It’s a Date

Sometimes life is so simple – right? I want to be that person with the simple life – I used to think I was that person with the simple, awesome life. Awesome – yes; simple – not quite.

But what comes up must come down, they say. And while this might sound like a complaint, it assuredly is not. Life is definitely good.

One of my favorite things of late is getting together with my favorite newlyweds, Brook & Katherine. We cook, we eat, we drink, and we just plain hang out. Sometimes Katherine falls asleep, but it’s only because of the wine and not because we’re boring, right Kath??!! We play with their cuter-than-a-newborn-baby doggy, we laugh at the cats, and we get our groove on (or at least, we pretend to…) with the Kinect dancing game, whatever it’s called.

It’s good times – simple and awesome.

And it’s even awesome-er when bacon and goat cheese are involved. What’s not to adore? I’d spent the majority of last Saturday hanging with my pal, Caroline (which means that we hang out but she also puts me to work in her kitchen), so when it came time to get ready for the K+B extravaganza, I knew I only had it in me to bake a cake (yeah, that’s all – can you believe it??!), so I put the Hubs to work on the appetizer.

It’s not like he was slaving over the stove, people. And check out the recipe if you don’t believe me. Four ingredients – I don’t think I’ve ever posted something with four ingredients – maybe a drink??!! Four wonderful, scrumptious ingredients, all rolled up together, baked until crispy and oozy, and devoured.

These dates are holiday-ish, festive, easy, and entirely portable. If it’s not too late, take these to your holiday party, but be sure to snag a couple before you share. Remember – the holidays are all about giving, but also a little bit about getting, too!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
chiknpastry recipe; makes 16

printable version

4 oz goat cheese, room temperature
2 T almonds, roughly chopped
16 dates
8 slices of thick-cut bacon

preheat oven to 375 F.

combine goat cheese and chopped almonds in a small bowl and set aside.

slice dates on one side and remove pit. stuff each date with goat cheese / almond mixture and squeeze together (dates should be packed with cheese!).

slice bacon strips in half lengthwise and wrap each half around a date. secure with a toothpick or place seam-side down on a baking sheet. bake 20-30 minutes, until bacon is crispy (thicker bacon will take longer). let cool for a few minutes and devour!

When life gives you taters

So by now, hopefully you’ve read all about our Thanksgiving shenanigans. You know that we rocked a lot, drank a lot, and probably ate even more, if that’s possible. And while we tend to go through a good portion of the food over the days following the big Turkey Day, there are always stragglers in the fridge after Sunday.

Ya’ll know I’m a stickler about food-wasting (except brussels sprouts & radishes), so it’s only fitting to talk about the excess, or lack thereof.

The pie was easy – we ate most of it. The sweet potatoes were gone, as were the rolls and the broccoli casserole. The turkey got folded up into tortillas and topped with cotija cheese and salsa. That was easy, too. The cornbread pieces Jon left in the crisper were perfect when toasted and served with this soup I found in the freezer. He finished whatever was left after that as a late-night snack this past weekend.

Then there were the mashed taters. Simps makes enough mashed potatoes for an army – and if I remember correctly, they usually get eaten (or maybe she takes them home…), but this year there was some hanging around.

Usually, I’m not one to turn one food into something else; I’ve never been able to make much use of the “eat this tonight, then turn the leftovers into this tomorrow” recipe suggestions. To me, I make a dish to eat a certain way, and that’s the way I eat it until it’s gone, or frozen, or accidentally left out on the counter instead of taken to work – you get the point. But the lonely mashed taters (and Brook’s leftover bowl of stuffing, taters, and only he knows what else) inspired me last week – that and my refusal to go to the grocery store.

And whoever said that change is a bad thing, anyway?

Moroccan Shepherd’s Pie
inspired by Brook & a Cooking Light recipe; serves 6

time commitment: a little less than 1 hour; 35 minutes active

it seems that all I have to do to satisfy the Hubs is throw some chewy fruit and cinnamon in a dish, call it Moroccan, and poof!, he’s slap happy. This is a traditional recipe for English Shepherd’s pie, but with a Moroccan twist. I didn’t have quite enough mashed potato to cover the whole top, so I improvised with a quickly-roasted acorn squash. you could use all mashed potato, or any winter squash for a little sweetness, even canned pumpkin puree would work. also, you may notice cheese in the pictures. While i put it in this dish (just because I had some…), I don’t think it needed it, so I’ve left it out below.

printable version

1  T all-purpose flour
1  T butter, softened
Cooking spray
1 1/2  c chopped onion
1 1/2  c chopped carrot
1 lb ground beef
2 1/2  T tomato paste
1  c chicken broth
5 pitted dates, finely chopped
1/2 t g cinnamon
1/2 t curry powder
1/4  t freshly ground black pepper
1  T fresh thyme leaves
1/2  t  salt
1/2 t fresh ground pepper
2  c leftover mashed potatoes
1 c squash or pumpkin puree
smoked Spanish paprika

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl, combine flour and butter together and sit aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and carrot; sauté 5 minutes. Remove vegetables, and add beef to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to break apart. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in broth. Return vegetables to pan, and bring to a simmer. Stir in dates, cinnamon, curry powder, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add flour mixture, and cook for 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.

Spoon meat mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly. Mix potatoes together, and spread the potato mixture evenly over meat mixture. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.