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Meatless Monday: Mapo Tofu

As a lover of food, there’s nothing better than meeting someone with the same kind of affinity for all-things edible. “You like cow tongue?! I like cow tongue!”

I’m a lucky person. My most recent job had me meeting new people everyday and I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in touch with some of those awesome people. The reason they’re so awesome? They’re FFAs (Fellow Food Appreciators… and, since they hail from Ramona, probably also Future Farmers of America).

Remember my good friend D who miraculously paired pomegranate seeds with spinach and bacon? Well, his dad (Dan) made something recently I had never heard of: Mapo Tofu.

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The origin of the dish’s name is somewhat unsettling, as it translates to “Pockmarked-Face Lady’s Tofu.” But I’m not a book-cover judger, and it just so happens that Pockmarked-Face Lady makes one delicious tofu dish.

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The dish hails from the Sichuan province in China and is extra spicy (read: have extra napkins handy for your nose, which will inevitably run). Dan was kind enough to let me use most of the necessary ingredients, which he had on hand (he’s an FFA, remember), but he also directed me to local Asian markets shall I ever need to purchase the necessities myself — 99 Ranch Market in Clairemont for all you San Diego natives reading this).

I got to check out fermented black beans up close (nope, that is NOT a dead bug), sniff out hot peppercorns (prickly ash) and tantalize my tastebuds with sesame chili oil (I can use this in every dish from here on out, yeah?).

Mapo tofu is usually made with ground pork and large chunks of silken tofu, but, you guys, this is Meatless Monday. Ain’t nobody got time for pork. So I bought a block of extra firm tofu and crumbled it (like I did for curried egg salad) to make it look like ground pork. It’s the kind of “gotcha!” move Sarah Palin would despise. #TopicalJokeCirca2008

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I adapted the recipe below from here, so click that linky for the real deal, grab a glass of milk and get cookin’!

Mapo Tofu (vegetarian version)

Serves 4

What you NeedIMG_6991

  • 1 block silken tofu
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 3 Tbsp. Sichuan spicy bean paste
  • 1 Tbsp. cayenne
  • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 3 Tbsp. chili oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns, roasted and ground to powder (Note: look for “prickly ash” and remove the actual peppercorn and just roast and grind the shells of the actual peppercorn)IMG_6989
  • 1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. fermented black beans (rinsed and pounded)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 scallions, chopped for topping
Wok it Up
  1. Cut the silken tofu into small pieces, drain the water from the tofu and set aside.
  2. Heat up a wok and pour in the EVOO and chili oil. Add the chopped garlic, shallots, crumbled firm tofu, spicy bean paste and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in chili powder, soy sauce, fermented black beans and stir-fry until aromatic.
  4. Add in the silken tofu and water; stir gently to blend the tofu (don’t break them) well with the sauce.
  5. Lower the heat and simmer for about 3-5 mins, or until the sauce thickens.
  6. Add in the roasted Sichuan peppercorn powder and gently stir and blend well.
  7. Dish over jasmine rice, top with chopped scallions and serve hot.IMG_7001

Meatless Monday: Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach and Goat Cheese Mini Frittatas

For some reason, things are just cuter when they’re smaller: children, bills, bugs.

Oh, and frittatas.IMG_6828

It’s strange, but whenever I make frittatas in my favorite cast-iron skillet (like this other meatless one), they never get finished. So I decided my hand out mini-versions, because we seem more inclined to go back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths) when the item is smaller. And l get offended at leftovers.

These mini frittatas — or crustless quiches — are satisfying for lunch, dinner or pre-curser to a large meal. With frittatas, you can add anything in and they’d be delicious. I paired goat cheese with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, sautéing the spinach with some garlic first to enhance the umami of the dish. Simple ingredients that don’t require much preparation.

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Disclaimer: I made 12 of these with the recipe provided below, but after careful consideration, I think you can make 24 by filling the muffin tins half full instead of two-thirds. Either way, you’re going to end up with something deliciously satisfying.

