Baba Ghanoush

My wife and I are really big fans of homemade hummus. To be honest, personally, I do not think there is any good store bought hummus out there. I’ve tried various brands and they all go to waste, which is a shame in my opinion. There is something about the texture, and flavors, that when scooped with vegetables, or simple pita bread, well, it just makes everything better. There is a similar Levantine dish that my wife was not aware of, and one that I truly love as well, and that is Baba Ghanoush. Typically this dip can be made with an array of ingredients, but the base is grilled and charred eggplants. Let me tell you, this dish is a winner. A perfect appetizer or meal for that matter.

Baba Ghanoush Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole Italian eggplants, medium sized
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 whole lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp Tahini paste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, more to drizzle
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • Toasted pita or vegetables for serving

Trust me friends, it doesn’t get any easier than this!

Your goal here is to char your eggplants on the grill. I like do do mine over charcoal, however you can get away with roasting this under a broiler if you want. I like the grill however because you are trying to get some of that smokey flavor from the grill.

Start by making a few pokes into the eggplants with a fork. Once your grill is nice and hot, add the eggplants over direct heat. You are going to cook these on the grill for about 30-40 minutes, turning them along the way to ensure that all sides are nice and charred.

How to make Baba Ghanoush

The rest is rather easy…

Remove the eggplants and completely wrap them in foil, or place them into a large bowl and cover with foil. Your goal here is to let that heat get under that skin and have it easily be pulled away, almost as if you were roasting poblano chilies.

During this time, add the garlic and lemon juice to a mixing bowl.

Get a salad spinner out if you have one.

After about 10 minutes, uncover, and take an eggplant by the stem, and using a fork and your hands, carefully remove the outer skin, reserving all of the flesh. Place this flesh into your salad spinner. Do the same with the second eggplant.

You will not believe how much water is inside of this eggplant. The goal is to remove all of that excess water and the salad spinner is the perfect candidate for this task.

Remove the strained eggplant flesh to the bowl with the garlic and lemon juice. Using two forks, start mashing and mixing the ingredients. After about a minute of doing this, add the salt and tahini paste, and continue to mix and mash until everything becomes a smooth mixture, similar to hummus but with some texture. Add in the olive oil and give another mix or two.

Taste and season with any additional salt or lemon juice.

Spoon onto a serving dish alongside toasted pita chips or vegetables and dig in.

I served this yesterday, and well, it’s all gone. That’s how good it was, even my daughter partook  in the experience and loved it as well. Hope you enjoy!

Cajun Style Split Pea Soup

Nearly once a year I always make split pea soup. I’m probably the biggest fan of it in my household, and I’m fine with that. There is something special about this soup, and it may come from the smokiness of the ham, but ultimately it is not only satisfying as it is truly comforting. So this past Christmas, my mother-in-law offered me the ham bone as she typically always does, and I never decline. I’m a fan of the ham bone as well, and I know exactly what I am going to do with that ham bone every year, and that is to make a split pea soup! This time around however, I decided to change things up a bit, and add a few additional items to the soup and turn it into a Cajun style split pea soup. I’m glad I did, because this just elevated the wonderful flavors.

Cajun Style Split Pea Soup

Lets get started.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of chicken stock
  • 4 whole carrots, roughly chopped
  • 4 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 whole onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ham bone, with ham to spare
  • 1/2 pound of split peas, washed and reviewed
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 whole links of Andouille sausage, sliced into chunks
  • salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 6 whole shrimp, deveined, peeled

Start by adding your stock and hambone to a soup pot. Make sure you are able to have enough stock to submerge the ham bone, if not, add some water. Toss in 2 carrots, 2 ribs of celery, and two onions. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 4 hours. I actually started mine in the evening and just let it cook down overnight.

After the four hours, or overnight cook, remove the ham bone and any of the large pieces of ham that might have fallen off, and set to the side. Strain the rest, reserving all of the stock. I mash every little bit ensuring that I get all of those flavors into the stock. I love this part because it allows me to use my chinois strainer!

How to make Cajun style split pea soup

Next, lets get the soup started.

Clean your soup pot, then return it back to the stove. On medium heat, add the stock back to the pot, and add in your split peas, the remaining carrots, celery, and onion. Season with a bit of salt, and cracked black pepper. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook.

To a skillet, add the oil, and bring to a medium heat. Toss in the garlic and Andouille sausage. Cook the sausage until it gets some nice color on it.

Shred any remaining ham, and add that to the stock mixture. Add in the bell peppers to the stock as well.

Once the sausage is cooked, add the garlic and sausage mixture to the stock. Give a good stir, and continue to cook.

Cook for about 1 hour, then taste your peas. You want them tender, but not mushy.

Cajun Style Split Pea Soup

Once the peas are tender, add in the cleaned shrimp and cook until they are just opaque.

Now you are ready to serve!

Get out your bowls and ladle in the Cajun style split pea soup, making sure you get a bit of everything.

The end result is awesome. It’s everything you love about a split pea and ham soup, but you get the great additions of sausage, shrimp, and a bit of heat. I’m hoping my mother-in-law keeps on the tradition of providing me that ham bone because I know this is going to be my go to split pea soup from here on out! I hope you enjoy!

Coconut Dessert Bars

I’m back at in the baking zone, in particular because I have those sweet tooth’s in the house, in particular everyone but me. But let me stop there for the time being. I say stop because these coconut dessert bars are not only addicting, but holy moly are they delicious.

