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The Passionate Pursuit of Delight

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Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip (Htipiti)

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

You want easy and healthy recipes, right? Well, I am happy to tell you that you will love this recipe. This feta and roasted red pepper dip comes together very quickly. You only need to give a quick chop to the roasted red peppers, shallot, garlic, and feta then combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. You will be sitting outside on your patio with a delicious snack and glass of wine in no time at all!

If you travel to Washington DC, you may have heard of or eaten at Zaytinya, one of chef Jose Andres’s many fine restaurants. Zaytinya serves Mediterranean small plates and if you have the chance to go, do it! The food is delicious. But, if your travel plans do not include a trip to DC in the near future, you can still experience a taste of Zaytinya in your own kitchen.

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This dip would be perfect on a mezze platter. Mezze refers to a collection of small plates that are served with drinks. All you need is a large platter or cutting board that you will add fresh pita or pita chips, cucumber slices, hummus, olives, and the feta and roasted red pepper dip. If you feel like preparing a second small dish, I would recommend these za’atar roasted tomatoes and perhaps some tzatziki, a yogurt cucumber sauce.

How to Assemble a Mezze Platter

Check out this video if you need a little inspiration on putting together a mezze platter. When I need inspiration, I love looking at posts from Tieghan of Half-baked Harvest. She is masterful at creating boards like this Mediterranean Platter. I also think Gaby’s Mezze Platter from What’s Gaby Cooking is lovely.

Furthermore, serving a mezze platter is a wonderful way to entertain.  You can think of a assembling a mezze platter much like putting together a cheese board (albeit much less expensive to assemble). Chill a bottle of white wine, open a bottle of red to breathe, and have a few beers in the fridge. All that is left to do is to invite a few friends over.

Feta & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes with Pita Chips

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Za’atar. Doesn’t it just sound exotic? Do not be put off by this unfamiliar Middle Eastern spice mixture. Za’atar is combination of dried herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and savory, mixed with sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. It is delicious and works perfectly on these za’atar roasted tomatoes!

I used za’atar to season the roasted tomatoes and on the pita chips that I baked for this post. Za’atar is available at Middle Eastern markets or on Amazon. If you are ambitious, you can make your own.

 

I love the flavors of Middle Eastern food. That love can be traced back to trip to Las Vegas many years ago.  I had a remarkable meal at Neyla, a fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant that sadly is now closed. That night at Neyla, we enjoyed mezze as our meal.  Mezze is an assortment of small plates, think tapas, but with Middle Eastern flavors.

That first experience with Middle Eastern food started a life-long love affair for me. I sought out Middle Eastern restaurants to try in Salt Lake City and in other cities when I traveled. For the record, when in Salt Lake City, I recommend visiting Mazza for an incredible Lebanese feast.

In addition to trying meals at Middle Eastern restaurants, I also began trying to make Middle Eastern foods at home. Back before you could Google a recipe, cookbooks were the main source for exploring the recipes of a new cuisine.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms

I was inspired to write this post after recently reading the fabulous cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood. The mezze section of the cookbook is filled with traditional Lebanese small plate recipes, including a write-up on how to peel chickpeas for super smooth hummus.

As an aside, I actually read this article from Serious Eats on making the smoothest hummus ever and I decided to try it.  The kicker is that the article said that peeling the chickpeas is the essential step that makes the hummus so smooth. So yes, I PEELED the chickpeas, all the while muttering to myself, ‘why the hell am I peeling the chickpeas’? I will be damned if that hummus wasn’t the most incredibly smooth hummus that I have ever made. That being said, peeling chickpeas is rather tedious and time-consuming.

Abood’s method seems more efficient than the one that I used which was standing their peeling them one by one. Next time I make hummus, I will try to her method and let you guys know how it goes.

How to Make Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes

If you enjoy Middle Eastern food, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of Rose Water and Orange Blossoms. However, in the meantime, feel free to give these delicious za’atar roasted tomatoes and baked pita chips a try. You can add a bowl hummus and an assortment of olives and enjoy a wonderful mezze of your own.

How to Make Baked Pita Chips

3 pita breads

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon za’atar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With pita bread lying flat on a cutting board, split the bread in half horizontally so you have two thin rounds. Repeat with the two other pita breads.
  3. Place rounds on two sheet pans. Place olive oil, salt, pepper, and za’atar into a small bowl. Brush each pita round with olive oil mixture.
  4. Bake until golden. Start checking the pita rounds around 7 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to handle.
  6. Gently break up the rounds into pieces.

NOTE: You can also cut the pita rounds into eight wedges before you coat with oil and bake. I prefer the more rustic look of breaking the pitas up into uneven pieces.

