Jaleo inspired Spanish tapas dinner

Before I forget, have you entered my Nasoya giveaway? Go do it and then come back, ok?

So let’s talk about eating out. While I really love the whole process of preparing meals at home, from the menu planning to grocery shopping to cooking and finally eating my creation (best part when I see someone else enjoy my food as much as I do!), going out to eat is still one of my favorite ways to spend time with Adam, friends and family. Similarly to cooking at home, I love the whole process of searching for the perfect spot for the occasion, the anticipation of a great night out, then dressing up and finally experiencing the whole event. It is an event, isn’t it? From the atmosphere of the restaurant, to service to the wonderful food shared with lots of wine and laughs – there is so much to experience! There are nights and dishes I remember for years. They are special to me. Most of them I’d never dream of recreating but once in a while I eat something simple yet perfect and I vow to try creating a little restaurant meal right in my own home.

This is one of such meals.

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This dinner was inspired by our favorite dishes from a spanish tapas restaurant, Jaleo, on our trip to Washington DC over the summer. The place was recommended to me by several readers and twitter friends, so one random day, we decided to rest our feet and have a glass of sangria with a few apps at the bar. There was no planning – it was a spur of the moment decision when we stumbled upon the place. I think because we had no expectations, it was especially surprising how much we enjoyed the few bites we had that first visit. So much that we had to go back 2 days later and have a whole meal!

Although every single thing at Jaleo was fantastic, hands down are two favorites were pan de recapte con anchoa (traditional Catalan bread with peppers, tomatoes and salt-cured Spanish anchovies) and gambas al ajillo (the very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic). These are my versions of these dishes.

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For the play on pan de recapte con anchoa, I actually started with my mom’s recipes for perzzi (roasted peppers) and sinii (eggplant/tomato spread) and layered them over fresh slices of baguette, topped with garlic-marinated anchovies. I find the salt anchovies to be very pungent. They are fantastic melted into sauces or whipped into dressings, but I prefer the marinated kind when eaten “straight up.” The anchovies seem to mellow out as the vinegar breaks down some of that intense fishiness.

Aren’t these gorgeous? They were delicious Smile

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Next up, I followed America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for Spanish-style garlic shrimp. I love how garlic is used in three different ways in this recipe (to marinate the shrimp, infuse the olive oil and finally to cook with shrimp). I used a dried habanero (much spicier than the cascabel chile that’s traditional) so my shrimp also had a bit of a kick. We like it spicy in these parts Winking smile

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This turned out fantastic! It was hard to not soak up every morsel of that garlicky spicy oil with baguette slices. So simple yet so perfect. I think it would be a fun dish to serve to company too with everyone just digging in straight into the skillet. Smile

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Simple roasted cauliflower to lighten up the fare:

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Are you a tapas fan? Do you ever recreate restaurant dishes at home?

Next up: I’m getting crafty with my super awesome food art project. Can’t wait to share it with you!!

Ultimate healthified buffalo chicken dip (+few extras)

 
 
***Welcome Pinterest visitors!! So glad you liked my healthified buffalo chicken dip (it IS as good as it looks – maybe even better ;) ). I have lots of other juicy content on the blog so I hope you stick around and do a little digging. For other fun healthy appetizers, you may want to try roasted red pepper, tomato and anchovy crostini, tofu and mushroom lettuce cups, double tomato bruschetta or chipotle-lime two-bean hummus. And for something a little indulgent, the pizza monkey bread is always a HUGE hit! For more ideas, check out my favorite recipes page on top. Thanks again for coming!! :D ***
 

Onto the post…

Hi y’all (I’m currently in the airport on the way to New Orleans, so I’m getting myself in the mood). Happy Friday!! I am obviously in a great mood since vacation is just hours away. The weekend is just around the corner for you too, so I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe with you before I shut my computer down for a few days.

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Buffalo sauce. OMG, I love buffalo sauce. If I didn’t worry about killing my taste buds, I’d be totally cool with covering everything in it – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Something about how acidic and spicy it is. LOVE.

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Luckily, it’s football season so instead of bathing myself in it (gross + I don’t have anything to wear with neon orange Smile with tongue out), I can just show up to a football-watching party with a buffalo sauce covered concoction and be the most popular person in the room. Win-win. Smile

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A lot of buffalo chicken dip recipes call for canned chicken (eww) and butter (totally unnecessary). I came up with this on a whim the other day and it was the best buffalo chicken dip I’ve ever had. It’s not exactly health food but it’s just a little lighter.

Ultimate healthified buffalo chicken dip (serves a crowd)

  • 2 poached chicken breasts, shredded
  • 2 packages (8oz ea) neufchatel (low fat cream cheese), softened
  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup Frank’s RedHot buffalo wing sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1.5 cups shredded reduced fat cheese (I used 1/2 mozzarella, 1/2 cheddar), divided
  • Baby carrots and pita chips for dipping

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven, or toaster oven, to 350*.

