Monday, February 28, 2011

Vegetarian Ventures: Tempeh

Before I met Z, tofu disgusted me. The texture just totally freaked me out - until I tried it in a variety of dishes, with a slew of different flavors. I grew to love tofu. But, it wasn't until a few weeks ago - when I had dinner at my older sister's house - that I tried tempeh, which reminded me a lot of tofu, but with more texture and a little bit more flavor on its own.

Tempeh is "made by the controlled fermentation of cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus mold (tempeh starter)." Tempeh is a complete protein food that contains all the essential amino acids, and is very versatile in terms of cooking methods and how it can be prepared. One of the most common ways to prepare it is to slice and fry the tempeh until the surface is crisp and golden brown.

When I first tried tempeh at my sister's house, she had cubed the tempeh (and some tofu), and cooked them in a rice bake with black beans and peppers - and sprinkled a generous amount of cheese on the top of the dish, which was delicious and melty by the time it arrived at the table. I loved the additional texture the tempeh had (in comparison to the tofu), and my sister informed me that tempeh comes in several different flavors at the grocery store. I'm definitely going to have to try them all, especially because tempeh is such a great source of protein.

What new foods have you tried lately?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Things to Look Forward To

Has this week felt like...3 months for anybody else?! I am definitely looking forward to the weekend. Besides taking some time off work, we have some fun things planned! I’m looking forward to...

Snowboarding at Loon Mountain tomorrow...

Dinner at Rafiki Bistro Saturday night...

Followed by bowling (and drinking) for a friend's birthday celebration...
Condo hunting Sunday morning...
Then making dinner for my grandparents Sunday night.

What are you looking forward to doing this weekend?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cookbook Review: Delicious Simplicity
Delicious and simple - those are two adjectives I believe can almost always be used to describe great food. That's why, when Anna Tourkakis, author of Delicious Simplicity, asked me to review her cookbook, I gladly accepted the task.

The book contains a variety of recipes with - you guessed it - simple ingredients, yet every recipe is packed with amazing flavors, without getting overly complicated. The Table of Contents at the beginning of the book clearly states how the book is categorized. Categories include Starters and Appetizers; Soups; Salads; Meat and Poultry; Fish; Grains; Vegetables and Desserts. Omnivores and vegetarians on a budget can easily find a slew of recipes to make on the fly, or even for more relaxing, indulgent meals.

If you're looking for more innovative, "newer" recipes, this isn't the book for you. You won't see many never-before-seen recipes here, but this is a great resource that includes every recipe every cook should have under one cover. Familiar dishes include Pumpkin Gnocchi; Creamy Tomato Soup; White Bean Dip; and Carrot Cake. More creative recipes include Warm Cannellini Salad with Proscuitto; Chickpea, Tomato and Eggplant Spread with Herbs; and Spicy Lamb Meatballs on Skewers.

The best part? This great resource for simple, go-to recipes costs under $20 on Amazon (or, under $10 for the Kindle).

What are some of your favorite go-to cookbooks?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gourmoo Cookoff Dinner Party Challenge Winner!

Remember my Gourmoo Cookoff Challenge giveaway? Well, it's time to announce the lucky winner!

You all had some great recipe ideas that incorporate Lactaid Milk - I was really impressed with your creativity. But, alas, there can only be one winner, who was chosen at random. And that winner is.....


"I'd make a dessert like Chocolate Mousse with lactaid, semi-sweet chocolate, chocolate Jello and non-dairy whipped topping."

Congrats, Henria! I will send you an email shortly so you can get your prizes. 

Thanks to everyone else for entering!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Baked Rutabaga Cakes

This past weekend, I made a rutabaga recipe for an upcoming Local in Season article - but still had a little bit of rutabaga leftover. Knowing the root vegetable was on its last leg, I decided to make use of the leftovers last night for dinner. I Googled some rutabaga recipes, and found a lot of recipes for fried rutabaga cakes. The recipes included a lot of ingredients I already had in my kitchen, but I wasn't in the mood for fried food. So, I decided to make my own recipe for Baked Rutabaga Cakes.

