Sep 24, 2010

Chocolate Almond Cherry Crisps

Sometimes, you just want chocolate. But you don’t want to turn on the oven. You don’t want to crack eggs. You don’t want to sift flour...and cocoa...and sugar. And you certainly don't want to tie on an apron and waste away the afternoon in a hot, sweaty kitchen, only to be left with a mountain of batter-dripping dishes and endless minutes of painstaking waiting. You just. Want. Chocolate. 

And the days you really need chocolate are most likely the days you lack the ambition to decorate 24 darling little cupcakes, perfectly frost a three-tiered masterpiece or do anything with a knife other than take out your aggregation.

But with cooking and baking out the door, there really aren't many options, unless you're willing to settle for an over priced, preservative-packed candy bar (guilty) or a handful of chocolate chips straight from the bag (guilty).

Ahh...but have we forgotten about the microwave and its magical powers to, in just minutes, turn ordinary chocolate chips into hot, swirly bowls of melty chocolate that can be quickly molded into just about anything our cocoa-craving hearts desire? It's true!

These surprisingly low-cal, delicious little candies are basically a grown-up version of chocolate-covered Rice Krispies treats. (And by grown-up, I really just mean more chocolate and less cereal.) Or maybe more like a crunch bar on steroids. Either way, sweet-tart dried cherries, slivered almonds and vanilla pair perfectly with white and dark chocolate and the airy crunch of Rice Krispies. Delicious!

For your own little candy bars at a moment's notice, just melt a little chocolate, stir in the rest of the ingredients, shape, and throw into the fridge to chill...for an hour.  

Seems there is a little waiting in this recipe. But well worth it, I assure you. And hey, there's always that chocolate-covered bowl and spoon to "clean up" while you wait. After all, sometimes, you just. Want. Chocolate.

Chocolate Almond Cherry Crisps
Laura Zapalowski, Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2007
Yield: 36 servings (serving size: 1 crisp)

Note: Prepare up to two days in advance, and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. You can also experiment with different types of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit.

1  cup  semisweet chocolate chips
3/4  cup  white chocolate chips
1 1/2  cups  oven-toasted rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)
3/4  cup  dried cherries
1/3  cup  slivered almonds
1/2  teaspoon  vanilla

Cover a large baking sheet with wax paper.

Place semisweet and white chocolate chips in a medium glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 45 seconds. Stir, and microwave an additional 45 seconds or until almost melted. Stir until smooth. Add cereal and remaining ingredients; stir quickly to combine. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet; chill 1 hour or until firm.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 68 (44% from fat), Fat: 3.3g (sat 2g,mono 0.8g,poly 0.2g), Protein: 0.6g, Carbohydrate: 9.7g, Fiber: 0.7g, Cholesterol: 0.0mg, Iron: 0.3mg, Sodium: 6mg, Calcium: 7mg

Sep 17, 2010

Hot Crab Dip

If my husband ever had a reason to be jealous, it wouldn't be because of another man. But dip, now there's something to worry about. See, at some point in my life, I gave my heart to hummus, spinach artichoke dip, and anything else that plays well with pita. And now, nothing can be done to stop this love affair.

There’s just something so irresistible about the combination of crunchy, salty chips and creamy dip. One bite throws me into a trance, with glazed over eyes and zombie-like arm-to-mouth movements that do not...will not...subside until every last bit is gobbled up, scraped and licked clean. That's when I look up from my empty plate and realize that the last fifteen minutes of meaningful conversation with my husband had been one-sided. On his side. And jealousy ensues, without a doubt.

One of the most addictive dips I've ever had, fittingly called "crack dip," is sadly something I just have to restrict from my kitchen because the recipe comes with a death sentence. Cream cheese, ranch dressing, blue cheese, hot sauce, canned chicken and cheddar. Yes, that is the recipe. Not a list of every condiment in my fridge.

But I've been craving it. A lot. So I riffled through recipes and finally turned to this hot, cheesy crab dip instead. With a few lightened ingredients, but plenty of zesty, creamy goodness, it seemed to fit the bill without the added ridiculousness.

It really did hit the spot. Creamy, cheesy, crabby. Perfect with melba toast. And a little extra hot sauce adds just the right amount of kick. In fact, I’m sure I could sit for hours, a bowl of this dip in my lap, armed with only a bag of melba toasts and a remote control and be quite happy with life. Just don't tell the hubby. He's already begun to give our jar of salsa the evil eye.

Hot Crab dip
Laura Martin, Cooking Light, November 2006
Yield: 20 servings (serving size: about 3 tablespoons)

1  cup  fat-free cottage cheese
1/2  teaspoon  grated lemon rind
2  tablespoons  lemon juice
1  tablespoon  Dijon mustard
1 1/2  teaspoons  Worcestershire sauce
1  teaspoon  hot sauce (or more if you like more zest.)
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1  garlic clove, minced
1  (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2  tablespoons  chopped green onion
1  pound  lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
Cooking spray
2  tablespoons  grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4  cup  dry breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine first 9 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Combine cottage cheese mixture, cream cheese, and onion in a large bowl; gently fold in crab.

