Spicy Sunday

This past Sunday, as I was perusing cookbooks, I came across a recipe that sounded delicious, easy to make and most importantly spicy. I knew I needed to make it immediately, and luckily for me, Ed was hungry. The  original recipe was found in the book At Home by Steve Poses (one of my favorite books of all time). I’ve made a few modifications to the recipe to make it just a little spicier…enjoy!

Wasabi-Edamame Puree on Rice Crisps with Sesame Seeds
Ingredients:
1 bag (approx 2 cups) frozen edamame
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup water
rice crisps (cut into quarters)
black sesame seeds
2+ tablespoons wasabi powder (spice to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
1. Boil edameme until soft (at least 8 minutes – longer then the directions will tell you to)
2. Once soft, strain and rinse edamame in cold water
3. In a blender or food processor, puree edamame, olive oil, water, wasabi powder, salt and pepper
4. Spoon the puree onto rice crisps (a melon baller is the perfect size scoop)
5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds

This recipe was a huge hit in our house. We could barely stop eating it to take a picture.

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January 20, 2011. Menu, Recipes. Leave a comment.

Reader Question – Hosting a Game Night

Q. I have a request – Could you tell me how to host a penny-pinching, yet gourmet party.  My husband and I are going to host a game night, and I want to make cheap, yet impressive appetizers for people to snack on.  Also, I think it’d be fun to have one fun cocktail (but otherwise BYOB)—or is that tacky these days?  We’re trying to make this fun but not the $500 extravaganza Thanksgiving was.

A. Hi –

What a great idea – a game night sounds like a lot of fun! 

In terms of food, the most important thing is to provide quick and easy snacks for your friends that they can grab and eat so as to not miss their turn during a game.  If possible when hosting a game night, don’t make anything that requires your guests to use utensils.

I like to use the 3 “S” rule: salty, savory and sweet. If you have 1-2 food items that cover each category, your guests are sure to find something they can munch on. Most importantly, no host wants to feel stressed out the day of an event so make sure you pick appetizers that can be made in advance. If needed, you can always use a mixture of homemade and store-bought snacks. Trust me, no one will be disappointed.

Here are some quick and easy finger-foods that fit in the 3 “S” categories, won’t break the bank, can be made in advance,  and most importantly look impressive (all recipes can be found below after the jump):

Salty
Toasted Almonds & Orange-Scented Green Olives
Parmesan Rounds with Tomatoes and Feta

Savory
Oven-Baked Rosemary Potato Chips
Hot Wasabi Popcorn

Sweet
Cinnamon Tortilla Crisps with Fruit Salsa and/or vanilla brown-sugar dipping sauce
Sweet Spiced Walnuts

Regarding drinks – specifically for a game night, it isn’t tacky at all to offer 1 type of alcohol and ask guests to bring their own – so long as you let them know the event is BYOB when invited.

As you aren’t looking to spend a lot of money, I would offer a signature mixed drink. Beer can add up quickly if each person drinks a few. And everyone has a different viewpoint on “decent” wine. A signature mixed drink allows you to provide a beverage to your guests and save money. 

 Depending on the theme of your game night, you could jazz up your drink with a name. i.e. casino-tini or aces punch.

A great signature drink option are the buckets of mixers that only require you to add a bottle of alcohol, stir, and freeze over night. The buckets can be found at your local Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, or similar type of store.  They are tasty, easy to make, don’t cost a lot of money and best of all, each bucket makes enough drinks to be used for a group.

Garnish the drinks with some fresh fruit,  a salted/sugared rim or even a drink umbrella.

Hope you enjoy a wonderful game night. Please be sure to let me know how it turns out!

-Jennifer

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January 18, 2011. Holiday, Menu, Recipes, Recommendations, Themed Party. Leave a comment.

Cookie Decorating Party

A cookie decorating party is a great way to bring friends together to enjoy a group activity. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I have been thinking of activities that could be done as a group with my coupled and single friends.  A cookie decorating party is definitely on the list. In December, Ed and I hosted a Holiday Cookie Decorating party. Together with 5 friends we spent a relaxed Sunday evening getting creative.