This all started because I bought a bag of shredded coconut some time ago, and yes it is still fresh, as I was going to knock out some coconut shrimp for my wife and kids. Well, that never happened. I got side tracked, and I will admit that. Three kids, a busy work schedule, well, sometimes I just get spent. But I ALWAYS LOOK AT THAT BAG OF SHREDDED COCONUT. That is when my daughter showed up in the kitchen while I was looking at that bag of coconut, and (she gets me every time as she loves to cook with me) I asked if she could help me with making a dessert. Of course she was sold on making these. What kid or adult would not be!

Coconut Dessert Bars

These bars not only are addicting, but they last a long time. A little bit will do you just fine.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ~ 3 cups of Quaker oatmeal flakes
  • 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ~ 2 cups shredded Mounds, sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2o Rolo chocolate candies
  • parchment paper

Simple, fun, awesome. Preheat your oven to 360 degrees.

Here we go.

To about an 8×8 or baking glass/pot to hold your materials (forgive me, I’m not a baker), line it with parchment paper.

To a bowl, add the oats, the salt, then drizzle in the melted butter. Stir.

Next take that baking glass/pot/sheet, what have you, and add the buttery flakes. Push down with the back of a wooden spoon.

loaded-dessert-bars-ingredients

Next, distribute your chocolate chips, and your butterscotch chips (love), along the top.

Top with the coconut flakes, add the Rolo’s, about an inch apart or so, then pour over the condensed milk. I NEVER DO THIS, I ONLY DO IT FOR THE KIDS.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Just make sure you take a peak as that coconut can turn on you, about 18-20 minutes in. Once the coconut is lightly golden, remove, and let cool.

Coconut Dessert Bars Recipe

Once cooled, slice into your bite-sized pieces, and go at it. Again, I’m not a sweet tooth, but holy moly, these coconut dessert bars are a winner. Kids loved them, I loved them (weird), and we brushed our teeth’s three times a day (or at least I did). Hope you enjoy!

Creamy Shrimp Scampi Dip

It seems as though we have been consuming more shrimp lately. Everything from shrimp boils to sautéed shrimp served alongside rice or pasta. Shrimp is something that my entire family enjoys, and it took a few years for my oldest to take a chance on them. Now he loves them, especially the peel and eat kind. My wife has always been a lover of shrimp scampi as well. As the New Year came to an end, I wanted to make another shrimp appetizer that I knew my wife would love. I was a bit skeptical at first but decided to go ahead with this idea of making a creamy shrimp scampi dip. Let’s just say my wife loved it, as did my kids, and it did not last very long.

Creamy Shrimp Scampi Dip

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 whole lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 cup white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 loaf french bread, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • olive oil

Start by melting your butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add in the garlic, and chili flakes. Give that a good stir, and cook for about a minute. Next, add in the shrimp. Once the shrimp begin to turn opaque, add in the wine. Cook for about 2 minutes to let some of that wine cook off, then season with salt and pepper. Give a stir, then remove everything from the skillet and place into a bowl.

To a mixing bowl, add in the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, Sriracha, and mozzarella cheese. Stir to incorporate all of those ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Once the shrimp have slightly cooled, give them a rough chop, and add everything into the cream cheese mixture. Give another good stir.

How to make a cheese shrimp scampi dip

Fold this mixture into a baking dish, then cover the top with the panko breadcrumbs.

To a baking sheet, add the sliced French bread, and drizzle each slice with olive oil.

Place the cheesy shrimp scampi dip, and the French bread into the oven, and cook until the breadcrumbs are nice and golden, and the dip is completely cooked through. Ensure that the bread is nice and golden as well.  This should take about 15 minutes.

To serve, scoop out the dip into serving bowl, and dip your crostini into the dip.

Whoa! Talk about flavor and comfort. You get everything you love about shrimp scampi (butter, garlic, wine) in a dip factor, and heck, I think the dip factor won on this one. A bit rich, but completely difficult to walk away from. If you are looking for an awesome dip to serve at your next gathering, give this a shot!

Creamy Shrimp Scampi Dip
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizers
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ whole lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • ¼ cup white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¾ cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ loaf french bread, sliced into ½ inch slices
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Start by melting your butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add in the garlic, and chili flakes. Give that a good stir, and cook for about a minute. Next, add in the shrimp. Once the shrimp begin to turn opaque, add in the wine. Cook for about 2 minutes to let some of that wine cook off, then season with salt and pepper. Give a stir, then remove everything from the skillet and place into a bowl.
  2. To a mixing bowl, add in the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, Sriracha, and mozzarella cheese. Stir to incorporate all of those ingredients.
  3. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Once the shrimp have slightly cooled, give them a rough chop, and add everything into the cream cheese mixture. Give another good stir.
  5. Fold this mixture into a baking dish, then cover the top with the panko breadcrumbs.
  6. To a baking sheet, add the sliced French bread, and drizzle each slice with olive oil.
  7. Place the cheesy shrimp scampi dip, and the French bread into the oven, and cook until the breadcrumbs are nice and golden, and the dip is completely cooked through. Ensure that the bread is nice and golden as well. This should take about 15 minutes.
  8. To serve, scoop out the dip into serving bowl, and dip your crostini into the dip.