Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Buns

In their glorious form as dinner rolls
Well, now that most of the holiday-ing is over, I fear that I will soon be embarking on some of my resolutions for 2012 that involve less cream, less butter, and less over-the-top decadent desserts. Not permanently. I have just decided that, probably from now on, the month of January will be dessertless. It will also be soda-less, cookie-less, cake-less (except for my son's birthday party), ice-creamless, and specialty coffee-less. It will include more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, and more whole grains. I am also resolving to drink my eight glasses of water a day. I figure that if I put "drink 8 glasses of water" and "eat two servings of veggies" on my daily to-do list then I will probably do it. If I don't put it on the list, it probably won't get done. And for the record, I am trying to eat two servings of vegetables outside of my meals, not that those are the only vegetables I am get what I am saying, right?
So, before all of those resolutions take effect, at the magical stroke of midnight (it's all over SUNDAY!!) I have resolved that for the remaining few days of 2011, I will have as much of the aforementioned soon-to-be-forbidden things as possible. Including these delicious-looking breakfast puff things.
Another thing I will probably make this Saturday, along with those breakfast things, will be these ham buns. I am planning on making them with some of the leftover baked ham that I made for our Christmas celebration. Which, as a little side note, instead of using apricot-pineapple jam, this year I used orange marmalade and it was AMAZING! And, a great little punch idea, if you are having a New Year's Day bash, you can make a delicious punch out of 3 bottles of sparkling apple cider, 1 bottle of cranberry-pomegranate juice, the juice of two limes, and a few frozen cranberries floating in the top. Unless, of course, you want to make an ice ring, which I completely forgot to do. I just filled my punch bowl (AKA upside down cake dome) with water and ice and let it set until I was ready to combine the magic juices. It was really, pretty good.
So, here are the hambuns. After you assemble them, you can freeze them, setting them out on a counter the night before, or just leave them in the fridge until the next morning. You would need to leave them out for about half an hour, or increase the cooking time to make up for the cold dough.

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Buns
(makes about 24)

For the Dough
1 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup sugar
7 1/2 to 8 cups flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled, plus more for brushing
2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons Dijon
1 Tablespoon salt, plus more for sprinkling

8 oz ham, finely chopped
2 cups grated cheese (your choice: sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Gruyere)

1. Bloom the yeast: Place 1/2 cup warm water (about 110) into a large bowl, sprinkle with yeast and whisk in the sugar. Let sit about 1 minute, then gently stir in 1 cup flour. Set aside.
2. Make the dough: Mix the melted butter and milk in a mixer with the hook attachment on low speed. Add the eggs and mix until blended. Scrape in the yeast mixture and mix until incorporated. Add 6 1/2 cups flour, Dijon, and 1 Tablespoon salt; mix until the dough forms a ball, 2 to 3 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if dough is too sticky.
3. Let it rise: Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and let it rise in a warm place, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.
4. Shape the dough: If you are baking the buns now, preheat the oven to 375. Spray a muffin tin or line it with parchment squares (cut into 4" pieces). Dust a clean flat surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Flour your hands; gently press the dough into a 16-by-8-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Cut the dough: With the short side in front of you, cut the dough in half lengthwise with a floured knife, then slice crosswise into 12 strips. Sprinkle the cut pieces of dough with chopped ham and shredded cheese.
6. Shape the dough: One at a time, fold each strip of dough away from you, then pull the bottom over the top toward you, creating a roll. Tuck it into your muffin tins. At this point, you can freeze or refrigerate the dough if you are making it later.
7. Bake the rolls: Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. If frozen, bake 25 minutes at 325, then 10 minutes at 375. When you remove them from the oven, immediately brush with softened butter and sprinkle with salt.
 *** Omit the Dijon, ham, and cheese and pop these babies in the freezer for the next time you have company and you will find yourself with delicious homemade yeast rolls to serve your guests.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

German Chocolate Cake

Whew! Christmas is just one of those seasons that, while I love even the very thought of it, I often find myself eagerly awaiting the new year so I can get back into the swing of things. Christmas parties galore, church programs, students' recitals, shopping, cooking, cleaning, extra practices, handmade gifts, mailing Christmas cards, ordering presents, and coordinating dates that work with every body's busy schedules usually leave me in a frantic frenzy by Christmas Day.
Just writing that sentence made me tired. Needless to say, with all the ways I have, once again, over-extended myself, I have not had the time necessary to keep up with my writing. I have so many recipes it is seriously ridiculous. I have two recipes I really want to share, one being German Chocolate Cake, because I absolutely love it and I use a collection of recipes from different books to get the exact cake I want, and number two is a recipe for Ham and Cheese buns. I honestly believe these babies are going to be AMAZING with day-after-Christmas ham and pepper jack cheese. But hopefully that post will make the scene sometime next week.
This German Chocolate Cake is something that I wanted to put where I could find it, so the one or two times a year that I make it I don't have to search through a stack of pages I ripped out of magazines, search through cookbooks and scour the Internet.
The cake I made from this book, the Devil's food recipe. I actually made two so it would be extra tall, because that's the way it should be, right? The frosting I used came from a Bon Appetit Magazine from last February, I believe, and I absolutely loved its rich, chocolaty flavor and dark, glossy appearance (thanks to the heavy cream and butter) that really looks amazing. For the filling, I used this recipe, that I had found online. Again, it is amazing.
Oh, and P.S. There were three holly berries until my three-year-old walked up to the counter where they were drying and popped one into his mouth as I was screaming "Nooooooo!!!!!" Just thought you would like to know.

