Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 22, 2012

We met at Tonya's house.  All plus Jennifer were in attendance!

Cocktail:  Janet, Cucumber Collins

Appetizer: Jennifer and Carol, Shrimp in Cucumber Cups and Herbed Goat Cheese in Tomatoes and Cucumber Slice

Salad:  Angie, Carrot Slaw with Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts

Side Dish:  Jennifer and Carol, Dilled New Potato Salad

Main Dish:  Tonya, Bratwurst in Beer

Dessert:  Mary, Orange Cake Surprise

Janet made Cucumber Collins for our cocktail and it was so refreshing and fresh tasting.  I loved having cocktails rather than wine and I hope this becomes a new tradition!

Cucumber Collins
Make basil simple syrup:  in a small pot 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar along with a bunch of basil (roughly chopped) to a boil; let boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and seep for 20-30 minutes, then strain
Juice 1 cup of lime juice (8 large limes)
Put 2 1/2 Peeled English Cucumbers in a food processor until liquefied; strain (should make 2 cups)
For eight drinks combine:
3/4 to 1 cup gin (I prefer Hendrick"s) -- today I used 3/4 cup
1 cup of basil simple syrup
1/2 cup lime juice
2 cups of cucumber "juice"
     Garnish with a slice of cucumber and basil leaf; can also added a slice of lime.

For appetizer we had a trio, prepared by Jennifer and Carol.  There were Shrimp in Cucumber Cups, and Herbed Goat Cheese in Tomatoes and Cucumber Slices.  All three were beautiful and dainty with a mild, cheesy flavor.  And I believe it was a Gourmet Gals first: all of the appetizers were consumed!

I prepared the salad using carrots from my garden.  The carrots came in three colors:  orange, white and yellow.  I grated them into Carrot Slaw with Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts I thought the salad had a nice, sweet flavor from the oranges, lemons and honey.  Add the pecans and cranberries at the last minute so they do not get soggy. 

For the side dish, Carol and Jennifer prepared Dill New Potato Salad which was a perfect compliment to the bratwurst.  The potato salad was very creamy and I loved the red potatoes in it rather than russet potatoes.

Dilled New Potato Salad - Molly Fowler

3 lbs unpeeled new potatoes
2 T lemon juice
2/3 c mayonnaise
1 c sour cream
2 T chopped fresh dill
2 T chopped fresh parsley

Beau Monde seasoning to taste
White pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender.  Cut into bite sized pieces, leaving skins  on.  Combine remaining ingredients and mix with potatoes while they are still hot.  Refrigerate to chill.

Bratwurst in Beer was the first time I had eaten bratwurst and it was DELICIOUS.  I found the sausages to be very tasty and with the crusty hoagies, spicy mustard, onion and dill pickle, it could not be better.  We first grilled the sausages on Tonya's counter grill (which is a very cool contraption) and then boiled with the beer.

For dessert Mary concocted an orange cake using tricks from her baking tool kit.  The results were delicious!  A very orange flavored cake with cream cheese frosting.  

Orange Cake Surprise!
1 Duncan Hines Orange Supreme cake mix
1 can mandarin oranges
1 box instant vanilla pudding
Prepare cake mix using 3 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil but substitute the water with the juice from mandarin oranges.  Add a box of instant vanilla pudding and the zest of a large orange to the batter.  Bake in 2 round pans about 40 minutes on 350 degrees.
A combo of vanilla frosting, portion of small box instant vanilla pudding, several drops of orange extract, tbs orange zest, about 1/3 cup of mandarin oranges broken up.  Mix all together and add a bit of juice from the mandarin oranges until you get a nice thickness/texture.  Spread this between cake layers.
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
2/3 stick butter
1 box of powdered sugar
few drops of orange extract
Beat cream cheese until fluffy then add softened butter.  Beat together until fluffy.  Add orange extract to taste.  Begin beating in the powdered sugar until all well incorporated and smooth.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Clean Out the Cupboard Cookies

I found a recipe for chocolate chip coconut pecan cookies on The Happy Cooker and I modified it in order to use up all the opened bags of treats in the pantry.  I received many compliments on the cookies this morning, including someone asking me to not bake anymore because their waistline cannot take it.  YES.  Success.  The coconut makes the cookies very moist and chewy, even after cooled.

