Welcome to the Circle B Kitchen!  We love that you're here and hope you'll browse the site and grab some recipes.  The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...
                                                                                 Contact me at
     pberry@circle-B-kitchen.com

Find a Circle B Kitchen Recipe 

Some of Our Favorite Party Foods!

   Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts    

        Sausage Roll Bites 

   7-Layer Mediterranean Dip   

Pasta Squares with Pepperoni and
                      Olives

      Artichoke Spinach Dip 

  Cheese-y Beer and Mustard Dip   

        Baked Mozzarella Sticks       

      Cheese-y Beer Popovers         

        Olive Cheese Bites

       Crab and Avocado Rolls
            Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
 

       Parmesan Munchy Mix

    Artichoke, Spinach and Goat                Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms     

3-Cheese Crostini with Italian                                  Sausage                

        Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
  


Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets

    Toasted Pine Nut Hummus       

                Pizza Sliders    

... and just in case you were wondering...

       

 

Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .

 

 

Saturday
Jan242015

Mixed Greens Salad with Clementines, Avocado, Roasted Shrimp and So Much More

 

I can’t even think how long ago we first started making the original version of this salad, but it has to be at least 20 years ago.  I think it’s probably more like 30 years ago, and it might be possible that it’s older even than that.  Whatever.  Suffice to say it’s probably been in my recipe file since I was 2 or 3.  The original recipe called for salad greens, canned mandarin oranges and sliced avocado, mixed with a sweet and sour dressing and sprinkled with toasted slivered almonds.  It was such a good salad and we made it pretty often back in the day. 

Over the years I swapped out the canned mandarins with fresh clementines, or navel oranges when clementines weren’t in season, and added a sprinkling of goat cheese or blue cheese.  I haven’t messed with the salad dressing, as that would be pointless.  It’s perfect…sweet, sour, delicious.

But then last night, wanting something a little lighter for dinner, I thought I’d turn our beloved salad into a main dish by adding roasted shrimp and dressing it up a bit further with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.  And boy howdy, if our humble little salad from the ‘60’s didn’t morph into something rather glamorously sophisticated!  And not coincidentally, even more delicious! 

There’s definitely a lot going on in that salad bowl– seven ingredients might seem a bit excessive.  But every flavor and texture either holds its own or plays very nicely with everyone else, creating a lovely salad that’s deliciously complicated, yet well-mannered and remarkably harmonious.  Not a bad looker either.  Here’s the recipe…

Mixed Greens Salad with Clementines, Avocado and Roasted Shrimp 

Click here for a printable recipe

This is such a deliciously versatile salad.  You can easily leave out the shrimp and serve it as a tasty side dish.  I sometimes swap out the goat cheese for blue cheese with really delicious results.  Be sure to add a good portion of the goat cheese to the salad before mixing and adding the salad dressing.  The goat cheese blends a little with the dressing to add a bit of creaminess. The salad holds pretty well in the fridge for up to ½ hour before serving.  Oh, and be sure to serve it with some fresh, warm, crusty bread.

Serves 2 as a main course salad 

4 cups of romaine and leaf lettuces torn into small pieces
2 clementines, peeled and segmented
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup slivered toasted almonds
3 oz goat cheese, divided (see headnote)
½ lb raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup pomegranate seeds (optional) 

Sweet and sour dressing:
½ c oil
3 T wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice
2 T sugar
½ t salt
½ t dry mustard
2 tsp grated or minced onion or shallots

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a small-ish baking sheet with nonstick spray. 

Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to emulsify.  Place the shrimp in a bowl or ziptop bag, and pour a little of the dressing over the shrimp.  Mix well, cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for about ½ hour.  Place the rest of the dressing in the refrigerator to chill. 

Remove the shrimp from the marinade (discard the marinade) and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and pepper.  Bake for 7-8 minutes or until the shrimp have just turned pink and are barely cooked through.  Be careful not to overcook them.  Place the cooked shrimp on a plate, cover, and refrigerate while you assemble the salad. 

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, clementines, avocado, slivered almonds, and 2/3 of the goat cheese.  Add the chilled shrimp and just enough of the dressing to coat everything really well.  Sprinkle the salad with the remaining goat cheese and the pomegranate seeds, if using.  So nice if served with some fresh, crusty bread.

