Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from WhiteHouseDinners.com!

Instead of fighting the crowds, we celebrated Valentine’s Day at home with a spinach-strawberry-parmesan salad and Mushroom-Red Swiss Chard Risotto.

Spinach-Strawberry-Parmesan Salad
Spinach-Strawberry-Parmesan Salad
Mushroom-Red Swiss Chard Risotto
Mushroom-Red Swiss Chard Risotto

Over the weekend, Jill picked up some plain sugar cookie hearts from a local bakery, Tasty Pastry, and decorated them at home. These “Message Heart” cookies were a great finish to a great Valentine’s Day evening.

Marbled and Message Heart Cookies
Marbled and Message Heart Cookies
Heart Shaped Cookie with Sprinkles
Heart Shaped Cookie with Sprinkles

Friday Night Potato Galette

Being on the road a good bit lately, I’ve unintentionally ignored the blog primarily because of a general lack of cooking at home. I am not yet in the habit of photographing the food I order when I eat at restaurants, but it is something I may consider in the future. I could definitely write several posts about the places I’ve eaten lately, including the Front Porch Restaurant and Pie Shop in Dunnellon, Florida. The fresh blueberry pie was nothing short of incredible.

Growing tired of continually eating out, I promised Jill that I would cook dinner at home last Saturday. With “The Big Game” as inspiration, I thought it would be good to create a more gourmet version of one of my favorite game day snacks — potato skins.  So, here is my recipe for what I call Friday Night Potato Galette. I made this recipe up as I went along, so I am approximating the measurements.

I started by peeling and shredding four small baking potatoes and pressing the shreds between a few layers of paper towel to squeeze out excess moisture. I then tossed the shreds with about a half cup of chopped flat leafed parsley and a half cup of finely sliced green onions. I mixed in about a teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

Potatoes with Parsley and Chives
Potatoes with Parsley and Chives

After mixing the potatoes, parsley, chives, salt and pepper together, I heated about two tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch non-stick skillet on high until the oil was very hot but not smoking. I then quickly tossed in the potato mixture and pressed it into a large potato pancake in the skillet. I turned the temperature down to medium heat and let the potatoes cook for about three minutes.

Potatoes in Nonstick Pan
Potatoes in Nonstick Pan

After about three minutes, the edges of the potato galette began to pull away from the edge of the skillet slightly.  I then placed a large, round platter on top of the skillet and, in one quick motion, inverted the skillet and platter so that the potato galette ended up on the platter with the browned side up. I don’t have a photo to illustrate this because both of my hands were utilized during this maneuver. I slid the potato galette back into the skillet, browned size up, and cooked the potatoes over medium low heat for about 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the bottom browned up as well.

Flipped Potato Galette
Flipped Potato Galette

While the potato galette cooked, I pulled together the toppings. I trimmed the florets off two crowns of broccoli, then peeled the stalks and thinly sliced them. Why waste perfectly tasty broccoli stalks? I quickly sautéed the broccoli in a little olive oil over medium high heat and seasoned it with a dash of salt and pepper.

Sautéed Broccoli
Sautéed Broccoli

When the bottom of the potato galette was sufficiently browned, I slid it back onto the platter.

Potato Galette
Potato Galette

I topped the potato galette with a layer of freshly shredded cheddar cheese and the sautéed broccoli.

Potato Galette with Broccoli and Cheddar
Top with Broccoli and Cheddar

I then added several handfuls of fresh arugula and more cheddar cheese.

Add arugula and more cheese
Add Arugula and More Cheese

After slicing the potato galette like a pie, I topped each portion with a big spoonful of sour cream. The combination of flavors satisfied my craving for the traditional game day snack, but the dish had a somewhat more sophisticated presentation and was substantial enough to serve as a meal. Now I can’t wait until Jill makes Shannon’s Bean Dip to eat while we watch the game tomorrow.

Finish With Sour Cream
Finish With Sour Cream

Chickpea Kuri Curry

I wanted to branch out a bit and try a couple of new things, so a couple of months ago I tried to plant Jamaican pumpkin, blue Hubbard winter squash, and red kuri squash in the garden. Sadly, my attempts failed. So when I saw red kuri squash at New Leaf Market, I had to try it.