Clean out the Cupboard Cookies

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
6 oz chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semi sweet)
6 oz toffee bits
1 cup sweetened coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add vanilla and slowly add flour mixture while mixing.

Add chocolate chips, toffee bits and coconut and stir with large spoon until incorporated.

Spoon onto baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.  Cookies will spread so leave space between each.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sour Cream Banana Bread

Nothing makes me happier than "using" up an ingredient that I have left over from another recipe.  In the gumbo I made on Saturday, I used left over chicken broth.  For the lemon cake I used buttermilk from last week.  Today I finished off a container of sour cream in this Sour Cream Banana Bread.  It is a very easy recipe with a nice cinnamon flavor and crunchy, brown crust.  I added walnuts because I like nuts in my banana bread.  I have already had two pieces and it is not even cool yet.  Must give the rest away! 

Lemon Pound Cake

This recipe is called Lemon Bundt Cake though I think it is a lemon pound cake.  The batter is basic and the lemon zest and juice brighten it up and make it taste very fresh.  I used two, large lemons in the cake for juice and the zest of three.  The icing, a basic cream cheese/butter/powdered sugar icing, is amazing and the vanilla and lemon juice give it a great pop of flavor.  I think zest in the icing would be nice as well.  I used one lemon for juice in the icing and ended up adding another cup or so of powdered sugar to get the consistency I wanted.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Gumbo

I grew celery in my garden and since celery generally has a supporting role in dishes, I have been searching for soup recipes to cook.  Celery has a surprisingly short shelf life unless you keep it hydrated.  Good thing I can just cut it fresh when I need it!

I made slow cooker chicken gumbo because it sounded too good to be true.  A gumbo that does not require a roux?  One that can be made by throwing all the ingredients in at the same time and then left alone for 6 hours?  Sign me up!   

I realized that with tomato juice listed as an ingredient that this was not the gumbo I am used to.  But still, with all the vegetables and seasonings I knew it would be good.  And it was very tasty with the perfect amount of seasonings and heat for my taste!  I did add more salt at the end, after I tasted it.  Also, I used chicken thighs and put in half the sausage because it seemed like too much but I should have put the entire link in as it really cooks down.  Oh, and I did use a red bell pepper rather than green because I have heard that red peppers have more nutrients. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Carrot Cake

I grew carrots from seed in my garden and it is time to harvest.  What does one do with 50 carrots all ready at the same time?  Well, I am harvesting a few at a time and assuming those left in the ground will continue to grow.

With my carrots I made Carrot Cake.  It is more than CARROT cake because it has pineapple, coconut and nuts.  For those that do not like coconut, I did not even taste it.

This recipe makes a very moist, sweet cake.  There is a cream cheese frosting and buttermilk glaze. 

Modifications I made were using just two pans rather than three.  The pans were less than half full so I did not see why I should use 3.  I also used fresh pineapple and crushed it with a potato masher and I had a very ripe banana so I threw it in as well.

When I poured the glaze, I guess because I used 2 cakes rather than 3, I had a lot left over.  I poured enough to cover the cakes and after a few minutes of soaking in I poured the remaining out because I was afraid the cakes would become a soggy mess.  Rather than being soggy the cakes were very moist yet delicate.  I recommend cooling completely in the pans before removing.  If some sticks to the pan it is easy to push it back into place.  This cake is very forgiving and the cream cheese frosting ensures it will look perfect in the end.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easy Beef Enchiladas

I made the easiest beef enchiladas EVAH tonight.  I cannot remember the link to the recipe so I will replicate it here.  A picture is not required as most people know what enchiladas look like (especially us Texans).


10-12 corn tortillas
28 oz red enchilada sauce (I like mild.  Extra Hot is inedible in my opinion)
1 lb ground beef
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Monterrey jack cheese, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray bottom and sides of 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Coat bottom of pan with 1 cup of enchilada sauce.

Brown ground beef and add seasonings as you like.  The original recipe said salt and pepper but I used fajita seasonings and I think cumin would be nice.  After browning, drain off fat.

Fill each tortilla with a couple spoonfuls each of meat and cheese.  Roll and place in prepared pan.  After dish is full of enchiladas pour remaining enchilada sauce on top.  Spread cheese down each enchilada.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Let stand 15 minutes before serving.  YUM and so easy.  Next time I think I will add onions to the beef but otherwise very good, tasty recipe.