If you, like me, want a giant, drool-inducing chocolate cake, you must double the filling and cake. There is plenty of frosting with just one recipe because you aren't putting any inside.

For the Cake:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 plus 1 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling:

7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
4 ounces coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
14-ounces can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 and position oven racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment and lightly coat with butter or cooking spray.
Place cocoa powder in a small bow. Heat 1/2 cup of the water until very warm. Mix with cocoa until smooth. Add remaining 1 cup water and stir until smooth. Set aside until room temperature.
Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until very light in color, 4 to 5 minutes.
Beat the eggs and vanilla in the other small bowl to blend. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 Tablespoon at a time. Scrape down the bowl.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture and the cocoa mixture alternately, beginning with 1/3 of the flour mixture and half the cocoa water. Finish with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand to be sure you have incorporated all the ingredients.
Divide the batter evenly and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on cooling racks and turn out onto rack.

Make filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.
Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath.
Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.

While the filling is cooking, make the frosting.

For frosting: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and 1/2 teaspoon (scant) salt. Gradually stir in cream. Stir until mixture is very hot and just begins to simmer at edges. Reduce heat to low; stir 1 minute to let flavors blend. Transfer to medium bowl; stir in vanilla (frosting will resemble chocolate sauce). Chill until just thickened, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Let stand at room temperature.

Monday, December 12, 2011

White Chocolate, Gingersnap, and Pumpkin Parfait

So, if you are like me, and tend to get a little over-zealous about your baking this time of year, there is a big possibility that you, like me, have an extra can or two of pumpkin hanging around your pantry. Or perhaps you just have part of a can lingering in your fridge, waiting for him to grow a beard so you can justify throwing him out.
If that's the case, this recipe is perfect for you. In light of the absurd amount of holiday parties you are forced to show your face at for political, family, religious, and business purposes, and the endless gift exchanges and potlucks, this will take one load off your mind. It is a cinch to prepare, and it is assembly only. No cooking required, which means there is no cooling period. It is a parfait, so you can serve it right out of the dish you prepare it in by simply adding a spoon.
It is a crowd pleasure, and a pleasant deviation from the usual party fare. It is light, you can stash any leftovers in the fridge and divvy them out over the next few days.
I adapted this from a recipe from the Food Network Magazine and I have been quite happy with it. I doubled it and prepared it in a 9x13 instead of individual parfait glasses and increased the cookie crust bottom. I decreased the sugar just a bit because it is a very sweet dessert.

If you are pressed for time or don't want to spend the extra time or money on freshly whipped cream, I supposed you could substitute and equal amount of prepared whipped topping, but I would reduce the sugar by half and add more to taste.

White Chocolate, Gingersnap, and Pumpkin Parfait

35 gingersnaps
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup white chocolate chips
4 cups cold heavy cream

Put 28 cookies in a resealable plastic bag and crush into crumbs with a rolling pin (or just put them in the food processor and pulse). Pour melted butter and most of the cookie crumbs (reserve about 1/4 cup to sprinkle on the top later) into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Combine and press into the bottom and sides to make a crust. Place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
In a large bowl combine 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, the pumpkin, 3 teaspoons of vanilla, and the nutmeg and whisk until smooth.
Place the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave for 10 second increments, stirring each time until the white chocolate has melted. Whisk into the pumpkin mixture until combined.
In a medium bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with a mixer until soft peaks form, fold into the pumpkin mixture and pour into chilled pan and return to the refrigerator. In the same bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of cream, 2 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until soft peaks form. Top the pumpkin cream with the whipped cream and sprinkle on the reserved gingersnap crumbs. Break the remaining 7 gingersnap cookies in half and decorate the top. Enjoy!
(you could also substitute chocolate grahams for the gingersnaps for a different take on this dessert)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cranberry Bliss (Bars)

There is a definite nostalgia about holiday foods. They usually represent our ethnic heritage, cultural surroundings, and just plain old tradition. We have many such traditions. My family always has this ham on Christmas. We always have au gratin potatoes. Whether they come from a box, or they are these ones, or these ones, they are always there. We have croissants (not homemade) and corn. We used to eat popcorn and hot chocolate while we opened presents, but now the adults want something more substantial.
A breakfast casserole that my mom discovered has been present the last few years, but I think we are moving away from that and on to something that takes less effort. Nobody wants to be stuck in the kitchen on Christmas morning. Well, maybe I do. But nobody wants to wait for it. This year I think I am going to make a Christmas punch (if I can convince someone to buy me a vintage punch bowl).
This recipe is for a new favorite, one that I hope will find its way to your list of seasonal favorite.

