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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Middle Eastern Feast

One of our feasts last summer - chicken shwarma, lamb kofta, & grilled eggplant!
Every once in a while, nothing sounds better than a Middle Eastern feast! This is a good menu for entertaining - easy to prep ahead and throw things on the grill, lots of exciting flavors and spices, and very healthy. I often use this menu to entertain when I am not eating carbs but my guests are not low carb - there's plenty of food to satisfy everyone.
Chicken Shawarma spices - you can marinate overnight
Here's the menu:

Grilled Chicken Shawarma Skewers from The Shiksa (I skip the second frying step myself and do the skewers on the grill, and I only use boneless skinless chicken thighs - yum!)

Lamb Kofta Kabobs from AllRecipes (this recipe is legit, tastes just like restaurant quality and I simplify by putting all spices/onion chunks/garlic cloves/parsley in the food processor to make a paste & save some time, and then mix that in with the ground lamb).

Lamb mixed with the seasonings for Lamb Kofta
Grilled Eggplant - Simply slice eggplant into 1/4in slices or so, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until soft and charred and ridiculously yummy. (Seriously, eggplant tastes 1,000 more amazing prepared this way).

Add some fresh herbs to your hummous, basil-garlic-lemon is so delicious!
Megan's Hummus - I love hummus on any occasion and homemade always seems to taste the best. I always use my sister-in-law's recipe: In your food processor, puree 1tsp grated lemon peel, 2 T fresh lemon juice, 1 can garbanzo beans rinsed/drained, 2 T tahini sauce, 3 T olive oil, 2 T water, 1 garlic clove, 1/8 t cayenne pepper, and 1/4 t salt. Really puree for a long time to make it super smooth and I always add more lemon and garlic or salt, or make a double batch, etc. Adjust to your liking! I added some lemony basil once and it was fabulous! You can spread it over a plate and sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with olive oil and serve with pita wedges, or save in the fridge for 3 days.

Rice Pilaf (from a box), Sliced lettuce/onion/tomatoes, and Pitas and garlic sauce - I tried making that pure-garlic-yummy sauce that comes with chicken shawarma before and it was a fail, so I just head over to my local Middle Eastern restaurant and buy a large tub and a dozen or so pitas and that takes care of that! I don't typically have time to make my own bread. If anyone knows how to make that garlic sauce, let me know!

So for low-carb people, just make lettuce wraps with the shawarma and koftas with onions and tomato and garlic sauce - soo good! Eggplant is a great side and my new favorite vegetable to grill. For everyone else, the yummy fresh pitas and rice fills out the meal wonderfully. Instead of just making the same ole barbecue chicken when you have guests this summer, try something different and go middle eastern on the grill! You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Costco Hack: Bubbly Baked Spinach Artichoke Jalapeno Dip

Yum! I've tried some free samples of the La Terra Fina spinach dips and always thought they were pretty good, dip some veggies and crackers in there - they do not disappoint. La Terra Fina even sent me some a year or two ago, but I didn't have any recipe ideas for them nor know if I'd buy them again. True - if I was at Costco and prepping to entertain some guests, it's a good option to pick up a tub and a lot better than the dips I find on the shelves at Kroger. My "pretty good" assessment was related to the dip when it was served cold. Then, months later, one day I read the tub and noticed it said "try warm!"... so I did... it changes my assessment from "pretty good" to "100% addictive." Free samples or not, I highly recommend you try it as a hot spinach dip - yum!! I've made my own dips as well and I will still continue to buy this dip.

I tried the artichoke/jalapeno flavor as well as the typical spinach/artichoke flavor and it wasn't spicy enough for me. Then, I had a great idea to take my favorite spinach/artichoke flavor and amp it up with chopped jalapenos and bake it with a panko breadcrumb topping...because.. why not? This is really a great semi-homemade Costco hack that anyone can do and be proud to serve as an appetizer. The dip has a crunchy topping, creamy melty center and a zip and zing from the jalapenos. You can taste the the ingredients are real - this is key for a store-bought dip. Tons of flavor and definitely a keeper! I do tend to eat a lot at once and then have awful garlic breath. Worth it! Don't you love dips for appetizers? Let me know if you've found a product or recipe I should try - Kitchen Bliss loves happy hours.

Easy Spicy Bubbly Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip
By Kitchen Bliss

Supplies You'll Need:
1 tub La Terra Fina Chunky Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan or whatever spinach/artichoke type dip you'd like
1 package Panko bread crumbs
1 jar of sliced jalapenos

This is super easy and adaptable! Decide how much dip you'll need - decide on the serving dish and scoop out enough dip that will fill the bottom of the dish. Think about how spicy you want to make it and chop up that amount of jalapenos and mix into the dip, and taste periodically until the dip is spicy enough for you. Spread the jalapeno-spiked dip into your serving dish and sprinkle a layer of panko bread crumbs on top. Bake at 400 degrees until brown on top/around the edges and the center is warm. Let cool a few minutes before serving so that it isn't too hot for the first person who dips in! Enjoy!