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

 

Let’s be real here. I heart anything that I can scoop in a tortilla chip. If that scoopable dip contains seafood then I am over the moon. So, you can imagine my excitement as I prepped this shrimp and corn ceviche.

Sometimes, I will go on a bender of good health and stuff delicious fillings into leaves of lettuce (Romaine and Boston Leaf being my favs) instead of chips. Other times, I just want to scoop up delicious fillings into crisp, salty tortilla chips. I fall completely into the salty camp and would trade you cookies, cakes, and brownies for chips, nuts, and cheese any day of the week.

In the interest of full disclosure, this recipe would be at its best during summer when you could score fresh corn from the farmers market and roast it on the grill but it is also possible to make this dip year-round using frozen fire-roasted corn.

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

You can make this shrimp and corn ceviche several hours or a day ahead of when you plan to serve it. This makes it an ideal dish for parties or potlucks.

I used an orange as the citrus in the recipe but you could also use grapefruit if you preferred. Blood oranges would also make a dramatic and visually appealing substitution in this shrimp and corn ceviche recipe.

In addition to serving shrimp and corn ceviche as a dip or filling in a lettuce cup, you could also top the ceviche onto a bed of greens for a light lunch. I would serve the shrimp and corn ceviche with a crisp white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or a summer beer such as a Hefeweizen.

As the weather warms up, what are your favorite recipes, drinks, and music to listen to while you enjoy the sun-filled days? Drop a comment below and let’s get this warm-weather party started!

How to Make Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Aren’t sliders adorable? I think most things in miniature form are cuter than their full size counterparts. Think babies, puppies, kitties, and burgers. However, why should meat-eaters have all the slider fun? They shouldn’t, right?

Now that we are in agreement on that, let’s talk about these Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing. Boiling the beets along with a variety of aromatics imparts great flavor into the beets. The Green Goddess Dressing is creamy, herby, and delicious, which complements the earthiness of the beets. Red onions offer crunch and bite to the slider. The combination is top notch.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I estimate that approximately 99% of slider recipes that I come across feature some sort of meat filling. You know that I am always up for a challenge. Therefore, I want to create delicious options for vegetarian sliders. These Beet Sliders are not only gorgeous; they are perfect to eat while drinking a glass of wine or a beer and listening to Budos Band.

I would plan to serve two to three sliders per person for a perfect small plate offering. I adore small plates. Small plates always feel like a party. I would much rather have a few small plates than one entrée any day. Honestly, every day that would be my preference. Small plates are perfect for the chronically indecisive, possibly commitment challenged.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I digress. Let’s move on the these sliders. The key to any burger is getting the bun and burger to match up in size. Be sure that your beets are as big in the widest part as the bun they will eventually sit on. Once the beets are cooked and peeled, you will want to slice them into about one-inch rounds.

While the beets cook, whip up the ingredients for the Green Goddess dressing and thinly slice part of a red onion. I always recommend wearing latex or rubber gloves when working with beets. Beets stain everything they encounter so exercise care when preparing them.

If you are beet lover, you may want to check out these other recipes:

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

 

Parmesan Prosciutto Twists

Parmesan Prosciutto Twists

I always have a box or two of puff pastry in my freezer. It is a staple because you can use it to make delicious sweet or savory foods. I am especially fond of using puff pastry for savory snacks to accompany drinks when friends come over. Wouldn’t these Parmesan Prosciutto Twists be delicious with a glass of wine?

Parmesan Prosciutto TwistsI would also love to serve them with soup. You could dip the Parmesan Prosciutto twists in the soup. Yum! It might even be better than dipping a grilled cheese sandwich in tomato soup. However, last weekend I made these Parmesan Prosciutto twists for brunch and served them with sunny side up eggs. Twists and yolks for the win. Am I right? Wouldn’t they also be elegant served with soft-boiled eggs in those adorable decorative egg cups?

Parmesan Prosciutto TwistsFor those of you do not eat meat, you can simply omit the Prosciutto from this recipe to make a delicious vegetarian twist.

Puff pastry is easy to work with so try it if you have not worked with it before. You will find it in the freezer section of your grocery store. Then, store it in the freezer until needed. I typically remove it from the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw the night before I plan to use it.

Parmesan Prosciutto Twists

If you like cooking with puff pastry, you may want to check out this recipe for Winter Squash & Havarti Puffs.

Parmesan Prosciutto Twists

Bloody Marys for a Crowd

Bloody Marys for a Crowd

How often do you need to make one bloody Mary? My guess is not very often. Sometimes, on a lazy Sunday we make up two Bloody Marys, and, on occasion, we will make a second round. But, it seems as though we most often make Bloody Marys when there is a crowd. Sometimes we want to make Bloody Marys when we have friends or family over for a weekend brunch. Other times, we want to make them when our group is camping out in the mountains eagerly awaiting breakfast by the campfire.

