Saturday, April 9, 2016

April 3, 2016

Mary started us off with a Beam Honey and Lemonade cocktail.  Instead of club soda she used ginger ale.  She could have used ginger beer because as I have pointed out in the past, ginger beer DOES NOT HAVE ALCOHOL.  I believe there are now some "hard" ginger beers which do have alcohol though I could not find these when I was looking for the elusive ginger beer.

For our appetizer we enjoyed Smoked Salmon Dip.  It was served with crackers, bagel chips and crostini,  I used a 4 oz package of smoked salmon and it looks like a salmon fillet that you order in a restaurant and not lox. HEB carries lox and Sprouts (love you) carries the kind that I used in the dip. I first used lox and was not pleased at all with the results.  So I started over using the correct kind of salmon and it was so tasty.  I used one jalapeno and I seeded it but used the spine from one half.  I thought this was enough heat.  The dip is good for days and I munched on it for the rest of the week.  

For the main dish, we prepared Ham, Spinach and Mushroom Quiche. This dish was as pretty as it was delicious.The recipe is perfect and I would not change a thing.  We doubled the recipe and this equaled two pies plus another pan that Mary added some bread pieces to and I am sure she was eating on for a week! The quiche is very cheesy though it only has 1.5 cups of cheese.  It also re-heats nicely in the oven.

To side with the quiche, I cooked Oven Roasted Potatoes.  The potatoes are good on their own but when you add the topping of bacon, fresh rosemary and thyme, they go to a whole new level of "get in my belly"!  Carol, our guest attendee, told me that you can make very good oven potatoes using a packet of ranch dressing mix.  As I enjoy roasted potatoes, I will have to give it a try sometime.

Berry crisp with Mascarpone Whipped Cream was our scrumptious dessert.  One word:  YUM. Tonya used peaches, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, but kept the total fruit to 6 cups (as in the recipe).  The crisp is not overly sweet and the topping has nice texture with the oatmeal.  The fruit is soft and blends together nicely. The whipped cream was thick and not delicate like a cream only whipped cream.  The mascarpone cheese adds a nice flavor as well..  This crisp was the perfect ending to our brunch-like meal.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

March 20, 2016

We met at Tonya's.  Deb was in New Zealand!!  The rest of the gals were present.

Mary started us off with a beautiful platter with cheeses, hummus, almonds and grapes.  All were delicious and it was a sophisticated display to get us started as we slaved away over the bolognese.   Ha!

Our second course was Angelica's Italian Romaine Salad.  It was dressed with a delicate lemon vinaigrette.  This was a very nice, simple salad that paired perfectly with the complex herb flavors of the main course.  All photographs but the cake were taken by Tonya with her new camera.  I love the sharp detail and she shall be deemed the new Gourmet Gals photographer!


1 large bunch or 2 small bunches romaine lettuce
1 small red onion
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives or pitted jumbo ripe olives
1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
1/2 cup seasoned croutons
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Lemon Vinaigrette

1 or 2 medium lemons
2 cloves garlic or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the main dish, Tonya picked Chicken Bolognese with Crispy Oregano.  I have never prepared bolognese and I was excited to try it - both cooking and eating!  I had just heard on the radio a recipe for turkey bolognese in reference to healthy, quick, flavorful, week night meals.  So apparently bolognese is all the rage these days.

This recipe featured ground chicken rather than turkey.  The combination of the fresh tarragon and diced tomatoes gave the dish a unique, complex flavor.  Be careful when "frying" the oregano garnish. Those damp little leaves like to pop!  Tonya squealed quite a few times during this step of the recipe.

We finished our meal with a cake, that while not Italian, was delicious.  Brown Sugar Pound cake was moist and sweet without being too sweet.  I used only half of the recipe for the brown sugar glaze because the sugar count was getting into the outrageous range.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sweet Treats

I've done a lot of baking lately.  Let me catch you up.

Remember Treebeard's Butter Cake?  I have made this several times and people always love it.  And get confused by it... what is that flavor?  How do you make it so yummy and creamy on the inside yet lightly crunchy on the outside?!  MAGIC!  No.  Cream cheese and A POUND of powdered sugar.  So, I found a chocolate version!  I was tasked with making the birthday treat for a coworker and when I asked her what she wanted she said "anything chocolate".  After some googling (is that a verb yet?) I found Paula Dean's recipe for Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake.  I left out the nuts for the birthday girl, because there are some that do not like nuts.  It was delicious sans nuts.  Just like the vanilla version, same texture, and tastes like a brownie on steroids!  Do not over bake this as you want it to be slightly creamy.  I made it again with nuts and it is just as delicious yet with more crunch.  A little tip - a pound of powdered sugar (16 ounces) equals 3 3/4 cups.

