Thursday, December 31, 2009
Posted by Ashlee at 12/31/2009 10:16:00 AM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The first french toast casserole I decided to make was Pumpkin Spice. I absolutely love pumpkin, so it was an easy decision. I decided to go food shopping and see what bread was fresh and looked good, and the baker told me the challah was fresh and delicious. It was exactly what I had hoped for! This french toast was fantastic, a little spicy, and creamy in the middle with some crunch on the outside.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
For our Office Christmas Lunch, my co-worker Lou and I made the menu. I work with a bunch of men, so the menu was much different than any normal lunch for me!
Over Thanksgiving, Lou was in Alabama with his family and they made a turkey on the grill. He was telling me about it, and jokingly said we should make a grilled turkey for Christmas... so we did! He brought a grill and set it up in the parking lot at work. The turkey was made really simply with a rub of EVOO, salt, pepper and minced garlic (lots!).
The turkey had amazing flavor from the grill, the wood, and the garlic. It was very tender, no need for gravy (not that we had any)... Lou used alder hardwood when he added the coals, but you can use any variety to flavor it how you'd like.
I brought in a lasagna and cookies and blondies, and he also made some green beans, which I'll be re-creating this week!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I've been blogging recipes from the Housewarming Party for the past few weeks, so here are the rest of the things I made, click on the recipe name for the link. We had a fantastic time, the food was great, and we made out first fire! Charlotte and Belle are big fans of the fireplace.
Monday, December 21, 2009
My in-laws celebrated their 25th Anniversary on December 8, 2009. My husband and I thought it would be fun to throw a surprise party for them. Since we moved into our new home, I suggested we do a nice sit down dinner rather than spend 4-5 times the price going to a restaurant. He thought it was a great idea! We asked my brother-in-law what he thought and when he would be home from college, and we decided the 19th was the perfect date (though it was also his 22nd birthday, but he was willing to share).
I placed a menu at each guest's seat so they would know what was going to be served. I had personalized napkins with Mom and Dad's wedding date.
The appetizers were set out so guests could start eating as soon as they arrived. We asked them to come at 6pm, and planned for JJ's parents to come around 6:30. We also served beer, wine and soda.
The first appetizer selection was Caprese Spring Rolls with Pesto Dipping Sauce. I created this recipe over the summer to win a chance to attend Foodbuzz's Blogger Festival, but I didn't win! I made the spring rolls for my cousin and her husband, and they requested that I make them again, soon! Luckily they lived up to Leah and Jay's hype, and everyone enjoyed them as well.
The second appetizer I chose is another crowd favorite, Puff Pastry wrapped Blue Cheese stuffed Olives. I came up with these after sampling a blue cheese stuffed olives. I thought it would be even better warm, wrapped like a cocktail hotdog. I first made these for a Tea Party my sisters and I hosted for my Mom. They were the first appetizer we ran out of! They're so simple to make, and they have great flavor.
The last appetizer I made was this Rosemary Tuscan Bean Dip. I have seen several bean dips lately, so I thought this would be something new to try. I tried to make this extra flavorful by simmering the beans in beef stock with a few fresh rosemary sprigs.
Since dinner was going to be fairly elaborate, I decided to make Caesar Salad. My sister's friend, Kelly, was nice enough to give me her secret Caesar salad dressing recipe. I think it tastes very similar to Carrabbas, which is my favorite Caesar Salad. I made fresh croutons to make the salad a little more special, as well.
Since most dinners are served with some kind of bread, I figured I would make garlic bread since it's Italian. I love when garlic bread is very garlicky, especially with slow roasted, large chunks of garlic. I roasted about 10 bulbs of garlic to use in all of the different recipes! To make this garlic bread, I simply mixed the cloves of 2 heads of roasted garlic, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp. dried Italian herbs, salt, pepper, and 1 stick of softened butter. I split 4 baguettes, spread the mixture on, and baked them at 400 for 10 minutes. These were also great for sopping up the extra sauces from dinner!
I decided to make both a chicken dish and a beef dish so our guests would have a choice. Since JJ's mom isn't a fan of tomato based sauces, I had to think of some non-tomato based Italian sauces. I knew both his parents like marsala, so I chose that. Then I decided to make a lemon butter sauce with sun dried tomatoes, which his mom likes. In the end, everyone was pretty split on their favorite dish, but I have to say the marsala was by far my favorite!
Mashed potatoes seemed to be a great choice with either chicken or beef. I think Yukon Golds make great mashed potatoes, especially with roasted garlic. The recipe I used is one I made up, but pretty standard for mashed potatoes. I used 10 lbs. of potatoes, and multiplied the recipe.
