Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cake and cranberries

Carol made Mrs. Billett's white cake  with vanilla butter cream for her games group.  It was delicious and the winning cake in a Southern Living contest.  Jennifer prepared sugared cranberries to garnish the cake.  I bet that was beautiful - the white cake with the red cranberries. 
I first had sugared cranberries at Bengy's and made them for Christmas last year.  They were a huge hit and simple to make.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkey and Pie!

I found my go-to turkey recipe for Thanksgivings to come.  It was easy, flavorful and moist.  I bought the least expensive type of turkey (HEB $0.97 a pound) because the store was swarming with zombies and I had to get in and get out as quick as possible so I grabbed the first one I saw.  Later I found $6 a pound turkeys in a specialty store and I started regretting my less than a dollar a pound turkey.  But not after I tasted mine! While the Bon Appetit recipe is partly responsible for my delicious turkey, the most important step was a meat thermometer in the thigh while cooking so I could remove it at 165 degrees.  I then let it rest for 45 minutes before carving.  The turkey skin browned in the first 30 minutes and after that I kept it tented in foil and it stayed brown.  I love cooking with fresh herbs and citrus and that is what this recipe used.  I prepped the turkey the night before - herb butter on the skin and cavity and onion, orange and lemons inside the cavity.  I tucked the wings under the bird and tied the legs together.  In the morning, I added the water to the roasting pan and cooking began!

I did need more cooking time than the recipe stated but that is where the thermometer came in to play.  Do not judge by time, judge by temperature!  I think it took about 3 1/2 hours.

A lemon meringue pie was requested so I baked my first one EVER.  What a stressful experience.   The recipe was not that complicated but it does involve many steps.   First, I made this pie crust a few days in advance.  I stored in the refrigerator and then set on the counter about 30 minutes before I needed to use them.  I blind baked the shell (almost forgetting to use my pie weights!) and then let it cool while I made the filling.  The pie crust was incredibly easy and the only thing I would do differently is not pulse too many times (my butter blobs were a little too small) and then roll out thinner when putting into the pie pan.

As far as the filling, I faced and defeated my fear of custards.  I am always afraid I will end up with scrambled eggs.  I tempered the heck out of the yolks.  I practically added all of the custard to the yolks, a half cup at a time.  I definitely erred on the side of caution and it worked!  For the meringue, just when I thought my egg whites would never peak, they did.  And when put into the oven, they browned beautifully.  I let the pie cool completely, then gently tented with foil and put in the fridge.  The pie had a delicious, tart, lemon flavor without being overly sweet.  Everyone loved it AND the pie crust.  Now that I have done it once it will be a breeze to prepare again!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gingerbread, Man!

I was listening to Martha Stewart Living on Sirius yesterday (because that is what you do leading up to Thanksgiving) and there were guests on the show that brought in gingerbread.  The lady chef and restaurant owner said that making gingerbread is her Thanksgiving tradition.  I had never made it so I decided to give it a go and share with my coworkers for Thanksgiving Eve.  Who knew that the secret to gingerbread is not ginger (spice) but molasses!  

This bread comes out very moist and the house smelled amazing while it baked.  I served it plain though I wish I had sprinkled some powdered sugar on top.  Also, start checking after 45 minutes... in a glass pan, mine was ready after about 50 minutes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sweet Potatoes and Snickerdoodles

I love snickerdoodles.  I think this is so because I love cinnamon.  Cinnamon would even be my code name should I become rich and famous and need to use an alias at hotel rooms.  But that is a story for a different blog.

This recipe for snickerdoodle bars promises a blondie that stays moist and soft.  And they do!  When I ate a bit while still warm I promise this was the best thing I had ever tasted.  Even when cooled they were delicious.  The baking time seems a little low so just check with a toothpick like you would with a cake.  The recipe says these are ready when the surface springs back to the touch but I say go with the toothpick method or these will be undercooked.

