This post has been YEARS in the making. I made these once about 7 years ago, and they were delicious but suuuuper spicy. Those chipotle chilis in adobo deliver! I always wanted to remake them, but this time I wanted to tame the sauce just a teeny bit. The result was a delicious, sticky, medium heat chicken wing, with the added fun of a dipping sauce.
I think the easiest thing for me to make (and eat) is any kind of dip or spread. Homemade nibbles are such a unique thing to serve at a party, and you can tailor them to the season or meal so easily. People always remember a good homemade appetizer — it’s like a magic trick.
Here’s another one of my “go to” recipes… hummus! It’s the easiest thing, and WAY cheaper to make yourself. Of course, you have to have a food processor or I guess a good blender (I’ve never tried it in the blender but I’ve seen other food bloggers do it) and the tahini, but once you have those items, the rest is cheap and easy.
Do you have a couple recipes that are a “go to”? Those ones that people can’t get enough of, and just always turn out? If you need one more, try these spiced nuts! It seems like every family gathering we have, there’s spiced nuts, a large bowl of hummus, cheese and crackers, and wine. Those are the staples, what more do you need?
I think we need a little party. Let’s shake it up, crack open some wine, and rip apart some really good bread. Oh yea, you know what I’m talkin’ about.
One jar of this stuff and you’ve got an instant party–anytime, anywhere! I first saw this at the farmer’s market in Corvallis. The party in the jar was first made by Alsea Acres, who makes some of the best goat cheese ever! While I did “borrow” the idea, you can make your own with Alsea Acres goat cheese, or the cheese of your choice. I took some of this up to visit family in Canada on an impromptu road trip (impromptu as you can get when you still need to renew your passport, eh?) and they loved it. It has everything included for a great appetizer.
You can put almost anything you want in this and it comes together so quickly, you could make it about an hour before you run out the door. I used 6 ounces of soft goat cheese for two of my jars, and chunks of feta for the other two jars. Other cheeses you could use include fresh mozzarella balls or shreds, feta cheese, goat cheese, even little cubes of parmesan would be good in this. You just marinate the cheese, garlic, red pepper, and herbs in olive oil and spices and spread it over bread or gluten free crackers. My mom is gluten free and even toasted up some Udi’s GF bread to smear with this cheesy concoction. I have to admit, that was pretty good too.
Here’s how to get the party started:
Layering is the name of the game with this.
Start with some garlic, peeled and crushed.
Add the first layer of cheese and some chopped peppers and spices.
Add more cheese.
Add more peppers, garlic, herbs and spices. You could add even more garlic if you want to.
Cover the whole thing with olive oil. You want to fill the jar with liquid. The oil becomes infused and is excellent along with the cheese on bread, pasta, more bread or even to saute chicken or fish in.
You can eat it immediately, but you can also let it marinate in the fridge for a couple days or even a couple weeks. It will only get better with time. The cheese is preserved in the oil, but you probably don’t want to leave it longer then 1 month.
When you are ready to start a party, take it out of the fridge and let it “thaw.” The oil will have solidified, so you need to set it out about 40 minutes before you want to partake.
Here’s how you eat it:
Rip off a piece of bread (or take a cracker out of the bag) and dig either a spoon, or a wide knife in the jar, cutting into some cheese and simultaneously getting some olive oil out. Spread onto bread (a soft, yet crusty, loaf). or cracker, with the olive oil dripping everywhere. Eat. Take a sip of wine. Yeeeees.
Best eaten outside on a balcony, in a quaint neighborhood in Vancouver, BC. If you can’t manage that, just find a lovely corner of your world. Share it with your friends and have a little party.
Party in a Jar
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Snack
Author: Sugar Pickles
Serves: 4 small jars
6 ounces soft plain goat cheese
6 ounces feta cheese, chopped into 6 or 8 rough squares/chunks
8 cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped or cut into thin strips
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
red pepper flake (optional)
4 small jars with lids (about 8 ounces)
about 2 cups of Olive oil for filling the jars
In each small jar, place two cloves of peeled and crushed garlic. Add a few pieces of roasted red pepper into each jar. Top that with a few (4-5) leaves of rosemary, a pinch of red pepper flakes if using, and a few grinds of pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Then add the first layer of cheese. You want about two chunks in the bottom of each jar. I did two jars of goat cheese and two jars of feta. For the goat cheese, I just crumbled it into the jar in large chunks as I added it.