Besides Spaghetti and Meatballs, my favorite Italian dish is Chicken Marsala. I have worked for a long time to create the perfect marsala sauce, and recently got it just right for my tastes. Since I know JJ's parents love chicken marsala, I had to put it on the menu for the party.
I don't eat much beef, so when I do, it has to be fork tender with a great sauce and lots of flavor. One of my favorite beef dishes is my mom's rouladen. I based this beef dish off her rouladen, but simplified it a bit. The lemon, butter and sun-dried tomato sauce I created was a hit, but it's definitely something you probably shouldn't eat often, as it has plent of butter and cream!
For the cake, I decided to keep it simple. I made a two tier cake using this Paula Deen recipe. I filled it with Raspberry jam, and iced it in Almond Buttercream.
I also made these Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries to go with the cake. Thanks so much to Leah for piping them for me when I was running out of time! I baked off half a recipe of this cheesecake by Dorie Greenspan, stirred it up and get it smooth, and used a piping bag with a star tip.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The other cold appetizer selections for the housewarming party were these pinwheels. I have made the Spinach, Pear and Walnut variety many times because I love them. I wanted to make another type though, so I decided to pair together some of my favorite Mediterranean ingredients - roasted red peppers, hummus and feta cheese. I used Christmas colored wraps, but you can use any wrap you'd like. I forgot to get toothpicks, but these held together well without the toothpicks.
1 block reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 c. toasted walnuts, crumbled
1 tbsp. butter
1 bag baby spinach, shredded
2 pears, peeled, cored and diced small
Salt and Pepper
Set cream cheese on counter to soften.
Heat a large nonstick skillet to medium heat.
Melt butter and add pears, cook until pears are slightly softened, about 8 minutes.
In another non-stick skillet over high, lighty wilt spinach, then place in a colander over the sink.
Lay out tortillas and smear with cream cheese, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with crushed walnuts, and some of the pears and spinach.
Roll up and put into a food storage container seam side down.
Finish all rolls and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3 roasted red peppers, sliced
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I've probably made this dip, commonly referred to as "crack dip" a million times, but I am just now blogging it. The reason being everyone always asks for the recipe. And no matter how many times I say "go to the Frank's Red Hot website," people don't listen. I know most of these people read my blog (hi!), so just for you, here it is!
Now there are a few interchangable ingredients, you can use your judgement and decipher what's best for your crowd. Some use ranch and some use blue cheese dressing in the chicken mixture. Since I knew this was a non-blue cheese crowd, I opted for ranch. Also, you can sprinkle the top with cheddar or more blue cheese, I chose cheddar.
I love to serve this with tortilla chips or scoops, pita chips, and celery sticks.
Make this for a party and everyone will love you forever. It will be the first thing gone. I guarantee it!
*Sorry for the not so pretty picture, the taste makes up for it, I promise!
1 cup ranch salad dressing
2 cups Franks Buffalo Sauce
2 cups cheddar cheese
Monday, December 14, 2009
The first appetizer I'm posting from our Housewarming Party is one of my personal favorites, Chopped Greek Salad in Phyllo Cups. It's not a very innovative recipe, but they're really cute, have great stage presence, are easy to make tons of, and taste wonderful! The great thing about these are you can do any variation of ingredients or ethnicities, like a chopped asian salad, chopped cobb salad, indian salad with tahini dressing, tex mex with black beans, corn and avocado....the list is endless!
Making the cups was actually very easy, and took about an hour to make about 100 cups (which was way more than we needed, but I snacked on them the next few days). If you don't want to mess with the phyllo, you can also use wontons or even tortillas. I personally enjoy phyllo the most, probably because of the golden color and buttery crunch!
I made the phyllo cups the night before the party and loosely wrapped them in saran wrap. I chopped all the veggies and put them in tupperware, then tossed the salad in the dressing right before I spooned them into the cups.
1 tsp. minced fresh oregano
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey
(or 1/2 cup prepared greek dressing or a vinaigrette)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out phyllo on counter, cover with a damp towel.
Melt the butter in a small dish.
Place a piece of phyllo on a cutting board, brush with butter, repeat 4 times.
Using a pizza cutter, slice into 3" squares.
Press into a mini muffin tin.
Bake for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown.
Pop out, cool on a wire rack, keep in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
Add all salad ingredients, toss.
Spoon into phyllo cups, garnish with extra herbs.
Yield: 100 cups and enough salad for about 50 cups
Sunday, December 13, 2009
One of my favorite memories of my time working at Starbucks was our annual Christmas party. We'd go to the training center and try all of the new beverages, pastries, and get our red aprons! I am not a huge Starbucks pastry fan (because I see the nutritional information on the boxes), but at Christmas, I find a way to look past that and let myself enjoy a piece of gingerbread loaf, a peppermint brownie, and of course, the cranberry bliss bar.
