Harvest Dinner Party

As I continue to adjust to being unemployed and am waiting to have a baby to take care of, I find myself getting a little…well, bored. I’ve painted all the rooms that needed painted and accomplished lots of projects around the house since June and have run out of things to fill my time. I did start a part time job in retail, which is great during the holidays but I’m only working like 15-20 hours a week and that still leaves plenty of time to be bored, especially when Eric is traveling as much as he has been this Fall, I don’t even have anyone to cook for! I decided to remedy my situation by making something for myself to do and throwing my first large dinner party.

I decided to theme it with the harvest/Fall and wanted to host enough people to put all the leaves in my table (I have 4). I ended up with a menu consisting of 3 courses and a guest list of 12 people! The menu itself came easily to me, a few new items and a few sure things combined to create the ultimate Harvest Dinner Party. Here’s my menu, along with live links to the recipes used:

Cocktails: Great Pumpkin Stout

The Montparnasse

First Course: Butternut Squash Soup

Second Course/Main Event: Maple-Brined Pork Roast with Apples and Onions

Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins

Potato Gratin with Leeks

Third Course/Dessert: Chocolate Pecan Pie (recipe from the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook)

Sweet Potato Pudding (recipe from the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook)

I think I can safely say that each one of these dishes was a hit and I was very proud to serve each one. My favorite of the night is a tie between the brussels sprouts (which is the only dish that came back completely empty) and the chocolate pecan pie. It was my first time making both of these recipes and they were both outstanding, not to mention easy. I was able to make the brussels sprouts while my guests were talking to me and having cocktails in the kitchen and the chocolate pecan pie was a cinch and came out so delicious. It might be my new favorite fall pie.

Here are a few photos one of my guests was able to capture for me while the evening progressed (Thanks Mike!).

My table set and ready for food, the mismatched chairs remind me of Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, though the table was not a ping pong table.

Cocktail hour in full swing.

Action shot of brussels sprouts and butternut squash soup.

Pork being sliced. The apples and onions combined with a maple syrup glaze gave incredible flavor to this roast. I will be making this again, it was simple and so delicious.

A sweet finish to a great evening, made even more sweet with homemade vanilla bourbon whipped cream.

I wanted my harvest dinner to reflect the flavors of the season without using any Thanksgiving “staples” as a part of the menu. I think it was a success! I can’t wait until our next dinner party, I’m going to need to start writing down ideas!

Are you all getting ready for Thanksgiving? Are you making the big feast or bringing a dish to share? Any suggestions you can share to make the day successful? Mine is, make as much the day before as possible, even prepping ingredients and get that table set so you don’t have to worry about anything like that as you’re putting everything together and visiting with guests.

Lastly, I’m hosting Bean Chat for Gevalia Coffee this Thursday from 10am-11am. I’ll be discussing some food related topics on from their Facebook page. I’d love to see you over there so go to Gevalia’s FB page and “like” them, then on Thursday click on Bean Chat between 10am and 11am or join via Twitter chat. See you there!

April Dinner Club

Given the fact that today is the last day in May, I think its time I fill you all in on April’s Dinner club. April was a difficult theme to choose. We wanted something that was seasonal and reflective of Spring. Early Spring can be a weird time seasonally because all the Winter produce is no longer as good and no one wants to eat heavy meals anymore yet the Summer produce isn’t ready to be eaten yet. Perhaps that’s why Easter candy  is one of the first things I think of when trying to come up with a Spring theme ingredient! We did all finally agree on the theme ingredient mint.

We were chosen to cook the main course this month and mint is not an herb that I find myself using very often; I loved being forced to use it in a recipe that  was not a salad or a dessert. Immediately, lamb came to mind as a good protein to go with mint however I’ll admit lamb intimidates me. I made braised lamb for Christmas this year and I killed it; it was so dry that I think it resembled jerky more than the braised lamb I was going for. After that incident, I haven’t attempted lamb again. I tried to look up other recipes involving mint but kept coming back to lamb.

After finally giving in to the lamb I needed to find a recipe that cooked the lamb in a relatively short period of time, due to the fact that dinner club in progressive, I’d only have about 30 minutes to get everything together. I came upon a recipe for lamb that was marinated and grilled. It got excellent reviews online and seemed very simple, sold. The bonus was that dinner club was scheduled for the week following Easter and I scored a nice cut of lamb on super sale!

