Friday, May 28, 2010

Cheese Fondue, Potato Salad, Veggie Pizza, Chocolate Mint Squares, Chocolate Fondue, Coffee Cake, Lemon Drop Martini

Cheese Fondue, Potato Salad, Veggie Pizza, Chocolate Mint Squares, Chocolate Fondue, Coffee Cake, Lemon Drop Martini

Happy Birthday to Kori! For her birthday we had a little dinner party at my apartment. I started the morning grocery shopping and returned home. My mom had stopped by after church to drop off my camera that I had forgotten at her house. I thought she would just stay for a little while, but she ended up staying until dinner to help me prepare and cook. Thanks Mom! We quickly started on the Chocolate Mint Squares (Mom) as they needed to set for 4 hours. After the squares were in the freezer my mom took a seat at the table and began to chop…and chop..and chop! She sliced and diced like the expert that she is. I worked on the Coffee Cake (Amanda A.) which gave me a little trouble. I hadn’t evenly dispersed the 4 butter cubes in my streusel topping so there was dry cinnamon streusel on top of the baking cake. So much for a nice brown top! But I had the best idea yet, and I think Paula Deen from food network would agree. I just melted and dumped more butter on the thing. My mom put it well, “butter never hurts.” Jeff came home just in time to help me prepare a little bit. As I squeezed fresh lemon juice for martinis he tried to make lemon twists. Our lemon twist creation device is not top notch and it took Jeff so long to make them.
Once everyone arrived Jeff mixed up some Lemon Drop Martinis and I started on a Cheddar Cheese fondue upon Kori’s request. I can officially call myself a cheese making expert; because this one was delicious!
Everyone pretty much filled up on the cheese and they were slightly worried about how much more they had to eat. We then had potato Salad (Holly) which I accidently drowned in paprika and Vegetable Pizza (Mom). I had also utilized some fresh spices from my garden (chives for the cheese and parsley for the pizza). Recently, I bought some fresh spices, pots and soil and was so excited to have fresh spices all the time. As this dinner party was a week ago, the spices were thriving. At the current moment, it is safe to say that the garden has failed. The apartment faces south and has a covered porch so I couldn’t get enough sunlight. My next action really put the project in the dump; I rigged up bungee cords to suspend the pots slightly over the edge of my porch. All was going well until I woke up one windy morning and my pot was gone, 2 stories down, and my bungee cord was dangling from the porch. I had to retrieve the plants which had fallen into a thorny bush below; I thought the best time to do so was when I was wearing a skirt and heels. I broke a branch, cut up my legs and was covered in sap all in one fail swoop!
Sorry, huge digression….
We finished the dinner with chocolate fondue, chocolate mint squares (which taste like mint chocolate chip ice cream) and coffee cake. It wasn’t until after we had finished our martinis that I realized we had forgotten the lemon twists Jeff had spent so long making. Opps! I think the strength of the martinis assisted in this mistake. And of course, we played Wii. Amanda is a terrible rower (sorry!), Kori found her calling as a rower and the sword fighting was intense! Mike even held his own despite having a very bad reaction to the cat. I made everybody take leftovers this time so my next blog isn’t, “how I gained 100 pounds."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brunch Pizza, Strawberry Pie, Creamy Dreamy Pie, Sugar Cookies, Macaroni Salad, Calico Beans, Spinach Dip

Brunch Pizza, Strawberry Pie, Creamy Dreamy Pie, Sugar Cookies, Macaroni Salad, Calico Beans, Spinach Dip