For the bar:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 a cup)

For the frosting:

6 oz cream cheese, softened
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick of butter), softened
grated zest of one orange, finely chopped
2 cups powdered sugar
3 oz (about 1/4 cup) white chocolate, melted (see below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
Prepare the blondie layer: In a medium bowl, melt butter for one minute in the microwave; stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter & sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Stir in the cranberries and chopped chocolate (the batter will be thick).
Spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool completely on a wire rack.
Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well-blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars- square or triangle-shaped. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To melt white chocolate in the microwave: place white chocolate chunks into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave in 10 second increments, stirring thoroughly each time until the chocolate is smooth.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey Dumpling Stew

Well, the big day is over. I am sure we will all eat enough leftover turkey over the next few days to insure we won't touch it again until next Thanksgiving. We had a very busy day, taking family pictures and preparing for our annual holiday boutique, but it was great and we all had a good time.
My crazy brother
I think it is funny how Thanksgiving is absolutely a traditional holiday. Nobody wants to try anything new or different (around here, anyway) and nobody really likes variations on the traditional. Example: I made cornbread stuffing this year, from my grandmothers absolutely delicious recipe , and while it was perfectly wonderful, flavorful, etc, everybody said they prefer the usual. I even made it the same way that I usually do, with sausage, apples, and dried cranberries. Oh well, c'est la vie, right?
There will be plenty of other occasions where I can experiment to my heart's desire. Whether they are traditional holidays or simply gatherings between friends. I am going to have to start incorporating my sister's boyfriend into these gatherings. That boy hasn't tried anything!
I wanted to post an article about this turkey stew. I absolutely love this stew, because it is innovative, delicious, and uses my leftover turkey parts perfectly. Not only does it use leftover turkey, but it also uses other items you may have laying around: green beans, carrots, celery, onions, mixed herbs, buttermilk, and pumpkin puree. If you don't have any of these items, simply take them out and swap them if you wish.
Also, if you already threw out your turkey carcass, you can build a very flavorful base with the turkey stock recipe and the addition of chicken bouillon.

Turkey Dumpling Stew
1 leftover roasted turkey carcass, plus 3 to 4 cups shredded turkey meat
1 onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered crosswise (save the leaves for the dumplings)
1 lb carrots, (3 quartered crosswise; thinly sliced)
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs thyme

Dumpling Dough (recipe below)

4 Tbsp. butter
1 shallot bulb, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 to 1 cup of leftover pumpkin puree
salt and freshly ground pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
shredded cheddar cheese for serving

Make the stock: Pull the turkey carcass apart into smaller pieces, set the meat aside. Put the bones in a large, deep pot and add cold water to cover, 4 to 5 quarts. Add the onion, celery, the 3 quartered carrots and the bay leaf. Tie the parsley and thyme together with twine and add to the pot, then cover and bring to s a simmer over medium heat. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook 3 to 4 hours. Remove the bones and vegetables with a skimmer and discard, then strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer. Return the stock to the pot and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced by half, 30-40 minutes (you will have about 8 cups of stock).
About 45 minutes before serving, prepare the dumplings. Keep covered with plastic wrap while you make the stew.
3 cups flour
3/4 cup minced mixed fresh herbs and celery leaves
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk

Whisk the flour, herb mixture, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until sandy. Stir in buttermilk.
Turn out onto a floured piece of parchment paper. Pat into a 3/4-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into rough 2-inch squares with a large knife. Cover with plastic wrap.
Make the stew: Melt the butter in a large, wide pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Gradually add the stock, stirring, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and add the pumpkin. Add the sliced carrots, cover and cook 5 minutes.
Stir in the turkey meat, lemon juice and green beans. Add the dumplings in a single layer (leave as squares or pat into rounds). Cover and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls; top with grated cheese.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

I absolutely love this weather! I am so glad a chill has settled in the evenings to usher in the week of Thanksgiving. Traditionally, this week, for me, is filled with baking and preparing treats and prepping food for the big day.
Also, two years ago this week our little baby was born the day after Thanksgiving, five weeks early. I love these heavy clouds, promising rain and cooler weather, which means I get to heat up the house with the oven!
I was thinking through the recipes I have posted here and one Thanksgiving Day treat is nowhere to be found, and that is pumpkin pie. I know a lot of people just use the recipe off the back of the can of pumpkin, but in case you long for something different, I wanted to include this recipe. I have had people comment that it is the best pumpkin pie they have had, and I believe it is one of the best. I can say this because it came from one of my favorite cookbooks, with a few minor alterations. The custard filling is perfect, and if you are up to making pie crust, try my recipe here. I always make the crust a day or two early, and then just mix up the filling on Tuesday or Wednesday. I never bake pies the day of, because I don't want the extra work. I am always of the mind to do what I can early, if possible.
I wouldn't use the flesh of carving pumpkins that I have cooked down, since they are not the same breed of pumpkin you would use to make a custard filling for a pie. If you can find the breed of cooking pumpkins, go right ahead, but I have yet to find anyone that even knows what I am talking about. Sugar pumpkins, custard pumpkins, and other small breeds are much better than the large, stringy pumpkins that are bred for carving and fall decor.