We love our Bloody Mary recipe but I hated having to make up each cocktail individually when I was making them for a group. Therefore, a few weekends ago, I did some math, tested the recipe (twice!), and came up with the proportions for making our delicious Bloody Marys for a crowd. You are welcome!

These Bloody Marys are spicy, savory, and delicious. Use your favorite Bloody Mary mix as a base for the Bloody Marys. Then, add some infused vodka. You can buy commercially prepared infused vodka but I would encourage you to infuse your own. We used this recipe from Bon Appetit for Black Pepper and Horseradish infused vodka.  It turned out so good! Of course, you can just use all plain vodka but adding the infused vodka and Bacardi Limon take these Bloody Marys to the next level.

Bloody Marys for a Crowd

How to Make Bloody Marys for a Crowd

Another important consideration when making Bloody Marys for a group is your garnishes. Because part of the fun of drinking a Bloody Mary is its rather theatrical presentation of all the garnishes. I did a quick search for Bloody Marys within Pinterest  and was floored by what I saw.  In addition to the usual assortment of olives. limes, and celery, I found sliders, slices of pizza, and fried chicken. I am not suggesting you should go to that extreme but do feel free to exercise your creative muscle and garnish your Bloody Marys with foods that you like and want to eat.  We love to throw a few unexpected items in our Bloody Marys like cheese curds, strips of cooked bacon, or pretzel rods.

In the comments below, let me know how you like your Bloody Marys and what your favorite garnishes are.

If you are looking for food pairings to go with the Bloody Marys, might I suggest:

Asparagus Fries

Asparagus Fries

Spring is in the air! Can you feel it? On the other hand, maybe it is just me willing it here. Winter just isn’t my bag. I can get into a little snow around Christmas but beyond that, I am ready for it to disappear for another eleven months and three weeks.

As I daydream about spring, I think about gardening, daffodils extending from the ground and showing off their pretty faces to the sun, and spring vegetables. Is there anything better than asparagus, peas, radishes, and greens? Well, perhaps, garden tomatoes and corn but right now after a long, cold, and super snowy winter, I crave all things springtime.

We have a friend named Denny who is in his seventies and who knows some secret spots in old orchards near his home where asparagus grow wild. GROWS WILD! I am such a city girl that it never crossed my mind that asparagus would grow wild. I know now that it does, and if I am lucky, he will feel healthy enough to go asparagus hunting this spring. He loves to pickle the asparagus (bloody Marys!) but sometimes he will show up at my door with a bag of asparagus that he has picked.

Asparagus fries

The orchards near his home seem to be getting smaller each year. Families sell off the land and developers build homes in their place, which makes me sad. So, even if you don’t have a source of wild asparagus available to you, at this time of year, grocery stores start selling asparagus at decent prices. I buy bunches of it in the spring. I love it steamed with lemon, roasted with olive oil and seasonings, or dipped in eggs and dredged in spices and panko. I added chipotle chili powder and cayenne to the seasonings which adds some heat. You can skip those if you don’t want the fries to have a kick.

Asparagus fries are wonderful appetizers to serve with drinks. They also make a beautiful accompaniment to seafood. I like to pick them up with my fingers and dip them into a complementary sauce. In the pictures in this post, I dipped into a spicy mango sauce, which is delicious. You can also dip them into warm marinara sauce or garlicky aioli. I also think that they would be delicious with Asian-inspired peanut sauce. I especially love Ina Garten’s peanut sauce.

 

How to make Asparagus Fries

How to make Spicy Mango Sauce

Spicy Mango Sauce

Here is the link to my post on how to make spicy mango sauce or you can follow the directions below.

Ingredients

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced

¾ cup canned coconut milk

1 tablespoon Sriracha

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 lime, juice and zest

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

½  teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Place ingredients for sauce in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Put sauce in a canning jar or covered container for one hour.

Asparagus Fries

Coconut Shrimp

Coconut Shrimp

Coconut shrimp. I adore this easy and elegant appetizer.  The coconut and panko are a crunchy coating to the tender and sweet shrimp. The recipe comes together in very little time and is quite a stunner on the table. You could also easily double the recipe, serve with rice and veggies, and enjoy a scrumptious meal.

I will always have a sweet spot in my heart for coconut shrimp. It was one of my father’s favorite foods. That may not mean much to you but my father was one of those people who considered food as not much more than fuel. He wasn’t the most satisfying person to cook for because when you asked him what he thought of a meal you had prepared for him his most common response was ‘it was okay.’

