that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

Archive for the ‘sides’ Category

it’s like pizza, but not

Posted by culinaryneophyte on November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving is really this week?! I refuse to believe this year is almost over, and therefore, I am sharing something very un-TurkeyDay-like while I can: Italian-roasted chickpeas. These little babies taste a lot like pizza and suffice as a meal or a snack. Give them a try!

italian roasted chickpeas

Warning: I went complete eyeball on this one, so no measurements. Just follow your heart (and taste along the way) and you’ll be happily surprised.

Combine sun dried tomatoes, EVOO, minced garlic, a little bit of parmesan cheese, a little bit of tomato paste, Italian herbs and a squirt of Dijon mustard. You can either use a food processor or an immersion blender (what I did) to blend into a paste.

Drain and dry a can of chickpeas on a sheet for at least 30 minutes. Next, coat chickpeas in the mixture and bake at 350 degrees for a little less than an hour, making sure to flip every 20 minutes or so. The chickpeas will get crispier as they cool.

Total time? 8 minutes prep, 25-30 minutes bake.
Cost? $1 chickpeas, $3.29 sun dried tomatoes, $2.59 parmesan cheese, 79 cents tomato paste
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. I love the taste of these and was happy to snack on them while I prepared the main portion of my dinner. While I was in Chicago last month, I had fried chickpeas, and while obviously these are a lot healthier, I still couldn’t get the beautiful crispiness of those out of my head. Only other knock here is that they don’t keep as well as leftovers; when I reheated them the next day, the flavor was still good, but the consistency suffered a bit.


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it’s like, classy ham

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 31, 2012

I’m super psyched for Super Bowl — Déjà BLUE all over again — and I’m trying to crank out some game-day snack posts for you to bring to the big party on Sunday (or eat alone in the other room while watching the Puppy Bowl).

I made this prosciutto bread for the Winter Classic last month. I was on a Food Network Magazine cooking kick (I adapted this recipe from their November issue) and happened to have some leftover prosciutto in the fridge.

This snack is incredibly easy to make; if you’re not hosting this weekend, you might even consider making this on the premises so it’s fresh out of the oven for the first quarter. This type of cured ham isn’t for everyone, though, so consider your party peers before you start stuffing. I’m not a traditional ham person because thick slabs of meat freak me out (joke away), but I’ll eat prosciutto because it’s thinly sliced and pairs well with Italian flavors. I like to call it “classy ham.” It makes me like it more.

prosciutto bread innards

♦1/4 lb. prosciutto 
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella cheese (shredded is fine)
11-oz. package of Pilsbury Crusty French Loaf refrigerated bread
Italian seasonings
Olive oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Completely roll out dough, then add layers of prosciutto, mozzarella and Italian seasonings. Roll dough into a log, pulling and twisting it into a ring by connecting ends. Drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with more Italian seasonings. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, add more olive oil and bake for five more minutes. (I also threw a bit of cheese on top for fun.) Slice and serve. Makes 10-12 slices.

Total time? 5 minutes prep, 25 minutes bake.
Cost? $3 for prosciutto (on sale for $9.99/lb), $3.19 for Pilsbury bread, $3 mozzarella.
Overall success relative to expectations? 7 out 10. I love stromboli-like stuffed breads, and I was really excited to try this. I added cheese to the FN Magazine recipe because I didn’t think the prosciutto could stand alone. Maybe it was the kind I used, but I found the prosciutto flavor a little more prevalent than I would have liked. Next time I try this, I’ll consider adding some arugula or basil to add another level of flavor.

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anti-resolution soup

Posted by culinaryneophyte on January 3, 2012

The first (and last) time I made soup was more abhorrent than the first 10 minutes of the 6 o’clock news — so traumatizing I avoided making or eating any liquescent meals for more than a year. Last week, I decided to grow a set and give it another try. Fortunately for me [and my clean kitchen], this bacon cheeseburger soup did not require a creaming capacity or any appliances other than my own stove top. (I should mention, though, that I got an immersion blender for Christmas, so I may try my hand at some more skillful soups throughout the wintry months.)