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach and Goat Cheese Mini Frittatas

Makes 12

Gather These Up

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 12 oz spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 3 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 oz goat cheese, divided
  • Baking spray, such as Pam
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk Them Together

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a muffin tin generously with the baking spray of your choice.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin tin cups.
  4. In a large skillet, heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium hear with the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and cook for three minutes. Add the spinach and toss, cooking until wilted — about 6 minutes. Drain the spinach once it’s wilted, squeezing out any excess moisture.IMG_6811
  5. Divide the cooked spinach among the egg-filled muffin tin. You may have some leftover, which I encourage to snack on while these guys bake.
  6. Divide the chopped sun-dried tomatoes evenly among the cups.
  7. Divide the goat cheese in big crumbles among the cups. IMG_6815
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting around the edges to help release the frittatas.
  9. Serve, savor, sigh.IMG_6839

Tips and Variations

  • As we fall into the new season, add mushrooms for an earthier, comforting flavor.
  • Make this on Tuesday and add crumbled, cooked bacon or sausage to the mix.
  • Add red or yellow raw bell peppers for added crunch and color.
  • Use fresh tomatoes instead of sun-dried.
  • Use feta cheese instead of goat and marinated artichoke hearts instead of spinach for a more Mediterranean flavor.
  • Use caramelized onion and blue cheese for a decadent appetizer.IMG_6835

Meatless Monday: Curried Tofu ‘Egg’ Salad

Listen, the fact that my title says egg salad makes me wince. I get it. It’s a food with a bad rap. But this egg salad is free of sulfur-smelling ingredients and could even be called “elevated,” which is just another way to call food fancy. Much like “deconstructed” dishes somehow make things cost $10 more — you know, cause the chef didn’t have to assemble it.

But I digress.

This dish was another brainstorm of my friend Annie (see Baked Pears). She said she gets a curried version of tofu “egg” salad from Whole Foods that she adores and asked me to recreate.

Without knowing what the Whole Foods version looks, tastes or feels like, I accepted the challenge. And the result is a beautiful thing. Who knew crumbled extra firm tofu had the exact same consistency as eggs? Whole Foods did, friends. Whole Foods did.

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I used yellow curry powder, my charismatic condiment, vegan mayonnaise, onions, parsley and sliced almonds for crunch.  And then I stuffed it inside an avocado because it looks prettier than bread and tastes better, too.

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While the texture may be reminiscent of egg salad, the flavor is far superior. I could get used to eating vegan.

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Curried Tofu “Egg” Salad With Almonds

Ingredients

  • One block of extra firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. stoneground mustard
  • Dash of cayenne
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. sliced almonds

Directions

  1. Drain the tofu and wrap it in paper towels, setting a heavy pan on top. Let sit for 20 minutes, changing the paper towels once. This will dry up the excess moisture and allow the tofu to crumble more easily.
  2. In a large bowl, crumble the tofu block with a fork until it reaches an egg-like consistency.IMG_6771
  3. Add the curry, salt, pepper, parsley, onions and cayenne and mix.IMG_6775
  4. Add the mayo and mustard and mix again. If you like your egg salad more creamy, feel free to adjust the vegan mayo and mustard amounts.IMG_6777
  5. Fold in the sliced almonds and refrigerate for an hour before serving.
  6. Serve inside one half peeled avocado halve and enjoy!IMG_6785 IMG_6789 IMG_6800

Tips and Variations

  • Add chopped green olives on top for some acidity.
  • Add golden raisins for a sweet balance to the smoky, spicy curry.
  • Don’t like onions? Add some green onions instead of parsley so you maintain the color but get a more mellow flavor.
  • Pulse the tofu in a food processor to easily chop it up.
  • Serve on top of a toasted pita or whole grain bread (if you aren’t vegan).
  • Serve on a bed of butter lettuce with sliced tomatoes.

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Meatless Monday: Pita Patter, Goes My Heart

I needed to use up the rest of my pesto from Friday’s blog. I was also craving hummus.

Enter: Pita.

It’s the perfect vessel for everything but the kitchen sink. Throw in what you got and eat up. It’s the Greek man’s burrito.

This easy meal is perfect for a lunch in the office or a quick throw-together after a busy Monday. It combines fresh produce, protein-packed chickpeas and leftovers.

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Who the hell needs meat when you can have that?! And if you’re wondering what that sound is, it’s your heart. Going pita patter.

