Hye Thyme Cafe: January 2014

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Smashed Potatoes with Green Onions and Crispy Pepperoni

Smashed Potatoes with Green Onions and Crispy Pepperoni : Hye Thyme Cafe

It seem like I'm seeing Smashed Potatoes everywhere lately - in the feed of blogs I follow, on Pinterest, Facebook, etc. I tend to steer clear of things like that figuring if I'm seeing it everywhere, you probably are too, so why do you want/need to see it again here. Well too bad! I had a bag of small red potatoes, so I smashed them, and I have no regrets!  ;)

To be honest, unless I was making a ginormous batch of these to serve on Superbowl Sunday or something like that, I probably wouldn't bother to make them intentionally. Meaning, I wouldn't go out of my way to boil potatoes to then bake them. On the other hand, if I have leftover potatoes, I wouldn't hesitate to make them again. It's pretty much a batch of potato skins with extra potato since you're not hollowing them out.

You can certainly top them with anything you like. Maybe a buffalo chicken version, a taco version, etc. I like to keep a bag or two of pepperoni in the refrigerator. Aside from coming in handy for salads, pizza, cheese and crackers, etc., it also crisps up very nicely in the microwave to be used like bacon bits. So I used crispy pepperoni and green onions on mine, of course with melted cheese.

Small potatoes
Olive oil or cooking spray
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheese blend (I used a Mexican blend)
Thin sliced pepperoni (12-15)
3 green onions

  1. Boil the potatoes until fork tender
  2. Preheat oven to 375-400
  3. Drain potatoes and transfer to baking sheet, pressing down on them with the back of a spoon or a potato masher to "smash" 
  4. Brush lightly with olive oil - or spray with PAM
  5. Season generously with Salt and Pepper
  6. Bake until exposed edges are browned to desired color/crispness
  7. While potatoes are baking, line plate with a paper towel, a single layer of pepperoni, and another layer of paper towel to prevent spatters and soak up the grease - microwave 30-60 seconds until crisp, then break into pieces
  8. Top with shredded cheese, chopped green onions, and pepperoni crumbles
  9. Return to oven until cheese is melted

Boil potatoes until fork tender.
Drain potatoes, transfer to baking sheet, and "smash" with back of spoon.

Season generously with salt and pepper.

Line plate with paper towel and pepperoni slices; top with another paper towel.
Microwave pepperoni 30-60 seconds until crispy, then break into pieces.
Top potatoes with shredded cheese, pepperoni bits, and green onion.Bake potatoes until edges are browned and crispy.

Return to oven until cheese is melted.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Melting Greens Soup

Melting Greens Soup : Hye Thyme Cafe

Maybe it's just a sign that I'm getting old, but when I'm in the car, I usually have the radio set on NPR. It's when I'm on a long road trip that I really look for upbeat music to keep me from driving too slow ... or dozing off! Anyhow, one of the shows they air is The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. A while back, I was listening to her talk about using random greens from the fridge (especially a good use for items on their last leg) and wilting them down into a soup (see her recipe here). The way she described it at the time made me want to pull over so I could make a note to myself about it. Flash forward to yesterday when I was going through the fridge and saw a bunch of Leeks and a bunch of Green Swiss Chard and that little light bulb went off in my head.

I looked up the recipe, and it didn't sound nearly as interesting as how she described it on the radio. It sounded fine, but to hear her talk about it personally made you practically drool at the thought of it and be instantly relieved of any current cold symptoms or other maladies. With that in mind, I decided to raid my fridge and go for it. I was tempted to pull some spinach out of the freezer and throw in a head of Romaine but decided to keep it simple...or maybe just on a smaller scale in case I didn't like it.

I don't have a cold, so I can't claim to have been cured of anything, but it was a surprisingly comforting dish. It's the first soup (aside from French Onion of course) where I was actually wishing for a crouton of sorts to go along with it ... or use as a shovel. Hmmm, maybe with less broth, this would make for a great crostini topper.

3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 bunch leeks, very well cleaned and chopped
1 bunch Green Swiss Card, chopped
10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
Juice from half a lemon
3 c chicken broth or water
Salt and Pepper
Grated Romano or Parmesan (optional)

  1. Saute the garlic and celery in the olive oil until the celery just starts to soften
  2. Add the leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until soft - about the time the circles sliced from the bulb ends are soft enough to start separating while you stir
  3. Add the chard and cook for about 5" more until wilted down and softened
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, lemon juice, and broth, and bring up to a boil to heat the broth though
  5. Season with Salt and Pepper to Taste
  6. When serving, top with a sprinkling of grated cheese

NOTE:  Leeks tend to be extremely dirty, especially where the bulbs and greens meet, so give them a quick rinse and chop off the roots. Then slice the bulbs into rings until you get close to the greens and start to see grit. Separate all of the greens and rinse very well.

Melting Greens Soup : Hye Thyme Cafe

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Soup : Hye Thyme Cafe

This is the perfect time of year for a nice hearty soup, and a creamy broccoli has always been one of my favorites. I just happened to be reading how chilies bring out the sweetness of broccoli and complement its flavor, so I made sure to include some. I used dried Pasilla Chiles, but if you don't have or can't find Pasilla, I would suggest substituting either Ancho or New Mexico, as they lean toward the more sweet/fruity end of the spectrum. The New Mexico are my favorite chilies for most things.

4 T butter
1 clove garlic
1 lg sweet onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1 t dried Pasilla Chilies
2 T flour
5-6 c chicken broth (or comb with water)
1 1/2 lb crown of broccoli
1/2 c light cream or half and half
2 c shredded cheddar

  1. Chop any large stems off your broccoli, setting aside the florets and rough chopping the stems
  2. In the 4T butter, saute the garlic, onion, and carrot until they begin to soften
  3. Season with the salt, pepper, and chilies
  4. Sprinkle the flour around the pan and stir to create a bit of a roux to help thicken your soup
  5. Add a splash of the broth so you can scrape all that flavor off the bottom of the pan, then pour in the rest of the broth
  6. Add the broccoli stems and bring up to a boil until the stems just begin to soften, then add the florets (may want to reserve a few little ones for garnish) and reduce to a simmer until soft
  7. If you have a boat motor/immersion blender, you can do this right in the pan - if not, puree the soup in batches in your blender or food processor, making sure to allow for steam to escape so it doesn't explode at you - return to pot
  8. Bring the soup back up to a light simmer and stir in the cream or half and half (milk is probably OK too, just so long as it's not skim - too watery)
  9. Now that the soup is hot again, add the cheddar and stir until melted

Creamy Broccoli-Cheddar Soup : Hye Thyme Cafe

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cherry Tart with Chocolate Espresso Hazelnut Crust

Cherry Tart with crust of chocolate graham crackers, espresso powder, and hazelnuts

Before I settled on what I wanted to make for Christmas this year, I found myself picking up random ingredients. I got Egg Nog but never made anything with it, a few bags of frozen cherries, different kinds of nuts, espresso powder, etc. I also had some Farmer Cheese in the freezer that I needed to use soon, so I decided to combine some of the items to come up with this dessert. I'll use more of the cherries on top in the future - once I started placing them and that occurred to me, it was too late to go back without ending up with a hot (pink) mess. Maybe I'll also have some extra hazelnuts on hand to sprinkle on top. Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised by the Farmer Cheese.

If you haven't used it before, there are two different versions in many markets. One is a firm cheese, which I don't care for and never use. The other is a soft cheese, almost like a brick of ricotta, but not as sweet. I recently read it best described as being like dry cottage cheese. I use it regularly in a spread for bagels and pita chips but had never baked with it before. I added a bit of cream cheese to smooth out the texture and noticed on the packages for the first time that the Farmer Cheese is lower in fat, sodium, cholesterol, etc., so if you're looking for an option ...

1 sleeve chocolate-flavored graham crackers
2 T sugar (not as much sugar required as for
  a traditional graham crust because the chocolate
  are pre-sweetened)
2 oz hazelnuts
1 t espresso powder
3 T butter, melted
1/2 t vanilla
2 (7.5 oz) pkgs Farmer Cheese
3 oz cream cheese
1/3 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Set cherries in a strainer over a bowl or measuring cup to catch the juice (if still frozen, you can microwave them for a minute to start drawing out the juice)
  3. In a dry pan over medium heat, lightly toast the hazelnuts to bring out their flavor, immediately removing from the pan so the residual heat does not burn them
  4. Break up the graham crackers and add to the bowl of your food processor
  5. To that, add the 2T sugar, toasted hazelnuts, and espresso powder - pulse to a fine crumb
  6. Add the vanilla and melted butter and pulse again to combine
  7. Firmly press crust mixture into bottom and up sides of a lightly sprayed tart pan
  8. Bake 7-8" until set
  9. In your stand mixer, beat together the farmer cheese, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy
  10. Add the eggs, one at a time until combined, then the vanilla
  11. Spread mixture into prepared crust
  12. Blot cherries dry and arrange on top
  13. Bake for about 30" until set
  14. Optional - simmer cherry juice with a bit of sugar to reduce into a sauce to drizzle or dot on top

Cherry Tart with Chocolate Espresso Hazelnut Crust : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, January 10, 2014

Finish the Sentence Friday: "If I had a Million Dollars, I ..."

If I had a Million Dollars, I ...