I’m a fan of hearty soups chock full of veggies, but sometimes you’ve got to cook for the masses, and the masses like meat. And bacon. And cheese. And clogged arteries. You weren’t trying to stick by that New Year’s resolution at all, right?

adapted from Cooking With Paula Deen
♦1 lb. package of bacon
♦1 lb. ground beef (I used lean, 93%)
♦2 tsp. minced garlic
♦1 tbs. onion powder
♦2 tsp. smoked paprika
♦2 tsp. McCormick’s barbecue-flavored Grill Mates spice
♦2, 14-oz. cans of low-sodium chicken broth (Swanson)
♦1 small can of cheddar cheese soup
♦2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
♦1/2 c. shredded white cheddar cheese
♦French’s fried onion straws

Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces, drop into sizeable pot (Dutch oven) and heat on medium-high heat until crisp. (You don’t necessarily need to use the entire pound of bacon; I used about 10-12 slices.) Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Leave half the bacon grease in the pot. (Or all of it, if you’re feeling extra heart attack-y.) Add ground beef, garlic and spices, and cook for about eight minutes — or until meat is completely browned. Drain grease. Add chicken broth, cheese soup, Worcestershire sauce and bacon. Cover and heat on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Dish into bowls and garnish with cheddar cheese and fried onion straws.

Total time? 40 minutes. (As always, blame the bacon for the long cook time.)
Cost? $4.15 ground beef, $2.99 bacon, $2.39 fried onion straws, 59¢ cheese soup, $2 chicken broth, $2 shredded cheese.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. Attempting another soup, my expectations were obviously tempered; you’d think that’s why the marks are so high, but this soup is just that good. I neglected the part where you could — and probably should — incorporate veggies (e.g. onions, chopped tomatoes, maybe some shredded lettuce), but again, it’s best to cater to your diners if you want acclaim. Aside from the crunchy bites of bacon and crispy fried onion straws (before they got soggy), my favorite part of this experience was it required only one pot and minimal cleanup. A great weeknight meal that reheats well for leftovers. Enjoy!

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blt dip

Posted by culinaryneophyte on September 4, 2011

“The BLT is absolutely the most underrated sandwich.”

I don’t know why or how my friends get into these conversations, but that’s the conclusion we came to during a spirited debate on the worthiness of certain sandwiches. Regardless, they’re right: BLTs are awesome, but often overlooked.

To honor this delightful little sandwich, I recently made my own take on Paula Deen’s BLT dip. It’s like a mini sandwich in every bite, and there’s tons of crispy bacon, which is never a bad thing. If you’re looking for something to bring to a Labor Day party this weekend, this is an easy-to-make crowd pleaser.

♦1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 c. sour cream (I used low-fat)
1/4 head of lettuce
2 large tomatoes
sliced baguette for dipping

Combine mayo and sour cream, and place in fridge for at least an hour. In the meantime, cook bacon, dice tomatoes and shred lettuce. Just before serving (or leaving for your party), layer some mayo mix, then veggies, then bacon and repeat. I did this for aesthetic purposes, but later mixed up everything together because it tastes better and prevents dippers from hogging all the bacon. (Ha, hogging the bacon — get it?) Serve with sliced baguettes, crackers, etc.

Total time? Cooking the bacon took forever (and the mix had to sit in the fridge for an hour), but otherwise, this takes no more than 10 minutes.
Cost? $4 lb. of bacon, $1.25 sour cream, $1.50 tomatoes, $1.25 lettuce
Overall success relative to expectations? 6 out of 10. I had high hopes for this dip, and it would have been infinitely better if I had used Hellmann’s mayo (as encouraged above) instead of the no-name brand I had in the fridge, which had that too-sweet taste that ruins grocery store macaroni salad. Next time, I think I’ll also try using spinach instead of lettuce to add a little bit more flavor and a touch of nutritional value to an otherwise bad-for-you [but tasty!] dish.

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soda and pepper

Posted by culinaryneophyte on August 1, 2011

Everything appears to be going so well in my kitchen lately that you’d think I should lose the ‘neophyte’ moniker, right? Not so fast. Because my posting frequency took a nosedive during the busy summer months, I’d really only been posting some of my more successful culinary adventures. But now that my assorted activities are winding down and I’m starting to get my life back, I have a little more time to post, and thus, share with you some of the horrible, horrible things that have been happening in my kitchen.

Exhibit A: the Dr. Pepper and jalapeño meatballs.

This was a haphazard adaptation of a Kayotic Kitchen recipe — one that was seemingly much more successful and well executed. Creating a glaze with soda? Brilliant, I thought. Oh hey, I’ve got some extra Dr. Pepper in the fridge. Let’s roll with that! Not so brilliant, I discovered.