I will post a picture after I make mine this week.

Pumpkin Pie

1 disc pie crust (1/2 a recipe) homemade or store bought

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out pie crust and place in the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish. Prick the bottom and bake blind (with weights if necessary) for 17 minutes. Remove from oven and raise heat to 425. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven.

For the filling:
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg, plus 1 Tablespoon water, beaten together

Stir together the sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin, cream, vanilla, and the sugar and spice mixture. Stir well.
Fill the shell with the prepare mixture and decorate the edge with leaves and/or pumpkins cut from the remaining pie crust. Bake a small sheet along side with anything you would like to put on the center, to add after the pie is fully cooked. (Otherwise it will me).
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350 and bake until the pie is set in the center 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peanut Brittle

One thing that I would say I cannot make is candy. My mom is an excellent candy maker and she makes dozens of different types of candies, including knock-offs of popular items like twix bars, altoid mints, etc. I tried to make peanut brittle a couple of years ago. It was nasty. The first batch tasted like baking soda, and the second batch I burned.
I guess I am not very persistent when it comes to food. If I make something twice and it doesn't turn out it usually ends up on the back burner (figuratively). I may return to it later, but I usually don't keep trying. I don't like wasting food and I don't like eating things that didn't turn out so that sort of puts me in an awkward spot.
So, recently, I had a change of heart and decided to try peanut brittle again. It turned out perfect. I made another batch. This too, was perfect. I made a third batch. I burned it. Ah, well....what can you do?

This peanut brittle recipe was from my mother, who, in turn, got it from her mother. I made a few alterations (doubled the salt, reduced the peanuts, and rewrote the recipe so I could better follow it) and voila-there you have it.
Also, you can use this recipe to make any single nut brittle, or combine leftover raw nuts you have on hand to create your own mixture. Feel free to sprinkle chocolate chips on the top after the brittle has cooled for just a minute or two, and spread them around. You can top with chopped nuts or dried fruits, coconut, etc. You get the idea.

Peanut Brittle
2 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups blanched raw peanuts
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Spray one large or two medium size baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large pot heat sugar, corn syrup, and water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring. Add nuts and salt and continue to cook until mixture reaches 300 degrees (hard-crack stage). This will take about 15 minutes, so be patient and keep stirring to keep the peanuts from burning. (Once it begins to brown test it in a cup of ice water until it reaches the hard-crack stage). Remove from heat and add the butter, baking soda, and vanilla, vigorously whisking while adding. Be sure to thoroughly mix.
Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet(s). After it cools, lift off of pan and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Tightly stored brittle will keep for at least one month.

Note: for candy making, neither me nor my mom use a thermometer (gasp!) If you have a cup of ice water sitting next to the stove, and a small spoon to fish out the test results, you can have consistent results with candy. Simply drizzle a bit of the hot mixture into the ice water and fish it out as soon as it has cooled. Try it. Brittle is ready when it is brittle, or in the 'hard-crack' stage.

Pear and Cranberry Gingersnap Crumble

Today marks one week to the signal of the beginning of the Christmas season. Black Friday. Black Friday starts at midnight for some stores in my area. I, for one, have never been a fan of black Friday. I might have gone this year, with stores opening at midnight, because I can do late night shopping trips. I don't think I will ever, ever, get up at three or four in the morning to go shopping. I would get up at three or four in the morning to bake, or something along those lines, but never to shop. I am not much of a shopper. I am a 'get in there, get it, and get out of there' kind of girl. My dad, on the other hand, is a shopper. What ever shopping gene is out there he got double and I got none. It used to make me crazy. I felt like there was no sense in looking at all of said item, if a perfectly good one was sitting right in front of me.
That said, I am looking forward to the baking I will be doing next week, especially since my mom and I are hosting our annual holiday boutique starting on black Friday. I will be furnishing hungry shoppers with biscotti, scones, savory breads, pumpkin loaves, and apple turnovers. Now that gets me excited.
I wanted to share a little treat I discovered over at my new favorite blog. I have made a very few small changes in the recipe, here it is in its entirety.
I made this for a little get together we had a few weeks ago, after I read about it on her blog. I fell in love instantly, and a star was born. We had quite a bit left over, so I got to enjoy it again and again. I also had to hold the food for over an hour and it held up quite well. This is absolutley perfect for a potluck or any similar get together you have coming up over the next week, or just make one and bring it to a neighbor or friend who doesn't have family around for the holidays.
I served mine with vanilla bean ice cream, the author suggests using freshly whipped cream.