Keep layering, cheese, peppers, herbs and spices, until you reach the top of your small jars. When you fill the jar with all the cheese goodness, slowly and carefully pour olive oil over it to fill the jar. The very top doesn’t need to be covered, but just fill as much as you can with out spilling it. You can serve right away, or store in the fridge for a few days or even a few weeks.
This is great with bread, crackers or even drizzled over pasta for a quick meal.
I think the turning point for my relationship with cooking was in college. I get asked this question a lot, and it’s something I’ve thought about carefully. I used to make cookies and brownies with my mom growing up, lick the beaters or the bowl and play with her pots and pans. But that was when I was 4 and 5. There was a departure from the kitchen, for me, between about 7 and 15. I think I always loved food and eating, but then again, who doesn’t? I don’t especially remember liking to make cookies when I was 13 and reading Cosmo Girl, searching for the perfect nail polish and taking quizzes about what my style was. No, cooking and I didn’t really get along again until about 18 or 19. I was in college, living at a girls co-op at Oregon State University, and eating most meals out of the kitchen at Azalea House.*
The cook at Azalea, or AZA as we called it, while I was there was named Kevin. He was a man probably in his 30’s (this was 2002 or ’03), with a booming voice that traveled through the small kitchen and out to the dining room. So many times I padded across that room to get something from the kitchen in the afternoon and could hear the voice of Kevin, long before entering the kitchen, chatting with someone, but it sounded more like a one-sided conversation. It is things like this that were a comfort to me in a way, when being away from home for the first time. Being on your own at 18 doesn’t feel so strange when you are in a house full of 50 girls and a guy like Kevin you could talk to like a big brother.
The dining room was really a white tiled room with a row of 6 foot by 2 foot tables put in a row down the left side. The front of the dining room, near a bank of windows, was where the food went, buffet style. When the food was put out, at 5pm every evening, is when Kevin’s work day would end. I don’t think I thought too much about the food beyond: me. hungry. brain. need food. But one night there was this salsa. I couldn’t stop eating it. I got seconds and thirds. The thought that kept going through my head was, what if I never have this again? I HAVE to know how to make it. I HAVE to eat this again. And that was it.
That’s where my love affair with cooking started.
The next morning I begged Kevin for the recipe. “It’s called Pico de Gallo” He said. He was pretty free with this recipes, but I don’t think very many girls asked him for them. So he told me the basics and I scribbled them down on a piece of paper. That weekend I went home and made the salsa for my family. I, again, couldn’t stop eating it. I think my parents were happy to have something made for them, but probably have eaten pico de gallo before. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe that I could make these flavors with just produce, and that the only thing standing in my way was a bunch of chopping. It was from there, that I started. I made more things, I discovered what I liked to eat and how it was made. I moved out of AZA in 2004, and in 2005 I was living in a small house off-campus with two other girls (who also lived in AZA with me). It was while living in the house that I really got the cooking bug. I started watching Food Network, reading Real Simple and cooking whatever meal they deemed “simple for a weeknight” and becoming obsessed with Martha Stewart.
It’s really funny, what one salsa can do to change the course of your life.
Through all that has happened, I never forgot about Kevin. He was a sounding board, a guy you could vent to, tell your problems to, commiserate with, and get advice from. He knew us. He could tell when something wasn’t right or when something had gone SO right we were beaming. Kevin probably got a little more then he bargained for when he took on AZA, but we were lucky to have him. And I am lucky to have this recipe. It brings me back to my roots and reminds me why I do this. For the love of food.
So, the recipe is simple. I think you could even just throw everything in to a bowl and lightly toss it and it would turn out as good as that day in the dining room. But here I’ll offer you a little more instruction then that.
The thing I love about cooking seasonally: there’s always something new just around the corner. The second I feel like roasted root vegetables are starting to get monotonous, things that are fresh and green appear and wake everything up. I like this quote from Gary Zukav:
We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.