I know this is late, but Happy Mother’s Day out there to all those Moms! I decided that, with help of my sisters and brother-in-law, we would do all the cooking for a Mother’s Day lunch with the family. The madness started Saturday night when I went grocery shopping. My Mom was supposed to stay at home and RELAX! Perhaps take a bath or watch crime shows, but she couldn’t handle it. She insisted that since it was Mother’s Day weekend she could do what she wanted, and that she wanted to help me grocery shop. We got through everything pretty quickly and indulged in a few cheese samples along the way. After that I went to visit my grandparent’s new dog Skippy and then came home to start the madness. The family was watching Avatar as Ali and Rob had not seen it yet and I worked on the pies and prep work. The Creamy Dreamy Pie was very easy and didn’t take long to make. The Strawberry Pie (Grandma Alice) was a different story. I prepared the crust and the strawberries and then made a jello mixture that was to be poured over top. The directions stated to let it set up a bit in the fridge before pouring. I got very impatient and decided that it would be fine and went to pour. Not a good idea….the jello was too liquidy and soaked into the pie crust. Then, I didn’t think to stop pouring as the red ooze inched to the top of the crust. OVERFLOW! I had been pouring over a bar pan, so thankfully the mess was contained; but the pie was a mess. I tried to salvage the crust by wiping off the red jello with a paper towel, but to no avail. I also made the Macaroni Salad (Jan). As I said, I didn’t want my Mom to do any work this weekend but on my return home from visiting the puppy, she stated nonchalantly, ‘oh there are some chopped cheese cubes and chopped celery I made for you for the macaroni salad’. She is not following the rules very well! So I try and get all this food in the already stuffed fridge and it is just not going to happen. I considered drinking the remaining milk, but decided that would not be good. I made an executive decision…I would leave the Kool-Aid out of the fridge. Terrible idea! I was lying on the couch to finish the movie when I heard a very ticked off voice from the kitchen, my dad, “why is the Kool-Aid out!? I don’t think so. This isn’t going to work for me”. I was so tired and cranky that I just flipped out a bit, for god sake, it is just Kool-Aid! A little later it was revealed that I actually left his Pepsi can out too on accident. At this point I was in more trouble than Ali and Rob’s mischievous dog Albus.
So the next morning I get up at 6:30, start the coffee and set the table, and wait for my siblings to awake so we could start breakfast. I eventually went into my Ali’s room and gave her a couple of firm pokes in the arm….’15 more minutes!’ Oh come on! Eventually Ali and Rob made it out of bed and I left it to Ali to wake Shannon. We made a brunch pizza recipe from my mom, Jan. Rob took care of the hash brown crust, Ali took care of the eggs, I fried up some bacon and got the toppings together and Shannon cut up strawberries and toppings. My mom walked down as we were cooking and we demanded that she wait for us to bring her breakfast in bed. Our demands were ignored though, she would rather sit and talk to us than be sitting awake in bed.
So my dad, mom and we kids all ate a nice breakfast together and had some laughs. We talked about comedians and trunk monkeys (look it up on youtube, good stuff).
As we cleaned up and I prepared to keep cooking a grave discovery was made. Ali was the first to speak up, ‘ummm Jenna, you must have spilled red jello all over Mom’s new rugs last night.’ SHOOT! My mom came down the stairs and I had to tell her, and also ask her how she preferred I wash them. The only thing worse than spilling on the rug would have been wrecking the rugs in the washer. I sheepishly say, “Mom, I have to tell you something”. Ali is standing next to me with a big smirk, gloating at the trouble I will be in; she chimes in, “Mom this is going to be the best possible start to your Mother’s Day” sarcastically of course. I spill the beans but….she is not mad! Hooray! So I wash the rugs and they only have a tiny drop of red that would not come out.
I started to make the Calico Beans (Gretchen) and had felt like the lima beans were suppose to be green, not white, so I called Gretchen to confirm. They are in fact supposed to be green, so I requested that Ali and Rob pick some up at the store because they had other shopping to do. I was slightly overbearing and mentioned not to forget the lima beans, they are by the canned veggies, at least 3 times. The Spinach dip (Jenny) was easy and really delicious. Rob suggests the addition of artichoke for next time.
Ali, Rob and Shannon made and frosted some sugar cookies. Rob had the idea to make little flowers on top of them. Ali was the first to admit that they kind of looked like nipples. Ha! I guess it goes with the Mother’s Day theme. So we set all of the food out with hoagie sandwiches. As I waited for people to arrive I couldn’t help but sample the bread and spinach dip. I should wear a shock collar to keep myself away from bread….that probably wouldn’t even work!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gluten Free Brownies, Black Bean Casserole, Tandoori Tofu, Margaritas

