Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peppermint Brownie Cake

Carol made this cake as one of her Christmas desserts and it received rave reviews! After she made the dessert with York Peppermint Patties she saw a suggestion to use Junior Mints, which would have alleviated the need to cut up the patties. The glaze has a beautiful sheen to it.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Dinner 2010

A partial gathering of the Gourmet Gals was held at Hugo's to celebrate Christmas. The restaurant was beautifully decorated with poinsettias everywhere, including a 20-foot tree made out of the red plants and white lights. The picture below does not do it justice (the lighting was very low).

Three of us started with margaritas that were "shaken" at the table and served with much pizazz. Then everyone had a salad, either the house salad or the mango and avocado salad.

  • Ensalada de la Casa: watercress, endive, arugula, mache, beet, xoconostle, mint, cilantro, orange and lime zest, shaved fennel, chayote,pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds.
  • Ensalada de Aguacate y Mango: avocado and mango salad with blue cheese and pumpkin seeds.

Entrees ordered included:

  • Evening Special: pan fried red snapper with lump crab meat, a squash tamale, blue potato mash, Swiss chard and two mussels.
  • Sopa de Albondiguitas: rich, spicy broth with vegetables and small beef and pork meatballs.
  • Cabrito: roasted goat meat pulled from the bone, served with nopales asados, guacamole and salsa de habanero

Though thoroughly full with the amazing dishes above, as Gourmet Gals, we pressed on to dessert, choosing four different ones and then sampling all.

  • A chocolate pyramid that had a shell full of chocolate mousse and a side of ice cream.
  • Crepes with caramel and a side of ice cream.
  • Bread pudding with a side of ice cream.
  • Chocolate cake with coffee ice cream.

All were divine and well worth the calories!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

As I am always buying bananas and not always eating them quickly, I am forever in search of recipes that call for bananas. I clipped this Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting recipe out of Bon Appetit magazine and made it this weekend. The banana cake was delicious and very moist. The frosting was easy to make and light and fluffy with a light peanut butter taste. Together I do not like the combination. I think the banana cake is more like banana bread and should be served alone, with the addition of nuts. The frosting would be delicious on chocolate cupcakes. My coworkers enjoyed the treats and none went to waste!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Collard Greens...

My mom gave me some fresh collard greens she received from a friend's garden. She told me she made some and they were bitter. I stuck the greens in my refrigerator and thought maybe I would not take up the challenge of making collard greens taste good.

Friday night I ate at a fancy comfort food restaurant (South Street Dining on Kuykendahl) and I asked for spinach rather than carrots. The waitress said they may be out of spinach and if so, how about some collard greens? She then said "they are good.. a little bitter". REALLY?! A CHEF cannot make greens not be bitter?! How was I going to?

So Sunday I was bored and decided to tackle the greens. I went to one of my favorite recipe sites,, and found a recipe for Southern as You Can Get Collard Greens and decided it looked so easy how can I not try it? I did not have ham hocks, so I used a couple of slices of bacon. I also added, as recommended by reviewers, some honey, red pepper flakes, garlic salt, onion bits and for the heck of it, a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.

WOW! These were delicious! Not bitter at all! I wished I had some ham with them and cornbread. Next time I will create a meal around these greens.

Carrot Cake!

Lately I decided that I prefer to buy things in their "whole" state, and then cut it how I want it. I started doing this with cheese and found it melts better and tastes fresher than the shredded packs. I also think this is less expensive. Similarly, I have decided that baby carrots are not really baby carrots but cut carrots. I now prefer to buy carrots in their natural state and then slice or dice or make match sticks.

After using a couple of carrots in a salad I wanted to use up the left overs and decided to make a carrot cake. This recipe for carrot pineapple cake was highly rated and I gave it a try. It was very good and very moist. The addition of pineapple takes away a bit of the shine from the carrots so next time I will try a more purist recipe. I did add 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg as suggested by a reviewer.
This was a very nice cake with lots of healthy ingredients (carrots, pineapple, un-sweetened coconut and walnuts).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Carol's son in law, Slava, made these for Thanksgiving in Korea. Jen said the group thought they were really good!


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.

2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.

4. Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don't set.

5. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with nuts.

6. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One-Bowl Mascarpone Brownies

I came across this recipe on the kitchn blog while looking for something delicious to do with my leftover mascarpone cheese. By the way, am I the only one who has been pronouncing it "marscapone"? Imagine my surprise when Google informed me that I have been so very wrong. I'm just as bad as the folks who pronounce chipotle as "chipolte." Oh well.

