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!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer sweets

I have been doing some baking. I prepared these chocolate chip cookies despite the name of the recipe being the WORST chocolate chip cookies.  After reading the recipe and blog post, I realize these cookies are so DELICIOUS that you cannot only eat one, therefore this cookie could ruin your life.  Or at least your waist line. The recipe also includes a secret ingredient:  maple syrup.  I love maple syrup, buying it by the jug from Sprout's.  

Next I made this banana pudding cake for a coworker's birthday.  The cake was super moist with a nice banana flavor and a lemony glaze.  The only change I would make is to double the glaze and the banana garnish is a must.

June 12, 2016

We met at Tonya's for good ole' shrimp and grits!  These have become quite the rage and I admit, I have never had this dish.  The theme of southern comfort food started with Mary's deviled eggs and crab dip.  She also prepared a very yummy strawberry daiquiri using strawberry soda.


1 12 oz can strawberry soda

I can frozen daiquiri concentrate (in the freezer section of the grocery store)

Refill the empty can about 3/4 with rum


Put all ingredients in blender and blend until an icy slurpee consistency.

Shrimp Dip

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can shrimp
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
6-8 chopped stuffed green olives
dash red pepper
dash  worcestershire sauce
thin with mayo

Mix all, chill and serve.

Angelica prepared a green salad with croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese.

The shrimp and grits were complex and flavorful.  The shrimp were mixed with sauteed mushrooms and shallots and served over the grits. The garnish of fresh parsley and BACON were a great touch.  Everything is better with bacon!  The grits were creamy and cheesy and combine well with the shrimp, especially if you add more heat with hot sauce.

What is more southern than a bundt cake?!  I prepared a pineapple upside down cake with a pretty design made possible by the bundt pan.  The recipe matches the typical pineapple upside down cake recipe, using pineapple juice in the cake.

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.