Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oreo Cream Cheese Truffles

These were really simple to make and I have lots of ideas on what else to do with them!  The cream cheese and cookies mixed together makes for a very soft, truffle-like consistency.

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 16.6 oz package Oreo cookies, crushed
Almond bark in the desired flavor (vanilla or chocolate, or both!)

Crush cookies (you can either do this with a food processor, or by placing in a ziplock back and by hand/rolling pin!)

Reserve about 1/2 a cup of the crushed cookies for garnishing.  Mix the softened cream cheese and rest of cookie crumbs until well blended.

Shape into 1 inch balls - your hands will get messy, but these were quite easy to mold.  I stuffed a little white chocolate in the middle as well (by melting white chocolate chips until soft and spooning some into the truffle before rolling into a ball).

Once you have molded all of the balls, melt the almond bark in a microwave safe bowl according to package directions.  Using a fork, dip each ball in melted chocolate and place on wax paper to dry.  Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs. Refrigerate for about an hour, or until firm.

Tips:   There are a lot of ways you could decorate or fill these - sprinkles or crushed nuts on top, peanut butter in the middle, using a different type of cookie for the filling.  It's a very versatile recipe so get creative!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shanghai Chicken Drummettes

This recipe was quite a find - nearly perfect as is!  I hardly made any changes, and it was delicious... and I don't even really like chicken.  This is also a great recipe for parties, since it is easy to make in advance (and difficult to screw up!).

3 lbs chicken wingettes 
1 cup hoisin sauce 
2 tbsp soy sauce 
2 tbsp sesame oil 
2 tbsp thai chili sauce 
1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced

Garnish: sesame seeds, sliced scallions

Whisk all of the ingredients besides the chicken and garnishes. Separate about a cup of the sauce and cover and refrigerate to use as a finishing glaze.

Pour remaining mixture into a large ziptop bag or tupperware container and add the chicken. Shake to coat the chicken pieces in the sauce. Refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Arrange the drumsticks on the tray in a single layer.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, turning chicken once, until tender.  After this step, you can either crisp the chicken immediately under the broiler, or cool and refrigerate until later.

Either way, when ready to prepare and serve the chicken, heat the oven to broil.  Brush the chicken with the finishing glaze.  Broil until crispy, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a platter.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions.  Enjoy!

Posh Popcorn

For my last dinner party, I wanted to make a fun appetizer ala Graham Elliott, and found this "recipe" for gourmet popcorn.  The seasonings and cheese give it a very intense flavor and everyone gobbled it up, so don't raise an eyebrow at this one - popcorn may not be fancy, but it sure tastes good!

1 bag microwave popcorn
3 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese 
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Prepare the popcorn according to the directions on the package.  When finished, pour it into a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle the popcorn with melted butter, then add the cheese, pepper, and garlic salt.  Serve while hot!  Also, don't eat too much of this - you'll get a tummy ache (learned from personal from experience...)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Black Bean Huevos Rancheros

If you read this blog regularly, you'll notice a lot of Mexican food popping up.  This is no coincidence.  If Mexican food had the opportunity, it would probably get a restraining order against me!

Pico de gallo:
1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Huevos Rancheros: 
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon (from 1 can) chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
8  corn tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 eggs


To make the salsa, stir the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, and garlic in a bowl until blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then refrigerate until needed.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Place 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat.
Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute until light brown.  While that is cooking, open the can of chipotle peppers and remove 2-3 of them and chop.  Add those, with about 1 teaspoon of the adobe sauce, into the pan.  Mix in the black beans, chicken broth, and simmer until beans are heated through, about 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat, and keep warm.

Place 4 of the tortillas on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the tortillas. Top with the remaining tortillas.  Bake tortillas in oven until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Place the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet, and heat over medium heat. Crack eggs into skillet, and cook to desired firmness.
To assemble huevos rancheros, place filled tortillas on serving plates. Top each tortilla with black bean mixture, a layer of salsa, and an egg. Serve while hot, with additional salsa if desired (yes please!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lobster Passion Fruit Ceviche

I stole this recipe from a restaurant and modified it to my own liking.  It's a delicious, refreshing, and tropical combination of flavors.

