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.

It’s February 9th!

Today is a very special day, it’s Eric’s birthday! We’ll be celebrating with lots of delicious food today and into this weekend and I’m scheduled to make a cherry pie as his birthday dessert (the cherries are already thawed in the fridge!). Eric always asks for cherry pie for his birthday instead of cake and I can’t blame him, I do make a very good cherry pie, if you remember.

I can’t picture life without this guy, I’m so glad he was born!
I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else.

Happy Birthday babe!

(Bailey was his birthday present 3 years ago and this photo was taken over this Christmas, she is now completely healed and out of her leg bandage, but isn’t she so cute?!)

Also, if there is not post tomorrow, its because I spent all my time today celebrating with Eric and not writing at my computer.

New Year, New Resolutions

Happy 2012! 

I wish you all a safe, healthy and happy year! I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions, maybe because they are made so lightly and so easily broken. There is some statistic somewhere that states that most new year’s resolutions are broken within an hour of making them or something. But this year, I thought I’d make a few goals for the blog, call them resolutions if you want.

These are a few things I’d like to see this year:

  1. Blog more/blog better – I’d like to get some more stuff on here. More posts, more of the ideas that I’ve had floating in my mind for the last year. I want to see them here.
  2. Make it personal – I’d like to share more stuff about me, my life, my thoughts, on here. Don’t worry, the recipes won’t go away I just want to have more of myself in those posts.
  3. Make movies – Well, not really movies but I’d like to get some video footage up on this little blog.
  4. Restaurant Reviews – More local restaurant reviews and info. I’ll just have to suck it up and start eating out more often at some great places, darn.

I hope that by 2013 I’ll have done some work on all of these areas.

What about you guys? What kind of resolutions or goals are you hoping to accomplish this year? OR what would you like to see here on the ol’ blog? Any requests?

PS- Anyone else sad that Christmas is over? I hated turning on the radio this morning in the car and not hearing Christmas music and Eric asked yesterday when  I want to take down the tree. I told him, never!

12 Days of Cocktails – Day 2 Sangria Flora

My obsession with St. Germain liquor is no secret here. (Read more about it in this post.) I love the stuff! This cocktail is a recipe I used last year at our Christmas party for a “punch” and it was a BIG hit. I kept having to make more and I was making it by the pitcher! It’s really simple and deliciously light and sweet, plus kind of beautiful because of all the fruit.

This is not a traditional sangria that will take time to make, you can whip it up easily for any party or if unexpected guests show up at your door. I love that you can make a whole pitcher and save the time it would take to make individual cocktails.

To make, simply combine all the ingredients from the recipe and stir. Add in fresh fruit and keep serve cold.

Here is the recipe:

 

Pumpkin Cookies

In the spirit of the season and the spirit of all things pumpkin, I’m about to give you the best cookie recipe on the planet. I’m not kidding, these are seriously the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Most people hear pumpkin cookies and don’t think much of them but one bite into these and your mouth is filled with the soft sweetness of pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon and icing packed into a soft and delicious cookie. Every time I make them for people I get asked for the recipe.

These cookies were a special treat that my mom made around the Fall and Christmas time each year growing up. As soon as we felt the first chilly winds of Fall, we would start asking for pumpkin cookies. My favorite pumpkin cookie story happened a few years ago. Eric had been working at his company for just over a year and I decided to make a batch of cookies around Christmas time for him to share at the office. As you will see, this recipe makes ALOT of cookies. I think it may be triple the original recipe but that’s just a hunch. I sent almost a whole batch with Eric to work because his office isn’t small. Mid morning I received an email from him that all of the cookies were gone within the first hour of work and he was getting emails thanking him for the cookies and saying how good they were. I was surprised how quickly they were eaten, but happy that so many could enjoy them (including the CEO who stopped by Eric’s desk personally to thank him for the cookies, yep, I’ll do my part for his next promotion!). About two weeks later, his company held their annual holiday party. As Eric introduced me to some of his coworkers a common theme emerged, the cookies. Wives were asking me for the recipe and husbands were talking about how great the cookies were. Some of the wives even seemed a bit annoyed because their husbands would not stop talking about the cookies! I had no idea cookies could have such an effect. Needless to say, I now make an entire batch of pumpkin cookies each December for Eric to take to work.

The recipe is simple and starts with Crisco, alot of Crisco. Sidenote: do you buy Crisco in a tub or in sticks? My mom always bought the tub so I remember scooping it out of measuring cups as a kid, when I helped her bake, but I have since discovered the sticks. They’re just like butter and you can cut exactly the amount you need. I love them and I’m never going back to the tub. Plus the sticks take up much less room in the pantry, but I digress. Mix the Crisco and sugar in an electric stand mixer until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add in the vanilla and lastly the pumpkin puree. I choose to use my homemade pumpkin puree for this recipe, in the end I didn’t have quite enough of the puree for the recipe so I added about 1/4 of a can of the organic pumpkin puree. I can’t say I can taste a difference in the puree but I do know that the cookies tasted great, like always. I’d say the organic pumpkin is just the same as Libby’s, just more expensive because its organic. I’d use it again if I needed to.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Drop the cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the cookies are cooling, mix up the glaze. It’s simply powdered sugar, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg and add milk until its the right consistency. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time and if you add too much and the glaze is too thin, simply add some more powdered sugar to thicken it.

Dip the cookies into the glaze, allow excess to drip off and then let the glaze set for an hour or so before putting the cookies in their container.

My favorite snack combination is pumpkin cookies and cold apple cider. Nothing says Fall like that!

 

Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Cookies
Print
Author: Red Velvet
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 can solid pumpkin
  • 5 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Cookie Recipe:
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy, with an electric mixer.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well.
  5. Add vanilla and mix well.
  6. Add in 1 can of pumpkin puree, mix well.
  7. In a medium size bowl mix together all dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, slowly add the entire flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl.
  8. Drop cookies onto baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just beginning to brown.
  9. Icing Recipe:
  10. Mix 2 cups of powdered sugar a dash of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.
  11. Add enough milk until desired thickness.
  12. Once cool, dip the top of the cookies into the icing and allow to set.