Tomato-Cucumber Pita with Hummus, Pesto, Feta and Crispy Chickpeas

Serves 2

Gather Them Up

  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 2 Pitas
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 7.5 ounces (half a can) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Pesto, to taste (see recipe here)
  • Your favorite hummus, to taste (I used a tomato-basil variety)
  • Feta, crumbled, to taste
  • Tajin, to taste
  • Lemon juice, to taste

Wrap It Up

  1. In a small pan, pour the EVOO and heat over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and season generously with Tajin. Cook for about 20 minutes, tossing often to avoid burning, until crispy. Set aside to cool.IMG_6583
  2. In a toaster oven, toast the pita for about 5 minutes at 450 degrees, or until warmed through. Slice open the pita half way, to reveal the pocket.
  3. Spread the hummus on the lower part of the pita pocket.IMG_6584
  4. Spread the pesto on top of the hummus.IMG_6585
  5. Add, in layers, the cucumber slices and tomato slices. IMG_6587 IMG_6590
  6. Season with Tajin.
  7. Add the feta cheese and crispy chickpeas, squirt on some lemon juice, roll up and enjoy!IMG_6591 IMG_6594 IMG_6597

Tips and Variations

  • Things get messy with pitas. Doesn’t make things less delicious. Have a fork on hand just in case.
  • Add your favorite lettuce or greens
  • Use chili powder instead of Tajin
  • Substitute a regular or English cucumber for the small Persian ones.
  • Make your own hummus (look out for a recipe from me in the future)
  • Roast the chickpeas in the oven in advance the night before in bulk.

Meatless Monday: Heirloom Tomato Salad

It’s the end of the summer and the dog days are here (sidenote: dog days should imply long naps, cuddling with loved ones, free meals and overall sloth-like tendencies — not extreme heat.).

This only means one thing, you guys: heirloom tomato season.

I don’t need to explain heirloom tomatoes, since I trust you’ve all read my previous posts on them, but they’re among my favorite of foods. If you haven’t tried an heirloom tomato yet, then we can’t be friends  go out to your farmers market and sample. You will never, ever, ever buy store-bought tomatoes again. Taylor Swift says so.

With a heavy supply of heat and serious lack of cooling system in my apartment, dinners that don’t require an oven or lots of burners going become popular this time of the year.

I’ve written about this simple tomato salad before back in 2010, when I was inept and void of a camera. I’m still inept, but the addition of a camera makes me seem otherwise.

Enjoy.

Summer Heirloom Salad With Avocado, Pine Nuts and Arugula

Serves 2

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What You Need

  • 2-4 large heirloom tomatoes, any variety (double this if they’re on the smaller size), sliced
  • 1 nabal avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup arugula
  • Very thinly sliced red ion
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled [I love French feta]
  • 2 ounces pine nuts, toasted
  • EVOO, to taste
  • Half or a whole a lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Assemble

  1. Arrange the tomato slices on two shallow plates, followed by the avocado slices, dividing equally.
  2. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Add half a cup arugula to each plate in the middle of the arrangement.
  4. Top with sliced onions, crumbled feta, and pine nuts.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.  Top with a little more salt and pepper.

Add-ons and variations

  • Add parsley for color and freshness
  • Add green olives to compliment the creamy avocado
  • Add crushed red pepper for spice
  • Use goat cheese or blue cheese instead of feta
  • Use a sweet onion instead of red
  • Make this on a Tuesday with sliced, grilled steak to top it off

What’s your favorite heirloom tomato dish? Tell me in the comments!

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Meatless Monday: Beet Burger

So, I took a long leave of absence, in case ya didn’t notice.

I didn’t even ask the bossman. I just did it. She let me come back graciously, but not without a little reprimanding.*Licks wounds*

Anyway, sorry to leave you all hanging like that. I needed a break. Work got crazy. I’m poor. It was too hot to blog. The cat scratched up my fingers so I couldn’t type. The dog needed to be let outside. [Insert more non sequitur excuses here].

The good news is, I’m back. You know, until there’s some emergency, like toenail painting or something.

Are we ready for a Meatless Monday recipe, my little veggies out there?! This week’s is all about the beets. The root veggies, not these ones:

I found a great beet burger recipe from veggie blog The Hearty Herbivore. She’s got some awesome stuff on her site. Take the time to check her recipes out.

Basically, she takes beets, shreds them up and mixes them with other yummy things, like barbecue sauce, peanut butter (yup, PB), onions, mustard and some herbs. You won’t miss the beef with these. And if you’re scared of beets, try them this way first before you eat them any other way. They’ll make you a beet believer.

Click here for the recipe and Happy Monday! It’s good to be back.

Chioggia and Golden Beets

Meatless Monday: Headquarters

I had a great recipe lined up for you guys, but I’ve been a little under the weather and couldn’t stomach food the past couple of days. So my delicious meal went uncooked.

