Monday, February 17, 2014

Good and evil

I picked the day of a work dessert competition to decide to stop eating sugar.  Needless to say, that did not happen.  So AFTER this dessert took 2nd place in the competition, I went to the gym and vowed to start again at dinner.  One meal at a time!

The white chocolate crumb bars were rich and creamy.  I used 2 - 4 oz white chocolate bars and strawberry jam.  I would recommend using a spoon and not a tablespoon to put thinner dollups of jam on top of the white chocolate.   And do not stir.  Bake so the center is pretty much set.  Even after cooling and refrigerating the very center was still too gooey.  I ate those pieces and they were delicious yet messy.  UGH!  I am OUT OF CONTROL!  Ha!

I also wanted a chocolate entry into the competition, hence these Snickers Brownie Cookies.  I thought that they would take the prize but nope, did not even place.  I could not find the Snickers bites (because I was on the Valentine's aisle and not the candy aisle - see, I do not even know where to buy candy except at the cash register) so I used 1 chopped up Snickers in the batter and 1 to press extra pieces into the dough prior to baking.  I froze the Snickers for easy chopping.  I liked these cookies and I will make them again.

Now, for the good and healthy.  I made a quinoa salad with Brussels sprouts and butternut squash.  I started with this quinoa because I found it at Sprouts and it seemed like a good introduction to this new ingredient that I have not cooked with before.  This salad was so delicious!!  I could not find the shaved Brussels sprouts so I pulsed them in my food processor a few times.  This resulted in a mixture of tiny pieces and almost whole sprouts.  Next time I will just quarter them.  I do not like peeling butternut squash so I halved it, removed the seeds, sprinkled on some brown sugar and roasted it.  Then I cut and scooped it out of the skin.  Much simpler.  I used salted, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) that I found in the bulk bins from Sprouts.  I will definetly be making more quinoa as it is so versitale and tasty.

To go with the quinoa, I prepared a super simple, super flavorful salmon dish.  I bought enough salmon for 4 or 5 servings for only $7.  It took about 2 minutes to put this dish together and in 15 minutes it was tender and flaky.  It also reheats beautifully.  I am thinking that the next time I prepare this that I may put in some asparagus in the foil packet. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Carol's gift: Chef Ellen

We met at Janet's to share in Carol's gift to us:  an evening with Chef Ellen.

We started with appetizers and cocktails.

There was Apple Brie Bread with Almonds.  This was sweet like a breakfast bread or dessert.  It would be great for brunch.  Great choice, Tonya!

Mary prepared Mushroom Canapes with Red Onion Jam.  Very pretty and flavorful.

Tonya mixed up our cocktails.  These were dangerous because it went down so smoothly!

There were also some toasts with cheese and bacon from Janet and Angie's cream cheese and cranberry jalapeno sauce.

And bread wrapped brie with jam and pecans.

Chef Ellen was wonderful.  She was full of energy and shared a new cooking concept.  She discussed cooking using flavor profiles of sweet, salt, bitter, sour and heat.  You combine these to make a sauce that you serve over simple proteins like fish, chicken and pork.  In about an hour she prepared fish, chicken, pork and served a salsa and cheesecake.  Carol would have loved Chef Ellen's presentation and we are so grateful to her for leaving this to us.

Pork Loin being seared on the stove and then finished in the oven.  She made a rub with cocoa powder, salt, and Old Bay.  The dish was finished with a mango salsa with avocado, shallots and cilantro.

 Fish that was steamed in a steamer and topped with a sauce with orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, butter, garlic, chipotle and cilantro.

Chicken, after poaching, was dressed with a sauce of lemon, olive oil, parsley and mustard. 

Finally, Chef Ellen brought us a cheesecake that she made at home and had mascarpone cheese and cream cheese with no eggs and no baking.  There was an Oreo crust and it was very creamy and delicious.