Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pool Party

Summer is almost coming to end and I was fortunate enough to enjoy a little pool date with two of my sisters and their baby boys one Friday afternoon. We had a simple light lunch by the pool and had so much fun playing with the boys in the water.

Everything for the lunch I bought in one quick trip to Trader Joe's. The menu is below along with recipes for the salads. And if you haven't enjoyed a leisurely afternoon by the pool, make sure to try and squeeze one in before the summer sun is gone.

Pool Party Menu
  • Chicken salad (recipe below)
  • Mango avocado salad (recipe below)
  • Apricot almond tart
  • Animal cookies (for the babies)
  • Iced tea
  • L'ambrusco bianco (sparkling white wine)
  • Sparkling berry lemonade (to mix with the l'ambrusco)

Chicken Salad
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, diced
  • 1 gala apple, diced
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried currents
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon honey dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
In a small bowl, prepare the dressing. Whisk mayonnaise, mustard, celery seed, and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix chicken, apple, almonds and currents. Toss with dressing. The currents will plump up after soaking in the dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can store for 2-3 days.

Mango Avocado Salad
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 bag of baby romaine lettuce
  • 1 bottle of poppyseed dressing
Fill a serving bowl with lettuce, lay mango and avocado on top. Toss carefully with dressing right before serving.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pretty Party Table

I'm in love with this Dessert Table setting featured by Crate & Barrel. Sage green and cotton candy pink were my wedding colors and we served pink and white candies in glass vases just like this. Makes me want to throw a shower!

These green dishes are so classic and simple (they match my house as well). Wouldn't they look great sprinkled with some bright red dishes at Christmastime?

Fun, fun, fun!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Angel Food Cupcakes with Peaches, Raspberry Sauce, & Biscotti Crumbles

Angel Food Cupcakes with Peaches, Raspberry Sauce & Biscotti Crumbles. Now isn't that the longest recipe name ever? And I even left out the whipped cream. I just couldn't think of anything catchy and shorter to capture this dessert. Your naming suggestions are welcome!

My man and I created this recipe while trying to come up with a dessert for his birthday that would be light & summery and travel well. His birthday plans included dinner at our favorite local Chinese Restaurant follwed by a dessert picnic along the grassy strand at the Dana Point Harbor.

I packed all the dessert components individually in a cooler and we assembled the dessert at the harbor. For this occasion I packed frozen Cool Whip instead of whipped cream so it would keep well in the cooler during dinner. For the biscotti we used Nonni's Cioccolatti Biscotti which added a little layer of rich dark chocolate to the dessert. We also found that the almond flavor of the biscotti worked really well with angel food cake.

We loved this dessert and found that it was hard to eat just one serving even though we were stuffed from dinner. I can't think of a more perfect way to spend a summer evening than sitting out in the harbor watching boats float by and enjoying a summertime dessert.

[Aren't these cupcake liners adorable? My sister-in-law gave them to me for Christmas along with a whole box full of cupcake goodies. I highly reccomend these liners, the paper is thick and waxy and much sturdier that regular liners.]

[Raspberry Dessert Sauce recipe can be found here]

Angel Food Cake with Peaches, Raspberry Sauce and Biscotti Crumbles
Makes 12 portions
  • 1 box of Angel Food Cake mix
  • Water
  • 12 cupcake liners
  • 6 peaches
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 package of fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 carton of Cool Whip or other whipped cream
  • 4 Biscotti, crumbled

Step 1. Prepare the Angel Food Cake mix and bake according to the package directions for cupcakes. Cool and store in a cupcake carrier or other sealed container.

Step 2. Using the raspberries and 1/4 cup sugar, prepare the Raspberry Dessert Sauce according to the directions in this earlier post. Place into a storage container and refridgerate.

Step 3. Peel and slice peaches. Place into a storage container. Toss with the lemon juice to prevent browning and 2 Tbsp of sugar. Refridgerate until ready to use. The sugar will dissolve with the peach juice and create a nice syrup coating on the peaches. Cover and refridgerate.

Step 4. Assemble your cupcakes! Place each cupcake on dessert plates, surround with 2 spoonfuls of peaches, top with a dollop of whipped cream, drizzle with raspberry sauce and sprinkle biscotti crumbles on top.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Raspberry Dessert Sauce

Fresh fruit sauces are so simple to make (it really only takes 5 minutes) and can really add a special touch to desserts of all kinds. This recipe is for a Raspberry sauce but you can substitute it with any type of berry. Try fruit dessert sauces on ice cream, cupcakes (like these Angel Food Cupcakes with Peaches and Biscotti), brownies, chocolate cake, creme brulee, cheesecake...I'm sure you could keep the list going with me!

Raspberry Dessert Sauce
  • 1 package fresh raspberries (can substitue with frozen)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1/8 cup water

In a small saucepan bring all ingredients to a simmer. Let simmer for 5 minutes until sugar is disolved and fruit is softened and broken down. The longer you simmer, the less chunky the sauce will be. Remove from heat. Store covered in the refridgerator.

If using strawberries, you can mash berries after cooking to desired consistancy. If fruit is bland and lacking flavor (i.e. frozen) 1 Tbsp of lemon juice will help brighten up the flavor of the sauce.