Ingredients for the brownies

Gluten Free Brownies, Black Bean Casserole, Tandoori Tofu, Margaritas

I cooked up the Gluten Free Brownies the night before we were to have Dan and Serena over for dinner and Wii games. Jeff had gotten all of the groceries together except Amaranth flour, which needed to be purchased at Whole Foods. After driving to Littleton and back to take advantage of 5 cent photo prints at the Kings there; I stopped by Whole Foods. I got a little carried away….along with the flour I left the store with 4 spice plants (chives, basil, parsley and catnip). I am going to attempt to keep them growing on my porch. I also made a stop at Lowes to get pots to plant them in, cilantro and soil (which I now have a huge bag of…anybody need some soil?). I digress. So anyway, I made up the brownies which are gluten free, egg free and dairy free (I assumed they would taste like crap) and got them in the oven. I was cleaning up my mess and putting chip clips on all the different kinds of flours I had to buy. Oh, lookie here, the Amaranth flour doesn’t need to be clipped, good… not good! I didn’t open it; I forget it in the recipe! I had just put the brownies in so I pulled them out to try and stir in the flour. And it actually worked! (I know, I was just as surprised as you are). So the brownies were done and I thought I would give a little taste to avoid the embarrassment of serving cardboard to people and I was pleasantly surprised. The brownies were awesome! They tasted just like normal human food. Success!
So, the next day Jeff and I started to cook up dinner. The Black Bean Casserole (Gretchen) is really good, really easy and very balanced (rice, beans, salsa, tomatoes, garlic, onion, green pepper, cheese, and sour cream). Jeff worked on the Tandoori Tofu and rice. I suggested he cut the tofu into cubes and Jeff wanted to do it in strips like chicken (chicken is in the original recipe). I thought that was a little silly as it isn’t chicken; Serena suggested triangles and the crisis was averted…triangles it is! This Tandoori spice rub is SPICY. The kind of spicy that is near unbearable but you can’t wait to go back for another bite. Dan mixed up the Margaritas (ignoring the low recommendation of tequila amount, which I appreciated) and we ate dinner, drank margs and played Wii. The night ended in a game of Cranium that Jeff and I lost miserably, “come on honey, that looks just like a tambourine”. We finished the night with the brownies topped with ice cream and fudge for dessert.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Guest Recipes!

Chili-Lime Meatballs - Penny (prepared at a Pampered Chef Party)

Cinnamon Crisps - Penny (prepared for a Pampered Chef Party)

Hot Fudge - Jenny

Bannana Cake - Jenny

Lasagna - Jenny (I had two large helpings!)

Quinoa, Blackbean, Cilantro Mix - Jennifer Tree (talk about healthy)

Tandori Spiced Tofu Wrap with Cilantro Yogurt (SPICY!)

Red Velvet Cake - Made by Debbie and Bob (favorite birthday dessert of Jenny)

Sante Fe Chicken - Bob and Debbie

Baked Mac and Cheese with Truffle Oil and Nutmeg - My beautiful cheese creation!

Turkey Wrap - Penny (it was too easy of a recipe for me to screw up and write about)

Oyster Crackers - 'J' Family recipe, made this day by Josh

Tequila Sunrise

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Baked Macaroni, Strawberry Salad, Cheddar Cheese fondue, Yin/Yang Chocolate