Before I did anything, I boiled my leftover rutabaga in some salted water until it was tender (i.e., a fork could pierce through it). Then, I drained the rutabaga, let it cool, and put it in the food processor to "mash" it. Then, I got started on the cakes.

Baked Rutabaga Cakes
Yields: 6 cakes (2 servings)

-1 1/2 cups mashed rutabaga 
-1 egg
-1/8 cup plain bread crumbs
-1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
-1/4 tsp. minced garlic
-Dried rosemary
-Dried oregano
-Pinch of cayenne pepper
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Generous squirt of lemon juice
-Non-stick spray (I used canola oil)
-Dollop of sour cream, for garnish

1.) Mix the rutabaga, egg, bread crumbs, garlic, seasonings and lemon juice in a large bowl. 
2.) With an ice cream scoop, place six generous dollops of the rutabaga mixture onto a greased cookie sheet. Press the dollops down with a fork to form flat "pancakes," being careful not to make them too thin. Spray the tops of the rutabaga cakes with some more cooking spray, to help them brown in the oven.
3.) Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (or until golden brown on each side), flipping the cakes halfway through. 
4.) Serve with a side salad and a dollop of sour cream.

The sour cream really complemented the slightly spicy cakes, and brought some tang to the sweetness of the rutabaga.

This ended up being a protein-filled, healthy meal - and it was also very satisfying!

Don't forget: Today's your last day to enter my giveaway for a $50 Amazon gift card (and more)! I'll be picking a winner tonight, and announcing the winner tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A 'Simple' Way to Get Organized - and Be Green!

Remember when I promised a CSN product review a few weeks ago? Well, the review is finally here!

CSN Stores' website is chocked full of quality, reasonably priced home gadgets, furniture, kitchenware and much, much more. I was fortunate enough to pick something affordable from CSN's website, courtesy of the company. In true Michelle fashion, I chose something not only economical, but also simple and useful.

Yes, a Simplehuman grocery bag holder. Here's why I chose it: Buying trash bags for smaller trash cans (i.e. for office, bathroom, etc.) is pointless when you can save plastic bags from grocery stores and other shopping trips. I save almost every plastic bag I bring home, but had been shoving them into the back of one of my kitchen drawers - which clearly wasn't working.

Because of this stress-inducing drawer clutter, I knew the grocery bag holder would help me get organized - and save more plastic bags than my kitchen drawer could ever fit. After contemplating a few areas of my apartment to hang the grocery bag holder, I finally settled on my linen/extra-bathroom-storage closet, right next to my bathroom. (Please note, the grocery bag holder is hung upside down - this is what happens when a.) you rush, and b.) the adhesive on such a contraption is super-glue-sticky). Oops.

The holder really works both ways, though - I can still easily put the plastic bags in the middle pocket, and pull them out from the bottom opening. Phew!

This grocery bag holder makes my bag storage so much more organized. It's just such a convenient, easy-to-store contraption, and encourages me to save more plastic bags than I previously would have, for storage reasons. And, since I hung this in the closet right next to my bathroom, it makes grabbing a new bathroom "trash bag" extra convenient. My kitchen drawer is also pleased with this new purchase.

Now I have a little extra storage space in my very tiny kitchen - which will go a long way. Trust me.

What tools/methods do you use to make your living space organized?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chickpea Burgers

It's amazing what an $0.89 can of chickpeas can be turned into.

The other night, I transformed a can of chickpeas that was sitting into my pantry into four, flavorful chickpea burgers. The process was simple: Mash the chickpeas with a combination of diced onions, garlic and a slew of spices; form the mixture into four patties; grill them; and eat. Easy, healthy and satisfying. 

Chickpea Burgers
Yields: 4 burgers
-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1/4 cup diced onion
-2 tablespoons dried parsley
-1 tablespoon cumin
-Pinch cayenne pepper
-2/3 cup plain bread crumbs
-1 teaspoon minced garlic
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-1 egg
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-4 whole wheat hamburger buns, lightly toasted

1.) In a food processor, pulse the chickpeas, onions, parsley, cumin, and cayenne until combined and mostly smooth.
2.) Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the bread crumbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir in the egg and form the mixture into four patties, about 2/3-inch thick each.
3.) In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the burgers for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook for 3 minutes more (or until golden brown on each side). 
4.) Serve on toasted burger buns. (Optional: slather my Vegan Cilantro Mayo on the buns for extra flavor).

