Monday, March 26, 2012

Cajun Shrimp and Okra

Last week I had dinner at a neighbor's house and she served shrimp and okra with crab meat.  It was DELICIOUS.  The base was not tomato and it was similar to a thick gumbo.  That meal got me craving okra and I found this recipe for Cajun shrimp and okra.  I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs rather than shrimp because I wanted lots of meat.  I followed the recipe exactly except I browned the chicken thighs until almost done and removed to a plate.  Then I continued with the recipe, putting the thighs back in and simmering about 30 minutes.  At that point, I removed the thighs, shredded, and returned to the pot. 

This was very good with nice flavor.  I think next time I will cook this in my crock pot, just throwing all ingredients in and letting it cook until the chicken is done.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

White Chocolate Strawberry Trifle

Strawberries are on-sale and I bought an abundance and needed a recipe to use them in.  I like trifles and I wanted something different and White Chocolate Strawberry Trifle fit the bill.

The white chocolate pudding was not very "white chocolatey" and next time I will supplement with some white chocolate ... maybe drizzled over the cake or on top or shavings.  The pudding layer was thick and creamy, the angel food cake layer light and sweet (I LOVE ANGEL FOOD CAKE) and the strawberries tied it all together and next time I will use 2 pints.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Brunch at benjy's

A small contingent of the Gourmet Gals met for brunch on a rainy Sunday.  Brunch is served starting at 11:00 and reservations are necessary.  Benjy's is a trendy yet friendly place with awesome food.  

As with other meal times at benjy's, small bites are served.  Brunch featured spice muffins which tasted of cinnamon and savory biscuits.  Creamy apple butter was served on the side.  We also enjoyed blood orange mimosas.

We started off with biscuits with hamburger gravy.  The biscuits were amazingly flaky and I would have loved to have them alone with butter and jelly.  The gravy was like S.O.S. that my parents make and I now make as comfort food.  It was lightly seasoned and delicious with the biscuits.

For entrees we had nut crusted french toast with berries, nut crusted chicken with potatoes (which are ADDICTIVE) and corn puree and crab cakes with a side of eggs, fruit and potatoes.  

The french toast was flavorful even without syrup and light with no greasiness. 

The nut crusted chicken is the same that is served for dinner.  The portion is huge and there is a wonderful crispy crust.

The crab cakes had some cumin and nice overall flavor.  With the sauce it was like an eggs Benedict with crab cakes rather than English muffins.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup seems alot like chicken tortilla soup except for some different seasonings.  It is a healthy soup full of vegetables and hardly any fat except from the chicken if you do not add cheese.  I threw all ingredients into my crock pot, with the chicken on the bottom, and cooked on high about four hours.  I then removed the chicken and let it cool, shredded it and returned to the crock pot.  I added an entire bunch of cilantro at the end as well.

Be mindful of the heat as it adds up quickly.  I really like this soup and it will re-heat well and is perfect for the rainy days we have been having.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

I have never made scones before and I wanted to try, especially after seeing this recipe for raspberry white chocolate scones.  YUM.  The flavors were delicious together.  When I make these again I will make the following changes:

  1. Watch the dough very carefully as it goes from not mixed to the butter disappearing in seconds.  You need to stop processing when the butter is pea sized so watch closely.
  2. Make smaller rather than larger scones.  I used my biggest cookie cutter and it was just too big. 
  3. You must use frozen raspberries and work quickly because once the berries start defrosting it becomes a mess.
  4. I used white chocolate chips, the entire bag, rather than a white chocolate bar.

Healthier General Tso's Chicken

I am craving Chinese food again and I found this recipe for a healthier version for General Tso's Chicken on (where else?!) and made it last week.  There is a thin coating on the chicken for some crunch and the sauce is sweet and tangy with brown sugar and red pepper.  There is also fresh ginger, which I love. 

I added water chestnuts and bean sprouts but next time I think I will only add carrots as additional vegetables. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Today we met at Carol's house and Jen shared hosting duties.  Also present were baby Vivi and Carol's friend, Vicki.

The theme was Valentine's Day!

Appetizer:  Janet, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Palmier
Salad:  Angie, Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette
Bread:  Angie, Basil, Feta and Roasted Pepper Muffins
Soup:  Jen, Parsnip and Apple
Side:  Mary, Carrot Souffle
Main Dish:  Carol and Jen, Pork Chops and Cipollini  Onions with Madeira Sauce
Dessert:  Carol and Jen, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Pink Salad and Chocolate Souffles

As always, Carol set a beautiful table full of reds, flowers and hearts.