2 (1 1/2 pound) lobsters, cooked, chilled, and shelled
2 oranges, peeled and diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro 
2 tablespoons lime juice 
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup passion fruit juice
1 cup coconut milk 
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dice the lobsters into large pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, red pepper, and orange chunks.

In a separate bowl, combine the coconut milk, lime juice, orange juice, and passion fruit juice. Add the liquid to the lobster mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate until cold, then serve with tortilla chips.  This is the Nectar of the Gods!  Enjoy!

I served this with Dancing Belly, a cocktail and/or shot, for an appetizer cocktail pairing party.  Here's the recipe:  Dancing Belly

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Flaming Dr. Pepper

This drink is called the Flaming Dr. Pepper for the obvious reason that you set it on fire, before drinking it.  Proceed with caution!  The end result, inexplicably, really does taste like Dr. Pepper.

1 cup beer
1 oz amaretto liqueur
1/4 oz Bacardi 151 rum

Fill a pint glass or beer mug half full of beer.  Pour the amaretto into a shot glass and then layer the rum on top of the amaretto.  Carefully light the shot on fire. Drop the flaming shot into the half full glass of beer and drink it down!

Watch the video to see us chug this delicious elixir....  The drink seemed to have a different effect on each of us.  I look refreshed; Kyle looks disgusted, and Paul seems strangely aroused.  Cheers!

Cooking and Entertaining with Leah: Episode 2

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blueberry and Marzipan Stuffed French Toast

I found this recipe in a magazine.  It actually called for ricotta cheese, which I'm sure would also be good, but I decided to use marzipan for a sweeter, fluffier version.

(this will make 2 sandwiches, multiply if serving more people)
French toast:
4 slices of thickly sliced bread (I used country style buttermilk)
4 eggs, whipped
3/4 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon cinammon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons orange zest (from 1-2 oranges)
2 tablespoons butter
Powdered sugar

8 oz marzipan
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons Cointreau or Grand Marnier (orange flavored liqueur)
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then add the milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest.
Place a griddle or saute pan over medium heat, and melt the butter until the pan is coated.

Dip one slice of bread in the egg mixture until it is coated on both sides, allowing it to drip above the bowl for a moment to remove the excess.  Place on the griddle and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm, then repeat with remaining slices, adding additional butter if necessary.
In another bowl, whisk marzipan, orange zest, sugar, and liqueur.  To assemble the sandwiches, spead 1/2 of the filling onto a slice of French toast, top with a handful of blueberries, and cover with another slice of French toast.  Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve with warm maple syrup.  Enjoy!

Note:  Kyle asked that his not be sprinkled with powdered sugar, because he intended to do this to it.  Apparently, the sugar would have conflicted with the molten lake of syrup somehow....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Appetizer and Cocktail Pairing Party

I wanted to host a fun cocktail party for some special guests who were in town (Kyle's  parents, Gary & Lyla) and thought of an appetizer and cocktail pairing.  So, I decided to make a variety of appetizers with accompanying drinks for each dish.  All served in individual miniature glasses and dishes, of course (thanks Pier One!).
Kyle had the nerve to question the idea.  First, he talked me down from 12 courses to 10.  Then, he claimed that the guests might not "want to drink 10 drinks each".  I ignored that ludicrous piece of advice.  It turned out that not only did the guests want to drink 10 miniature drinks each, but they also drank extra cocktails between courses, something I hadn't even considered.  The point is, everyone had a great time!
I spent quite a bit of time researching food and drink pairings to make sure that the flavors were complementary.  I set out the menu, and all the dishes and glasses in advance, so that I could be ready to serve everything as soon as each item was ready.  I also made myself a "map" of the glasses and dishes I was going to use to serve each item, and that really turned out to be helpful what with all the chaos that always ensues!

Here is a link to the menu I created for this event:  Appetizer & Cocktail Pairing Menu
I will post most of these recipes individually as well, but here is a run down of the courses.