I made the sugar cookies using Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Recipe (recipe below). Please note that my recipe is from an older edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook and is not currently found on the company website.  Next, I cut the cookies using various christmas cookie cutters I purchased at Michaels. We used sprinkles, m&ms, and icing to decorate.

Helpful Tip: Popsicle sticks are great to use for icing cookies. And, they are inexpensive and disposable. Less work for you.

Some people got very creative with their cookie decorating skills:

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. One that I can’t wait to recreate for future holidays.

Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

1. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla
2. In a separate bowl, combine together flour, baking soda and salt
3. Gradually mix dry ingredients into butter/sugar mixture and stir until incorporated (can be done by hand, but I use a stand mixer)
4. Place in refrigerator until cold (approx. 1 hour)
5. Pre-heat oven to 400ºF
6. Roll out quarter of dough till approx. 1 1/2 inches thick (make sure your counter/work space is floured!)
7. Cut cookies using cookie cutters
8. Place on un-greased cookie sheet
9. Bake 6-8 minutes or until the edges turn brown
10. Cool completely on a wire rack
11. Enjoy

January 13, 2011. Celebrations, Dessert, Holiday, Recipes, Themed Party. 2 comments.

Dinner Party Detour

We were ready to go for Saturday night…and then the hubs got sick. Very very sick. Fever, cough, etc. There was no way we could have friends over and risk subjecting them to his illness. So, we cancelled. 

But, not wanting the groceries to go to waste, and wanting to take care of the hubs, I used what we had to create a “comfort food” meal. Cream of Asparagus soup and rustic grilled cheese sandwiches.

The soup is not that difficult to make, but it does involve numerous steps (I promise once you make it just one time, you will realize how easy it is).

Cream of Asparagus Soup:

Ingredients:
– 16 oz. Fat Free Half and Half
– 3 bunches asparagus (fresh not frozen) 1 inch cut off bottoms
– 1 stick butter
– 1 medium/large white onion chopped
– 1 box (aprox. 16 oz.) chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted if vegetarian)
– 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes
– 4 cups water
– 2-3 tablespoons of corn starch
– dash garlic powder
– salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth, water, bouillon and onion to a boil. Boil for 10 min then let rest.
2. In a large saute pan place 2 cups water and asparagus stalks. Cover and heat on medium heat for 4 minutes (if your pan isn’t big enough, you can break this into 2-3 batches).
3. Cut asparagus stalks into thirds.
4. In a food processor, puree asparagus in batches. Placed puree’d asparagus in separate bowl.
5. Ladle onions out of broth and place with puree’d asparagus (if you get some broth with the onions, that is ok).
6. Puree onions and previously puree’d asparagus (in batches if necessary).
7. Return to broth. Add butter, half and half.
8. Bring soup to high simmer stirring occasionally. Add garlic powder and salt and pepper.
9. Ladle 1 cup of soup into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Whisk until blended, return to soup. Continue stirring.
10. Continue step 9 until soup is thickened to desire thickness (if you add too much corn starch, use milk to thin the soup out).
11. Let soup simmer for at least 15 minutes on the stove before serving.

This recipe should serve 8 adults. What if I am cooking for fewer people you ask? Freeze the soup for a nice meal down the road. Or place in the refrigerator for leftovers. The soup can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. In my opinion, homemade soup always tastes better the next day (like pizza!).

Rustic Grilled Cheese Sandwiches:

Ingredients:
– Loaf of bread, sliced thickly (buy the kind you slice, not the pre-sliced kind for a more rustic style sandwich. I used a fresh country white loaf found at my local grocery store)
– Sharp cheddar cheese
– Spreadable butter infused with olive oil. My favorite can be found here.

1. Butter both sides of the bread.
2. Place bread on a skillet, medium heat.
3. Once the butter melts/bread softens. Add at least 2 slices of cheddar cheese to every other slice. With the remaining slices, place on top of cheese to create a sandwich.
4. Flip sandwich every 45 seconds or so.
5. After 4-5 minutes the sandwich should be browned nicely on both sides. Slice and serve.

Get creative with your grilled cheese sandwiches. You can add sliced tomatoes, bacon, ham chunks (or really, anything you can think of)! Or, try different types of cheese. Swiss, provolone, muenster…the options are endless.

While not the “finer things” dinner party we were preparing for, I can report that 24 hours later, eating this meal (and eating leftovers the next day!), combined with antibiotics and lots of TLC, the hubs is on his way back to normal. Now we just need to reschedule the dinner party!

January 9, 2011. Recipes, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Menu

As you know, the menu for Saturday has one catch: one of the guests eats no meat. She does eat fish however (whew!). Knowing this, and keeping within the theme of the “finer things,” I need to create a menu that will both satisfy the “meat and potatoes” crowd and my fish-only guest. And, because I will have very little time to cook, I need a meal that is relatively easy and quick to make.

Before I divulge the menu, you should know a few things: 1) We live in New York City where purchasing food is exponentially more expensive; 2) all meals are created in a better-than-average-for-new-york-city but piss-poor-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-country galley kitchen; 3) while not necessarily on a budget when it comes to food shopping, I am fiscally conservative and know that I would rather put my money towards a new pair of shoes then food (stay tuned because if you are like me, then you aren’t going to want to miss my tips for creating a 5-star gourmet meal on a budget!).

The Food:

  • Hors d’oeuvres: Strawberry Brie en Croute with crackers and sliced apples. (see below for the receipe)
  • First Course: Homemade cream of asparagus soup, garnished with asparagus stalks, creme fraiche and crostinis. (recipes to follow in a later post)
  • Main Course: Crab stuffed dover sole accompanied by fresh green beans and onion oven-roasted potatoes, and crescent rolls. (recipes to follow in a later post)
  • Dessert: One of the guests has offered to bring dessert. But, as I like to be prepared, I will also have fresh fruit and a devils food cake ready to go as back-up. (recipe: duncan hines devils food cake from the box and followed to a T….ssshh!)

The Drinks:

  • Water: Always put a glass of water at each person’s place. This is the responsible thing to do.
  • Wedding Wine – Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec: The husband and I love our wine. Luckily, due to my Father’s miscalculations about the quantity of alcohol needed at the wedding (*separate post to follow about this!*) we have cases upon cases of Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec, an absolutely amazing wine. We love it (and yup – it is free to us, since it was previously purchased by my parents. Score!), so going forward, you will commonly hear it referred to as “wedding wine”
  • Ice Wine: For Christmas, we received a lovely trio of ice wine. What better time to serve a bottle then during the first dinner party of the year. Ice Wine is a dessert wine which is best served very cold, so make sure you refrigerate it for a couple of days before serving. It is also a sweet wine, so use a port glass or smaller glass to serve it in (or, if you don’t have small glasses, just pour less into a regular glass).
  • Coffee: Many people enjoy an after dinner coffee. Always make sure to have extra milk/cream, sugar and artificial sweetener on hand.

As mentioned previously, one of my favorite “tricks” is to combine store-bought items with homemade items to create food that is deceivingly simple. Case in point:

Strawberry Brie en Croute:

What you will need:
1 Brie Wheel
1 Jar Strawberry preserves (you can substitue for any flavor preserves)
1 package frozen/fresh puffed pastry
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
2. On a cookie sheet unroll the puffed pastry and place brie wheel in the center.
3. Spoon the presererves on the top of the brie wheel (no need to be neat about this!)
4. Fold up the edges of the puffed pastry covering the top of the brie wheel and preserves. Cut off any extra dough if needed.
5. Whisk the egg and water in a bowl and brush the top and sides of the pastry with the mixture (this creates a beautiful browning)
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with crackers, bread, nuts or apple slices. Enjoy!

January 7, 2011. Menu, Recipes. Leave a comment.

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