Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cocktail Party Fun

We finally got around to having a cocktail party a few weekends ago to celebrate my husband's early birthday and a farewell for some good friends. Aside from great company, tasty beverages and good munchies are a must for a successful cocktail party! Hope you can make use of the recipes below for your next get together.

Dark and Stormy (This is my new favorite cocktail!)
- 1.5-3 ounces Goslings Black Seal Rum
- 8-10 ounces Ginger Beer (Flavored or Regular)
- Lime Wedges (Optional)
  1. Pour your rum and ginger beer over ice, stir, and enjoy! Use as much rum or ginger beer as you want, it's really up to you.
Emeril's Sangria
I used additional fruit and a grapefruit flavored sparkling water to add a little more citrus to the sangria. Remember you can always play around with different quantities to suit your taste!

- Jalapeno Poppers (Recipe listed on a previous post)
- Spinach & Artichoke Dip (Not figure friendly...but it's soo good)

- 2 9z boxes of frozen spinach (Fully drained, liquid removed), Chopped
- 2 14z cans of artichokes, Chopped
- 1 12z Cream Cheese (Neufchatel), Softened
- 2c Mayo
- 1c Sour Cream
- 1/2 Onion, Chopped
- 3 to 4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- Handful of Parmesan Cheese
- 1-2c Shredded Mozzarella
  1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add some oil to a pan and cook down your chopped onions and minced garlic with a dash of salt and pepper, once they are ready set them aside to cool.
  3. Mix together your softened cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, parmesan, and your cooled onion and garlic. 
  4. Finally add your chopped spinach and artichokes and make sure it is well blended. Move the mixture into a oven safe dish (I used a 13.5x9 baker from Crate and Barrel) and top with 1-2c mozzarella cheese.  Cook for about 25-30mins just to warm the dip and melt the cheese.
- Churro Cupcakes (Yes, it is as delicious as it sounds!)
The awesome cupcake recipe came from Bakingdom! Even though I used coconut oil and changed a few measurements it still turned out amazing!

- 16oz of Cream Cheese, Softened ( I used neufchatel )
- 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, Softened
- 2 1/2c Powdered Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 1/2 tsp of Cinnamon 
  1. Mix together your cream cheese and butter in a mixer or with a hand blender.
  2. Add your sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. You can put it in the fridge for about 20mins if you want a thicker consistency for your frosting. 
Dulce De Leche Drizzle:
- 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
- Pinch of Salt
  1. Empty contents into a double broiler heated on low. Stir occasionally for about 50-60minutes, you can keep it on longer to make it thicker as well. When it's ready, remove from heat and mix until smooth.
FINALLY, frost your cupcakes and drizzle it with dulce de leche! Try to save a few for your guests...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sugar Plum Bakery - King Cake

Until recently I never even knew King Cakes existed! My friends from New Orleans have raved about the sugary goodness so I just had to experience it for myself. What's up with the baby you ask? Whoever gets the baby in their slice of cake is supposed to have good luck for the year and is responsible for the cake the following year. I was planning on ordering my King Cake from Sucre in New Orleans but completely forgot about it until Mardi Gras. Lucky for me I discovered that Sugar Plum Bakery made them and had a few left that day. I finally sliced into the cake the minute my husband came home from work. At our first bite we were delighted! It tastes like a big, sugary cinnamon roll and it's even better after it's heated for about 15 seconds!

I've never made a King Cake so I can't vouch for any recipes, but there are plenty of highly rated recipes available online that you can try.

Look at that sweet and gooey goodness!

History of King Cakes 

About Sugar Plum Bakery:
They are a non-for-profit organization that employs, trains, and educates individuals with disabilities. Their mission is to "promote the integration of persons with mental and physical disabilities into society by helping them become independent and evolve into working contributing members of our communities." I love when I find a great local business that has heart and gives back to the community!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Orecchiette with Sausage and Chard

This pasta was quick and delicious! This hearty dish is nicely balanced by the lemon juice and zest which brings a nice fresh flavor to the pasta. I'm not sure if it was because we were hungry, but my husband told me multiple times that this dish was really good.

My version was adapted from Chef Symon.  Click here for Symon's recipe.