To start, we had Posh Popcorn with The Stilleto Cocktail.
This was a recipe I found online, which was actually just microwave popcorn, drizzled with butter, parmesan cheese, and some spices.  It ended up being on of the favorites of the party, believe it or not!  It just figures that the easiest thing to prepare would be the thing people loved the most...

Posh Popcorn Recipe

I paired this with The Stilleto, which is basically a martini, made with champagne, cognac, grand marnier, and a spiral of orange zest.  The light, fruity flavor of the cocktail complemented the salty, cheesy popcorn quite well.

The Stilleto Cocktail Recipe
I made most of the cocktails in advance, and put them in plastic pitchers in the refrigerator, so that saved some time with serving each course.

Next, we had Shanghai Chicken Drumsticks, paired with Anticipation Punch.
This was my first time using this recipe for drumsticks, and what I liked about it was that, after marinating them in the sauce all night, and cooking them for about an hour in the oven that morning, all they needed was a quick crisping in the oven before serving.  Great recipe!  These were also very tasty, somewhat smoky and sweet.

Shanghai Chicken Drummettes Recipe
The Anticipation Punch was a mixture of white grape juice, vodka, and assorted fruit.  Very refreshing!

Anticipation Punch Recipe
The next pairing was Bacon Wrapped Scallops, with Jalapeno Papaya Sauce.  I liked this recipe so much that I filmed my first cooking episode for this blog on the preparation of it!  Check out the link below.

Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops with Jalapeno Papaya Sauce
I paired this with Champagne Sangria, which is a mixture of pureed strawberries and peaches, triple sec, lime juice, and champagne.  I personally would have liked this drink a bit sweeter, but my friend Mary, who was helping to serve the dishes, ended up refilling sangria until the pitchers were empty, and said it was the favorite drink of the night.  So, what do I know?!

Champagne Sangria Recipe
Next I served Chorizo Sobres with Smoky Papaya dipping sauce, paired with El Zete.  I stole this entire pairing from a cocktail website.  Sobres is Spanish for envelope.  These were fried won tons with a mixture of chorizo and diced peaches, served with a creamy paprika dipping sauce.

I cannot tell you what these tasted like, even though I made about 50 of them, because as soon as they came out of the pot, someone devoured them.  I did hear good things from my guests though, and considering the rate at which these disappeared, I think I can vouch for them.

Chorizo Sobres with Smoky Paprika Dipping Sauce
My friend Mark must have eaten an entire plate of these little chorizo envelopes, and after the party, I found this incriminating photo.  I am pretty sure he was sneaking something from behind me as my picture was being taken!  And I thought he came in the kitchen to hang out with me.... how can I ever trust him again?
The Chorizo Sobres were served with a drink called El Zete.  I have no clue what that means!  But, it was a delicious combination of tequila, white wine, and lemon juice.

El Zete
The next pairing we had was Garlic Shrimp with Lemongrass Fried Rice, paired with the Lava Lamp.  This recipe is one I've made before with lobster (and posted on this site), and I decided to modify it and use shrimp.  Basically, I halved the recipe and then used large prawns in place of the lobster (and served it in individual dishes, as seen below).

Garlic Black Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice
The Lava Lamp cocktail was really cute.  Place a handful of pomegranate seeds in the bottom, a bit of pomegranata liqueur, and then top it off with champagne.  When the champagne hits the seeds, they dance up and down for a moment like a lava lamp.  Fun!

Next, I served something a bit more simple - a miniature Margherita Pizza, paired with Le Fin Du Monde, which is a Belgian golden ale that I enjoy.  Pizza and beer, now that's a combination no one can argue with!    I used a cookie cutter to make tiny, bite sized pizzas.  No recipe here, just a basic margherita pizza, with fresh basil and marinara sauce, garlic, and mozzarella cheese.
After that, a Flank Steak Crostini with Chimichurri Sauce.  You can't have a dinner party without serving at least one thing on a crostini!