Place crab mixture in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm with melba toast or pita chips.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 63 (53% from fat), Fat: 3.1g (sat 1.8g,mono 0.1g,poly 0.0g), Protein: 6.8g, Carbohydrate: 1.9g, Fiber: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Iron: 0.3mg, Sodium: 264mg, Calcium: 29mg.

Sep 10, 2010

Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey, Ginger & Lime Sauce

Feel that? That crisp, chilly breeze that’s been swirling around us lately, filling our heads with the hope of golden-leafed, sweater-clad, apple-cinnamon-infused autumn days? Seems everyone is getting antsy for cooler weather and festive décor, but as we relish in this first taste of fall, stop for a minute and realize what is really happening here... Summer as we know it is slipping through our fingertips. And we don’t even care!

In a matter of weeks, we’ll all be welcoming spiced candles, wax leaf wreathes and warm hues into our homes with wide, goofy grins. We’ll happily pack up our sandals and swimsuits and replace them with the scarves and boots we’ve been waiting all year to don. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we’ll start each brisk morning with silky, frizz-free hair and Starbucks pumpkin lattés and we’ll go for rosy-cheeked walks around our neighborhoods. And we’ll be happy.

But before long, brisk will turn into downright cold. The snow will fall. The ice will creep over our windshields. The heaters will eat away at our shopping funds. Our husbands will stab us with icy toes and our parched knuckles and lips will chap until they crack. There we’ll be, scuffing across frigid kitchen floors on three pairs of wool socks with afghan-draped shoulders to fumble through canned peaches and peas, in hopes of a decent dinner that doesn’t involve braving a blizzard.

And just as we're tempted to take a bite of our holiday beaded faux fruit, we’ll realize how precious those last few days of summer really were and how wistfully we wasted them. Those days when fresh, vibrant fruit filled our bowls and dinner meant something sizzling on the grill instead of caked in a casserole dish.

So hold on to summer, people! It will be long gone soon enough. Then we can buy our pumpkins and gourds and embrace fall with open arms. But for now, I’m not yet done with zucchinis and watermelons and pots of fragrant herbs. And I am certainly not done with my dear farmer’s market.

Where else can you find yourself riffling through baskets of fresh plucked peaches one minute, and the next, a bin of vintage scarves? Detroit's Eastern Market, to be exact, is the lovely place I finally discovered this summer. I went for peaches and blueberries and came back with four armfuls of goodies, some of which I wasn't sure what to do with (zucchini), some I wasn't sure if I even liked (radishes), and some bought out of pure guilty nostalgia (orange blossom honey, which I bought from the sweetest old beekeeper who reminded me of my grandpa, even though the stand two feet away sold the stuff for less. I'm a sucker).

And what to do with four armfuls of fruits and veggies? Become vegetarian, of course, at least for a while. That weekend, I was enslaved to the kitchen, making avocado-radish salad (turns out I do love radishes), grilled corn with lime butter, wild mushroom quesadillas, homemade hummus and salsa, two huge fruit salads and fried, golden zucchini.

Orange blossom honey, by the way, was perfect combined with lime and fresh ginger for this amazing hold-on-to-what-you-got summer fruit salad. Sweet and tangy with a little kick, the sauce really takes juicy peaches, plump blueberries and sliced green grapes to a whole new level of deliciousness. For the perfect summer afternoon, I have an inkling this salad would be awesome served up with a nice grilled pork chop and a glass of sangria.

So, don't jump into fall prematurely, folks. Soak up every last drop of summer. Keep the lemonade flowing. Keep the grill grilling. Take advantage of every fruit and vegetable before it goes out of season.

Although, I must admit...all this talk about fall is making me want to bust out just one glittery pumpkin for the bookshelf. And just a little candy corn isn't going to spoil summer all that bad. And what's so wrong with burning a few cinnamon candles and wearing a few scarves and breaking in my brown suede boots and all my fuzzy sweaters and... it begins.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey Ginger Lime Sauce
Marie Meyer, Greensboro, NC, Cooking Light, JUNE 2006
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

1  tablespoon  fresh lime juice
1 1/2  tablespoons  honey
1/4  teaspoon  minced peeled fresh ginger
2  cups  sliced peeled peaches (about 2)
1  cup  blueberries
1  cup  seedless green grapes, halved

Preparation: Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine peaches, blueberries, and grapes in a bowl. Drizzle juice mixture over fruit mixture; toss gently to coat. Chill at least 1 hour.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 53 (3% from fat) Fat: 0.2g (sat 0.0g,mono 0.0g,poly 0.1g), Protein: 0.7g, Carbohydrate: 13.8g, Fiber: 1.3g, Cholesterol: 0.0mg, Iron: 0.3mg, Sodium: 1mg, Calcium: 6mg.
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