Grilled Beer and Cheese

Guess what? I also joined the Daring Bakers!

The challenge for the Daring Bakers this month was quickbread, which, as the name suggests, was quick. Also, it allowed me to make something I’ve been planning for quite some time: beer bread!

The first time I ever had beer bread was at one of those sales parties that people who don’t like you very much drag you into (oops, please don’t be insulted if you host Tupperware or Mary Kay parties!). In this case, it was a horrible roommate who was hosting a party to sell clothing that was old lady-ish and about four times more expensive than anything I normally purchased. I felt super awkward knowing that I wasn’t going to purchase anything, so I hid behind party snacks. Namely beer bread. Yum! Lightly slathered with a bit of butter or coated with a tasty dip, beer bread is a simple snack with a complex flavor.

After a few years of making this bread for myself, I discovered a recipe for grilled cheese using beer bread. Holy moly, what could be better!?

You, of course, can serve your beer bread however you like. But if you like your taste buds, then you should treat them to grilled beer and cheese at least once.

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Vanilla Bean Risotto Pudding

Guess what?

I joined a club. The Secret Recipe Club!

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

Basically how this works (er…a fanciful version of how this works, anyway) is that every month, every blogger in the club draws a different blog out of a hat and then makes a recipe from that blog. It’s like finding a new friend to share your recipes with, and a resource for good food you may not have stumbled across on your own.

Cool, right?

So this month, I am making a rice pudding using risotto rice from my new blog friend Erin over at Easy Everyday Eats.

I had very few associations with rice pudding before making this recipe. When I was growing up, just the name sounded a little gross to me…I mean what kind of a nut would put rice in pudding, anyway? And doesn’t most rice pudding include raisins? Blech. But now that my list of favorite foods includes Thai sticky rice, I figured I’d better take a closer look at rice pudding, too.

I love that this recipe uses arborio rice, which is normally used to make risotto. When I read that, my brain immediately conjured up an idea about how creamy and soft this pudding would be. And let me assure you, in case you are used to rice pudding made with regular white rice, arborio rice is perfect for a rich and creamy dessert!

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Aglio e Olio

I love to cook. But sometimes when I look into my fridge or pantry, I can’t think of any logical way to combine the ingredients I have on hand. Sometimes, just the idea of a meal that takes more than 20 minutes to prepare makes me feel tired. I don’t want to spend any time chopping or stirring, and if the meal makes more than two dishes dirty, I just can’t make myself do it.

That’s when I know it’s a pasta night.

Aglio e Olio (“ah-lyo ay oh-lyo”), or garlic and oil, is a classic Italian pasta dish. It is such a light and basic topping, leaving the pasta itself the star of the meal but adding a great aroma and just moistening the long strands. Plus, it only takes about 30 seconds of slicing and the garlic oil can be ready almost as quickly as the pasta! Perfect.

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Hazelnut Mocha Brownies

Oh my gosh. You have to make these brownies. Seriously. They taste like fudge and Nutella and a Starbucks mocha all rolled into one.

They are the Best. Brownies. Ever.

I spotted the recipe about a month ago and immediately bumped them to the top of my list of things to make. I brought them to a potluck, where my friends raved about them, sneaking what they couldn’t eat on the spot into little baggies to take home. I mean, these brownies are wonderful.

If I haven’t convinced you yet that these brownies are magical, then I guess you are a lost cause. For those of you with any sense at all, let’s go make some brownies!

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Moo Shu Vegetables

Do you know the food talk show, The Chew? Five very different personalities joining together to share recipes and mock each other. Love it.

The Chew has become party of my daily lunchtime ritual. I rummage around in my fridge until I find something that takes about 1 minute to get ready, wander into the living room, and Hulu and I settle down to watch a week-old episode about spicy foods or breakfast all day.

So far my favorite episode has been the healthy foods episode from mid-January, on which Daphne Oz made this fabulous moo shu dish. Why am I so excited about moo shu, you wonder? Simply put, my husband should have been born in Asia. Pick a country, he can devour their traditional dishes with the hunger of three men. I also really love most Asian cuisines, but I have never been a huge fan of Chinese food…it usually tastes kind of like grease to me. But the one dish I always really enjoyed before becoming a vegetarian, coincidentally one of Dave’s all-time favorites, was moo shu pork.

How awesome is it that I now have a super-easy vegetarian version I can make whenever Dave needs a Chinese-food fix? And I can eat it, too!

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Big Crumb Coffee Cake

When I was a kid, coffee cake meant a box from Entenmann’s. Or, if luck was on my side, maybe a Ukrop’s box (moment of mourning for the dearly departed grocery chain of my youth) containing a round, almond-and-icing-covered cake, which was more to my liking.