The cranberry bliss bar has always been one of my favorites, sweet, tart, like a cross between a cookie and a cake, with delicious cream cheese frosting... what's not to love?
For my housewarming party, I decided to use my favorite Starbucks pastries as inspriation. I made gingerbread cookies (rather than a loaf cake), cheesecake swirl (were supposed to be peppermint) brownies, and then these cranberry bliss bars. They're very close to the original, and so cheap to make at home rather than buy a tray for $15 bucks at Starbucks!
I found this recipe on Recipezaar, but changed it a little bit. I thought the ginger seemed to be too high, as I don't taste much in the original at all. For the drizzle, I used white chocolate, which is closer to what Starbucks uses.
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. white chocolate
Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.
Gradually mix in flour until smooth.
Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand.
Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13-inch baking pan and spread evenly.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges.
When the cake has cooled, spread frosting over the top of cake.
One of the desserts I made for our housewarming party were these Cheesecake Swirled Brownies. I had intended to make them peppermint cheesecake swirl brownies, but my peppermint extract vanished! Had I gone the peppermint route, I would have probably tinted the cheesecake swirl green or red, but I stuck with a vanilla and almond flavor and natural color.
To make these, I used my favorite brownie recipe, and then made up a simple cheesecake swirl. I made a 1/2 sheet cake pan of these brownies, which made close to 50.
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 lb)
In a metal bowl, set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the bittersweet chocolate and the unsweetened chocolate with the butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth.
It was a marathon of baking, so I left the camera with JJ to take photos. He took a few nice shots, and a few, well, you can decide if you like them!
Classic Gingerbread Men with M&M Buttons
Pre-Baked Brown Sugar Slice and Bake Cookies
Me putting more Double Chocolate M&M Cookies in the oven...I think it was close to midnight here
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I promise I'll reconsider next year, because I think I could have had another 50 orders already (here's last year's 50 orders, 1500 cookies in 2 days... talk about exhaustion!) However, I do still plan on having a marathon baking session this weekend so there are Christmas cookies at our housewarming party and for me to mail out to my family (so yes, family members, you'll still be getting yours this year).
This year, I'm not really doing many new things. I like to stick with what people like, and what is most traditional. I am adding a few new cookies this year that I'm excited about, though!
- Gingerbread Men
- Banana Spritz Cookies (family recipe, to be blogged!) on Chocolate Disks
- Double Chocolate M&M Cookies
- Peanut Butter Blossoms (might try a few kinds of Kisses)
- Sugar Cookies (not sure how I'll decorate them)
- Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies (If I can find the peppermint chips!)
- Lemon Shortbread
- Cranberry Almond Biscotti
- Maamoul (Date-Orange Cookies)
- Coconut Macaroons
- Slice and Bake Brown Sugar Cookies
I'll soon be posting my Housewarming Party menu, which is all appetizers, some Christmas-y desserts, and a few fudges. Those might also end up in the cookie packs!
Are there any Christmas Cookies you LOVE that you think I should add to my list? Let me know! I love trying new things.
For the final dessert on Thanksgiving, I knew I had to make something chocolate-y. Basically, whenever my sister Kristine is in attendance, chocolate is a requirement. I found this pie recipe while browsing the web, but decided to make it a little bit different. I'm not a big fan of rum with chocolate. I prefer rum in my fruity desserts. I decided to raid my mom's liquor cabinet for a substitute. I settled on Frangelico because it's a hazelnut liquor and I'm a big fan of chocolate hazelnut biscotti.
I'd say this dessert was ranked second for the night, just behind the cheesecake. It's funny how the more creative, less traditional desserts were actually favored. However, most people chose a small piece of a traditional pie and a small piece of the cheesecake or chocolate pie.
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons Frangelico
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Crumb Crust:
1 cup chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tbsp. Frangelico
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This dessert was the only one on my list that I was a little weary of making. I've found that fresh ginger in a dish can turn people off, but since I knew I'd love this dessert, I figured I wouldn't mind eating it for dessert, breakfast the next morning, dessert the next day, and so on. Well, with the exception of 2 slices, I pretty much did! The recipe is written with a chocolate cookie crust, but I didn't have enough chocolate cookies left, so I used the ginger cat cookies that I used for the bourbon pumpkin cheesecake.
I loved the cranberry topping, and would definitely consider making a cranberry/lemon/ginger relish in the future! I don't know that this is a big crowd pleaser, but if the ginger was omitted and a little more zest (orange + lemon) was added, I think it would satisfy most. Also, don't cover it tightly with plastic wrap, you'll have a flat layer of cranberry... not so pretty!
1/2 cup cranberry juice, divided
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (made from about 6 1/2 ounces cookies, finely ground in processor)
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Thin strips of crystallized ginger (optional garnish)
For cranberry topping:
Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over.