But fear not. It will make a glorious appearance next week.

Instead of a recipe this Meatless Monday, I’m giving you hundreds of recipes.

Did you all know that Meatless Monday has its own dotcom? Mmhmm. It’s that important.

It has plenty of information on the Meatless Monday Movement, articles and enough recipes to keep you busy for a while.

I want to encourage y’all to go check it out and try a recipe from there tonight. If I had to pick one for you (you indecisive little minion), I’d go with the spinach tart, for obvious reasons.

found via meatlessmonday.com

And if those reasons aren’t so obvious, here they are:

  1. it’s ridiculously easy to make
  2. you probably have most if not all ingredients on hand
  3. there’s spinach in it
  4. saying you’re having a “tart” for dinner is just fun

Oh! And some shameless plugging here…my first article on George’s exec chef in La Jolla is up on Patch. Won’t you check it out?

Thanks guys. Happy Monday! May this week be your best.

Meatless Monday: Avocado “Succotash”

You know I’ll find any excuse to work avocados into my meals.

So now that I’ve been washed clean of rainbow throw-up, I’m back in the kitchen whipping up a meatless meal that incorporates the green fruit.

Kinda.

Today’s Meatless Monday is a little bit different. I’m just supplying you with the heart of the dish, and what you do with the rest is up to you.

Succotash is usually made with kidney beans and corn, but I made my own variation with fresh avocado, black beans, onion and corn. It’s almost like a guacamole, but better. Because you can eat hoards of it and no one can blame you for eating all of the game-day dip. And you don’t get charged extra for it.

This stuff packs healthy fat (avocado), plenty of protein (hello, black beans), crunch (onions) and sweetness/color (corn).

I’ll give you the how-to for this stuff and you can pair it with whatever your vegetarian heart desires. I would suggest piling this high on:

  • A bagel or English muffin
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Veggie burger
  • Your favorite lettuce

Be creative! You can even eat this straight out of the bowl with a fork. No one has to know.

Here’s what you need:

Avocado Succotash

  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 avocado, chunked
  • 1/4 onion, minced
  • 1/2 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Cumin, to taste
  • Chili Powder, to taste
  • Cayenne, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon Juice, to taste (about half a lemon)

Succotash It

  1. Drizzle some EVOO in a pan and toss in the corn. Saute until browned.

    like this

  2. In a bowl, combine the browned corn, avocado chunks, black beans and onion. Season with all seasonings, toss and taste. If it needs more seasonings, adjust to your tastebuds and toss again.
  3. Add the lemon juice and toss again to evenly distribute.
  4. That’s it. Seriously. You’re done. Go enjoy this “succotash” with some quinoa and feel good!

Avocado "Succotash"

Meatless Monday: Roasted Red Pepper, Veggie and Goat Cheese Panini

I’m back! After a week of Spring Breaking (i.e. working and not-cooking), I have returned to supply you with mediocre pictures of stellar food.

I missed you all. I missed blogging. I missed the instant gratification of someone pinning something from my blog.

But, alas, I’m back and Goat Cheese is making a return appearance with me. This sammy was inspired by what-we-had-in-the-fridge ingredients and when I saw goat cheese, well, you can’t just waste something like that.

I would’ve added spinach had we had some tucked away in the crisper, but beggars can’t be choosers. If you don’t eat cheese or don’t like it, substitute some fresh pesto for the spread!

Also, I was much too lazy to pull out the panini press. It is a Monday after all.

Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper, Veggie and Goat Cheese Panini

Round ‘em up

  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1/2 zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • Goat cheese, to taste
  • 1/2 cup spinach (not shown), optional
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste (optional)

Grill it

  1. In a large, shallow pan, drizzle a little bit of EVOO (about a tablespoon) and throw in the sliced zucchini and onions. Cook down on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the roasted red bell pepper and season the pan contents with the salt, pepper and crushed red pepper, if using.
  3. Let cook for another 5 minutes, occasionally stirring.
  4. Meanwhile, spread the goat cheese on the inside of each piece of sourdough. If using a panini press, turn it on and get it up to medium-high heat.
  5. Once the veggies have cooked down and onions are softened, remove them from the pan and pile them high onto one slice of the bread. Top off with the other slice of bread, drizzle with EVOO and sandwich it into the panini grill until cooked, about 5 minutes.
  6. If you don’t have a panini press, simply stick the sandwich back into the same pan you cooked the veggies in and smoosh it down with a griddle pan or the lid of another pan. Make sure you put some EVOO on the top slice of bread so it doesn’t stick to the lid. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip over, squish again and cook for another 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Eat with your favorite kettle chips or pasta salad.

