Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stuffed mushrooms

It's been a little quiet here on my blog these days, hasn't it?

I wish I could say it was because of something grand and amazing going on with me this past month. But sadly, that's not the case. To be completely honest, I've had a case of the holiday blues, and haven't felt like doing much of anything these days. Not laundry. Not cooking. And especially not blogging. 

The thing is, so many things have been good for me this year. Moving back to Chicago and being closer to my family. Getting an awesome job that I love. Meeting new people and making friends at work. Finding an apartment that literally makes me happy every time I walk through my front door. I won't lie, I've got a lot to be thankful for. And I am.

But, there's just a feeling of "blah" that's been hard to shake. A lingering sadness that ebbs and flows, which reached its zenith not long ago. 

Sure, there is at least one reason that contributed to my malaise (which led me to start reading this book in an attempt to come to terms with how people can put such arbitrary walls up around themselves). But a lot of it is a nebulous sadness that doesn't really have a reason. I think sometimes it's because I'm surrounded with so much happiness. (Ironic, no?!) So many close friends and family members I know are pregnant, or had a baby, or are happily with their partners. People that I love and that I'm genuinely happy for. But then here I am, almost 32, and having my mom suggest I freeze my eggs, just in case.

The best way to describe it is that I feel I'm on a treadmill. Running and running and running and... but never moving. All the while, those around me keep sprinting on by. 

And I know life isn't a race- because when you're done, well, it's done. It's easy to tell myself to enjoy this time. To savor my independence, lack of obligations, and freedom. And I do. A lot. But as much as I wish that I was completely logical human, I'm not, and sometimes I just have to let myself feel sad and realize that eventually it shall pass. 

Already I can feel the veil of the blues lifting. Seeing my family this past weekend really helped disperse some of the fog that was surrounding me, and so for the first time in a long time I wanted to sit down and write. And share some food with you.

Stuffed mushrooms!

If you're going to any New Year's parties this weekend, here's a simple dish that you can make. And the fact that you can pretty much prepare them in advance means much less time cooking on New Years (and more time eating and drinking!!!)

Is anyone else excited for a new year? I'm definitely looking forward to a fresh start in 2012. One that hopefully leads to me using more of all these damn cook books I'm buying!

a. I love the used book store around the corner from my apartment.
b. I WILL be making dishes from these books next year. Guaranteed.

But back to these mushrooms. They're so delicious and savory, they should make it to at least one party you attend in 2012. And they're super simple to boot!

All yous got to do is roast some mushroom caps (sans filling)...

.... which really concentrates their mushroom-y goodness...

.... and then take some spinach, bacon, and grilled onions...

... mix 'em up with some cheese, and generously fill your mushroom cups.

At this point you can either pop them in the fridge (to cook the next day for a partay) or pop them in the oven for a few minutes to warm them up.

Delicious.

Yours in remembering the years past (for good and bad) and celebrating the fresh, new year to come,
Jacqueline

Stuffed mushrooms, from Smitten Kitchen

The best thing about recipes like this is that you can adapt them to your taste and preferences. Don't like bacon? Don't use it! Don't like feta? Replace it with some other kind of cheese (gouda? parmesan? fontina?) Don't like mushrooms?? Well, I can't really help you with that one... Although I guess you could just take the filling and put it on top of toasted bread or puff pastry or phyllo dough. 

BAM! Problems solved.

Makes about 48

Ingredients
8 ounces bacon slices
1 cup chopped onion
1 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 3/4 pounds button mushrooms (about 48; each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter), stemmed
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Coarsely crumble bacon.

3. Discard all but 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons bacon fat (adding olive oil if necessary to equal that amount). Heat 2 teaspoons reserved bacon fat in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl and cool.

4. To the onions add the bacon, spinach, feta, cream cheese, and crushed red pepper. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.

5.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with foil. Toss mushrooms and reserved 1/4 cup bacon fat in large bowl to coat. Sprinkle mushrooms with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms, rounded side down, in single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake mushrooms until centers fill with liquid, about 20 - 25 minutes. Turn mushrooms over. Bake mushrooms until brown and liquid evaporates, about 15 - 20 minutes longer.

6. Turn mushrooms over again. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon filling into each mushroom cavity. (Filled mushrooms can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Bake mushrooms at 375°F until heated through, about 10 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to platter and serve warm.

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