Let stand until softened, 15 minutes.
Combine 1/4 cup cranberry juice, cranberries, and next 5 ingredients in medium saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Reduce heat to medium; simmer until cranberries are tender but still plump, 5 minutes.
Strain into bowl; set cranberries aside.
Add gelatin mixture to hot juice in bowl; stir until gelatin dissolves.
Stir cranberries back into juice.
Chill until cranberry mixture is cold and slightly thickened, at least 8 hours or overnight.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Stir chopped crystallized ginger into cranberry mixture.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
Combine chocolate wafer cookie crumbs, sugar, and salt in medium bowl; add 5 tablespoons melted butter and stir until crumbs feel moist when pressed together with fingertips, adding remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter if mixture is dry.
Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.
Bake chocolate crust until beginning to set and slightly crisp, pressing with spoon if crust puffs during baking, about 14 minutes.
Transfer tart pan to rack and cool crust completely before filling.
For mascarpone filling:
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients except ginger in medium bowl just until thick enough to spread (do not overbeat or mixture may curdle).
Spread filling in cooled crust.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Spoon cranberry mixture evenly over mascarpone filling.
Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.
Garnish with crystallized ginger strips, if desired.
Cut tart into wedges and serve cold.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The second dessert on the Thanksgiving menu is this Apple Pie with Salted Pecan Crumble. I knew I had to make a classic double-crusted apple pie, but I also wanted to make something fun and different. Salted anything seems to be all the rage these days (caramels, chocolate, etc.), so this seemed to be a more current adaptation of a classic recipe!
I made a few slight changes to the recipe. I used all whole wheat pastry flour in my crust because that's all my mom had at home. I was worried about using all whole wheat, but all of the crusts came out perfect and the whole wheat added a great different flavor!
I also subbed in 1/2 cup rolled oats for 1/3 cup flour as noted below.
This pie doesn't exactly cut perfectly, but the taste makes up for the less than perfect slices! Next time I make this, I'm planning to serve it warm with vanilla ice cream!
Also, big thanks to Popie for peeling all of the apples for my pies on Thanksgiving :)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
4 tablespoons ice water
Salted pecan crumble:
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoon (packed) light-brown sugar
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup pecan pieces
5 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 pounds apples (I used Gala and Johnathan), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
To make pie dough:
In a large food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt.
Add egg yolk and butter.
Pulse until butter is cut to the size of peas.
Add ice water and pulse until it forms into a ball.
Turn dough out onto a smooth surface and gather into a ball.
Wrap in plastic; flatten into a disk. Refrigerate 1 hour.
To make salted pecan crumble:
In a food processor, combine flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon, and 1/3 cup pecans; process until pecans are ground.
Add oats and butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly.
Transfer crumble to a medium bowl; add remaining 1/3 cup pecans and, using your hands, crumble and squeeze mixture to form larger clumps.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
On a lightly floured surface or between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll out dough into an 1/8-inch-thick 12-inch round.
Fold in half and ease gently into a 9-inch pie pan. Unfold dough, letting pastry overhang edge.
Trim overhang to 1 inch. Fold under and flute or crimp edge. Refrigerate shell.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
To make apple filling:
In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, and nutmeg until blended.
Add apples, juice and zest; toss until apples are evenly coated.
Remove pie shell from refrigerator and spoon apple filling into it, mounding filling in center of pie.
Sprinkle crumble evenly over top of pie, gently pressing into place; place pie on a baking sheet.
Bake 1 1/2 hours, or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown.
Let cool completely on a wire rack.
For Thanksgiving I was put in charge of desserts, as I noted in my previous menu post. Well the day has passed, and the desserts are finished, but the memory of this cheesecake is everlasting. As I was bringing the desserts in and out of the kitchen, the family's reponse to this one was amazing. Not just because of the appearance, but you tell someone a cheesecake has pumpkin AND bourbon, and they're on board!
This recipe was recommended to me by Bridget, and she did not steer me wrong! I used her adaptation for the filling and my own creation for the crust.... which was not so much a creation as just a simple crumbly crust made from grahams and butter. I was planning to use a honey or cinnamon graham crackers, but when my mom found ginger cat cookies for people at TJ's, I told her they sounded perfect and to go ahead and buy them!
The cheesecake turned out great! It cracked slightly as it cooled because my swirl on top was pretty wet. The pumpkin puree my mom got for me (Libby's) seemed much wetter than what I've been using (whole foods organic pumpkin puree), so that could be part of the reason. Nonetheless, it was fantastic! I served it with a homemade cinnamon-vanilla whipped cream, which I'll post later on.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350F.
2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth.
3. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks).
4. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours.