Crunchtime Food Blog

cheese ball

Green Goddess Cheese Ball is a spread you can take and win every time on Game Day.  For me, game day is more like the holidays or the Oscars or the final episode of Mad Men, but I know most of the country is inflating their balls for Sunday’s extravaganza.   This girl will be heading to Arizona, with the boys, for a Goodell vice-grip (NFL peacocking) handshake and going for another loss to Aaron Rodgers; more on that later.

I was tired of the same ‘ole cheese platter…wait, I’m never tired of a cheese platter (cheese butt, maybe), rather, I was wanting to round out a cheese platter display when I came across this winning recipe moments before Thanksgiving.  Afterward, we all gave thanks for each other and for cheese and, because this pistachio-crusted spread was a smash hit, I made it for Christmas. Either my family was gracious or starving, but this nod to the Seventies appetizer disappeared as fast as shag haircuts.

It’s easy because you pulse the ingredients together in one machine and the do-ahead potential means having time for donning your favorite athlete’s jersey, which for me and Ndamukong Suh would not be Aaron Rogers.  Here’s why.

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olive the other chicken dinner

Among the list of much too late discovered foods in my life, is roasted olives.  I met these intensely salty, crunchy nuggets when my daughter brought home leftovers from a notable restaurant in LA.   Olives, like beets, cilantro and capers, are polarizing. You either have the palate for them or you don’t. If you’re in the latter camp, omit olives in this insanely easy, sheet pan dinner or you can make friends with tiny bits of the charred olives combined with of bite of succulent dark meat poultry.  Flavor explosion.

I dwell on olives, but the glory, really, is in having a one-pan meal.  It’s flatter and faster, but has all the hands-off relief of a slow-cooker.

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toasted israeli couscous

My dinner plate, as a kid, always had a meat, vegetable, fruit, meat and something white.  It was the Midwest, middle class, wholesome – not quite whole – food.  My mom called the white side dishes, the “starch” like it was one of the major food groups.  Starches – potatoes, rice, bread, pastas – have an important role as meal extenders and definitely, back in the day, keeping people warm.  True comfort food.

What do you say we get out of our comfort zone today and take our tastebuds from the Midwest to the Middle East.  Although seemingly exotic, most grocers sell Israeli couscous or pearl couscous.  It’s different from instant couscous, not only because it doesn’t get caught in your teeth and cookware, but because it’s not presoaked with all flavor strained out.

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creamy cauliflower soup

All diets on deck. We’re dabbling in this detox for six days, including caffeine, dairy, alcohol, sugar, gluten eliminations. My head aches thinking about morning tomorrow’s coffee deprivation.

Creamy vegetables reign supreme in this cleanse, so I’m pulling out one of my recent obsessions, creamy cauliflower soup that relies on this cruciferous’s natural creaming properties, or as America’s Test Kitchen puts it – low insoluble fiber content.  See the bottom of this post for their scientific explanation.

I discovered ATK’s gorgeous recipe when looking for a use of cauliflower head abundance leftover from a party centerpiece.  Credit for vegetable arranging comes from my super ridiculously creative friend Susie.  Check out her display. read more

mmm rib meat

5 Ingredients or LessHere are my Top Five (w)rappers:  reusable bags, cellophane, hand-stamped, Eminem and personalized. Probably everyone who reads this blog received our holiday card which included a photo from this year’s posed pic with kids and animals (it’s on the bottom right, if you’re curious).

It’s on the bottom right in a big collage of photos because, after all the trouble, the photo was too blurry to stand alone.  Knowing that our annual photo sessions depict the trigger formula:  perfection quest(2) + time depravity/cat superiority x dog skittish(teenager) = our dysfunction, the daughter used it as the setting for her class family video assignment. She got an A and I got outtakes that created the most perfect wrapping paper. But as that same daughter, at age 2, one time shouted to a group of carol-singing boys in January, “Christmas is over little girl.”

And so we look to New Year’s celebration…. Before we dial in our diets – see you soon Lose It app – here’s a little something that brings summer barbecue into our winter kitchens with so much ease you can ignore it like Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction.

I have made these slow cooker ribs several times with sweat-free and fall-off-the-bone results.

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