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Friday
Jan162015

Cheese-y Pasta Bites

Over the past few years we’ve kind’ve taken the football party and elevated it to the sort of gastronomical excesses that belie our deeply-held beliefs in a healthy, wholesome diet.  The football party is our one concession to gluttony and indulgence and the always-interesting challenge to see just how many platters and bowls of food can fit on every available horizontal surface.  

As you can imagine, we’ve amassed quite the repertoire of appetizer recipes, and this little bite of heavenly deliciousness is sort of a take on our pasta squares that are almost always a part of our game day food fest. As much as I love those pasta squares, these little pasta bites might edge them out for a spot on the Super Bowl table this year.

But, while snacking on these a little while ago, I got to thinking that they would also be ever so cute for a brunch buffet or a wedding or baby shower and would make a great app for a cocktail party.  Do people still have cocktail parties? 

So what exactly are we talking about here?  Well, you're just going to be cooking up some angel hair pasta and then mixing that with eggs, cheese and seasonings and then baking them in mini muffin tins until the centers are cheese-y and bubbly and the edges are brown and crispy.  They really are a cinch to make and come together in just over 30 minutes, and are best eaten straight from the oven while the edges are still crispy.  But re-heating is easy, and they store well in the fridge, so making them ahead is a perfectly fine option. 

I guess that about covers it.  Anytime I can merge my pasta passion with a fun little finger food, I’m all in.  And I’m definitely all in with this one.  Here’s the recipe…

CHEESE-Y PASTA BITES

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe inspired by one from Proud Italian Cook

This recipe is basically a template for you to create your own variations of these incredibly delicious little appetizers.  The only constant here is that for each 8 oz of pasta you'll use 4 eggs.   You can increase the amounts of cheese or sub out the Italian blend for blue cheese or goat cheese or add more spinach or use kale instead.  You can make them spicy or not, or you can add your favorite herbs.  You could also top them with a little dab of marinara sauce or pesto before serving, but no matter how you make ‘em, they’re best right out of the oven. 

Makes about 40 mini appetizers 

8 oz angel hair pasta, broken into thirds
4 eggs
½ cup (or more) grated Italian cheeses (provolone, mozzarella, parmesan, asiago)
¼ cup (or more) feta cheese
¼ cup (or more) chopped spinach (frozen, thawed and squeezed dry)
1 tsp black pepper (or crushed red pepper)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese for topping 

Preheat oven to 370 degrees.  Spray 2 mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. 

Cook the angel hair pasta in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes or until al dente.  Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. 

In a large bowl beat the eggs with a fork and add the remaining ingredients, except for the parmesan for topping.  Mix in the cooked pasta and stir to combine thoroughly.  

Place a tablespoon or two of the pasta mixture into each muffin cup and sprinkle with a bit of the grated parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a serving platter.  Serve them warm with an optional dab of pesto or marinara sauce.

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Saturday
Jan102015

Ina's Stuffed Cabbage

 

In spite of the fact that I was fairly certain The Husband wasn’t going to be all that excited about eating stuffed cabbage for dinner, I was so hungry for this, I just went for it.  As it turns out, I needn’t have worried.  Not only did he like it, he took seconds (well, we both did), and declared it to be awesomely good.  I mean, who uses awesome and stuffed cabbage in the same sentence?  Besides me, I mean.  I pretty much find cabbage to be awesome in just about any form. 

But oh, this is a stuffed cabbage for the ages; one that keeps you thinking about it long after the meal is over and the dishes are cleaned and even into the next day until you get to warm the leftovers for another meal.  Did I mention the leftovers?  Lordy, this will make you enough stuffed cabbage to take to work for lunch and share with the neighbors and still get 2 or 3 more meals out of it.  

We have Ina Garten to thank for this one.  I watched her make it for Jeffrey while I was on the treadmill last week and had to jump off mid-run to put cabbage on my grocery list.  

There are a couple of things that set this particular recipe apart from other stuffed cabbages I’ve made, and the first one is the genius way to get the cabbage leaves off the head without tearing them while softening them at the same time. 

You guys probably already knew how to do this, but what an awesome way to de-leaf a cabbage!  Just remove the core and submerge the entire cabbage into boiling water and one by one, the leaves will come loose and you can pull them out with tongs to dry on a kitchen towel. 

