Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Broccoli Challenge: Artichoke and Broccoli Dip

It is the second week of my self-declared Broccoli Challenge. Now that football season is here, I was inspired to make a game day dip. It’s actually similar to a spinach and artichoke dip but with broccoli instead. It provides a healthier option for game day eats. Here’s hoping that your team wins!

Artichoke and Broccoli Dip

8 oz. low-fat cream cheese
8 oz. low-fat sour cream
1 c. marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 medium broccoli crown
2 cloves garlic

Directions: Start by taking cream cheese out of the fridge and let sit for 15 minutes prior to using. Cut and steam cook broccoli florets. Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator (this step can be done ahead of time). Crush 2 cloves of garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes in small saucepan with cooking spray. Let cool. Mix together cream cheese and sour cream until well blended. This step can be done by hand or using an electric mixer. Stir in garlic. Finely chop the drained artichoke hearts and cooked broccoli. Mix into cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bread or fresh cut veggies for dipping.
You still have time to join the Challenge – click here for info. See you again next Wednesday for another Broccoli Challenge report.

Since we are talking broccoli, head on over to Gluten Free Food for a step by step recipe for Tricolour Salad. And don’t miss the tip for making carrot flowers.

Just in case you missed it last week, check out Healthy Eating Starts at Home for a healthy, homemade Chinese Beef and Broccoli recipe.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

A Saucy Affair

Last night, I rubbed shoulders with the foodie community at A Saucy Affair – a foodie fundraiser benefiting the 9Health Fair. We circled the room, sampling bites from various restaurants to the smoky tunes of Hazel Miller singing in the background.

During this sauce battle, patrons cast votes for their favorite sauces. The overall dish certainly contributes to votes cast as well. Participants included: Cru Wine Bar, CY Steak, Gourmet Kitchen Catering, Espresso Affair, Helliemae's Salt Caramels, Loews Denver Hotel, Mezcal, Rialto Cafe, Texas de Brazil , The Avenue Grill , The Denver Cupcake Truck, The Lobby, Wynkoop Brewing Company and Zink.

The focus of this particular foodie event is perfect for me because I do love my sauces. I’m pretty into overly sauced food. Dry food is boring. And well, it’s dry. Each year, food trends seem to emerge and set the tone of the evening – last year, duck was the popular ingredient (see post) and the year before that, it was all about BBQ sandwiches.

This year seemed to have more of a range in the culinary creations – although a few restaurants featured chimichurri sauces. And while it is always a fun evening, many of sauces this year were mind in flavor compared to those of previous years. But, that is not to say I didn’t have favorites. My personal palate pleasers were Texas de Brazil, Wynkoop, Gourmet Kitchen and Helliemae’s Salt Caramels.

Speaking of Helliemae, the unnamed winner and recipient of my voting chip was Helliemae’s Salt Caramels for their Salted Caramel Banana Pudding. As for the ‘official’ winners, the Judge’s Choice pick was The Lobby for their Short Rib with Poblano Sauce. My commentary upon winner announcement: The judges panel is comprised of Denver personalities rather than foodies. The patrons did better in casting their votes as is usually the case. The People’s Choice winner went to Texas De Brazil for their Flank Steak and Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce.

Farwell, sauce battle. See you again next year.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Exciting News!

Have you been waiting to hear about my big news from the Best night ever? Well, wait no more… I am excited to reveal that I've got a foodie’s dream coming my way!

In June, Dan and I attended Taste of the Nation – a foodie fundraiser benefiting Share Our Strength. That night, we bid on and won a brunch with local chefs – cooked in our home! Insert image of me with a huge smile on my face, buzzing excitement and the embarrassing moves from my happy food dance.

This fabulous brunch courtesy of the culinary talents of:
Matt Selby, Vesta Dipping Grill
Paul C. Reilly, Encore on Colfax
Beau Simmons, Jonesy's EatBar
Keegan Gerhard, Dbar Desserts

Yes, Keegan is going to be cooking in my home! Well, actually my mom’s home because my kitchen is far too small for the talents of these 4 chefs. I need to start practicing my pretending-not-to-be-star-struck face. Yep, that’s me.