Please don’t misunderstand me—my mom is a masterful baker, and she certainly could have made a coffee cake if she had been interested in doing so. But she loved that cream cheese–filled Entenmann’s loaf dearly…and, let’s admit it, when you have two nutty kids to get ready so you can go to church, and you must entice them out of bed with sugary breakfast foods (moment of thanks for having such an array of wonderful breakfasts as a kid), it must be nice to have said fancy breakfast already prepared every once in a while.

So now, many years later, I’ve been around the coffee cake block a few times. My husband lists coffee cake among the few sweet baked goods he will eat without reservation, but for a while I still had a hard time seeing what all the fuss was about. I mean, Entenmann’s cakes are nothing to write home about, and most crumb cakes are dry with much too little of that sugary topping, am I right?

Cue this recipe, which made its rounds through the blogosphere a few years ago (but full of rhubarb, which I naturally omitted). With as much sugary crumb as soft, moist cake, this coffee cake definitely has me coming back for seconds…and, er, thirds… It does take a bit of time to prepare, but if you make this coffee cake on a Saturday night, it will be waiting for you to eat before church on Sunday morning! Or, even better, you can serve it in the afternoon/evening to visiting friends. Who says coffee cake is only for breakfast?

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Quinoa Patties with Poached Eggs

Okay. I have become a little obsessed with quinoa. I love the idea of a grain that is also a protein! I mean seriously, as a vegetarian, I probably am protein deficient most days, but I often overload myself with carbs. So eating quinoa helps me make my carb-heavy diet work a little better for me!

I saw this recipe several months ago in Super Natural Every Day, a cookbook I adore, and I knew I had to make it. But as often happens, I pick out too many recipes and some of them get shuffled to the bottom of my list so I can focus on…oh, let’s say a month of making cookies (ahem). So then about a month ago, I stumbled across several variations of this recipe floating through the blogosphere, most notably this one from Annie’s Eats, and my interest was piqued once again. I mean, who doesn’t love poached eggs!? (If you are thinking to yourself something like, “I’ve never tried to poach an egg,” let me just say that it’s pretty easy and you won’t regret it!)

So the saga continued when a few weeks ago, some of my girlfriends planned a ladies-only movie night. Cue me realizing that a meatless “burger” and salad might just be the perfect prelude to too the loads of sweets that tend to accidentally fall into my mouth during movie nights (thank you Stacy for the irresistible peanut butter blossoms)…and voilà! It was decided.

These little patties are delicious. If you are afraid of poaching eggs or want something a little more low-key, you could also serve them as sandwiches! I, personally, broke my patty apart into bite-size chunks and ate the meal like a salad, with the runny egg yolk as my a salad dressing. Yum.

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Rothman’s Fire-Breathing Salsa

What Superbowl party would be complete without some chips and salsa? And boy, do I have a doozy for you.

Backstory. This salsa came into my life when I was a weird 9th grader, struggling through Algebra 2 with possibly the greatest math teacher ever: Mr. Rothman. It’s not that I actually remember any algebra (sorry Rothman…that’s more my fault than yours); what made him great was that he had a quirky sense of humor that came through even when he was explaining formulas. Plus, he had Einstein hair. Awesome. Even though I hated math, I kind of looked forward to his class.

That may also have had something to do with his infamous salsa parties.

Every now and then, Mr. Rothman would whip up a batch of this salsa and we would spend the last 10 minutes of class stuffing our faces. This is probably some of the best salsa I have ever had, full of great lime and cilantro accents. And MAN is it spicy. Whew. I mean, I would start eating this stuff and everything would be great for about 5 chips. Then suddenly my nose would be running and I’d be crying. The only thing that would cool my mouth down was more salsa…which, as you may guess, caused a viciously spicy cycle.

This might not sound very enjoyable to you, but it was, in fact, amazing. But if you are not into spicy foods, then don’t worry, you can easily knock the heat down several notches.

So thanks to Mr. Rothman for introducing me to such a great salsa and later giving out the recipe at Fall Festival!

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Egg White Veggie Omelet

When I was little, I was the pickiest eater ever. Oh wait…sometimes that still describes me (sshh, don’t tell).

My mom occasionally let us have breakfast for dinner, because after all, breakfast is the best meal of the day. Sometimes she made us these great, cheesy omelets when she wanted something quick and easy. I would stand next to the stove and watch her make the eggs, a curious little girl who just wanted to know how eggs could turn into a cheesy pancake. Now that I am grown, and sliiiightly less picky than I used to be, she loves to tell me how she had to make up euphemistic words for what went into the omelets, to make sure I would not refuse to eat them on principle.

“Oh that?….Those are, um…omelet pieces.”

I never knew it, but I was eating onion flakes in my eggs and loving it.

There are no omelet pieces in this omelet, but it is delicious all the same. And healthy, too!

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