Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Princess Party

I meant to post this forever ago!

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I love any excuse to rent a party bus.  I have a close friend who I always tease about being a princess.  My evidence for this claim? She's an only child, is horrified by the idea of camping, and if you playfully punch her in the arm, will scream out in pain.  And, her favorite color is purple (or as she told me the other day, fuschia).

Anyway, she loves celebrating her birthday and so I threw her an adult version of a princess party... complete with a stretch pink hummer limo!

The limo was a surprise and here is the face she made when it arrived.

Then she got in and made the face again.

Then she got out and made the face one more time for good measure.

The limo was pretty swanky on the inside and was basically the same price per hour as a party bus.  The only downside is that you can't stand up to dance, and it doesn't have a stripper pole, as many of the classy party buses tend to.

I got the birthday girl a pink crown and some pink satin gloves to complete her princess look.

And of course, pink champagne!

I made gift bags for all the guests that included girly items like adorable tiny tiaras, giant sunglasses, candy lipstick, necklaces and bracelets, bubbles, pink condoms, glow sticks, and "magic" wands.

The giant sunglasses were the most popular item by far.

You can see why.  Who wouldn't look good in these?

Here are the guys in the back of the limo, trying to stay manly in a sea of pink. 



Tiny tiaras... Both functional and fashionable!

Amber and I asked Kyle to take pictures of our outfits and the below photo was what we got.  Hmmm.

Happy Birthday Amber.... let's do it again in six months, since that's how long it took me to post this : )

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Smoked Gouda & Caramelized Onion Potatoes Au Gratin

I think the only way to make this better would be to add bacon.  I didn't do that as I didn't want to kill my guests with happiness (or heart disease).  Besides, this is delicious just the way it is!

Yield:  About 12 small portions, or one large casserole dish

2 large caramelized onions
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut potatoes with a knife, mandolin or food processor into 1/8 inch slices.

Place potatoes, milk, cream, garlic, salt, garlic, thyme and pepper in saucepan.  Heat to just boiling, stirring occasionally.

If you are using ramekins as pictured above, spray each one with cooking spray.  Or, for a larger dish, simply coat the inside with a bit of the butter.  Pour half the mixture into a baking dish.  Sprinkle with half the cheese, then drizzle with half the butter.  Add the rest of the potatoes and then the remaining cheese and butter.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  A large casserole dish make take as long as 40 - check tenderness of potatoes with a fork before removing from oven.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Lemon Raspberry Sorbet Cake

The most difficult thing about this recipe is finding your cheesecake pan. Or, not eating the entire cake in one sitting.

Yield:  8-10 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup crushed chocolate wafer cookies
1 tablespoon sugar
3 pints lemon sorbet, slightly softened
3 pints raspberry sorbet, slightly softened
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream

Butter the sides of a springform pan.

Mix crushed cookies, sugar and melted butter in a bowl.  Press the mixture into the bottom and about 1/4 inch up the side of the pan.  Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Next, scoop the lemon sorbet over the crust in small batches, packing it in with a spatula. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.  Repeat with the raspberry sorbet and freeze until firm, about 45 more minutes.

Melt the chocolate in a pan or the microwave, then add the cream and stir until smooth.  Remove the cake from the pan and place on a platter.  Spread the chocolate mixture over the top of the cake and freeze until set, about 10 minutes, then serve.  Yum!

Tips:  I actually substituted orange sherbert for the lemon because they didn't have lemon at the store.  It was still delicious but I think the color effect would have been better with the lemon.  Also, I was so busy eating this cake that I forgot to take a pic of the inside, which looked gorgeous.  Doh!

Blueberry Ginger Bellini

Wow.... sorry everyone!  I think this is the longest I've gone without posting.  I'll have to make it up to you with some wonderful drunken recipes.

I was making drinks for a cocktail party and realized that I wouldn't have enough glasses (I know, it sounds crazy, but I was making a lot of cocktail pairings!).  Then I saw these adorable tiny mason jars at Home Goods and managed to snap up 20 of them to serve drinks out of.  Cute and useful!

Yield:  1 pitcher

1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 15 ounce can blueberry preserves
1 bottle moscato
2 cups blueberry juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vodka
2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
Mash blueberries with minced ginger, sugar, and lemon juice. Add blueberry preserves, moscato, blueberry juice, and mix. Chill and serve.

Tips: I meant to garnish this with lemon, which would have looked pretty, so do that... if you can remember.

This is a very sweet and refreshing cocktail.  Add extra vodka for more bite!  Cheers!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Strawberry Mint Mojitos

Hello summer!!!  I had this drink at a chain restaurant that I won't name, out of kindness.  It's only redeeming value is that it sits about 12 feet outside of my office building... or so I thought!  But one evening I ordered this delicious cocktail there, drank about 99 of them, and left obsessed with recreating the recipe.  It was quite easy! 

Yield:  1 small pitcher, around 6 cocktails, multiply for a larger pitcher! 

9 ounces simple syrup
10 fresh strawberries, sliced
1 bunch mint, rinsed and leaves separated
1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup ginger ale
1 cup light rum
1/2 cup sugar

Muddle the simple syrup, 1/2 of the strawberries, sugar, and mint leaves together at the bottom of a pitcher with the back of a spoon or muddler until somewhat crushed.  Add the rum, ginger ale, and lime juice, then the remaining fruit.  Stir and adjust sweetness if necessary.

To serve, fill glasses with ice cubes and add strawberry mojito mixture, being sure to get a nice amount of strawberries and mint in each glass.  Cheers!

Chocolate Covered Bacon Filled Peanut Butter Waffle Sticks

I have a lot of ideas. Most of them seem to involve bacon. I bought this interesting contraption from Target a while back... the waffle stick maker. I made some waffles, dipped them in chocolate, yawned and stuck it into a dark closet. Nothing to write home about! 

Then the other night I thought to myself, "what if the waffles were stuffed with bacon?"  And, had peanut butter in the batter?  And were dipped in chocolate????  Well, now we have something!

Yield: About 20 waffle sticks


3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cup flour

3/4 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky (you choose!)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
6 slices cooked, crisp bacon
1-2 packages of vanilla or chocolate almond bark (or both!)

You can easily make these in a regular waffle iron as well, and simply cut them into sticks. I looked at the waffle irons I have (yes, remember, I'm insane - I own 3 waffle irons. Get over it!). Anyway, I have one that would have made them a bit longer, and one that would have made them shorter, but either way if you cut them in slices, they will be "waffle sticks"! Or you can be an impulse buyer like myself and go to Target and spend $25 on the waffle stick maker, it's up to you!

Precook the bacon and then cut into long pieces that will fit exactly inside the size of the waffle sticks you'll be making. For instance, my pieces were about 2 1/2 inches long by 1/4 inch thick.

Preheat waffle iron. Melt butter in microwave. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in one bowl. In another bowl, beat milk and eggs together.  Whisk liquid mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in peanut butter and melted butter. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto iron. Place one piece of bacon on top of each waffle stick you intend to make, then add more batter over the top and close the lid. Cook waffles until golden brown, then remove to a cutting board and slice lengthwise into slices.

Once the waffles have cooled, melt the almond bark in the microwave according to the package directions. Place waffle sticks on skewers or cake pop sticks and dip in the chocolate, then place on wax paper to dry. If desired, garnish with an alternating color of chocolate, sprinkles, candy, or other fun decorations! Serve once the chocolate and/or decorations have dried completely. Enjoy!

Crab Stuffed Filet Mignon with Whiskey Peppercorn Sauce

I usually like my seafood simple.  Why mess with perfection and mix lobster with mayo and then stick it in a sandwich?  I've never understood that...  This recipe sounded good so I thought I'd try it, despite any reservations I might have about putting my crab meat in a sauce.  It turned out very nicely! 


Crab Stuffing:
1/2 pound crab meat (you can use fresh or lump crab, it's up to you!)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whiskey Peppercorn Sauce:
1 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 1/2 ounces whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)
1 cup heavy cream
2 filet mignon steaks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Bring steaks to room temperature and drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Cut an even horizontal slit through each steak, about 3/4 through.  In a small bowl, mix cooked crab meat, melted butter, and garlic.  Season to taste.  Reserve and keep warm.

Next, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Place steaks in pan and cook to desired doneness.  Remove and keep warm.  Add the whiskey to the warm pan to deglaze.  Pour in beef broth and add black pepper. Simmer until reduced to 1 cup, stirring frequently.  Add cream and season to taste, then remove from heat and set aside.

Pour sauce in a pool on each plate and arrange steaks on top.  Stuff with crab mixture and sprinkle with parsley, if desired, then serve.  Yum!

It turned out like a heart!  I didn't do it on purpose... I'm not quite that cheesy.  But it is cute, isn't it?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bittersweet Chocolate Glazed Espresso Brownie Bites

These are really good - chocolatey, with a depth of flavor, and not too sweet.

2 sticks butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup flour 

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1/4 cup espresso beans (I used hazelnut flavored ones)
1/4 cup white chocolate, for coating beans

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter and chocolate either in the microwave (my preferred method!) or double boiler.  Once the chocolate and butter are melted and combined, mix in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and salt.  Add eggs one at a time, stirring until smooth.  Mix in flour.

Transfer batter to pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes. While brownies are baking, combine glaze ingredients and melt until smooth.  Pour glaze over warm brownies and spread evenly.  Let stand at room temperature until glaze is set, about 3 hours.
While glaze is setting, dip coffee beans in warm white chocolate and set on wax paper.  Let dry for about 10-15 minutes, then adhere to top of brownies, using an extra dab of melted white chocolate to secure if necessary.

Once brownies have set, remove from pan and cut into 1-inch bite sized pieces.  Enjoy!

Tips:  These can be made several days in advance and refrigerated.  For a quicker version, make boxed brownies, and add the espresso powder to the mix.  Or purchase espresso beans that are already chocolate covered... if you insist!

Savory Three Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni

I used three different cheeses in this macaroni and cheese. The pumpkin is actually a background flavor... it added a nice richness and creaminess to the macaroni.

4 tablespoons butter
4 tbsp flour
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 cup grated Gouda cheese
8 ounces (1/2 can) packed pumpkin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 pound rotini or elbow macaroni
3/4 cup panko crumbs

1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.  When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute or until tan in color.

While whisking, slowly pour in the cream.  Continue cooking until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 5-8 minutes.

Stir cheeses and and mix until melted, then turn heat to low.  Add spices and season cheese sauce with salt and pepper to taste.  Adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Cover a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook the pasta until slightly underdone, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the pasta to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.  Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce. 

Pour the mixture into a casserole or baking dish.  Sprinkle panko crumbs over the top.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, then serve.

Tips:  Pumpkin pie, albeit delicious, has really ruined our idea of the pumpkin.  I never thought about pumpkin as a viable ingredient until I made a savory pumpkin soup and remembered, hey, this is just a squash!  On that note, you can substitute any other type of squash in this recipe, simply cook, drain and puree it before adding.  Also, any type of noodle will work, I think rotini are prettier but elbow macaroni is the trusted standby so that part is up to the cook.  Enjoy!