Food is a contribution to the conversation of the seasons. The food I love to cook is influenced by the time of year, the weather, the way the sun sets and the direction of the wind, and the food that comes out of the ground. It gives us the energy to play outside, to garden, to curl up with a book, to rest with a calm mind. Whatever tasks the season requires, the food of that season can fulfill. The joy of spring is lived that much deeply while munching on asparagus; winters cold is eased with steaming golden butternut squash.
This is a celebration of our short lived asparagus season, and it’s so delicate and rich.
We had this soup warm the first time we ate it, but the cold leftovers were super refreshing after a warm spring day spent riding bikes and laying in hammocks. Hot or cold, it’s surprisingly light and refreshing, finishing silky and smooth with lots of asparagus flavor. The addition of potato also gives it some added body. I served it with poppy seed crackers and a dollop of greek yogurt with orange zest and juice added (recipe included with the soup).
If you don’t have an immersion blender, I would recommend getting one. It makes pureeing soup, salad dressings, and sauces so easy and you actually end up with less to clean. It really makes my life easier and I say a silent word of gratitude that I have it every time I get it out for a job like this.
The garnishes on this soup highlight the asparagus and the orange zest. A simple orange flavored yogurt and a few roasted asparagus spears are added. It was nice to something that was a bit of a texture difference.
Orange yogurt is used as a lighter alternative to sour cream or creme fraiche. It’s fat free, easy to make, and adds a subtle sweet citrus note that goes really well with the asparagus. Roasting the extra asparagus is optional. I found it easy to throw in the toaster oven for about 8 minutes, and it was much less fussy then I imagined.
I have tried a lot of different brands of Greek yogurt. Tillamook’s Farmstyle Greek (0% milkfat) is by far, the richest, thickest and best tasting one I’ve tried. I’m addicted. The other reason I like Tillamook over other brands: rBST free and made in Oregon, with no strange ingredients and not a ton of sugar. I have added this to so many things: salad dressings, enchiladas, garlic sauce for these sweet potato burgers that have become a favorite around here, and just recently: a casserole! It is so versatile and delicious.
This soup is a light lunch, a first course for dinner, or even an appetizer if served in small bowls or shot glasses. The important thing is that it’s enjoyed and remembered that spring only comes once a year. Just like the bees in the garden, buzzing about with or without you to watch them, the Earth keeps turning and seasons change without us willing them to do our bidding. It’s gone, before you know it, and we have only to look forward to the next conversation to begin.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Recipe Type: Soup, Appetizer
Serves: 6 servings
2 pounds asparagus, fatter stalks if possible, trimmed (see note)
4-8 stalks thin asparagus, for garnish
4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped red onion or 2 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (about one garlic clove)
2 teaspoons minced orange zest
1 cup 1-inch diced russet potatoes
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
4 fresh mint leaves (optional)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt to taste
freshly ground white pepper
Orange Yogurt Garnish
1 cup greek non-fat yogurt
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon agave syrup, or to taste
Wash the asparagus well, then cut into 3-inch pieces, all the way to the tip. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a dutch oven (or your favorite pot for soup) over medium heat. Add both kinds of onions and cook, stirring, for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, orange zest, potatoes, and broth. Bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the asparagus and return to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes more, or until just tender.
Add in the mint leaves, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you want to use a blender, puree the soup in batches, returning to the pot when fully blended. Add in the cream and heat until hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the orange yogurt garnish. You can also make the yogurt a day ahead of time and refrigerate until serving the soup. To make the asparagus garnish, heat the oven or small toaster oven to 400 degrees. Trim the asparagus and place on a small baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly caramelized but still firm.
Ladle the soup into bowls, then dollop with the yogurt. Serve with poppyseed crackers if desired.
Asparagus can be woody and fibrous at its root end. The trick is, the amount you need to trim off can vary depending on the stalk itself. To find out how much to trim a bunch of asparagus, take one spear with the end in one hand and the tip in the other. Hold it in front of you and bend the tip end towards the root end. The asparagus stalk will snap where it is still tender, leaving the woody part for the compost (or homemade stock) bin. Do this with 3-4 stalks. Line up those stalks with the remaining stalks in your bunch of asparagus. Use these as a guide to trim the rest of them more quickly by just cutting with a knife so that the entire bunch is about as long as the hand-snapped stalks. You could do each stalk by hand, but I’ve found that this method still results in tender and tasty spears and is accomplished faster.