The end result was a beautiful mix of textures, flavors and full-on protein. These babies are definitely becoming a staple in my kitchen!

Side note: Don't forget to enter my Gourmoo Cookoff Challenge giveaway - you could win a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gourmoo Cookoff Dinner Party Challenge + a Giveaway!!

I have always been lactose-intolerant. I was "that kid" at birthday parties growing up popping the white, chalky Lactaid pills before digging into the party pizza.

So, when Moovision approached me and asked if I'd like to promote their Gourmoo Cookoff Dinner Party Challenge - which promotes recipes using Lactaid Milk - I happily obliged. Gourmoo Cookoff consists of five episode challenges: Appetizer, Side Dish, Entrée, Dessert and the Wild Card finale. For this week, I'm hosting my own “Gourmoo Cookoff Dinner Party Challenge” on The EE to correspond with the Appetizer Challenge. My mission: Watch the video below, critique it, and enter my own recipe/dish that I would have entered into the challenge if I was competing.

I thought most of the contestants in this appetizer challenge really created delicious-looking dishes that most people would think would be impossible to make with trace amounts of lactose. Nicole's Blue Cheese Sweet Potato Chips, for instance, seem like a fairly easy dish, but it's great to know someone like me can enjoy it with wanting to rip out our intestines afterwards (too graphic?).

Robert's Mediterranean Spread with Garlic Bread didn't really scream "creativity" to me, and I agree with the judges that his bread slices were overly thick and large. Morena's Thai Galanga and Mushroom Soup, as well as Laurie's Pan Seared Scallops with Johnny Cakes, seemed the most innovative to me. I had hoped Laurie would win, as her appetizer also seemed the easiest to eat - think standing over a cocktail table - so I think the judges made the right decision in the end. I just wish each contestant gave a little more description on how Lactaid Milk played a central role in their dish.

If I had participated in this challenge, I would make my own variation of a Cheese Herb Dip. Personally, I refused to ever give up cheese, even when my lactose-intolerance was at its worst. No one should ever go without cheese. My recipe would consist of some plain Greek yogurt - which is easier on the stomach than, say, sour cream - a little bit of fresh goat cheese, lemon juice, Lactaid milk, chopped parsley, chopped green onions, chopped chives, some fresh thyme and rosemary, and salt and black pepper to taste. Throw it all in a food processor, mix well, and serve with baguette slices. Elegant and stomach-friendly.

Now - what does any of this have to do with you guys?? You have the chance to enter my GIVEAWAY!!!! Courtesy of Moovision, I am giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and $25 worth of Lactaid Milk coupons to one lucky EE reader. To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post about what appetizer featuring lactose-free milk you'd make for this challenge. For additional entries, tweet "I entered @MichellePC's giveaway for @Moovision's #GourmooCookoff Challenge!" Winner will be picked and announced by me, at random, on February 22nd. Good luck!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Valentine's Day Surprise

In honor of Valentine's Day, Z surprised me with dinner at Rafiki Bistro in Porter Square. And I mean surprised me.

For two weeks, he wouldn't tell me where we were going for dinner, but I knew we had reservations at 8 p.m. - and that I was supposed to wear a dress. So when Z drove us up to Cambridge Common last night around 7:45, I was insanely confused. We walked inside, sat at the bar, ordered a round of beers, and Z kept saying how we needed to drink fast so we could be seated - at Cambridge Common - for 8.

Now, I love Cambridge Common, but....for Valentine's Day dinner? Not so much. Needless to say, I was very relieved when Z had me follow him out of Cambridge Common at 7:59 and walked me across the street to Rafiki Bistro.

Rafiki Bistro describes themselves like this on their website:

Rafiki Bistro is designed to become an outlet of choice by providing a community-based location to socialize while offering a highly competitive organic food and beverage service with an underlying agenda of social responsibility and environmental stewardship. Rafiki Bistro has special appeal to community members that understand that the products and services they choose can positively influence issues of social justice, environmentalism and sustainable business practices.