Next, I made two different types of brookies.  A "brookie" is a brownie mixed with a cookie.  My sister asked me, after she stopped laughing, "why can't it be called a 'crownie'?;"  I don't make the rules, I just follow them. Anyway, I prepared both Oatmeal Scotchie Brookie and Ooey Gooey Brookie.  Silly names, yes, tasty, YES!!  The oatmeal one uses a boxed brownie mix and tastes like an oatmeal cookie with butterscotch chips laid on top of a brownie.  The ooey gooey one is a basic brownie and chocolate chip cookie marriage made in heaven.  The total cooking time is SEVENTY MINUTES.  When I read that, and that the pan size is 8 x 8, I knew that something is wrong.  I used a 9 x 13 pan and it was a successful recipe with a more reasonable cooking time (start with 30 minutes and test).  

Image result for biscoff cookiesFinally, I prepared Sprout's Cookie Butter Blondies I was excited to mix these blondies up because while I have heard of this mythical ingredient "cookie butter" I have never purchased it or tasted it.  And I admit I do not understand what it is for - spreading on cookies?  Why would a cookie need a butter?  

 With recipe in hand and a coupon for Sprout's cookie butter, I headed to Sprout's only to be told they did not have it in stock.  What?!  And come to think of it, the manager could not even figure out what part of the store that the butter would be stocked in.  It was seeming as if cookie butter was remaining out of my grasp when I found a recipe for DIY cookie butter.  I used Biscoff cookies and whipped up a batch.  I felt all Martha Stewart, making my own cookie butter!  The recipe made 1 cup and I needed only 1/2 so the remaining is sitting in my fridge.  I do now know how this butter should be eaten... with a spoon, straight out of the container.  The blondies received excellent marks at work and if I ever find cookie butter in the store I will definitely make these again.  I will not make cookie butter again because I do not need to eat a cup of crushed cookies and sugar. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February 7, 2016

We met at my house on Superbowl Sunday.  All were present except for Angelica plus new guests Deb and Molly.

Cocktail:  Angie, Moscow Mule
Appetizer:  Deb, Artichoke Dips
Side Dish:  Mary, Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread
Main Dish:  Angie, Texas Crock Pot Chili
Dessert:  Tonya, Chocolate Football Cupcakes

We started with Absolute Ruby Mules.  I jumped on the Moscow Mule train and purchased the mugs.  Gotta be authentic, yo. This is a sweet cocktail, thanks to the ginger beer which does NOT have alcohol and is pretty much ginger ale.   I mixed the lime juice and vodka in a pitcher and topped with ginger beer.  Delicious and refreshing. 

For appetizers, Deb brought two dips that she served with tortilla chips.  She said the dips were similar recipes, just one had spinach.  They were served warm and were creamy and rich.

Artichoke Dip
1C     Parmesan cheese (Shredded)
1C     Mayo
1-15oz can Artichoke hearts
Mix all together. add garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.
You can make another dip by adding 1/4 box frozen spinach.

It's that easy!

Bake 300  30 min.

Along with our chili we ate Mary's mom's recipe for Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread.  Or, as we called it, CORNBREAD OF THE GODS.  This was perfection in an iron skillet.  The bacon grease is a must and adds so much flavor.

1 1/2 cup corn meal
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup oil
1 cup sour cream
1 20 oz can cream style corn
3 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
2 chopped jalepenos
1 cup grated cheese
Mix all ingredients.
Use a well seasoned cast iron skillet to bake cornbread.  Use a couple tablespoons of bacon grease in skillet, get skillet hot on stovetop.  Pour in the cornbread mix and let it cook on the stovetop for maybe 2-3 minutes so bottom gets a nice golden crust.
Place skillet in preheated oven about 425 degrees and bake around 30 minutes or until cornbread is baked through.. monitor the cook time and temperature.  If top starts to get too brown cover with aluminum foil. 
Serve with lots of real butter!!

For the chili, I used this recipe.  We had some discussion about beans in chili and all decided we prefer it that way.  Whether that makes it non-Texas chili or not is a talk for another time.  I followed the recipe except I used a can of Rotel Orignal, drained, for the green chilies.  I also added more water.  I served it with onions, sour cream and freshly grated cheddar cheese.  Sorry, I did not get a blog worthy picture.  I loved this chili and plan to enter it into a contest at work.  It is spicy but not too much and I found that the spice mellowed on day 2.

What better way to end cooking group on Superbowl Sunday than with Tonya's amazingly cute cupcakes?!  These are chocolate cupcakes with green frosting, candied "grass", goal posts and little footballs.  As always, Tonya wins for creativity in the dessert decorating!

Saturday, February 13, 2016


I have made a couple of seafood recipes lately that turned out really well.  Garlic Butter Shrimp and Rice is both creamy and light. Creamy with Parmesan cheese and milk and light with fresh parsley and plump shrimp.  If you want to be a little less decadent, I would reduce the butter to 3 or 4 tablespoons.  I also used 1/2 a bunch of parsley because I think it would be difficult to put too much parsley in a dish.   I love it!