I probably stand as much chance of ever seeing a million dollars as I do of Ed McMahon actually rising from his grave and handing me one of those Publishers Clearing House checks.  Well, maybe the odds tilt slightly in my favor in that scenario (sorry Ed).  Either way, a million dollars doesn't actually go all that far anymore.  Not that I'd turn my nose up at it!  Heck, in some ways, $10,000 would feel like a million to me.  I don't have any wild or crazy ideas for what I'd do with the money though, so my post will be pretty short this week.  Here's the reality of what I'd do with it (and probably in this order) ...

  • Get a new car - probably still a Honda, but definitely an upgrade
  • Pay off my nephews' college debt
  • Get a small house (with a big kitchen) on the beach on Cape Cod
  • Invest a portion of what's left to make sure I can pay the upkeep/taxes on the house
  • If I have enough left, get my Mom a condo wherever she would like
  • Something for my sister and her hubby, but I'm not sure what yet - don't think I'd have enough left for another house - hmm, maybe an investment property in CA or FL that they could use whenever they wanted (self funding)
  • Some random nice and/or fun things for other friends/family
  • Increase the amounts of my usual donations
  • Get a dog (probably a Comfort Retriever)
  • Invest, invest, invest whatever is left

I'd say that's a pretty tame list, but when you figure how much a house goes for these days - or should I say a house on the beach on Cape Cod - that's already the bulk of your stash right there.

So, what would you do with a million bucks?  Something crazy, entrepreneurial, philanthropic ...

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's prompt will be:  "I once saw the biggest ..."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Baked Spinach-Artichoke Dip : Hye Thyme Cafe

One of the first places where I went out to eat when living in New Orleans was Houston's. If you've ever been there, you understand just how awesome their Spinach Dip is and just how sad it is that they won't share the recipe! There are a bazillion copy-cat recipes online, but I haven't yet gotten it right myself or found that pot-o-gold (gooey-creamy-cheesy perfection) at the end of the internet. The first version I tried contained eggs and was too much like a souffle. Others were too slimy, too gummy, bland, you name it. So, until I find that magic combination that hits me just right, this version is what I'll be chowing down on.

1 lg clove garlic
1/2 c grated Romano
3 oz cream cheese
14 oz can artichoke hearts, divided
1/4 t onion powder
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c mayonnaise
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
1 1/2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Tortilla chips or other vessel for shoveling

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Chop half of your artichokes and set aside
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, pulse together the garlic and romano
  4. Add to that the cream cheese, un-chopped artichokes, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and mayonnaise, and pulse again
  5. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chopped artichokes, spinach, and most of your shredded Jack
  6. Transfer to a lightly sprayed large ramekin or other oven-safe baking dish and top with remaining shredded Jack
  7. Bake for about 30" until bubbly and lightly golden on top
  8. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, celery sticks, crackers ...

Baked Spinach-Artichoke Dip : Hye Thyme Cafe

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Salty Kisses and a Lesson Learned

Salty Kisses : Hye Thyme Cafe

This is for all two of you who have never seen or eaten these perfect little morsels. I'm sure most of you have either had them or made them yourself. They are typically known as Chocolate-Covered Pretzels, Pretzel Hugs, or Hershey's Kiss Pretzels, but because they strike that perfect balance of sweet and salty, I like to call them Salty Kisses.

One of the items requested for our holiday dessert spread this year was Peanut Blossoms, so having extra Kisses on hand, I decided to use them up on a batch of Salty Kisses. For the cookies, I had used a bag of Hugs, the white and milk chocolate swirled Kisses, and a bag of Caramel Kisses.  

The lesson learned came when using the Caramel Kisses on the cookies. The chocolate is too thin and the caramel too soft, so they were too melty and oozy to top the cookies right away. I ended up cramming a second kiss over the melted one. Even having done that didn't dissuade me from attempting them with the pretzels. Sadly (for everyone else), not even freezing them helped (didn't stop me from eating them), so those did not make it to the dessert table. If you want the caramel, stick with Rolos! That's another common variation - a Rolo melted on top of a pretzel with a pecan half pressed into it is a Rolo Turtle.

Wondering why the photo doesn't match the text? I had used up leftover Kisses to make the pretzels, which then left me with extra pretzels, so I hit up the post-Christmas sales and looked for more kisses, but all they had left were Cookies 'n' Creme and Almond. I was hesitant about the Cookies 'n' Creme, but those were great too! And the bonus with those is that because they're sweeter, you're not tempted to eat as many!! As for the Almond Kisses, I was thinking they had little bits of almond throughout, but there was actually a good-sized chunk in the middle of each as well, so it added a new level of crunch.