Topping1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 cup gingersnap crumbs ( about 16 storebought cookies)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon  salt
Pinch of  pepper
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Filling2 pounds (about 4 to 5) large ripe pears (I used Anjou) peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cups dried sweetened cranberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Put cranberries in a bowl with 1 cup of water for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger and salt. Stir in the melted butter until large crumbs form.
Drain the cranberries.
In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish, mix the pears, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together then toss it with the fruit mixture in the pan.
Sprinkle the gingersnap crumble over the fruit. Place in the oven and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is a shade darker and you see juices bubbling through the crumbs.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eat Here- Galletto Ristorante Modesto, CA

Last Friday night found me at a fascinating new restaurant. My husband had eaten there and immediately knew that I would love the food. He was right. I pretty much always love Italian, and this 1930s era ex-bank hit the spot. I apologize in advance. I have no pictures...silly me, I forgot my camera at home.
The restaurant was very busy, and even with our 7:45 reservation we had to wait a few to be seated. We were immediately greeted at the door by a mature host and hostess, instantly confirming for me that we were in the right place. We sat in the foyer on a lovely retro-styled couch, with accompanying chairs nearby. We were right next to the bank vault, which I have heard houses their immense wine collection.
Our cozy table for two was very close to the live pianist who entertained the diners with love songs. Elegant decor in rich, dark colors added to the wonderful ambiance, and fall decorations were tasteful and plenteous, something that I find very enjoyable.
We ordered coffee and coke. I believe the true measure of a restaurant is its coffee. And theirs was good. Although it wasn't hot. That could just be the traveling time, and the server didn't know the trick of putting boiling water in the cup before you put the coffee in to ensure that it arrives piping hot.
We ordered the carbonara, made with thick noodles in a cream sauce with crispy pancetta and a poached egg, and the gnocci with rock shrimp and chilies in a butter cream sauce. The carbonara was wonderful, but the gnocci was the best I have tasted. It was perfectly tender. The sauce was also delicious. Simple ingredients but together they were a masterpiece.
I would have sent my regards to the chef, but our waiter was far too busy with his other tables. My coffee sat empty for quite some time, as did my husbands drink. My only complaint, besides the inattentiveness of our waiter was that our bread arrived just before our dessert. Being absolutely starved I was a bit irritable when no bread arrived.
I ordered the tiramisu for dessert, again no refill on my coffee to go with my dessert, but I guess there were other patrons on this busy night. I suspect the tiramisu was previously frozen, but it was still delicious.
Overall, I can't wait to go back. I want to try a few of the other dishes on the menu, and I suspect they change seasonally, like the pumpkin ravioli with brown butter, sage, and shaved Parmesan. I will probably take my dad there for his birthday this week and hopefully we will get to try out a different waiter.

Galletto Ristorante 
1101 J Street, Modesto, CA 95354-0805
(209) 523-4500

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beef Burgundy, Beef Bourguignonne

I have a confession to make. A very long time ago (ok...maybe it wasn't that long ago) I was reading a cookbook, and I came across a word I didn't know. Mirepoix. I had just learned that haricots verts were fancy french green beans, so, after some careful deductions, I decided mirepoix must be a fancy pea. I thought that for quite some time. Several months probably. I am just glad I wasn't talking to someone who knew the truth. You know, one of those French chef's I know....
Just a random FYI. Mirepoix is a combination of carrots, celery, and onions, for those of you who don't know. What is usually found as the base of stock or soup. Good to know...right?

This recipe is great. Just perfect. It is a delicious stew that is just perfect for these cool days when its nice to have something bubbling away in the oven to keep the house warm. I love serving it with steamed potatoes and fresh bread. If you do not have or do not like mushrooms, just leave them out. I also frequently skip the pearl onions, traditional though they may be.
Happy Fall!

4 Bacon slices, roughly chopped
1 1/2 lbs boneless stew meat
8 oz cremini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups red wine, such as burgundy (or use beef broth)
3 cups beef broth
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
fresh rosemary sprig (4 inches long)
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
5 carrots, cut into quarters, then halved
1 cup fresh pearl onion, peeled, or frozen petite whole onions, thawed
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Fry the bacon in an ovenproof heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned and slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pot.
Set the pot over high heat. Add the meat and cook until browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms, onion, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the wine, broth, tomato paste, rosemary, bay leaf, brown sugar, and bacon. Add salt to taste. Stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pot from the oven and add the carrots and pearl onions. Bake, uncovered, until the carrots and meat are tender, about 30 minutes more. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy 100th! Macaroni and Cheese