Try not to focus on the copious amount of butter in this recipe. Also, I don't want to hear from any of you that you tried the recipe but cut down on the amount of butter or added some low-fat butter substitute. Brownies just should not be adulterated (unless you are adding a bit of instant espresso, like I did).

The texture of these is more like a very dense cake than a brownie. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I cut them into small squares because the chocolate is intense ... almost like eating a truffle.


Mascarpone Brownies

1 cup unsalted butter
3 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder (sifted)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
3 large eggs, at room-temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 325F and grease or parchment paper a 8x8 pan. Set aside.

In glass mixing bowl melt butter in microwave on full power. Stir in chocolate and mix until combined (a few additional seconds in the microwave may be needed).

Add sugar to chocolate/butter mixture until combined. Heat for an additional 30 seconds on high, remove and stir until it looks shiny. It will still look a bit grainy.

Add marscapone, vanilla, eggs and mixing until smooth.

Sift flour, salt and cocoa into mixture with a sieve and stir just until combined, making sure to scrape all sides of the bowl. (Mixture will be rather light in texture, instead of dense and heavy like many brownie batters)

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top to ensure even baking. Bake for 40-50 minutes until tester comes out clean. Leave in pan and set on wire rack to cool.

While brownies are cooling, make your ganache to pour over the top (which you will want to do while your brownies are still warm). To do so, simply heat butter and cream on medium power (taking care not to boil) in the microwave and add chocolate. Stir until all lumps disappear. Immediately pour over brownies. Let cool completely, or chill in the fridge. Once chilled a knife will cut through them cleanly. Make sure to clean your blade for each cut for a more polished look.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 7, 2010

We met Sunday, November 7, 2010 at Carol's. All were in attendance. Yea! This would also be the last month we have Teresa for a while due to an extended leave in Florida. Boo! We will hold Teresa's spot open and include her via email and possibly Skype! Gourmet Gals goes hi-tech OH MY!

Appetizer: Angie, Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie with pears, grapes and whole wheat crackers
Soup: Carol,Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curry Condiments with honey cream
Salad: Janet, Mixed Green Salad with Pomegranate Dressing
Bread and Wine: Teresa, Rosemary Bread and Assorted wines and Champagne
Sides: Tonya, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Fennel Puree
Main Dish: Carol, Roasted Pork with Dried Fruit and Port Sauce and Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Dry Fruit Chutney
Dessert: Mary, Pavlova

As always, Carol had a beautiful table scape. I loved the pumpkin bowls for the soup and leaf salad plates.

For an appetizer we started with Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie. The picture was snapped after we started on it, so it does not look very pretty. I was hoping to distract with the cute turkey plate!

I removed the rind from only the top where the topping goes and left the rest of the rind to hold the shape. I served it with sweet pears, grapes and whole wheat crackers. I did not follow directions on how much topping to use, I just used my best judgement since I think the recipe is a little skimpy. Also this would have been good with a drizzle of honey.

Brie rind is an interesting thing. It looks like tissue paper and maybe it is... I nibbled some of it and it did not seem like paper. It also did not seem edible.

Carol wanted to try a soup so we gladly obliged and enjoyed her Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curry Condiments. It was very yummy and good for you too! Carol served the soup with green onions, cashews and honey cream as condiments.

Honey Cream
Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

1 cup sour cream (I used Daisy Light)
2 tbs honey
1/2 tsp curry powder

Combine all ingredients, blending well. Cover and chill up to 8 hours, if desired. Yield: 1 cup

For the salad course, Janet made Mixed Green Salad with Pomegranate Dressing. It was very delicious! Changes to the dressing recipe include using ¼ cup Pure Pomegranate Juice rather than Ocean Spray. The green salad included:

½ head Butter lettuce
½ head Romaine lettuce
¼ Yellow Pepper
¼ Red Pepper
¼ Orange Pepper
Pomegranate seeds
Grape tomatoes

Tonya brought two sides so the plates did not seem naked. And we all know we need more food on our plates! I loved the Roasted Brussels Sprouts even though there are only two on my plate. My belly was getting full with an appetizer, soup and salad (and a glass of wine or 2)!

The Fennel Puree is back for its second showing because we ALL LOVE IT!! It is so delicious. Tonya uses parsley rather than mint in the recipe.

Carol picked two pork tenderloin recipes for us. Both had fruit and both were delicious. The pork was so very tender and the secret is DO NOT overcook it! Roasted Pork with Dried Fruit and Port Sauce is on the left, with the larger fruit and the Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Dry Fruit Chutney is on the right. Yum!