*Thanks to my family who had “reserved” a day without any information about the festivities I had planned. And an even bigger thank you to Dan for being my biggest supporter and co-conspirator.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Broccoli Challenge: Broccoli Berry Smoothie

Last week, I issued myself a Broccoli Challenge. I committed to cooking with broccoli in new ways. Simply cooking broccoli is not enough for me. I cook and eat broccoli all the time. I grew up eating it often and that good habit hasn’t changed. Luckily, my husband likes broccoli just as much and does not tire of it showing up on the menu several times a week. But, as I admitted, I’ve been in a broccoli rut – cooking it the same way repeatedly.

For this first week of the Broccoli Challenge, I decided to do something VERY different. I’m not trying to come up with the most amazing broccoli dish ever – I don’t want to limit my creative spirit in this way. So, when I told my husband my idea, his response was simply “No”. No elaboration. But I knew what he was thinking. This was a risky idea, likely to be a food fail. Nevertheless, I decided to proceed with my idea … this is, after all, the point of taking on a challenge, right? So, here it is…

Broccoli Berry Smoothie

1 broccoli crown, steamed
6 oz package raspberries
1 peach
1 banana
1 c. fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/2 c. pomegranate juice
2 cups ice

Cut and steam cook broccoli florets. Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator (this step can be done ahead of time). Cut peach and banana into medium sized pieces. In a blender, thoroughly blend all ingredients. Pour into glasses and serve cold. Serves 4.
I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised with my first broccoli challenge pursuit. And moms take note because I discovered a sneaky way to ‘hide’ a vegetable in the smoothie. Hopefully, this can be useful for those with veggie resistant kids. I can also share that Dan enjoyed a {small} glass himself.

Also, since there are only 2 of us in our house, we had smoothie leftovers. I mixed up the leftover drink the next day and it was even better – fruitier and no detection of broccoli. Not bad for my first broccoli-out-of-the-box pursuit.

Join the Broccoli Challenge! Find info and instructions here.

And stop by Healthy Eating Starts at Home for a healthy, homemade Chinese Beef and Broccoli recipe.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Blue Cheese Pretzels

One of my favorite memories from childhood was the “snack plate” my mom made for us each afternoon when we got home from school. Appropriately named, these plates hosted a variety of snacks – a bunch of grapes, scoop of Chex Mix and oftentimes, the results of an afternoon of cooking with her friend. From her cooking sessions, I remember the pretzels they frequently made – soft pretzels. My siblings and I loved those original pretzels.

My mom later pursued her passion for cooking and went to culinary school - further developing in herself, and in her daughters, a love for cooking and sharing food with others. As she adopted new skills and techniques in the kitchen, she passed along her learning to us. The results were a fine tuned version of former recipes. Our palettes matured and evolved.

So, in thinking about the early version pretzels snacks of my childhood, I am sharing one of my mom’s pretzel recipes that is a family favorite today.

Blue Cheese Pretzels
1 lb. pretzel twists
1/2 c. Maytag blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour pretzel twists into large bowl. Using hands or a knife, break blue cheese into small crumbles. Melt butter in small saucepan and stir in garlic powder when melted. Pour butter mixture over pretzels. Add cheese crumbles and mix thoroughly. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven, stir immediately and let cool. *Use whole wheat pretzels for a healthier twist to your Blue Cheese Pretzel twists. Enjoy!

This post is part of the Weekly Writer’s Workshop over at Mama Kat's blog.
Mama’s Losin’ It
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Stuffed Garden Zucchini

This was my first year growing vegetables in my own garden. And while I planted much too late in the summer, the trusty and wild zucchini plants still flourished. Here are my (healthy) Stuffed Garden Zucchinis.