Baked Macaroni, Strawberry Salad, Cheddar Cheese fondue, Yin/Yang Chocolate

Ahh prom. What a lovely time…you get dressed up, your hair is done, your nails are done, you get dinner with your date and dance the night away….too bad I am just the cook for the evening! All joking aside, I was really excited to have Shannon and her boyfriend Connor over for dinner before the prom. Shannon called, she was so nice, ‘since you are a good chef and all now, would you cook us dinner?’ Her well placed compliment made the decision easy; I would love to show off my cooking skills.
I started out with a cheddar cheese fondue, similar to the Melting Pot recipe, but with vegetable broth instead of the beer base as Shannon is not too keen on beer and they are under 21! I deserve an extensive round of applause, because get this….the fondue was great! This was my fourth try at making fondue and I was hoping it would work! I was careful to dust all of the cheese with flour and the consistency turned out fabulous!
As they ate I checked on the Strawberry Salad (Jenny). It is a Midwestern ‘salad’ recipe…jello, marshmallows, dream whip and strawberries. It was supposed to set for 4 hours and I had only gotten it in the fridge 2 hours ago…bummer, it hadn’t solidified. Last year at this moment, I would have panicked, decided the whole dinner was ruined and FREAKED OUT! Not this time…I can keep my cool. I rummaged around my fridge and produced an extremely simple fruit salad; oranges and strawberries. It was better than nothing!
The next course is mouthwatering! I made two baked macaroni dishes; one for Shannon and Connor and the other for myself and Jeff. The first had cavatappi (corkscrew) noodles with a homemade cheese sauce (lots of butter, milk, flour, cheddar and mozzarella cheese) and was topped with bread crumbs. They loved it….well except for the bread crumbs. I tried to make them by hand instead of buying a package of bread crumbs, but my bread was too soft and ended up in chunks on the top. A good attempt but not quite what I was looking for. The other macaroni had the same base ingredients but I added white truffle oil ($16 for 12oz!) and nutmeg. The white truffle oil permeated the whole dish and I had only used a teaspoon. The stuff is heavenly! White truffle oil has a really strong, kind of different flavor, but for some reason I love the stuff (interesting considering I hate mushrooms).
Side note: in between my slow effort to get each course out, Shannon and Connor sat on my couch watching NCIS…I have taught them well!
For the final course I melted down some milk chocolate and white chocolate and mixed it with a little milk. I tried to make a yin yang like they do at the Melting Pot and was fairly successful. All those tips I learned from Mauricio and Alejandro (Melting Pot employees) really paid off. Thanks guys! I served the chocolate with brownie bites, pound cake bites, rice crispy bites, strawberry slices and banana slices. I drove the stuffed kids down to the dance and worked on all the dishes I had incurred. Anyone want a job as a dishwasher at my house? I pay in cheese.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie, Raspberry Blue Cheese Salad, Peanut Clusters

Chicken Pot Pie, Raspberry Blue Cheese Salad, Peanut Clusters

First of all can I say, watching the Nuggets and other teams in the playoffs is cool and all…but please don’t schedule the games over Bones! TBS from 5-8 is Bones time…get it straight.
So I coerced Jeff into going shopping with me and helping me cook. We stopped at Kings with a massive list of recipe items and other normal items we needed. For the most part we stuck together; but Jeff went off to go get cashews and sunflowers from the ‘fill your own bag’ area. He comes back with a gigantic bag of both, the cashew bag costing over $13! Having both of us shop before dinner was not the best idea and we ended up with the highest grocery bill I have ever had. True we got a lot of items we don’t always get (detergent, toilet paper, paper towels etc.) but I felt sick to my stomach about the bill. I called my mom to try and make me feel better; she said ‘don’t worry, that included food for Saturday right?’….it didn’t. Bahumbug. I am cooking for my little sister Shannon and her boyfriend for their prom dinner; should be posted next week sometime (teaser: baked macaroni).
We started cooking, Jeff on the meat and the chopping and me on the cooking and organizing. I am pretty sure I screwed up the chicken pot pie. The directions made it seem like I needed to cook the piecrusts before I added the innards. It didn’t seem right, but I did it anyway. Turns out that wasn’t right. When the instructions told me to seal the edges of the bottom and top pie crust I knew I was screwed…they were cooked! I couldn’t mold them. So instead of a beautiful chicken pot pie with slits in the top and warm steam escaping I got a broken, maybe a little overcooked, pie crust plopped on the top. So much for the picture I was hoping for! It all still tasted the same and Jeff mentioned multiple times, “This is one that you should make again!”
Jeff made most of the Raspberry Blue Cheese Salad (from my cousin Christie). It had green apples, avocado, blue cheese, green onions, dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette. I thought it was pretty good sans the dried cranberries (I love fresh cranberries and cranberry juice, but hate the dried ones). Jeff was in heaven and started and finished his meal with a serving of this salad.
The peanut clusters (Jenny) were pretty easy. I had to call Jenny first though, “so I have all the ingredients listed but not really any instructions”. As it turns out you melt the chocolates, add the peanuts and form a cluster…hence the name peanut clusters. Jeff and I decided to go to Target to pick up Avatar but could not leave the peanut clusters to dry out in the open. Max would have had a hay day and probably would have been very sick or maybe even dead (at least I would get some sleep that way…oh gosh, I can’t believe I said that, I am a terrible mommy). So I laid the clusters on my bed and shut the door to avoid disaster.
I finished the night ‘watching’ Avatar and by watching I mean falling asleep 30 minutes in. This cooking business is hard work!