Doesn't that look good?

Orecchiette with Sausage and Chard (Serves 6-8)
Time: 30mins Cook and Prep

- 1-1.5lb Sausage (You can really use any type of sausage that you want. Whether you like poultry, pork, or vegetarian, pick whatever floats your boat!)
- 1lb Orecchiette Pasta (Save 1/2 cup of pasta water)
- 1 bushel of Swiss Chard, roughly chopped (You can use another dark leafy green)
- 1-2 Garlic cloves, crushed or garlic powder (Optional)
- 1/2-1 Lemon (Zest and juice)
- 1 16z Can Cannellini Beans (Navy or Great Northern)
- 1/2-1c of Parmesan Cheese
- Salt and Pepper (Final step, add to your liking)
- Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)

  1. Cook your pasta al dente, follow directions on the package. I used to not like al dente pasta, but my trip to Italy changed that!
  2. Remove your sausage from the casing, brown and crumble it on a large pan heated on medium. Add your chard and let it wilt for a few minutes.
  3. When the pasta is done,drain and add it to the pan Add in your reserved pasta water at this point and let it simmer down for a few minutes.
  4. Finally, add your beans, juice and zest of one lemon, and sprinkle on your cheese. 

Remember the best way to reheat pasta is back in the pan with some broth or a a little bit of water. If you're going to put it in the microwave, I find that the pasta will stay fairly moist when covered with a wet paper towel.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Blueberry Primal Pancakes

These "primal" pancakes are an awesome substitute to real pancakes! While we are not on the Paleo Diet, we have several friends who are. Our friend Kelley recently posted this recipe she found on Mark's Daily Apple and I had to make them. I made some adjustments to my recipe, but you can try either version. We absolutely enjoyed them, hope you do too!

Have a great weekend friends!

Blueberry Almond Banana Pancakes
(4-6 small pancakes)

- 2 Bananas
- 2 Eggs
- 2-3 Heaping Tbsp of Almond Butter (I used raw almond butter)
- 1/2tsp Vanilla
- 1/2-1c Blueberries ( I used frozen ones)
  1. Mash the bananas, eggs, and almond butter together to form a batter consistency.
  2. Stir in the vanilla extract and blueberries.
  3. Heat a pan to medium heat. I added coconut oil to my pan to get a nice "crust" on my pancake.
  4. Cook each side for 2-4mins, use a large spatula and check to see that the side is golden brown before you flip. 
These are much more delicate than your average pancake due to the ingredients, so use a larger spatula and smaller rounds if possible. My first one broke in half, but I let the second pancake sit longer and handled it much more gently and it turned out perfect! You can enjoy these with or without butter/maple syrup.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Peanut Butter-Banana Cream Pie

Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather's Peanut Butter - Banana Cream Pie
Pink Parsley also posted a similar recipe on their blog so you can check that out too!

My friend Chad's mom made this pie for us a few years ago and it was love at first bite! I'll be making this tonight to accompany our dinner since I've been raving about it forever now. My husband is beginning to think it's nothing more than a fairy tale. If you have a soft spot in your heart for peanut butter, banana cream pie, and have to try it!

* Update - In the case you are not making this pie to be devoured within a day or two, I would omit using the bananas on and in the pie. To keep it fresh longer just slice fresh bananas on top when serving with the whipped cream and chocolate drizzle!

Blog vs. Print:
- Pie Crust (Traditional vs. Graham Cracker Crust)
- Hot Fudge (Homemade vs. Jar) I purchased a chocolate salted caramel sauce for my topping
- No lemon lime soda in print version

Hope you all have the chance to spend the day celebrating something or someone you love. I will be spending the night in cooking dinner with my husband and relaxing on the couch with our dog.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mexican Style Stuffed Peppers

It had been a while since I'd made stuffed peppers and these turned out great! I made them fairly healthy by using ground turkey and quinoa for the primary filler. I know some people are turned off by using ground turkey, but I really think you should give it a try! For those of you who are gluten sensitive, this recipe is also gluten free!