Well, here it is. Post number 100. I have been thinking long and hard about what I should write about, and I have to say I am a bit nervous. I knew more than a week ago what I wanted to write about, but I vacillated. As I often do. When I write posts for my food blog, I sort of feel like they need to be completely my recipe, or at least that I have changed something. But in reality, there really are not a lot of new recipes. I mean, occasionally someone comes up with something that is really fun, it uses some unique spices and ingredients and it is really fun to make, but is that what you go back to again and again? I find that simple recipes are the ones that I return to. I like those things that I can make with the ingredients on hand, not those that need special ingredients and/or do not seem worth the extra effort.
But, that said, I still enjoy those tantalizing foods that are traditional works of art. Souffles, homemade flour tortillas, cookies, tarts, pies, etc. And macaroni and cheese. I really like real, homemade mac and cheese. Its traditional, its classic, its comfort. It is made with bechamel. It is so easy to make, yet it is so satisfying. It is also very easy to make your own. For this recipe I used aged white cheddar, but you could easily use Gruyere, or yellow cheddar, a mixture of cheeses, whatever you want. Also, bacon, tomatoes, canned chilies, spices, leftover grilled chicken or ground beef turn this into a main course. If you don't have seasoned bread crumbs, used crushed croutons, saltines or ritz crackers.
So, when you are not sure what to make, take some cavatelli or elbow macaroni, make some cheesy sauce and enjoy.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups milk
4 Tablespoons bacon grease or butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 lb grated cheese (sharp cheddar or Gruyere cheese)
1 lb elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs

Makes 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 400. Butter a 9x13 in baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While you are waiting, make the bechamel.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Do not let the milk boil or develop a skin. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the bacon grease or butter. Add the flour and stir well until the mixture is pale and ivory, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle the warm milk in to the flour mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in the salt and pepper. Return the pan to medium heat and cook stirring constantly until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste the sauce and be sure there is no trace of flour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add nutmeg and about 3/4 of the cheese. Stir until melted.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook noodles for 6-8 minutes, until slightly undercooked. Drain and return to the warm pot. Add the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Bake until bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pecan Pie

I should have known food was going to be important to me.
1. As a child, all of our family pets were named after candy. Our first pet was a dwarf-lop eared rabbit named lollipop. We had her for a long time. The next long-time pet we had was a tortie cat named Reese's. We also had skittles, pixie, kisses, hugs, and licorice. I know there were more I just can't remember them now. I, on the other hand, have named my pets after my husband's past romantic entanglements. I won't mention them here, but I would like to say I got a small sense of satisfaction when my chickens were killed by a dog.
2. My mom was a candy connoisseur. I always remembered people raving about her fudge and toffee. She made things that other people never thought of making, like homemade marshmallows dipped in chocolate. I never felt like there was something that couldn't be made at home. Of course, there are things you don't think of, but I never felt like things were impossible.
3. My grandmother was a gourmand. With six children in the house, there wasn't very much opportunity for fancy food. But when there was, she seized it. She loved Gourmet magazine, and when I heard they were no longer publishing I almost cried. I felt like part of my memory of her was going to be forever lost. I remember her canning peaches from the trees that were on their property. My grandpa was an avid gardener, ensuring the kitchen had a steady supply of fresh vegetables, and his birds had kale and sunflowers. His lemon, peach, and fig trees never ceased to entertain us.

One of my favorite pies, hands-down is pecan. I really love it, with a little dollop of freshly whipped cream. It can easily be disappointing if it is not prepared properly, but this recipe, I think, is perfect. Give it a try.

Pecan Pie
From Food Network

2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar (omit for savory crust)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 Tablespoons (or more)  ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 Tablespoons water. Using on/off turns, blend just until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide dough in half. Flatten each piece into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, 3/4 cup chopped

On a lightly floured surface, roll one disk of the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.
Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, cook the butter over medium-high heat until it browns, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vinegar and salt in a bowl. Slowly scrape in the butter mixture, whisking. Add the vanilla extract.
Spread the chopped pecans in the crust and pour in the corn syrup mixture. Top with the remaining 3/4 cup pecan halves. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pie is set.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take In: Egg Rolls

As I am nearing my 100th post, I have been thinking back on posts I have written, and recipes I have included. Chinese food, (fast Chinese) has always found its way into many memories for me and my husband. I know it isn't grandiose but its nostalgic, and sometimes that means more to us than the other. When we were dating, I moved away (he followed) and I was living in San Jose, CA. There was a Mr. Chau's very close to where we worked and we probably ate there close to once a week. Just after our first son was born, we ate at a restaurant here in town with his parents. We both distinctly remember it, for some reason. One of his favorite restaurants right now is a Chinese restaurant about a half hour away from us.
We have never really agreed on Panda Express. He likes it, me-not so much. But occasionally, if I feel like being really nice I will suggest it. Most of the time we eat Chinese at home, now. Spicy beef stir-fry, lettuce wraps, teriyaki chicken, kung poa chicken,  fried rice and egg rolls.
Here is a bit of nostalgia you can serve up when ever the mood strikes.

3 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/4 of a head)
1 cup mixed chopped vegetables
1 Tablespoon teriyaki sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

12 Egg roll wrappers

Combine vegetables and seasonings in a bowl. Lay egg roll wrapper in front of you like a diamond. Place a strip of the filling in the middle, running horizontal (about 1/3 of a cup) Fold left, then right side in toward the center. Fold the bottom up, use a bit of water and a pastry brush to seal and fold the top down, tightening as you go. Be careful not to tear the egg roll wrappers. Repeat with remaining wraps and filling. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook wrappers in two batches, seam side down for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

I always feel like I share a bond with people who feel the way I do about food. That is, they enjoy it, they think about it, and they enjoy sharing it with others. I do not understand people who feel like food is bad or a vice. I warned my husband a few years back that I will probably be a bit on the chubby side when I am older. I love cooking, baking, and eating. I take great pleasure in it.