I am making a new sweet potatoes recipe for Thanksgiving.  I "tested" it on my coworkers at our Thanksgiving pot luck.  I wanted the potatoes to be warm without having to be microwaved so I cooked them in my slow cooker.  In my office.  It was awesome to smell the sweet potatoes and apple sauce wafting down my office hallway.  The recipe was super easy to put together the night before and then simply plug in the crockpot the next morning.  I cooked these on high for about 5 hours.  The potatoes were very tender and lightly sweetened without covering up the main flavor.  The toasted pecans, which you add at the end, were a nice crunch. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

October 21, 2012

Mary was our hostess this month and she set a beautiful, fall table.  All current Gourmet Gals were in attendance.

Appetizer:  Evelyn, Tomato, Cheese and Puffed Pastry

Salad:  Angie, Grape and Watercress Salad with Caraway and Granola

Bread:  Angie, Killer Garlic Bread

Side:  Janet, Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese

Side:  Mary, Cauliflower Mash

Wine:  Janet, Taft Street Pinot Noir

Main Dish:  Mary, Osso Buco

Dessert:  Carol, Pumpkin Swirled Cream Cheese Brownies and Pumpkin Crunch Cake

Evelyn started our dinner off with puff pastry shells filled with tomato and cheeses.  She said the original recipe called for sheets of puff pastry and she bought the shells by mistake.  I LOVED the shells and thought it provided a prettier presentation than sheets as well as it was easier to eat as a finger food.  Puff pastry sheets look pretty until you slice it and then crumbs are everywhere.

 For the salad I found a recipe from Oxheart restaurant in Houston in an issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  The salad seemed "fancy" enough for our group as well as a feeling of fall with the arugula and granola.  All components were simple to put together and I made most of it the day before.  The caraway seeds in the dressing are a must and bring such a distinctive flavor to the salad.  I used my mortar and pestle to crush the seeds, something I have never done before.  I love a new cooking technique!!

We served the main meal family style with the Osso Buco on a bed of cauliflower mash.  Mary used veal chops as this is all her butcher had and it was delicious and a good choice.  The meat fell off the bone and the vegetables were so flavorful.  The cauliflower mash was insanely tasty and Mary promises it is guilt free and a great substitute for mashed potatoes.  I went for seconds and I cannot stop thinking about this dish and when I can make it again!

Cauliflower Mash
1-2 head of raw cauliflower
Evaporated milk (I normally use fat free but regular is a little richer)
Cream cheese (use the light but the FF is not so great)
Fresh parsley
Steam the cauliflower until very soft.  Put the cauliflower in the food processor and pulse a couple of times to break it down a bit.  Add some salt, just a bit at first.  Add a little bit of milk, pulse a time or two.  Add a tablespoon or two of cream cheese and a couple tablespoons of milk.  Do several longer pulses to start smoothing the cauliflower to a near mashed texture.  Do a taste test for salt and let it process until very smooth texture.  This recipe does not require much liquid so careful with the can milk, just add a bit at a time... same with cream cheese-- a little goes a long way.   At the very end, add some chopped  parsley and do one last pulse.  Ready to serve.
Super healthy, nearly guilt free side dish that everyone will love.

Our second side dish was from Janet.  She prepared Sauteed Swiss Chard with the following modifications to the recipe:

1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil (rather than 2 tbs of both)
1 shallot (rather than onion)
2 bunches of Swiss chard (rather than 1)
1/4 cup dry white wine (rather than 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (rather than 1)
4 tablespoons Parmesan (rather than 2)

I loved the chard.  It tasted fresh and healthy and the shallots and cheese gave it lots of flavor.  Janet had previously made this recipe which is how she knew to modify it.  Remember, WWTD (What Would  Teresa Do) and make the recipe as is first, and THEN modify.  That is a great lesson that I wish I had learned earlier in my home cooking career!

I fixed garlic bread as our bread component of the meal.  I did bake it a little too long (I thought the oven was off!!), which made the crust slightly tough, but the flavor was nice and garlicky without being over powering.  Rather than melt the butter I softened it and stirred in all the other ingredients.  I spread it on the bread and wrapped it up and put into the refrigerator until time to bake.  I had never used Ciabatta bread for garlic bread before but I really liked it and will use it in the future.

We concluded our meal with two desserts.  Boohoo.  I HATE IT when we have more than one dessert.  JUST KIDDING!!  Carol also brought some pumpkin ice cream.  The group then spent several minutes discussing seasonal ice cream flavors such as pumpkin and egg nog.  YUM.  Those are two reasons why I avoid the ice cream aisle of the store.

The Pumpkin Crunch Cake was my favorite of the two and I brought some home and had it for breakfast.  It is super easy to prepare and when I made it and brought it to work for a Halloween baking contest, I won first place!  Hooray!  

Pumpkin Crunch Cake

1 Yellow Cake Mix
1 15 oz Can Pumpkin Puree
1 12 oz Can Evaporated Milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom of 9 x 13 pan.  Mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Pour mixture into greased pan.  Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture and top with pecans.  Drizzle melted butter over pecans.  Use a fork to press/lightly stir any dry cake mix.  Bake 50-55 minutes.

The second dessert was very rich brownies with swirls of pumpkin and cream cheese.  The brownies looked pretty with the orange swirl and were quite decadent.

Pumpkin Swirled Cream Cheese Brownies

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs flour, divided
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs canned pumpkin
1 tbs butter, melted
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup salted butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, allowing edges to overhang pan to create handles.  Spray with cooking spray and set aside.

In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tbs flour, cream cheese, pumpkin and melted butter.  Beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

Melt chocolate and salted butter in double boiler or microwave and let cool slightly.  

In a large bowl, combine eggs, vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup sugar, whisking well.  Set aside.

In small bowl combine remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt, whisking well.  Set aside.

Add 1/4 cup chocolate mixture to egg mixture, stirring vigorously to incorporate and temper.  Add remaining chocolate mixture in thirds, stirring to incorporate.  Add flour mixture, stirring to incorporate.  Spread mixture into prepared baking pan, creating a smooth and level surface.

Drop pumpkin mixture by spoonfuls onto surface of chocolate mixture.  Drag a knife through batter to create a swirled pattern.

 Bake until brownie is slightly puffed and set, 57 to 60 minutes.  Let cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, approximately 4 hours.  Remove from pan by lifting foil handles.  Peel foil from brownies and cut into 16 squares.  Keep in refrigerator up to 3 days.

Lastly, our wine was so tasty that I wanted to document it for future reference.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crack Brownies*

*does not contain crack or any other illegal substance

I made these crack brownies for an office party.  I thought to myself "WOW, these have a lot of STUFF on top of the brownies...maybe I should leave some of it off".  Then I thought "self, what would Teresa do?  She would make the recipe as is the first time and the second time you can make changes".  Yes, that is what I would do.  I would add the peanuts, marshmallows, peanut butter cups, chocolate, peanut butter and rice crispies and see if these really were addictive.  THEY ARE and I am joining a 12 step program tomorrow.  

The brownie is just the stage to all the deliciousness on top.  Mostly, you taste chocolate, with a hint of peanut butter and a crunch of rice crispies.  I do not notice the peanuts at all and the marshmallows just add an "oohey goohey" factor.  

These are best when served cool so the chocolate does not melt.  And these will last a while.  I prepared them Thursday night, they were served Friday and the remaining were put in the refrigerator and I just had one today (Monday) and still just as fabulous.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Soup and Cake

On the weekends I enjoy making new recipes for a main dish and a dessert.  The main dish I eat during the week (I LOVE left overs) and the dessert is given away minus one piece....ok, two pieces. 

Both recipes that I cooked featured new cooking techniques.  I find that to be very exciting. 

In my crock pot I prepared Tomato Basil Parmesan soup.  I loved the flavor and the fact that it is full of vegetables.  It also has fat in the way of butter, cheese and half and half.  Our brains need fat plus if I make something sans fat I am left feeling hungry.  Fat is our friend.  Some tips for the soup:  cut the vegetables in very small pieces.  Likewise with the herbs if you use fresh. 

The new technique in this recipe was you make a roux with butter and flour then add some of the soup and then you put that back into the crock pot.  I have not made a lot of roux and I found it fascinating how the butter and flour paste became a super thick concoction when some of the soup was added.  Then when added back to the crock pot it thickened it all.  I liked the flavor alot and I think next time I will use my immersion blender to make it a smooth, creamy soup.  

For the new dessert recipe I made a most excellent Banana Cake with Brown Butter Icing.  YUM YUM YUM.  This is baked in a jelly roll pan (looks like a cookie sheet with 1 inch sides) though I am sure you could bake it in a 9 x 13, just adjust the baking time. The cake could not be simpler to put together - the recipe practically says to just throw it all in together and blend.  I used my stand mixer and first I mixed the butter and sugar, then added the other wet ingredients and then the combined dry ingredients.  The only substitution I made was using pecans instead of walnuts.  

The frosting is super simple as well and the secret is browned butter, which I have never prepared before.  Melted butter cooks and browns, whisk in some powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and voila, icing.  I used only about 3 cups of powdered sugar and enough milk to make it thin enough to stir.  You cannot mess it up unless you burn the butter!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Pie

Strawberry season is almost gone.  Winter is getting close.  I wore my boots today despite the fact that it is supposed to be a high in the 80s.  

So what I am trying to say is I made this Strawberries and Cream Pie as an homage to summer 2012.  I followed the directions except for the  chocolate on top.  I did not think it was necessary.  As if chocolate needs to be necessary... 

The pie tasted like a lighter, fluffier cheesecake and I always love a homemade graham cracker crust.  I placed the strawberries on at the last minute to keep them fresh and from tinting the white filling.  This was very good and it would go with any summer berry.  I will definitely make it again.  Next summer.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cooking Group September 30, 2012

We met at Carol's house for a themed dinner of figs!  It is the height of the season and we wanted to take full advantage of the elegant little fruits.  Guest tonight were Vicky and Jennifer and missing were Janet, Tonya and Evelyn.

Cocktail and Wine:  Mary, Sangria
Bread:  Mary, Pumpkin Cheese and Chive Muffins
Appetizer:  Angie, Figs and Toasted Almonds Brie and Elegant Fig Appetizers with Goat Cheese
Salad:  Jennifer, Green Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
Side Dish:  Carol and Jennifer,  Autumn Vegetable Mash
Main Dish:  Carol, Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Fresh Figs and Marsala Pan Sauce
Dessert:  Carol and Jennifer, Fig and Peach Crumble

Carol set a beautiful fall table with fresh flowers and tan napkins. 

We started the evening off with a stout cocktail of sangria.  The color was beautiful and perfectly fit in with the fall decorations. 

 I found two great fig appetizers and both featured cheese and honey.  Figs and Toasted Almonds Brie was delicious and served with water crackers.  I do not make brie often and next time I will remove all rind from the top.   Though edible, the rind is not easily spreadable and most people do not want to eat it anyway.  I used slivered almonds and chopped the figs before putting on the cheese.

Elegant Fig Appetizers with Goat Cheese and Almonds was super simple to put together.  Like the brie appetizer, I assembled this the night before and baked it right before serving.  After baking, drizzle with the honey and balsamic vinegar.  I used herbed goat cheese as called for and it complimented the sweet figs, honey and vinegar nicely. 

The salad was simple with greens, cucumbers and tomatoes.  The vinaigrette featured fig vinegar which gave a sweetness and a deep brown color.  I loved the flavor and had no idea there was such a thing as fig vinegar!