Not entirely sure what to do with the red kuri squash, I took a hint from the vegetables moniker and decided to make a kuri curry. With inspiration from the Quick Chickpea Curry recipe in the Everyday Food Magazine (January/February 2010), I made several modifications to make the recipe my own.

Red Kuri Squash
Red Kuri Squash

To get started, thinly slice one medium onion and mince four cloves of garlic.  Saute the onion and garlic in about 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until the onions become translucent.

Onions and Garlic
Onions and Garlic

Dice the red kuri squash into 1/4 inch cubes and saute the squash, onions, and garlic over medium heat until the squash is soft, about 7 minutes.

Kuri Squash and Chickpeas
Kuri Squash and Chickpeas

Once the squash is soft, add two cans of drained and rinsed chickpeas, four tablespoons of ketchup, 1-1/2 teaspoons of Penzy’s Balti seasoning, one teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. I like the taste of the Balti seasoning, but your favorite curry powder would be a g0od substitute.  Stir to combine.

Penzeys Balti Seasoning
Penzeys Balti Seasoning

Add two cups of water and bringthe mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer the mixture until thickened, about 25 minutes. In my opinion, the dish almost resembles baked beans when it is ready.

Simmering Curry
Looks Like Baked Beans

To make the meal a bit more substantial and to provide more color, I served the curry on a slice of pita bread with two handfulls of baby arugula. I added a dollop of plain greek yogurt to add some creaminess and cut the heat from the Balti seasoning a little bit. The unique bite of the Balti seasoning (it’s not like any other curry powder I’ve ever eaten) with the mellow, almost nutty taste of the squash and the texture of the chickpeas (which hold up well and do not get too mushy from the cooking) make the chickpea kuri curry a great use for the winter squash that refused to grow in my garden. I did save some of the seeds from the red kuri squash and I hope to be making this dish again next year with red kuri squash from my garden.

Chickpea Kuri Curry
Chickpea Kuri Curry

Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Tasting

Last month, Artie turned 30! I can’t believe it – we’re so old! Okay, not really. I actually have it on good authority that the 30’s are pretty darn good. Like your 20’s, except you know what you are doing. Anyway, to celebrate the big day, we had a few friends over for a cheese tasting. If you’ve followed our blog for any length of time, you know that we LOVE Sweet Grass Dairy cheese. Sweet Grass is located about 45 minutes north of Tallahassee in Thomasville, Georgia but their cheese is sold at several stores in Tallahassee.

Our spread included seven types of cheese and some accompaniments.  We printed information about each of the cheeses from the Sweet Grass website.  To read more about each of the cheeses mentioned below, click here.

Below are closeup pictures of all the cheeses except the two in the middle. I’m not sure how I missed them because they are my two favorites! The one on top is the Green Hill cheese. I don’t usually like soft cheeses, but the Green Hill is excellent. The one on the bottom in the middle is Georgia Gouda. There are not words. So creamy. So flavorful. Swoon.

We also served:

Asher Blue


Harvest (another one of my favorites)

Cyprus (almost like a feta)

Eden (the only goat’s milk cheese we served)

I wish I had taken a picture of the cheese plate a the end of the night. Between the five couples, most of the cheese was eaten (except for a big hunk of the Harvest, but it was the biggest wedge to begin). When we asked our friends which cheese they liked best, the answer was “Yes.” I guess that means they liked them all.

We served an array of side items to complement the cheese including (clockwise from bottom): local salami, smoked almonds, dried apricots, an assortment of crackers, a veggie tray, crusty bread with herb oil (New Leaf market makes AMAZING fresh bread – especially the garlic loaf), and apple slices.

For dessert we had red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes from Lucy and Leo’s. Sooooo gooooood. (And so excited to watch them on Cupcake Wars tomorrow night!)

All in all, I would say the party was a success! The food was great and a cheese tasting was something fun to do rather than the usual party foods. The cheese was on the expensive side, but the accompaniments were relatively low cost and all in all I don’t think the party cost any more than other parties we’ve hosted. There were a LOT of platters to wash but the prep time was minimal and there was no cooking involved.