This recipe turned out better than I ever could have imagined. Not only was the lamb perfectly medium rare but the marinade had made the meat incredibly tender and flavorful. We devoured the entire thing and all agreed that, it had been the best dinner club to date. The marinade contained some Asian flavors which I’m convinced made the dish especially good. This is the first recipe I made from my new Jacques Pepin cookbook that Eric bought me for Christmas and it was the perfect choice.

Like I said, this dish was beyond easy but be sure to marinate it the day before. Prep all the ingredients including cutting the string mesh from the lamb roast. I had double the amount of meat so I doubled the marinade. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and then pour it over the lamb in a large freezer bag.

Turn the bag a few times in the fridge.

The following day, sear the lamb on a hot grill for about 7 minutes per side and then bring it inside to finish in the oven. The recipe calls for the oven to be 170 degrees. I was skeptical at first thinking it was not hot enough, but as I do with all first time recipes, I followed it. I was right, 170 is not hot enough to get the meat cooking more and I ended up turning the oven up to 250 degrees and cooking it another 15 minutes. By then, the lamb was perfectly medium rare.

**Do not cook lamb more than medium, ideally you want it rare to medium rare otherwise the flavor gets weird and its incredibly dry. The exception to this is of course when braising lamb, that can be cooked longer and is delicious but grilling the lamb or lamb chops you want to cook rare-medium rare.**

Here it is in its glory:

While the lamb was cooking, I cooked down the marinade in a small saucepan and poured it over the lamb when it went into the oven. It was SO GOOD!

We all wanted to lick our plates. I served two sides, green beans with crispy shallots and fresh mint.

I also braised carrots and brussel sprouts and tossed them with balsamic vinegar.

These were also a hit. The only thing I had leftovers of was the green beans. The mint was fresh and light in all the dishes, a great theme ingredient.

I won’t leave out the other courses! However, we forgot to take any pictures of those at all this month, sorry! The first course was an amazing Asian spring roll with shrimp and stuffed with rice noodles and mint. They were beautiful, fresh and light; a perfect starter. They were accompanied by strawberry mojitos.

The third course was a chocolate and mint trifle with chocolate shavings on top. It was cool and sweet, not to mention pretty. Chocolate is always a great way to end a meal.

So there you have it, the quick overview of April’s Dinner Club! Now, on to May and hopefully some warmer weather again.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Have you been invited to Thanksgiving or just to a gathering of friends and asked to bring an appetizer? Are you completely blank on what to make? I feel your pain. Appetizers are not something that I make often, I enjoy ordering them in restaurants, but when it comes to making them in my own home, I typically move right on to the main meal, skipping appetizers all together.

A few years ago, I was asked to bring an appetizer to Thanksgiving and had no clue what to make. I needed to feed a lot of people and I wanted something that wasn’t very complicated. I came upon a recipe for spinach artichoke dip and immediately knew I needed to make it. Everyone loved it and it became one of my go-to appetizer recipes.

I made some last week to take to a party and was able to make most of it the night before and finish it off when we arrived at the party. It’s a perfect take-along dish!

Start the recipe by thawing your spinach and wringing it out between paper towels. Then chop up the onions and drain and chop the canned artichoke hearts. Mince the garlic and grate the lemon peel.

Melt  the butter in a saute pan over medium heat and then add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add in the thyme and lemon peel and stir. Add the flour and whisk well and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock, whisking the whole time and salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high whisking often and cook until it gets thick 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the artichokes and spinach and half of each of the cheeses.

Transfer the mixture to a casserole.

At this point, I put my dip in the refrigerator overnight. When you are ready to re-heat the dish, put it in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until its heated through.

Sprinkle the top of the dip with the rest of both cheeses and put under the broiler for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and begins to brown.

Serve with French bread slices, Melba toasts, crackers or corn chips.

