Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 11, 2015

We met at my new house and the theme was fall/winter.

Cocktail - Angie, Chocolate Martini
Appetizer - Mary, Wild Mushroom Puff Pastry
Salad - Tonya, Winter Fruit Salad
Main Dish and Side - Angie, Roast Pork Loin with Fall Vegetable Cobbler
Dessert - Sandy, Perfect Latin Flan




I started off our evening with chocolate martinis.  It is equal parts vanilla vodka and chocolate liqueur.  Simple, rich and yummy.







Our appetizer was prepared by Mary.  These wild mushroom puff pastries were a mixture of mushrooms, cheese and fresh thyme inside of flaky pastry. 





Our main dish and side dish were roasted pork loin with vegetable cobbler We also had a side of asparagus.  The pork loin was seared in an iron skillet and then finished in the oven.  Both the pork and the vegetables had whole grain mustard. The vegetables were in a creamy sauce with biscuits on top acting as the cobbler. 







Tonya fixed for us a delicious winter salad with a sweet poppy dressing.  Rather than Swiss cheese, Tonya used feta (or goat.. sorry, I forget, but it was delicious and a better choice than Swiss).




Sandy, who always prepares delicious desserts, brought flan.  It was smooth and creamy with a light coating of caramel. 



November 9, 2014

We met at Mary's house.  Mary's friend, Carol , joined  us. 

Mary - cocktail, Milk Punch
Carol - appetizer, Crab Dip
Tonya - appetizer, Salsa Baked Cheese
Tonya - side dish, Risotto
Angie - soup, Fennel and Carrot Soup
Mary - main dish, Stuffed Mushrooms
Sandy - dessert,  French apple tart

Mary decorated with a Mardis Gras/New Orleans Theme.  Very festive and colorful!



We started with Milk Punch, which Mary modified as below.  It was delicious, like a cross between a milk shake and egg nog.

"I added some extra 'spice'..... some nutmeg, cinnamon and a little pumpkin pie spice.  I also added some superfine sugar for sweetness. I used 1% milk (almost a half gallon) and for richness I added 1 pint of fat free half & half.  I stored the punch in the freezer for a few hours so that it would be slushy cold when served."



Mary's friend, Carol, brought a flavorful, hearty, hot, crab dip.  It was served with triscuits but would also be good with a bagel chip or sturdy bread. 


New Orleans Hot Crab Dip
Ingredients
  • 5 tbsp.  stick butter
  • 1 small onion (yellow or white) chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery  (chopped)
  • ½ cup of red pepper (chopped)
  • Small can of mushrooms (drained)
  • 1 lb.  fresh blue crab meat – (rise and check for shells)
  • 1  8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup chopped green onion
  • 2 dozen baguette slices or box of Triscuit
  • Salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp of red pepper
Instructions
  1. Sauté chopped onion, celery, red pepper in melted butter in skillet over medium heat until tender.
  2. Add blue crab meat and mushrooms and stir
  3. Add cream cheese reduce heat to low and continue to stir
  4. Add Worcestershire sauce
  5. Add salt, black pepper, red pepper to taste
  6. Add green onions
  7. Serve warm in a bread bowl or bowl with Triscuit or toasted butter baguette slices



Salsa Baked Cheese is an appetizer that Tonya brought.  You can use any salsa and either cream cheese, goat cheese or a combination of both.  It is baked until creamy and warm.  A very tasty variation of the room temperature version.





I made  Fennel and Carrot Soup as an alternative to a salad.  It was rich and creamy.  The swirled in creme fraiche with maple syrup was a sweet addition.  I used hazel nuts rather than chestnuts as a garnish. 





The main dish was Stuffed mushrooms with a side of Risotto.  The mushrooms had some kick with the hot sausage and essence seasonings.  The risotto was made in the oven which makes it a simpler version of the typical constant stirring stove top version. 










French Apple Tart was the dessert prepared by Sandy.  It was beautiful and elegant with the arranged apples.  





Saturday, November 8, 2014

October 12, 2014

Tonya and I met at Sandy's house. Tonya started our evening with some delicious cheese and crackers.  The cheese was a sweet apple log with a creamy, mild cheese.











The salad was a broccoli salad with grapes and sunflower seeds.  The grapes gave it a mild sweetness and the sunflower seeds some crunch and saltiness.  The recipe made a huge bowl and the leftovers were good for many days.  I liked the dressing because it just barely coated the salad and let all the other flavors come through. Some broccoli salads are too wet and sweet.



Our main dish was deliciously tender  pork short ribs with celery and carrots.  Sandy made these herself due to the long cooking time.  She served over polenta, which was also delicious.  It was very creamy, flavorful and kept warm in a crock pot.  Sandy also had acorn squash for us.  It was simply prepared with some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  This was a fall friendly, comfort food filled, meal.






Our cooking group is known for our love of bread pudding.  Following the fall theme, Tonya prepared pumpkin bread pudding with a caramel sauce. Caramel makes everything better though this cake did not need any help with its homemade pumpkin bread as the base!



Sunday, October 5, 2014

September 7, 2014

Tonya, Mary, Sandy and I met at my house for an evening of delicious food and fellowship.

Dessert:  Sandy, Apple Bavarian Torte

Tonya started us off with two appetizers:  cheese stuffed mushrooms and a beautiful cantaloupe, mozzarella and prosciutto skewer with pesto.  I love mushrooms and this was an elegant yet simple appetizer that incorporated a spreadable cheese in mushroom caps.  The skewers were full of freshness from the melon, salt from the prosciutto and creamy mozzarella that balanced it all.  The pesto added a burst of spice with the basil and shallots.



Our salad, prepared by Mary, was a combination of sweet and savory.  There were oranges, feta, walnuts, red onions, greens and roasted beets with a balsamic vinaigrette.  This was a hearty salad with lots of flavor and a great way to showcase beets. 





For our main dish I picked pasta with shrimp and a creamy sauce.  The dish made a ton and re-heated very well.  I liked the tomatoes and fresh basil and parsley.  Parmesan cheese garnished the dish. Sandy brought some sourdough bread that we served warm with butter on the side.









Our meal concluded with an apple torte that Sandy made.  It looked as amazing as it tasted.  The almonds scattered among the apples created a crunchy texture.  There was a creamy filling and delicious crust.  



Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 24, 2014

We met at Tonya's.  In attendance were Tonya, Mary, Angie and Tonya's friend, Sandy.

Appetizer and Cocktail (Angie):  Peppadew  Peppers with Goat Cheese, Yellow Squash and Mozarella Quiche and White Sangria
Salad (Sandy):  Green Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing
Side and Main:  Polenta and Crab Cakes
Dessert (Mary):  Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone and Caramel

We started our evening off with Peppadew Peppers stuffed with lemon goat cheese and Squash and Mozzarella Quiche.   The peppers were introduced to me at Spec's.  You can find them at the olive bar and the lemon flavored goat cheese perfectly compliments the slightly sweet with a touch of heat, peppers.  The quiche has a super simple crust.  I typically do not make my own crusts but this recipe was full proof.  I made it the day before and then let it warm slightly at room temperature before rolling it out.  I used only half of the ingredients called for in the filling and it was the perfect amount for my square tart pan.  When I sauteed the squash I also included one diced shallot.




The sangria was beautiful to look at with all the fruit.  The flavor is light and slightly sweet.  The addition of club soda keeps it from being too potent.  After we finished it off I added more wine to the fruit and it was good for several days.







The salad had a creamy garlic dressing.  There were tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and candied pecans.  It was a simple salad with big flavor that rounded out the meal.



The polenta was simple recipe with water, milk, salt and cornmeal.  It was served along side the most delicious crab cakes I have ever had.  The filling was about a quarter bread crumbs and spices and three quarters lump crab meat.  We made the patties and then placed in the refrigerator to firm up.  The coating on the outside had 3 steps which resulted in incredibly crunchy cakes.  We used Panko bread crumbs rather than regular bread crumbs for the outside.  The cakes were fried for about 3 minutes per side.  On top, Tonya made a sauce of mayo, lemon juice, sirracha and salt.  These were amazing and re-heated very well in my toaster oven. 


For dessert, Mary prepared a unique dish of peaches stuffed with a vanilla bean mascarpone and topped with salted caramel sauce.  The peaches were broiled until soft then filled with the cheese and the caramel sauce was drizzled over the top.  The caramel can be tricky to make and the key is patience and not to stir, just swirl the pan.  This is one of my most favorite desserts I think we have ever had.  The peaches are naturally sweet, the cheese has a strong flavor of fresh vanilla and the caramel sauce is addictive.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

The original poster of this cake calls it Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake.  Since there are 10 times more blueberries than lemon, I am going to call it BLUEBERRY lemon cake.  No matter what you call it, it is delicious and simple to make.  

The lemon flavor is very mild in the cake but highlighted in the glaze.  I used the juice of 2 lemons and the zest of 1 in the glaze in order to use up the juice in the lemon I zested for the cake.  Also, I do not think you can over do lemon!  The other changes I made were using whole milk with a tablespoon of vinegar to make it buttermilk, I pressed some extra blueberries in the top of the batter and I baked it in one bread pan.  This added about 20 minutes to the cooking time.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake from chef-in-training.com …This recipe is HEAVENLY! Seriously melt-in-your-mouth good!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The best chocolate cookie ever...

A chocolate cookie with an Andes Mint melted on top.  YUM and pretty!  Tastes like a chewy thin mint.

A coworker brought these and I cannot stop thinking about them.



¾ c. butter
1 ½ c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. water
12 oz. bag chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 ¾ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1+ boxes of andes mints ( I used like 3 mints from a second box when I made them so you can get away with just one box)

Melt butter, brown sugar and water.
Add Chocolate chips and stir until melted.
Let cool for 10 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and then chill dough for at least an hour.
Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 8 to 9 minutes.
Remove from oven and place half an Andes mint on top and place back in the oven for around 10 seconds.
Once removed swirl the top of the cookie with a spoon and let cool.