Wrapping up 2013: gifts given, food consumed, and a hearty thank you!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this blog for seven months now. Sometimes it seems like I started yesterday. A lot of times it seems as if this has been something I’ve been doing all along. But through it all I am so thankful for all of my lovely followers and those who stop and pay this little blog a visit! 

ImageI didn’t want to spoil any surprises before Christmas, but my gifts were homemade this year. After I submitted grades during the last week of school, I was able to whip up some homemade gift tags during nap time, of which I’m very proud of! If you’re in need of a crafty gift or two, some of the gifts I made included: marshmallows, chocolate stirring spoons, and hot cocoa mix; barbecue sauce and brown sugar rub; candied citrus peel, homemade soap; and a felted Adventure Time iPod case!

The Mr. and I decided to get a head start on our New Year’s resolutions this year. At the top of our list is more exercise and healthy eating. So for my delayed post on what I’ve been eating this week, it’s got a more good-for-you theme to jump start your new year! 

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1. Tilapia and Quinoa with Feta and Cucumber: This dish looks much more elegant on Martha’s page, but after I had made the tilapia, I wanted to mix it in with the quinoa. This is our first experience with quinoa, and Brandon and I both really enjoyed it! I love the combination of flavors created when you mix feta, cucumber, dill, and lemon juice. Delicious!

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2. Green Smoothie: I’ve been wanting to make one of these for a while, and I’m glad I finally did! I based this recipe off of a green smoothie recipe from Lauren Conrad. My version includes: 1 cup almond milk. 1 cup raw spinach, a little over 1 cup frozen peaches, 1 ripe banana, 1 teaspoon flax seed, and 1 tablespoon honey. This stuff is really good! My goal is to pick up some kale and use it next week. True confessions: kale has always been a bit intimidating to me so I’ll be going out on a limb for sure!

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3. These omelet muffins are from the same post of Lauren Conrad’s. They are great little bite-sized eggs that are great for being on the go and can be baked and reheated throughout the week. I used sliced ham, spinach, and cheddar cheese in mine. One word of caution: really grease your muffin tins well – eggs stick to these very easily. 

 

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4. Banana Crepes: For two people who both have a pretty big sweet tooth, I knew I needed to find something to appease our palettes during our push for healthier eating. I was delightfully surprised by these banana crepes. It’s just a mixture of banana, egg, water, flax seed, cinnamon, baking powder, and vanilla. I added a little dollop of peanut butter in ours to make it a bit more filling. We each had two crepes with Cool Whip in the middle and some honey on top. Yummo! 

 

Finally, before I get too rambly, I wanted to thank you all again for your support. I’m so glad I was encouraged by my husband and friends to start this blog because it has been so much fun sharing it all with you! In the past seven months we have had over 2,000 views from all over the world! My heart is so full to think that we’ve been able to share kitchen adventures together. Here’s a look at the top five recipes from Captivated by Cooking in 2013:

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1. Spinach, Ham, & Cheese Quiche: You guys like your quiche, and I have to wholeheartedly support you there. They’re just so good!

2. Sweet Bruschetta Chicken: A delightful combo of grilled chicken, chopped caprese salad, and a sweet balsamic marinade. 

3. Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Bars: Pretty much what it sounds like – brownie batter topped with cookie dough and baked together – yum! 

4. Butternut Squash Ravioli: This is a time consuming recipe, but so much fun! I was able to roll this pasta by hand, but you can use a pasta machine if you have one. And the butternut squash filling is so sweet, it’s almost like having dessert for dinner!

5. Bacon Apple Cheddar Quiche: Again, you can’t go wrong with quiche. And when you are talking about bacon and apples together, you know it’s bound to be something incredibly savory!

 

Spanakopita Triangles

So one danger in living so close to the Dawsonville outlet malls is my proximity to the Williams Sonoma Outlet. Granted, I’m usually looking for sale items, but still, it’s a tempting place! Last month they were having a pretty big clearance sale and I came home with these lovely finds:

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I was intrigued by Williams Sonoma’s idea for spanakopita pastries. No, it’s not a dish that’s been in the family or something I have always had on special occasions. It just looked delicious! The combination of spinach, feta, and Parmesan practically had me drooling on the box as I went home.

True confessions: I didn’t actually use the press in this recipe. But it inspired me, so that’s got to count for something!

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Spanakopita is a Greek spinach dish, and can be served as a pie or as triangle pastries. It is typically made with phyllo dough that is stuffed with spinach, feta, scallions, and egg, with some tasty seasonings. And I must say, the picture on that pasty press box accurately sold how scrumptious these delights are – I’m in love! For my take on this recipe, I substituted scallions with diced onions, and I threw in a clove of minced garlic as well because it’s one of my favorite things to combine with spinach.

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I’ve mentioned to you before how delicate phyllo dough is, and how important it is to cover the sheets with a paper towel in between creating your layers. I also learned a few new things about phyllo in this recipe. Previously in our phyllo pizzas, I had sprayed cooking spray between layers. This time, I used melted butter, and quickly realized I was using too much in between layers. When you brush between each layer, brush LIGHTLY! But man oh man using melted butter makes everything so melt-in-your-mouth good. Delicious!

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Spanakopita Triangles

Makes 12 triangles

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped and with stems removed
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
20 sheets 9″x14″ phyllo dough
1 stick butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat until warm. Add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally and cooking until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add chopped spinach, stirring until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a wire mesh sieve. Use a rubber spatula to press the spinach and squeeze out excess water. In a bowl, mix together the spinach mixture, feta, Parmesan, pepper, salt, and egg.

Unroll out the phyllo dough and cover with a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Place a sheet of parchment paper out to fit a sheet of phyllo dough. Lightly brush the parchment paper with butter and then add one sheet of phyllo. Lightly brush the top of the sheet of phyllo with melted butter, and continue adding phyllo and brushing with butter until you have 10 sheets stacked together. Slice dough into 6 strips (9″x2.3″). Place 1/2 tablespoon of spinach mixture 1/2″ above the end of the pastry. Fold over the end of the pastry to form a triangle, and continue to fill up the pastry in triangles, like a paper football or flag. Continue with remaining 5 strips of phyllo. Cover triangles with a towel and repeat the stacking, brushing, and rolling process with the remaining 10 sheets of phyllo and the remainder of the spinach mixture.

Place a new sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place triangles on the sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.

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