The second and third things that set this one part (and for which I was initially skeptical) is that the sauce is a little on the sweet side AND then you add raisins.  Raisins!  How wrong is that?!  I was pretty sure it was totally wrong, but decided to be brave and go on with it, and believe me, I will not be making this again without the raisins.  For some reason, it just works.  The husband concurred, so raisins it is!  I did add an extra tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the sauce to sort of balance the sweetness and next time I might add another.  The Husband said not to change a thing, so we’ll see. 

As to the filling, Ms. Garten uses ground pork.  I used a combination of ground turkey and some homemade turkey sausage I had on hand and it was so, so good.  Well, it was all just good. 

And while it may take a bit of time to stuff your cabbage leaves, it really all does come together quite easily.  These are the kind of cooking projects that draw me in and keep me entertained and out of trouble for an afternoon, but probably not something you’re going to want to take on after a long day at work. 

The actual stuffing is a breeze… just remove the stiff stem piece from your cabbage leaf and place some filling in the middle. 

Wrap each side over the filling and then roll, tucking the sides in as you go.  

Place your little cabbages in a heavy pot with some of the sauce and depending on the size of your pan, you’ll have two or three layers.  

This all goes into the oven for an hour or so (depending if you use raw rice in your filling).  I served it with smashed Yukon Gold potatoes (a little butter, milk, buttermilk, salt and pepper) on the side....so very scrumptious.

Stuffed cabbage is an old school-style comfort food that’s homey and rustic and feels a little like what your Grandma might have made in the dead of winter to warm you clear through, heart and soul.  Definitely with mashed potatoes on the side.  Here’s the recipe…

Ina's Stuffed Cabbage

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

This is the stuffed cabbage recipe I’ve been looking for!  So flavorful, and although a bit time-consuming, certainly not difficult.  I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe which you can opt to do if you like.  I used ground turkey for the filling and subbed in 1 lb of turkey sausage for part of the meat.  The other change I made was to add another tablespoon or so of vinegar to the sauce to further balance the sweeness.  Perhaps, like me, you will be tempted to leave out the raisins, but don’t.  They're just so good!  Also, if you're using raw rice in the filling, it may take a little longer than the hour that Ms. Garten suggests cooking these in her recipe.  I cooked mine for 90 minutes and they came out perfectly.  I can also imagine this would be great done in a slow cooker for even longer.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 small onions)
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I added a little more)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup raisins
1  1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head Savoy or green cabbage, including outer leaves

For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck (I subbed in 1 lb sausage)
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten (I used large)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (you could use ½ tsp dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Remove the entire core of the cabbage with a paring knife. Immerse the head of cabbage in the boiling water for a few minutes, peeling off each leaf with tongs as soon as it s flexible. Set the leaves aside. Depending on the size of each leaf, you will need at least 14 leaves.

For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, eggs, onion, breadcrumbs, rice, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the sauce to the meat mixture and mix lightly with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To assemble, place 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Remove the hard triangular rib from the base of each cabbage leaf with a small paring knife. Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of filling in an oval shape near the rib edge of each leaf and roll up toward the outer edge, tucking the sides in as you roll. Place half the cabbage rolls, seam sides down, over the sauce. Add more sauce and more cabbage rolls alternately until you ve placed all the cabbage rolls in the pot. Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover the dish tightly with the lid and bake for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked and the rice is tender (I baked mine for 90 minutes).  Serve hot.

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Saturday
Jan032015

Mushroom Bruschetta with Herbs and Blue Cheese

 

First of all, Happy New Year, everyone!  Doesn’t 2015 seem like it’s going to be an awesome year?  There’s absolutely no evidence that would lead one to think this might be true, but since we've maybe got a 50/50 chance, I’m going with optimism.  So far, so good. 

And speaking of good, today’s topic is mushrooms!  As I mentioned here, as winter sets in I find myself craving mushrooms, but I only just recently figured out why (besides their inherent deliciousness).  It seems that mushrooms are one of the few foods that contain significant amounts of Vitamin D, and as our exposure to sunlight wanes during the winter months, it totally makes sense that one would crave foods that replenish Vitamin D, which is mostly provided by sunlight.  I knew there must be a logical explananation for this craving, and there you have it!   But it still seems to me that the world is divided in half between those who love and adore mushrooms (my people) and those who abhor them (the Others).  There don’t seem to be too many people on the fence when it comes to our friendly fungi. 