1 part Black Fig Vinegar
3 parts Olive Oil
Diced Shallot
Diced Garlic
Sugar and Salt to taste

Mary made a delicious Pumpkin, Cheese and Chive Muffins with sweet butter.  The muffins were moist, lightly sweet and flavorful.  I loved them with the fall menu of Autumn Vegetable Mash and Pork Medallions with Figs.  

The vegetable mash has the consistency of mashed potatoes and the parsnips and especially the celery root give a tangy flavor.  There is no butter and you really did not miss it as all the vegetables are so flavorful.  

Autumn Vegetable Mash Recipe

Prep Time: 20 min | Cook Time: 20 min | Servings: 12 |

8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large celery roots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups chicken broth
2-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2/3 cup 2% milk
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper


In a Dutch oven, combine the potatoes, parsnips, celery roots, broth and 2 teaspoons salt. Add water to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a large bowl; reserve cooking liquid. Mash vegetables, gradually adding the milk, garlic powder, pepper, remaining salt and enough reserved cooking liquid to reach desired consistency. Yield: 12 servings (3/4 cup each).

 I loved the pork medallions.  The sauce was thick like a gravy and the figs and Marsala gave a hint of sweetness.  The thinly sliced pork was very tender. 

Pork Tenderloin Cutlets with Marsala and Fresh Figs
Makes 4 Servings

1 pork tenderloin, about 1 1/4 pounds, well trimmed
kosher salt
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced shallots
1 1/4 cup sweet Marsala Wine, divided
2 tsp thyme, finely chopped
12 firm ripe figs, preferably green skinned, cut into wedges
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Trim the fat from the pork tenderloin.  Loosen the shiny white membrane.  Cut the tenderloin into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Lightly pound the slices to make the cutlets about 1/4th inch  thick.  Sprinkle cutlets with salt and pepper.  Dredge the cutlets in flour.

 Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add the cutlets and cook 1 to 2 minutes per side until it looses its pink color.  Pour 1 cup of the Marsala over the pork and gently boil the Marsala, turning the pork, until the wine is cooked down and the pork is golden and cooked through,  about 5 minutes.  Transfer the meat to a platter.  Boil the Marsala and juices until thick, about 1 minute.  Pour over the pork.  Sprinkle with half of the thyme leaves.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of Marsala and the figs.  Sprinkle the figs with sugar and cook, over medium high heat, turning the figs until they turn golden and are cooked into a chunky jam, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice.  Spoon over the pork and sprinkle with the remaining thyme.  Serve at once.

We finished our meal with Fresh Fig and Peach Crumble with ice cream that was fancied up by Carol and Jennifer.  I think there was figs and pistachios mixed with vanilla ice cream.

Fresh Fig and Peach Crumble
Makes 6 to 8 Servings

8 tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/3 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbs all purpose flour
pinch of salt

1 lb peaches, peeled, halved, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 lb firm, ripe figs, preferably Brown Turkey, stems removed, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Confectioners' sugar

Combine the butter and 1/3 cup sugar in a large bowl of electric mixer and beat until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the flour and salt and beat on low just until flour is incorporated but the mixture is still dry and crumbly.  Remove bowl from mixer and scrape flour from the bottom and edges of the bowl and press into the pastry.  The pastry should still be crumbly.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 1 1/2 to 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Combine the peaches and figs in a large bowl;  add the lime juice and toss to blend.  In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tbs flour and sugar and the cinnamon; stir to blend.  Sprinkle over the fruit.  Fold gently just to blend without crushing the fruit.

Spoon fruit into baking dish; spread in even layer.  Sprinkle the cold pastry crumbs over the fruit.  

Bake until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly, 35 to 30 minutes.  Cool slightly and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve with ice cream.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Football Food

I had some friends over this weekend for an AGGIE football watching party.  I also invited a few non-Aggie friends (hiss) and they were respectfully dressed in "neutral" colored clothing (i.e. no burnt orange).  Except one was wearing red, which happened to be the color of the Aggie opponent.  Whatever!  This is a blog about food and not football rivalries.