Here’s the recipe:

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 10
 

Ingredients
  • Two 10-ounce boxes chopped frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Half of a small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella
  • 1 loaf whole grain baguette, cut into bite-size cubes

Instructions
  1. In a microwaveable bowl, defrost the spinach in the microwave for 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the spinach in a kitchen towel and wring dry. Tear the spinach into small pieces and set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme and lemon peel. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high and cook, whisking often, until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the spinach, artichokes and half each of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the mozzarella. Transfer the mixture to a casserole.
  3. Refrigerate overnight if making ahead. Re-heat dish at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until heated through, when ready to serve.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  5. Preheat the broiler. Broil the dip until bubbly and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Serve with the bread cubes.

 

Oktober – Soft Pretzels

One of America’s favorite snacks is soft pretzels; one of the most recognized smells is probably the scent of Auntie Anne’s pretzels wafting by while you walk through the mall. Everyone has their favorite kind original, cinnamon/sugar, almond, cinnamon raisin, once those doughy creations are bathed in butter, they are impossible to resist.

While visiting Germany, we had the chance to taste some “real” pretzels, you know, German pretzels. They were delicious and while they stayed more true to their roots (no cinnamon raisin flavors) they were some of the best pretzels we’ve ever had. When planning a German inspired meal for some friends I decided to try soft pretzels for myself.

Let it be known, I am no bread maker, I’ve never made my own bread or anything close to bread. This was my first time using actual live yeast and allowing dough to rise. Honestly, I’m too impatient to wait for that normally but in this case I was cooking a bunch of other dishes so I had time to wait for dough to rise. The pretzel dough was very simple to make.

First combine the water, sugar and salt. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow it to sit until it looks foamy (about 5 minutes). Mix in the flour and butter using the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer (this is the first time I’ve ever used the dough hook attachment and I’ve had my Kitchenaid mixer for 4 years). Mix the dough for another 5 minutes until it pulls away from the edges of the bowl. In another large bowl, spray cooking oil all over the sides and bottom and place the dough in. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour. I had just used my stove top and it was still pretty warm so I placed my dough on the cook top to rise.

The next step is a technique I have never done or seen before; I had to boil the un-cooked dough before I baked it in the oven. I boiled it in a mixture of water and baking soda. While you bring the water and baking soda mixture to a boil, shape your pretzels.

The people at Auntie Anne’s in the mall make this step look so easy, be warned its really not. Some of my pretzels looked more like mashed faces than twisted pretzels. A good tip though, is that you need to roll out these pretzels on a cool and smooth surface. I started rolling them out on my butcher block countertop that I had sprayed with cooking oil but it was too warm and the dough still stuck like crazy.

I then tried rolling out the dough on a plastic cutting board that I had sprayed with cooking oil and the whole process was much easier and my pretzels looked more like pretzels.

Notice the poor mis-shapen pretzel at the bottom left of the above picture.

Once you’ve formed your pretzels and placed them on a greased sheet of parchement paper, on a baking sheet, its time to boil them. Place them in the simmering water using a wide spatula.

Boil each pretzel, one at a time, for 30 seconds total but be sure and flip it over half way through (15 seconds) other wise the pretzel will not cook evenly. Use a spider to take the pretzel out of the water to avoid slipping and dropping it on the floor.

 When all the pretzels have been boiled, place them back onto the parchment lined baking sheets, brush on a mixture of egg yolk and water and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

Serve with a side of mustard.

 In the end, all the work was worth it. These pretzels were really good. For a different “twist” you could coat them pretzels with cinnamon and sugar instead of salt before baking them. I’m looking forward to trying them again and getting better at making the pretzel shape.

Here’s the recipe from FoodNetwork.com:

Oktober – Soft Pretzels
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8
 

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4½ cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • ⅔ cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt

Instructions
  1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
  3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
  4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
  5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 

Zucchini Pancakes

Picture of Zucchini Pancakes Recipe

Growing up, my mother would make zucchini pancakes about once a year. As a child, when I would hear that we were having zucchini pancakes for dinner I recall making a face and thinking to myself “just because you put it in a pancake, doesn’t make me want to eat it, you can’t fool me, Mom!” But dinner would roll around and I always found myself enjoying the zucchini pancakes more than originally expected. I think there is just some thing about the name zucchini and pancakes shouldn’t mix but they do! And they are really good.

Recently while shopping for vegetables, I bought some zucchini because it looked great and planned to simply grill it up as a side. As I was unpacking at home, my memories of zucchini pancakes came flooding back to me and I decided I needed to make them this week.