Simmering the soda and peppers created some sort of noxious fumes that filled the nostrils, throats and lungs of anyone who dared to pass through the kitchen. I’m not kidding; we were all uncontrollably coughing — spewing up blood, even! Alright, maybe not that last part, but it was rough. It’s important to note here that I only had two peppers, but with all the hardship I endured making the glaze, I figured the end result would have fire pouring out of my ears like you see in the cartoons; on the contrary, it was quite mild on the spice. The glaze created a nice, almost-crunchy coating on the outside that I kind of enjoyed, but it was too sweet for my liking.

♦1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. died parsley
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. Dr. Pepper (or follow the original recipe and use Cherry Coke, or even your own choice!)
3 jalapeño peppers (don’t settle for two or your glaze will severely lack heat!)

Combine spices, ground beef and egg in large bowl. Roll meat into balls (your size preference) and place in glass baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, flip and bake for another 10. In the meantime, mix sugar and chopped jalapenos in a skillet, add soda and bring to a boil (here’s where your eyes will water!), and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove meatballs, brush generously with glaze and cook for 5 more minutes.

Total time? 45ish total?
Cost? $4 ground beef, $1 peppers, 50¢ soda
Overall success relative to expectations? 4 out 10. I was thrilled to try something so different, but the end product fell flat for me. The consistency was akin to meatloaf, which isn’t how I typically make my meatballs, so that was a bit of a turnoff. And like I said, the flavor wasn’t at all what I was expecting, which also makes it difficult to pair this with anything for a meal. I guess they’d be better off as hors d’oeuvres? A little more spice and a little less saccharine might make this a little more successful, so if you’re interested in trying something different, grab a gas mask and give it a go.

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ring of onion

Posted by culinaryneophyte on April 25, 2011

Easter is my least favorite eating holiday. It’s always ham or lamb or pasta. Mehh. Even the subordinate Easter staple — the hard-boiled egg — grosses me out. I’m much more interested in a big turkey dinner with stuffing and mashed potatoes, followed by a long nap and an entire weekend to recover. Because I’m so dispassionate about Easter food, I’m focusing this post on my recent trials involving Lent and sacrificing beloved french fries for 40 straight days.

For starters, it was much more difficult than I thought it would be, especially when I’d join my friends at a local restaurant for quizzo every week, and I was surrounded by gigantic piles of salty waffle fries (my favorite). I felt dejected every time I went out to eat — substituting out french fries for some lukewarm soup or some poorly cooked excuse for broccoli. I was in such a state of withdrawal, I would have been willing to eat any or all of the bucket of Chickie’s and Pete’s Crabfries the guy in front of me at the Flyers game dropped on the ground.

Lent may have brought me [almost literally] to my knees this year, but sacrificing fried taters (yes, I avoided potato chips, too) obviously had its health benefits, and it also had me exercising a bit of creativity when it came to my casual side dishes. And thus, I give you baked barbecue onion rings (adapted from Recipe Girl).

These are the perfect complement to a burger or sandwich, and pack much more flavor than your typical onion ring. The barbecue sauce base can be in the flavor of your choosing, so experiment with smoky and sweet. If you don’t have panko crumbs in your pantry, I would highly recommend buying some. Panko crumbs are larger and flakier, and crisp better because they don’t hold as much grease. I just can’t see these being as good without them. The best part about this recipe? No deep frying required. Hooray, semi-healthy!

1 c. barbecue sauce, any flavor
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tbs. flour
2 c. panko (add more if mixture is skimping)
2 sweet red onions, sliced into rings 

Whisk together BBQ sauce, egg and flour. Pour panko into separate bowl. Using tongs to avoid a mess, dip each onion slice into the sauce mix, then coat with crumbs. Place on a sprayed baking sheet. Before placing in oven, lightly spray tops of rings with cooking spray for added crunch. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, flipping rings once during cook time.

Total time? 7 minutes prep, 12 minutes cook.
Cost? $1.25 sweet red onions, $1.50 barbecue sauce, $2 panko crumbs.
Overall success relative to expect? 9 out of 10. I didn’t have the highest hopes for these because I’m so used to fast-food onion rings and their thick coatings, and I didn’t think this would stand up. Not only was this a healthier alternative, but there was an incredible amount of flavor. I used a honey BBQ sauce, so next time I’ll go smoky. I’ll also make sure I cut the onion slices a bit thicker so they hold their shape a little better. The biggest drawback (other than crying like a baby whilst slicing onions) was that my house smelled like onion for approximately three days. Sorry, roomies!

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