Since the game was at 11, I wanted to have not only dips (2 store bought - HEB's That Green Sauce and sour cream and onion dip) as well as queso (with some left over fajita meat) but also something hearty for lunch.  I chose Oven Baked Frito Pie.  Growing up my parents would make REAL Frito pie (fake Frito pie being Fritos covered in chili) and they would layer wolf brand chili, Fritos, onions and cheese into a casserole dish and bake until hot and bubbly.  It was gooey and crunchy and delicious.  It was also incredibly fattening because cans of chili are somehow super injected with fat and calories. 

The recipe I chose had homemade chili which is much healthier than wolf brand and it has diced tomatoes and tomato sauce for a nice vegetable component.  I left out the beans because I have never preferred chili with beans.  Otherwise, I only added some chili powder as I found the packet of taco seasonings did a good job making the beef taste like chili. 

The other change to the recipe I made was to leave out the sour cream.  I really did not see the point of it and again, I was trying to make this somewhat easy on the waistline.  No one seemed to notice anything missing and everyone wanted the recipe.  I cooked the chili the night before, to allow more time for flavors to blend, and then I put the pie together and baked it right before lunch.  Some people added more cheese (in the form of queso) or Fritos.  This was very good and a keeper for a big group.

I cannot have a gathering without having something sweet!  I have been craving peanut butter lately and this recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars looked decadent and easy!  The peanut butter layer is a doctored yellow cake mix, the chocolate layer is essentially chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk and it comes together in minutes. It can sit on the counter for days to be nibbled on.  A kid at the party said these were FABULOUS and I have enjoyed them at breakfast, and as mid morning and late night snacks.  I finally took the few remaining to work today as I cannot be trusted with these bars.  YUM.  Like a Reece's peanut butter cup in a bar form.  The chocolate layer is almost fudge like and the peanut butter layer is pretty mild because it is mixed with the cake mix.  These cut easily and come out clean for easy staking.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Morning Buns

I started watching a show on PBS called Cooks Country.  It is put together by the same people that do Cooks Illustrated.  The recipes are more down home and often, updates of recipes from the past.  Last week there was smothered pork chops and apple fritters.  This week the episode featured Morning Buns and Morning Glory Muffins. 

The buns are a croissant type dough with a cinnamon filling.  As the episode aired I realized I had all the necessary ingredients and decided to give it a try.  I am still working on my homemade pastry skills and Cooks Country made a complicated recipe - croissants - simple.  It is time consuming as I started at 10 am and the buns were not finished until about 7 pm due to all the rising.  However, putting it together is pretty simple.  

Word of caution:  there is so much butter in the dough that you should put the muffin tin on a cookie sheet to catch any melted butter.  

These were FANTASTIC.  I ate one (or two) while warm and I am hoping these are just as good at room temperature, as a croissant would be.  They are flaky and sugary.  No icing is needed.  These would be perfect to make the night before and then bake in the morning. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken Sofrito

I love when I learn a new cooking technique from a recipe. The new technique is starting on the stove and finishing in the oven.  I used my Dutch oven even though the recipe called for a skillet.  I think the only problem with the pan substitution is that in the Dutch oven the chicken sunk down a little so the skin was not as crispy as it should have been.  Similarly, the Dutch oven prevented more crisping during the broiler phase.  I did not mind as I planned this dish for left over lunches and the microwave re-heating would not result in a crispy chicken skin.

The new recipe that I learned so much from is Chicken Sofrito and it was delicious.  The rice was flavorful and creamy with a spicy hot flavor.   You must be cautious of over-seasoning when a dish calls for several layers of heat.  In this one there is chili powder on the chicken, a diced jalapeno (de-seeded), cayenne pepper and I substituted Rotel for the canned tomatoes.  My dish ended up perfectly spiced because I used a light hand.  You would always rather add more spice at the end instead of wondering how much milk you will have to consume to put the flames in your mouth out.