2. Mix all ingredients together, hold 1/2 cup cheese. The Kitchen Aid with a paddle attachment does an amazing job of creaming it all together. Super easy!

3. Transfer to 9×5 loaf fan (or another baking dish), sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.

4. Bake for 15 minutes.

4. Broil for 1-2 minutes to get the cheese extra golden on top.

Enjoy!!

Creamy, buffalo-saucy, cheesy. Dig in!

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For a few extra snacks, consider making the Eat, Drink and be Vegan two-olive sundried tomato hummus.

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And Trader Joe’s blueberry goat cheese is perfect for those craving something a little sweeter… or  those that may just be goat cheese obsessed Winking smile [I’m both!]

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This stuff seriously tastes like cheesecake. Crazy awesome!

One of my 2011 goals (btw, I should really look at those again) was get into sports watching. I may not be a die-hard football fan just yet, but I’ve got the game day snacks down for sure! Smile

Do you love buffalo sauce? Any favorite game friendly snacks?

*Last reminder about the Pomi giveaway. I’ll be announcing the winner on Monday.*

Midweek entertaining do’s and don’ts

The past few weeks I had a few after work get-togethers, which taught me a few lessons about mid-week entertaining.  Last week went smoothly, while last night I was scrambling last minute and then ended up putting a few of my guests to work to help me push out some food (thank you Megan and Meghan - I couldn’t have done it without you!).

So here are my DO’s and DON’Ts based on my experiences:

DO

  • Adjust your own expectations. This is a mid-week gathering and you have a full time job. No one expects a feast of all feasts. Which brings me to…
  • Have a manageable plan. Last week I gave myself the task of making 2 apps and 1 dessert which I quickly whipped up together the night before. Everyone was more than happy with just that and a cooler full of beer!
  • Get helpfrom your guests and your grocery store :) Guests always ask what to bring – give them specific instructions (beer, dessert, etc.) or go a step further and make it a potluck gathering. Last night the feast below (and more! we had to use a side table) was all put out by my guests!! A few items from the grocery store completed the table. You don’t have to cook every single thing from scratch. Cheese + cured meats went quickly. Crostini from fresh baguette + ricotta and sour cherry jam (all store-bought) was one of my favorite appetizers of the night! Even on the night of the party, get help from your guests with last minute touches if you need it. Many of them offer help, take them up on it if it’s going to ensure you’re not stuck in the kitchen all night while everyone else is having fun (although that shouldn’t happen if you actually plan right – see don’ts.)
  • Have a partner in crime – Adam buzzed people in and was making sure everyone had a drink in hand and enjoyed each other’s company while I was still finishing up my dish.

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  • Make things ahead of time. I know this is obvious but man, was I reminded of this last night. I left a lot of things to last minute and paid the price. I like dips and dishes that can be warmed up or baked right before the party. Do the work ahead of time and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy the party you’re hosting!

DON’T

  • Don’t over commit – seriously, don’t! I know you may feel like people have high expectations because you’re known as the food blogger or a really great cook, but remember – this is a midweek party. Keep it simple and manageable and your guests will be happy. I promise! :)
  • Don’t be cocky – Last party went so smoothly that you think you can just wing it and end up watching 5 episodes of Top Chef Just Desserts instead of prepping the night before? (totally hypothetical ;) ). Nope – not a good plan. Have a plan and execute on it  – this is how you keep your reputation as the hostest with the mostest!
  • Don’t be a perfectionist – Last minute things at work so you couldn’t get off early to make sure everything was 100% ready before your guests arrived? It’s OK! As I was still making the pizza monkey bread below and needed my guests’ help, I kept rambling about how I was the worst host ever. Megan said something so sweet that really brought me to reality. She said: “Elina, look around. Everyone is having fun in the living room. You’re among friends. And you’re human.” Phew! It’s good to be among friends.

Last night’s guests were some of my favorite blogger friends: Meghan, Megan, Elizabeth, Cara (and husband Ben), Lizzy, Bridget, Shannon (and boyfriend Mike), Melissa and Josh, Kerstin, Ranjani, Tiffany (and husband Kyle). Check out their blogs if you don’t follow them yet!

I made this pizza monkey bread again last night but since this post is getting too long, I’m going to ask you to wait a little longer for the recipe. I promise you it will be worth the wait. Just ask the people above!! :)

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And these Russian cheesecake lollipops will be shared on Russian Bites next week. Be sure to check back there! Edited to add: here is the recipe. Don’t miss it! :)

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Speaking of Russian Bites, please give me some love on my post on vareniki (vegetarian Russian dumplings). Thanks! You’rethebestest. Winking smile

Are you an entertaining guru? Share your do’s and don’ts with us! Smile

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