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Dry Fruit Chutney

2 Pork Tenderloins (2 ½ lbs total weight)
½ cup Purple Onion, diced
1 ½ cups White Wine
¾ cup Sugar
½ cup Red Wine Vinegar
½ cup Dried Apples (diced)
½ cup Dried Apricots (diced)
½ cup Dried Cherries
½ cup Dried Cranberries
Herbs (your preference)
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Butcher Twine
Parchment Paper
Olive Oil

Saute diced onions in a little olive oil to sweat. Add the sugar, white wine, and vinegar and bring to a boil.

Add the dried fruits and stir to incorporate. Cook over medium low heat covered for five to ten minutes, stirring occasionally. When all the liquid is absorbed and the dried fruit has taken on a plump chutney like look, adjust seasoning and finish with herbs. Remove from the heat and place on saran wrap, roll like a cigar (needs to be thin to fit in the tenderloin) and freeze until firm. (If you do not want to freeze the chutney you could instead cool the chutney and pipe in with a pastry bag.)

Trim Pork tenderloins of silver skin and any non essential fat. Remove sharp tip of tenderloin and reserve for another application.

Insert fillet or boning knife or end of wooden spoon through tenderloin and carefully insert index fingers from both ends and touch them in the middle. Carefully “roll” your fingers to “open up” the insider of the pork tenderloin to accept the chutney.

Push the frozen chutney into the tenderloin or pipe in with a pastry bag.

Cap the ends with parchment paper and “salami tie” the tenderloin for even cooking.

Season tenderloins with salt and pepper. Pan sear in olive oil and cook in pan lined with parchment paper in a hot oven (400 degrees) until center is hot (150 degrees). Let tenderloins rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

For dessert, Mary made Pavlova with Pastry Cream. It was beautiful yet mysterious as I could not figure out how she put it together! And there were so many flavors: meringue, cream, pineapple, strawberries and nuts. Oh, and coconut! (But not for Tonya). Very beautiful presentation and a light taste to finish our meal.


1 tbs unsalted butter, for parchment
½ tsp distilled white vinegar
½ tsp cornstarch
½ tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 (10 oz) can crushed pineapple, well drained
Pastry Cream (below)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Butter a baking sheet and line it with buttered parchment paper. Set aside.

Mix the vinegar, cornstarch and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, slowly add ¼ cup of sugar. Continue beating to stiff peaks. Slowly whisk the vinegar mixture into the meringue until well incorporated.

Spread the meringue evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the coconut, walnuts, almonds and pecans evenly over the meringue. Bake until the coconut begins to turn golden and the whites are shiny and springy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, combine the strawberries and drained pineapple in a bowl and set aside.

Use a knife to release the edges and remove the meringue from the pan. Gently flip the meringue onto a parchment lined surface, nut side down. Spread the pastry cream (recipe below) over meringue and sprinkle evenly with strawberry mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around the perimeter of the meringue. Leave a little extra room at 1 of the short ends to help seal the Pavlova when it is rolled.

Starting with the short side with more fruit, slowly roll the meringue into a log, keeping the roll as tight as possible and tucking in the fruit as you go. Use a serrated knife to slice the ends for a clean look.

Master Pastry Cream

Dorie Greenspan is a renowned baking cookbook author.
This recipe is in her Cookbook - Baking

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup corn starch, sifted
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
3 ½ tbs unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk--this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they will not curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold.

Austin thought everything was delicious and stayed close by our sides as to not miss anything.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Banana Pudding Part 100

I love trying new recipes. Even if I have a really good recipe already. I know... it drives my parents nuts too. I made this Banana Pudding recipe for them on Sunday and it was amazing! And, it makes a ton. I used a trifle bowl and put some of the vanilla wafers on the outside to make for a pretty presentation. I also used the entire box of cookies because I have no use for the left overs! Though I do eat roughly 10 cookies while mixing the ingredients.
Make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature. I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese, skim milk and low fat whipped topping and no flavor was sacrificed! Also, I think you could mix all of the whipped topping into the pudding rather than spreading half on top, as called for in the recipe.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October 17, 2010

We met today at Teresa's. All were in attendance, except for the busy traveler, Janet. We missed Janet and look forward to seeing her in November at Carol's!