The chicken was tender and mild and perfectly paired with the spicy rice.  I used a large onion because I wanted all those pieces to mix with the rice like a risotto.  The rice is a star in this dish as if simmers in the sofrito.  From Wikipedia:  Sofrito is a combination of aromatic ingredients which have been cut in very small pieces, and slowly sautéed or braised in cooking oil for 15–30 minutes.  In Spanish cuisine, sofrito consists of garlic, onion, and tomatoes cooked in olive oil, and is used as the base for many dishes. Similar preparations are used in the cuisines of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and also some Latin American countries."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

I have been craving something easy and light and with rice.  Every now and then I get on a rice kick.  This recipe for Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken fulfilled all of my requirements. I prefer dark chicken meat so I used boneless, skinless, chicken thighs.  I laid them on top, as per the recipe.  After 6 hours, I opened the crock pot and I was able to "shred" the chicken just by stirring it.  This was much simpler than removing it, letting it cool, shredding it and returning it to the pot.

The flavor, using the exact recipe, was very hot and spicy.  Fortunately, the rice cut that a bit, however next time I will use half of the cayenne.  You can also add more at the end, when you taste it!  I did use the entire bunches of both cilantro and green onions and it was fine.  Both almost cook away after 6 hours.

This is a hearty, one-dish meal (except for the rice) with many fresh flavors.  It will also freeze beautifully.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

July 22, 2012

We met at my house on July 22, 2012 for a dinner theme of summer.  Missing were Jennifer, Tonya and Mary and we were joined by Teresa and Ellie!

Cocktail and wine:  Evelyn, wine spritzer
Appetizer:  Carol, fruit kabobs with fruit dip and three cheese dip.
Salad:  Angie, black bean salad
Side dish:  Carol, scalloped potatoes
Main dish:  Angie, chipotle flank steak
Dessert:  Janet, blueberry mini tarts, miniature cheesecake and mini chocolate cupcakes

Evelyn started the afternoon off with a delicious cocktail.  She mixed it in a pitcher and then we could help ourselves to more.  It was light, sweet and delicious.

Wine Spritzer

½ bottle of Central Market Organic Pear Apple Italian Soda
1 bottle off Proseco
1 bag of Frozen pineapple
We had two appetizers, thanks to Carol.  She brought colorful fruit kabobs that had fruit representing the colors of a rainbow (ROY G. BIV) and were served with an orange flavored, creamy dip.  Rather than using frozen orange juice, Carol used fresh squeezed juice as well as some orange zest.

Carol also brought a cheese dip with assorted crackers.  The original recipe is for a cheese ball but Carol kept it simple and served it as a dip.  The dip was tangy and thick and was perfect when spread on crackers.

Our salad was a group effort.  It was slightly sweet and full of crunchy, fresh vegetables.  We boiled the corn but otherwise all ingredients were raw.  The salad cut the heat from the spicy main dish of flank steak.  I put the rub on the steak in the morning and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours.  I brought it back to room temperature by leaving it on the counter while the oven heated.  The oven rack was moved to the top of the oven and the steak was broiled 5 minutes per side.  It was still a little too rare, according to the thermometer, so we cooked it longer.  After removing it from the oven, let it rest for at least 15 minutes to let the juices re-distribute.  Cut against the grain and serve with the cheese, cream sauce.  I thought the sauce was perfect and it served to tame the spicy steak.  The sauce also made the simple steak recipe seem more elegant.

Scalloped potatoes were the side dish and these perfectly pared with the steak. I am a scalloped potato fanatic, as my mother knows, because I frequently request hers at our dinners.  Carol made a pan of potatoes (rather than individual stacks) that were absolutely fantastic.  The potatoes were tender and the topping was brown and slightly crispy.  Carol used a mandolin to thinly slice the potatoes.  

