Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 9, 2017

We met at my house and all were here except for Mary, who was a bit under the weather.

Tonya prepared a most delicious appetizer of Goat Cheese and Fig Jam Crostini.  She intended to use fresh figs but just missed the season.  The jam was sweet which went well with the goat cheese.  Tonya toasted baguette slices in the oven, then spread on goat cheese thinned with a little cream, spooned the fig/lemon marmalade on top of that and finished with a sprinkling of toasted pecans. I really enjoyed these and they would be perfect for a party.







Our cocktail was Watermelon Sangria.  I think any fruit would work in addition to the lime and orange.  The blueberries are just for show or eating after you finish the drink.  This was a mildly sweet, refreshing cocktail that is perfect for summer..



The Greek Salad was prepared by Tonya and it was another winning recipe!  There were so many fresh, crisp vegetables and the olives and feta add a salty bite.  The salad was even more flavorful the next day as the dressing continued to marinate the vegetables. 




The main dish was Tomato Spinach Chicken Spaghetti.  It was another great summer recipe featuring fresh basil and spinach.  I think mushrooms could have also been added, especially if you wanted to leave the chicken out and make a vegetarian version.  The sun dried tomatoes add nice color and a bit of tang.




Angelica completed our meal with a Summer Tart.  It had a dairy free custard made with almond milk that was silky smooth.  The tart was covered in fresh berries and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  This was a light dessert for our summer menu.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

April 23, 2017

We were hosted by Mary and Vence. Mary requested a low carb menu. Not following this directive was Vence, who prepared for us the most deadly yet delicious cocktail. It was a Colorado Bulldog with this Kahlua that tasted like a sinful chocolate milkshake that will kick your booty if you drink it too quickly.  I KNOW. 

 


Angelica started us off with some beautiful peppers, cherry tomatoes, salami and multiple varieties of hummus. 


I made this caprese salad and left out the chicken and added red bell peppers.  Any salad with bacon and cheese is ok in my book.  The balsamic dressing is sweet and yet I think I was within the guidelines of LOW CARB.  A little sugar from vinegar cannot be bad for you.






While we are cooking experts, it still takes many hands to prepare one recipe.   We were chopping and stuffing and rolling and pinning these stuffed chicken breasts.  The colors of the stuffing, including the basil and sun dried tomatoes, were beautiful and the flavors were amazing.  This is a dish of simple ingredients yet ends up being quite fancy. 






Served with the chicken was a side of simple, roasted asparagus with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese. 










We finished our meal with a lemon cheesecake baked by Tonya. Since Tonya follows rules, except when at Michael's cake decorating classes, this cheesecake is low carb, gluten free and uses a sugar substitute.  The crust has almond flour and the nutty flavor not only tasted great it also had a crunchy texture.  The dollop of freshly whipped cream on top perfectly complimented the lemon flavors of the cake and crust.  I really love fresh whipped cream and neither the tub nor can can compare.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Winning guacamole and salsa!

Angelica and I participated in our office guacamole and salsa competitions.  Angelica won first place for this guacamole!

Guacamole Dip

Ingredients:

5 ripe avocados
1 tbsp. of fresh onions, finely diced
3 tbsp. cilantro leaves, finely diced
1 sm. - med garlic clove minced
2 tbsp. of salsa*- , use your favorite with traditional spices,stew salsa for 5-7 minutes to enhance the flavors
1 dash of cumin
1 lime juiced
1/4 tsp. salt
For extra kick add fresh seeded jalapeno or a dash of cayenne pepper

Directions:

In Large bowl mix and mash well, add extra lime and salt to your preference

Top with your favorite garnish

* Traditional Salsa

Ingredients:

1-4 diced tomatoes,
1/4 cup tomato sauce, you can also add 1/4 cup of chicken broth
1-2 jalapeno, diced
1/4. onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
6-8 cilantro leafs, diced
1 dash cumin powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
1 tbsp. of oil

Directions:

Chop and Mix to your preference, chunky or saucy. Stew all ingredients in 2 quart saucepan for 5-7 minutes. Taste and add lemon, lime or salt to your preference.

And I prepared this pineapple salsa, which earned second place in the salsa category!  The key to my winning was I served it in the pineapple which makes it seem complicated and fancy.  Also, so many of the other salsas were just alike so my sweet variety stood out. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 12, 2017

We met at Tonya's and we were joined by Angelica's friend, Rendy.  

