Chocolate, Cheese, and Wine, Oh My

For the second year Andy and I hosted a party featuring chocolate, cheese and wine. Most of our friends travel over the school Winter break. We send out an invitation asking people to pick up either some chocolate, cheese, or wine while traveling and bring it the party to share. We get together the first weekend we return from the holiday so everyone has a chance to get caught up with each other. We've had the chance to sample some excellent treats from all over the world. This year we had Pecorino from Umbria, Reblochon from France, a really strong cheddar from England, and Dutch goat cheese. Yes, things smelled a little funky, but I mean that in the nicest way.

Here are a few pictures of some of the treats we sampled.

In addition to the chocolates and cheese I like to add a few homemade treats. Brownie stuffed cupcakes, Mexican Chocolate Cake, and White Chocolate Cranberry Bars. I did make a rule that you had to eat a cupcake before you went home. I did not want any of those leftover in my house.

After everyone went home there were several odds and ends of cheese lying about, and what to do with leftover cheese?

Fromage Fort of course. Fromage Fort (Strong Cheese in French) is a creamy dip made up of leftover cheese, a little wine, come garlic, herbs, and butter. Serve it with bread, grissini, crudite, or make an over the top great grilled cheese sandwich.

Fromage Fort
This is a forgiving formula.....use what cheese you like or have on hand. Be warned that a strong, funky cheese will dominate in flavor so use them judiciously unless that's what you're looking for.

1 pound (more or less) of cheese. I used a mixture of Pecorino, another unidentified hard cheese, Edam, Brie, and Chevre.
3/4-1 cup white wine, any variety
1 clove of garlic
1-2 tablespoons of minced herbs, rosemary, chives, parsley.....whatever strikes your fancy
2-6 tablespoons of softened butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Grate the hard cheeses and cut or tear the soft cheeses into chunks. Put all the cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic, herbs, butter and about half of the wine.  Process until smooth. Add more wine or butter if you want to loosen the mixture up a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Resolutions? Probably not, but maybe this one.

How is 2013 treating you? Made any resolutions?
I don't make New Year's resolutions. (I also don't give things up for Lent).
Why you ask?  Slippery slope people. Some would say I am weak, (or distracted by shiny objects), I say, I'm a realist. I know for fact that I WILL eat all that chocolate, not go to the gym, not drink 8 glasses of water a day, nor learn to crochet. And then once I do/don't do all those things I'll think, well heck what else is there to lose, and then who knows what I'll get in to.
See, slippery slope.
But......maybe I will make some resolutions this year. Like I most definitely WILL resolve to make these more often.

Nope, they aren't Cinnamon Rolls. They are what Cinnamon Rolls would be if they spent a semester abroad in some place sexy and exotic. They are Tahini Buns. What's that you say? Never heard of them? I hadn't either, but I had a big ol' jar of tahini that I needed to use before we left for Christmas break, and while searching out ways to use it I found this recipe.

They start with a pita dough which is rolled up with tahini, sugar, and cinnamon. I was skeptical but wow, it's a deadly, addictive combo. So, when you fall off your "I'm never eating carbs again" wagon, we'll be here waiting for you.
No judgement.

Tahini Rolls (Tahinov Hartz)
adapted from Taste of Beirut

1 recipe of pita dough. I used this one
1 1/4 cup of well stirred Tahini
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
coarse sugar for dusting

Make the pita dough. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Once the dough has risen, divide it equally into 3 portions. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Stir together the tahini, sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Roll out each portion of dough into a rectangle about 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. Spread one third of the tahini mixture over the dough and roll up as you would for cinnamon rolls.
Seal the ends well and gently, using a back and forth motion (as though you were making play dough snakes) stretch the dough out to a 2 foot rope. I read that you should try for a 3 1/2 foot rope of dough but I think that's just silly talk.
Cut each rope into 6 pieces. Roll each piece in a pinwheel fashion and pinch the ends tightly to seal. Flatten each roll slightly with your hand and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Well Hello There

Um, yes it has been a while....I appreciated your kind notes and was just....Life.
It happens you know. Busyness sets in, stuff happens, and things like blogs fall by the wayside. 
But, while I was away there was this.

We spent Thanksgiving in Brussels eating loads of CHOCOLATE and giving thanks for great beer. 
Really. Great. Beer.

And then there was this

We spent the Christmas holiday wandering around Italy with some family friends. (More about that later).

And the blog was set aside for a bit. But, with the New Year, I have some new inspiration in the kitchen, I have new look for the blog (BIG thanks to Kristin at Designer Blogs), and well, there is more new stuff coming down the road. Intrigued? Stay tuned.

While in Italy we (surprise) ate our fill of pizza, pasta, bread, and cheese so when we got home, even though inspired by what I saw in the markets and ate in restaurants, I was craving Mexican food. Actually I am always craving Mexican food. No really, if you ever want to go for a taco ask me. I'll say yes every time.
EVERY time.

So I whipped up burrito bowls, technically Tex-Mex, but we're not going to argue that point are we? To be honest, whipped up is not the right word here. There's a lot of parts to this. Not a school night meal at all but a great weekend, curl up and watch the Seattle Seahawks take down the Washington Redskins meal for sure.

Burrito Bowls
Grilled Chicken with Spicy Honey Chipotle Glaze (recipe follows)
Brown Rice with Cilantro (recipe follows)
Mojo Black Beans (recipe follows)
Salsa (recipe follows)
Guacamole or sliced avocado
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese
Sliced Green Onions

Grilled Chicken with Spicy Chipotle Honey Glaze
1/3 cup honey
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce minced
1 tablespoon of orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts placed in a zip top bag

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, minced chipotle pepper, and orange juice. Set aside.
In another small bowl whisk together the olive oil, salt, ground coriander, ground cumin, and paprika. Pour this mixture over the chicken breasts and give the bag a few good squishes to coat the chicken evenly with the oil. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Prepare grill to medium high heat. Cook chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on one side. Turn chicken over and brush cooked side with the glaze. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Turn again and brush the second side with glaze. Cook for 1 minute, turn the chicken and brush again with remaining glaze.
Allow chicken to sit for 5-10 minutes then slice diagonally.

Brown Rice with Cilantro and Lime
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 clove of garlic minced
salt and pepper

Whisk together the cilantro, lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, cumin and garlic. Pour over prepared brown rice while still warm and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mojo Black Beans
2 cans of black beans drained and rinsed
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
11/2 teaspoons ground cumin
11/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried chipotle chili powder
Juice of one medium orange
Juice of one medium lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Saute the chopped onion until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic becomes fragrant and starts to turn golden.
Add the black beans, chicken broth, bay leaf, cumin, oregano, chipotle powder, orange and lemon juice. Stir well and simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2 cans of diced tomatoes (drain them if you like less liquid in your salsa)
1 shallot minced
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a medium mixing bowl stir together all the ingredients and let sit for a few hours to blend the flavors. Keeps for one week in the refrigerator.

To assemble burrito bowls, place a few spoonfuls of rice in a bowl, layer on the beans, grilled chicken, salsa, guac, sour cream, cheese, and green onions.