We were blessed with a trio of desserts prepared by Janet.  Mini cheesecakes were creamy, the chocolate cupcakes were decedent and the blueberry mini tarts were full of summer flavor.  I loved all three desserts and there is just something special about having a plate full of different treats to end the meal with.

Miniature Cheesecakes

Original Recipe Yield 12 miniature cheesecakes

12 vanilla wafer cookies or one sleeve of graham crackers crushed
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
3/4  cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Place one vanilla wafer or graham cracker crumbs in each cup
3. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in
the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
4. Pour mixture evenly into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until set.
6. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling

I have blueberries coming out my ears, which is not a bad thing.  I found my favorite blueberry recipe thus far in these Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling.  There are four layers:  the streusel crust, blueberries, lemon filling and streusel topping.  The creamy filling was new to me and it is essentially just sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice  These bars are very good and next time I will add another cup of blueberries.

June 24, 2012

The Gourmet Gals, minus Mary and Jennifer and plus Evelyn (friend of Janet's and future Gourmet Gal) and Dee (daughter of Janet) met at Janet's home for our June gathering.

 Appetizer - Angie (Spinach Artichoke Cups), Janet (Blue Cheese Puffs) and Evelyn (Creamy Shrimp Crostini)

Cocktail - Angie (Frenchy)

Salad - Carol (Texas Peach Salad)

Main Dish - Janet (Sweet Pork & Pears with Goat Cheese and Quinoa)

Dessert - Tonya (Shortcakes with Fresh Berries)

Due to a miscommunication, we had three appetizers prepared by three of us.  It reminded me of when Carol and Jenn bring the appetizers and there always seem to be a trio.  The more the merrier when it comes to first courses!

I made Spinach Artichoke Cups which is a spinach, artichoke and lemon filling inside baked wonton cups.   I baked the wonton wrappers in miniature muffin tins and halved the wonton wrappers because I found that two layers of wonton (which would be necessary if you used a full wrapper in the miniature tins) was chewy and not appealing.  

 Evelyn brought Creamy Shrimp Crostini which she served on bagel chips and heated up slightly in the oven.  These were indeed creamy and tangy with fresh dill, one of my favorite herbs.  Each crostini was garnished with a bit of parsley.  

For the final appetizer, Janet made blue cheese puffs which were light and airy and full of blue cheese flavor.

Our cocktail was the Frenchy that had 1 1/2 ounces Pear Vodka (by Absolut), 3 ounces pineapple juice and 1 ounce cranberry juice.  The idea is to layer the drink with the pear vodka on the bottom, then the pineapple juice and finally the cranberry juice in a small glass filled with ice.  If you slowly pour over a spoon or ice cube you will get the layered effect.  I was afraid that this layering would mean at the bottom of the drink there would be a harsh blast of vodka.  Instead, the pear flavor was in every sip and there was a nice mixing of flavors.

Carol prepared Texas Peach salad which was a delicious, complex salad with many sweet flavors between the peaches, candied pecans, vineagrette and brittle.  It was lovely and refreshing on a hot, summer evening shared amongst friends.

Our main dish was a healthy one from Clean Eating Magazine called Sweet Pork & Pears with Goat Cheese and Quinoa.  I could not find the recipe online, but it was essentially boneless pork chops that we seared on both sides in a little bacon fat (YUM).  Then we deglazed the pan with apple cider vinegar and honey and added diced pears.  The pork chops were put back in the pan, on top of the pears and into the oven to ensure the chops were cooked thoroughly.  Goat cheese and toasted almonds were the garnish.  On the side was a triple blend of quinoa that was cooked in chicken broth.  

Our final trio was homemade shortcakes with a trio of berries and freshly whipped cream.  Tonya altered the recipe by reducing the oven temperature to 400 degrees and increasing the sugar to 1/3 cup based on suggestions from several reviews. The shortcakes were crunchy with the sugar on top and flaky.  The raspberries, strawberries and blue berries were a sweet compliment to the shortcakes and the whipped cream brought it all together.