Cocktail, Mojito - Tonya
Appetizer, Cajun Shrimp Guacamole Bites - Angie
Salad, Spinach Salad - Mary
Main Dish - Stuffed Bell Peppers
Dessert, Strawberry Shortcake - Angelica


We started with a mojito made by Tonya.  She added some lemon basil and made a simple syrup instead of using just granulated sugar.  The lemon basil came from Tonya's indoor grow house.  It is a nifty contraption that can grow all sorts of plants in the house!



Next up was the appetizer of Cajun Shrimp Guacamole Bites.  I thought I would go with a vegetable heavy appetizer to mimic the stuffed bell peppers.  These were tasty though I should have crisped up the sweet potatoes more. I think mine did not crisp because I both cooked them on parchment paper plus used too much oil.  The guacamole is unique in that it has red wine vinegar.  I would not add that to guacamole I was eating on its own but I liked it sandwiched between the sweet potato and spicy shrimp.

Mary prepared our salad and it was a thrown together Spinach Salad.  I liked the crunch from the carrots and almonds and the tangy blue cheese.  The dressing was creamy and went well with all the flavors of the salad.

Salad:

Bundle of spinach
Julienne carrots
Sliced almonds
Dried cranberries
Blue cheese crumbles
Mandarin oranges
 
Dressing:
 
White balsamic vinegar
Olive oil or similar
Salt
Pepper
Sugar-- about a tablespoon
Garlic-- minced about 2 cloves
Italian seasoning-- season to taste
 
The dressing can be more zesty than sweet depending on how you adjust the ingredients.  Make the dressing in advance to allow the flavors to fully develop.
 



The main dish was stuffed bell peppers.   This was a great version of the classic recipe.  The filling was full of vegetables and the cheese makes it rich.  More cheese on the top makes it even more delicious.



We finished our meal with Angelica's strawberry shortcake.   The biscuits were sweet and flaky and the whipped cream was like a sauce with a hint of lemon flavor.  It was very good and made fancy with more of Tonya's herbs as garnish.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 6, 2016

We met at my house and all 4 musketeers were present. 

Cocktail - Angie, Mid Winter Mule
Appetizer - Angelica, Crab Ceviche
Salad - Mary, Wedge
Main Dish - Crawfish Etouffee
Dessert - Tonya, Bananas Foster

A mid winter mule featuring cinnamon syrup was our cocktail for the evening.  While I could not taste the cinnamon flavor, the drink was strong enough that you did not mind.  The ginger beer or ginger ale is necessary to cut through the spirits.  Or not!


Next we moved on to Angelica's crab ceviche with tortilla chips.  Rather than using imitation crab, Angelica used a crab cake that she baked and flaked.  She also used a jalapeno pepper rather than Serrano peppers.   The dip tasted fresh with all the raw vegetables and had quite a kick.  The lime juice tempers the heat nicely. 






I think this wedge salad prepared by Mary is the most delicious salad that I have EVER TASTED.  She added crumbled bacon and that is the ingredient that made this salad addictive.  The bacon was stored in a baggie and I called it "crack in a Ziploc".  Anyway, let me reiterate, YOU MUST ADD BACON TO THIS SALAD. The dressing is creamy, salty and tangy, the lettuce is crisp and the BACON, onions and tomatoes add nice texture. 















Our main dish, that we prepared together, was crawfish etouffee.  Tonya, having graduated from LSU and thus a Cajun expert, was on the most critical roux duty.  She did an excellent job!  I bought 3 packages of frozen crawfish tails and we used it all.  I have always been intimidated by etouffee but no more!  The most complicated part of this dish is the stirring of the roux.  Once that is complete you add the other ingredients, except for the tails, and simmer.  The vegetables stay a little crisp and it is creamy and not too spicy.  You can spice it up with hot sauce to taste.






The final dish of the evening was Tonya's bananas foster.  Bananas are sauteed and slightly caramelized and lite aflame for a dramatic finish!!  Unless you use banana flavored rum.  While delicious, flavored rum does not have the same, high alcohol content of normal rum and thus, will not catch fire. Either way, this dessert is divine with a sweet, caramel like sauce and bananas that are served over vanilla ice cream.  You could also serve left overs over waffles or pancakes.  Or, eating straight out of the pan with a big spoon.

Friday, November 4, 2016

October 23, 2016

We met at Mary's for a Thai theme!  All were present and there were zero "others".  :-)



Mary - cocktail, pineapply goodness (same as at her party in July)
Tonya - appetizer, Thai Pizza
Angie - salad, Thai Chopped Salad
Angelica - dessert, Turtle Pumpkin Cheesecake

We began our evening with Mary's famous cocktail and Tonya's Thai Pizza.  The pizza had extra red onions and carrots and Tonya used naan bread rather than Pita.  The peanut sauce is a traditional sweet sauce with a bit of a kick.  The crust was chewy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside and the vegetable toppings, chicken and sauce paired perfectly.  This would make an excellent main course.