1 large zucchini
3 tbs marinated sundried tomatoes, drained
2 tbs shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried or fresh parsley
3 tbs Panko breadcrumbs
S&P, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut zucchini into 2 inch pieces. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds to make a well in center of zucchini pieces. Drain sundried tomatoes from oil and roughly chop. Finely chop parsley if using fresh. In a small bowl, mix together chopped tomatoes, cheese, EVOO, parsley and S&P to taste. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Place zucchini onto prepared pan a couple of inches apart. Using a spoon, place tomato mixture in well of zucchini pieces. Top mixture with breadcrumbs. Cook in oven for 8-10 minutes depending upon size of zucchini. Finish by broiling for 2-3 minutes or until breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Do not burn. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Broccoli Challenge

Hi, my name is Kelly and I am in love with broccoli. Yes, it’s true. I sat down to dinner (Sautéed shrimp with couscous and broccoli) with my husband tonight and expressed my love for broccoli. I then realized I only ever cook and eat it one way – steamed. No butter, no S&P, no sautéed garlic. Just broccoli in all its green glory.

While I am not really worried about my addiction because, come on, it’s broccoli, my realization spurred an idea. I am issuing myself a Broccoli Challenge: To dish up broccoli in new and creative ways during the next month. I am committing to 4 new broccoli inspired dishes.

And, I’m inviting others to join me! Maybe you are also in a rut or perhaps you don’t love broccoli as much as I? - All good reasons to participate in the challenge yourself! Try 1, 2 or as many new recipes as you'd like.

Here’s how it works:
• Create meals, snacks and recipes using broccoli as either the main ingredient or a co-star of the dish. Post to your blog AND reference the Broccoli Challenge (see link below).
• Send your posts and recipe name to me at
• Don’t be afraid to get creative!

I will list your post on my blog along with my own Broccoli Challenge pursuits. Check back each week to see how the broccoli creativity unfolds.

Let the Broccoli Challenge begin!

Broccoli Challenge
Copy and Paste the code below into your post to link back to this challenge. The link will look like the image above.
<div style="text-align:center;"><a href= "" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Broccoli Challenge"/></a></div>
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Monday, September 12, 2011

African food adventures, Part 2

One of my primary motivations for travel is the opportunity to explore the food fare of different cities, cultures and cuisines. During my trip, I had several occasions to sample a variety of East African eats.

Matoke or Matooke. See What is matoke? Matoke is commonly served with a ground nut sauce. This sauce is a simpler version of peanut sauce, sans the heat. And much like all my food experiences during the trip, the matoke varied depending upon where we were eating and probably to the particular liking of the cook. One of the fascinating things to me is that matoke is cooked in banana leaves for their moisture. I learned that it’s best not to rush matoke – the longer it cooks, the better.

Ugali. Sadly, I only have this one photo of ugali (see African food adventures, Part 1). But, I think you can get the picture that it has an almost rice-like appearance. Ugali, however, is made of maize flour and tastes quite unlike rice. In fact, it doesn’t have much flavor at all. It’s more of texture experience – kind of sticky and dry at the same time. Ugali is normally served with a stew or meat sauce. But I did not try it in this way and as my first sampling of the dish (also taking into account my aversion to overly dry food), a few small bites was sufficient for me.

Chapati or Chapatti. Much more palatable than ugali, I ate chapati with many meals. Chapati is unleavened bread that is similar to naan although denser. Those familiar with Indian cuisine likely recognize that chapatti is an Indian bread. But, it is also commonly served in East Africa as an accompaniment to a meal. It is eaten by tearing into pieces and used to scoop up bites of an entrée.

Matoke, ugali and chapati … of all the African eats I tasted, my favorite was the homemade, slow-cooked matoke with tasty ground nut sauce I enjoyed in the home of our generous host family.
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Curried carrot & butternut squash soup

Mother Nature seems to have gotten the memo that Labor Day Weekend has passed and has marked the end of summer with a cold front in Denver. Not only is fall my favorite season but fall-like weather always gets me in the mood for cooking. Stay warm with this yummy homemade soup - I had to stop myself from licking my bowl clean.