Based on that, I probably just lost half of my readers who have moved on to another blog and more genial topics.  I sort of understand how one might perhaps not quite enjoy the flavor or textural nuances of mushrooms,  but I’m just saying that to be nice cuz I don’t understand at all.  I love mushrooms in just about any form (raw in salads, cooked, roasted, stuffed, dried).  If someone could just capture the beautiful scent of a just-opened package of dried porcini mushrooms into a spray-on perfume, I think I might be convinced to actually use perfume, which I really can’t abide, not ever.  Anyway, I’ve already professed my love of all things mushroom here, so I needn’t belabor the point further.  

Let us move on to some of the ways I’ve been enjoying them recently, and perhaps one or two or all of these will appeal to you mushroom lovers out there.  I start with a basic recipe of sautéed crimini mushrooms (use whatever mushrooms you love) with herbs and garlic and olive oil and butter, which is really anything but basic, actually.  It’s scrumptiously good all on its own, but here are a few things I like to do with them… 

Firstly, these incredible mushroom bruschetta sprinkled with blue cheese (please refer to photo at top).  Oh heavenly days, are they good…just a perfect bite with a glass of wine or a beer or adult beverage of your choice, or whatever. Just so, so good.  If blue cheese isn’t your deal, goat cheese is an awesome sub-out. 

And if you’d like to take that lovely bruschetta just a little further and make a light meal out of it, a fried egg on top is simply the bomb.  I’m pretty partial to a fried egg on top of just about anything, so my judgment might be a little skewed here.

If you’re really hungry and want something even more substantial, you can take your mushroom bruschetta with a fried egg and turn it into this incredibly delicious Panini with provolone cheese. You could sub out the provolone for gruyere or Muenster or fontina; they’re all mushroom-friendly.  I also like to sometimes add some fresh spinach to it.  And if I’m really looking for something hearty, I like to sub out the egg for a nicely grilled chicken breast (I’ve been known to add bacon too).  

Alrighty then, that should keep you mushroom lovers busy and out of trouble for a little while. And whether you're a mushroom lover or not, I really do wish you all a happy, healthy and delicious  new year!  Here are the recipes…

Mushroom Bruschetta with Herbs and Blue Cheese

Click here for a printable recipe

There are so many things you can do with these beautiful sautéed mushrooms, but topping a slice of perfectly grilled bread is one of our favorites.  Fresh herbs really make the flavors pop, but I often like to use a teaspoon of my Tuscan Herb Salt when fresh herbs aren’t handy.  You can also use dried herbs, just cut the amounts in half.  If using the Tuscan Herb Salt, you may not need to add any additional salt.  Just taste as you go, adding more or less to your preference.  For a more substantial repast, top your mushroom bruschetta with a fried egg and you’ve got a nice, simple and delicious meal.  If you like, you can turn your bruschetta into a fried egg panini.  I’ve included instructions for that below.

Ingredients:

Several slices of rustic bread (about 4-6)
10 oz crimini mushrooms
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each chopped fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (see headnote)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 to 4 oz of blue cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
(optional, 1 fried egg per toast) 

Wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel to remove any bits of dirt and then slice off the stems and slice the mushrooms.  I like to leave the slices a little on the thicker side so they keep their texture while cooking. 

Heat a medium sauté pan over high heat until it’s pretty hot.  Add the butter and olive oil and when the butter has melted, add the mushrooms.  Saute the mushroom until they’ve taken on some good color and begun to soften, reduce the heat and add the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper.  Continue to cook for another 5 to 6 minutes and then remove from the heat.  Taste for salt and pepper.  The mushrooms should be cooked through, but not too soft. 

While the mushrooms are cooking, brush the bread slices lightly with a bit of olive, sprinkle with a little salt and place on a grill pan until they’ve taken on some color.  You want them crisp on the outside, but still a little soft on the inside.  When both sides are done, remove from the pan.  You can also do this in the oven or under the broiler. 

