Sunday, October 31, 2010

Now People...

My title had a typo! You readers, out there, all three of you, why didn't you say anything?

So, a very quick update on the dinner party. Overall: successful. Manatee and I have progressed a long way from the grilling Memorial Day weekend debacle. I had a few surprise standouts, namely the salad, and some disappointments (I do not like gruyere cheese, I do not like it here nor there, I do not like it anywhere).

More later, with recipes...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dinner Party Part 1

I think I may be stretching to say that we are having a dinner party tonight because we are, just in fact, having a family over for dinner. But there will be more than the two of us which equals party and we will be having dinner. Therefore, I am calling it a dinner party.

This party at which we are having dinner has had two menus. My first one was much more well planned out and fancy without being fancy. Then I got hit by a bus earlier this week- or at least I felt like I got hit by a bus, so I wanted to both make it easy and limit my contact with food that will not be cooked at high temperatures before my guests have it.

As with all planned events, I had an awesome, organized grocery list. Not only did I categorize it, I also put it in the order that I would find the stuff in the store. Yes, I am that anal and I know my grocery store that well. I (like with many other planned events) proceeded to leave this list at home and take my first list, a chicken scratch approximation, with me to the store. This meant that I both forgot things and I had to double back in the store when I realized the next item on my list was three aisles back.

I also discovered two things. Copps does not carry instant espresso powder and Gruyere cheese is the single most difficult thing to find. There was one 2 inch block in all of the store. A trip that should have taken 30 minutes took over an hour, and all the while I was being chased by a screaming toddler. Now I have friends who have children and I am sympathetic to a point but I would hope that if my friends' children were screaming for 30 minutes straight, they would leave the store and not follow some poor woman, who is already muttering to herself, around Copps. No matter where I was in the store, they were in the aisle behind me. Even when I doubled back or spent 20 minutes going through every coffee product Copps sells, I could hear them behind me. I think they had a radar or some other tracking device.

So, without further adieu, here is the menu for tonight's dinner:

Braised Onion dip with veggies and vegetable chips
Stuffed Mushrooms (with spinach and Gruyere cheese)

Spinach, radicchio, arugula
Sweet and Spicy Sesame Walnuts
Turkey Bacon
Red Onion
Homemade Poppy Dressing

Entree: Italian Beef Sandwiches with Havarti Cheese
Roasted Potatoes and Butternut Squash
Roasted Green Beans

Dessert: Hot Fudge Cakes

Last night, I made the onion dip, sweet and spicy sesame walnuts and got the beef started. Before guests arrive, I am planning to do the following:
-Go back to the store to get the rest of what I forgot yesterday
-make the poppyseed dressing
-Peel and cut the squash
-Pre-bake and stuff the mushrooms
-Clean and prepare the green beans
-go back to the store to get what I forgot on my second trip
-Stir up the hot fudge cakes

Right before they arrive, I will just need to put the mushrooms and potatoes in the oven. So the only things I will actually make when they are here are the green beans and I will put the cakes in the oven when we sit down to eat.

That's the plan at least. We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slow Cooker Veggie Chili

It seems everyone has a veggie chili recipe and like everyone, I think mine is totally the best. I actually wasn't going to post this but I was going to type it up to send a friend and thought, heck why not just put it on the blog?

So here is my 'this-is-the-best-chili-you'll-ever-have' recipe:

2 large carrots diced (1 cup)
2 or 3 celery ribs diced (1/2 cup)
1 medium sweet onion diced
2 8 oz pkgs of sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large zucchini diced (1 1/2 cup)
1 yellow squash diced (1 cup)

1 Tbsp Chili powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground seasoned pepper

1 8 oz can tomato sauce
3 cups tomato juice (or you can use salsa for an extra kick)
2 14 1/2 oz cans of diced tomatoes undrained
4 15 oz cans of pinto, black, great Northern or kidney beans (any combo you want) rinsed and drained
1 cup of frozen corn

1. Saute first 3 ingredients in large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium high heat 10 minutes or until onions are translucent

Add mushrooms, zucchini, and squash, saute 3 more minutes

Add Chili powder, basil and pepper and saute for more 5 more minutes

2. While that is sauteing, stir together tomato sauce and tomato juice in a 6 qt slow cooker.

Stir in diced tomatoes, beans and corn.

Add carrot/onion/veggie mixture.

3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Balsamic Beets

1 cooked beet sliced
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Crumbled Goat Cheese

The entree was just a conglomeration of leftover pizza ingredients. This last Saturday, I had my nephews over and we made our own pizzas. I had leftover marinara, chicken sausage, and shredded cheese (Romano, Parmesan and Mozzarella: thank you food processor). I also had some sad looking basil and sundried tomatoes. I made the pasta and then drained it but left just a little pasta water. I stirred in the cheese, sausage, sun dried tomatoes and basil, and left it all on low. I have to say it turned out pretty darn good for a made up recipe.

So, this week's challenge:

I finally faced my fear: the pressure cooker and now we have all these beets. Okay, so my other fear was cooking beets, so two fears faced. The first night I quartered three of the red ones, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then made a greek yogurt and chive dipping sauce. Yum.

You saw the results from night 2, but I still have 9 beets and I am out of ideas. Help please??

Friday, October 1, 2010

A few recipes and lessons learned from the dinner party

As I am enjoying leftover crust-less pumpkin pie over lunch, I thought I would share a few recipes and some leassons learned.

My last minute add on to the appetizers--goat cheese empanadas and roasted red pepper sauce- ended up being awesome! I am always a little leery of Real Simple's recipes because of some previous bad experiences but this was easy and impressive.

Refridgerated Pie Crust (feeling a little less dirty about using them in this recipe than I have in the past)
Goat cheese 2 oz per pie crust

Spread out the pie crust. Cut small circles (approx. 3 inch diameter). I used a glass to do this. Put a LITTLE bit of goat cheese in center. Wet the outer edge of the circle and fold over. Then use a fork to press it together and give the edges a nice crimped look.

*You really only need a little goat cheese. I had a terrible experience making ricotta and jam pockets (shudder, cringe) and I put in too much filling. It was a mess! And it was disgusting so it was a lose-lose.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Real Simple said to pair this with corn salsa. You could, but I think it's much better with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. The sweetness of the sauce goes well with the goat cheese.

The other big hit of the party were the crust-less individual pumpkin pies. Essentially use your favorite pumpkin pie filling recipe (I have an awesome WW one that is fairly healthy) and put the filling in little ramekins and bake until the center is firm.

Two things I added that I would never do without: spiced whipped cream and ginger snaps.

For the spiced whip cream, whip heavy cream with:
2 parts cinnamon
2 parts ground ginger
1 part ground cloves
1 part allspice

Last night, I did 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp of cloves and allspices. As I eat my leftover individual pie, I am still debating whether I would increase that or not. It's pretty subtle now and I can't decide if I want to risk the spices overtaking the dessert or if it would just enhance it.

Lessons Learned

1. If you want to actually enjoy the night: 1) Serve an appetizer so people don't get too hungry 2)Have a schedule! My biggest slip up was that I forgot to put something on the schedule and had to rush it so it didn't turn out quite as I planned.
2. People don't know if you screw up and are forgiving. I always have to remember that. Did people know the sauce was supposed to be thicker? Well not until I just admitted it now but oh well.