2 medium-large butternut squash
1 large yellow onion
8 large carrots
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
64 oz. chicken or vegetable broth
½ tbs curry powder
Light sour cream
S&P, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and prepare 2 jellyroll pans with cooking spray. Halve butternut squash and remove seeds. Place facedown on pan and bake for 1 ½ hours. Peel carrots and quarter onion. Place in oven on prepared pan for 1 hour. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool.

Using a spoon, scoop flesh of squash from skin and place in bowl along with carrots and onion. Puree vegetables in food processor adding a few ounces of broth as needed. Depending upon size of food processor, this step may need to be done in 2 portions. Add EVOO and S&P. Pour remaining broth into large pot on medium heat. Add pureed vegetables and curry powder to pot and mix with whisk. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot with dollop of sour cream and freshly cracked pepper. Enjoy!
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heirloom tomato bruschetta

Inspired by the vibrant colors at the farmers’ market this holiday weekend, I made bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil. And a special mention for the aged balsamic which just makes everything taste better.

1 lb. heirloom tomatoes
1 medium shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1 tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
8 leaves fresh basil, cut chiffonade
Parmesan cheese

1 medium loaf artisan bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar

Wash, remove stems and cut tomatoes in half. Place in medium bowl. Add red wine vinegar and EVOO to bowl. Stir. Dice shallot and sauté in olive oil in small saucepan. Dice garlic and add to saucepan for 1 minute, do not burn. Add to bowl of tomatoes. Chiffonade basil (see tip below) and mix half with tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste and let sit. Set remaining basil aside.

Cut bread in thin slices and place on sheet pan. Lightly drizzle bread with EVOO and aged balsamic. Place in oven on broil, watching carefully to not burn. Remove and place bread on serving dish. Pile tomato mixture onto bread slices. Garnish generously with basil and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Tip: When cutting a chiffonade of basil, stack basil leaves on top of one another and roll lengthwise – almost like rolling a cigar. Then, cut thinly across the cigar roll resulting in thin strips of fresh basil.
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Thursday, September 1, 2011

African food adventures, Part 1

Samosas. One of my husband’s favorite … oh wait, I guess I should probably start from the beginning. The story of our African adventure begins by explaining the reason we went there in the first place. My husband, Dan, grew up in Africa. He moved there, along with his family, when he was 1 year old. My mother-in-law jokes that he walked all the way to Africa because he had just started walking and walked up and down the aisle of the plane for their entire flight. That was the start of a 10 year stay in Africa – 2 years in Kenya and 8 in Uganda. This is the reason we traveled to Africa. To see where my husband grew up. And to meet the people who are a special version of extended family to him.

From first mention of our trip to the eventual taking off on the first flight, it took 2 years to plan our trip. After 2 days and 4 flights, we arrived in Kenya. The next morning, we ventured out to explore Nairobi and it was here that I first tried samosas.

Samosas are an Indian pastry, typically filled with vegetables or meat. Similar to the United States, the foods from other cultures contribute to the common food offerings of the country. Now, I know we could probably get samosas somewhere in Denver, but he wanted to eat the samosas he grew up on. Eating samosas is one of his favorite food memories from childhood so, of course, I wanted to try them too.

The first samosas of the trip were quite good – a crunchy crust and steaming hot vegetables inside. It kind of reminded me of a good veggie eggroll. During the course of the trip, we had samosas 4 times. Some where good and some were not so good. This ended up being a trend of the trip...the food experiences changed along with the scenery. I suppose that’s not too unlike dining State-side.

Another experiential note: I quickly learned that taking photos in public buildings is prohibited and strictly enforced by the many authority personnel commonly holding machine guns. I slyly (and admittedly nervously) snapped the first picture. Happily it came out. But I wasn’t about to try to get more. The other two pictures are from dining at our hotel which was, as you might imagine, much more tourist and photography friendly.
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