For the salad, I prepared a Thai salad.  I shaved all the vegetables using this new tool which also does an excellent job of peeling.  The dressing is sweet and you can really taste the sesame oil.  The cashews add a nice crunch.  I had never used baby kale before and you can find it with the bags of salad and spinach.

This salad would be excellent with chicken, shrimp or beef and turned into a main course.  A tip for left over salads:  put the dressing on the bottom of your container and layer the salad on top.  The next day you mix it and this will keep the greens from wilting or getting soggy.








Our main dish was Hot and Sour Prawn Soup from a cookbook that Mary bought in Thailand.  It had some unique ingredients!



















Ingredients:
1 bowl water
1 stalk lemongrass - smashed and chopped in half
1 slice galangal - thin sliced
2 kafir lime leaves - torn
2-3 small chilies - smashed
mushrooms - sliced
onions - chopped
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tbs lime juice
1 tsp chili jam
 shrimp

Heat water until boiling.  Add lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves and chilies.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  Add onions and mushrooms, cook 30 seconds.  Add sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and chili jam.  Add shrimp and cook a few minutes until shrimp are cooked through.  Garnish with  green onions and cilantro.

Above are the directions per the recipe.  Essentially you are making a flavorful broth full of items that you will not eat (lemongrass, galnangal, leaves and chilies).  We used double or triple the amount noted of the aromatics and let it cook several minutes.  Then we added the mushrooms and onions and let that cook for a few minutes.  The spices followed and we adjusted accordingly.  Last the shrimp are added.  I loved this soup.  It was salty and a little spicy and we were all surprised at how it started with water and not a broth since it was so full of flavor.  The lemongrass is the strongest note, in my opinion.  Very good and the new ingredients were not that scary at all once you figured out how to handle them.



For dessert, Angelica baked a delicious pumpkin cheesecake.  The Cheesecake was creamy and sweet with the chocolate and pecans.  It has a more mild pumpkin taste than pie and was the perfect way to gently move into fall and Thanksgiving type foods.   Personal touches that Angelica added were: 

Used personal size pie crusts for individual desserts

Brushed the graham cracker crust using melted chocolate

Toasted the pecans

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mary's Soiree

We gathered at Mary's for a little party on Saturday night and of course I had to share the recipes.  The main course was the most delicious beans I have ever had.  Perhaps it was due to the ham bone that had been in Mary's freezer since Easter!


Pinto Beans

2 lbs dry beans.  Pintos are my favorite but any dried bean variety should work
1 bone.  Gotta gotta have a ham bone.  Just not the same without a bone but in a pinch you can use a couple of smoked ham hocks.
1 small package of salt pork
Pinto bean seasoning (see picture below)
Several stalks of celery
Salt and pepper to taste
  
First soak the dried beans for a half hour or so.... just to wash them a bit.  Pour off the water, replace with fresh water (covering the beans) sprinkle on a liberal amount of baking soda.  Let beans soak for an hour.  Pour off the water, wash the beans well to get rid of any baking soda or residue.
In large stock pot, add beans and cover with fresh water.  Put in the ham bone and salt pork.  On a medium high heat, let beans cook a half hour  to soften a bit then add several stalks of celery and several tablespoons of pinto bean seasoning.  Turn down to a lower-medium heat and continue to cook for about an hour and a half.  Add salt and pepper and more pinto seasoning along the way. 
Hint:  As beans cook you will need to add additional water.  DO NOT add tap water!!  Adding tap/cold water causes the beans to split open.  Keep a pot of hot water on the stove to add to the bean pot as necessary.

On the side was Mary's famous coleslaw with poppy seeds.

For dessert, Tonya and I did a battle of the bars.  Mine were seven layer bars.  Make sure you toast the coconut - you can do this step while you put the other parts together.  Then cool in the refrigerator before slicing.



Tonya prepared passion bars. When she told me the name, I thought passion fruit would be involved.  NO.  Passion is for the passion you will feel after eating one because they are that damn good!  PEANUT BUTTER = PASSION.  Apparently.  :-)

The cocktail, which was sweet and tangy and had no hint of alcohol *DANGEROUS* was dubbed the new official cocktail of the cooking group. 

Vodka Fruit Punch

16 oz can frozen pineapple juice concentrate
12 oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
12 oz vodka
2 - 2 liters lemon lime soda (can be diet)

Mix all and sip cautiously!