The pancakes are very simple to make and have a nice savory flavor to them. I’ve seen recipes that mix the zucchini with potato and recipes that make mini zucchini pancakes and top them with smoked salmon and cream. I like to make larger ones that are served as a side dish with a meat entree. In this case, I served them with pork tenderloin.

To start the pancakes, the zucchini must be shredded.

The recipe calls for you to use a box grater which works great but I opted to go with the quick and easy method of grating with my food processor. To each his own. The recipe also calls for grated onion, again easiest in the food processor; 1/2 a small onion will get you about 2 tablespoons of grated onion.

Once the onion and zucchini are grated, mix them together well in a bowl and add the 2 eggs lightly beaten.

Mix well and then add 6 tablespoons of flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Mix well.

Heat up your fry pan immediately. If you let the batter sit very long before making the pancakes, the zucchini will release water and make the batter thin and watery. Its better to make the pancakes and keep them warm in the oven than to let the batter sit and make them fresh.

Melt some butter and oil in the pan and fry the pancakes over medium heat until they are golden on each side, about 2-4 minutes per side.

Some enjoy their pancakes served with apple sauce, I prefer to eat a bit of pancake with a bite of meat. I would not, however, recommend maple syrup no matter how much your children beg.

Here are the finished pancakes with pork tenderloin:

This recipe is a delicious and different way to use zucchini and especially if you have grown some in your garden and don’t know what to do with all of it!

Here is the recipe I got from Foodnetwork.com (Thanks Ina, another great recipe!):

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons grated red onion
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)

Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

 

Wild Mushroom Crostini

We had some friends over for dinner the other night, which I always enjoy because I get to try out new recipes and I love to entertain. It’s a lot of work, but seeing people enjoying my food and having a nice time at my house is completely worth it for me. When entertaining, I like to try out different formats for the evening and ways in which I serve the food. Sometimes it will be family style  in the middle of the table, or a buffet in the kitchen, each course served alone, inside in the formal dining room or outside on the patio.

For this evening, I decided to mix things up a bit. The weather was gorgeous and a heat way had just ended, giving way to cooler air, little humidity and warm sunshine. I decided to enjoy our patio and serve appetizers and wine outside, moving inside for the main course in the dining room.

Mushroom crostini was my chosen appetizer and I’d be pairing it with a nice bottle of Italian dry red wine. I got the recipe from Epicurious.com, here’s their professional photo:

Wild Mushroom Crostini

I love mushrooms, all kinds in anything and everything. I think mushroom are a food that either you love or really hate. I always ask people if they like mushrooms before having them for dinner because most dishes I make have mushrooms, somewhere.

These crostini are delicious and quick to put together. I also love that you can make them up to 2 days in advance and keep everything in the fridge to pull out when you’re ready to serve them.

The most difficult part of this recipe might be finding all the mushrooms. My grocery store has only started carrying more exotic mushrooms in the last few years, before that it was only a choice between white mushrooms and portabello mushrooms. Even still, I had to throw in a substitute for the chanterelle mushrooms the recipe called for because the supermarket didn’t have any. I was able to find oyster mushrooms, see here:

 

And Shitake mushrooms:

 

I substituted cremini mushrooms for the chanterelle:

 

It’s OK to substitute, but make sure you’re getting 3 different varieties of mushrooms, this creates a rich earthy flavor.

Start by cleaning the mushrooms with a damp paper towel, then chop off the stems and slice. Finely chop up the shallots, garlic and fresh rosemary.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add all the mushrooms and cook for another 6 minutes until they have released any juices and begin to brown. Stir in garlic and cook for one minute.

The recipe doesn’t call for this, but I added some white wine to de-glaze the pan, about 1/4 cup, scraping the brown bits on the bottom.

Take the mixture off the heat and stir in heavy cream, rosemary and lemon zest. Salt and pepper to taste.

Allow the whole mixture to come to room temperature and then add in the grated cheeses. (You can store in a container in the refrigerator up to 2 days in advance).

Slice up your baguette and toast in the oven at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 9 minutes or so. Top the slices with about 1 tablespoon of the mushroom mixture and place back on a baking sheet. Put under the broiler for about 3 minutes until the cheese melts, watch them carefully to avoid burning.

Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and enjoy!