Now that's a mission I can get behind! Last night, for the holiday, Rafiki had a prix fixe, four-course menu with a vegetarian option for each course. Z and I's dinner consisted of carrot ginger soup, salad with arugula, goat cheese and beets, and mushroom ravioli. The carrot ginger soup was beautifully spiced, the dressing on the arugula salad was incredibly light and flavorful, and the mushroom ravioli? Well, let's just say the serving was heaping and I would have given anything to lick my plate clean.

For dessert, we had three options, and I chose the black and white mousse cake, while Z went for the apple tart. The mousse was wonderful - creamy, decadent and elegant - and Z's tart was also delicious, based off the one small bite I had. 

The price for this prix fixe menu for two was also only $95 - which my lovely boyfriend footed the bill for - which isn't a bad price tag for local, organic eats in a more formal setting.

The waitstaff at Rafiki was also very friendly and accommodating, and I was pleasantly surprised at their beer menu, which consisted of some great local craft brews.

All in all, it was a lovely Valentine's Day - despite the short-lived scare at Cambridge Common. :)

How did you celebrate Valentine's Day?

Rafiki Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 14, 2011

Vegetarian Ventures: Gardein's Santa Fe Good Stuff Chik'n

Hooray for a new feature on The EE! Every few weeks, I will be highlighting a new affordable, vegetarian-friendly product/food/ingredient that I've discovered, with my review of it. I think this will be a fun way for the former omnivore in me to share my challenges, successes and discoveries with you all as I transition into a vegetarian lifestyle.

For today's post, I am reviewing one of Gardein's "fresh" products: Santa Fe Good Stuff chik'n.

Courtesy of

I had heard good things about Gardein's products, so I was really excited to give their stuffed chik'n a try. However, once I opened the box I immediately became skeptical. The chik'n, which looked like an egg-shaped blob, was sealed in a plastic bag, waiting to be slit open and microwaved for two and a half minutes. A zesty tomato sauce came with it - thank god - and when I opened the microwave to put the sauce on the chik'n, I was overpowered with the smell of fake. Still willing to give it a shot, I waited for the chik'n to cook, took it to my table, and dug in.

The texture of Gardein's chik'n actually was very similar to actual chicken. But nothing else about this product was similar to chicken. The taste had an overwhelming flavor of soy that was thankfully a little hidden by the tasty sauce and black bean and corn filling. I was happy to discover, though, that this one small piece of chik'n packed 19 grams of protein - especially because I had half a day of snowboarding left to do. 

Overall, Gardein's Santa Fe Good Stuff was not my favorite. I've had other chik'n products that don't taste so...vegetarian. Gardein has a whole slew of products that I'm willing to try, but now I'm just extra skeptical. 

What new foods have you tried recently? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Malaysian-Inspired Tofu Curry

How am I fairing so far as a vegetarian? After last night's dinner - pretty damn well.

I'm discovering that vegetarian cooking is all about enhancing the flavors and textures of each and every dish. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, an award-winning cookbook that I gave to Z for Christmas this year, is a hardcover masterpiece that drives this culinary point home. Z and I finally broke into his cookbook last night, and decided to make the Malaysian-Inspired Tofu Curry - mainly because it took 20 minutes to cook and we were starving. We only made a few variations, too, based off what we already had in the kitchen.

Malaysian-Inspired Tofu Curry
Yields: 3-4 servings

-1 15 oz. package firm tofu
-2 13.5 oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk
-1 tsp. light brown sugar
-1 tbsp. ground coriander
-2 tsp. curry powder
-1/2 tsp. turmeric
(Original recipe calls for 1 tsp. taramind paste)
-1/4 tsp. cayenne
-2 large garlic cloves, minced
-1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger (original recipe calls for 1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger)
-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
-4 scallions, chopped
-Juice of 1 lime
-Cilantro (we used dried)
-Salt, to taste

1.) Drain, then dice the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes.
2.) Combine the coconut milk, brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, spices, (tamarind paste, if using), garlic and ginger in a medium skillet. Boil for 1 minute, then add the tofu. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3.) Add the tomatoes and scallions and simmer for approximately 10 minutes more. Add the lime juice and taste for salt.
4.) Served garnished with fresh cilantro (or dried, in our case).