Appetizer (Mary): Quiche
Main Dish (Teresa): Swedish Meatballs
Side Dishes (Tonya, et., all): Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce
Bread (Tonya): Artisan Bread
Salad (Carol): Nicoise Salad variation with Vinaigrette
Dessert (Angie): Swedish Apple Cake

We started the evening off with Mary's quiche. The picture is horrible, so imagine cute, individual servings of delicious, crustless quiche with bacon (or ham?), onions and spinach. Very tasty. I have been craving quiche lately and made it two weeks ago, using all the vegetable left overs in my refrigerator. That is what quiches are best at: being very versatile and forgiving!

Keebler Club Crackers (used bread crumbs instead)
3/4 cup shredded cheese
6 slices bacon cooked crisp and then crumbled
1/2 cup thin sliced green onions
5 tsp all purpose flour
6 large eggs
2 cups half and half (can use fat free version)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper


Place baking sheet in oven and preheat to 350. Butter ramekins (I just sprayed with butter flavored Pam). Sprinkle crumbs on bottom and sides. In bowl stir cheese, bacon, green onions, and flour. Spoon mixture in ramekins. Crack eggs in bowl, lightly beat. Whisk in half and half and salt and pepper. Pour in ramekins over cheese mixture. Place ramekins on baking sheet in oven. Bake 30 minutes or until set in centers. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around edges of ramekin. Invert on to individual plates. Garnish as desired. Makes 6 servings.

** I felt like the recipe needed some spinach so I wilted some in a hot skillet and added to bacon/cheese mixture.

Here is the lonely quiche we saved for Janet!

Carol brought a beautiful tray of vegetables (asparagus, radishes, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers and carrots) along with a bowl of butter lettuce for a "make it yourself" salad. To accompany the salad was a delicious vinaigrette.


Yields 4 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
6 tablespoons olive oil
To taste: Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the salad dressing, combine the vinegar, honey, mustard, and shallots in a medium mixing bowl. While whisking quickly, drizzle in the olive oil by drops to form vinaigrette.

Carol tripled the recipe and also used a food processor instead of whisking.

Tonya made a beautiful Artisan Bread (and video) that was so perfect looking that we all thought it was store bought. It was delicious! Crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. Tonya said it was very easy to make.

The one change she made was to let the shaped ball of dough rise on a sheet of parchment paper. Then after preheating the dutch oven, she picked up the corners of the paper and put the dough in the dutch oven, paper and all. The baker in the video picks up the dough and just sort of throws it in the hot dutch oven, but Tonya is convinced she would burn herself or drop the dough ... or both. Safety first!

Teresa's main dish pick of Swedish Meatballs came with recipes for two side dishes: pickled cucumbers and cranberry sauce, which are also incorporated into the meatball recipe. Below is the recipe for the cucumbers but we instead made Teresa's quick mid-western recipe for cucumbers. Instead of pickling liquid into the meatballs we used white wine.

Teresa's cucumbers were very good... the vinegar and milk make like a buttermilk and the cucumbers are tart and salty. Yum!

Pickled Cucumbers

1 cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 cups sugar
1 bay leaf
2 allspice berries
1 English cucumber, sliced as thin as possible (Carol suggests scoring with a fork for a fancy look)

Bring 3 cups water, vermouth, sugar, bay leaf and berries to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Remove pan from heat and cool, about 30 minutes. Place cucumber slices in a large plastic container with a lid. Pour cooled pickling mixture over the slices, cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the liquid in a separate bowl for the meatballs. Place the drained cucumbers in a serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Teresa’s Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Cucumbers, peeled and sliced (unless using English cucumber)

Mix milk, vinegar and salt to taste (should be tangy). Add sliced cucumbers and set aside until serving.

We all were skeptical of no-cook cranberry sauce and it turned out to be delicious! Unlike cooked sauce, you could really taste the berries and the texture was a little crunchy. It was very fresh tasting and wonderful. I think some orange zest would be nice and Carol thought adding some chopped celery, apples and nuts would make a nice salad.

Cranberry Sauce

8 oz (about 2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed if frozen
¾ cup sugar

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cranberries and sugar on low until the cranberry skins have burst and the sauce is slightly thick and syrupy, about 40 minutes, scraping bowl as needed. Transfer ½ cup of the sauce to a separate bowl for the meatballs and set aside. Place the remaining cranberry sauce in a small serving bowl and set aside until ready to serve.

These were some of the best mashed potatoes I have ever had. The texture was so smooth and they were perfectly seasoned. I had never heard of using olive oil in mashed potatoes, but a quick Internet search shows many recipes for doing just that. These potatoes would dress up any meal.