Wild Mushroom Crostini

Here’s the recipe from Epicurious.com:

Ingredients

  • 36 1/3-inch-thick baguette slices

 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped oyster mushrooms
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped stemmed shiitake mushrooms (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped chanterelle mushrooms (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup grated Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 3/4 ounces)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange baguette slices on rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven until golden, about 9 minutes. Cool. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 1 minute. Add all mushrooms; sauté until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic; sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cream, rosemary, and lemon peel. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Mix in both cheeses. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat broiler. Top each toast with about 1 tablespoon mushroom topping. Place on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Working in batches, broil until cheese is melted and begins to brown, watching closely to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Transfer to serving platter. Serve warm.

Party Time – Part One

A few weeks ago, I recieved a call from a close friend in a bind, she was having an open house in 5 days and found herself without anyone to cater it. I’m still not quite sure why I came to her mind but she asked for my help. Now, I have never catered anything in my life, but she believed in my abilities more than I did and I agreed to do my best. The event was 5 short days away and I had a few menu constraints. The event was for her clients and local business partners, about 30-40 people and was being held at her photography studio. This meant that there was no kitchen, no oven/stove, a very small refridgerator and a sink; I had to make sure the entire menu was room temperature or cold. The event was being held in the early evening/late afternoon so I wasn’t responsible for heavy hors d’oeuvres or dinner, which was a relief. I planned a menu that consisted mostly of appetizers and a few desserts. My menu inspiration was the Spring season which meant that I wanted to keep the menu light and full of color.

Here’s the menu rundown:

Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Spring Pea Crostini
Irish Soda Bread with Smoked Salmon
Bobbi Sandwiches
Proscuitto Wrapped Crudite
Orange Glazed Pound Cake
Rasberry Chocolate Macarons

All of the appetizers and desserts I made were simple, using a few ingredients and few steps to put together. I used quality ingredients and spent time making sure they were well assembled. Here are images and the full recipes from the event, all photos courtesy of KM Photography (as are many of the photos on my blog). I was so busy getting everything together, that I forgot to take pictures along the way, so here are photos of the finished spread and the full recipes. I plan to make everything again soon, so I will provide more details on each individual process then.

These dishes may also give you some inspriation if you’ve been asked to make Easter dinner this weekend, or bring a dish along for it.

Irish Soda Bread with Smoked Salmon

Here is the full recipe pulled from Epicurious.com:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus 1 stick (1/2cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, trimmed

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Whisk together flours, oats, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, and caraway seeds in a large bowl. Blend in 3/4 stick cold butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir until dough is evenly moistened. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour to prevent sticking, 1 minute (dough should remain soft and slightly sticky). Shape dough into a ball.

Pat out dough on a lightly floured baking sheet into a 7-inch round. Dust dough with flour and spread lightly over round with your fingertips. Cut a 4- to 5-inch X (1/2inch deep) in top of dough.

Bake in middle of oven until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack 2 hours before slicing.

Make canapés with bread, softened butter, salmon, chives, and pepper to taste.

Sweet Pea Crostini

Recipe from foodnetwork.com:

Ingredients

Sweet Peas:

  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 3 ounces finely diced prosciutto

Crostini:

  • 1 baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic

Directions

For the Sweet Peas: Warm the chicken broth and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the broth boils. Add the frozen peas and cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the peas in a mesh sieve.

Place the peas in a food processor with the mint, salt, and pepper. Puree the pea mixture. Place the pea puree in a medium bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the crostini: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the baguette slices on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven until toasted and golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. While the crostini are still warm, drizzle the tops with extra-virgin olive oil. Using a whole clove of garlic in your fingertips, rub the top of the crostini a few times to give a hint of garlic.

To finish, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pea puree. Top each of the crostini with about 1 tablespoon of pea puree. Sprinkle with a bit of the diced prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2 French Baguette sliced diagonally
  • 5 Roma Tomatoes seeded and diced
  • 3 Heirloom Tomotes seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh Basil chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz Boursin herbed cream cheese
  • 1 pkge feta cheese

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and slowly add enough olive to moisten the mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, while prepping the baguette.

Brush baguette slices with olive oil and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, place under broiler for about 5 minutes until golden brown, check frequently to avoid burning. Once toasted, put a layer of Boursin cream cheese on each slice and top with tomato mixture (can be made one day ahead and stored in refridgerator). Sprinkle with feta cheese and enjoy!

