Dinner for Four

Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me. After working for the Iowa Department of Human Services as a social worker for three years, I left a world I know very well to enter a new one. I will spare you the emotions I have been going through the past month leading up to this, and will instead tell you the one thing I enjoy doing perhaps the most these days: Cooking. And it’s always an added bonus to cook for others.

My husband and I had our friends Brandon and Abbey over for dinner last night. It was the first time I have ever cooked for them, so I had to think of something that I knew would be both delicious and perfect for a late summer meal. One of our favorite “go-to” meals is a wonderful cajun red beans and rice dish that my husband found last winter. I have to say that the aroma of this dish cooking will make you drool.

Having decided on the main dish, I knew I wanted to try at least one thing new, but I took the chance and tried two new recipes as our appetizer. My first ever attempt at naan bread and this crazy feta cheese spread I found on How Sweet It Is.

The naan bread needed some time to rise, so I promptly took to making that well before the arrival of our guests. I have tried my hand at foccacia bread, cinnamon rolls, and dessert breads and I was excited to add one more to the list.

I am not sure if anyone else has this problem, but I sometimes get overwhelmed with all of the recipes that are out there on the internet. I find it difficult to decide which recipe to use, therefore always looking to read the comments about the experience of others and if there were any additions, substitutions or deletions when they made the item. After looking at about 10 different recipes, I came across this naan recipe once at Allrecipes.com and then again on Mybakingaddiction and decided to give it a try.

 Naan Bread 

slightly adatped

Ingredients:

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • melted butter for topping

Directions:

In a large bowl, place yeast in warm water, letting it proof. This will take about 10 minutes. You want the yeast and water to get frothy in appearance and a bit thicker.

Mix in sugar, milk, beaten egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. I ended up using about 3 1/2 cups of the flour.  Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. As you can see in the picture, mine isn’t the smoothest, but it turned out just fine. 🙂

Place dough in a well oiled bowl, being sure to coat both sides of the dough with the oil. Place a damp cloth over bowl and let rise for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Punch down dough and if you want to add in garlic, do so now. Knead dough again for a couple of minutes.

Taking small pieces of dough, roll into the size of a golf ball. Place balls on a oiled pan. Cover with damp cloth and let double in size for about 30 minutes.

10 minutes or so prior to rolling out dough, preheat your grill. This can also be done on a cast iron skillet. I used our calaphlon grill. Taking one at a time, roll out ball of dough into thin circles.

Lightly oil the grill pan and cook each side of dough for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

While each side is cooking, brush with butter. Repeat process with all of the dough balls.

I have to say that I was rather impressed with how well this naan bread turned out. It didn’t bubble up as I have seen others, but it still tasted delightful.

For our appetizer, I knew exactly what recipe I wanted to use. I have been sitting on this find for a couple of months now and felt that this was the perfect evening to make it.

Crazy Feta

adapted from How Sweet It Is 

Ingredients:

  •  2 bricks of feta cheese, 8 ounces each
  • 1 whole jalapeno peppers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • the zest of half a lemon
  •  cracked pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top of your garlic bulb and pour olive oil inside and on top, wrap in foil. Place jalapeno on foil, pour olive oil and season with salt and pepper on all sides. Place both in oven . The garlic bulb will take 25-30 minutes and the jalapeno will take about 20. Be sure to keep an eye on the jalapeno and take out once it is charred. Once each are done, remove from oven and let cool.

In a large bowl, break feta with hands.  Zest one half of a lemon and use juice from same half. Once jalapeno is cooled, chop and add to feta. Squeeze garlic bulbs into feta as well. Add 1/4 cup olive oil.

Using a fork, mash ingredients into feta cheese. The cheese will be “wet” looking and that is what you want. Feel free to add more olive oil if you prefer. The original recipe calls for three jalapeno’s, however I only added one not wanting to have the cheese to be too hot. Next time, I think two will be the perfect amount.

Taking the advice of original recipe, I made the dip ahead of time and stored in the fridge. I let it sit out for 30 minutes or so before serving. This dip would be perfect with pita chips, however we spread it over warm naan bread. The mix of flavors was wonderful.

Such an easy and very tasty appetizer!

This dip can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.

On to the main course. Ever since Jake found this recipe, I have made it dozens of times and find it a very simple, yet very flavorful dish to make.

 Cajun Red Beans and Rice

recipe from bettyskitchen.com 

  •  1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion, white or yellow
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans of red or kidney beans with liquid
  • 5 ounce of canned ham, you can also baked ham
  • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • hot sauce, amount to liking of spiciness
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add chopped vegetables and saute in butter until the onions become clear.

Add garlic, canned beans with liquid, water, ham and seasoning.

Cook uncovered over medium heat for one hour or until the sauce becomes thicker.

While dish is simmering, make rice. I like using Uncle Ben’s rice in a bag.

Serve over rice. Devour. Pretty simple if I do say so myself.

The aroma of this dish simmering is beyond fantastic!

Our dinner pairings turned out well and it was nice to be able to eat the naan with the feta cheese and with the cajun red beans and rice.

Do you have any “go-to” recipes that you find yourself making over and over again? I would love to hear them! 

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