Chicken gravy
 Another foodie I feel that I can relate to is Nigella Lawson. I absolutely love her Feast cookbook, which outlines many traditional and contemporary gatherings, usually centered around food. She explores them and I have often found myself wanting to do the same. I think this year my family will observe the Passover, not for religious reasons, but for cultural and historical reasons. It is very interesting and insightful to see how people and cultures have evolved, and what a great part food plays into these things.
Another one of my favorite cookbooks is the Bride and Groom cookbook, authored by twin sisters who were caterers in San Fransisco. An absolute must-have recipe is the roasted chicken. It is quick and easy, and makes any ordinary day seem special.

Roasted Chicken

Serves 4

3 carrots, cut into thirds
6 small red new potatoes, quartered if large
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 6 wedges
3 Tablespoons melted butter + 3 Tablespoons softened butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 chicken (3 to 4 lbs)
1 lemon, quartered
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Some help in the kitchen from Captain America
Put the carrots, potatoes, and onion in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Toss the vegetables with the melted butter. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Spread the vegetables to the edge of the baking dish, making room for the chicken.
Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken and discard. Rinse the bird under cold running water and pat dry. Put the chicken, breast-side up, in the center of the baking dish.
Rub the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter on the chicken. Season the cavity and skin generously with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Put the lemon quarters and rosemary sprigs inside the cavity. Put the garlic cloves under the chicken to prevent them from burning.
Roast for 45 minutes.  Remove the dish from the oven. Using tongs, tilt the chicken, pouring the juices from the cavity onto the vegetables, and shake to coat. Baste the chicken with the pan juices. If the bird is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Continue roasting until the chicken is a deep golden brown and the juices run clear when the tip of a knife is inserted into the thigh joint, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh,  away from the bone, registers 170 to 175 degrees F, 25 to 30 minutes more.
Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Toss the vegetables with the pan juices.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Basil Pesto

Well, I was trying to decide what I should write about...again.... it's not because I haven't made anything, nor is it because I have any shortage of recipes, but I do try to think of things that are seasonal, and people are possibly cooking right now. I made a roasted chicken last night for dinner, that I think I will share soon. It is very good, and fairly easy. You will have most items on hand and you can throw it in the oven and just fill the house with delicious scents, throw together a salad, maybe some dessert and everything comes to the table in a snap.
I made these absolutely amazing  apple pie cookies on Tuesday. I mean they are really good. Flaky, filled with warm apple goodness, bite-sized, and perfect for...well...just about anything. We had tacos, lasagna, and bbq chicken. We also had pesto.
I really, really like pesto, and so does my family. I love making creamy pesto, with some butter, half and half, and chicken stock. It is so flavorful and fresh tasting! The other thing I love about it is it is so easy to make, freezes well, and I can just pull a container out for an impromptu dinner. Like I did on Wednesday. I got back to the house later than I had anticipated. I had forgotten to thaw some chicken. I was running behind. So, I pulled out some frozen cheese tortellini and some pesto, threw together a salad, and voila!
I urge you to make homemade pesto. Everything tastes better, fresher, and healthier when you make it at home. You would probably be surprised at how vibrantly green pesto is when it is first made. And how absolutely amazing it is.
The other great thing about it is, if you ever feel like you want to stray from the traditional basil pesto, you can switch out the nuts (or omit them) change herbs to parsley for a mild flavor, or cilantro for a clean taste, and make a new, different pesto to drizzle on freshly roasted vegetables, pastas, fresh salads, or cheese and crackers.

Basil Pesto
adapted from Bride and Groom Cookbook
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated parmasan

Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food proecessor fitted with a steel blade and process until the ingredients are well incorporated, about 15 seconds. Shut off the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, slowly add the 1/2 cup olive oil through the feed tube. Shut off the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture comes together and sooks like a thick paste. Use immediately or transfer to a container, drizzle with a thin layer of olive oil, cover tightly, and refrigerate.