My birthday is coming up next month and I’m thinking was should have another tasting party. Maybe for my birthday, we can do a cupcake tasting…

Cooking with My Mentees, part 2

So in the last post, I recapped our epic meal.  This post details the epic dessert!  We made individual apple pies with a lattice crust.  Lattice crusts are awesome because they make you look like a baking pro but they aren’t that hard to put together (for more details on a lattice pie crust, check out this post).

For our pies, we took some help from the store and used Publix refrigerated pie crusts.  After rolling out and cutting the bottom crust, we filled the pie shells with a mixture of apple slices, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.

We assembled the lattice tops and let the pies bake for a while (35 – 45 minutes?) in a 350 degree oven (until the crusts were brown and the filling was bubbly.

This was the result:

Four delicious baby pies.  Unfortunately the pies took so long to cook that the girls had to leave, but I wrapped up each of their pies and delivered them that evening.
See how good that looks?  And it seriously came together in no time!
I had a GREAT time cooking with some fabulous ladies.  It was fun to be a cooking instructor for the day.  I can’t wait to host another cooking day and see what other tasty dishes we can whip up!

Cooking with My Mentees, part 1

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to post this!  I need to make a New Year’s resolution to be a more timely blogger…

As part of the work I do, I serve as a mentor for students in the Service Scholar program.  Early in the fall semester (in September, I think?), I got together with three of my mentees to cook and share a meal together.  I’ve had several students ask me if I would teach them to cook a particular dish and this was my first foray into cooking instruction.  The only request was tofu (my kind of request!) so I made a menu that was fun and diverse, if a bit ambitious.  Before the girls came over, I set out the ingredients in different stations:

White bean dip served with sliced red peppers

Tofu two ways: BBQ and honey glazed

Spicy Baked Macaroni (I made few changes to the Giada DeLaurentis recipe.)

The first thing we did was get cute aprons on all the cooks.  Then we got to work, picking eggplant, sautéing garlic, blending up bean dip, seasoning tofu, cooking veggies for the macaroni, grating cheese, and generally having a great time while we prepped the meal.

Marisa and Abby picking eggplant from Artie's garden
Amy sautéing garlic in the tiny skillet with the tiny spatula
Marisa seasoning the BBQ tofu


Abby adding the sauteed veggies to the pasta for the macaroni
Tasting the white bean dip with the tiny spoons

The finished product was excellent:

Don’t think that I forgot dessert!  This post already had so many pictures, I thought I would break it into two parts.  Check back tomorrow for part two and see what delicious confection we made for dessert  (a tasty, fruity treat that looks like it took forever to make, but it was a snap!).

Healthier Spinach Dip

In the spirit of the New Year and healthy resolutions all around, I wanted to start the year out with a healthier take on one of my favorite snacks.  I love spinach dip, but it is typically prepared with mayonnaise which is full of fat (plus I’m not really a fan of mayonnaise).  When I was in college, I lightened up spinach dip with a secret ingredient or two and some extra veggies.  This dish was often requested by my friends.

Healthier Spinach Dip

10 ounce package of frozen, chopped spinach

1 cup 2% small curd cottage cheese (secret ingredient #1)

8 ounces Greek yogurt (secret ingredient #2)

8 ounces sour cream

package of spinach dip mix

red bell pepper, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

pita chips, carrot sticks, broccoli florets, and pepper strips, for serving

bread round, for serving (optional)

Defrost spinach according to package directions.  Allow spinach to cool and squeeze dry.  Place defrosted, drained spinach in a medium bowl.  Add the cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, and spinach dip mix.  Use a fork to combine.  Add the diced veggies and mix to combine.  Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.  Serve in a large glass bowl or a hollowed out bread round with pita chips and carrot sticks, broccoli florets, and pepper strips.

This is a quick and easy recipe that has all the creaminess of mayonnaise-based spinach dip but without all the fat.  The cottage cheese is full of protein and the dip gets a great tanginess from the combination of Greek yogurt and sour cream.  The extra veggies give the dip a healthy crunch and a dose of vitamins.  I confess that the spinach dip mix packet is a total shortcut and I could probably cut down on the salt and improve the flavor of this recipe by adding my own combination of spices, but this is still a quick and tasty party favorite.

Happy New Year!