Crackers are very important in my house. Crackers and cheese can be a meal, a snack, a late night writing/blogging source of fuel. I can not resist a good cracker! With a slice of cheese or a dip, I’m powerless.
DIY crackers could also be a fun project for kids; they can totally handle rolling them out using the pasta roller (it’s something they can crank and move! That’s like the requirement for all the fun kids toys, right!?)
These crackers are also something you can whip up when you don’t have much around except the basics! A little butter, a little milk, and you’re in business. I bet these would be good with flaked roasted garlic or onion too, and the seeds could be changed up to suit your mood or what you have on hand.
In the food processor (what would I do without this machine? It’s one of my most used kitchen appliances) put in some flour, a little salt, sugar, some poppy seeds and a little cubed butter.
Slowly add in milk until it’s a cohesive dough.
Form into a disk and put it in the fridge. I left mine in their overnight, but as long as you give it an hour it’s fine. Leaving it in their overnight was an experiment, and it worked! So if you want to make this dough a day (or probably even 2 days) ahead, go for it!
Also, this little guy is my favorite for measuring small amounts of liquid. I got it in the baking aisle at Winco, but here’s a similar one.
When you are ready to roll out and bake the crackers, preheat the oven and get out the pasta roller. You could also just use a rolling pin and a large area of counter/table and some flour on the counter and rolling pin to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Cut into 8 pieces…..
Shape into little discs…..
And here’s why this recipe is genius! I might just make all my crackers using the pasta maker from now on.
You start the dough disc going through the pasta machine at level 1 (or the widest setting) and then with each pass through of the dough, gradually set it smaller and smaller. I went from a level 1 down to a level 5. I was worried this dough would stick, rip, tear and otherwise be difficult… but it wasn’t! It worked like a dream and behaved very well as far as cracker doughs go.
And look how thin!
Put 3-4 long pieces of rolled out dough onto a large baking sheet. Spritz or brush lightly with water and sprinkle more poppy seeds and some kosher salt on top, lightly pressing them in with your fingers so the seeds and salt stick.
Bake 10-15 minutes. CRUNCH!
Recipe Type: Snacks, DIY
Serves: 32 crackers
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons poppy seeds, divided
4-6 tablespoons milk
Kosher salt for sprinkling
In a food processor, combine the flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of the poppy seeds and sugar. Pulse to mix them together, then top with the butter pieces. Pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. With the machine running, pour the milk slowly through the feed tube until the dough comes together in a clump. Add a little more milk, teaspoon at a time, if necessary until the dough is roughly in a ball. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap, form into a small disc and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until you are ready to proceed with rolling and baking the crackers.
When you are ready to roll them, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set up your pasta maker or clear a large space on a counter. Take the dough out of the fridge and on a lightly floured counter, cut into 8 wedges. Form each wedge into a small ball. You can either roll them into long ovals or rounds with a rolling pin on a floured counter until 1/8 of an inch thick, or use the pasta maker.
If using the pasta maker, roll each small disk of dough through the machine, starting with the widest setting and gradually going smaller. For my Atlas machine, I started at 1 and decreased the thickness to 5, passing the dough through once or twice at each setting.
On a parchment lined baking sheet, set each piece of rolled out dough and lightly brush with water or use a spray bottle to spritz lightly with water.
Sprinkle with the kosher salt and remaining tablespoon of poppy seeds (you may not use all the poppy seeds, just sprinkle the amount that looks good to you). Press them in a bit with your hands on the surface of the dough. Prick with a fork all over each piece of dough.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crackers are lightly browned and crisp. Let cool. Break each cracker into about 4 pieces. Serve immediately or store in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.
This dip is so simple and comes together in minutes. It’s great for a last minute appetizer or to take to a backyard cookout. My friend bought the stuff to make this dip, came over, and made it while I opened the wine – THAT is how easy and fast this dip is. It’s herby, it’s peppery, and it’s a little sweet, so bread or even seeded crackers.
All you do is chop up some fresh rosemary. We have some in the garden going right now. It grows everywhere here in Oregon, and it overwinters well too.
