I love chips and dip. Taco dip, guacamole, salsa, French onion, hummus… I’m the weirdo hovering by your dip bowl at the party. Hovering? More like hoovering. I really want to host a chips and dip dinner party. I don’t know if anyone would come, but I could probably eat the entire spread myself. Just sayin’.
Spinach artichoke dip is one of my favorites to dip in, but all that cheese – oh goodness. I did my best to lighten it up while still keeping that to-die-for richness. I opt for fresh spinach, but feel free to sub in a package of frozen chopped spinach; just make sure to thaw and drain it before stirring it in.
Lightened-Up Spinach Artichoke Dip
8 ounce bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained chopped
8 ounce package reduced-fat or fat-free cream cheese
1 cup plain fat free Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon light mayonnaise
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a medium pot, combine, spinach, garlic and artichoke hearts. Cook over medium heat until spinach is just wilted. Stir in cream cheese, yogurt, mozzarella, Parmesan, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted and ingredients are blended.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
Slow cooker instructions: place ingredients into a slow cooker and heat on low for 3-4 hours or high for 2 hours. Stir well before serving.
I think making these buns might have been the biggest mistake of my life. They’re just too dang good and I crave them constantly. The first batch quickly dwindled to nothing – I sent a bun or two off to my family and to Mike’s parents and sent a half-dozen off with Mike. I was left staring at four buns. I tried to make them last as long as possible, but I have to be honest… they lasted four days. Maybe less.
I think these buns might be the first thing I will ever put on my monthly “must make” list. I rarely make repeat dishes. It takes a good dish to warrant a second visit into my kitchen more than once a year. It takes a stellar dish to make a visit a few times a year. A dish that I want to make every month? Unheard of, until now.
I just can’t explain why I loved these buns so much. It’s a combination of the slightly sweet, mostly salty filling surrounded by an impossibly soft, fluffy, yet chewy bun. The texture of the buns is partially due to the tangzhong (roux) made from combining flour with water and milk. The tangzhong is incorporated into the dough and the endresult is a bun that’s… well, good.
I made this dish for this month’s What’s Baking. The host for August is Ali from Sparks from the Kitchen. She challenged us to bake up something to represent our heritage. I waffled between making dan ta, an egg custard tart, and feng li su, little flaky cakes encasing a pineapple filling. I don’t know how I ended up making neither of those and instead making the char siu bao, but I don’t regret my actions one bit. I loved char siu bao growing up, and I love them still. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)
for the buns:
6 cups bread flour, divided
2/3 cup water
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
for garnishing: 1 egg beat with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
To make the tangzhong (roux/flour paste), mix together 1/3 cup flour, 2/3 cup water, and 1/3 cup milk in a small saucepan until well combined. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens up and has the consistency of a thick yogurt. The temperature of the roux should not exceed 150°F. Remove the mixture from heat and set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 5 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the tangzhong/flour paste, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, and melted butter. Stir together to form a soft dough. Knead by hand for 15 – 20 minutes. If your dough is sticky and not coming together, add the remaining 2/3 cup flour a little at a time until your dough is smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a large bowl. Place dough inside and turn to coat. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let rise for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Meanwhile, get started on the filling. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the honey, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy sauce. Cook until mixture starts to bubble, stirring frequently. Stir in the chicken stock and flour until well combined. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the diced roast pork. Set aside to cool.
Separate the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 4-inch circle, leaving the center slightly thicker than the edges. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the middle of each circle. Crimp them closed, making sure they are tightly sealed. Don’t fret if they’re a little ugly – the crimped side ends up on the bottom, hidden from judging eyes 😉
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the buns seam-side down on the prepared baking sheets and let rise for another hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until buns are golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.
I’ve been loving the spring weather this week. All the snow is gone and the temps have been warm enough for me to run in a tee. Mike and I are hoping to take advantage of this weather by going on a nice, long hike and with the pups this weekend and then grilling out after. Fingers crossed that the forecast is wrong and that it doesn’t rain!
This pineapple salsa is sweet with the perfect amount of heat. It’s super versatile, too. I ate it with chicken, with pretzel thins, and even just straight-up with a spoon.
Fresh Pineapple Salsa
1/2 pineapple peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large nonreactive bowl, stir together pineapple, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.
Hummus is one of my favorite snack foods. It’s so, so easy to make, but I’m guilty of buying hummus when I’m feeling extra lazy. The store-bought hummus is good, the store-bought spicy hummus is even better, but this homemade spicy hummus tops it all.
Jalapeno Cilantro Hummus
2 – 15 ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
3 limes, juiced (about 1/3 cup)
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and chopped (use 1 jalapeno for a mild hummus)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
to serve: fresh cut veggies, pita chips, tortilla chips
Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
I. love. fries. Like, really love fries. I like to pretend that I’m not fully aware of how bad they are for you and always get fries at restaurants. Well, not always… more like 90% of the time. The last time I turned down fries was a couple months ago at a German restaurant. I opted for liver dumpling soup instead :-P. The last time I was out and had an option, Mike and I were in Milwaukee. I could choose between cottage cheese, fruit, or fries. I actually asked about the fruit first, but it had cantaloupe in it and I found out about a year ago that whenever I eat cantaloupe my throat and ears get really itchy. So… that wasn’t going to happen again. Long story short, I chose fries.
I could have fries with every meal and be happy. In fact, I could have fries as my meal and be happy.
That’s what I did. I made a meal out of these and I don’t regret it one bit.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Lightly grease two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Cut sweet potato into 1/4-inch slices. Stack slices and then slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips. Repeat with remaining sweet potatoes to cut fries.
In a medium bowl, whisk together corn starch, chili powders, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, ground cumin, and chipotle chile pepper powder.
In a medium bowl, toss fries with olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and grill seasoning. Sprinkle cornstarch mixture over fries and toss to combine.
Divide potatoes between the two prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes, until fries are crispy. Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven for about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and place fries onto serving platter. Sprinkle with jalapeño slices and green onions and serve hot.
As many of you know, we have been getting a TON of cucumbers. As much as I love cucumbers dipped in Sriracha hummus, there’s only so much I can eat before I start getting tired of it! Thank goodness for Heather over at In Her Chucks who introduced me to her spinach dip recipe!
I was a little skeptical at first because of the ingredients in it; I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a powdered soup or dressing before. I decided I would give it a try because I was just that sick of hummus. Turns out, it was a great decision! Mike and I ate it for dinner on Sunday night with some cucumbers and it was the perfect light dinner after a day of beer-drinkin’ and burger-eatin’.
Avocados were on sale at the grocery store and I just couldn’t pass up the chance to make some guacamole. We devoured the entire thing in about 3 days using Manny’s Tortilla Strips (the absolute best) as the mode of transportation to get from the bowl to our mouths. Soooooo good! Maybe next time I’ll actually get around to making some Mexican food to go with it.
4 avocados, peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 pinch ground cayenne pepper
In a medium bowl, mash together avocadoes, lime juice and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic and cayenne. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.