Top each piece of bread with some of the mushroom-herb mixture and then sprinkle with blue cheese and chopped parsley.  Serve warm. 

If opting to top your bruschetta with a fried egg, you may leave out the blue cheese if you like.

For the Mushroom Bruschetta Panini… 

For each Panini:

While your grill pan heats up, top 2 slices of bread with a slice of provolone or muenster cheese.  Spoon some of the mushroom-herb mixture on one of the slices, top with a fried egg (optional) and then the other slice of bread.  Brush the outside pieces of the bread with a little olive oil and place on the heated grill pan.  Place a heavy pan on top to weight it down and when  the bottom bread has good grill marks, flip the sandwich over and replace the pan on top (of course, you can also do this in a panini press) and continue cooking until the cheese is melted.  Remove from the pan, slice in half and eat while still warm.  And yes, sometimes the egg yolk breaks from the pressing, but that all depends on how cooked the yolk was before placing in the Panini.  The broken yolk just provides a wondrous sauce for the mushrooms.  Enjoy! 

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Sunday
Dec282014

Sausage Roll Bites

Well, that was fun!  We had such a great Christmas here and I’m hoping the same for you.  But it’s time to move on to what for me is the funnest week of the year...between Christmas and New Years.  We do a lot of partying during this week around here and keep ourselves entertained with bowl games and football pools and lots of fun party food. 

Over the years I’ve amassed quite a collection of party app recipes and this year I’ll be adding these yummy little sausage roll bites to the list.  I found the recipe in the New York Times (David Tanis), and it took me no time to get them made up.  I loved the story behind these little rolls, which are British in origin, and are traditionally made for Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) when all of the servants were given the day off.  Seeing as how my servants were going to be taking that day off as well, I thought I’d make up a batch for the household.  Actually my servants have every day off. Bah! 

 

I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes when I look at a food photo, I often make assumptions about what I’m looking at based on what I subconsciously hope it actually is, and in this case, I totally thought that these were made from pizza dough or bread dough of some kind.  But in reality, they were made with puff pastry.  A little research confirmed that Boxing Day sausage rolls are indeed made with pastry dough, but I still wanted them to be made with pizza dough so that’s what I did.  And we loved them very much.  You could, of course, make them with puff pastry or pie dough or whatever dough you like, really.  

Mr. Tanis made up his own sausage mixture, which I would like to try sometime.  But being a bit pressed for time, I thawed out some Italian sausages I had in the freezer, removed the casings and just laid them on the dough before wrapping and slicing them up.

 

So, so easy.  Then it’s just a matter of baking them and getting them out on some platters, definitely to be eaten warm from the oven.  We dipped them in mustard which seemed rather perfect.  

And as a bonus which I am most definitely going to be trying soon, the King Arthur flour people have come up a few different fillings for these, all of which sound pretty great.  Here’s a link to those recipes.  Whether your servants have the day off or not, you really must work some sausage rolls into your holiday party plans.  Here’s the recipe…

Sausage Roll Bites

Click here for a printable recipe

The original recipe as written in The Times uses a homemade pastry for the rolls, but this can be subbed out with frozen puff pastry sheets.  I used ½ recipe of my homemade pizza dough, but store-bought pizza dough would work great too.  I’ve provided a link to David Tanis’ recipe in case you would like to make his sausage filling, but for simplicity’s sake, I just used link sausage with the casings removed.  You could also use bulk sausage and form it into a 1-inch diameter roll.  

Recipe adapted from the New York Times 

½ lb pizza dough 
4 links of your favorite sausage (raw), about a pound, casings removed
Mustard of your choice for dipping

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 

Sprinkle your counter with a little flour and roll out your pizza dough to just under 1/4 –inch thick and cut into 4 rectangles, each about 8 inches by 4 inches.  

Working with 1 rectangle of dough at a time, lay the sausage in the center of the dough. It should reach to the ends of the dough, so trim off any excess. 

Pull the dough up over the sausage and crimp the edges closed to fit tightly over the sausage.  I rolled it around a bit on the counter to make sure it was tightly sealed. 

Using a sharp knife, cut your roll into 1-inch slices and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the dough with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little kosher salt if desired. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and sausage.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown and cooked through.  Let cool briefly before serving warm with mustard for dipping.

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