With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gumbo Dip

One of my biggest passions the past few years has been traveling. While I'm nowhere near done my (very) long list of places to travel, finding somewhere new and immersing myself in the sites, the people, and the food available brings me so much happiness that I try to make it happen as often as possible.

This spring I was lucky enough to travel to New Orleans.  To say I was inspired by the city is a huge understatement.  I fell in love and can't wait to get back.  I happened to be visiting during crawfish season.  I decided to step out of my food box and give something completely new a try, and subsequently fell in love with crawfish too.

Now while I can't get crawfish in my local area ever, when I saw this recipe, it immediately brought me back to New Orleans and I knew I had to give it a shot.  While cheese and seafood may seem like an odd combination, this dip is a clear winner.  Substantial enough to be a small meal on it's own, or large enough to share, until I can get myself back to the magic that is New Orleans dishes such as this are a great stand in.

Gumbo Dip
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Servings: 8 small or 4 large portions

- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped okra
- a few celery ribs (diced)
-5-6 scallions (chopped)
- 1 clove of garlic (minced)
- 1 1/2 tsp cajun seasoning
- 1 lb shrimp (peeled, deveined, and pre-cooked)
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
(crackers or baguettes for serving)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Chop bell pepper, okra, and celery. Set aside. In a medium skillet set over medium/high heat, melt butter. Add bell pepper, okra, and celery and sauté until they begin to soften (about 5-6 minutes). Chop scallions and mince garlic. Stir in scallions, garlic, and Cajun seasoning, cooking 1-2 minutes more (or until fragrant). Stir in shrimp, cream cheese, and Parmesan over low heat until everything is melted and evenly distributed. Spoon into approximately an 8x8 dish and bake for 25-30 minutes (until the top is brown and bubbly). Serve warm.

Recipe adapted from: Annie's Eats

Monday, July 8, 2013

Black Bean Salad

It may seem as though (in a lot of senses) cooking and baking go hand in hand.

In my life however, that rarely rings true. Cooking requires so much premeditation, planning, and time that more often than not I find it daunting to say the least.

What usually draws me back to the kitchen to try and branch out with something savory every once in awhile are easy to throw together meals that last (and even get better) over time.

This salad hits the mark on all of those different levels. Easy to throw together, it lasts and even becomes better tasting after some time in the refrigerator. Overwhelmingly healthy, and downright delicious. Perfect as a side or even as a light meal on its own.

To make this even easier substitute sun dried tomatoes, but if you have the extra 40 minutes, oven roasted tomatoes really set this over the top.

For summer barbecues and easy meals alike. For branching out and trying something new.

Black Bean Salad
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Servings: 4-6

- 4 cups black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 3/4 cup grape tomatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds
- sea salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Slice each tomato in half and place cut side up on a foil lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup, and 1/2 tsp sea salt, making sure everything is well coated.  Roast for 40-60 minutes to until tomatoes begin to caramelize.  In a large bowl toss the beans, the tomatoes (with their juices), the almonds, the lemon zest, and the lemon juice.  Finish by sprinkling with feta and stirring a few times.  Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from: Super Natural Every Day