Variation: substitue with strawberries, blueberries or blackberries

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Simplest Sauce

3 ingredients, that's all you need to make a simple, tasty, tomato sauce: onion, butter and tomatoes. Who knew? When I found out about this sauce over at Smitten Kitchen I had to try it. It just couldn't be very good, could it? So I bought the three ingredients and gave it a whirl. And I have to say, its pretty darn good. It's simple, it's easy, it's cheap and it's velvety. It has to be the butter. After all butter makes everything better. Lidia Bastianich always tosses in a pat or two into her sauce. This one is worth keeping in your back pocket for a quick dinner.

The second time I made it, I added in some fresh basil and I liked it even better. A little red pepper flakes can never hurt either, that's on my mental list for my next go around. That's the beautiful thing about pasta sauce, you can doctor it up in so many ways and still never go wrong.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4
  • 1-28 oz can whole peeled Roma tomatoes (San Marzano's are best)
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 5 fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1 pound egg fettuccine (or other pasta)
  • Salt
In a saucepan, simmer tomatoes, onion, butter and basil leaves for 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally and crush the tomatoes against the pan with your spoon to break them down. Simmer until the tomatoes are crushed and the onion is softened. Salt to taste.

Meanwhile cook pasta according to the package directions. Top with tomato sauce.

Tip: Buy a good quality imported egg pasta. The difference in taste and texture is worth the extra dollar or two. Good pasta even tastes better as leftovers versus cheap pasta. I go to a local Italian Market and stock up a variety of pasta types to avoid buying it at the grocery store.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Parmesan Toasts with Eggs and Asparagus

Just looking at this photograph makes me want to eat it for dinner again right now...and we just had this for dinner tonight! This is a great simple dish for a light supper or a sophisticated brunch. Aren't they beautiful? I bet this recipe would also work well with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, but why complicate a good thing.

Parmesan Toasts with Eggs & Asparagus
  • 4 slices of thick crusty bread
  • 12 stems of asparagus spears
  • 4 slices of Canadian bacon or prosciutto
  • 4 large eggs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Butter, softened
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
Step 1: Preheat broiler. Lay asparagus spears on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast in broiler for 5 minutes.

Step 2: Fry Canadian bacon in a frying pan over medium-high heat until browned. Set aside.

Step 3: Spread butter generously on bread. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Broil for 1 minute until lightly browned.

Step 4: Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in the frying pan used for bacon. Fry eggs one at a time until over easy, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

On a plate, layer prepared toast, Canadian bacon, 3 asparagus stalks and one egg.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Cleaner Broiler Pan

To keep from having to scrub...and scrub...and scrub the bottom of your broiler pan, just wrap the bottom half of the pan in foil. Then place the top half on top just as normal. You get to toss out the foil along with all the burned drippings from your food. Oh, and this was my husband's clever idea, he told me I'd better cite my sources!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Valentine's Week

My husband and I were each other's first long-term boyfriend/girlfriend. For "many" years I felt left out of the whole Valentine's Day/love fest and would plan a special night out with other singles on Valentine's Day. Looking back, I really didn't spend too many Valentine's alone, considering I started dating my man at 21. But when you're a teenager it feels like forever.

As you can imagine our first Valentine's was a big deal for me. I finally got to buy a romantic card and all the fun pink & red things you find in the stores. I was overwhelmed with too many options and the freedom to finally buy for someone special. So I came up with "Valentine's Week". Every day, for the week before Valentine's, I was going to give my man a little Valentine's treat. I made heart shaped sugar cookies and wrote handmade love notes. I even left him suprises at work. I thought he would think it was cheesey, but he seemed to enjoy it, so it became a tradition.

Then came the tradegy. Last year I decided not to do it. I'm not sure why, I guess I thought he was probably over it after 8 years together. I was very mistaken. He had bragged about it to a couple of the guys at his new office and was really disappointed when I didn't leave him treats throughout the week. I felt soooo bad! Why hadn't I at least asked him if he still wanted it? So now I need to make up for it and Valentine's Week will be back in action this year!

It can be tough to think of little things to give guys. Girls are so much easier to buy little things like lip gloss and note cards.

Here are some of the things I've used over the years:
  • Homemade heart shaped sugar cookies
  • Candy/chocolate
  • Gum
  • Trail mix/nuts
  • Hostess cupcakes
  • Hot sauce/salsa
  • Speciality bottled water/soda
  • A red rose
  • Paperback book/comic book
  • CD
  • DVD from the $5 section at Target
  • $5 gift cards

The Dollar Section at Target usually has some great finds for inexpensive gift bags, boxes & pails. I even found a red tin mail box this year!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tasha Tudor's Cornbread

A few weeks ago I was making my homemade chili and I thought it really deserves homemade cornbread. So I tried a Joy of Cooking recipe and it was awful! So I turned to my dad's cornbread recipe. He always made the best cornbread. It is from a beautifully illustrated cookbook by Tasha Tudor. It didn't disappoint. Cornbread just doesn't get better than this. I recommend using an iron skillet or my personal pick, this Scone Pan to get a nice crust on the outside of the cornbread.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 farm-fresh eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk, lukewarm
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an iron cornbread pan that makes 12 sticks, or a muffin tin, with peanut oil.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar and add the egg yolks, slightly beaten. Stir well. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt, then add it alternately with the milk to the creamed butter. Stir in the cornmeal, then fold in the beaten egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, until beautifully browned.

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