Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip


Spinach Artichoke Dip is a dish that many cooks I know are very afraid of. Made incorrectly, it can be horrible, and every chef or cook seems to have their own version. However, in its simplest form, this can be a great, easy, and enjoyable dish to make.

The recipe that we use is for the most part very simple, and mimics the dip made by some of the most popular Italian restaurants. We make this from time to time for dinner and guests, but it’s also great to fix on a weekend to simply let everyone snack on. It can be made using fresh artichokes, but I personally have never attempted the task. We use canned artichoke hearts, and frozen chopped spinach.

INGREDIENTS:
8 ounce cream cheese (Room temp)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts drained, chopped
1/2 cup spinach, frozen chopped, drained
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine together mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, garlic, and basil. Mix well. Add the artichoke and spinach, combine. Place in baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the top is browned. Serve with toasted bread or tortilla chips. You can also use various cheeses as the topping to help blend the dish with your other items. Cheddar works well, however mozz is traditional.

If you take a French baguette and slice it very thin, then brush with some garlic butter, and toast under a broiler just until crisp, you have a very nice vehicle for the dip. It can also be served with tortilla chips (Tracy’s favorite). Easy garlic butter for bread is to combine melted butter with garlic powder and salt to taste. Start slow, and add extra garlic to your liking. Also, a coating of fresh cracked black pepper over the dip can add an extra flavor profile.  The dip can also be used as a condiment for making some amazing sandwiches such as roasted chicken on wheat with tomato and fresh spinach.

Steve

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Review: Buffalo Wild Wings Richmond, Ky


For the first restaurant review we wanted a place that we knew well. We have been eating at this restaurant pretty much since it opened. However, the review in question is about a visit on December 15, 2011.

We arrived just after 8pm and were greeted and sit immediately. The hostess was friendly and spot on with the specials and promotions. Our waitress “Patricia” was if anything too friendly, and provided great service throughout the entire service.

We ordered boneless wings in their honey barbecue sauce and a basket of potato wedges with cheese. The food arrived promptly and was well cooked. One of the best things that I have observed with BW3’s is that their cooks do not over use sauce. The wings are tossed with just enough sauce to cover, allowing the chicken to speak alone as well. The honey barbecue sauce is my favorite, though they are more known for their spicy sauces which are quite good as well. The potato wedges were cooked well, maintaining just enough texture to be a solid and not mushy. They arrived to the table with the cheese melted and bubbling, and were obviously saved off, to be the last dish plated. The dipping sauces chose, blue cheese and ranch, were also quite good and in generous quantities.

Having eaten at many “sports bar” style restaurants including multiple BW3’s, I would have to say that Richmond’s BW3’s is one of the better I have been to, and in my opinion have some of the best wings I have tried in the area. I give them a rating of 4 of 5.

 

Buffalo Wild Wings

2139 Lantern Ridge Dr #100  Richmond, KY 40475-6011

(859) 624-2437

Budget Friendly Storage Solutions


When creating all this yummy food, you must have great options to store leftovers. Picking a great set of containers out, can be hard and sometimes exhausting. With very few brands delivering on what they promise. Most kitchen inspired chefs use what ever is on hand. This could simply be reusing butter bowls, whip cream bowls, ect. Using this method you can loose large amounts of the flavor in your food and it almost always gets lost in the fridge.

One of my favorite thing to do is watch for sales. This is a great way to try out new storage containers without hurting your budget. Tonight while out shopping I noticed a great sale on name brand storage containers. Along with this sale I had coupons to make it even better. So after all was said and done I ended up scoring twenty five pieces of Snapware containers completely free.

I have never used this brand before, but I am really excited. It seems to be a great brand. After two hours of research I can wait to get in the kitchen and cook.  Snapware offers lifetime warranties, along with airtight and watertight seals. Even without a sale or coupons, Snapware seems pretty reasonably priced. Now I am stocked up on ways to store my food, I can not wait to get into the kitchen and create some new dishes and enjoy them over and over again.

Coupons is a great way to spend less money on buying accessories and spend more money on ingredients. However, don’t forgot to max out your savings by looking for sales, comparing prices and then adding the coupons in.

Tracy

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


From time to time you have to just settle for one thing or another. I love peanut butter cookies while Tracy loves chocolate chip. So one day while Tracy was making me some cookies for a potluck she decided to throw in some chocolate chips and viola! Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies were born.

By far being out favorite cookie these are often for pretty much any event we attend. These are fairly easy to make and freeze well. You can freeze either the pre-baked cookies, or the cookie dough. To freeze the cookies simply chill them on a cookie sheet and then separate in layers with wax paper and drop into the freezer. The cookie dough simply gets divided into 1 lb blocks, enough for about 24 cookies, wrapped in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and into the freezer. Thaw for a few hours in the fridge and then bake as normal.

One of the most important things to getting a good soft peanut butter cookie is the cooking time. If you pull the cookies out of the oven a few minutes before they finish cooking, and allow them to finish off on the cooling racks, you will get that soft texture everyone looks for. Whatever you decide to do, remember that experiments and trial runs are how all great food is made, so change it up, mix something new in, and make the recipes your own.
Basic Peanut Butter Cookies

1 stick of butter
1 cup of peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Whisk butter until creamy, mix in peanut butter. Add sugars slowly and combine. Add vanilla and egg and stir well. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Combine with butter/sugar mixture. Chill dough for 3-6 hours .Shape into 1 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Flatten with the tines of a fork dipped in granulated sugar. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 8 minutes. Move immediately to cooling rack to finish cooking.

 

How to Use All of that Turkey or Chicken


I used to be just as guilty as anyone else. I would cook a turkey or chicken, eat it for dinner, and with the exceptions of the rest of the white meat, everything else went into the garbage can. It was only within the last year that I learned how much of a waste that really was, and began to learn to get the most out of my meat.

