to combine everything. Pat them down into a single layer, and roast for about 10 minutes, turning once. You’re looking for a bright, bright green color out of them–don’t let them go any farther than that or they’ll mush up on you. Serve hot or at room temperature as an appetizer or side, and cold as a salad.

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