Mashed Potatoes

8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 tbs unsalted butter
1 cup milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup olive oil
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Ground black pepper

Bring the potatoes, ½ teaspoon salt and enough water to cover the potatoes by 2 inches to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until a paring knife slipped into the centers of the potatoes meets very little resistance, 15 to 20 minutes.

About 5 minutes before the potatoes are done, melt 2 tbs butter in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan frequently until the butter turns light brown and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Combine the milk and cream in a medium, microwave proof bowl and microwave on low until warm to the touch, about 15 to 30 seconds. Set aside.

Drain the potatoes. Set a food mill or potato ricer over the now empty but still warm pan. Working in batches, drop the potatoes into the mill or ricer and process the potatoes into the pan. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the browned butter, remaining two tablespoons butter and olive oil until incorporated. Gently whisk in the milk mixture, add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.

These were very good meatballs. They were tender and flavorful. I think you should go ahead and cook all the way through in the skillet and then just warm in the sauce. With all the meat I would not want to depend on the sauce cooking the balls through.

Meatballs (with our modifications to the cooking method)

1 tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1 ½ cups dried bread crumbs (about 2 ½ ounces)
2 ½ cups heavy cream, divided
12 oz ground beef
12 oz ground veal
12 oz ground pork
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbs honey
Salt and ground pepper
2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan to cool. Set pan aside for cooking the meatballs.

Combine the bread crumbs and 1 ½ cups of the heavy cream in a medium bowl. Stir the mixture with a fork until smooth. Combine the beef, veal, pork, sauteed onions, eggs and honey in a large bowl. Add the bread crumb mixture, 2 teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper to the meat mixture and mix until fully incorporated (suggest using your hands). Using a 1 ½ inch ice cream scoop, lightly shape about 1 ounce, or 3 tablespoons, of the meat mixture into round meatballs the size of a golf ball without compacting the meat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 36 meatballs (we had 3,000).

Cook meatballs in batches in the pan used to cook the onions (there should be enough oil remaining from the onions... if not add a bit... not necessary to have a lot if using a non-stick pan). Cook meatballs until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes, turning as needed. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to a plate lined with several layers of paper towels. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked.

Pour off all fat from the skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add the chicken broth, remaining 1 cup of cream, reserved ½ cup cranberry sauce and reserved ¼ cup of pickling liquid. Simmer, scraping browned bits off the pan bottom, until the mixture thickens slightly and is reduced to 1 ½ cups, about 20 minutes. Return meatballs to the skillet and simmer until they are cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.

To serve: place meatballs and sauce on top of the mashed potatoes and accompany with the pickled cucumbers and cranberry sauce.

Swedish Apple Cake (sockerkaka med applen)

The cake was very easy to make, using items I already had in the pantry. I ended up only using one apple because it covered the cake in a circular pattern. I realize now, I should have completely covered the cake and not been distracted by making a pretty pattern because when you add the remaining cinnamon sugar topping to the cake, you no longer could see the apples. Also, my sliver of cake only had one bite of apple. Next time I will use 2 apples and completely cover the cake. This tastes a lot like coffee cake and it is even better a day or two after making.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Strawberry Angel Trifle

With summer just about over, I wanted to make another strawberry dish. Plus, strawberries are on sale! The original recipe is for a cake, but I changed it to a trifle. I had a small sample and it is very good!

Strawberry Angel Trifle

1 angel food cake
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
8 oz 1/3rd less fat cream cheese
splash of skim milk
2 tablespoons sugar
tub of cool whip
3 tablespoons orange juice
handful of slivered almonds, toasted

Tear cake in to bite size pieces. Set aside.

Slice strawberries and toss with sugar. Set aside.

Mix cream cheese, splash of milk and sugar until combined. Fold in whip cream and orange juice. Taste and add more sugar or orange juice as desired.

Place 1/3 of the cake pieces in the bottom of a trifle dish. Layer 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture. Layer 1/3 of the strawberries. Repeat layer twice, ending with strawberries. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Zucchini Bread

I made this delicious recipe for zucchini bread yesterday. It was SO GOOD! It is very crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. Other than seeing the beautiful green bits of the zucchini, you cannot taste it. As suggested in the recipe reviews, I used 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour as well as added 1 banana. I grated 2 zucchini and though I did not measure them, I do believe they were close to 2 cups, as called for.