The first is obviously the meat eaten at dinner, which is usually only the most succulent white meat. The remnants get picked over and put into the fridge. Now you have the carcass. For the love of cake and chocolate, pick every single tasty piece of that dark meat from those bones! It may not be the most appetizing meat to look out, but it has the best flavor, and soaked in a good barbecue sauce, it makes an awesome sandwich. Also you can make basic gravy from some stock, butter and flour and toss in the bits of meat to make some awesome gravy for open faced sandwiches. I’ll give you the basic gravy recipe soon.

Now you have the bones. The best thing to do here is to make a rich and flavorful stock for later use. You can throw the bones back in the oven to roast them a little more for a deeper stock, or simply throw them into a deep pot the way they are. They can also be placed in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or frozen for at least 30 days before you have to use them. With the bones in the pot cover with water and add in some black peppercorns, bay leaves, thick chopped carrots and celery, and some onion. Let it simmer over low heat for about 2 hours and you’re done. Let it cool, strain, bag, and freeze. We freeze in 2 cup portions. The stock can be used for anything from gravy, to rice, to stuffing, to chicken and dumplings.

Now for preserving the left over meat you can’t eat right now. The easiest way is to freeze the meat into recipe sized bags for later. Turkey and chicken seem to dry out when frozen, however, you can take that wonderful stock you made from the bones, and fill the bags of meat with the liquid just to the top of the meat, and then you will have moist delectable meat with some added flavor from the stock. We often use the meat for open faced sandwiches, and then reserved the stock for making the gravy. However you decided to use it, you will be glad you took a little time to get the most out of that bird!

Gravy Recipe
4 cups of stock
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour

Melt butter in saucepan. Whisk in butter to make a roué and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly add in the stock while whisking constantly. Once combines, allow to come to a boil and reduce, whisking constantly. Let reduce until the consistency you like and take it off the heat. You’re done. You can mix in thawed meat once the gravy comes to a boil, and let it heat through. It’s great over some creamy mashed potatoes. So stop throwing away all the wonderful food, and learn a few new things they next time you cook a turkey of chicken.

The First Taste



Growing up my family always raised a garden every spring. We would grow all our vegetables and sell the excess for extra money around the farm. It was not a financial decision, but was simply just the way of life. A few hundred miles away, my beautiful you wife, was also growing up with dirt in her veins. Her father raised an impressive garden and was known the county over for his fresh produce. Being a coal miner, this as well, was not about money, it was just something that he did, tirelessly, year after year.

As I became older my involvement with the workings on the farm diminished. I often would apologize to my father, telling him how I wish I could do more and help out. My father never pushed on me to get involved. He would talk about the garden, or about this issue or that. Talk about a new technique, or type of seed. But never ask or told me to work in the garden. After moving off to college, and later years as a young professional living in the city, the seeds planted by my father so many years ago, finally sprouted.

I am not sure when or why I decided that I needed to start growing food. I make enough money and have a sufficient variety of produce around my local area. I began talking to my wife and she was almost immediately on board. The strange reaction I received, was from my father. It was not the overly joyful support I expected from the old man, but instead, a somber, “Well thats good son.”

We have 6 containers that we take care of outside our apartment. We are in the suburbs of a medium sized city, and have no yard to speak of. One of the first things we planted was spinach. Its had it challenges, from other people messing with the plants to having to move them for the mowers, ect. But it all finally paid off yesterday. Harvest day for spinach.

 

We pulled the container in inside and began to cut the mature leaves. It was very exciting finally getting to take something that you have put so much into. We decided to divide up the very small harvest and make two simple side salads to go with yesterdays lunch. As we sat down to eat, we finally had our first bite of food we produced.

 

I wish I could describe in the english language what it felt like eating that first bite. Knowing that we had came together, made a decision, planted, watered, weeded, and cared for out own salad. We had produce life from a seed, and now are eating that life for energy. I compared it to your first kill in hunting. It almost as you can see you bullet hit the target, and its the best tasting thing you have ever put in your mouth. However, this seemed more complete, as we had not found this food, but actually grew it.

After finishing our lunch I called my father at work and told him about the morning. He simply asked, “Did you eat it yet?” After I told him about the salads, the old man shuffled around and laughed under his breath. I asked him what was funny as he said, “Been raising a farm for forty years now, but it only took me twenty five to raise a farmer.”

As we talked on, the joyful support that I had expected had finally surfaced. He told me that it was not about planting seeds or hands in the dirt, but about using your harvest, and providing for you and your family that is the true medicine. He went on to say that he could not sell enough vegetables to pay for anything on that farm, but that wasn’t the point. When he sat down at the dinner table with us as kids, and watched us eat the vegetables he grew, and it turn, grow ourselves, that was his payment. It took me twenty fives years to finally understand this country bred tradition, but after my first taste or my own food I can promise one thing. Whether its 6 containers or 600 acres, year and year from this point forward, I’ll be growing a garden, and maybe one day in the future, laugh at my twenty five year old farmer when he sees it too.

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing


It seems like everything we make ourselves just seems better. This one took a few tries, but we nailed it. Great on a salad, better on a grilled chicken sandwich.

Buttermilk Ranch

1 Cup “real” Mayonnaise

2/3 cup Butter Milk

1/2 cup sour cream

3 green onions (whole plant minus last inch of blades and roots)

2 cloves garlic crushed

2 tsp dried dill salt and pepper

Mince garlic and onion in food processor. Add buttermilk, mayo, dill, and sour cream. Blend until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. We like a lot of pepper (1 tbsp), and a little salt (1/2 tsp). The longer it sits in the fridge the better the flavors blend. Minimum of 2 hours.