12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 8 : Roasted Red Pepper & Cream Cheese Dip

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I know in my last post I told you to ditch the chip and dip and make bacon-wrapped dates, but dips are a good thing to have in your culinary arsenal. (Does that even make sense?)

Whether it’s with served with crackers, chips or a crudite platter, dip is easy and a crowd-pleaser. This one is inspired by *again* Simon Hopkinson’s Piedmontese peppers. You roast the peppers in the oven, blitz them in the blender, then whisk the red pepper puree with softened cream cheese. Season, and that’s it! I used one large bell pepper for this, so the measurements are not exact- you may need to add more cream cheese to reach the right consistency.

ROASTED RED PEPPER DIP (Inspired by this recipe.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • Chilli flakes (optional)

METHOD

  • Preheat oven o 190 C
  • Wash your red pepper, remove the stalk and seeds and cut it into quarters/large chunks.
  • Place your red peppers and large clove of garlic in a baking dish, season with flaky sea salt and black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil till evenly coated.
  • Bake at 190 C for 40 minutes until the peppers are tender and fragrant.
  • Once cooled, transfer the pepper chunks and garlic, along with the pan juices, to a blender. Blend to make a smooth puree.
  • Transfer the puree to a bowl, add softened cream cheese and whisk till smooth. If you’d like a thicker dip, add more cream cheese.
  • Add more salt and pepper to taste and top with chilli flakes if you want to.

12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 8: Bacon-Wrapped Dates

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Don’t go by how these look- I know they don’t look too pretty. But I guarantee they taste wonderful! A perfect combination of salty & sweet, gooey & crunchy. And it takes just half an hour to put together, including the baking time.

This recipe comes from Anna at The Yellow Table, one of the inspirations behind this series. What I love about Anna’s blog is her focus on entertaining, and how to put together menus and parties for every occasion. She has some great appetizer recipes, ranging from ridiculously easy (like this one!) to more sophisticated but still simple stuff like crostini.

The dates soften and caramelize a little during their time in the oven, and the bacon strips get nice and crispy- it’s a pretty much to-die-for combination. I pitted the dates and added some slivered almonds in the middle, but you can use cheese, too- that would make for a more indulgent bite!

So seriously- the next time you have a party, ditch the chip & dip, trash the tartines and avoid the antipasti. (It’s been awhile since I alliterated, folks! I was itching to!) Just wrap some dates in bacon and stick ‘em in the oven like so. Your guests (a long as they’re not vegetarian/vegan) will be happy.

BACON-WRAPPED DATES (From The Yellow Table.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 30 dates, pitted
  • 30 almond slivers
  • 450 grams bacon strips, each strip cut into thirds

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 190 C
  • Place an almond sliver in the middle of each date.
  • Wrap each date in a strip of bacon, wrapping the ends under.
  • Place on a baking tray/sheet, and bake at 190 C for 15 mins until the bacon is crisp and golden.
  • Cool before serving.

Sugar-Free Nutty Buckwheat Granola

 

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Ever since I discovered My New Roots, I’ve been experimenting with whole grains and other whole foods. (Incidentally, I discovered My New Roots via Suits star Patrick J Adams’ Instagram feed. So now we know Mike Ross likes his whole grains!)

What I love about the site is that Sarah breaks things down and explains why something is good for you- she doesn’t just preach about what to stay away from. She tells you why goat’s milk digests quicker than cow’s milk. Sweet potatoes aren’t just loaded with beta-carotene, they help digestion. Buckwheat is not a grain, but a seed!

I read about the benefits of buckwheat on Sarah’s blog, and began using buckwheat flour for muffins and pancakes.  She posted a granola recipe earlier this year using buckwheat groats, and I was toying with the idea of making my own. I’d actually been toying with the idea of making my own granola for a good year now, but I’d still end up buying those Nature Valley or chocolate chip Quaker Chewy Granola Bars at the store. (Which are probably as healthy as a Pop Tart.)

This obsessive idea that I would “one day” make my own granola led me to bookmark no fewer than 13 articles and recipes related to the art and craft of granola-making in my Evernote. Each time I’d come across a granola recipe or tutorial, I’d feverishly read it and clip it, like it would disappear if I didn’t lock it away in my digital safe. But I finally got my granola on today.

This week, when I went grocery shopping, I picked up a large jar of granola, examined it and put it back. I had just crossed a shelf with packets of buckwheat groats and rolled oats. My laziness took a backseat and I figured I might as well just take an hour out of my morning and bake my own granola already, especially since everything I needed was right under my nose.

Now the inspiration for this post comes from Sarah B, but the recipe is from Food52, one of my favourite cooking resources on the web. It’s quick, uncomplicated, and the Food52 version is vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free. I adapted it to suit what I had in the kitchen- so this one is sugar-free, but not vegan or gluten-free. (I’ve used honey in this recipe, which is considered an animal product by many.) The banana is a wonderful addition- it binds the granola together and keeps it pleasantly moist, without getting sticky. Plus, the combination of banana, cinnamon, ginger and walnuts makes this taste like banana-bread flavoured granola…and that can’t be a bad thing, right?

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It may seem like a lot of trouble- you know, compared to just hopping down to the store and buying granola off the shelf- but I think it’s worth it. The most time-consuming task for me was chopping the almonds, but if you have a nut-grinder than you can create some nut rubble in a few strokes. The dates needed pitting and chopping, but nothing monumental. And the good thing about doing it yourself is that you get to decide how fine or chunky you want the pieces. So no more cursing boxed granola that has specks of dried fruit that can literally slip between your teeth.

 

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SUGAR-FREE BUCKWHEAT GRANOLA (Adapted from Food52.)

INGREDIENTS

  • cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2cup mixed seeds and nuts (I used watermelon seeds, walnuts and almonds)
  • teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • teaspoon ginger powder
  • ripe banana, mashed well
  • tablespoons oil (I used canola, but Food52 suggests olive oil/coconut oil/almond butter)
  • tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates, raisins and dried fruit

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 170° C
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat, rolled oats, seeds + nuts, and spices.
  • Add the mashed banana, oil, and honey/maple syrup to the dry ingredients and mix well so that everything is coated.
  • Spread the mixture evenly across a baking sheet lined with Silpat and bake at 170° C for 20-30 minutes, until fragrant and golden. (You should gently stir the mixture at the halfway mark.)
  • Transfer to a bowl and fold in the dates, raisins and dry fruit.
  • Cool before transferring to a container.