Crab Dip

"No man is a failure who is enjoying life." - William Feather

So... My Dad's 60th birthday is coming up and it's a huge deal! Since I go see my parents every two weeks, meal planning for his birthday dinner is an even bigger deal than when I was younger. I have the pressure of cooking for them since I don't see them that often as well as the pressure of celebrating his big 6-0. When it comes to the main meal, he's relatively easy to please since he loves meat, so I'll probably end up cooking a beef platter accompanied by a salad or some kind of rice or pasta dish. Now, when it comes to appetizers, he can be a real hit-or-miss kind of man. He can love something just as much as he can hate something, and when I mention trying out something new, you can be sure to see a raised eyebrow on his face. He can be pretty finicky when it comes to seafood so that's why I decided to tackle the challenge of finding a great, light, and easy-to-make seafood appetizer that I know my Dad would approve of. This recipe ended up being just that! The flavor of the crab meat was brought out by the onion, lemon, and dill which ended up making it taste fresh and crisp. It also was a great way to make something with crab since we don't usually eat it often. I went with pairing the dip with crackers since my Dad likes getting his fingers dirty sometimes like a 5 year old, but if you want to class up this recipe, you can try using the dip to make Crab Tartlets (the variation recipe is going to be all the way at the bottom of this post).

Crab Dip
adapted from: New Cook Book 14th Edition by Better Homes and Gardens

*yield: about 1 1/3 cups*

6 oz canned fancy white crabmeat, drained and flaked
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1/2 cup all natural sour cream
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tsp dried dillweed
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
several dashes bottled hot sauce
pure ground black pepper
unsalted tops premium saltine crackers

1) In a medium bowl stir together crabmeat, mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, dillweed, lemon zest, lemon juice, and hot sauce. Season dip to taste with salt and black pepper.
2) Transfer dip to a serving bowl. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Serve with crackers.

Crab Tartlets

[same ingredients as above]
30 miniature phyllo dough shells

Prepare as above in Step 1. Place the phyllo dough shells on a large baking sheet. Spoon dip into shells. Bake in a 350F oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until heated through.


Berry Bonanza Smoothie

"My life is my message." - Mahatma Gandhi

Oh Netflix, you've become a great ally in combating boredom and insomnia, sometimes both at the same time. I'm sure all of you have gotten to the same point that I'm at right now which involves binge-watching a show then feeling empty once that show ends, which leads to binge-watching another show. I've watched Dawson's Creek, Charmed, and Greek, all the while watching my daily shows on ABC and Fox. Yes, I admit it, I'm a TV junkie. No shame here! I especially love watching my shows while baking or cooking, even though it consists more of listening to them instead of watching. I angle the TV in a way in which I can directly look at it from the counter as I'm figuring out what recipe to try out next. I can't even begin to tell you how many episodes I can knock out in a day by doing this. It may not be too healthy, but hey, some people listen to music while cooking, some listen to audio books, so I prefer to listen to TV shows. It ironically helps me concentrate on what I'm doing in the kitchen. Actually, come to think of it, having the TV on in the background helps me concentrate on everything from reading, to doing homework, to balancing the checkbook, to planning my meals for the week. Speaking of meal planning, I've made sure to include this smoothie as part my breakfast every day since I first made it. It's fruity, creamy, satisfying, and easy to change up by adding bananas or any kind of berry you'd like. It can also be the main part of a meal or can be had as a snack. Have fun making different kinds of bonanzas, maybe even while watching a great TV show!

Berry Bonanza Smoothie
adapted from: Smoothies! by Stella Murphy

*serves 1*

4 oz no sugar added 100% juice apple juice
4.5 oz all natural nonfat Greek strained yogurt
2 oz blackberries
2 oz blueberries

1) Place the apple juice and yogurt into the blender then add the berries and blend until smooth.
2) Pour into a glass over ice.


Almond-Raisin Pound Cake

"Calmness is the cradle of power." - Josiah Gilbert Holland

Have you been bitten by the travel bug yet? Maybe it's a mid-20s thing, but most of my friends are just now discovering the world and how awesome traveling can be. Actually, let me rephrase that. Most of my friends that have outgrown the crazy "I just want to party" phase are now traveling the globe and adding the phrase "wanderlust" to their Instagram bios. Some of them are road tripping throughout the USA, others are cruising around the Caribbean, some are hiking through South America, and others are hitting the main European cities in full splendor. I love seeing everyone's pictures, so I'm living vicariously through their Swarm check-ins and their Instagram posts. Like, I follow a girl I met a few years ago during Winter Music Conference. She's a nurse from Canada, but travels the whole world and has the best adventures. She's gone to every Asian country, bunked with Tibetan monks, had a safari in Africa, rode camels past the Great Pyramids, met with Indian shamans in South America, and even went to Burning Man recently. It's like her posts could easily be pictures seen throughout National Geographic magazines. I have another friend who a few months ago traveled through the whole of France and Belgium with her boyfriend for a month and everything she'd post looked as if they were a part of a Travel Channel special. Seeing all those pictures has given A and me serious travel-envy, to a point that we've decided that one of our goals for 2015 is to travel, whether it's to Washington DC or to Australia, some kind of traveling is going to happen next year, mark my words. We've already started looking into traveling websites and travel agencies. All we need to do is set a budget and set a travel destination. Any recommendations would be much appreciated! In the meantime, baking and cooking will tide me over until then. This post's featured cake is pretty good when accompanied with coffee or hot chocolate. The texture is a bit crumbly but still tasty. If I were to remake this, I'd add some amaretto into it or almond extract in order for it to pair well with the almonds that are in the batter.

Almond-Raisin Pound Cake
adapted from: CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown

*yield: one 12-cup Bundt cake*

13 oz unbleached all purpose flour
4 oz almond slices
3.5 oz California raisins
1 tbsp all natural unmodified potato starch
1/4 tsp pure baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/2 cup ultra-pasteurized half & half
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp ultra-pasteurized heavy whipping cream
2 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
5 oz unsalted butter
12 oz extra fine granulated sugar
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
4 large eggs

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.
2) Set out the ingredients and equipment.
- Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.
- Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.
- Measure the liquid ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is completely smooth.
- Measure the butter and sugars into separate bowls and set aside.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and set aside.
3) In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on the lowest speed for 4 to 5 minutes.
4) With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.
5) Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter. Don't wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6) Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don't miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter's structure.
7) Prepare the pan. Spray the pan well with a nonstick spray.
8) Fill the pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter with the rubber spatula in small clumps around the prepared pan instead of by pouring it into one spot. Level the batter with the rubber spatula.
9) Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
10) Once the top of the cake doesn't jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. When the skewer shows just a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.
11) Once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface.
12) Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

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