I think this is a great basic bread recipe that would be delicious with all sorts of fruits. It made 2 loaves so plenty to share! The one loaf I brought to work disappeared in 10 minutes!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Mock" Apple Cobbler

I made this apple cobbler version of dump cake and it was very tasty! The almonds on top roasted during baking and it made for a nice crunch. There was some cake mix that stayed dry (in the corners) but when you take a serving it all gets mixed up and you do not notice. It is tastiest when served warm so microwave left overs for 30 seconds!

Hot Apple Cobbler (from

2 - 21 oz cans apple pie filling
1 - 8 0z can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
1 - 18.5 oz box yellow cake mix
6 oz evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter, sliced in pats
1 cup sliced almonds

Spread pie filling and pineapple in greased 13 x 9 pan. Evenly spread dry cake mix over fruit. Drizzle evaporated milk over cake mix. Place pats of butter over cake mix (where the milk does not touch.. just a few pats here and there). Sprinkle almonds on top. Finally, sprinkle desired amount of cinnamon.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes in 350 degree oven until golden brown.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 12, 2010

We met at Carol's house and the theme was Bon Appetit's August 2010 Harvest Menu. I thought every course was delicious and I appreciate the other gals letting me dictate what the recipes would be! I thought it would be a good test of a variety of recipes from the magazine to know if I want to make more on my own.

Appetizer: Teresa - Bruschetta with Roasted Plum Tomatoes, Rosemary and Prosciutto

This was one of the best appetizers I have ever had! The flavors blended together perfectly plus it looked very elegant.

Salad: Mary - Summer Bean Salad with Toasted Walnuts

This was a nice, hearty salad and the walnuts made it very delicious. If the dressing is too tangy for your tastes, add a little sugar or honey.

Bread: Janet - Cheesy Beer Bread

YUM! This was excellent straight from the oven with a little butter.

Cheesy Beer Bread

2 cups self rising flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ tsp salt

¼ cup sugar

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

12 ounces beer

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 ½ tsp dried mustard

Parsley flakes for presentation

Sift together dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar). Stir in grated cheese and coat well with flour. Mix in beer until loose and sticky. Place dough ball in the center of a greased pan (a loaf pan works well). Pour melted butter on top. Spring garlic powder, onion powder and dried mustard on top. Sprinkle parsley flakes for a nice presentation. Bake for one hour at 375 degrees. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Side: Tonya - Creamy Polenta with Fresh Corn

I have never had polenta like this and it was delicious. Very creamy and with the fresh corn it tasted very fresh.

Main Dish: Angie - Grilled Mustard Chicken

I enjoyed the flavor and it was simple to prepare.

Dessert: Carol - Peach Ice Cream Pie

This was so very good. You can use store bought ice cream for a more simple preparation. Carol suggests using another tablespoon of butter to keep the crust together.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pie and chowder!

I was out of town last week so all I wanted to do this weekend was cook!

First up.. for my parent's Sunday dinner I brought Carol's Blueberry Lemon Chiffon Cheesecake. Carol is a dear relative and she is an excellent cook! She put this recipe together and shared it with me. This crust was the first thing I made with my Cuisinart and boy was it easy! For some reason I have been intimidated by the machine but now I do not see how I have lived without it! I also do not see how I could ever eat ready made graham cracker crusts again!
(pardon the paper towel.. the topping kept leaking out of the pan...)

Carol's Blueberry Lemon Chiffon Cheesecake
8 sheets honey graham crackers
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredient in food processor. Press in bottom and up sides in 10-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Let cool.

1/2 cup sugar
dash of cinnamon
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup lemonade concentrate
3/4 pound washed blueberries

Mix first 5 ingredients (sugar through lemonade concentrate) in a saucepan and heat to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened. Turn off heat and stir in blueberries. Let sit to allow some blueberries to pop and to thicken and cool.

1 can sweetened condensed milk, cooled in refrigerator
2 - 8 oz packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
6 oz lemonade concentrate
1 tsp vanilla
9 oz Cool Whip, softened

Beat condensed milk for several minutes. Add cream cheese, lemonade concentrate and vanilla and beat until well blended. Fold in Cool Whip until just blended. Mixture will be thick.

Spread cream cheese mixture into crust, piling high and leaving a slight indention in the center. Add topping and refrigerate until serving.

For lunches this week I made Summer Squash and Corn Chowder. Changes I made (everyone knows I make changes!):
  • skipped the bacon
  • added 3 red potatoes. I diced the potatoes and sauteed in olive oil for several minutes while I prepped the rest of the vegetables.
  • used yellow onions instead of green, and added the onions, squash and celery to the potatoes to soften.
  • used 4 ears of fresh corn rather than frozen corn.
  • added twice as much fresh thyme since I have it in my herb garden and I love thyme.
  • added salt to both the potatoes and when I added the rest of the vegetables. I then just needed a little more at the end.