This tastes a bit like risotto though much simpler to prepare.  I served this with a side of sauteed spinach and mushrooms.

The second dish is Cilantro Lime Honey Garlic Salmon.  Whew, try saying that three times fast.  This dish is even easier to prepare than the rice - place the salmon on the foil, pour over the marinade and bake.  I like salmon best with some sweetness and this recipe cuts the sweetness with sour lime, spicy garlic and fresh cilantro. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 10, 2016

I cannot believe it is 2016.  But I am happy to say, I have not messed up and written 2015 - yet.

We met at Mary's and we were joined by guests Rachel and Carol and missing Angelica.  The theme was Mexican street food.  Ole!

Cocktail - horchata, Mary
Appetizer - scallop ceviche and guacamole, Angie
Side Dish - creamy corn cups, Tonya
Main dish - tortas, Mary
Dessert - tres leches, Carol

Mary started us off with horchata that she added some brandy to.... because first rule of cooking group is we drink alcohol.  She used the basic recipe and then added a can of condensed milk, almond milk and brandy.  Serve this refreshing, slightly sweet drink over ice.
Our appetizers were ceviche and guacamole.  I have never made ceviche before and this was a super easy, not scary (of ending up with raw seafood in juice) recipe.  I halved the recipe and it was plenty for a small gathering.  I recommend roughly chopping the scallops to get small pieces rather than just quartering.  I followed the recipe exactly except used half a seeded jalapeno instead of a Serrano.  I found the unsweetened coconut in the bulk section and while I do not think it added any flavor, the little white specs look pretty.  I served both the ceviche (after using a slotted spoon to move it to a new bowl) and guacamole with tortilla chips.

In case the ceviche did not work out, I also made guacamole.  This recipe had essentially the same flavors, just swapping out the scallops for avocados.  I have made guacamole many times, normally just mashing avocados and adding some garlic salt, lemon juice and hot sauce.  I decided to try this fancy recipe and I really liked it.  I do think you should use less onions than called for but otherwise would not change a thing.  Funny that the recipe calls for fresh coriander because this is also known BY EVERYONE as cilantro.  You're welcome.

Tonya prepared the most tasty corn recipe and served it in mini mason jars.  The toppings are stirred into the corn, resulting in a sweet, creamy, salty, limey, concoction.  Mary had this spice and Tonya sprinkled some on top and it was so delicious.  

The main dish was tortas de milanesa, which in our case was fried chicken cutlets served on rolls and topped with spicy (sriracha)  mayonnaise, lettuce, avocado and tomato.  Mary marinaded the chicken breasts in something spicy (probably more sriracha)  because the chicken alone had a nice kick.  I realized this because I ate my left overs on plain white bread (I know - who eats this any more besides children) and there was a pleasant spiciness.  I loved this sandwich.  The chicken was crunchy because of the double breading and frying and the combination of the toppings cool down the heat.  

 We finished our meal with Carol's tres leches cake.  Carol reported this dessert was rather easy to make because it starts with a boxed cake mix.  We all discussed that we prefer boxed cake mixes to homemade.  I know I have made a homemade yellow cake recipe and it was an embarrassment.  The sweetness and texture were off.  It was a very old recipe and I think today's tastes have evolved where the old recipes are less palatable.  The cake was creamy but not as wet as other tres leches I have eaten.  For the icing, Carol used a box icing mix which she said was just egg whites and you add hot water.  Yum!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Cookie exchange, December 13, 2015!

I hosted my 2nd (next year, annual) cookie exchange and it was a great hit! I served various appetizers and this fall sangria.

 The cookie exchange winners...

An interesting fact is that none of the cookies have flour!  Under certain cookie nazi rule books, cookies without flour WOULD NOT be allowed at a cookie exchange.  


Christmas Tree Meringues

  • 4 Egg Whites
  • 1 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 TSP Salt
  • 1/4 TSP Cream of Tartar
  • Green Gel Food Coloring
  • Parchment Paper
  • Piping Bag
  • Large Star Tip
  • Sprinkles & Stars (I ordered Wilton gold stars online)
  1. Preheat oven to 150-170 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer place egg whites. Let the whites come to room temp.
  2. Beat egg whites until white and foamy. Mix in 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Set timer for 7 minutes. Slowly add in sugar a bit at a time taking the entire 7 minutes to do so.
  3. Add food coloring and mix well.
  4. Fill piping bag with meringue using a large star tip (I used Wilton #1M). 
  5. On a parchment paper lined cookie sheet pipe small mounds of meringue, moving in a tiny circle. 
  6. Add sprinkles and stars. If placing stars on the soft meringue is too difficult, you can also add them with a small dab of royal icing after baking.
  7. Now bake at a very low heat (about 150-170) for about two hours to two and a half hours until they are nice and crisp. I just checked on mine every so often to make sure they haven’t started to brown. Every oven is different. I have found in the past that a low temp for a much longer time is far better then a higher temp with a risk of browning.