We started off with Janet's Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Palmier.  These featured pesto wrapped in puff pastry.  By rolling the pastry in towards the center on both sides, you end up with a heart shape or elephant ears (palmier).  These were very tasty and perfectly fit the theme!  

Substitutions to the recipe are as follows:
  • use 1/4 tsp garlic powder rather than garlic cloves
  • use 3/4 tsp of Hebes de Provence rather than 1 1/2 tsp
  • use 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp white wine vinegar rather than red wine vinegar

For the bread, I picked Basil, Feta and Roasted Pepper Muffins because of the red color from the peppers AND I could use my heart shaped muffin tins.  The muffins puff up so much you can only see the heart shape on the bottom.  I thought the muffins had a nice texture but not enough flavor.  Next time I would add some more salt and maybe garlic powder and more basil.  These should be served warm and you can re-heat in the microwave.

The salad recipe was found on  I LOVE THAT WEBSITE.  The recipe says to use lettuce, pears, walnuts and blue cheese and then mix up the vinaigrette.  I used spring mix greens and anjou pears.  The vinaigrette is so simple and it will be my go to recipe from now on.  I really liked this salad and the combination of sweet pears and tangy, salty blue cheese and crunchy walnuts.

The soup was lovely and delicately flavored.  Jen had us put apple slices in our bowls, add the soup and then dollop whipped cream and the chives.  Yum!

Parsnip and Apple Soup with Parmesan Chive Foam 
Chef  Darren McGrady " The Royal Chef" to H.M. the Queen of England and Diana Princess of Wales

Serves 4

For the soup

2 Tbs butter
1 lb parsnips - peeled and chopped
1 granny smith apple - peeled and chopped
1 medium onion - peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
3 cups water
1 chicken  broth cube -  (Knorr)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and  white pepper 

For the garnish

1/4 cup heavy cream - whipped stiff
1 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan
3 Tbs chives - finely chopped
1 granny smith apple - peeled 

1.  Melt the butter in a heavy based pan.  Add the parsnips, onion, and  apple.  Saute for about 5 minutes and then add the coriander, followed by the water and broth cube.  Cook until the parsnips are tender and remove from the heat.
2.  Carefully blend the soup mix and strain. (We've made this soup twice. Once we blended the soup with a blender and another time with an immersion blender.  Both work well).  Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.Return to the heat, but do not boil.  Adjust the consistency with a little water if needed.
3.  Prepare the garnish by folding the Parmesan and one tablespoon of the chives into the whipped cream.  Grate some of the apple into the bottom of the warm soup bowls and ladle the soup on top. (I chopped the apple into small cubes) .  Spoon the Parmesan cream on top of the soup and garnish with the remaining chives.

For a side dish, Mary made us individual carrot souffles.  They were delicious with a bit of a kick from cayenne pepper.  I have made carrot souffles before and they were sweet whereas these were savory. 

 Pork Chops and Cipollini Onions with Madeira Sauce was the main dish, along with sauteed apples.  The sauce was slightly sweet and the caramelized onions also sweet.  The apples were crisp and their sweetness compliments the pork chops and onions.  Everyone loves pork chops and apple (sauce - Brady Bunch reference).

Pork Chops and Cipollini Onions with Madeira Sauce

4 - 4oz boneless, center cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
Olive oil
12 Cippollini onions or small boiling onions, peeled (about 3/4 lb)
1 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste
3/4 cup Madeira wine
1 T brown sugar
2T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. cornstarch

Sprinkle pork chops with salt and black pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add chops and onions and cook for 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.  Add vanilla and wine to pan, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until pork and onions are tender.  Remove pork and onions from pan with a slotted spoon.  Keep warm.  

Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, and cornstarch in  a small bowl; add to wine mixture in pan.  Bring mixture to a boil; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Serve sauce with chops and onions.

Dessert was a trio.  Chocolate covered strawberries, cherry chiffon salad and chocolate souffles. All were delicious and how awesome is having THREE desserts?!

For the strawberries:

1 lb. strawberries with green tops.
1 Dolci frutta  - chocolate shell
1 Dolci frutta -white shell

Wash strawberries and let dry on paper towels.  
Melt Dolci frutta in the microwave according to package directions.

Holding strawberries by green tops, dip into chocolate shell.  

Place on waxed paper or parchment paper until chocolate shell hardens.

Melt white chocolate shell.  Drizzle over chocolate covered strawberries for garnish.

Modifications for the cherry chiffon salad are using crushed pineapple instead of pineapple tidbits.

Spoon into shot glasses, mini parfait dishes or other glass serving dishes.

Garnish with maraschino cherries dipped in the Dolci frutta.