Creamy, spicy and comforting, with plenty of vibrant colors and varying textures. I could curl up on the couch with a bowl of this every other night. We enjoyed our tofu curry with some warmed naan, which was a beautiful choice. 

I could get used to eating like this every night!

What's your favorite cookbook that you own? 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Friday Night at PJ Ryan's

My cousin, Carolan, and I made plans Friday night to catch up over dinner and some drinks. After a few emails back and forth debating where to go, Carolan suggested meeting up at PJ Ryan's in Teele Square in Somerville. I had never been to PJ Ryan's before, and gladly agreed to meet there.

Parking was easy to find in Teele Square, and I was pleasantly surprised at the casual, pub-like atmosphere at PJ's. The crowd in the place was mixed - older men sipping brews with who seemed like their life-long buddies, as well as plenty of twenty-somethings stopping in for a quick bite or just a beer. Carolan and I made ourselves comfortable at the bar, and I ordered a Guinness to start the cold, wintery night off right.

The smell of golden, crispy fries filled the air at PJ Ryan's, which inspired me to order the Sharp Cheddar sandwich (about $8) - which came with fries - and was dressed with beef steak tomatoes. The sandwich was also supposed to have a beer and mustard spread, but that seemed to be missing - but I wasn't too disappointed. This was the best damn grilled cheese I've had to date.

That may sound like a heavy statement, but when the cheese is high quality, the bread tastes freshly baked, and the tomatoes are at their freshest, nothing beats it. And alongside those crispy, almost-perfect fries, I was in pub grub heaven. Plus, the cost of this sandwich and fries was less than some of the appetizers on PJ's menu - so it just made more sense to get the high quantity of food for less money. 

All in all, it was a great night filled with great conversation, delicious food, and a fun atmosphere for a casual Friday night. 

Carolan and I.

What did you do this weekend?

Pj Ryan's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Super Bowl Beer Cheese Spread

Ah, the Super Bowl. Such an overrated, another-excuse-to-drink-and-eat sports game. But hey, I can't complain - I had some good eats this past Sunday thanks to the football festivities!

A bunch of us headed to Z's to watch the game on the his big screen television. Most people brought their own drinks, but the menu consisted of spicy con queso dip with tortilla chips; homemade guacamole, courtesy of my friend Christine; and, the star of the evening, the homemade Beer Cheese Spread that Z and I made. Talk about delicious.

Z found this recipe for the Beer Cheese Spread (scroll down the page to see recipe), and we only altered it slightly. He didn't have any paprika on hand, so we replaced that with chili powder. We also used Dale's Pale Ale hot sauce, which Z had bought previously at the Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont. And although we almost skipped the celery seed - I highly recommend you do not. The flavor makes a big difference.

We spread this creamy, tangy, decadent beer cheese on small slices of baguette. The dish made a more elegant and filling snack to munch on while watching the big game.

What food did you make for the Super Bowl? 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Second Helping Roasted Chickpea Pasta

Earlier this week, I realized I had way too many roasted chickpeas leftover, and I knew I'd get sick of them if I just snacked on them all day. To make use of them, and incorporate them in a new, different recipe, I decided to combine them with pasta.

I had received a bag of tri-colored pasta for Christmas, and decided to boil half of it in some salted water for this meal. In a separate saucepan, I cooked up some chopped onions with some olive oil, until they were translucent and started to brown. I then added some minced garlic, salt, black pepper and oregano to the sauce. After cooking this together for about a minute, I added the chickpeas and a little extra olive oil. When the pasta was just about done, I added a splash of white wine to the sauce and cooked it off for about 30 seconds.

I drained the pasta when it was just past al dente, and added it to the saucepan - which I immediately took off the heat. I stirred everything together, added some grated parmesan, and poured my pasta into a bowl. 