You can use any shape small pretzel you like - circles, twists, snaps (look like a little grate). The circles come out looking like a bulls-eye, especially if you top them with an M&M or other candy. The twists are the more traditional and fill in nicely, but I prefer the ratio of pretzel to chocolate using the snaps.

Hershey Kisses (any but caramel)
Mini Pretzels (any shape but rods or nuggets)
M&M's or other candy toppers (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 250
  2. Line baking sheet with foil or parchment
  3. Spread tray with a layer of pretzels, avoiding any broken pieces
  4. Top each with a Kiss (if using multiple varieties, might want to do separate trays in case they melt at different rates)
  5. Bake for about 8" until nice and melty - if you take a peek and just the tip is melting, give it another minute or two until is sort of starts to fall in on itself
  6. Remove from oven and use the back of a spoon to either press down to spread the chocolate into the open spaces, or spread to create a swirl effect
  7. If desired, top each with an additional candy decoration
  8. Leave on trays to cool

Salty Kisses : Hye Thyme Cafe

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Look Back at What Caught Your Attention in 2013

It occurred to me that I hadn't done a year-end review.  Although I'm not one to fuss over stat counts, I do like to take a peek at the end of the year to see what most interested you folks and how that coincided or conflicted with my favorites.  Let's take a peek ...

I was very happy and completely surprised to see that your favorite was not only an Armenian recipe but totally blew everything else out of the water!!  I guess there are either a lot of lamb fans or a lot of burger fans out there, because that was my Losh Kebab!

Coming in 2nd, still a pretty good gap over the rest, were my Fiery Pickled Cucumbers and Jalapenos... Pickles that Bite Back.  Those were pretty hot even for me!

Next came the Avocado Salad Sandwich.  Hmm, maybe a side of Fiery Pickled Cucumbers and Jalapenos would go nicely with that.  ;)

I found the next one to be an interesting choice since it was an experiment for me as part of a challenge.  I had only eaten lettuce wraps once before at a PF Chang's, but I really did like these Vegan Lentil Lettuce Wraps.

Right on the heels of the lettuce wraps came one of my personal favorites - Chicken Tortilla Soup.  Man, it's so cold out, I could reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallly use a bowl of this right now!

Bringing up the rear were:

The last recipe to make your Top 10 was another of my favorites, and also another Armenian/lamb recipe (how's that for symmetry - opened and closed with Armenian/lamb) ...

So, how does that stack up against MY Top 10 for 2013???

I'm showing these in Alphabetical order because it's hard enough to pull 10 "favorites" without having to chose between them.  Not exactly a Sophie's Choice moment, but still!!  ;)

Armenian Burritos
Chili's SW Chicken Egg Rolls

Easy Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf

Pan-Fried Meatballs

Zucchini Boule

Can't wait to see what's in store for 2014!  :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Finish the Sentence Friday: "My blogging goals for this year are..."

This week's Finish the Sentence Friday prompt is "My blogging goals for this year are..."

This seems like such a ridiculous thing to say, but I've never really been a goal-oriented type of person.  I guess it's the pessimist in me, but as far as I'm concerned, if I get out of bed and manage to put one foot in front of the other every day, I'm doing pretty darn good!  And since I work from home most of the week, I get bonus points for actually changing out of my jammies.

When it comes to my blog, there are things I would like to do ...

  • Post more regularly
  • Increase traffic/readers
  • Update my page in terms of tech/visual
  • Become more proficient with social media
  • Improve my photo skills

The thing is, none of that is really all that important to me.  I enjoy playing in the kitchen, I enjoy sharing what I do in the kitchen with anyone who might be interested, I really enjoy interacting with those people online through comments and e-mails, I have fun receiving cookbooks and other things to check out and review, and I especially have fun participating in challenges.

That's the thing - I enjoy/have fun blogging.  I'm not here for the stress so many others seem to put themselves through.  I don't expect to ever become the next Ree Drummond or Bakerella, so goals really seem beside the point.  If someone is interested in what I have to say and tunes in to see what I've been cooking/baking lately, I don't really think they'll be all that concerned with my stat count or whether I make my own memes.   They'll be wondering if I've made something they want to try and will hopefully appreciate (despite the quality or lack thereof) the photos guiding them through the steps.

Another reason I'm not blogging goal oriented is that I tend to suffer from CPADD - Computer-Prompted ADD.  I'll be looking up something like how to add social networking icons to my site, and before I know it, I'm somehow reading all about how the White Wagtail is the national bird of Latvia.  It appears that my fingers are as stream-of-conscious as my sleep-deprived brain.  I never know where they'll take me next on the internet, but it's usually not that code I was trying to find ... what was that for again?  Oh, that reminds me, I wanted to look up ... argh!!

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's prompt will be:  "If I had a million dollars, I ..."

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