I added some pink sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
I’m a little obsessive about my honey. I like it raw and unfiltered. My favorite honey right now is Heavenly Honey. But Hanna’s Honey is also really good! The biggest thing about honey is to find raw honey and to buy it locally. You’ll get the best flavor, support the bees, and it will be the best for you. Raw honey has a deep and rich flavor-nothing like the filtered and heated commercial honey. I have also had good luck finding lovely honey at the Corvallis Brew Supply store. Yup, that’s right! Beer brewers and mead makers use honey all the time, and I just purchased 3 pounds for less then 14 bucks! Plus they sell it in Mason jars. I’m powerless to anything sold in a Mason jar. Their honey comes from Corvallis too, from the Queen Bee Honey Company. If you are looking to use honey to aid you in summer allergies, be sure to use a local honey. It will contain more of the pollen that come from your area, which means you’ll have a greater chance in combating those seasonal summer allergies.
Using raw honey isn’t only good for you, but in case you haven’t heard, the bees need our help, folks! They are still in danger and reducing in numbers. This week, Whole Foods shared an article on Fast.Co that basically said, without changes, our salad bar would look like this.
I’m a podcast fiend. I’m that girl that starts off every other sentence with “I was listening to this podcast the other day…” It’s probably annoying. I don’t know. But I learn so much, and now I’m addicted to several podcasts. On that I love is Splendid Table. I was listening to it the other day when they started talking about wines with cured meats and it reminded me of my days working as a dishwasher at Les Caves in Corvallis. The Caves kitchen crew would always talk about the fact that they are a “from scratch kitchen” and that was no lie. They made their own charcuterie, and it’s where I had my first bresaola. Bresaola (brez-oh-lah) is a cured beef, and it’s not like a chopped up and formed cured meat like salami or sausages, it’s like on whole piece of beef that has been salted and air dried. According to Pinterest is one of the easier cured meats to make at home! This is something I’ll have to try.
So with the memories of my first bresaola swirling around in my mind while I listened to Lynne talk to Joshua Wesson about wine. Joshua pointed out that red wine actually over powers cured meats, and a lighter wine, be it sparkly or lightly chilled, is a great choice for cured meats.
This bresaola is so beefy and full of savory flavor, I paired it with a slightly sweet, but not too sweet, Lions Lair 2013 South African Rosé. It was lovely! An appetizer that I probably would have paired with a Cab Sav, prior to listening to the Splendid Table podcast episode. The bresaola went really well with a lighter wine that didn’t destroy my palate and allowed the flavor of the beef to open up in new ways. With such a strong flavor, something sweet to wash it down with softens the salt and brings out the unctuous flavor like I haven’t experienced before.
When I had bresaola at Caves, it was served very simply.
Here’s what you do: have your sliced bresaola nearby and get your hands on some sliced baguette or other fresh artisan style bread. Slice up a lemon into wedges. A decent olive oil is best here, like a peppery or fruity one, whatever you can afford as a finishing oil. If you don’t have a fancy olive oil, stop by Olive and Vine if you are in the Portland area. If you simple cannot find or afford another ingredient, use the olive oil you cook with, but at least make sure it’s relatively fresh.
To build your perfect bite, layer a pice of bresaola on the slice of bread, squeeze the lemon over it and drizzle it with olive oil. Then, take a bite. It’s salty, it’s fatty, it melts in your mouth.
These are really fun to build as you go, so when you serve it, show your fellow at home happy hour friends how to make their bites.
A note on the price of this cured meat: bresaola can be a bit expensive, but a little goes a long way because it is such a strong flavor. For example, the bresaola I got from New Seasons was 29.99 per pound, but I asked the guy at the meat counter for 8 or 10 slices, which is plenty for two people (for each “bite” you could even use half a slice of bresaola to stretch it a little more) and that only cost around $2.50. It’s great like this, on its own, or as part of a larger antipasto platter of cured meats.
Bresola with the right kind of wine
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: Sugar Pickles
8 slices bresaola
1 lemon, cut into wedges
olive oil for drizzling
On a slice of baguette, layer a slice (or half) of bresaola. Squeeze lemon over the bresaola, drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!
Excellent served with a chilled white wine or Rose.