Bobbi Sandwiches

The Bobbi began in the state of Delaware and was created by Cappriottis Sandwich shop. If you find yourself in Delaware I highly recommend locating the nearest Cappriottis and getting a Bobbi for yourself, this appetizer is a mini homeade version of the famous sub.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Stove Top stuffing mix, made according to directions
  • 4-5 hoagie rolls
  • 1 rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, all meat taken off and shredded
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Cut open your hoagie rolls and lay open on a clean work surface. Put a layer of shredded chicken on the roll and top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Using a butter knife, spread chicken with a  generous layer of cranberry sauce. Top with a layer of stuffing. Wrap each hoagie individually in plastic wrap, very tightly and refrigerate for a few hours (can be prepared one day ahead). To serve, unwrap sub and slice into 2 inch wide slices.

Prosciutto- Wrapped Crudite

Recipe from foodnetwork.com:

Ingredients:

  • 20 paper-thin slices prosciutto or speck
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 10 stalks broccolini, blanched
  • 1/4 head cauliflower, separated into small florets with stems intact, blanched
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon olive oil
  • 1 (2-ounce) piece Parmesan
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt, for blanching water

Directions

Working with 1 slice of prosciutto at a time, cut the prosciutto lengthwise in half. Wrap a small bundle of the fennel slices (about 3 slices) with prosciutto, allowing the fennel to extend over each side of the prosciutto. Bundle 1 strip each of the orange, red, and yellow bell peppers, then wrap each bundle with prosciutto, allowing the bell peppers to extend over each side of the prosciutto. Wrap the prosciutto around the stalks of broccolini. Wrap the prosciutto around the stem end of the cauliflower florets. Arrange the vegetables on a platter.

Drizzle with the oil. Using a grater or vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan over the vegetables. Sprinkle with pepper, and serve.

Orange Glazed Pound Cake

This recipe is super easy, not to mention light and sweet; I chose it because it is so simple to make and because you can use your hands to eat it. This recipe calls for a cake mix. Typically, I don’t use cake mixes. I find it’s just as easy for me to make a cake from scratch as it is to make it with a mix. I have nothing against mixes, in fact I like Duncan Hines the best, but I do love cake so I always figure if I’m going to all the trouble to bake a cake, I’m going to do it from scratch. Anyway, this recipe uses the golden butter cake mix and then adds alot to it. It’s so delicious, I haven’t changed anything about it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pkge Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 1-2 tbsp orange juice, divided
  • 2 tbsp grated orange peel
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour 10-inch tube pan.

Combine cake mix, eggs, sour cream, oil, 1/4 cup orange juice and orange peel in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 375 for45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 25 minutes. Invert cooling rack. Cool completely.

Combine confectioners sugar and remainaing 1-2 tbsp. orange juice in a small bowl. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over cake. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Rasberry Chocolate French Macarons

I plan to make these again later this week, so a more detailed post is coming. I was completely intimidated by these and this was my first time making macarons of any kind. They turned out more fabulous than I imagined and I should have made twice as many!

This recipe is from epicurious.com:

Ingredients:

For macarons
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Red or pink food coloring

For chocolate raspberry ganache
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (60 to 64% cacao), finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/16 teaspoon raspberry extract (preferably McCormick brand)

Special equipment: parchment paper; a gallon-size sealable plastic bag (not pleated)

Preparation:

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Sift in remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.

Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated. (Meringue will deflate.)

Spoon batter into bag, pressing out excess air, and snip off 1 corner of plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly just above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter (the size of a chocolate kiss) onto lined sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature until tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 300°F.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are just slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks, about 30 minutes.

Make ganache while macaroons bake:
Melt chocolate with cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. (Bowl should not touch water.) Remove bowl from heat, then add butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.
Assemble cookies:
Carefully peel cookies from parchment (they will be fragile). Sandwich a thin layer of ganache (about 1/2 teaspoon) between flat sides of cookies.
Cooks’ note:
Filled macaroons keep in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.

I had a great time pretending to be a caterer and trying out lots of new recipes! Nothing turned out badly and I’m looking forward to making all of the dishes again soon, just not all at one time…