There you go! An easy and light Monday dinner that’s satisfying without the meat. Who says sandwiches are lunch-food only?

Make it Your Own

  • Add spinach and cook it down with the rest of the veggies.
  • Add artichoke hearts and kalamata olives for a mediterranean twist. You could even switch out the goat cheese for feta.
  • Use peso instead of cheese.
  • Use provolone instead of goat cheese.
  • Try it with hummus or avocado.
  • Add sprouts.

Meatless Monday: Penne a la Vodka with Garlic Bread

I got this dish as a request from a certain Cory Galano from Brooklyn. He thinks that because he’s from “New Yawk” he’s Italian. *insert exaggerated eye roll here* We all know “Galano” is Francais!

You can check out his blog on sports and film here. Don’t tell him I told you, but he’s actually pretty funny.

Anyway, I decided to humor Cory and make some “penne vodka” for ye olde blog.

Italiano

I usually stay away from vodka sauce, even though it’s my SO’s fave. It’s usually pretty calorie-heavy and laden with so much cream you moo when you’re done eating it.

But then, I cogitated and quoted an inappropriate line from Risky Business (hint: it gave me freedom) and went to work.

I’ve never made a vodka sauce before so I went to the mattresses, or the webpages or something and found this recipe here. It got rave reviews and just needed a slight tweak with the cream. It was a hit out of the ballpark, I tell you.

I used whole wheat penne (cause I don’t have a pasta attachment for homemade penne yet) to make it somewhat healthier. And mushrooms added some meatiness to the dish.

meaty

I went cheap on the vodka 1) because I’m cooking it down and burning off the alcohol and 2) vodka is my least favorite alcohol. So the leftover stuff is going to be used solely for cooking purposes. No need to go expensive.

*cheap cheap*

Make this for your family tonight and forgo the meat! And Cory, on days when you feel especially Italian, pull up this recipe and cook for your Ma.

Penne a la Vodka

Gather These Up

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion , chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 6 -8 fresh basil leaves, chopped or 1/8 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 12 ounces fresh white mushrooms, quartered, about 3 cups
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes(to taste)
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 lbs whole wheat penne
  • 1/4 cup dry Parmesan cheese, plus additional for the table

 Turn it into “a la Vodka”

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan; when hot, saute the onions until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes to the saucepan.
  2. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt and pepper and simmer 1 hour to concentrate flavors.
  3. While the sauce is cooking, heat 4 T of the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms and hot pepper flakes until the mushrooms are golden.
  4. Carefully add the vodka and simmer for 5 minutes to cook off the alcohol.
  5. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer; pour the cream mixture into the tomato puree; stir to mix. Keep the sauce warm while cooking the pasta.

    Vodka and cream...kinda of like a white Russian?

    The mixing of two beautiful things

    Vodka Sauce!

  6. Add the kosher salt to 6 quarts of water. Bring to a rolling boil. Add pasta to boiling water; cook uncovered until pasta is al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain well.
  7. Melt the remaining 4 T of butter in a large skillet. Stir in pasta to glaze, then add Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly. Stir in 1/3 or the sauce and mix with the pasta; divide among plates. Top each plate with some additional sauce; pass remaining sauce and additional cheese at the table.
Aso, because heavy cream sauce and pasta wasn’t enough calories or carbs, I decided to make homemade garlic bread. I just pretended it was Mardi Gras and the food seemed to slide down my throat easier.
I also forgot to take a picture of the bread once I sliced it. Probably because I was too busy hoarding it and my fingers were far too greasy to pick up my camera. You understand.
Homemade Garlic Butter
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsely
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix it up and Spread it
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with the back of spoon.

    Mixed this up first, then added the parsley

  2. You can also mix all of these ingredients up in a mini-chop.
  3. Spread the butter on half a loaf of bread, that’s been sliced length-wise. Bake it at 400 degrees CLOSED for about 10 minutes or so.

    Slather that butta on

  4. Open up the bread and bake for another 5-1o minutes, until bread is crusty and butter is completely melted.

    Bake the bread closed like this first

    Then open it up and bake it like this

P.S. Cory, are you impressed with all the movie and sports lines I’ve littered throughout this post?! Ok, so there was only like, three. But “A” for effort?

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