The herbal base of this pesto, minus the cheese, can be frozen. Add the cheese after defrosting the pesto and stir well to combine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

People's Choice (Caramel Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel Topping)

This recipe is a labor of love. I say that because it has come about over several years of trying, testing, tweaking, and changing. This is one of those rare recipes that I feel like I can say is mine. This is the first time I have written it down, usually I just make it from my head.
We like apple pie. We like streusel topping, and we like caramel. So, naturally, this pie would become a favorite. It is for people like me, who just aren't crazy about fruit pies. The apples are not too soggy, not to crisp; the short, buttery crust is plentiful; the walnut streusel topping helps those of us who are not super confident about pie crust make something anyway. And the caramel sauce. You don't need it because the brown sugar and butter give the illusion of caramel, but if you are like me, and you just like to take things way, way, way over the top, drizzle some on top when you are done. Then pass it around with spoons or in a squeeze bottle for lucky souls to pour on top of their fresh-from-the-oven pie crowned with melting vanilla bean ice cream.
This is another recipe for the archives. You won't make an apple pie every day, but when you do, you want it to be worth the effort. This is. This is the pie you can take to your mother-in-law's on Thanksgiving, or make it in a baking dish and take it to the office pot luck. It will be welcome, you will be applauded. And its pretty darn easy. But don't tell them that. Just smile and slip into the role of domestic goddess.

Caramel Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel Topping

Pie crust
2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar (omit for savory crust)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 Tablespoons (or more)  ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 Tablespoons water. Using on/off turns, blend just until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide dough in half. Flatten each piece into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour, or up to 2 days.

Apple filling

9 apples
1Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 stick butter cut into pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour

Walnut Streusel Topping

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt

The way I usually make this recipe is I start the crust early in the day or even a day or two before. I put it into the fridge until I am going to use it. Also, if I know I am going to make an apple pie, I usually divide the dough unevenly. I put about 2/3 of the crust aside for the bottom, and the remaining 1/3 aside for cutting out decorative leaves and things for the top.
Then, I make the walnut streusel topping. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process in on/off turns until the walnuts are broken down and in very small pieces. Set aside.
Peel apples and cut each half into three slices. Cut out the center core. Place apple slices in a row and cut into three or four chunks. Place into large pot. Repeat with remaining apples. Add the pumpkin pie spice, butter, brown sugar, and flour. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until apples are just tender.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Roll out your larger pie crust and place in the bottom of your baking dish. Pour in apple filling, then top with the streusel. Use the other pie crust if you wish to decorate the top with cut out leaves, etc.
Brush any decorative pie crust pieces with a mixture of egg and water (1 egg, 2 Tbsp water). Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until crust is a deep gold color.

If  you desire, which you will, top with caramel sauce.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All the Time (Chicken Salad Sandwich with Bacon)

Two of my favorite smells in the world, bacon, and coffee, are somehow made better when you smell them together. To wake up to those scents is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. Not every day, of course, because it wouldn't be special any longer. I remember, as a child, there was a restaurant I loved to eat at. They had a large fireplace in the center of the restaurant, and they made the most delicious ham and processed cheese sandwich I had ever tasted. Each sandwich came with a pile of fries and a cold, crisp pickle. Pair that with their chocolate shake and it was heaven on earth. I wanted to eat there all the time. I remember my dad telling me that if we ate there all the time it wouldn't be special any more. I looked at him incredulously. I was sure he was wrong. It would always be special.
They have since closed down this bay area eating establishment, probably saving me from being disappointed when I returned as an adult, only to find the food wasn't as good as I remembered.
Bacon, however, is timeless. It adds unbelievable flavor to a wide range of dishes, and is wonderful just by itself. I have taken to adding it to my chicken salad recipe with a hint of liquid smoke. The liquid smoke gives the impression that there is more bacon than is actually in there. This is a very simple recipe, and it is perfect piled high on some soft, white, potato bread.

Chicken Salad
serves 2
1 cup precooked rotisserie chicken, diced
I stalk of celery, sliced thinly
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 slices of bacon, cooked
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sage
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ladybug Baby Shower

We did the baby shower for my sister-in-law, Brenda. She is carrying the first granddaughter my parents will have, so of course there is a lot of excitement because currently there are four grandsons. My mom and I planned the evening, with help from my sister and my other sister-in-law. Her nursery theme was ladybugs, so my mom decorated the event with ladybugs she made from styrofoam balls she halved and painted red with black dots. She wound some wire and stuck it in the bottom, which was attached to different items on the table.
She used fake grass instead of a tablecloth to give an outdoors feel to the table. Bowls and jars of red and black candy adorned the table. We played baby shower games that mixed up bug names and tested our skill with nursery rhymes. Just for fun we did a baby shower mad lib that I found here.
We printed the menu on cardstock and set it on an easel on the table. Our menu consisted of gougeres, quiche, pomegranate-pineapple lemonade, green apple sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, mini chocolate fudge cupcakes, spinach salad with warm bacon-balsamic vinegrette, strawberry parfaits with angel food cake croutons, and shortbread cookies dipped in orange-chocolate.
I want to share the recipe for the pomegranate-pineapple lemonade, a recipe that I developed from something I tasted at a restaurant. This is great for a party for grown-ups, because it is not too sweet, but has a delicious blend of flavors.

Pomegranate-Pineapple Lemonade
2 quarts lemonade, homemade or purchased
1 can pineapple juice concentrate, thawed
4 cups pomegranate juice
1 2-liter of lemon lime soda

mint leaves for garnish

Combine ingredients, plus water called for on pineapple juice concentrate (usually 3 cans). Garnish with mint leaves and lemon wedges, if desired.

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