Pretzel Pigs in a Blanket with Cheddar-Stout Dip

Pretzel Pig in a Blanket

If you’ve ever been to our house for a party, then you’ve probably eaten our standard Pigs in a Blanket recipe. We’ve never blogged them because they’re super dooper easy – though so much tastier and a boat-load more affordable than the frozen packaged kind. ($10 for a dozen, Costco? Really? Are we doing this now?). We simply cut good quality puff pastry into strips, wrap them around mini hot dogs, egg wash them, sprinkle them with whatever, and bake. Delicious, if somewhat pedestrian.

But this year, we wanted to up our party game, so we came up with these: Homemade Pretzel-wrapped Pigs in a Blanket with Warm Cheddar & Stout Beer Dip. Now if that’s not a home run straight through the net, then clearly I don’t know football.

Pretzel Pigs in a Blanket

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Warm Cheddar and Stout Dip

Warm Cheddar & Stout Dip

Like you, probably, there’s almost nothing we enjoy better of a Sunday evening than kicking back and watching one of the many televisual spornts available. We like the foopball spornt, the basket-throw spornt, the shove-ha’penny and all the running-around-in-a-circle events, and we just love cheering on one of the teams we support, usually the ones with the most colorful socks. “Go team!” we shout with vigor at the screen. “Do it for the old home town!” And at the same time we are congratulating the MVP for scoring his or her final homegoal or throwing it all down the end zone at the bottom of the ninth, we congratulate ourselves, most of all, for making the perfect snack accompaniment.

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Loaded Summer Nachos with Grilled Corn and Bourbon BBQ Chicken

Loaded Summer Nachos with Grilled Corn and Bourbon BBQ Chicken

We take what we love about most about nachos (crunchy chips and an unapologetic amount of cheese) and loaded them up with the best flavors of summer. Grilled corn, fresh tomatoes, avocado, pickled radishes and shredded chicken with bourbon-brown sugar BBQ sauce. 

I don’t know about you, but spring was something of a damp squib. It seemed to rain pretty solidly throughout April and May (you know the old rhyme: “April showers, May even more showers, let’s just forget about June entirely”) and while the garden is now as lush as it’s been in years (“July – finally! – flowers”), we hadn’t had much of a chance before the outset of summer to get out there and enjoy it. Now, at last, the heat is on, the tees and shorts are in rotation, and we’re fully into the swing of the season.

So we wanted to celebrate with something that represented all the things we love about summer eating. The flavors of outdoor grilling and BBQ. The fresh seasonal produce like corn and tomatoes. The potential for spending an evening on the deck with friends and easily-shareable finger food. Wasps. (Just kidding, we hate wasps.) And so our mind, as it often does, turns to nachos. Now, there may be many of you for whom nachos are irrevocably twinned with cool weather sports events or movies. And that’s fair enough – you’re in front of the TV, and you want something you can make a meal of without tearing your eyes away from the action. But for us, celebrating summer means taking it outside. (Also, we’re terrible game-night dunces, and only annoy our more sporty friends with idiot questions such as “How do they choose which team has the brightest socks?”)

Note: This recipe is part of our ongoing collaboration with Serious Eats

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

We put together two different versions of salsa verde with some tomatillos, avocadoes, garlic and spices, and pretended to be into sports just to hang this article on a game theme! Hint: we are not into sports.

I’ve always envied people that were really into watching sports. I would love to care about something (other than nerdy television shows) enough to paint my face, don a kooky costume and brave the cold, just to prove my commitment and loyalty. To feel the agony of defeat in the hopes of, one day, just maybe, getting to experience the glory of ultimate victory.

But nope. Just don’t give a toss. Matt doesn’t follow sports either (with the exception of the occasional World Cup match, of course).

This is a rough approximation of Matt and me watching the news when the sports headlines come on.

SPORTSCASTER [Very excited]: AND THE STEELERS SCORED AN AMAZING SEVENTEEN AND FIFTY-SIX AND A HALF YARD PASSES LESS THAN SIX MINUTES APART IN THE FOURTH QUARTER! UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!

MATT [Pops a chip in his mouth]: What is this? Are they playing shove ha’penny?

EMILY [Rolls eyes]: No, idiot, I’m pretty sure it’s … (squints) …quoits.

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Roasted Figs Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Serrano Ham

Roasted Figs with Bleu Cheese and Serrano Ham

An easy and elegant appetizer of roasted figs stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in Serrano ham. Finished with fresh thyme, a drizzle of honey, and a few toasted almonds.

I know, I know, you’re thinking,”Emily, when did you become a member of the Royal Family cos, gurl, you fancy!” (I apologize for making you sound like a 1970’s sit-com character, but it was required for comedy purposes. You should see the wig I’m imagining on you).

Yes, it’s true that these beauties would be perfect alongside a glass of Champagne at an elegant cocktail party. But, truth be told, they’d be equally delightful with a (not terribly expensive) glass of rosé while sitting on the back deck. Guess which way we had them? (If you guessed “directly off the baking tray, standing in the kitchen with a dog and two cats staring at us”, you would be correct).

As fancy as they look, these are incredibly easy to make. On the preparing-for-a-party difficulty scale, they fall slightly above “pour potato chips into bowl” and well below “make homemade dip”. The hardest part is finding fresh figs, which isn’t very hard when they’re in season. If your figs are very ripe, you don’t even really need to roast them (but I find the combination of a warm, jammy fig, oozy sharp cheese, and salty ham to be irresistible).

If you’re making them for a party. you could prep them up to a day ahead and just roast them a few minutes before you want to serve them.

Roasted Figs with Bleu Cheese and Serrano Ham
Ripe figs are so lovely, aren’t they?
Roasted Figs with Bleu Cheese and Serrano Ham
Cheese, figs, ham. Easy peasy. CH-easy peasy. Figgy pig…I’d better stop now.

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Pork Belly Bánh mì Sliders

Pork Belly Bánh mì SlidersWhat to do with leftover pork belly: Make Bánh mì sliders!

I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally do a very shameful thing when I buy too many vegetables.  Since I’m already over-sharing, I might as well admit to another terrible habit. I really enjoy cooking for dinner parties and family get-togethers, but way too often I’ll wrap whatever protein is left over in foil and throw it in the freezer where it will stay for months, gathering frost and becoming less appetizing by the hour (I’m looking at you Easter ham).

I know, I know. There are so many great things to make with leftovers. Soups, stews, salads, casseroles, and honestly I do make these things but the sad truth is the thrill is usually gone and I’m doing it to not be wasteful, as opposed to being actually inspired. So you can see why I was nervous as I wrapped the remains of the Crispy Pork Belly with Soy Honey Glaze in its foil coffin (I’m feeling dramatic today) and tossed it in the freezer. “You were so good”, I said to it mournfully, “but it’s been two nights and I’m ready for a salad”.

Several weeks went by and every few days I would guiltily toss the little frozen pork belly package to the side as I looked for dinner options. Then it hit me; Pork belly Bánh mì sliders. As it happens, we were going to have a few friends over for a Halloween/birthday get-together and it would be nice to have something a bit more substantial than dips. Turns out they were good. Like, really good.

This is now officially my favorite use of pork belly. The sweet, vinegary pickled carrots and daikon really cut through the richness of the pork. The crisp cucumber and bright cilantro make it light and fresh. Seriously, not kidding, make the pork belly just so you can make these sliders.Pork Belly Bánh mì Sliders

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