Sunday, May 22, 2016

Butter Chicken

After last week's cooking, I had a lot of left over ingredients:  lemons, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, yogurt and cream.  I love when I find a recipe that uses ingredients that I already have and need to get rid of.  I prepared this cucumber tomato avocado salad and added some fresh corn.  This is a healthy side dish to the main course I prepared with the other left overs:  butter chicken.  I know. BUTTER chicken.  I am on a diet.  I used half the butter called for and figured between all the servings, it is not THAT BAD.  Plus, with a big bowl of the salad, I only need one thigh per serving.

I did not have the fancy spice called for in the chicken, so I improvised and used cumin and coriander, spices I had from the shawarma.  The dish results in tender chicken with a creamy, onion filled sauce.  Very good served over white rice with cilantro.

This Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad recipe is a keeper! Easy, Excellent Salad

Peanut Butter Cookie Gooey Bars

I was requested to make a peanut butter dessert and the first thing that came to mind are peanut butter cookies.  In my old age, I have decided that I do not have time for baking cookies.  The repetition of dough on a tray, in and out of the oven, waiting to cool, repeat... no.  I am a BAR cookie girl!   So this peanut butter cookie gooey bar was the perfect recipe for the request.  It is a peanut butter cookie with a chocolate and sweetened condescend milk layer and with more peanut butter cookie on top. When I was putting the dough on top I thought "this will never work.. there is not enough dough... there will be holes of melty, messy chocolate... I am a failure".  Well, a miracle happened in the oven and the top layer spread and there were NO HOLES!  After the bars cooled, I put them in the refrigerator to harden over night, resulting in easy cutting.  It also helps that I used a giant pizza cutter, making for clean cuts (see below - I love this gadget for cutting bars).  I served the bars at room temperature and they were indeed gooey but not in a messy way.  The condensed milk and the chocolate chips mix together, creating a peanut butter and chocolate sandwich.  Yum!!

May 15, 2016

We met at my house for a Middle Eastern meal.  We started off with a hummus trio, thanks to Tonya, and a Tennessee Breeze cocktail (NOT Middle Eastern).  

Tennessee Breeze: 2 parts Tennessee Honey Whiskey, 1 part cranberry juice, 1 part orange juice, spritz of tonic water. Combine whiskey and juices, with 2 parts ice, in a blender and blend.  Add more juices if it is too strong (I thought it was).  Pour into glasses and top with tonic water.  

For the humus, Tonya used this basic recipe as one version and then for the roasted red pepper version, she cooked halved red bell peppers at 400 for about 25 minutes, took off the skin, and pureed it in with the hummus. For the chipotle version, she used a few chipotle peppers and sauce from a can and some cilantro and pureed that into the basic hummus.  All three were delicious and different. Very creative, Tonya!

The side dish was prepared by Angelica and was a flavorful bulgur tabbouleh with feta cheese.  It was a perfect accompaniment to the main dish of Spicy Chicken Shawarma.  

The other day, my boss was talking about the best shawarma he has ever eaten and I had never heard of such a thing. As a kind-of-a foodie, I did some research and thought this would be a great meal to share with the cooking group. 

The chicken looked beautiful with the red pepper and green parsley flakes and the thin strips cooked quickly.  The pitas were spread with the garlic yogurt sauce, filled with chicken and topped with tomatoes, red onions and tomatoes.  Pita bread has 6 grams of protein, which was news to me.  Later in the week I spread a pita with homemade guacamole and added some of the chicken and it was delicious!  

We finished our meal with a Middle Eastern bread pudding made by the bread pudding queen, Mary! It was creamy and topped with crushed pistachios. The real name is aish el saraya and it has rose water in it that Mary found at World Market.

Below is a cooking group selfie with a chair leg that decided to chose the moment Tonya was sitting in it to declare it was rotted and needed to split in two.

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!