Despite how simple this dish was to make, I can't get over how delicious it was. The combination of the crispy, slightly spicy chickpeas with the soft pasta, all coated in the light and refreshing sauce, was comforting without being overly filling. Now that I'm not eating meat, I also liked how the chickpeas added a tasty protein to this otherwise protein-less dish.

Have you ever combined chickpeas with pasta? Are you a fan?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pet Peeves and Parathas at Diva Indian Bistro

Earlier this week, Z and I tried using one of our Groupons at Red Bones - which was as packed as a sardine can - so we used another one of our Groupons right up the street at Diva Indian Bistro.

We were both excited to try Diva's food, but had both read pretty negative reviews about their service. I walked in expecting the best, however, as to not let other people's opinions put a damper on my experience.

Upon walking in, the host oddly sat us next to one of the only other tables in the place with patrons at it. Z asked if we could have a booth, on the opposite side of the restaurant, and the host led us to our booth silently.

We easily shook off this instance, and ordered a round of beers. Much to our disappointment, Diva was out of just about every beer on their menu, including the Indian varieties. Without much choice, I ordered a Harpoon IPA and Z ordered a Sam Adams lager.

For our meal,  Z and I split three plates, including the Diva Vegetarian Platter ($8.95), Masala Dosa ($11.95), and Punjabi Paratha ($2.95).

The presentation for the vegetarian platter was sad, but everything on the plate was seasoned beautifully and cooked perfectly. The platter included vegetable pakoras, samosa, tikki and cheese pakora, with two different kinds of sauces for dipping. 

There's no better way to say this: I heart masala dosa. I mean, what's better than spicy, soft potatoes and onions wrapped in a light, airy crepe? Diva's version could feed an army, too, and we asked for it extra spicy - which is what we got. Z, who studied abroad in India during college, even commented that Diva's masala dosa was the closest to authentic that he's had in Boston. Well done, Diva. 

Since we were on a carb rampage this particular evening, the Punjabi Parathas totally hit the spot. Multi-layered, whole wheat bread cooked with butter on a griddle, these babies tasted as comforting and delicious as they sound. We asked our waiter if we could have some dipping sauces for our parathas, and he gladly obliged, which made them that much tastier. 

Our dinner at Diva was definitely a wonderful experience, and I was pleasantly surprised at the diverse, authentic Indian options on their menu - but some aspects of the restaurant could use a little work. The first beer glass I was given, for instance, looked like it had never been cleaned, and I think the presentation for our vegetable platter could have been much more impressive.

Have you ever dined at Diva? What's your review?

Diva on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dinner Party Recipes

I realize I teased all of you with the photos of my appetizer/dinner party food yesterday, so here are the recipes - including the directions on how to create the olive penguins!

First up: Roasted Chickpeas, which I first discovered on Michelle's blog.  

Roasted Chickpeas
Yields: 8 servings

-2 (12 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 tablespoon ground cumin
-1 ½ tsp. chili powder
-1 tsp. dried oregano
-½ tsp. ground ginger
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2.) Stir together the chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Spread the chickpea mixture in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
3.) Roast in the preheated oven until the chickpeas are dark brown in spots, crisp, and have shrunk quite a bit, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Next up: Black Bean Hummus. This recipe inspired my recipe.

Black Bean Hummus
Yield: 8 servings

-1  tbsp. minced garlic
-2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
-1  teaspoon  ground cumin
-1  (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1  small jalapeño pepper, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
-Pinch of cayenne pepper
-½ tsp. dried cilantro
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-2  teaspoons  extra-virgin olive oil

1.) Place garlic, lemon juice, cumin, salt, black pepper, cayenne, black beans, jalapeño pepper and cilantro in food processor; process until smooth.
2.) Spoon bean mixture into a medium bowl, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with more dried cilantro. Serve with pita chips.

And, the grand finale: Olive Penguins!

Directions, courtesy of my mother:

-Take a slice of carrot for the base; cut out a pie slice piece for the beak; remainder of carrot is for the feet (base).
-Make a slit down the front of 1 olive and fill with cream cheese (squeezed from a bag) for the body
-Make a tiny slit across another olive and slide pie slice carrot in for beak
-Stack onto carrot base with a toothpick


What are some of your favorite dishes to make for a dinner/appetizer party?