The crostini was paired with a Watermelon Mint Mojito, which was one of my favorite drinks of the night.  It was easy to make - you simply puree fresh watermelon and mix it with rum, lime juice, sugar and mint leaves.  Sweet, minty, and delicious!
Watermelon Mint Mojito

The guests were beginning to get a bit drunk, but they were still hungry, so I continued serving the courses!  It was taking a bit longer than planned to get everything out, but no one seemed to care, so I just kept serving.
At some point, there was apparently a male dance party.  I can't say I witnessed this personally, but this is the evidence I found.

Next, we had Lobster Passion Fruit Ceviche, paired with a drink called Dancing Belly.  The ceviche was a complete rip off from a restaurant I went to in Vegas - I fell in love with the mixture of lobster, coconut and passion fruit juice, and wrote down all the ingredients I could detect so that I could make it for myself!  Here is the recipe:

Lobster Passion Fruit Ceviche
The Dancing Belly was a mixture of citrus vodka, malibu rum, white grape juice, and lime juice, which I served as a shot.  The fruitiness of the ceviche and the drink made for a nice pairing. Here is a link to the recipe:

Dancing Belly
Finally, at 12:30 am, I presented the desserts.  To be honest, I was surprised that everyone stuck around - it was a weeknight after all, and it did take me around 7 hours to serve all of the courses.  I guess I got them drunk enough that they forgot to go home!

The first dessert was a White Chocolate Creme Brulee, paired with Marianne at Midnight.  When I was looking up cocktail and appetizer pairings for the menu, I found Marianne - I loved the name, and the showmanship of the drink, so much that "she" was on the list immediately.  A floating rose petal in the drink?  How could I resist?

White Chocolate Creme Brulee 

Then for the final pairing - a Chocolate Cranberry Torte with a warm chocolate & raspberry sauce, complemented by a French Martini.  The torte took me nearly all day to make, and was the main reason so many of the other dishes were delayed.  So many glazes... so many garnishes.... SO many sauces!  Exhausting.  But it turned out very pretty, so it was worth the effort.
Here's the recipe:

The French Martini was the perfect complement, with a combination of Chambord (raspberry liquer), gin and pineapple juice.

That was it, the last drink for the last course!

It was a great party and I have to thank my VIP guests, who persevered in having a great time at the party, despite the 100 + tiny glasses they washed (much to my dismay and repeated protests) and the 7 am wake up call for the airport the next day.  Cheers, Lyla and Gary - you are troopers, great house guests, and amazing social animals!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chorizo and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Pizza

I think you can pretty much put chorizo and cheddar cheese on anything and it will be delicious.  I hope someone writes that on my tombstone (perhaps next to a warning about heart disease?).

Pizza dough (instructions to make it from scratch below, or purchase your fave kind)
1 package chorizo (cooked and drained)
1 roasted red bell pepper (roasted and cut into strips, or you can buy these in a jar)
1 6 oz can green chiles
2 cups cheddar and/or monterey jack cheese (I used a mixture of the two)
1 cup pizza sauce

Pizza Dough Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
To make pizza dough, mix yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water.  Let sit for about 5 minutes for the yeast to activate.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, olive oil, and remaining 1/2 cup warm water.  Add the yeast mixture and stir until mixed. Dust a surface with flour and remove dough mixture from bowl.  Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Place dough into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a cloth and let the dough stand until it rises, this should take about 1/2 an hour.

When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Using a rolling pin, roll out dough.  At this point, you can decide which size you want your pizza(s).  This should make enough dough to make one large pizza, or you can make smaller ones.  For this recipe, I used a medium sized cookie cutter and made individual pizzas (ahem, because Kyle doesn't like vegetables...)

At this point, you can place the pizza dough on a pizza pan or baking sheet, and add your toppings.  For this recipe, I used tomato sauce, canned green chiles for a bit of additional spice, roasted red bell pepper, and a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack cheese.  I must say, this was a pretty delicious combination!  Spicy, slightly sweet, and very cheesy!
Add the desired amount of tomato sauce, meat and vegetables, and then sprinkle on the cheese.  In my opinion, you can never have too much cheese.
Bake in the oven until the crust is slightly brown and the cheese is melted on top, and serve immediately.  Enjoy!