This is a very tasty, sweet hearty chowder that should freeze well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer Preserves

For the past couple of months I have been making jams and jellies whenever I can, rushing to preserve some summer fruits while they are in season. It started when I found a vendor selling mayhaw jelly at the Kingwood Farmers' Market. My Memaw used to make mayhaw jelly every year, but there aren't many people left willing to venture into the swamps of East Texas to gather wild mayhaws. I left the farmers' market with a jar of jelly and the phone number of the mayhaw farmer. Joe, Mom, Memaw and I traveled down many miles of dirt roads in the Big Thicket to find the elusive mayhaw farm, and I've been canning everything I can get my hands on since.

My favorite cookbook so far is an English translation of Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber, apparently known as the fairy godmother of jams in France. She includes several jam recipes that incorporate chocolate, which sounded too good to be true. Raspberries were on sale for $1 per pack at Randall's last weekend, so it was time to give chocolate jam a try.

Raspberry with Chocolate Jam

2 3/4 pounds raspberries, or 2 1/4 pounds, net
3 1/2 Cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
9 ounces extra bittersweet chocolate

Ferber recommends that you omit rinsing the raspberries to preserve their fragrance. I picked out a few leaves, and processed them through the fine disk of the food mill I've been waiting for an excuse to buy.

The recipe instructs you to grate the chocolate, but I just chopped it finely since it will be melted in the very hot raspberry syrup. Ferber recommends a chocolate with about 70% cocoa content. I used a Dove chocolate with 71% cocoa. Three packages have just over 9 oz, so there will some to spare for tasting by the chef.

In a large pan you will mix together your raspberry puree, lemon juice and sugar and bring to a full boil. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes. I was using a candy thermometer and boiled just slightly longer, until I reached about 218º.

Stir in your chocolate, cover the mixture with parchment, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, return your mixture to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Check the set. (It should sheet from a spoon, or mound without running on a chilled plate.) Ladle the jam into sterilized jars and seal.

That's the end of the Ferber recipe, but U.S. standards call for a boiling water bath for preserves. I did go ahead and process the sealed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes for that extra piece of mind. After the boiling water bath the jars need to be left on the counter to cool for 24 hours.

I've already used some of this jam as a filling in thumbprint cookies. It could be warmed to drizzle over ice cream or french toast. I'm also looking forward to enjoying some with a croissant.

And here are the other canning projects that have been keeping me busy this summer:

I can't take credit for the label designs. I found labels I loved on another blog and have created a few new graphics for the jams I've been making.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

O'Henry Bars!

I have been craving peanut butter lately. And what makes peanut butter even more delicious? CHOCOLATE! These O'Henry Bars utilize both, as well as lots of sugar and oatmeal. The oatmeal counteracts all the sugar, right?
The recipe was very easy to make. I spread the chocolate/peanut butter topping while the crust was still warm. Next time I would let it cool first. After you spread the topping put it in the refrigerator to set up. I found it can be stored in the refrigerator (and little bits consumed each day) for a week!
I did not take a picture as from the top it looks like chunky chocolate ( you can see the peanuts from the peanut butter). Make these. THEY ARE SO GOOD!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Fellow Gourmet Gal, Carol, made these Waikiki Meatballs and reported that they were very good! Some of the reviews said you can make the recipe even simpler by cooking the meatballs in the oven. I have never made meatballs and this dish makes it look easy and tasty!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I made Salmon Florentine with Quinoa Pilaf tonight and it was delicious. I clipped the recipe out of a magazine, but I found it on several websites so I could link it. I did not find ricotta cheese (it was not with the cream cheese or sour cream... I guess it is with the cheddar/mozzarella??) and thought I would use some cream cheese I had left over in the fridge. The cream cheese ended up being shortening, so I instead used a couple tablespoons of butter and some Parmesan cheese and it was very tasty. Season the spinach mixture well before you put it on the salmon. Also, I think you could put in twice as many tomatoes as called for.

Quinoa is rather new to me and I like how versatile it is. I think next time I would use shallots with it, too, rather than onions, but it was still good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 2010

We met at Janet's on July 18, 2010. Teresa could not make it and Jennifer, Carol's daughter, joined us.

