Miracle berry sweetened dinner

Any Top Chef fans out there? Do you guys remember a few weeks ago when the chefs had to study up on Modernist Cuisine and then cook a quickfire meal with modernist techniques? Chris Jones started his meal with a miracle berry tablet, which reminded me I got these babies in my Christmas stocking last year (from Adam of course)!!!

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Have you heard of miracle berries before? Wikipedia tells me it’s also called synsepalum dulcificum (way harder to pronounce!) which is a plant with a berry that makes sour things taste sweet. The tablets are basically ground up miracle berries – all natural Smile

Last night we had our friends Jim and Liz over for dinner to experiment with this “mysterious fruit tab.” We started the dinner by dissolving a tablet on our tongues and then dove into lemons, limes and grapefruit. Not gonna lie, it was a little scary to take the first bite! Would it really work?

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Action shots!

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Wow, guys. This was crazy. Seriously insane. Everything was SO SWEET – I honestly had no idea how sweet they’d be (and started getting a little nervous that our whole dinner will taste like pure sugar). Biting into a lime and being overwhelmed by its sweetness was surreal (the limes were the sweetest – almost inedible at first because of how sweet they were).

We calmed our palettes for a minute with these clover rolls, which had nothing to do with our experiment but delicious nonetheless. Definitely a must-make again recipe!

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Aside from the rolls which were a last minute decision (a brilliant last minute decision!), the rest of the dinner all centered around citrus. I looked for recipes that utilized oranges (already sweet) but used lemons and grapefruit instead, knowing they would be made sweeter because of the tablets.

Grapefruit and avocado salad with a citrus dressing (here is the base recipes, I subbed grapefruit for oranges in everything)

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Jalapeno citrus salmon (based on this recipe, I used half grapefruit, half lemon juice for the glaze)

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My plate:

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My beverage of choice for the night – it had citrus notes which turned sweet. The beer tasted kind of like a beer cocktail as a result. I liked it Smile

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The effect lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours and over the course of dinner we definitely felt it fade. The citrus still tasted very sweet but we could start slowly also tasting mild sour notes. Luckily non-citrusy components made the meal a real dinner – salmon, avocado, jalapenos all stayed true to themselves Smile

Of course we had to finish the meal with some lemon sherbet. This particular brand was super creamy – the perfect ending to a sweet citrus meal!

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This was super fun!! Apparently hot sauce and radishes should have been part of our experiment too. I may just have to keep playing around with this stuff. It’s sort of trippy in a good way Winking smile

Would you want to try this stuff? What would you make? I may use these for nights when my sweet tooth won’t stop nagging. A wedge of lemon would totally do the trick!

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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