Mexican Style Stuffed Peppers
Time: 1hr 10min Cook and Prep
Servings: 6 peppers

- 1/2c Quinoa (You can cook it in chicken broth to make it more flavorful)
- 4 Peppers, Halved
- 1/3c Green Onion
- 1/2 Onion
- 2-3 Celery
- 1c of Cheese, I used cheddar (Optional)
- 1lb Ground Turkey
- 1/4-1/2tsp Garlic Powder ( You can use a few cloves of finely chopped garlic too)
- 1/4tsp Mexican Oregano
- 1/2tsp Cumin
- 1/2tsp Onion Powder
- 1/4tsp Chipotle Powder
- Salt (To taste)
- 1/4tsp Pepper
- 1 1/2-2c of Pace Picante ( Or whatever salsa you prefer)
- Jalapeno and Cilantro (Optional)

  1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook your quinoa and set aside.  For 1/2c of quinoa, I used about 1 1/4- 1 1/2c of water.   (Bring water to boil, add quinoa, let it cook for a min or two, bring heat to low and keep covered for about 10-15mins.)
  3.  Chop your vegetables and halve your peppers lengthwise and remove ribs and seeds.
  4. Add some oil to a medium heated pan and add the onion and celery. Once they start becoming a little translucent, add your turkey.
  5. Add your spices, salsa, and continue to let it cook on low for a few more minutes.
  6. Foil your pan and drizzle a little olive oil prior to placing your peppers down.
  7. Fill your peppers with qunioa and then top with turkey mixture. You can mix the quinoa into the turkey it you want as well. Bake for 30-45mins.
  8. Top each pepper with cheese during the last 10-15mins of cook time.
 It's official, I really am an awesome wife haha! My husband brought this back for me from his last work trip.

Hope you all have a joyful Friday. If you're snowed in this weekend, have fun snuggling up and watching a movie! If you're lucky enough to have some sunshine, go enjoy the outdoors!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Vintage Kitchen - "Unsavory" Impression

You might have noticed the pleasant review I had written about Vintage Kitchen from this past weekend, unfortunately the experience has been completely ruined. Customer service goes a long way and the actions of the restaurant completely left an unsavory impression in our mouths.

We dined as a party of 9 and paid the single bill that was given to us with cash and card payments. I received a call from the owner on Tuesday that the restaurant had charged an additional $20 plus dollars to each of the two cards that had been used at dinner due to a shortage of cash left for the bill. Let me remind you that the dinner took place on Friday, it is now Tuesday and we were getting notified of the additional charge. I was so baffled at the fact they charged our cards without authorization, I didn't have much to say on the phone. After telling my husband the entire story, he decided to give them a call and try to get the issue resolved. The issue isn't the fact that we were charged, it is how the restaurant handled the situation.

During the conversation, the owner had a very condescending tone and repeatedly blamed the party for not leaving enough cash. Typically, a server counts the amount that are on the cards and checks the cash amount to assure that the money adds up correctly when she takes the bill. The server did not do this, nor did she mention there was a "mistake" when she brought us our slips to sign. The owner told us that she was doing us a favor by just adding what we asked her to put on the cards, it was not her fault she did not count the cash. He then told us they had tried to call several times (without leaving a voicemail) and he couldn't call sooner because he was on vacation. Unfortunately sir, your vacation is not my problem. My problem is you charging my card without authorization and not taking any responsibility for your server's error or your actions. It is ridiculous for you to then question our honor and integrity as individuals. Those of you who know us, understand that is the last thing anyone would question us about, so you can imagine how offended we both were at this point.

He also noted that by participating in restaurant week they were providing a service to the community by reducing their prices. I thought restaurant week was a way for restaurants to thank loyal customers and introduce patrons to new dining experiences, I guess I was wrong. It's too bad our experience concluded with this interaction with the owner. We will not return, nor will I recommend their restaurant to any of our peers.

After thinking about this issue all night, I called my credit card company to get their opinion on the matter. I talked to two individuals and they both agreed that once you sign the bill for a certain amount that is agreed upon, you have done your part. She also mentioned that her brother was a general manager in the restaurant business and typically in this situation the server pays the difference if there is one, because they did not properly count the payments. She said merchants run their business differently but we were not in the wrong in this case. We were refunded the additional amount that was charged to us immediately. Thank you to our credit card company for your outstanding customer service!