The menu:

Appetizer (Mary): Crab cakes

Main Dish (Janet): Scallops in cream sauce

Side Dish (Angie): Nonna Luna's rice

Side Dish (Carol/Jennifer): Primavera Vegetable Medley
Salad (Carol/Jennifer): Boston Lettuce Salad

Dessert (Tonya): Peach cobbler
We started off with Mary's crab cakes. They were delicious! Mary did tell us that she could not get the cakes to brown in the oven, so she browned them on the stove. The cakes were very meaty and had a great flavor.
We made the main dish, Sea Scallops in Cream Sauce, together. The fresh herbs really made it taste bright and fresh. The dish was such a pretty color, with the white sauce, green herbs and red tomatoes. We discussed small islands as we ate this dish (read the entire recipe to get this reference).

For sides, we had both a complicated one and the easiest one in the history of cooking club. Jennifer and Carol brought a beautiful, colorful, healthy side called Primevera Vegetable Medley. Again, this dish had fresh herbs and it was delicious. I mixed my left overs with pasta and it was very good!
Primavera Vegetable Medley
Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
1 (8 oz) container baby Portobello mushrooms
1 large onion, cut in to 1-inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large carrots, sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 large yellow squash, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (8 oz) package sugar snap peas
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tbs chopped fresh thyme
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat butter and olive oil until butter is melted. Add mushrooms, onion, bell peppers, carrots and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add squash, asparagus, snap peas, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp tender. Add basil, thyme, lemon juice and lemon zest, stirring to combine.

I made rice as a side because I thought it would soak up the cream sauce while not being too heavy, like a potato dish. I found a similar recipe, with seafood and cream, that included rice, so that is what I used.

Both the salad and dressing were wonderful! A little trick I learned about left over salad... put the dressing on the bottom of your container, then put the salad on top. When you are ready to eat, mix it all together. This keeps the lettuce from wilting.

Boston Lettuce Salad
Makes 12 servings

3 tbs honey
3 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs tarragon wine vinegar
2 tbs minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shaved Parmesan cheese to garnish

3-4 heads Boston lettuce, torn into bit size pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
½ small red onion, very thinly sliced
2/3 cup toasted pine nuts

To prepare the dressing:

Whisk together the honey, lemon juice, vinegar, parsley and garlic. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. This can also be made with a food processor. Refrigerate until serving time.

To prepare the salad:

Combine all salad ingredients and toss together with enough dressing to lightly coat the lettuce leaves. Garnish with shaved cheese and serve immediately.

Tonya made a scrumptious Peach Cobbler that started as a blueberry cobbler recipe. She served it with a side of Blue Bell Vanilla, which made us all very happy.

As a bonus, we had a taste of a Grilled Rhubarb Brown Betty that Janet made for her husband. It was amazing (though my photo is not). She did add some strawberries, which is a common ingredient with rhubarb.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Healthy Eating!

Janet's Trail Mix

Macadamia nuts (unsalted) 4 ounces

Almonds (unsalted) 8 ounces

Pumpkin/Sunflower seeds (salted) 2 ounces

Cashews (unsalted) 4 ounces

Walnuts (unsalted) 4 ounces

Dried mixed berries 8 ounces

You can substitute any of the nuts/dried fruits that you would like. I thought pecans and/or pistachios would be good in it too. This is a little pricey, but it makes a ton. I also added some raisins to stretch it.


I recently purchased the Oyster Beehive Blender and I am really happy with it. I make smoothies a few times a week. I recently read a review of a cookbook that instead of giving exact measurements it says "throw in some of this and mix in some of that" and that is how I will give my smoothie recipe!

handful of ice cubes

couple of big dollops of fat free, plain yogurt (I like Brown Cow)

1 banana

handful of strawberries

couple of swirls of honey

dash of vanilla

couple of large sprinkles of wheat germ (I usually cover the top surface area)

add milk to desired thickness

I have found that smoothies can be saved in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Just stir it again, as it separates, before drinking.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Friday I was a "sous chef" at Well Done Cooking in their new location. It was fun and I even had my own private lesson on rolling sushi! The secret is dipping your fingers in the vinegar water so the rice does not stick to your fingers as you are placing it in the seaweed paper. I made both a California Roll and a Surf and Turf roll with salmon and steak. Also really unique, I thought, was we used butter and browned panko bread crumbs to add crunch to the rolls.

Sunday I made Cherries in the Snow. I first had this dessert years ago with the original cooking group bunch. It was so refreshing and looks very pretty. Great for beating the heat!