Coconut ShrimpA

Nevertheless, he did love coconut shrimp. I will admit that I often cringed when he ordered the deep-fried version of coconut shrimp out at a restaurant. Therefore, I began testing recipes where I baked the coconut shrimp rather than fried it in oil.

I made him this version numerous times and often received the elusive compliment that he thought it was delicious. You can pair these shrimp with commercially prepared mango salsa (I like Costco’s) for a quick dipping sauce. On the other hand, you can easily blend up the spicy mango dipping sauce recipe listed below and have enough left over to dip all kinds of crazy delicious foods into it.

Coconut Shrimp

Pairing the coconut shrimp with this spicy mango sauce is new for me though. My father probably would not be crazy about it but I love it. You get a little bit of sweet from the mango and coconut milk and some heat from the Sriracha and chipotle chili powder. I think it is a perfect complement to the shrimp and it could not be easier to pull together.

How to Make Coconut Shrimp

Coconut Shrimp

Spicy Mango Sauce

Here is the link to my post on how to make spicy mango sauce or you can follow the directions below.

Ingredients

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced

¾ cup canned coconut milk

1 tablespoon Sriracha

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 lime, juice and zest

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1/2  teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Place ingredients for sauce in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Put sauce in a canning jar or covered container for one hour.

Coconut Shrimp

If you are interested in other Asian-inspired recipes, here are few to try:

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus recently on her Food Network television show Giada Entertains. I grabbed my computer during the episode and searched for the recipe on the Food Network website.

I was able to locate the recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus but the photograph of the food on the website seemed a disservice to the appetizer that Giada demonstrated on her show. Isn’t the photo above of the Roasted Carrot Hummus much more appealing than the one posted below from the Food Network website?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

The photo of Roasted Carrot Hummus from the Food Network website

The experience that I had watching Giada’s show and many other similar experiences on the Food Network website inspired the new series that I am starting today. The focus of this series is take awesome recipes from the Food Network and to cook them at home. Then, the important part, we are going to take good photos of the recipes. The Food Network’s website has consistently terrible photos of their recipes. Did I mention that?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I often feel frustrated when I want to pin a recipe from Food Network to my Pinterest account. The photographs of the food that come up are rather uninspired. I work hard to curate Pinterest boards that are full of tantalizing recipes and sometimes I won’t pin a recipe despite how good it sounds because the photo is bad.

So, I am taking on the challenge of a photography project to create beautiful photos of recipes that I see on the Food Network. This way I can pin the recipe and hopefully give the recipe the Pinterest love that it deserves.

Next up in this photography challenge

Here are few examples of delicious-sounding recipes that are paired with sad photos on the Food Network website. I plan to make and photograph these over the next few months.

Parmesan Pomodoro

Original photo from Food Network website

Rigatoni with Greens

Original photo from Food Network website

Southwestern Potato Salad

Original photo from Food Network website

See what I mean? Life is too short to post recipes with mediocre pictures.

Don’t you think the pin below would get a lot more repins on Pinterest than the one next to it?  This is important if you are an avid Pinterest user.

If you come across a poorly photographed recipe on the Food Network, shoot me an email with a link to the recipe and I will add it to the list of recipes that need to be photographed again. Also, I need a good hashtag for this project. If you can think of something clever, leave me a comment below.

Onto to the recipe, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe. I added tahini, cumin, and reduced the amount of oil.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Tator Tot Poutine

Tator Tot Poutine

It’s time for some real talk. You guys know that I typically focus on whole food, plant-based recipes here on Hello Fun Seekers. But sometimes you need something else. Call it comfort food or Super Bowl food, or whatever you need to justify this delicious but in no-way-healthy dish.

I want to share with you guys a dirty little secret of mine. I love tator tots, despite the fact that they represent everything that I hate in food. Frankenfood. This is what I like to call processed food made in a factory that bears little resemblance to the natural food from whence it came. What the hell are those ingredients?

Tator Tot Poutine

That being said, I love tator tots. I can’t help myself. But, I do try to limit my tator tot fix to the occasional treat. This recipe is nod to our neighbors to the North. Canadians have an unparalleled level of expertise on hockey, beer, and poutine. For the uninitiated, poutine is traditionally a snack of French fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy.

In general, I am not a fan of fried foods and never fry food in my kitchen. The mess! The smell! No thank you. But, I can get 100% behind baking a tray of tots. See the note in the recipe for tips on crisping up baked tots.

Tator Tot Poutine

The key to this Tator Tot Poutine is timing. You want all the components to come together at the same time. Layering the hot Tater Tots, room temperature cheese curds, and bubbling gravy all come together is the key to successful poutine. So, be sure to have all your ingredients prepped and think through the timing of this dish so it will be perfect.

If you are looking for other comfort food or Super Bowl recipes, may I recommend?

Tator Tot Poutine

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