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Shakshuka

Shakshuka-4

Shakshuka has an unusual name that may not roll off the tongue easily at first but believe me once you make this you will be shakshuka-ing all the time. Shakshuka is a dish that is popular in North Africa and the Middle East. Basically, the dish consists of eggs poached in tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and various spices.

Shakshuka is incredibly versatile and can be served for dinner or brunch. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples and from start to finish you can make this meal in just over 30 minutes. Plus, when you are done your kitchen will smell like heaven. I kid you not.

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One unusual element of this dish is using a large can of whole, peeled tomatoes. I like to pour the whole can into a large bowl and crush the tomatoes by hand before adding them to the skillet.  This process adds not only the terrific flavor from the whole tomatoes but provides the sauce a beautiful rustic texture.

But, be warned, wear an apron or clothes that you don’t care about because it is a messy process. If you hate messes you could also use a pastry blender to break up the tomatoes. But, why not bring out your inner Lucille Ball and smash those babies up like an Italian grandma? Check out this video. This woman gets me.

Having bread to soak up the sauce is crucial. My preference is a nice crusty loaf or fresh warmed pitas. A crisp green salad would round out the meal perfectly.

Last year, a few Hello Fun Seekers readers and I all made shakshuka simultaneously and live-tweeted our progress on Twitter. It was really fun! Would you all be interested in doing something like that from time to time? Let me know in the comments below if you think that sounds like fun.

How to Make Shakshuka

Shakshuka

Southwestern Potato Salad

Southwestern Potato Salad

Once the sunlight grows long in the evenings after Daylight Savings Time, my brain automatically moves into summer mode. The sloth in me suddenly disappears and I want to do all the things outside.

One of those things that I must start doing immediately is cooking out of doors. I dust off the BBQ grill and start planning get-togethers with family and friends. BBQ time means potato salad time. However, this Southwestern Potato Salad recipe is not some ordinary potato salad, it is a kicked up version full of flavors you love from southwestern cuisine.

Southwestern Potato Salad

Bobby Flay’s recipe for Southwestern Potato Salad on the Food Network website was the inspiration for this recipe. Once again, I found the photo associated with the recipe on their website lacking. Admittedly, potato salad is not the most photogenic dish in the world but I challenged myself to improve the recipe and photo.

I added roasted chilies to the potato salad that I am surprised that Bobby had not included in his version. I also added hard-boiled eggs to garnish the top of the potato salad because my people love hard-boiled eggs. If your people do not love hard-boiled eggs, you can omit them.

Southwestern Potato SaladHere are few other recipes that I found on Food Network’s website that I had to make and photograph in order to pin it to Pinterest. You will understand why this important if you are a Pinterest user. If you are not an avid Pinterest user, but want to be (and you should) then hit me up. I will help you down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest. It is so fun, I promise!

If you ever see any Food Network recipes that have no pictures or worse yet, terrible pictures, drop me a note with the link. I am up for the challenge!

Southwestern Potato Salad

Kicked-up Goat Cheese Queso

Goat Cheese Queso Recipe inspired by Cooking Light

I don’t trust people that don’t like queso. How on earth can you resist the warm, cheesy goodness? I know that I can’t resist a bowl that is for damn sure. Queso and tortilla chips are up there at the top of my comfort -food list.  Queso is a perfect snack for game time, which if you are sports-obsessed like us, you are always perfecting your queso game.

There is much chatter in queso circles about whether to processed cheese product, like Velveeta or Cheese Whiz, makes the perfect queso. Many foodies turn up their noses at the idea and prefer to make their cheese sauce from scratch with real cheese.  I am an equal opportunity queso eater and lover and don’t discriminate against processed cheese product. It is impossible to deny the perfect melting capability of cheese products.

Goat Cheese Queso

But, sometimes, you may want to fancy up your queso. Maybe you are having friends or family over for dinner and want to impress your coworkers at the holiday potluck. If this sounds like you, then you are going to be excited about this goat cheese based queso. The goat cheese gives the queso a nice tang. Another unexpected ingredient in this queso is white beans. The beans give the recipe a healthful boast of fiber and low-fat protein, but they blend into a smooth perfection that is undetectable to those not in the know.

This goat cheese queso also ups the queso cred with the addition of leeks. Have you worked with leeks before? They look like really big green onions but have a mild oniony flavor.  Leeks need to be cut in half from the root all the way to the top. Then, you will run water over each half getting any sand or grit out between the layers. Here’s a video that shows to clean leeks.

I have also found chopped bags of cleaned leeks at Trader Joe’s stores which are a nice short cut if you aren’t feeling Zen about cleaning leeks. If the idea leeks are more than you can bear then you can substitute onions or shallots instead.

Another way to add some health-inducing benefits to this queso is to serve with your favorite chopped vegetables. I recommend thick strips of red bell pepper, cucumber, carrots, and celery, in addition to tortilla chips.

Goat Cheese Queso Pin

Winter Squash & Havarti Puffs

Winter Squash and Havarti Puffs

A neighbor once told me that she had never met anyone who pleasure read cookbooks before she met me. She made that comment years before blogs and the internet were a thing.  I wonder what she would think if she knew how much time I spent perusing food blogs these days. There are a ton of really, really good ones. I mean they not only have delicious-looking recipes but also breath-taking photographs.

This recipe is inspired by the Kabocha and Havarti Pocket recipe on the I Will Not Eat Oysters blog. I was practically drooling when I saw the photos she posted.  Plus, who doesn’t love roasted squash at this time of year? It’s so seasonal, baby!

Winter Squash and Havarti PuffsI have been actively seeking out recipes using winter squash because my friend Laraine had a bumper crop of winter squash this year and generously shared her harvest with me. I used a buttercup squash for this recipe but you could substitute butternut, red kuri, or kabocha squash too.  The process will be the same regardless of which squash you chose. You will want to use a really sharp knife to cut through the hard skin of the winter squash. I quartered the squash and scraped out the seeds and strings. If you use butternut squash you will only need to cut it in half lengthwise instead of quarters.

Winter Squash and Havarti PuffsAnother modification that I made to the recipe was to add a bit of heat to the roasted squash filling. I added chipotle chili powder, cayenne pepper, and a little drizzle of maple syrup. I thought the sweetness of the squash and creaminess of the Havarti could stand up to the additional spices. I am happy to report that the result was delicious! In keeping with the fall flavors I also used apple cider vinegar instead of the champagne vinegar called for in the original recipe.

Winter Squash and Havarti PuffsThese tasty little treats are super versatile too. You can make small puffs which are perfectly-sized appetizers which can be eaten in two bites. Or, you can make larger puffs and serve them as an entree. I would pair the larger puffs with a salad and crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Winter Squash and Havarti Puffs

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